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Let Yourself Float in ‘the Derive mon Amie’

September 6, 2008

The last two days have been reflective and inspirational for me.  In many ways, the last 10 months, since moving back into the Portland Metro Area, have been this way.  Much of my writing and much of my introspection has been cathartic.  You see, the last 13 years have been a whirlwind.

In the Summer of 1995 I was inspired to leave my career – a very rewarding and satisfying career, I might add.  I sold my house, moved to Southern California, and completed my Bachelors degree.  LIttle did I know at the time what direction(s) my life would take back then.  I didn’t know that I was going to make a lot of good friends.  I had no idea that I was going to end up living in five different states.  And I certainly didn’t know I was going to meet and marry the most wonderful woman.  Kids?  Fuggitaboutit!  Never even occurred to me.

Leaving Portland was hard for me

Leaving Portland was hard for me.  I love Portland.  I’m a fifth generation Oregonian, on my Dad’s side, and my maternal ancestry goes back at least five generations in Portland, specifically.  I know trivia, history, and stuff most people could care less about.  I know this city, and it was hard for me to leave.  But I had to go and it was good for me.

Coming back last Fall was a dream come true.  I had to be very careful that I didn’t drag my family back here.  I had to curb my enthusiasm and make sure this was a joint decision.  In fact, one afternoon as we were talking about the various opportunities (Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, Colorado, and Oregon), The Wife looked at me with a grin and said: “You’re really excited about this, aren’t you?”

She was right, but I was really trying to not get my hopes up, nor be too influential in the decisionmaking process.

Arriving here, especially coming from the dry, Eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, it was great to experience the moisture, the green, lush ecosystem, the mighty rivers, the stunning mountain views, and the openness of the Portland Community.  I knew I was home and I reveled in it!

The last two days were spent running some errands in town.  But my days weren’t so full that I couldn’t stop to smell the Rose City, as it were.  I spent some time atop Mt. Tabor, walking the streets of downtown, and drinking in the richness of various Portland neighborhoods.  In fact, last weekend, on the way to the Pie-Off, we took the scenic route into town and drove in on Skyline Blvd.

we took a slight detour through the Sunset Hills Cemetery

This scenic Skyline route allowed me to show my family where I lived one summer; on the grounds of the old Sylvan Water District Offices, in a 5th-Wheel trailer.  I’ll never be able to own a house up there, but I had a great summer living on one of the highest points in the West Hills.  What a view!

On the way to Washington Park, we took a slight detour through the Sunset Hills Cemetery.  It had been at least two decades since I’ve visited my maternal grandparents grave sites.  This lazy afternoon, before the Pie-Off, afforded me the perfect opportunity to show my Darling Daughter the graves of her great-grandparents.  It also allowed me to explain death – a subject we usually don’t discuss much.

Wednesday, after my breakfast meeting, I drove to the top of Mt. Tabor and spent some contemplative time exploring the landscape with my eyes.  So much has changed in the last 13 years, yet so much remains the same.  From the vantage point of Portland’s viewpoints, not much has changed.  But an hour later, while sitting in the Albina Press, I realized how much has changed – especially in places like the Hawthorne district.

Yesterday, as I strolled around the Pioneer Courthouse Square area, I saw some interesting sights.  First, there was the street preacher who thought the steps, where people were quietly eating their lunches, were his personal auditorium.  I stopped to listen to his words, though I had already found the tone to be condescending and arrogant.  It really wasn’t much of a presentation, and as a sermon it lacked much.  Basically it was a string of religious cliche’s strung together in no particular order.  It wasn’t long before a young woman approached and engaged him in coversation.  I was glad the harranging had stopped.

Shortly afterward I saw a blind man, complete with white cane and closed eyes, stumbling down the street near the Hilton Hotel.  The thing that baffled me was the iPod ear buds in his ears.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve always heard that impaired vision people learn to rely heavily on their sense of hearing.  I was wondering what sense this stumbling blind man was now relying upon.

No sooner had the blind man disappeared down the street, when two Otis Elevator repairmen walked by.  I noticed the shoulder patches, “Safety 1st Otis.”  Then I noticed the carton of eggs in his hands.  Do they test the elevators with eggs?  Is that the OSHA approved test mechanism?  How eggsactly do they use these unborn chicks?  I checkled to myself and Twittered.

As I leaned on my truck, plotting a route to Lowe’s and then to the Ladybug Cafe in St. Johns, I turned and looked down Broadway.  It was so Portland.  I snapped a photo and got in my truck.

Driving North on I-5, I saw a minivan packed up for a journey reminiscent of the Grapes of Wrath or The Beverly Hillbilles – take your pick.

One of my Twitter friends, @xolotl, sent me this message: “let yourself float in the derive mon amie.”  He later interpreted this for me: “la derive = ‘the drift’ idea of French Situationists: floating through your day experiencing like you did with eggs etc.”

He perfectly captured the mood of my day.  I love to explore.  I love to let my mind wander.  This is where I find the meanings.  This is where I give myself space to uncover the intentions, the possibilities, and the bigger implications of life’s actions.  Plus it allowed me to connect to some of my French ancestry.

The Bible tells us that in the “last days,” people will be “running to and fro, increasing in knowledge.”  I certainly see a lot of running to and fro, and we are definitely living in the information age.  But are we taking the time to derive wisdom from the knowledge we’ve acquired.

Is the information valuable for us, or are we just collecting it in a trillion websites?

  1. September 6, 2008 7:08 am

    I drive Skyline grade school 5 days a week. Great area and fun roads to drive on.

    I know just how you feel about Portland.

    I moved BACK from Sacramento California with my wife and (at the time) 2 girls. I had a struggle with God over coming back, but now live about a mile away from the house I grew up in.

    There is something special about Oregon. As Stephen Colbert says, “Oregon is either Washington’s Mexico, or California’s Canada.”

    I tend to agree. As a state, we are very diverse and I see being very unique.

    Sorry for the long comment. Perhaps I need to post on my blog about this.


  2. September 7, 2008 10:19 pm

    Good read! I just got plugged into the local Portland scene, since I’m new here and all. I picked up your blog off of Twitter and looking forward to reading more.

    I love seeing all of the random stuff that you mention in this post. Portland is a city unto its own.


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