And now the Pacific Northwest’s banner exhibit: Rain and Cold.
It’s scheduled to be rainy over the next few days until we leave. I couldn’t imagine Seattle and the rain that they experience rather constantly. Temps are ranging from the low 50s to the low 70s. There is a head start on Fall here compared to Indiana.
Portland has a homeless problem. Tents are a common sight, along with people pushing their shopping carts around. Mixed in with these sights are Audis, Volvos, and a Ferrari/Lotus or two. Class seems to be less segregated here, people in fancy BMWs pull up to doughnut shops with hopeless people sleeping outside.
We started our day out with some breakfast, then headed to Target to get a pillow for the airplane trip home Friday. When walking into the Target restroom, I was greeted with a mix of cheap perfume the store uses to try and odorize the restroom, mixed with human piss and putrid rotting of a homeless person in the larger stall next to mine.
The smell was nauseating, yet familiar. The scent of my bodily functions was quite preferable in that moment, I spent my time with my face buried in my shirt. Emotionally I was torn between empathy, as that person in the stall next to mine could be me, yet angry that my senses were being assaulted.
There are no easy answers to be had. Homelessness and capitalism don’t intertwine and the system leaves many behind; compounded by a lack of social services and mental health care (even for those who are privileged). I ask myself what I can do, and come up empty with answers.
And yet, I remind myself that a vulnerable group to homelessness are war veterans; unable to readjust to society with little to no resources available to them upon returning from risking their lives, and livelihoods to protect the very thing that shits all over them when their bodies or minds give out and they are no longer useful.
I find myself immensely appreciative of what I do have and the opportunities afforded to me; while also becoming more mindful of my privilege. One could say that we are a little homesick, but there are always opportunities to grow from any experience.
Later that evening
After we napped and I got some alone time in, we headed out for Pizza. Do I need to continue mentioning that it was Vegan?
Then Comedy for Open Mic Night. Some lady showed up rocking her bird on her shoulder (she takes it everywhere).
Everything, everywhere, constantly.
As we were leaving the Comedy Club late at night, I stood in the common area and waited for Amanda to finish using the bathroom. I was fumbling around with my wallet and a bit disoriented. A young person walked by and then walked back and asked if I was okay; as I looked anxious.
The empathy hit me like a pile of bricks. However brief that encounter, there was a genuine vulnerable human connection there; kind of like everytime someone does something completely out of their way in Portland to give you a hand on the road while driving.
I hope that I can bring some of this kindness and acceptance back to Indiana with me.