Last week while in Portland, Oregon I reluctantly read an article titled A Twee Grows in Brooklyn (and the twee keeps growing) about the Portlandification of said borough. I also turned 39 while in the city of roses (the moniker that no one outside of the city recognizes).
Thirty-eight-year-old me would get riled up over how it’s impossible to compare a town, barely a city, of 600,000 mostly middle-income, white people with a borough of 2.6 million full of a zillion ethnicities both wildly wealthy and relentlessly poor. And that I can’t take anyone in their 20s with parents who live in Manhattan (a recent nearly irrational bugaboo of mine—I can’t think of any circumstance where I would ever truly get along with anyone who grew up in Manhattan or who has the kind of parents who currently live in Manhattan [or Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope]) seriously. There is the experience of a young East Coast-educated person who has never heard of zines and works multiple part time jobs, thrifts furniture and hangs out and smokes pot and drinks a lot and can return to NYC at any time to declare Brooklyn bourgeois and then there are many unemployed or working multiple part time jobs people who aren’t doing so by choice. In a city-town where jobs, especially non-service jobs, are hard to come by, if you’re a young native who would like to leave it takes a lot of planning and saving, assuming you have the motivation or ambition to even try. Brooklyn is still NYC and that means competitive and expensive. No one here is supporting themselves making kombucha or pillows shaped like owls. Either parents are involved or they have savings from the corporate job (funded by an education and rent they didn’t pay for) they threw all away to pursue their simpler life dreams. In turn, the market for $400 vintage typewriters in Portland would be quite small.
Thirty-nine-year-old me has no time for this shit. When you are this close to death there is no time to become consumed by the foibles of strangers.
Sturgeon can live to be 100 years old. Herman, the 70-year-old, 10-foot-long, 450-pound centerpiece of the Bonneville Fish Hatchery is barely a senior. Maybe I’d call him middle-aged and he wouldn’t be offended. These prehistoric slow-movers creep me out as much now as they did when I was a child. It doesn’t seem possible that a massive creature even exists and has for millions of years, chugging along the bottom of silty riverbeds. The murky water and moss-encrusted logs don’t help matters. My grandma told me that someone had gone up and stabbed a bunch of these fish. I don’t want to look it up and see if that’s true because it kind of makes me feel like throwing up.
Salmon returning to where they were born, spawning and dying also does not put me at ease either. I was born in the Bay Area, not Oregon and I don’t intend to get pregnant, but keeling over on your home turf is depressing not noble. Legacies, ugh. I began feeling choked up in a cool bathroom stall at the hatchery while thinking about the salmon. I ate three ounces of local sockeye salmon with saffron aioli that night for dinner, and it was pretty good.
At Char Burger, afterward, The Sundays jangled nearly imperceptibly through the room plastered with wild west tchotkes while I ate stiff marionberry pie and sipped a black iced tea in a tall paper cup. When I heard that 1990 modern rock classic on New Year’s Eve/Y2K/Millennium in an Atlantic City casino café well after midnight, I started tearing up. 1990 was the year I went from high school to college. At 28 the future seemed irrevocably bleak and I had nothing to show for my past. The song drew upon a false teenage nostalgia because what kind of true regrets or even wistful memories can you have at 18? Harriet Wheeler seemed so grown up and sensible in the video (she was 27) with a vaguely ‘60s, messy updo, jeans and cardigan, not flashy but still cool and cute. I hoped that’s what I would mature into as an adult.
Here’s where the story ends. On my birthday I read that Gen X ladies all over the USA are ditching the kids and throwing wild 40th birthday parties in exotic locales involving “staying out late and eating and drinking anything we like.” Death’s dry, bony grip sounds oh so soothing right about now. Maybe he can join me and my girlfriends in Cabo?
So, my 39 looked a little puffy and tired but not abysmal. Must’ve been all that staying out late and eating and drinking anything I liked. I’m fine with my skin, it’s not terribly liney or wrinkled (though it re-broke out the second I set foot back in NYC. My chin zits only temporarily cleared up in the dry, unseasonably crisp Bay Area weather. I was also able to wear liquid foundation, which I prefer, rather than the mineral makeup I futiley apply here each morning only to melt off before reaching the office. Also, I could wear my bangs straight. Today was the first day I’d commuted to work since being back and my forehead was pure sweat, I literally had trickles running down my bare legs like I’d peed myself, and those nicely blown-dried bangs were clumped and wet like seaweed within minutes of reaching the subway platform) but I’m starting to become concerned with under-eye hollows, not dark circles, just a sunken look that concealer doesn’t help. I can’t understand how an otherwise plump face could be sprouting sinkholes. Does one inject ass fat below one’s eyes? I guess that’s how I will age.
This is my grandma at 77, mom at 61, me on Friday and my sister at 36. Who knows what direction I’ll go.