A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016. The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc. Come on in – check out my stuff.
There are many things that suck about having friends that live on the west coast. Number one among them is how infrequently you get to see one another. And of course the threat that an earthquake, tsunami or sasquatch will swallow them whole one day. But there are good things too – like knowing you have a place to stay and someone to hang out with when you visit their town and the occasional surprise package from across the country. Both of these benefits are part of today’s “stuff”.
In 2008, when I was on the Board of Directors of the East End Food Coop, I had the opportunity to go to Portland, OR to attend the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference. A few days of getting to hang out in Portland (well, mostly the outskirts of Portland at a hotel) hanging out with the glorious mixture of hippies, freaks, etc that make up the coop world. Being that it was my first time in Portland, I wanted to figure out a way to extend my stay. I contacted an acquaintance Alan – who I kinda knew through punk rock, his occasional postings on the local PGH messageboard and as a friend of a friend since he was an ex-Pittsburgher (well, Mon Valley, but close enough). It was one of those great “Hey – we don’t really know each other, but….punk rock, right? So how about I come stay with you for a couple days?” moments…and of course he said yes.
Fast forward to the end of the conference and Alan is super busy with work or school or some mixture thereof so he arranges for his partner Karen to pick me up. Karen, who i’ve never met or talked to or know nothing about, drives out and picks me up and is awesome. We hit it off immediately. She tells me about the coop that has some type of vegan milkshake stand setup outside (which we’ll hit up later on). She tells me about this vegan bakery and that vegan bakery and life is grand.
Alan and Karen are awesome and since that initial visit I’ve had the pleasure of going out and staying with them several times, including one trip where I camped out in their living room for a whole week. That week they helped me accomplish an unholy slaying of Portland’s many vegan eateries – accompanying me when they could, such as a trip to Portobello that left us all fairly immobilized by the end of the night, or simply pointing me in the direction of the vegan BBQ (yo, Homegrown Smoker!) Fine fine people who unfortunately we don’t get to visit enough and who don’t get back to Pittsburgh enough.
But we keep in touch and have maintained a regular though infrequent correspondence of packages back and forth across the continent. I sent them one of my “Obtain a Yield” screenprints, which ended up hanging in their kitchen. In return we received this print, which if I remember correctly, was Karen’s first screenprint she ever did.
The words, are taken from the song “Idylls of the King” by the Mountain Goats from their album “Tallahassee”. The song, much like the rest of the album, is about a doomed relationship. The lyrics taken out of context for this print are a bit more optimistic and as such the print hangs right near our front door, a gentle prayer to whisper as we leave the house…of the promise and potential of each new day. A reminder for the twin high-maintenance machines that call this house a home: there is more out there beyond these walls than just vultures, crows and innumerable gibbons…there are friends out there keeping an eye on us from afar.