Oregon


After a few days in Idaho, we drove to Portland, Oregon to visit my family. I grew up in Portland. It’s got grass, flowers, and bicyclists. It’s not a complete bastion of liberalism though – we’ve got a Wal-Mart.

[You may think, judging from the title of this post, that this picture is Oregon. But it's not. You'll just have to get over it. It's the canal by Shannon's house in Blackfoot at sunrise. It's full of water from the Snake River.]

One thing I notice whenever I return home for a visit is that, growing up, my friends and I made memories at every turn. Shannon politely pretends to listen when I reminisce of past heroics as we drive past the place where it happened.

Example 1
Me: See that gas station?
Shannon (intently reading a book in the passenger seat, not looking up): Yes.
Me: I got gas there once.

Example 2
Me: Have you ever been to that bar and grill over there? (Knowing full well she hadn’t, but wanting it to seem like she was actually participating in the exchange.)
Shannon (intently reading a book in the passenger seat, not looking up): No.
Me: One time Rick Ray took me there to eat.
Shannon (still not looking up or really paying attention, but showing she’s a good wife by keeping up her end of the illusion that the "conversation" isn’t just a monologue): Really. And what did you eat. (Neither comment was a question.)
Me: A bacon burger and a shake. See that building on the right?
Shannon (still engrossed in her book): The one where you went to be on TV for the first time for that cable access student forum?
Me: Yes. That’s where I went to be on TV for the first time.
Shannon: Really.

We didn’t really get out of the house very much during our visit. It rained a lot, and it was cold. I predicted such weather for the precise weekend we visited, nearly a month before the actual visit. How could I be so prescient, you ask? It’s easy. We visited on Rose Festival weekend. The Rose Festival is Portland’s big celebratory weekend, always set in early June. There are carnivals and parades and festivities of all sorts. And it always rains on Rose Festival weekend. It doesn’t matter whether El Nino or Al Gore dictate drought conditions – it could be dry for weeks leading up to Rose Festival weekend, and the rest of the summer thereafter could see nary a drop of rain, but it has and will always rain on Rose Festival weekend. That’s how I knew it would rain when we visited. Also, I wrote in and asked Dr. Phil.

My older sister and her daughter came over for a visit. I’m not certain whether or not my sister actually reads my blog, but to find out for certain I’ve posted this photo of her doing a heavy metal singer impression. This seems to me to be a sure-fire way of determining whether she lurks or not – she’s sure to demand I take it down if she sees it.

We watched home videos I’d made as a teenager, but we could only handle it for 10 or 20 minutes. Maybe other people are better at making home videos, but mine are pretty boring. I guess I used to think they were funny, but they’re not. The only quality video I have is one my roommate and I took during our freshman year of college. It’s called "The Hand," and I think it’s reality cinematography at it’s finest – at least five years before reality cinematography actually caught on.

The night before our final biology lecture of the semester, my roommate and I pledged to one another in a solemn pact of brotherhood to go out with a bang. Dr. Horrocks had bored us to tears all semester and had also regularly showered those unlucky enough to sit in the front row with drops of his spittle as he lectured. It was time to get even.

Our chosen method of attack was to bring a small inside joke between the two of us – "The Hand" – to a much larger audience. "The Hand," was something we would use to break the monotony of tedious lectures. I would pretend my right hand was possessed and that it was desperately trying to eat my face and the faces of those seated nearby. My studious and valiant left hand, however, had always kept my demonic right hand from actually achieving it’s evil designs, but only after an entertaining five- or ten-minute mortal struggle that was quiet, relatively discreet, and only occasionally distracted one or two other students seated nearby. My roommate and I were pretty futile with the ladies, in case you couldn’t infer that.

For this final lecture though, the plan was to bring "The Hand" to a much grander scale. My roommate Thomas secretly toted the video camera in his backpack and sat at the very rear of the large, stadium-seated lecture hall. I planted myself only two or three rows from the front.

We waited until 15 minutes remained in the lecture, having carefully determined the optimal time to stage our theatrics. If we pulled the trigger earlier in the lecture, we reasoned that the significant distraction we planned to cause could throw off a large chunk of Dr. Horrocks’ remarks, and we harbored no malicious intent. We wanted the professor to get through the majority of his material. However, if we waited until only 5 or 10 minutes before the bell rang, we worried that many of the 50 or 60 students would have left, it being the final class of the semester. We wanted as large an audience as possible to witness "The Hand."

Finally, after much anticipation, I covertly conveyed the signal to Thomas, and he retrieved the camcorder from his backpack, subtly turned it on, and inconspicuously pointed it toward the front of the hall. Nobody noticed. Perfect.

I leaned over the girl next to me, who was familiar with the malevolence of "The Hand," and asked if she wanted to see "The Hand" finally eat something. "Um, not really," she said. Undeterred, my right hand sprung to life, straining against my left hand to latch onto my face. My neighbor rolled her eyes and refocused on the lecture, unaware that "The Hand" was about to put an end to biology for the rest of the semester, once and for all.

Suddenly, my left hand failed in the task it had ever performed so studiously! "The Hand" leapt onto my face! I jumped to my feet, swaying back and forth in mock pain, and shouted through "The Hand" that sought to muffle my cries: "It’s The Hand! It’s eating my face! Get it off, man! Get it off!" My righteous left hand finally succeeded in tearing the claw-like monster from me, and I repeatedly beat it against the backrest of the chair in front of me. The lecture hall was silent, horrified eyes locked on the lethal struggle unfolding before their very eyes.

Bruised but unbowed, "The Hand" fought free of my restraining left hand and reattached itself viciously to my face. "It’s still alive!" I howled repeatedly as I ran from the lecture hall, my right hand covering my face, my left hand desperately attempting to pull it away.

The best part of the immaculately staged incident is the aftermath, captured on video. When the door shut behind me as I ran screaming from the room, silence filled the hall. Thomas wisely trained the camera on Dr. Horrocks, whose eyes were wide and who had adopted the "fight or flight" stance – feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, elbows at a 100 degree angle, fingers tensed, clearly ready to beat back "The Hand" if it came for him. Only two students in the hall knew what to think: Thomas and the girl sitting beside me, but her head was buried in her hands and her shoulders were heaving in silent laughter. Onlookers may have thought she was sobbing at the trauma she’d just witnessed.

There was no sound for several seconds until, one by one, the students began to notice Thomas at the back of the room, still filming, a broad grin slapped across his face as he gaily swept the room with the camera. Hesitant laughter gradually grew until everyone was reasonably sure that it had all been a joke. Dr. Horrocks walked to the door and peered outside, perhaps to see if I was lying on the floor just outside in a pool of my own gore, "The Hand" licking up the last remnants of my entrails, but, seeing nothing, he seemed satisfied that nobody was in danger and he returned to the room with an "aw, shucks, that was a pretty good one," expression.

I never had to face Horrocks again, everyone had a lecture to remember, and I got a pretty sweet home video out of it all. I forgot the point of that story. Oh well. Moving right along…