Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Big Pink

Early in February, I went to the San Francisco airport to pick up a very special, much-anticipated guest, my father, who’d decided that he wanted to go to the wedding of his brother (my Uncle Joe) in Bend, OR, and also to spend some time in San Francisco. My mother isn’t much of a flyer, so he came alone. Standing at the airport watching people arrive, I felt a tremendous sense of fondness for my fellow humans. It made me think of the sequences at the beginning and end of the movie Love, Actually.

There was a woman waiting near me who didn’t seem friendly, but when her people appeared—a younger man and woman and a baby—she snatched the baby from its parents and turned beaming to me, showing the infant off. I smiled back, appreciating, with her, this particularly excellent baby.

On the way back from the airport, my father and I saw a double rainbow, very wide and very close to the ground. Both ends could be seen all the way back to town. Dad pointed out how all the sky visible between the two rainbows was perfectly grey, which he thought was unusual.

I had some photos to drop off with a guest at the soup kitchen, but had forgotten what day it was, and so found the place deserted, except that the executive director had by chance stopped by, along with one of his housemates. The housemate yelled, “Hi, Dad!” and gave my extremely reserved father a big hug.

The next day, Dad took a long walk to Buena Vista Park and back. We went to Esperpento for lunch together, and then he came with me on my regular walk.

Since we were going to Bend, it had occurred to me that we might as well go to Seattle to see my cousin and her husband and daughter and mother-in-law and David and Lisa, and if we were going to Seattle, then we might as well go to Portland, where neither of us had never been. I proposed this itinerary and I was sure Dad was going to say he’d prefer just to go to Bend for the wedding and otherwise hang out in San Francisco, but he said, “Sure!”

I think he probably came to regret that, as it turned out to be, using his word, quite a hectic undertaking. We flew to Seattle the day after our lunch at Esperpento, took the light rail downtown and the monorail to our hotel, then walked over to the Row House Café for lunch and back to our hotel via the Center for Wooden Boats. In the evening, we drove a rental car to Shoreline for dinner with the aforementioned crew.

The next day we drove to Portland, which struck both of us as gloomy. We did have a tasty lunch at the Portland City Grill (recommended by David) and appreciated the expansive view from the high floor of “Big Pink.” Our server was raving about how lucky we’d gotten with the weather, though if that was good weather, I don’t want to see the bad weather. That evening we made an attempt to visit Willamette Falls, but couldn’t find it, plus the traffic going back into town was awful.

I’d brought a number of maps and printed out many pages of driving instructions, nearly all of which were useless: we got lost over and over and over. It turns out the best use of a paper map is to cause someone with a smart phone to rush to your assistance. One day as we were driving on the freeway, I thought, “I’m going to have to get a smart phone” (though I subsequently decided it would be simpler and cheaper just not to travel) and just at that moment, Dad said, “I’m going to have to get a smart phone with GPS.” Mom has long wanted one, so I gave her a call from my dumb phone to give her the good news: soon she will have a smart phone! She was happy.

The next morning, we had breakfast at Milo’s Café on Broadway in Portland, across the bridge from downtown. Dad got a little plastic giraffe with his hot chocolate and kindly turned it over to me. We drove that day to Bend, passing Mt. Hood, which I think was a highlight for both of us—so beautiful. The wedding was held at the performance space for an arts complex. Of course we got lost on our way there, but made it just in time. Another guest told us that if the weather had been typical for that time of year, there would have been too much snow for us to be able to drive from Portland.

Uncle Joe’s bride, Roxanne, is short and pillowy and laughs a lot and is a fantastic dancer; Uncle Joe said she was actually not even showing off all her moves. I joked, “That’s low gear?” and he said it was.

The invitation had said 3:30 – 6:30, with reception to follow, but it turned out that the entire event took place between 3:30 and 6:30. The ceremony itself took about five minutes, and included a mention of my father's mother, my Grandma Helen (whose birthday it was), which made me tear up a little. How odd to hear her, last seen 45 years ago in her bed in her house west of Ann Arbor, mentioned in February of 2015 in Bend, OR.

The next day, we drove from Bend back to San Francisco and had dinner with Tom on Valencia St. Dad’s final day in San Francisco was Valentine’s Day. He took a long, long walk to Ocean Beach and back, and I went over to the soup kitchen to drop the aforementioned photos off with the guest. That day was expected to set a heat record in San Francisco and a cold record in Ypsilanti, MI. Dad said that while he was strolling on the beach in the warm sunlight, Mom called to see where the ice scraper was.
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