I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately. Partly because I’m a yoga teacher and in the style of yoga that I teach (vinyasa) it’s all about the transitions from pose to pose. Our practice on the mat is frequently a metaphor for our life and lately my transitions have felt, well…funky, clunky and safe. But mostly I’ve been thinking about transitions because I have a 17-year-old son who regularly reminds me that a year from now will find him on a college campus somewhere away from home, beginning his own grown-up life.
Nothing brought this reality home quicker than a recent trip to Oregon. The trip’s original purpose was to incorporate a campus visit to the University Of Oregon for said son, as well as a brief sojourn on the coast for all of us. We made a pit-stop in Portland for lunch and an opportunity for the dog to stretch his legs and do his bid-ness. We found ourselves at a dog park in the heart of “The Pearl”, just northwest of downtown. As I walked Max back to the car I glanced at a nearby street sign and quickly realized that we were a mere five-block walk from my old apartment. The last time I was in Portland, I swore that they had torn down the circa-1970’s building to make way for something more hip. As I drew near the corner of 24th and NW Irving there was no mistaking that other than for a new coat of paint, this was, indeed, my very first apartment. I stood on the threshold of my old building, closed my eyes and felt myself transported back to that pivotal transition in my life and the choices I made.
I had moved to Portland for two reasons. 1.) I landed my first job in television and unlike most of my peers, I adamantly refused to go to Tri-Cities, Yakima or Bend to get that experience under my belt. Portland was considered a “smaller market” town, thereby making it a viable option. And it was only three hours away. 2.) Punk Rock Boy.
Punk Rock Boy (PRB) came into my life in a smokey dive bar in Tacoma that has since burned to the ground. He was working with a band from Portland called Billy Rancher and The Unreal Gods, otherwise known as the Next Big Thing. I was there with my Bestie, looking for nothing else but good music and a fun night. As he walked past, my attraction to Punk Rock Boy was immediate and visceral, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. His blonde, curly hair fashioned in a new-wavish mohawk, thick chains around his waist, dog collar around his neck. Despite his fair locks, he reeked of dark and dangerous. During that night, we exchanged a few lingering glances but little else. My attraction to PRB made little to no sense to me, but it was undeniable and fierce. He was all Sex Pistols to my Duran Duran, CBGB’s to my Danceteria. (Shameless reference to hip NYC clubs in the 80’s to let you know I was Just. That. Cool.) After that night, PRB went back to Portland with his band and I went back to my house in suburban Tacoma. With my mom.
Over the next few months, PRB and I managed to get to know each other. His dark exterior belied a sweet and kind disposition. As I fell hard and fast, he unfortunately (for me) stayed (somewhat) loyal to a girlfriend in Portland. My heart broke in a million messy pieces but I decided to move on. Well, sort of.
(I am nothing if not diligent. And often times somewhat clever. I also really, really needed to get a job and strike out on my own.)
Opportunity knocked. The NBC affiliate in Portland was hiring and they needed females. Yay for me! I got the job, packed up my mom’s 1975 faded red Datsun 710 station wagon and headed south. I worked as a camera operator and floor director on the 5 and 11 0’clock newscasts, played backgammon in between and had the time of my life. I ate popcorn and steamed broccoli and kept a jug of cheap white wine in my mini fridge in my tiny studio apartment on the corner of 24th and NW Irving. Coincidentally, the TV station I worked at was located across the street from the house where PRB lived.
He may have thought I was stalking him.
PRB and I would see each other in the clubs in Portland but mostly I moved on, if not in my heart certainly in my life. I met and dated my second gay boyfriend who would drive us to the Oregon Coast on the weekends in his vintage Volvo sports car and treat me to fancy dinners as he flirted with the gay waiters. He was a male model, recently divorced and obviously searching for his um, true self. We made a good pair while it lasted. Naturally, it didn’t last and I moved back to Seattle.
Once back north, I soon needed a car of my own. Every day on my way to work I would pass this sweet little Karmann Ghia convertible for sale in the Albertson’s parking lot. Okay, I know it’s really just a VW, but I could picture myself in that stylish roadster as clear as a bell. It was soooooo me. It was hip, stylish…and really, really unreliable. It was the automotive version of PRB. To this day, I remember that car calling to me, beckoning me with it’s seductive, crooked finger. I bought a new Honda Civic instead.
In Seattle I met a Boy Named Bob who was with a band called The Boibs. The newest Next Big Thing. Seattle also brought me professional success as I landed a position (in a major market!) at an independent TV station, KTZZ. Things were on track, looking up, settling down. I still thought of PRB, but not as often. Early on I sensed that this Boy Named Bob might prove to be an important person in my life and I knew I had one more thing to do.
I like rituals. And ceremonies. I like marking significant events with significant and mindful actions.
On an sunshine-y early summer day, with my Bestie riding shotgun in my (very reliable) blue Honda Civic, I made the trip south on I-5 once again. This time to say goodbye. PRB was working as a photographer’s assistant in a studio located in a grimy part of Portland. The studio was marked by a single red door. The gloss of the ruby red shone in stark contrast to the surrounding grey industrial buildings, making it hard to miss. I found PRB upstairs and hung out for a bit. His blonde mohawk was now dyed black and left to it’s own devices, making PRB look more like a Rastafarian with dreadlocks than the punk rocker I had met those years back. No matter, it was still the PRB I had known. We made mindless small talk and then, with minimal words and certainly no explicit explanation, I gave PRB a final hug and kiss. He seemed confused, perhaps even bewildered. I turned and left, not daring to look behind. I had done what I needed to do.
Fast forward twenty-plus years and today I have a wonderful life. As one of my best friends often says, “No regrets!” And truthfully, I don’t have any regrets. Regrets imply that you would have done something differently, wished that you had turned down the other road rather than the one you chose. Having no regrets doesn’t mean that I don’t play “what if?” or imagine how things might have evolved if another path had been taken. But with two beautiful kids and a Mister that I am madly in love with and proud of, that make me laugh till I pee and still love me at my gawd-awful worst, life is good.
Facebook managed to re-connect PRB and me this earlier this year. There’s really nothing salacious to report–he’s not an avid social networker, so we don’t communicate much. Not long after, I began having vivid dreams about PRB, sometimes with him very ill and near death, sometimes not. He assured me he wasn’t sick, but had just put his dad in hospice care. I’ve thought a lot about why PRB has stayed with me all these years and decades. I do believe specific people are brought into your life for a reason but we often don’t get to know why right away, or maybe even ever. Well, at least until we can’t blog about it anymore. Sometimes I think PRB symbolizes what lies outside my comfort zone, that place that is so tough for me to visit but so important for me to go. PRB made no sense to me and yet it made all the sense in the world. PRB taught me that life truly begins outside my comfort zone, outside the confines of my sensible, logical mind.
So yes, all this and more came rushing back to me as I stood on the threshold of my first apartment on that day in Portland last month. Excited that my son will be embarking on his own adventures soon, perhaps meeting people that, for some reason, stay with him in body, mind or spirit for decades to come. Hoping and trusting that he navigates important transitions with care, but not so much care that he misses out on the sweet little Karmann Ghia beckoning in the lot.
Just make sure it runs.