BootsnAll Travel Network

Portland, here I come!

I remain fascinated by the possibility of moving to Portland, Oregon either AFTER a spell of living at a Zen center, or INSTEAD of living at a Zen center. There are three apartment complexes–well, be honest–old folks’ homes (you have to be 62 or older to be considered): run by an association of labor unions, in three different parts of Portland, Oregon. Those who know me well will be screaming NO! You’re not THAT old! But wait. Drop the stereotypes. These places offer nice little apartment-type living spaces (all utilities included) for 1/3 of whatever a person’s monthly income is, with preference given to low income people. I love the politics of that. This could be very good. Fuddy-duddy old rich people would be screened out. Progressive labor union types, rabble-rousers and old hippies could be in. Of course I need to take a look. It’s a shock to my system to think about this option, but it might be the best thing out there.

I just want a simple little cubicle to live in, preferably in a beautiful place, with time to write, time to read, time to be a social activist without having to be dominated by my job all the time. Portland is full of progressive bandwagons I can get onto, offering service to people and the planet. There is good public transportation; there are green walking trails all over the city; there is health service available for people who need it. It’s almost like living in Canada, it’s so enlightened. I could keep Basho with me; that’s an important consideration. There’s a Zen Center highly recommended by my insider informant who knows all the Pacific Coast Zen centers. There’s a healthy peace movement, plenty of concern for ecology, and more ethnic diversity than there used to be (all I saw was white people when I was there in the 70s; coming from New Orleans, I felt I’d never seen so many white people in one place before). But now it’s only something like 71% white. Not exactly diversity-central. That’s what I like least about it.

So I’ve added two days in Portland to my summer travels. I’ll be at Upaya Zen Center for a week, with days in Albuquerque visiting Diane (who is Lisa’s mom and Safi’s grandmother) both going and returning; I’ll be with Carolyn in a fancy motel in Marin County for one night between Upaya and Green Gulch; I’ll be at Green Gulch Farm for a week; and then, instead of returning to Houston, I’ll go to Portland for two days to check out these (what-shall-we-call-them?) housing choices. In Portland, I’ll stay at this really cool hostel with a resident cat and grass growing on the roof.

This is a surprising turn of events, if it is a turn of events at all; but I’m open to surprises. I’m not freaked out by the idea of living in an old folks home, so long as the old folks around me aren’t so square that they pale and cringe at the word fuck, and aren’t Paul Harvey enthusiasts whose idea of a good time is bingo or bridge. I think about the old folks who are models for me: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Toni Morrison, Vanessa Redgrave…and the old people who have died but kept on raising hell till they did (Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Susan Sontag, and the list goes on). It’s possible to be old and gorgeous, old and passionately alive, and one way to be that way (especially if accumulating material wealth has not been your strong suit) is to live simply and frugally in a place where there are other people who have the same passions you do. (I note with some relief that there are no shuffleboards, miniature golf, or target ranges for gun practice around these places in Portland.) It’s a bit of a shock to the ego to think of moving myself into an old folks home just a few months after I turn 62. But I welcome shocks to the ego. I welcome whatever shake-up can deliver me to a more vital way of life. So I’m going to check this out.

I’m the front edge of the baby-boomer generation, looking for a way to continue living my unconventional life without money. I remember in my days of long hair and feathers and little bells, I stuffed a copy of How to Live on Nothing into the pouch on the backpack I carried Seth around in. Where are the other people who made that book a bestseller back then? When Seth was eighteen months old, I moved to a little shack in the bayou, surrounded by cattle, and I was often deliriously happy there, even though sometimes we were hungry. I can’t imagine How to Live on Nothing would catch on now. People are more interested in getting a great deal on an iPhone (like, maybe $550 instead of $600) right now. But I’m still of that slightly romantic anti-materialist stripe. I want to do what I want to do; I don’t want an iPhone; and I’m still looking for the remnants of the revolution. Are there remnants like me at a place called Kirkland Manor? I wonder…. I will go find out and let you know.

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