Chapter 6: My First Mission in Portland (Dec - June 2012)

On the attention page of The Lucky Lab Edition it reads, "After more than 139 intrepid production scenes, I returned to civilization to make a name for myself as Bookmaker Jake in Portland. And I'm going to do that by completing my first mission and earning my first self-disciplined rank -


After I left the woods, I made the long trip home to Emily in Wallowa County. I spent a week or so there, where we kissed a lot and Emily introduced me to one of her scenes for the summer, trail running along Hurricane Creek. Bob had, as Emily said "worked my ass off...and that's a good thing," but I was no match for Emily and her small agrarian tribe of runners, one of which had run The Crater Lake Marathon with her that summer. Before we packed up the rental van and left Wallowa County, I produced  a greatest hits book for our friends Beth and Leon, who had, in the 3 1/2 years we were there, gone above and beyond the call of duty to make our lives better. In fact, it was Leon who inspired and took the photo with all my cabin books. * Check out his photos at They're badass! Beth's farm story Backyard Gardens was, and still is, hard for Emily to leave behind. I felt like the villian pulling the hero away from her true love, but in spite of all the wonderful folks I'd met in Wallowa County, I couldn't stay there any longer. I missed my family and friends. 

But, before we got too serious about settling in Portland, we took a few weeks to enjoy each other on a backpacking trip to the Alvord Desert, Great Basin, Bryce, and Zion National Park.


"Hey there Sexy Lady!"

On our four day backpacking trip in Zion, Emily cast off the trappings of civilized sports gear (thanks to some vicious blisters) and hiked over 30 miles in her "hiking slipper." 


After a few weeks enjoying some quality time with my family in Washington - where we watched movies and ate ice cream with my parents, and began our trail running adventures with my sister Liz - we found a one bedroom apartment in SE Portland's Woodstock Neighborhood, and made the leap. 


That photo of our setting, which we named "the penthouse" (the one with the patio), wasn't our first apartment. Originally we moved in the apartment next door, but it was too small for a tribe of 2 people, 2 cats, and a mess of plants. We moved to our penthouse roost in April, feeling glad to have more room to grow.


Being back in Portland was like being shot out of a cannon. Within a few short weeks of being back I accepted a dishwashing gig at what became known (to me) as "The Moon Colony" within biking distance of home along the waterfront in SW Portland. I call it the Moon Colony, because it's a "non-profit" assisted living facility for the very rich, a place where they can live in lavish comfort, privacy, and maintain as much distance from the rest of us earthings as they can while they wait for the "Big Go"...the day the whole building blasts off for The Moon, where they can live free with the aid of their most trusted Moon Slaves, who will still be required to wear their goofy uniforms, name tags (so Moon  Colonists can feel like they know who they're talking to), and record their life's work using a timeclock and a six digit employee number.

Here's a shot of The Moon Colony they constructed on "the sand" of SW Portland. Pumps have to run around the clock to keep those nifty looking moon buildings from being washed away by the mighty Willamette River. Am I the only one who remembers the Sunday school lesson about the rich man who built his house on the sand? 


When I began the employable Moon Colony role of Factory Processed Dishwasher, I still had enough money saved from the summer - enough to feel like I wasn't being expoited for the benefit of Moon Colonists, rather choosing to be exploited. As it goes, that dream died sooner than I expected.

Like I said, being back at home in Portland was like being shot out of a cannon. Wow, I couldn't have made the last six or so months any more dramatic if I'd wrote it - 

In January my family decided to move my grandma (aka the Hub of the Wheel) to an assisted living facility. This decision, which everyone knew was coming, ignited a firestorm of strong feelings and family issues that I hope will cool and heal in time. As a result of the Hub moving, I became my Uncle's "Official US Government Payee," which is an odd and ironic role for me to play, but it gave me a push to spend more time with my Uncle Jim, who (in spite of the times we piss each other off) is one of the finest human beings I know. Throughout much of the firestorm, or what my Uncle calls the "blood feud," I did my best to connect with my friends here I'd neglected while we were in Wallowa County, and spend time with my brothers Ben and Steven, my sister Liz, and my sister Heidi who I was happy to help with rides and such in her delivery of our newest member of the family, Halle. In the midst of all this, my father suffered a major heart attack. We were all blessed to have him back with us, especially in time to join Emily, Uncle Jim, and I on our first visit to welcome Halle into the world. 

A few of the other more memorable moments in My Homemaking Theme were: In March Emily, Liz, and I ran The Hillbilly Half Marathon in the mud, snow, and hills outside Olympia, WA (Go Team Awesome!), making The Hub Book with my brothers and watching Predator ("To the Coppa!"), starting a backyard garden with my friend Joe, cooking dinner for my friend Chris's family and spending time with his son River, spending a romantic weekend with Emily at Beverly Beach, making a book and selling none at The Canby Author's Fair, and enjoying a fun weekend of wine tasting and sightseeing with Emily's parents from Boston. And how could I forget our Easter gathering with the Hub at her new place ("Where everything's free!"). Here's a shot of us from The Easter Book were we sang old songs around the piano with the Hub, my brother Ben and his girlfriend Cass, Uncle Jim, and a few of my grandma's newest fans.  


Thus far, on paper, My First Mission in Portland isn't going to plot. I've sold a few books to my family, friends, and fellow Moon Slaves, but my shelves are still full. But that's ok, because in spite of what my Uncle Jim calls our "forgivable imperfections," my life's story - the Homemaking Theme that gives value to all that I do as Bookmaker Jake - is alive in the lives of my family, friends, and Emily! And I'm doing my best to keep it that way.

As the sign above my father's door once read: 

TRYING IS WINNING. And I'm trying.