you can always drop out
Monday, July 25 2022
location: southern suburbs of Corvalis, Oregon
This morning Gretchen's brother left for work at around 8:00am and I went to get some coffee from the coffee maker. But the coffee in the pot was cold, something I didn't discover until I took my first sip. Soon thereafter my sister-in-law was up and asked if I'd like her to make fresh coffee. I said that that would be welcomed thing. She, Gretchen, and I then sat around the kitchen island talking mostly about child rearing and how to prepare kids to handle the inevitable failures in life. Gretchen and I are full of stories of the epidemic of "learned helplessness" exhibited by the latest generation. At her job at the bookstore, for example, Gretchen once had a kid come up to her and ask if she'd please remove the thin layer of plastic from something he'd just bought. Gretchen asked the kid if maybe he could try removing it himself, perhaps thinking he'd have a moment of triumph of being able to do something for himself. But before he could, his mother came over, snatched the thing away, and removed the plastic on her kid's behalf. His proficiency with that skill would have to wait for another day, assuming it ever arrives at all. [REDACTED]
Meanwhile our sister-in-law was making me waffles from some vegan mix, and they were surprisingly good. Our nephew came down all puffy-faced from having just woken up and he proceeded to gobble down the amount of waffles you would expect an eighteen year old man to consume. Then our sister-in-law drove him to some summer job he has.
Eventually our niece came down and Gretchen and her had a heart-to-heart talk about a momentary relationship that had blossumed for her on the eve of leaving Arkansas for Oregon. Being snatched away from that is part of what is making her summer so terrible. We were talking about other life choices, such as whether or not to attend college, just as her mother returned. I think I was in the middle of saying, "Well, you can always drop out." That was a funny moment; the Corvalis branch of the family is open about some things, but not about skipping out of educational opportunities. Then again, if my parents had provided the strong familial support of my sister-in-law and Gretchen's brother instead of hewing to the lizard style of parenting, I'd probably have one or more advanced degrees but few or none of the many trade skills (and many other talents) that I've taught myself.
We kept joking about how Gilly (who really is so nice that it gets irritating) would react should we accidentally wreck her car. Gretchen imitated her distinctive voice while saying, "Oh, that's no biggie. Actually, I've been wanting another car and you've done me a favor." Gretchen left a message on Gilly's answering machine saying her car was a smoking wreck on the side of the road, but, just kidding!
On the drive back to Portland, we did the nice thing and stopped at a gas station to put $20 worth of diesel in the tank of the borrowed Volkswagen. At today's fuel prices, though, that was only a little over three gallons. I'd forgotten this, but Oregon is the only other state in the country besides New Jersey where individuals don't pump their own fuel. But the protocol is a different enough in Oregon that Gretchen almost drove off with the fuel hose still in the filler pipe, causing a near-meltdown in the guy whose job it was to pump the gas.
In Portland, we drove directly to Mis Tacones, a minority-queer-owned vegan taco restaurant on Alberta Street (trans people of color eat for free). I ordered an IPA and a burrito, and that burrito was everything I want in a burrito (and big as well), dispelling all the doubts I'd had about burritos as a food item after eating that deeply mediocre burrito I'd ordered at Supernova Vegan a couple days ago.
Back in the AirBnB, I had some delicious downtime while Gretchen delivered Mis Tacones tacos to Gilly & Allen and hung out with them in their yard (since she considers their house uninhabitable). I drank kratom tea for awhile and then switched to booze. I also now had a sixpack of Pelican Brewing Company hazy IPA I'd bought (along with a Rockstar energy drink and a bag of "wicked" spicy peanuts) at a gas station on the drive back from Corvalis.
The day was, I think, the hottest one in the late-July heatwave that had been making the whole country miserable. Interestingly, though, I didn't know our little house's air conditioning was off until Gretchen returned and said something about it being hot in there. Evidently it had passively retained the evening's relative chill inside it well into the afternoon.
This evening, Gilly and Allen picked up Gretchen and me and we went to dine at the Bye & Bye, a punk rock vegan bar Gretchen and I have loved since we first dined there in 2009. Initially we thought we'd take a picnic table at the back section of outdoor seating, but then it turned out that that was the smoking area, a wrinkle that comes up surprisingly little (at least when one spends most of one's time in blue states). So we moved out to the front outdoor dining area, where the wind periodically brought us fine sprays of water from a misting system. I think I've had the Weeping Tiger (which features jalape&ntild;os and breaded tofu) in the past, since the Bye & Bye hasn't really changed at all, but this time I found it bland and not really to my liking. The chili that I got on the side wasn't great either, though the hazy IPA was amazing. I forget what we talked about over dinner, but I remember feeling impatient about it and wanting to be back at the AirBnB a long time before we left.
The most entertaining moment in the evening came when Gretchen showcased a character she's developed named Eric. Eric has learning challenges that severely affect his speech (thus she cannot impersonate Eric to just anyone). What makes it funny is that Eric has a surprisingly large vocabulary, and is given to saying words like "vicissitudes," a word whose definition I didn't actually know.
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