Letters, We Get Mail, CDXXIX
by Orange

BLOG NOTE: 2016.12.01:

This is Harry years earlier, when he was re-arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. He wasn't so bleached-out white then.

Unbelievable: I moved into temporary Veteran's housing in Portland in February of 2015, after I was kicked out of my home in Forest Grove, and I discovered that my slogan-slinging former counselor Harry Ketchum was living four doors down the hall. I mean, in the same building, and on the same floor. What a small world it is. I did not even recognize him. He looked a mess. He was all bleached out, as white as if someone had dropped him into a bottle of Clorox. White hair, white skin, dying. Literally. I don't know if he caught AIDS in prison or what, but he was dying. He couldn't even walk; he had to ride a roller-pig around. When he got so sick that he was falling down in his room and couldn't get up, the building managers shipped him off to a hospice where he died two months later.

And now Harry is dead.

So it goes. The irony is unreal. Fifteen years after we met, we had come full circle and were back together again, actually living in the same building, same floor, four doors apart. The big difference was, I had 15 years of sobriety and was healthy and riding my bicycle everywhere, while he was dying, after doing years of time in prison for raping children, and possession of cocaine and child porn.

That is the guy who told me not to quit smoking — "If you put too much on your plate, something might spill off." — and who declared that I had not had a period of recovery because I wasn't going to A.A. meetings and "working on issues", and whose recovery advice was "Go to at least three meetings a week and get a sponsor," and, "You must have a Higher Power in your recovery program."

Who should have been counseling whom? And what exactly did A.A., N.A., and the 12 Steps do for him? And what was that "Higher Power" and "Spirituality" thing?

Reality is stranger than fiction. It's almost as if some Higher Power said, "Okay Terry, We are going to arrange things so that your life will loop back around and 15 years later you will be back where you started from and you will see your crazy fake counselor again, and you will get to watch him die."

If I had written such crazy coincidences into a Hollywood movie script, people would have said, "Boooo! Too contrived! Do you expect us to believe that? It's too convenient of a coincidence. It's too far-fetched. Highly unlikely. Get real!"

Once again, I get this creepy feeling that maybe there really is a God out there somewhere, and She has a wicked sense of humor.

BLOG NOTE: 2017.10.20:

Here we are again, another year gone by. It's October 20th, so that means I have yet another year clean and sober. Now it's 17 years.

And in three more weeks it will also be 17 years off of cigarettes and tobacco. How sweet it is.

So much for all of the Steppers who predicted that I would soon go back to drinking because I wasn't "working the Steps", and I wasn't "working a strong program", and I wasn't going to meetings all of the time, and "I had a resentment". If my disease has been doing push-ups in the parking lot for the last 17 years, his arms sure must be getting tired by now.

Like the Grateful Dead sing, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

After moving out of my home in Forest Grove, I spent two years in housing in downtown Portland, while working on buying a place in the country. That turned out be very involved, and takes longer than two years.

I got the advice that I should try going south from Forest Grove, down into Yamhill County, where the land is cheaper. So I moved there.

A friend looked up the Tri-Met bus schedule, and found that there is no Tri-Met bus going to Yamhill from Forest Grove, so how I moved to McMinnville is, first I got a guy with a truck to help move everything out of my apartment in Portland, and put it all in the storage locker in Forest Grove that I still had from living in Forest Grove, and then loaded up my bicycle with more than 100 pounds of camping gear and clothes and espresso coffee pot and the other essentials of life, and then hit the road for Yamhill. I was actually heading for the town of Yamhill, rather than just Yamhill County, because I got confused. I found out at the last minute that it was McMinnville that I was really going to. It's further. I had a bicycle tour book that had a pleasant route from Forest Grove to Yamhill that listed the distance as 28 miles round trip. So I figured that I only had to do about 14 miles and I would be there. Wrong. First, the book understated the distances, and then McMinnville is much further. I was in the town of Yamhill and saw a sign for McMinnville that listed the distance as 8 more miles. I thought, "Not bad. That will be easy." Then, as I got closer to the sign, a '1' appeared in front of the '8'. Hmmm. 18 miles. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Can't stop halfways.

Then, when I got to McMinnville, I ran around in circles, lost, before I found where I was going. The total distance ended up being something between 32 to 35 miles.

Back when I was 68 years old, I told myself that I wanted to do a marathon on the bicycle when I was 70. That is, do a 26-mile bike ride. Well, I did, but I didn't plan to do it with 100 pounds of baggage. That is what really made it tough. Pulling the hills with that load is a chore. And there were a lot of hills. Thank goodness for low gear on the bike.

(Speaking of which, a screw fell out of the front derailer half-ways through the journey, and it was coming apart, and suddenly, I couldn't shift into low gear in front. Naturally, I discovered this while trying to pull a hill, which was just too hard. I had to stop and see what was wrong. The derailer was coming apart. There was no finding the screw. But I did find a broken 5-gallon plastic bucket with a heavy wire handle, laying in a ditch. I cut a very short piece of the handle, and bent it into a clip to hold the derailer together. And I was on the road again. That jerry-rigged fix is still working great.)

Oh well, it's an experience to remember and brag about. Obviously, my heart and lungs are in great shape. I'm so glad I quit smoking.

Incidentally, for those who are curious, I did it on a Schwinn "Ascension 29", which has 21 gears (really 3x7 gears, of which only 10 or 11 combinations are proper speeds), an aluminum frame, 29-inch wheels, and disk brakes. It's quite a good bike for the $300 list price.

(I paid $100 at Goodwill for the bike, used — like used for one or two days. Apparently, someone bought it, maybe from Target, and didn't like it or didn't want it, and returned it with a little white dirt (???what?) on the bottom of the frame, so it was used. Target couldn't sell it as new — if there was ever an accident, they could get sued for millions for selling a "defective" used bike as new, so they donated it to Goodwill. So I got it for 1/3 of the list price, basically new. It has served me well, and is still serving me well. Oh, warning: it is a fixer-upper. That is, things broke. Schwinn had to cut some corners to get the features of a $1000 bike into a $300 bike, so they had to cheapen out some parts, so some things broke. First, the left shifter handle, then the front derailer, and the kick-stand. But that is no problem for me because I love to repair bikes.

But that is another whole story: While I was living in Portland, I got into a free bike repair program where you picked out an old bike and totally rebuilt it, and then you got to keep it. In the process, you learned how to repair bikes, which is actually much more valuable than the bike. The instructor requested graduates to come back and help out, because it helped a lot if there was more than one person around who knew what was going on, when he had 12 people all coming at him for help at the same time. So I went back again and again, for nearly two years, and fell in love with it, and ended up becoming the assistant teacher. So now I repair bikes for the fun of it.)

I am now living in McMinnville, Oregon. I ended up here while looking for a place to buy out in the country. The buying part hasn't happened yet, but I'm much further out in the country. McMinnville is the largest city (town?) in Yamhill County, and it isn't very large — about 30,000 people. It's a rather small city by anyone's standards.

I like that. It's good to be out of Portland. I mean, Portland is a nice city and everything — one of the nicest cities in the USA — but it's still a large city. I feel much better when the open country is at least within walking distance. Which it is.

We actually have a doe and her fawn in the back yard. She comes all of the time, and eats the plantings, shrubs, and flowers, much to the chagrin of the property manager who just planted all of that stuff. She is so tame that she will just stare at you as you stare at her. She is fearless, and completely urbanized. And she has chased the manager back into the house twice when he tried to shoo her away, and attacked his dog three times. She don't take no guff from nobody. And we have a family of raccoons, too. A mother and at least 2 children, maybe 3. The property manager calls them "super raccoons", which I guess means that they are extra-big and tough. I find it hilarious and delightful to think that we live in a tough neighborhood with super wildlife.

And of course I have a mess of hummingbirds, and feeders for them in both the front and back yards, and a dominant male who tries to keep everybody else from eating out of "his" feeders. He doesn't succeed. The other hummingbirds play a game of whack-a-mole with him all day long. And I feed the birds, and we have a bunch of House Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Junkos. And Crows, and Mourning Doves.

It's funny: I guess I'm a country boy at heart, which is odd because I never grew up in the country. I grew up on Air Force bases all around the world, and suburban places like Riverside, California. Maybe the years on the hippy commune, way up in the mountains of northern New Mexico, had something to do with it, because now, I'd prefer 600 acres of the most remote land you can find, and I don't care if the nearest neighbors are 10 miles away. 20 miles is even better.

(And the truth is, the nearest neighbors are just outside the window, and just outside the front door. They just don't have human bodies, so some people don't count them. I do.)

So we shall see what develops.

June 07, 2018: The deer in my back yard in McMinnville, Oregon:

Deer in back yard

Deer in back yard

Deer in back yard

Deer in back yard

[The photographs continue here.]

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Last updated 9 April 2019.
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Copyright © 2019, A. Orange