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days of  
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strung out 
brush with greatness 
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September 14, 1998  
  
My Corner of the Planet  

It's like watching lab mice in a maze.  Only these mice are driving cars.  

The road out front jogs left at my corner and falsely implies that it is a genuine intersection when, in fact, it is no such thing.  Turn right and you'll just miss a well hidden "dead end" sign standing sentry in front of the neighbor's driveway where the road should be.  Turn left and the street narrows into a little alley barely wide enough for one car.  Go straight another block (after the little jog) and you come smack into a "T" forcing you left or right.  

They slow to a crawl, wide-eyed, whiskers twitching (o.k., just wide-eyed).  "Where the hell did the road go, Ethel?"  Occasionally a cyclist will come whizzing down the street, around the corner slamming on the brakes just before going full facial into the garage door.  Young couples out on a walk take 3 steps into the driveway and then sheepishly correct their course.  

A less scrupulous block of neighbors would ditch the yard sales and form a band of street pirates.  Easy pickings.  

   

A few years ago two boys (about fifteen or sixteen years old) chased a third boy into that dead end.  I was outside doing yard work when I overheard them loudly threatening the trapped one.  I was afraid, but more afraid what they might do to this kid.  Suppressing my fear, I strode out front, pitched my voice down and threatened them with some lame line like "hey, we don't do that in our neighborhood".  It seemed to work.  The fact that two other men on the block stepped out onto their yards didn't hurt any.  

According to the two ruffians, the boy they caught had allegedly exposed himself to one of their girlfriends.  The accused naturally denied it.  We didn't care.  We didn't want anyone getting beaten on our street.  We sent the two boys east and the other west.  ("O East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet..."  [yes, thank you, Mr. Kipling...   -the editors])  
  
The street is lousy with boys.  Everywhere you look it's snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.  Within a couple blocks there is a shifting pack of about eleven of 'em, from two to seventeen.  Super Soakers are the weapon of choice, skateboards and Kozy Koupes are the modes of transport.  

When we moved here (Sunnyside - a neighborhood in southeast Portland) seven years ago, I told Cathy that I wanted to live here for the rest of my life.  I meant it.  I've always gotten a very good vibe from this place.  But that kind of talk scares the crap out of her.  She lived in six different places in the first years I knew her (shades of Beethoven!).  She likes change; I mostly don't.  

A family with two boys moved in shortly after we arrived.  One of my favorite memories of them was when Chris, the older, dressed as a knight with a sword had cornered Nathan, the younger, and repeated his ultimatum of "Yes, No, or Die!" about twenty times.  He was just really immersed in this character and it reminded me of me and my little brother when we were their age.  

The other day Cathy and I were up the street at the brew pub.  Hawthorne Boulevard has gone through The Change since we moved here, and I ain't talkin' about menopause.  It's really quite a fine place but we were trying to remember all the old shops that used to be here.  The old Bagdad Tavern was the first to go.  It became a Starbucks, actually a pretty good one.  

But I miss the old shops; the ones that helped you do stuff, like the glass place.  That's where we bought the glass to replace the metal plate that the previous owners of our house had put over one of the window panes in the door.  (Quite attractive I assure you.  It went well with the chocolate brown blinds).  I think that's a Coffee People ("Good coffee, no backtalk") now.  

My wife can't keep a set of keys to save her life.  I used to walk up the street to the musty old key shop every couple months to have a new set made.  Now I think they sell clothes from Bogota there.  *Sigh.*  

We'll come back again to the neighborhood and I'll be a little less sentimental, o.k.?  Lurid and prying next time...  

  

p.s.  A grande "merci beaucoup" to those of you who have taken the time to write me.  I've received several marvelous e-mails from Strung Out readers (two from Australia!  Damn, I love the Net!) and a few from repeat visitors (Hi, Tara!).  I've always believed in the magic of the Net, but on those days when I receive mail from one of you out there in the ether, it's as if I can cup it in my hands and drink it like a potion. 

p.p.s.  Farewell to two special people.  My wife's Great Aunt Cus always had a kind word for me when we visited her out at the Hillsboro farm where she lived with Cathy's grandmother.  Cus wore her brown wig with a special charm well after her own hair turned white.  I remember her telling me with great pride how she had been a book keeper at a hospital for many years.  In her last days, Cathy went to her, brushed her hair and sang to her and made sure she received the best care.  Sleep well, Cus. 

I fell in love with Japanese culture and I blame Akira Kurosawa.  Ran, Kagemusha, and the Seven Samurai taught me of the beauty in honor and humanity and the terrible price we pay as we cling to them both.  Domo arigatou, Kurosawa-sama.

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previously on days of naze: 

spawn apologist 
broken  
clench  
interview with a madman  
an introduction  
 launch  

what have you done for me lately?  
How 'bout that little signature doodly...

May you never be more active than   
when you are doing nothing.   

-Cato

in the feedbag: 
 
vcr:  El Mariachi (a great little movie) 

mag:  Details - Jackie Chan's childhood in the Chinese Opera...harsh. 

book:  Peter the Great by Robert Massie   
  
 

     

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e-mail   If a server crashes in the woods,  
does it make any noise?  

     

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