We had a lovely, wonderful first weekend back in Portland. We are still in the process of figuring out where everything “fits” in our new place and our 1950s kitchen. Our apartment in Astoria was so huge, and the kitchen was so enormous, we are having to squeeze back down in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. Meaning, we are ruthlessly sacrificing condiments and shoving our baking supplies into contorted, uncomfortable places. I mean, do we need three half-empty jars of dried basil? Or if we are to start getting philosophical, do we even need one jar of dried basil? You just think about that for a while.
We’ve unpacked to the point of being comfortable, where we will leave a box in the middle of the room and likely just stop “seeing” it after a while. And the box may stay there until we move again. But why worry about such things when the weather was sunny and mild, and the sun peaked out through a high haze of overcast?
It was fairly warm, but still sweatshirt weather. I put on one of Dave’s hoodies. Current political overtones notwithstanding, hoodies are bane of my existence. Because when I wear a hoodie, I put stuff in the pockets. I put my keys, I put my glasses, I put my wallet in the pockets. And they all, eventually, without fail, fall out. Every time. I really did seriously lose my favorite red glasses in the street in Astoria because they fell out of the pocket of the hoodie I was wearing.
You think I would learn? How well do you know me? Hoodie pockets are irresistible. They are perfectly situated right where they are supposed to be. They are the soft, warm shelters for all my various stuffs. How could I not use them? I always think I’m being careful whenever I put something in my hoodie pockets. And I am. I am very, very, careful. Until I forget, and then I’m not.
So. We took a couple of strolls through our new neighborhood. I wore Dave’s hoodie. We walked around Westmoreland and Sellwood, noting the various wine shops, and bottle shops, and shops that sold beer, and also shops that sold liquor. There may have been some other businesses and restaurants in the area also.
We met up with our lovely friend Mike Vogel and sat outside at a cafe. I got two coffees, paid with $10, left a $1 tip, and put the change, $3, in my hoodie pocket.
Mike regaled us with parenting adventure stories, and we sat on the edge of our seats, hanging on every word. Dave mentioned that when our babies come, in order to function, he really needs six hours of sleep a night, uninterrupted. And Mike guffawed. It was a genteel, pleasant guffaw, but it was nevertheless a spontaneous eruption of mirth. Mike is the father of two young and energetic girls. Dave laughed too, but nervously.
As we sat there, we watched people go by, and as the morning progressed, a pod of food carts opened up for business across the street. It was a lovely day, and it was nice to sit outside.
I happened to notice a young family, and a little boy, who even at a distance, bore the unmistakable aura of being a little shit. You know those types? Obvious little shits? Adults can hide it a little better. But kids have not yet honed their ability to be deceitful, and furthermore, don’t care to hide their shittiness.
This kid ran into traffic without looking, picked up rocks from the food cart lot and tossed them into the street, and milled about, looking, in my mind, for things to break. I’m not a great judge of ages, but I’d say this kid was eight or nine.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed this kid, except he had something going on with his hair. I hadn’t seen hair like this since I was in junior high school. Which was, oh, say, twenty five years ago. This kid’s hair was a mullet, but not a wussy or indeterminate mullet. It was a full-on agressive mullet. It was a deliberate, manicured mullet. His head was shaved almost in its entirety, except for the bangs, which were long and hung in his face, and his mullet, which was long and draped over the kid’s shoulders.
Honestly, you would look at this kid’s hair and think, No. It couldn’t be. It was like looking at a crappy relic of an eighties car, one that is not a classic, but just old, and completely undeserving of merit or praise. Like a Ford Escort. Or a Chevy Nova. I mean, someone thought those cars up and brought them to market. You look at those cars today and wonder, Who ever thought those were a good idea?
Just like this hair. Someone thought it up. An entire generation, my generation, thought it was a good idea. It was all the rage. It was a shameful time. And then it was righteously, mercifully, relegated to the fringes of society, where wearing a mullet past its prime was a badge of honor, and a quick public indictor of your IQ points.
So this kid had a mullet. And as I was watching him be a little shit, I wondered if this was a hairstyle he chose, or if his parents were using their son as an expression of their own sense of irony. In which case, I regretted not having Child Protective Services on speed dial. That hair was a goddamned hate crime. I judged from this kid’s behavior, and from the obvious lack of supervision, his parents were fucking assholes, for sure.
So we sat over our coffee, and we chatted with Mike, and I couldn’t help but watch this kid fling rocks into the street. Some of them pinged against street signs, and clattered all the way to the sidewalk where we were sitting. He literally threw one so that it rolled under the cafe seat where I was sitting. For some reason, he came bounding after it, running into the street, and really, literally, he crawled in between my chair and the chair next to me on his hands and knees.
I fought between two competing inclinations as this happened. I wanted to ask him, What the fuck are you doing, you little shit? Why are you digging under my goddamned chair? You should keep running into the street without looking, a car might knock some goddamned sense into you. And please go tell your fucking parents they are ensuring the future of Oregon’s penitentiary system.
Of course, I didn’t say that. I said nothing. Because in that moment, I couldn’t fully articulate my thought process into an adult sentence without swear words. But really, why would he dig around under my chair for a damn rock?
He eventually came out from rooting under my chair. He ran across the street, again, not looking, and the little shit thrust his hand into someone’s face.
“Look! I found three dollars!”
In an instant, it all came together. The hoodie. The pocket. The change from my coffee. The three dollars. It was on the ground under my chair. An adult might pause and alert me that there was money on the ground below me. A little mullet-headed shit with fucking asshole parents would actually get on his hands and knees to retrieve the money himself and run off with it.
Mike actually said he saw the money on the ground and was going to mention it to me. None of us would have suspected a little street urchin would crawl under my chair and steal it. Did he see it from all the way across the street? Was he that much of a little fucking shit that he intentionally threw the rock , just to have an excuse to dig under my chair? I wonder if the money had been just barely hanging out of my pocket, if he would have taken it?
I watched his jubilation and wondered if I ought to go over and confront this kid. Maybe tell him that sometimes when you find money on the ground under someone’s chair, it might belong to them and you might want to ask them first, before you run off with it. Maybe if I said something in front of his parents, they might pause to wonder if they had instilled even a tiny shred of politeness or decency into their loin spawn.
But it was three dollars. I couldn’t imagine marching over there, into a thicket of fucking assholes, and demanding my money back, just to teach this kid a lesson. Because of three dollars.
So I sat there. I did nothing. And I did fume a bit, I admit. It was one of those moments where I wondered if I would feel better to “make it right,” or would feel better to let it go.
Ultimately, I let it go. Though I regret that kid learned no lessons. In fact, I reinforced his little shit behavior. He just got a three dollar reward for being a little fucking asshole.
No lessons learned. Except for me. I learned, again, not to put anything, anything, into my fucking hoodie pockets.