I. The thing I remember most about our first trip to Astoria was burning my feet on the sand sliding down the dunes to get to the shore. It was in the high 80s and sunny, unheard of weather for the Oregon Coast in late September. There were very few people with us on Area B, the unromantically-named gem of a beach along the panhandle of Ft. Stevens Park.

Next, I remember Robin stretched out next to me baking to a toasty dark olive while I felt myself progressing to an advanced state of lobster. Even so, I didn’t want to move. The next day I was to deliver him to his first term of grad school. We knew we were on the cusp of something gravely difficult and had fled to Astoria for a weekend away from the looming changes. Admitting sunburn and retreating from the beach would mean initiating the chain of events leading to the end of the weekend, the close of our first charmed summer together before either of us really had to function as adults, and the beginning of an uncertain next chapter.

If we kept very still, maybe time would freeze.* But of course, that’s not how it works. The sun dropped towards the horizon and it grew time to leave. We snapped a photo that day of me kissing his cheek and now, eight and a half years later, I’m struck by how we both look so impossibly young, Robin with all his hair and me in my green Rainbow Brite shirt.

II. Many years have passed, but not a single one has slipped into the archives without a trip to Astoria.

III. “Turn right!” I yelled on our most recent visit to Astoria. I have a weakness for brown road signs indicating points of historical and cultural interest; if spotted, they can’t go unexplored.

Now accustomed to abrupt right turns, Robin swerved right and steered us up a steep hill towards Fort Columbia State Park. A cluster of buildings came into view, rows of matching Victorians painted in an unfortunate shade of tan that seems to only be trotted out for federal/state park facilities and bridges. Downhill, a moldering concrete battery hunkered into the hillside, punctuated with hollow artillery gun mountings overgrown with blackberry vines.

It was now January and the place was deserted. Robin went to a viewpoint to take some pictures of Saddle Mountain while I wandered over to the interpretive signage.** Fort Columbia was built in 1896 as a fully-inhabited US Army defense settlement. One sign panel showed photos of the soldiers in a marching band; another was the “town” baseball team. Under the mustaches and somberness unavoidable in an era of painfully slow shutter speeds, I was struck by how young the subjects of the photo appeared. My eyes looked back and forth between the photos and the empty settlement–now turned into shuttered museums and occasional vacation rentals–picturing the men (boys?) walking the paths between the buildings with their dusty baseball gloves. It may currently exist as an empty park, but once it was home to many people long gone but still peering out of the sign’s photos. This seemed important to remember.

Photos perform an odd act of immortality on those captured within the frame’s boundaries. There is the sensation that a ghost has blinked into existence whenever I press the shutter release button, which perhaps is one of the reasons I tend to be selective of the moments and things I choose to trap.

Each time I near the top of the dune overlooking Area B, I wonder if I’ll see two kids just to the south of the trail, one in a green Rainbow Brite shirt, holding hands and laying in the sand by a hunk of driftwood.

Today, I had a disappointing experience. It was one of those moments where you’re excruciatingly aware that your life spurs off in two different roads depending on the outcome of a brief phone call.  While you’re watching yourself crash and burn under the weight of your own self-awareness not to ruin this, you can see the bridge to the leftward path light itself on fire and leave smouldering charcoal ruins where that road led moments before. And then you try to toss water on the fire to prevent the inevitable–it’s just a little charred, it’s still good!–but it turns out that bucket was mislabeled gasoline and you get blown over by the powerful backdraft of your own good intentions.

“But wait,” you say, toeing the carbon dust with your shoe. “I wanted that road.”

“Nope,” says the situation.

I hung up the phone and assessed things. I nodded my head, not because I agreed with anything in particular that the silence of the empty apartment had to say, but it seemed to be the only appropriate gestural response. Read Full Article

“Yeah, we used to be really good friends. I liked horses, she liked horses. I had dorky glasses, she had dorky glasses. But then, you know, high school…”

And a whole world existed and collapsed within that ellipse.

“Everyone lives in two worlds,” Maggie said, speaking in an absentminded sort of way while she studied her letters. “There’s the real world, with all its annoying facts and rules. In the real world, there are things that are true and things that aren’t. Mostly the real world s-s-s-suh-sucks. But everyone also lives in the world inside their own head. An inscape, a world of thought. In a world made of thought–in an inscape–every idea is a fact. Emotions are as real as gravity. Dreams are as powerful as history. Creative people, like writers, and Henry Rollins, spend a lot of their time hanging out in their thoughtworld. S-s-strong creatives, though, can use a knife to cut the stitches between the two worlds, can bring them together. Your bike. My tiles. Those are our knives.” – Joe Hill, from NOS4A2

Three generations of women descended upon Neskowin for a weekend. Aebleskivers were consumed, “Hand and Foot” and “Hearts” played, and the moon repeatedly shot.

“Do you ever get in an elevator and are overwhelmed by the suspicion that there are maybe four or five floors below the lowest button says there are? Like a whole other building underground, subterranean, and the floor you’re on the way to is just a cover for the real business the building is doing, down below?”

The other old man shifted and considered this.


“Bah, you’re right. Too many movies, eh?”