Thursday, December 11, 2008

By Request- For Brandon Brown

Well kids, it was the summer of 2004 and I had just turned 21. I wanted to try living in Portland before going back to school at Evergreen. My friend Themba Lewis from Olympia had just moved into Donna Dresch's house in North Portland and I heard somehow that they were looking for a roommate.

It was kind of a rough neighborhood and ended up being my first real introduction to hard-core gentrification. I didn't know how to cope with the fact of my white-girl prejudices. I hadn't realized that I had them at all while living in Olympia where there are very few people of color, especially very few African Americans. My neighborhood, at that time, had been a majority African-American neighborhood for many years but as I said was being hemmed in by gentrification on all sides.

There were a few drive-bys in front of our house that summer. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I interned at Gobshite Quarterly. Donna hosted bar-be-que's in our backyard that I called "famous lesbian bar-be-que's" because that's pretty much what they were. I would sit there and quietly freak out while everyone chatted.

Donna played a reunion show at Homo-A-Go-Go in Olympia, which was probably the first time I heard Team Dresch.

K8 Hardy the editor of LTTR came to visit and laid on our couch in short shorts and a wife-beater for about two weeks. She was allergic to cats and we had 3 cats (Gremlin, Twinky? and my Miette) living there. I was sort of mesmerized by her because I had never met someone so over-the-top and seemingly confident. At one point she wore this incredible daishiki with a necklace made of giant wooden beads. I remember her asking me about music and calling me out as a Cat Power fan.

I was real quiet at home because I was basically frozen by social anxiety or petrified of being shot throughout the entire summer.

Keith, my boyfriend at the time, was living in Olympia still. During one visit there was a drive-by right outside our house with several rounds of automatic gunfire. We hit the deck and lay under my bed for about five minutes before getting the fuck out of there and driving to The Alibi, a sweet tiki bar where we ordered froofy drinks and hamburgers. The propritetor of the place was so happy, we soon forgot our fear. He was living the dream: "Karaoke every night of the week!" he kept telling us. All was right with the world.

The Summer Olympics were happening that summer and I remember sitting on lawn chairs and flpping between women's gymnastics and women's swimming on a tiny TV set in our backyard with my downstairs neighbor Stephanie and Donna's new bandmate Christina. We sat for hours drinking beer and arguing about who was cuter, the gymnasts or the swimmers. That was the point where I finally relaxed and felt really glad to be there.

What else...Donna's cats peed on the couches a lot. Donna's bike was stolen by a crackhead, probably because I didn't lock the door when I left that morning (people were still home!). The crack house across the street got busted, probably due to me and my big mouth (I have an uncle who was a cop in that neighorhood). Donna's bandmate Jody said the phrase, "There's a giant man in Donna's kitchen." upon seeing Keith there. Gobshite Quarterly was nuts, but that's for another story.

In the end I moved back to Olympia, went back to school and met poetry. I don't know, is that what you were looking for Brandon? I'll try to think of more.


mark wallace said...

A similar story that involves a friend of mine, in a neighborhood of Washington DC called Adams Morgan that has been through a lot of changes over the years, riots, gentrification, coke dealers, you name it, and that he and I both lived in for a number of years.

Anyway, there were gun shots in a nearby alley on an occasion when my friend's mother was visiting, and in an attempt to calm her down he said, "Mom, come on, don't worry about it. It happens all the time."

Maxwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maxwell said...

Lindsey, why is your blogging so... print-worthy?

I was reading Hume on a stoop in Washington Heights, waiting for my boyfriend to come home from work——"SURPRISE! I need a place to crash". After half an hour of waiting, a gentleman in an SUV backed into a pedestrian in the nearby crosswalk, and suddenly there was a lot of shouting on the street. somehow everyone got guns out from under their cars. Guns got out and started waving. I got up and soft-shoed it out of there to let things work themselves out SANS MAX.

I like posting things near Mark Wallace. Hi Mark.

taylor said...

there's nothing wrong with liking cat power.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

You're right, Taylor. There certainly isn't anything wrong with liking Cat Power. I guess I just had that "type" written all over, especially that summer. You know, the crying in your coffee laced with booze (or *sniff* *sniff* is that arsenic?), hair in the face, at turns crawling across hardwood floors on elbows and huddling in corners rocking back and forth meowling softly to oneself...sort of thing.