Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A happy reunion

Rachel had taken Ethan to visit his great-grandparents in New York, and thus presented me with the occasion to renew relations with my old friend Booze. It will come as a shock to many of you, no doubt, to learn that our relationship of late has been a little strained, often limited to a somewhat perfunctory tryst by the liquor shelf after the young Master has retired, or an obligatory and often moribund assignation besides the TiVo… long gone the days of sundowners, stiffners, pre-cenial cocktails, two bottles of wine over dinner, several glasses of port to accompany the sherry trifle and a digestif or three. Financial matters had also contrived to lend a sour taste to our earlier rapport, with Booze, who once took such care to present himself garbed in understated Gallic finery, now sort fit to arrive dishevelled, in louche Californian fashion and, more often than not, overcoated in crumpled brown paper. In short, much of the magic which had infused the first twenty years of our association had fizzled, leaving our codependency exposed at its most base and functional nadir, stripped of all pretension and much of its former zest, wanton and naked in its joyless seriality.

It's at a time like this when a man's mettle is evidenced; clearly swift remedial action was called for if the spice was to return to our wayward liaison, and though fatigued from my diurnal shift at Fraggle Rock, I took great pains to engineer a string of social engagements to which Booze could be invited and at which I might fully expect him to make an appearance; further I was particularly selective with fellow invitees, ensuring at all times that at least one Irishman, pretend Irishman from Boston, or, at very least, a fellow Northern European would be present, knowing full-well that such parties would be on good terms with Booze and would be likely to draw him out of his shell and restore him, if not to his former majesty, then at least to some semblance of the Dionysian zeal which had formed the basis of our initial attraction.

And what fun ensued! How little we cared in the eventide glow as the Portland Beavers were roundly trounced by the Las Vegas whatevers (Whores suggested Bunszel, as it's clearly the Orange County Whatevers) and how easily we were lead aside by our hand-picked Emerald Isle émigré Finn, from the din of inequity to a den of iniquity, stumbling through the doors of the Virginia Café – not a café at all, but an old Portland bar replete with bijou boothettes, walnut trim and a special on top-shelf cocktails! And this but the second night of our joyful reunion…

Little now can be recalled with clarity from the days which followed; such was the ease with which the flame of our desire had been rekindled that all of time appeared to melt and lose its structure, giddy and blithe; and though occasionally I might wake with a certain numbness, a certain verdiginous quality about my gills, I found Booze there waiting, often at little more than arm's length, to restore me to my earlier vigour.

Our parting was therefore not without its melancholy; but as the young Master boarded his flight from the Big Apple, I bid Booze a fond adieu rather than farewell and resumed my quotidian existence with a skip, if not to say a stumble, restored to my gait.

A Manhattan at Jakes. Number one in a series of five.

Monday, May 21, 2007

1776 and all that

I think it fair to state that Brits in Portland is no more. There has been no official statement, of course. Like the Empire it went out with a fizzle rather than a bang and, with an echo of 1776, it was the Americans that put it out of its misery.

Not out of any revolutionary fervour, though. No, merely through an effortless application of their natural conviviality, engagement and generosity; and it was these wholly positive though essentially alien traits that enabled them to dominate a group of essentially indifferent Brits according to their vision of 'this other Eden', a rose-tinted understanding few of us recognised, for the most part because it had been largely derived from the novels of Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, minus the dinosaurs. And it was difficult to argue with, for several reasons. Firstly, no-one wanted to cause a scene. Secondly, the expatriate shares something of this yen for an old country which they forget never existed; if the self-styled anglophiles wished to gloss over minor details such as those bands of lovable street urchins that inhabit the identikit pedestrianised shopping precincts of our market towns, bag of glue in one hand, your mobile in the other, Katie and Peter, dark Satanic call centres, Girls Aloud, the BNP, ASBOs and so forth in favour of the narcotised visions of upper middle-class nineteenth century poets and novelists, where was the harm in that? Thirdly, the resident Americans seemed far better informed on all aspects of British culture than any of us, so who were we to argue? If they told us it was St George's Day, or the Queen's birthday, by golly we believed them.

Ultimately, when they turn their mind to it, the Americans are better than the British at almost everything – including being British, circa 1870.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


It’s springtime here in the Northwest, marked in culinary terms by the temporary displacement of my eventide pineapple and mango smoothie by a handful of lightly-boiled locally-raised fresh-plucked asparagus spears, cheekily poked into a dollop of mayonnaise en route to my taste buds. And, just when you think life couldn’t get any better, Ben and Jerry’s release a new “Cinnamon buns” variety. O brave new world.

In other good news, I believe the clouds may be slowly beginning to part on Rachel’s post-partum depression. And, after a virtually somnambulistic month, I have regained something approaching a normal night’s sleep, primarily because Ethan has done likewise... and what a fine and hearty fellow he is, fully 26lbs 10oz at his last checkup and over 30” in height, smiling and giggling and lobbing bright plastic dishes of mushed-up banana across the dining room, zipping around in his Winnie-the-Pooh walker-on-wheels, banging blocks together and so forth. He has shown increasing discrimination in his diet lately, a tendency Rachel refers to as fussiness, whereas I am delighted by the suggestion of a nascent connoisseur. Who would want to eat cold pasteurised, liquidised peas, after all?

Even the casual reader will have noticed that my increasingly infrequent posts have lost something of their trademark bohemian eclecticism and instead focus almost exclusively on the activities and general hijinks of the young master. Thus art mirrors life; so get used to it, as I have done. Recent highlights:
  • I am pleased to report that I have come upon an alternative transportation mechanism for the little fella, which I call the hipster, a sort of across-the-shoulder sling affair which allows him to sit astride my left hip and generally take in the myriad splendours of this world from shoulder height as we stroll around the locality. Good up to 35lbs.

Travels in a hipster.
  • Did I mention that he temporarily turned yellow? Not jaundice or binge-drinking, but carotenemia from eating too many sweet potatoes, and nothing to worry about, I’m pleased to report.
  • I have contemplated the construction of an Ethanopedia, combining the principle of Walter Shandy’s fictive Tristrapaedia with the technology of Wikipedia to crystallize the profound and vital wisdom of my thirty-five years into a handy guide to generally untaught but necessary intelligence and related insightful ephemera. Wikipedia is all very well, but its insistence on citation and reference and – more generally – the epistemic criteria of a bygone era, the oppressive insistence on truth and relevance, for example, is not entirely to my tastes, if not a little passé.

Potential future recipient of the Ethanopedia.

Rachel and Linda unwind with a little shuffleboard. More fun than skittles, with commensurately greater space requirements.

Well, it amused me.