30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 04: Something that is part of your routine that you enjoy.
I do A LOT of walking. I think sometimes that gets lost in the superfun conversations about my bus riding habits. You know the ones, those conversations that I love so much.
Anyway… Walking. And lots of it. There are the daily walks to and from the bus and also longer ones for the times when I’d just rather. Pleasantly and conveniently enough for me, I really enjoy walking. That juicy tidbit is a total snoozefest, no? But since I started thinking a couple weeks ago about how much I enjoy my daily promenades, I’ve been reflecting on some of my habitual walks in the last ten years or so – and why I’ve loved them. The yellow Henry Fonda roses that I used to visit daily in my favorite rose garden in Ladd’s Addition… The kiddos in Jamison Square on the summer days when I feel like walking downtown from work in NW… Even, on occasion, the Molly Kimmel christened “Death March” on SE Milwaukie from Powell all the way into Sellwood… I dig ’em all.
There was one stretch of road however that ultimately played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today, though I didn’t realize it at the time. My first apartment in Portland on SE Hawthorne was a very pleasant 15-20 minute walk from the medical clinic where I worked in those days. I remain convinced that (in the spring and summer at least) SE 51st Avenue between Hawthorne and Lincoln is one of the most beautiful streets in all of Portland. I’m a sucker for trees so tall that they arch toward each other across the street, creating a canopy, and this one is masterful. It’s just a lovely street and walking down it in the afternoon used to mean that my day was over, I was headed home and life was good. It was a good walk for both thinking a lot and not thinking at all – whichever was called for.
At some point, during the 2+ years I made that walk to/from work, I became acquainted with two… wait for it… awesome Golden Retrievers. Jake lived on the corner of 51st and Lincoln and Rocky was a bit further up Lincoln, closer to my office. Each contributed in his own way to both the kickassness of my daily walks and my (at the time) fledgling love of Goldens.
Jason and I had been dating for probably a year and change at that point and after hearing all the stories about the various Goldens he’d grown up with, I was starting to figure out how spectacular and incomparable they are. But old habits die hard and this lifelong cat girl was having a hard time wrapping my feeble brain around the concept of ever being a dog person. I credit Jake and Rocky with breaking trail and warming up the spot that Grady and all the others came to occupy in my heart.
Jake was really old and white-faced by the time I met him. He spent most of his time laying on the front porch, but sometimes got up and ambled down to the sidewalk to check out the happenings if anything interesting was going on. He rarely showed any interest in me, which was super annoying because all I ever wanted to do was pet him. I stopped and chatted with his owner once and she told me a fantastic story about how at the ripe old age of – God, I think he was like 13 or 14 at the time – Jake had limped over to the neighbor’s yard, through an open gate and had been terrorizing the neighbor’s chickens. She and I agreed that it was really just amazing that he had that much in him. I stopped seeing Jake in the yard while I still lived nearby, but never asked about him. I just couldn’t bear the thought of hearing the answer.
And then there was Rocky. Oh Rocky. He was a huge, red beast of a guy who I saw nearly every morning, hanging out in his front yard. It didn’t take long for him to start recognizing me from a block away – he would get up and say hi almost every time. Sometimes he was in a mood and ignored me, but even on those days he’d have sorted himself out by the afternoon and we’d make up on my walk home. Twice a day sightings were always the best. There are a million Rocky stories I could share, but frankly if I start, I won’t know where to stop. So maybe just one or two…
After hearing me talk about him for awhile, Jason decided to come check Rocky out one day. I’d had the brilliant brainstorm that it would be a really good idea to buy some dog treats and start giving them to him. This was before my days as the part-owner of an allergy-ridden Golden and though I shudder now to think that I did this without talking to his owners, at the time I just thought I was being a real sweetheart of a girl.
So, Jason came and met me at work one day and armed with a pocket full of dog treats, we walked home. Rocky was out and wandered over to say hi and as soon as he got near me he went absolutely apeshit. Keep in mind that though I was rapidly and uncontrollably falling in love with Golden Retrievers, I was still a dog newbie and had no idea how to deal with them. Even now, with years of dog experience behind me, I can say that Rocky was being crazy weird. He wasn’t barking, but he was making these very strange sort of squeaking noises that probably signaled excitement, but for whatever reason terrified me. He was circling and squeaking around me, getting more excited/agitated by the moment and I totally panicked. I took the bag of treats out of my pocket, threw them at Jason and ordered him to “give him the treats! Dammit Jason, just give him the treats now!” You would have thought Rocky was robbing us at gunpoint. Jason was sort of bewildered by my reaction, tossed a treat Rocky’s way and followed me as I raced down the street. The whole thing was really not how I had pictured it going down and remains sort of disappointing and off-putting to me to this day.
After some initial awkwardness, Rocky and I got over it and everything was fine. I continued to visit him occasionally even after I moved from the Hawthorne apartment. Also, any time we were remotely near there, I would make Jason drive by and roll down the windows so I could yell, “Rocky!!!! Woooo hoooo!!!” This usually happened late at night on our way home from a bar or party or something. It’s been a long time since I’ve been over that way and now that I think about it and do the math, chances are that Rocky isn’t alive anymore. Man, that sucks.
This was supposed to be about something in my routine that I enjoy. It turned into an open love letter to Golden Retrievers, which should surprise exactly no one. I guess I’m grateful that something as routine as a walk to work helped me uncover something else that brings me great joy. Knowing my nostalgic nature as I do, I think there’s probably a walk down SE 51st Avenue sometime in my near future.