Fourth of July

The Fourth of July has become my own personal New Year in recent years. In the Southwest, when the desert flash-fries everything, it’s more dramatic than the most deadly-cold winter in the Midwest. The summer is when your memories burn into the inside of your skull like a pinhole camera, charring the back of your mind for good. When you look at a stump, the marks in the tree rings are most evident during times of heat and drought.

So my time of reflection is not my birthday. Not the New Year. Hey baby, it’s the Fourth of July.

This year it takes on a new twist, but regardless, here’s the new year from a kid raised in the land of the summer.

It’s year number four in Oregon. My first Fourth of July here was a visit. Now it’s my home. Fitting enough that this year’s fourth would start at a brand new, and temporary home. I just moved into Kaila’s place for about a month until I can find a new footing. Naturally, I had to work the holiday, but met up with friends at the house I’m living at. My only desire for the holiday was to sit on a porch, feel the breeze and shade, talk with friends and drink beer after beer.

I did just that. Ate chips and salsa, made new acquaintances, showed off my new nest, Willie Nelson picture and all. Then around 9 or so became motivated to meet up with some friends at a house party in North Portland. I pulled up into an entirely black neighborhood, really slow, because the intersection of the party was scattered with the remains of a homemade fireworks show. I got out of the car and adults and tiny children and all in between were firing off flashes and bangs. One kid was standing under a streetlight, aiming a Roman candle at the bulb above, trying to knock it out. A flashing ball bounced off the glass and pelted another kid in the head, doing no damage but sending him laughing and screaming.

The party was fun. Jason and Michael and Rikki were there. There were snacks. The big show in Vancouver was booming and exploding up north across the Columbia. Tiny neighborhood shows popped and flashed in all directions surrounding, making the cozy house party seem to be in the heart of a firefight.

Wrapped up the fourth back at the house, sitting in the dark on the porch talking to the remaining few, knowing that I absolutely had to go to bed. And I did.

As for the year, well, hard one to nutshell. I have a lot going for me right now. People tell me I look good, seem good. And I feel good. Fresher, less neurotic than in a while. My job is going great. Still, I hesitate to call it a good year. I lost my Grandma Liz. She was my hero. I remember when I first applied for the position I have now, I had to fill out an essay saying who my biggest influences are. She made the list among Ed Abbey and Hunter Thompson. I miss her a lot. Last year held a lot of horrible stuff for my family. Death, violence, cancer. There was a lot of pain. And ending a fairly long relationship, no matter how right the decision, is never painless. It’s a loss: sorrow, regrets, nostalgia. And that’s about all I want to say about that. So I guess it was a year of highs and lows. I think I probably say that to myself every year around this time. I’ll consider this Fourth of July one that ends with an old standby phrase from the newspaper days … “cautiously optimistic.”

Two Fourths Ago

Lots of Old Fourths

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