Oh, the Roommates You'll Have

(and, The Stuff They'll Leave Behind.)

Steve Gehrke and I moved into my current residence two years ago this past March. Soon after his friend Nate joined us, filling the third bedroom.

Nate moved to Hawaii after that summer following a job lead. We let Matt (clearly, a mistake) move in because he needed a place to stay and we needed rent money. At the same time, Chuck, who just left Portland, moved into the garage because he had no other option and his $100 was a plus. This lasted the winter. (Though Matt lasted the Spring (painful), Chuck got at job at Freddy's and got a place of his own.)

Steven Garcia lived at the house on more than one occacion. He stayed while Gehrke followed an (un)Alaska dream. And then again he stayed when we were between roommates and before Garcia went to Hawaii--a common practice, so it would seem, among Portlanders I know. (It rains there too, you know.) The Steven G's remain friends and now both live on the East Coast, but more on that later.

After I asked Matt to leave the house (he also left a Scarface dresser full of shoddy clothes), my friend Sean lived at the house for a brief period of time. After accquiring money for a graduate program in Austria, he packed a bag and flew out, leaving behind: three bookcases, a futon mattress, a desk, a chair, a TV, DVD player, and some cooking utensils.

Sean left a vacancy that could only be filled with a craigslist advertisement. This ad brought on a slew of response including: a Reed grad, a 40-year old lesbian, a friend of Matt's, and a girl from New Mexico. However, the first person to come through the door was Gehrke and my's first choice for a new roommate. His name was Adam, and I miss him.

We all became friends, Gehrke, Adam and I. We enjoyed each other's company going to the coffee shop, bike shops and bars on occasion. But Adam, who graduated from Lewis and Clark, set out to buy his own house--renting is for chumps. He left us and not a whole lot else for a $400,000 starter home in Northeast Portland; we haven't heard from him since.

But that was OK; we had Barry. Barry was a friend of ours who came to Portland with Nate. Nate returned from Hawaii with two friends, Barry and Twan (see: http://carsonksmith.blogspot.com/2006/05/twans-gone.html). The three invested in a rental that sits a few blocks from the one I live in. Barry and Nate, friends for life, could no longer live together and Barry moved into our house and left Nate, well, high and not-so-much dry. But Nate percervered: He found Andrew, who's a character but not one in this story.

The blow came to our hosehold when Gehrke said that he was following his dream to live in Baltimore (hometown of Ira Glass!) to be with the new love of his life. He left for good this month, and (though he'll visit once a month to fullfill medical research testing at OHSU) won't come back to live at the house, leaving Barry and I (Me once again) to search the website craigslist for someone seeking a home, but really to place an ad offering a room for rent. Steve leaves a room (mine, really) in the house open. (I pounced on his, his more comfortable bed, a desk (I can't have enough desks), and shelving unit he couldn't fit in his Oldsmobile.)

To look at the open room, three people came on Saturday during the time I spcified on the ad: 11-3. Allen, he's too moley, Aaron was accompanied by his (possible) parole officer or his mother, and Starlight (I shit you not) was too cute; she worked at Subway and was maybe 20. (Update: Starlight just left a message on my voicemail, she thought we all got along.)

Sunday three (acutally four) more roommate candidates came to see the empty room. First Tal, who just got off work showed up in his workvan. We had much in common--he got jokes, and recently moved from New Mexico--we like Tal. Two girls followed him (he was leaving as they arrived), announcing themselves as both people that wanted to see the room. Tami and Amy, (There's one lesson I'd like to give at this time for people looking for housing and visiting what you hope to be your future roommates in their house, and that's: save some of the information for when you are offered a place to live. We don't need to know you have a clan of Hawaiian friends. We don't need to know you just broke up with you boyfirend, or can't live with your boyfriend even though you "love him to death," but still want to "utilize your king-size bed." We don't need to know you smoke all kinds of pot, or wake up at four in the morning to work at Starbucks, that you are a neat freak, or that you came over together because of we "selected one of you we'd probably get both." These are not good things to reveal. Also, don't cry in front of us because you are so stressed about finding a place to live. That will not get you selected.), neither of which would work.

Marcia was nice and called after Barry and I had given up interviews. We had popped a bottle of wine when she called and weren't really interested in interviewing another. We had our mind made up by this point. But we gave everyone who called a shot (that is except Kody who could be reached "best by email," and who's last name was that spark plug brand that sounds like douche--Kody' didn't get emailed). Marcia was nice. Barry said he could picture her hanging plants up and teaching children violin (though I don't know where, the garage maybe). But she left with parting words that sounded very much like the parting words I had given Allen, Aaron, Starlight, Tami and Amy: We're interviewing a few more people, but we'll let you know. Marcia, said in fact, "I'm looking at a few more places but will let you know if things fall through." We'd be, you see, her last option.

So, this morning I extended the olive branch to an Israli. He seems harmless enough. But that seems like a thing you don't want to say in a roommate interview. That seems like something I probably shouldn't say, yet.

My Dog's Identity

Heidi, my dog, does strange things. For a few days there she was running away. She wanted out of the backyard--I don't see why, it's spacious--so bad she broke through a wall, and two gates. She moved an arm chair that I had a hard time lifting. Recently, she's climbed rocks on the Oregon Coast and swam across the dangerous Sandy River.

At the river Heidi tried to shake her identity. Or maybe it was an accident that she slipped out of her green collar. Either way--I don't know, I wasn't there--she lost her only accesory, which had attached to it three metal twenty-five-cent-sized tags: personal identity (her name, my number), a license and a rabies shot proof. I was upset that she came home without these tags because they would be a hassle to replace. Also, she has been strolling the neighborhood without me, as I've mentioned. But again, I didn't go with her and there was nothing I could do about it. Like any good father I was just happy she came back from her river rendezvous safe.

The next day my cellphone rang with a number I didn't recognize. I let the unknown caller go to voicemail like I do. On the message the caller identified herself as Amanda. She said she found Heidi's tag, and wanted to know if she should get it to the owner, or, if it had been replaced, she should toss it.

I called back the next day--I'm busy--and, on Amanda's voicemail--I'm not the only one who screen's unknown numbers--identified myself as Heidi's owner and the one responsible for the tags.

She calls back and this time I answer. It turns out Amanda works at a downtown restaurant not far from the downtown location I'm currently working (for free). She says she's working on this day at four would bring the collar with her to South Park restaurant. I say I'll stop by, meet her and pick up the collar.

So I did.

At home, I place the collar over Heidi's head and strap it one notch tighter than it had been. She looks the same to me: tail wagging and tongue sweating out of an open-mouthed grin, sitting and awaiting a walk, or her next trip to the beach.

That's the Heidi I know.

In the garage I constructed a box

In the box I marked OLD THINGS I place a Prison Break poster, some wooden figurines, a blue baseball glove, and some burnt CDs of bands and album titles written in neat handwriting with a sharpie--songs I don't want to hear.

I found a plastic St. Louis Rams cup, a blue rimmed bowl, and some old VHS cartridges I won't watch and can't play that I'll place in the cardboard box above the newspaper I've used to line the bottom.

Still, there remains these items too big for the box: a bike, a bed, a desk I helped carry home. And a past.

In another box I'll have to place: music heard but not recorded, conversations remembered but no longer recalled; years and years of memories, of nights in-house, days in-class, trips in cars, on planes, on busses.

I'll place news not published in papers or aired on TV. News insignificant to all but the few of us, that of new love, lost love, lost loved ones, and new members of familes that are spread about many states.

I've left the boxes open--they're not full yet. Contribute to it what you will before I have to seal and send it.