Friday, March 17, 2017

DOIN' IT HUGE IN THE EUGE


The whole house was screaming for my attention. The teapot, the smoke alarm. The door. I decided to go back to my room, to block out the noise a little. Lay down and reset. You know when you're hung over and nothing works? You push the big button on the remote that turns the TV on and nothing happens, so you keep pushing the button over and over and over,  and eventually you think to yourself "eh, this isn't so bad?" That's how I was feeling now. Hungover. I didn't want to die but I didn't want to live.
BEEP BEEP BEEP went my loud phone. It was a text message. An old high school friend of mine named Meyers Leonard. (I remember reading a story on the internet by this female author who walked around doing drugs with a famous male author, and in the story she gave him an NBA player alias, so we wouldn't know who it was. But reading it, you couldn't help but think, maybe she really was hanging out with that NBA player. That's what I'm going for in my story, too.) U STILL COMING TO THE EUGE ON WED? said the text message.
MMM HMM I texted back. Problem was though, I'd forgotten I'd said I'd meet Meyers in the Euge. Invigorated by panic, I spun around in my chair twice and ordered a train ticket online. (My car's not really "road trip ready" at the moment.)
Eugene's Amtrak station had more attractive people in it than I've ever seen at an Amtrak station. (Or a Greyhound Station, for that matter.) Some 16-year-old Eugene kid told me later that Eugene has a meth problem, but unlike, say, Portland, there wasn't any evidence of it at the train station. So, since there were no tweakers to talk to, I zipped up my coat and marched over to The Green Woman, the plush hotel that Meyers Leonard was staying at, and took a couple to-go shots of cucumber vodka from my glass Gatorade bottle flask to get the mood right, finally.
The lobby was packed. Women, dogs, men...you name it. (Actually, though, that's it.) I called Meyers Leonard on his private number and sat impatiently down on the old school hotel-style couch, next to the free apples. It rang twice, and he picked up, apologetically.
"Hey, I'm coming down" he said.
"Cool" I answered, benevolently.
Finally, he came down.
"Look who it is" he said, wincing at my breath and hugging me in a manly way. "The Northwest's favorite son."
"Shut the hell up, you idiot" I responded good-naturedly. "What the are you doing in this dump, anyway? You get a DUI?"
"Yeah" he said. "But tonight, I'm here to party with you. And tomorrow, after court, I'm here to go birding with you."
"Perfect" I said. "I forgot about that."
I don't know how I forgot about that. As you know, I've been trying to do more birding recently, to make this blog better. But one thing I DO know how I forgot is "what me and Meyers Leonard wound up doing that night." I forgot because I got blackout drunk.
I woke up at midmorning, feeling punchy and gay. Meyers had left for court, already. I grabbed the remote and tried to turn the TV on, but it wouldn't turn on. I gave up after 300 tries. Ah, well. I opened the window, to see what people were up to outside. Eugene looked good to me. People were out and about there, it felt like. Running. Meyers Leonard himself was running, actually, at that very moment. I didn't see him, but he was pounding on the door 3 minutes later, sounding out of breath.
"WAKE UP" he said.
"I'm up " I said, quietly indignant. Then the phone rang. Jeez I thought. Everyone sure is pushy today. I picked up the phone and it was Meyers Leonard.
"OPEN THE DOOR" he said.
I opened the door. He looked like he'd been running, all right. His suit looked moist. Sweat clung to his brow like a lawyer clinging to an alibi.
"What are you running from?" I said.
"Nothing" he said. "I'm just working out with my suit on now. It's something I read about online."
"To make you sweat?" I said.
"Yeah" he said. "You should try it right now. Grab your binoculars and put some regular clothes on. It's birding time, baby!" Meyers Leonard is a good recreational activity drill sergeant like that. He makes sure you don't over-milk the downtime.
"OK" I said. And suddenly, I was struck by the significance of the notion that I was about to go birding, finally. It made me sort of realize how easy it would've been to just do it, instead of putting it off. I started this blog to force myself to go birding, originally, but then I got cheeky about it and it became a game of how many entries can I do without going on one birding expedition. Why had I done that? Nobody likes that. I should have at least bought some binoculars. Feeling obligated to explain my binocularlessness now, to Meyers Leonard, I knew I wanted to put that all behind me.
"C'mon, I got a game tonight!" said Meyers Leonard.
He didn't have any binoculars either, I should say. Meyers Leonard is kind of an "audiophile," so when he goes birding he likes to record the birds' songs with a big poofy microphone, instead of acknowledging them visually and checking them off a checklist. Whatever, man. It was a new-ish hobby for him too, but he was further along with it than I was with my traditional birding.
"Shut up" I said. "I left my binoculars at home, I just remembered."
The first birds we saw on our trans-Eugene "approach hike" were easily identified by my naked eye. Turkeys. Eight meandering females and a confidently unmoving alpha male, standing in the plush yard of a wooden house, making sure no one went in the yard. He was the most beautiful bird I'd ever seen. His coloring made him look like a tropical bird, but he didn't look out of place here at all, just colorful. I didn't think I respected turkeys before that, but when I caught this bird's eye I felt like I should make a gesture of deference, or compliment him.
"That is one handsome turkey" I said to Meyers Leonard.
"Sssshhh, I'm trying to record the gobbles" he said.  
The turkey just stared us down, silently.
On our way back down the mountain (which turned out to be almost as majestic and weighty as the turkey), I started to chafe pretty bad. Meyers hadn't got any good recordings, because there were dogs and joggers everywhere, and the only birds I'd managed to identify were turkeys ("common turkeys?") and American Robins. I was being a bit of a Lippy Longtalking, and Meyers Leonard was being a bit of a Shushy Sharon. What can you do, right. That's all part of hiking. Not all of your jokes, riddles and sex stories are going to get the reaction you want. Here we are, out in the woods. That's what matters. 
I was just about to say as much when we found a bird! I think it was a jay."That's a jay" I said, confidently, and Meyers Leonard looked kind of impressed, even though he must've known I hadn't been birding that much. Smiling, he took out his microphone and pointed it just in time to capture the jay's triumphant squawk, as he lifted off into the clouds.
"Bullsear, baby" said Meyers Leonard.
"Hell yeah" I said.
We made it back to the Amtrak station about 65 minutes after my train left.

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