Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Basement Hole

I descended into a pit last night. It was a metaphorical one and and a literal one, rolled into one. Some friends and i decided to check out Rosiepose's music show. She warned us ahead of time (or tried to dangle a carrot rather) that the house party would be filled with 22-year old hipsters of every thrift store ilk -- complete with handlebar mustaches and the full battery of pierce and tat. I was charmed by the attempt to entice me with the promise of fance and grunge -- but that was not why i agreed to go. I hadn't been to a house party in a while and i was beginning to wonder what night life was like, outside the chatter of a dank Portland bar.

The house, like many in the Hawthorne district, had its own charming dankness. This corner of southeast Portland is a hive of everything people love and hate about our town: its old bungalow beauty, and its too-cool sneer. We squeezed past the PBR-drinking main floor and went down the stairs, and as we entered the blackness of the basement, a wave of loss rolled over me.

I am no longer young.

I don't belong here anymore.

In that dark low-ceilinged room i saw myself in the eyes of a dozen young and hopeful women, hanging on their friends' arms, passing kisses to the band, overwhelming themselves with the passions and happenings of the moment... Me, oh, eight years or so ago... but not now. Maybe this realization should have come the moment i held that rascal baby in my arms... but these things don't work that way. They tend to build -- 'like sands through the hourglass', i guess, 'these are the days of our lives.' Little moments, stacked on top of one another like a hundred hipsters at a house party. Or like the pile of old bones you will someday become.

I sat on a tattered basement couch and contemplated what it is about youth. Everyone who has lost it wants so badly to get it back. Why don't we wish to be old, where all of the fumbling questions of our lives are already settled? Where we have a comfortable garden and people to take care of us, instead of us taking care of them? Why do we wish for that roil in the gut of not-knowing, the breathlessness of everything-to-come? I knew i could chameleon myself into comfort at that party, if i really tried; i could make friends with anyone, if i made up my mind to do so. But the thing that stopped me was my own awareness that this was a time and place that had passed, and i just will never be able to get it back. Not in the reckless, wonderful way that i did it the first time.

My friends and i -- with our boots that would rival any Hawthorne hipster's -- and me in my p.c. pleather coat -- felt the too-old vibe one by one. One at a time, and without words, we slipped through the crowd to the street above. A few minutes later, we were settled comfortably at a high-ceilinged, yet dank Portland bar.

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