1.15.2005

Dispatch from Ice Station Panda

It's cold and icy in Portland now. I'm holed up in my bunker-apartment, feasting on frozen pizza and tea and ice cream. And I can't describe to you how happy this makes me.

Oh, sure, it was going to be a busy day today. I was scheduled to be shelving books out at the Gresham Regional Library, and then a quick commute across town to the theatre, where I'm running lights for "The Wild Child". I was going to be writing letters and cleaning, too. Supposedly. But I'm always supposed to be doing those things.

So in anticipation of such matters, I left my radio on all night, tuned to the BBC World Radio Network. I usually leave on the radio at night if I have to rise early, on the theory that it will somehow be easier to wake up if I haven't really been fully sleeping at night. This never works; whenever I sleep, it's an oblivious, total, impenetrable slumber, like my consciousness slips into a nuclear winter, and when I wake up, I can hardly remember where I am or what I'm supposed to be doing that day, and all the days before assume this muted pallor in my memory, like distant relatives vaguely connected to this new, glaring day yawning horribly before me. Because of my considerable distaste for this, I've been known to sleep through earthquakes and cross-country rides down rotten state highways.

Last night I dreamt of much doings, I can't rightly remember what they were, but I know I woke up exhausted and buzzing, and no, no alcohol was involved. And I woke up to my Book of Days propped open on my pillow, obviously set the night before to remind me as soon as I woke up that I would have to be fixing tea for my thermos and running through the shower to make it on time for work way out in Gresham. And I dutifully begin, in my slow, mulish, somnolent way, to crash through the routines of fixing tea and finding my thermos and so forth.

And then I looked out the window.

At first glance, it's not so bad. Nothing really out of the ordinary. The streets are dark and wet. Rain is lightly drizzling down, like the whole city is enveloped in a cloud bank. The sky, as an ex-girlfriend would say, looks broken, as if the people in charge of programming the sky on normal sky-looking channels have gone on strike or something, and in place of the usual fluffy matter, all you see is this vast monochrome tint, completely indistinguishable of shade or distance.

And then you notice how quiet the streets are, which is unusual for my situation, here on one of Portland's main arterial thoroughfares. Maybe one or two beleaguered pedestrians then come slipping through, like forlorn straggler's of Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, bundled up and grim.

Then you see layers of gravel and sand frozen under successive layers of ice, and you realize just how wickedly awesome this is.

I call up work and tell them there's no way in hell I'm going out to Gresham today (I don't say that exactly but I should've). Now, make no mistake, dear Reader, I'm a pretty capable guy. I've done hard things before. I can hang lights while balancing on thirty-foot ladders. I've wrestled clients in and out of the local drunk tank. I met Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the US Supreme Court (it was like meeting Emporer Palpatine on the Death Star). (Okay, maybe I didn't really mean that, she was very sweet and she offered us cookies, please don't kill me, Justice Department).

But my point is, in these conditions, I'm more afraid of the people who don't know how to drive on ice than I am of driving on ice myself. Case in point; not two hours ago, an SUV lost control and came across traffic to crash into a parked VW bus just outside my window. The bus was crashed into a Honda Civic praked behind it. The SUV then tried to drive off, but one of her wheels was coming off, and she had to pull over a block away.

I love you, Portland, even the dumb SUV-driving chickenshits. Because only in Portland would a gaggle of bystanders come out of their warm, safe apartments to stand in the FREEZING cold in case the cops needed witnesses, but really just to moralize on the gas-guzzling SUVs, and then start talking about cleats and hiking and snowpack and salmon-run issues. This made me so happy, I brewed more tea for everyone.

best,
polarpaulmonster

3 comments:

The Lioness said...

Isn't cosy beautiful? Le'haim.

Susan as herself said...

Calling in to work because of icy roads and stupid drivers is a beautiful thing. I have done it myself and few things compare to that blissful wintery seclusion you get camping out in your own apartment. Mmmmmm.

paulmonster said...

Yes, coziness.

Unfortunately, sooner or later the realization dawns, that obsessively leafing through every book in my apartment won't change the fact that all I've done with my day is obsessively leaf through every book in my apartment.

But now the ice has melted, and my disheveled city is slowly pulling itself back together, and already I'm gazing wistfully at my favorite chair and my dirty coffee mugs and my piles of fresh books, longing for more ice as yet another workday begins.

Coziness. May we all be so lucky.