I’m raking the front yard when I notice a hole in the ground the size of a squash ball. I rake rocks into it. Then some more. Completely covered one second, it’s a hole the next. I look down at the squash ball. What’s down there? On my knees, I take a closer look. With one one eye closed, I peek in like it’s a microscope. It’s dark and I can’t see much. But I hear something. A scurry. Not a dig. Maybe a whisper.

Who’s down there? I ask. Did I bury a being? 

By trying to fill the hole did I kill the mole?


I'm care-taking the house of a friend of mine. It's not a big deal. He lives close by. I walk my dog there in the mornings. I was told  to water the beds before it gets hot.

The house is out my side door, left onto Stanton, right on Rodney and Rodney to Beech. Over a few blocks from Rodney, and across Vancouver. If you are taking this path, I should note that Rodney jogs at Fremont between Martin Luther King Jr. and Williams. Early, crossing Fremont is not an issue, however, during rush hour, the single, westbound lane backs up. A car once drove right at me, into oncoming traffic to turn down Rodney. I should be dead. But the car turned right before it got to me.

Vancouver is a busy all morning. It's oneway and goes toward downtown. There's a crosswalk on Beech and Vancouver but cars don't seem to mind it. Cars coming from Rodney's direction, and turning onto Vancouver turn here. Once when this happened, a man driving made eye contact with me before turning in front of me, and while he was turning I held up my middle finger out to him. I'm not proud. I know I can't take it back.

You must trust me with this story thus far. I want to be honest with you. What I am about to tell you may leave you asking questions. And I am prepared to answer those questions to the best of my ability should they come up.

During my three weeks of care-taking–It's not housesitting if you're not sleeping there– I noticed patterns. During the summer days the house would stuff up and become hot. I made it part of my routine to open window and door in the cool mornings and air out. The home is old but there are modern amenities, including a digital thermostat and a sophisticated alarm. The house is wired at everywhere. And there are motion sensors, something I was unaware of. No, my friend never mentioned the alarm system, and I didn't mean to arm it.

This afternoon I was opening the doors and windows, trying to cool the house down when one or both the alarm system or thermostat started beeping. The thermostat and alarm panel are located on the same wall.  The battery in the thermostat was dying and the windows were open–I didn't know thermostats had batteries. I replaced it with a battery I took out of the Comcast remote and that seemed to take care of it.

I heard a beep, but went about my chores, watering the garden boxes, stacking mail, and airing out the house. Before I left, I made sure all the windows and doors were closed and locked except for the door I left from. That door was open. Still, I was hearing all sorts of beeping and couldn't tell if it was thermostat or alarm panel related. I went over to the wall and started pushing negative worded buttons: OFF, CANCEL, EXIT. A screen on the alarm panel said alarm armed. Leave house. And the reminder beep turned into a countdown beep. I armed the house. And didn't know the password. It was time to EXIT.


I was thirsty. I loved the way alcohol made me feel, so I drank a lot of it. I drank quickly, as much as I could. It didn't matter what day or what night. I could never have enough until I had too much.

Every Thursday at work, a drink cart would come around. One week the drink was Death in the Afternoon, a favorite of Hemingway's. I skipped lunch or didn't eat much. And dinner was Death and I had more than my share.

Somehow I stumbled onto the bus. I don't know how but I must have stayed awake. Or maybe I just woke up in time to realize that I got on the bus that drops you at the top of the hill. I'm just lucky I was going the right direction. I stumbled off and ran down the hill. What was the rush? I don't know.

I fell over myself many times, and then I woke up. It had become Friday. I was cut up and alone. I'd rolled down the hill and into my own bed. But the person I shared it with wasn't in it. She slept in the other room.

I walked the dog first thing. It was early. I was out of there as soon as I was awake because I couldn't face her. Facing her meant shame and reality and the possibility that it would be over for good.

There was finality. But not with her. For the next month, I lived in the other room.  I committed to quitting. I got sober. We moved in again, moved on and got married.

So much alcohol has come across my face since. So many offers, toasts, invitations and shots. Beers and bottles of wine. Desire for it, however, has turned into something else. Now, I don't want to drink alcohol. I'm not thirsty anymore.


Outside the Tropicana, a restaurant long closed and now for sale in this "gentrifying" part of town, whatever that's supposed to mean, on the south-facing siding was spray painted the phrase:


The northbound street that's a highly trafficked bike highway, a strip that has recently acquired multiple "upscale" restaurants, a "friendly" supermarket, coffee shops, breweries, ice cream parlors, yarn stores, and the like,  connect the downtown with North and Northeast Portland. If you go there, please note there are five "quadrants" of Portland: Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and North.

I don't think the Tropicana was ever zoned residential. Also, my neighbor across the street is black and so are his children and grandchildren. The people in his family either live there or have lived in that house for years.

Stopping gentrification is not a priority of mine because I did not study economics. I'm not capable financially or politically of preventing the sale of property or development in what were once poor, neglected neighborhoods. I'm probably part of the problem, paying rent too high for a house because it's in a "close-in" neighborhood.

People in this community ignore racism. They're too passive and liberal to do anything about it. Some are afraid of gentrification but are incapable of doing anything. But I can't shy away from the question, Are you anti-development?

I'm anti development if it means more traffic in my neighborhood. If it means high priced homes I can't afford, if it means a struggle for the people around me to afford rent.

Development is happening too fast after what was a lull in development in reaction to the national recession that began six years ago and continues today depending on what numbers you are looking at. Unemployment is next to impossible to measure with accuracy. I am unemployed but currently have more money than I ever have. At the same time I am indebted to the bank just as much. I don't receive unemployment, and I'm not actively looking for work. What does that make me?

To spray paint that black people used to live here closes the door on reality. Black people do live here.


There you are. Years ago. In a picture frame with your now wife. Young. A skyline behind and a look of disbelief: How did I get so lucky? How did I get here? Wherever it is you are. With her. 

She, she smiles too. Her arm around you. That sky blue skit and that dangling arm, the one that's not behind your neck, droops. Not awkwardly. Naturally. 

Khaki cargo cutoffs cast a shadow over your knee. And it's the skin of your shin that leads straight down to those clogs you're wearing. 

You are practical and analytical. 


When I walk I look down
Not at my phone always
But at the ground. 

At the park
On the grass
On the hill
Facing the sun
There are 
Strewn about 
Caps to bottles that aren't around. 

What good times must have been had here
Park drinking.
Last night or the night before
Summer was made for this
I think, past tense.

I pick up one of the caps.
It has a 10 on it.
Imagine 10 caps. 10 beers. 
I used to think
I could drink 10 beers in one sitting
But now I no longer do. 


She asked if I wanted to go out for dinner. She'd owed me a dinner because of the silly bet we made. We bet on the name of the guy who lives with her friend and her friend's husband. I was 99 percent sure of his name. I met him at their wedding. She wasn't sure that I was right. She thought it was someone else entirely. I told her to text her friend. I said let's bet dinner. She agreed because she likes to eat dinner and it didn't really matter to her if she won or I won. But I knew I was right and I like being right. And I like choosing where to eat dinner. When she asked if I wanted to go, I already had a place in mind that I had heard about. I even looked at the menu online and knew I wanted to order beef ribs. At the restaurant, we were talking about the difference between beef and pork ribs. She prefers pork ribs. I was convinced beef was better for this meal. The waitress came, looked at me, and asked if we were ready to order. I didn't hesitate. I ordered the beef ribs, then looked across the table. She said pork ribs but wasn't sure on her second side. I suggested one, but she shook it off like a baseball pitcher, then ordered something different. We sat for a moment before I stood to wash up. She said, "Next time, when the waitress asks if we are ready to order, at least look at me." I considered this. I'm still learning to live as two. When we were done eating, our tab came separated by item. She handed the waitress her card. When the waitress returned to our table she tried handing me the bill to sign. I shook my head and pointed across the table. The waitress said, "I didn't read the name. I always just assume it's the man who pays."


On my way to lunch, I walk wet sidewalks
Hood up over hat, I look down more than up
Cars whiz past as I wait at an intersection

Round the corner I make my way
Across one street and down the other  
When what do I see? But salt water taffy.

Little pieces scattered about like cigarette butts
All these edible treats unspent and still wrapped
Not yet untwisted, opened up, and unstuck 
with thumbs and index fingertips

Still kept in their clean white encasements,
These pastel taffy dandies have won the wet T-shirt contest
And are now neglected down to the toes.


This is their story,
The story of a man and a woman, 
two young lovers who meet in school 
and date two years. 

This is their story, 
a young couple 
who graduates together, 
sleep together, 
weep together, and
takes a trip together.

This is their story, 
it's about relationship
and place. 

This is their story, 
it flashes backward and forward, 
to time spent 
and time to come.

Thirty days in memories

This is their story, 
it takes place in a Mercury Cougar,
a V8 automobile.   

This their story, 
it takes place in the western states,
starting in New Mexico (they wouldn’t stop until they were out of New Mexico) 
and at the Grand Canyon. 
This is their story
with stops along the way at Lake Powell,
The Utah Narrows.

This is their story, 
it takes place in a tent 
on campgrounds, 
in a cheap motels, 
friends' apartments, and
pullout couches.

This is their story, 
it takes place in hotel room in Las Vegas on Fourth of July 
where they consider their Independence. 

This is their story, 
it not the dog’s story,
she was left at home. 

This is their story,
it takes them to Yosemittee, 
The Redwoods. 
Then up to Eugene, 
where they discuss graduate school. 

Who would go? 
And where? 
What about the other? 
What is the definition of Compromise?

This is their story, 
it's about two people know each other 
spend so much time together
to see if it's meant to last 
any longer than that.
This is their story
it stops in Portland, 
just for a night: 
For Roses and spaghetti. 

Things seemed pretty good between the two of them at this point.

This is the break in their story.
New characters are introduced, 
friends are visited. 
his brother flies in.

This is their story, 
He leaves but comes back.
they reunite 
and head to Seattle.
She likes Seattle,
talks of moving there, 
he says he's not into it.

This is their story, 
sights are seen 
and borders crossed. 

This is their story, 
eleven states are covered, 
a province in Canada makes an appearance. 

This is their story, 
it makes its descent,
back to New Mexico, 
they stop along the way 
in Missoula,
the Tetons, 
and finally in Denver.


He will be born on a Saturday.

He will be of average birth weight and length.

He will have a mother and a father, and they will love him.

He will have a brother and they will be close.

He will be lucky.

He will  know his mother’s mother and his mother’s father quite well. And, he will meet his father’s mother, but only know her a little. He won’t know his father’s father at all personally for his father’s father died when his father was in his 20s. And before he was born.

He will be raised in the southwest quadrant of the United States of America. He’ll attend public schools, and make friends and enemies.

He will have approximately seven gerbils, two parakeets, a cockatiel, a ferret, and a hermit crab. He will try tending to tropical fish during those pet years.

He will play sports but will not be too good at them. He will join clubs and quit clubs. 

He will do okay in school without fully applying himself. He will learn about new things but will get bored and distracted. He will run fast but not fast enough. He will not test well in math.

He will learn to drive and drive to different places. 

He will have various facial hair configurations. 

He will get a tattoo.

He will fall in love and out of love and back in love again. He will wonder what love is.

He will be made fun of by friends. It will take him longer than expected to reach his full potential.

He will do drugs and smoke cigarettes and enjoy them approximately 50 percent of the time. He will eat mostly what he wants. He will drink copious amounts of alcohol. He will keep mostly to himself. He will be unlucky. He will stop drinking alcohol entirely. 

He will apply for jobs that he thinks he wants. He will rarely be satisfied with his work. He will be self-conscious. He will go bald. He will make money and spend money. He will go broke and worry about money. He will not always do well.

He will have two dogs that will overlap slightly. He will be close to them both and it will be sad when they die.

Somebody will tell him that that’s just what happens when two living things form a relationship. One of them will die first and the other will die alone. Both of them die. That's just the way it goes. Everyone and everything that is living, that has lived, and that will live will. He will write this down.


It is a new year, so I will write a list in the future tense.

I will show up for work. I will show up and work.

I will concentrate.

I will drink coffee.

I will run in the morning.

I will floss my teeth at night.

I will be more patient.

I will check my work.

I will slow down when I need to slow down.

I will read. And will re-read.

I will write. And will re-write.

I will shave when I need to shave.

I will behave when I need to behave.

I will be nice to people.

I will be nice to myself.

I will be nice to animals.

I will ride my bike.

I will walk.

I will be responsible with my money.

I will get health insurance.

I will go to the movies.

I will see art.

I will call friends.

I will travel.

I will go to shows.

And that goes to show that you can write what you will. And, will yourself to write a will if that's what your want to write. Or just a list of things that you will do.