Two days after Bonnaroo wrapped I was passing over Minneapolis on a cruise missile to Portland. I was still burnt from toe to top due to my Tennessee adventure. Seated beside me were a mom and her infant daughter. I prayed the kid wouldn’t lump its pants and squeeze ’til the rags ’round its bottom popped.The mom and I got to talking after she noticed my purple Roo band still snug ’round my wrist. She knew someone who’d played there a few times. But that was from a life more removed than recent. She’d raved hard in the 90s but was now a professional with a husband and kid. I’m always into stories of how people grow out of the fun life because it seems a portal I’ll never step through. Her transition seemed smooth. She acted happy despite the rat that’d clawed its way out her cum drenched eggs.She plastered her crying kid with stickers to keep it from blasting chemtrails of snot on us both. Soon she stuck a few to me. Within my head I formulated a video idea. It was of a man in Ninja Turtles underwear adhering stickers to his skin. He narrates from a page in Ranger Rick.
“When my brother died his soul entered the body of a dog. He uses it to fuck younglings.”
The video ends with the man holding those kid undies to a dog’s sniffer. In a high pitched voice he utters “Hello, brother.”
I cleared the dark and goofy shit from my head because at that moment I had no need to slip into my brain. Because I wanted to focus on things more normal that I could actually share with others. For the next few hours I enjoyed chatting with this person both nice and new. Even her kid was fun.
Meeting someone pleasant like her is always a surprise as I seem to expect the opposite from most. This is based off little more than my anxious brain hoping to avoid interaction with others. But I like those who can draw an energy out of me as most folks seem to render my social capabilities inert. When I do hit it off, when I meet someone for ten minutes who has me chattier than those I’ve known for ages, I love it. It always makes me feel better, even if our interaction is brief. Little occurrences like this often stay in my head for years. They act as a reminder I must be that pleasant person for others, for myself.
From the airport I rode the MAX to downtown and reunited with my sister Brittany. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas and now it was June. For years the two of us have been best friends. But we generally live in different parts of the country. So my trips to Portland come often and last long. She’s the biggest reason I trek west to be there.
She was living in a house apartment above the main floor of a retired schoolteacher. I’d heard this grandma was strange. She didn’t flush and left bizarre notes for my sis in the bathroom. But still I held hope she’d be a hottie whose toilet seat I could genuflect before and sniff. Those thoughts faded when we met.
I was picking raspberries off her bushes the first time I saw her. Katherine was pale and wrinkly, cycling into the backyard on a bike she pedaled with slow deliberation. The red juice staining my hands betrayed my theft but she didn’t seem to notice. She was always kind of in her own world.
It’d been raining and her coat was a few sizes too big, masking her thin and shrunken frame. A billowy black hood framed her head as if it were peering out an industrial garbage bag. After dismounting she stood on her porch and spoke in an affected baby voice.
“Oh it’s just SO NICE to meet you.”
“Hey you too. And it’s really cool to let me stay so long.”
“Ohhhh you’re welcome here because I just think your sister is an angel.” Katherine paused then cooed in excitement. “She’s like my little granddaughter.”
Her pitch was high and the words so oddly punctuated I wondered what else with her was fake. She came off as friendly.
Brit’s apartment was cheap and nice. We both geeked on how lucky she’d been to get this place. It was in a beautiful neighborhood, had skylights, a backyard, and she’d been allowed to paint the walls a melon green. The neighbors were crackheads who inexplicably kept thirty loaves of bread in their car but that was okay. Before this Brit moved about four times in Portland. She was ready to be settled and this was the place. I felt right there too, being with the person I knew best in the town I loved most.
I lived with her in Portland a few years back when I was depressed over a breakup. My existence within the city was crying on a couch and fucking people I didn’t want to. She helped me through those times. After the pain lifted I came to know the town and all the great things we could do in it. We have a checklist of sorts we try tick every time I come to town: parks, downtown characters, pub theaters, cheap clubs with sweat fucked dance parties, walking the bridges to see the water, and catching whiffs of piss coming off Burnside’s bum-laden sidewalks. I was to be in Portland for two weeks and so we got to it.
We caught a boring cello concert atop the dead volcano that is Mt. Tabor. The entire thing is bigger than my hometown. It has vistas of depth that stretch over downtown on one side and glimpse giant mountains on the other. Climbing its stairs to the top is an essential part of Portland. I’ve spent many hours at its apex emptying my head, overlooking a town of potential I feel could be the one for me.
That first night we went to the starting line of Portland’s naked bike ride. Once a year thousands of folks strip to nothing and cruise for miles in the night. We got there with Brit’s boyfriend a few minutes prior to launch. From a distance I saw thousands of blinking lights and glow gear strapped to shadow figures. In moving through the darkness the mass became clearer. It was a glob of metal and flesh that sprawled further than our eyes could take us.
I watched men and women unpeel layers as if it were nothing. I stood on a brick window ledge and saw people of all ages, genders, shapes, and races. It was a beautiful thing to be among so many who were that comfortable with their bodies.
In the mass of many our perceived flaws became muted as reality took over: this is what people look like and it’s kinda awesome. I saw big guts and little penises. Saggy asses enveloping bike seats. Attractive bodies attached to attractive people. None of it mattered. There was an energy to this proceeding, a pride in being who you are and owning what you have. It wasn’t even sexual. Just cool. It’s nice to think of a naked human body without the attached thoughts of whether or not I’d touch it. I told myself I’d ride the next time I was there, pending my sister was far, far away from my pale ass and floppy cock.
The ride began and the line of folks pedaling seemed to be endless. A band atop a building played joyful music. The riders cheered in roars that both rose and fell in buzzing waves of sound. I watched a creepy old man filming the women for fifteen minutes straight. I put my face to him and stared. He failed to flinch, his eyes never betraying how many squirts he’d get from stomping on these peoples’ trust. I took pictures solely to document the crazy experience. I also shot footage and crafted it into this video that doesn’t seem to make anyone laugh but me:
The parade of flesh was endless. A naked piece of human produce plopped within a shopping cart rattled by in front of well hung dudes dressed as bats. A rollerblader looking for high-fives claimed he’d just yanked his cob. A naked couple performed impressive acrobatics beneath a stoplight as a thong wearing cowboy snapped his whip against the ground. I saw streams of costumed folks doing high speeds on their skateboards and eighty year old dick flapping in the wind. I was in ecstasy. God bless Portland.
That night was a highlight but we did much more. We spent lots of time on aimless walks that either led us to nothing or buku interesting finds. One of the best was a sign for locally sourced fried chicken.
I saw transgendered dogs marching in a gay parade and leather freaks suspended from their sex swings atop a float. Some cute black girl and I shared a Four Loko in the grass as elderly lesbians marched for change. But I wasn’t in town to meet new people. I simply wanted to maximize the time spent with my sis.
Brit and I hung in Pioneer Square. Pacing there more times than not was a Doomsday prophet whose sign encouraged us to slather ourselves in Yeshua’s Blood. He had a cute dog on a leash that snacked treats from a box.
Yeshua quietly preached to himself, consulting his pocket bible for points of clarification. I loved watching him for hours as I sipped energy drinks and scribbled notes on what I was seeing. I wrote that if I were to drink the blood of Yeshua it might wind up in my cock come times of arousal. When it came to be Halloween I went as a combination of Yeshua dude and another PDX character. This one paints his face blue, wears shorts on his head, and has an American flag flapping off his leg:
Pioneer is the hub of downtown and I always check it for events. They range from beautiful cultural ceremonies to meditation sessions to bands filling downtown with their sounds. The surrounding area is populated with street musicians and young travelers holding both signs and dogs. Sometimes in their packs they carry live geese who poke their curious heads out the opened zippers. Sometimes the hobo is old and blasts shit music from a boombox.
Riding the MAX to Pioneer is always fun too. I saw a girl on the train with deer antlers slung ’round her neck and a raccoon tail pinned to her ass. She had a saw tied to a backpack that seemed to act as her mobile home. Her look was pretty cool with all the animal parts and accumulated grime of street life. But dumpster diving The Humane Society wasn’t going to make it on my Portland docket.
I thought of how my idiosyncrasies are more hidden than hers and so reveal themselves in time. They aren’t always as endearing as they seem at first. Once revealed I can be a bit too much and have to remind myself to always hold a piece of it in. Perhaps that’s why I’m often unable to maintain friendships for more than a year or so. But I know it’s more than that.
I rest easy once things are fine and expect them to stay that way, avoiding people because I can. I turn inward and be with just myself for weeks or more. The only people I stay in contact with are family. Eventually I get sad or sick of it. Then attempts at socialization come out of me in bursts both good and bad. It can make me hard to know and is a plague I’ve cast upon myself. But during my stay I met someone who’s much more overbearing than I.
Old Lady Katherine had a son named Kash who slept on a table in her basement. Though we thought he was in his early thirties, in time we learned he was forty something. We knew he’d been to jail. I found a wet notebook of his prison letters in the outdoor trash. I dried them as best I could and flipped the pages in Pioneer.
They detailed his meth use and various fuck ups. His son’s mother wrote to tell how his inability to get his life together was ruining their kid’s life. Kash scribbled one that apparently went unsent. He asked a friend to try find him cute, thin girls who were only in on short sentences. The friend asked what the hell he was doing in prison yet again.
Brit knew Kash had been to jail. He’d told her the various states where he’d been locked up, stretching down the west coast and as far south as Texas. He claimed Oregon prisons to be among the easiest. It was good to know the dude had such comfort in his home state. Kash had been to jail for meth but we knew little else, including if he was still torching light bulbs to send chemical waves through what was left of his brain.
The first time I encountered Kash it was jarring. He was pale and at least a few inches taller than my six foot frame. His head was shaved and he spoke in rapid stutters filled with repetition. Other times his words were slowed to a spacey drawl. “Right-right-right,” was his standard response to all, even his own questions. It was immediately apparent he’d fried out long ago. He wasn’t as friendly as the image he tried hard to project with a smile that didn’t match his words.
He launched into tangents I didn’t understand, asking if I was a computer hacker because he needed a laptop repaired. He couldn’t keep focus while chatting, his head bobbing ’round as its tongue queued words of nonsense. I didn’t have to use many as he populated the air with enough for us both. At the end he shook my hand and said it was so cool my sister lived there. That I could drop by the basement to slurp booze anytime. I wondered if he played beer pong off his bed.
I told Brit of our encounter. She’d had ones similar. We both agreed he was weird and would do our best to avoid him. We couldn’t make sense of why Katherine enabled him with her letting him live there. But at least he was in the basement and we were upstairs. There was a barrier of distance, even if that gap was only two floors. Our parents were also coming to visit Portland around this time. We thought it best to not let them know about this massive sketchball of a dude.
My parents are lifelong Midwestern Catholics, one a farmer, the other a schoolteacher. They’ve achieved a stability in life that’s unknown to me but appealing. It took my dad until thirty to really settle down and stop shifting through the country as I do now. His battle was alcoholism whereas mine are depression and social anxiety. Both lead to lonely places. He came out of his to form the greatest person I know.
I always try take the best parts of him and apply them to myself, even if in ways we’re vastly different. And my parents are different than me but it doesn’t matter. They’re both extremely nice and supportive, imparting a sense of safety for my life when I don’t know what’s coming next. They only know parts of my personality but we’re very close, especially so after I finished college and moved away.
Minneapolis was my attempt at breaking off to start my own life. Even though it wasn’t going the best they made sure that on every hard day I knew just how much I was loved. That I always had a place to come to, or as my dad puts it “I’m not going to let you live in a box, but I expect you to do your best.” They’ve supported my sister in the same ways as she’s been on the west coast for four years. Now they wanted to see both their kids in Portland. It was cool but the town would prove to be a bit much for them.
The first thing they saw in their hotel were a couple trans hookers hanging at the stairs. My mom said she was going to look into switching places and locked the door when she got in her room. We rode the MAX downtown and the drunk dude behind us asked a kid if his mom was into strip clubs. Blue Guy, one of the dudes I went as for Halloween, stepped into the pizza place that made our dinner. I blew cool breath on hot slabs of cheese as he sipped a cup of water and walked out. My mom couldn’t get over how casual he acted while dressed that way. She wasn’t amused. A couple hours in downtown proved that all the things I loved about Portland were major detractors for them.
After they met my sister’s boyfriend and picnicked atop Mt. Tabor we drove to the ocean. As kids we’d stayed at the same hotel while visiting my mother’s drugged out relatives in Oregon.
We slept oceanside and heard its waves through night and day. My dad and I jogged its beaches, the rolling tides lapping at my feet. I played a game of running at the water’s edge without ever letting it lick my shoe with its wet and salty tongue. We spent hours and hours on the beach, its cold sand filling the cracks between our naked toes.
Even as I fought with my mom over trivial things, as we always do, I felt my senses of happiness and adventure come into alignment. I generally have one or the other but rarely both at once for any sustainable amount of time. I want to be away from North Dakota yet still have the comforts of friends and family. Those are the things I know are most important and that’s hard to reconcile with my desire to be elsewhere. At times I regret not dropping out the womb into a land where I could live my life.
Even if this was temporary, I got a bit of that feeling I’ve been looking for. And I knew it was okay I couldn’t always be with those I loved most. That I could live elsewhere and still feel connected. I loved being here with my family, creating memories we’d reflect on forever. Attaching ourselves to a new place. Building sinew that stretched from North Dakota to the Pacific.
My parents came to love my sister’s boyfriend and the things we did on their trip but not the town itself. We decided that next time we’d just head right for the ocean and spend as many days there as time allowed. It was a plan and it was a good one.
When things got back to just Brit and I we found something that brought a halt to the goodness that came from a family visit. On the floor of her apartment lay a cigarette butt. The only person in the house who smoked was Kash. There was no door to Brit’s place, just a stairway that only we were allowed to walk. We feared he’d been snooping around and didn’t know if it was to suck on panties or just root for cash.
I was bringing laundry to the basement and ran into him. He was blaring music and stood shirtless and sweaty. I peered at him through the heap of clothes in my arms. He was drenched and speaking in a feverish manner. He ranted about his sister, a fucking do-gooder type. How her husband stole his stuff when he was locked up. And his fucking mom had thrown away his speakers. I had to nod in acknowledgement without commenting on how he was high and living in an unfinished basement. It seemed he thought the people in his life were mostly just working to fuck him over and thieve his shit.
“That’s a bummer about your things, dude.”
“I know. I know. Right-right-right.”
“I hope you get some new speakers.”
“Right. Right. Right-right-right.”
He asked if I smoked pot. When I answered no he said he didn’t either –well actually just a little bit– but that was something he was probably going to quit. I wanted to say I’d tried meth just to see if I could pry info. But I didn’t feel safe as he was clearly fucked out of his mind. At this point he was ranting so hard I was getting sprayed by spittle.
Normally I don’t mind prodding shady characters to see what they’ll say. But having him there, so large, so detached from the real world, I knew it wasn’t worth it. Even if there were good stories to be collected I made myself hold back, allowing him to unwind from this manic state. He ranted more against his mom who let him live there despite all indications she shouldn’t. He stayed pinged up so I got the laundry going quick and retreated to the fading safety of upstairs.
A few weeks later I was back in Minneapolis and Brit was visiting me this time. We were at a yogurt shop when she got a call from Katherine: Kash stole Brit’s car and she didn’t know where he was. Brit spent that night on the phone in tears, talking to the police, my dad, and Katherine. Kash was joyriding, telling his mom he was at some bar. He returned the car the next day and was never charged.
This turned my sister’s life upside down. She no longer felt safe in the place she lived. She’d have to move yet again despite being unable to afford it. Katherine said she was the fourth person to leave due to Kash, something she’d failed to previously disclose. Despite this, Katherine seemed to not think it was the biggest deal.
She let Kash use her phone to text Brit an apology where he said “Forgive me sweetie, okay.” It wasn’t a question. It was a demand. Katherine claimed she wasn’t going to allow Kash to live there anymore but then reneged. Her letting him be in the house changed everything about Brit’s life. It was frustrating. Brit felt powerless to do much as she was halfway across the country. We all felt that way, knowing once she left home our support could only carry so far.
When Brit returned to Portland a week later her boyfriend moved things out. She owned a giant bed they couldn’t get down the stairs. Brit called me one night ranting that she’d piss all over the thing so Kash couldn’t use it. I don’t know if she did but I imagine him endlessly trying to find comfort amidst the ammonia reek of someone he fucked over.
We searched Kash on the internet and discovered he’d been arrested many times for failing to register as a sex offender. That was another thing Katherine had not made known. In many ways it was good he’d stolen the car. My sister made it out before Kash did something irreparable.
Kash wasn’t punished and thought nothing of what happened. He told Brit’s boyfriend he didn’t get why she was making such a big deal out of this. Something so devastating for her was a normal event for him. He showed Brit’s boyfriend a slideshow of his “girlfriends” on a phone. They were all meth-wrecked: rotted teeth and ashy skin. Kash offered to let him fuck them. “I’m not greedy like that. I share my women.”
Brit rightfully blamed Katherine for the shittiness she let happen to her. She hated the hag even more than her son. Katherine cried and apologized yet did nothing of consequence to end this horrid cycle. She continues to let Kash do what he does and it’ll most likely go on that way forever. We still wonder how many lives he’s disrupted or ruined.
Though they only apply soft pressure to ending my aimless lifestyle, my parents keep me in check instead of spinning unhinged. Katherine’s response to the car theft was that Kash had a hard life. That she needed to practice more compassion toward him as his ways weren’t really his fault. She wasn’t going to make or help him change.
I feel as if I owe my parents a certain amount of improvement in my life or I’ll disappoint them. They hold me to a standard. That standard brings a sense of forward change I need to propel me into new phases of life. It happened when they helped push me toward college and I know it’ll happen again. I just don’t know when.
I love that I have people who care enough to want the best for me. Even if I rarely give them reason to think I’ll make the effort to reach for it they keep trying. At times the pressure feels unwanted but I’d rather have that than being left to my own devices of perpetually coasting by. Of living only for fun without long lasting fulfillment. I fuck up in different ways than Kash but still I fuck up plenty.
Months after the theft, when Brit moved to an apartment that seemed nice though in time would prove to be infested with massive rats, we returned to the ocean. I was visiting on a separate journey that was my first to Oregon since the incident. By this time I was making jokes about all that’d happened with Katherine and Kash. I imitated Katherine’s baby voice and frequent use of exclaiming things to be ‘SO NEAT.’
“Oh Brittany, my pussy reeks SO BAD.”
“Oh granddaughter, Kash’s cock makes me SO WET.”
Brit didn’t appreciate my Katherine-isms just yet but we both enjoyed being together in a beautiful setting. To feel good instead of stressed and unsafe in a state we both cherished. This was a different beach than before. We came because it was featured in The Goonies but fell in love as soon as we caught sight from the road. It’s one of the more striking and perfect places I’ve ever been.
We stood at the base of a building sized rock as a cold wave sloshed along its sides. They were packed with starfish and weird tube creatures that recoiled at our touch. We decided this is where we’d stay the next time our parents came. Even if it took years for that to happen, the rocks and water would be there for us waiting. It wasn’t like distant plans I’ve made with others. These wouldn’t fall apart for one reason or another. They wouldn’t fade when I drift within myself. We’d all be at the ocean again, basking in things I know will last eternal.
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Here’s a good look at Kash from his most recent arrest:
A Meth Snorting Sex Offender Named Kash is the fifth of a seven part series on loneliness, friendship, and selfish endeavors in my semi-recent life. If ya want to read about more of my fucked choices then part one can be found here:
Thanks for reading. Cheers!