Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Marine Drive

Last weekend, Ed had to work and Noé paced the house like a cat on crack cocaine, so I took him for a drive. Drives with Noé have been our go-to during the trickier parts of Covid. And Marine Drive is our favorite pandemic driving destination.

Tucked into the car, I thought of our many drives on this roadway since Covid hit and the many ways Marine Drive has changed with the times. I realized I’d been trying to outdrive this damn pandemic on this damn road for almost two years.

Noé and I started driving Marine Drive in March 2020 when in-person school and the rest of the world shut down. After morning online classes, we would head to the car. Life then was still very locked down and driving was one of the few things that offered both freedom and safety. We drove east from 33rd Avenue along Marine Drive until we hit Blue Lake, and then we would turn around and head back west on the same road. Marine Drive boasts great views of PDX Airport to the south and the mighty Columbia River to the north. Noé likes watching the planes take off and land at PDX. Amazon and FedEx delivery planes dominated the runways back then. My eyes usually moved to the other side of the road, towards the serenity of the river that divides Oregon from Washington. I’ve always sought out great bodies of water to calm my mind when it is otherwise hitting the red panic button.

Together, we watched the Oregon winter gradually lift from the inside our silver Honda CRV. Blooms formed on the trees lining the river and snow slowly receded from the mountains surrounding us. On clear days we had a view of Mt. Hood, still vanilla with snow. Good ol’ ever-dependable Mt. Hood. Always positioned east in that exact same spot on the horizon. It towered in our windshield as a beacon of certainty among the chaos.

As the temperature warmed into April and May, we pit stopped at Brighton Beach. The beach, near the 33rd Ave turnoff and Salty’s restaurant, is admittedly sketchy. You wouldn’t catch us there anytime after dark. But Noé and I enjoyed playing in the sand and in the small rolling tides, the beach otherwise empty of visitors. We sat on oversized logs dotting the beach and wished into the waters many an overcast spring and fall afternoon. I could read on a blanket and let him wander the beach without worry. It was about the most carefree either of us felt during that stretch of time. I told Noé it was our “secret beach,” even though every Portland teenager had recreated and experimented on that rocky strip of sand since the 1970s.

Noé and I kept driving straight through the Summer of 2020. Our afternoon visits to Brighton Beach turned to morning walks along the shore to avoid sunny masses of bodies and booming music as Covid cases and restrictions eased. We noticed garbage piling up along Marine Drive. And then, a never-ending trail of tents and rusted out RVs and illegal bonfires popped up along the bike trail that runs between the street and the river. Commercial airliners returned to the airport runway. Later that winter, part of the airport parking lot would transform into a gigantic maze of cars — a drive thru vaccine clinic. Ed took Noe (twice) through that very line.

Through 2021, our Marine Drive adventures abated as school and work returned, and life normalized a bit. We headed back to public transportation and theaters and restaurants and other places where we might interact with others. But this winter, we’ve tried to isolate once again in an effort to keep virus transmissions down and school up. And Noé and I  find ourselves Thelma and Louise’ing it back on Marine Drive. On my worst days, I drive and look out at the water and the garbage and wonder how we will ever get ourselves out of this literal and figurative mess.

Two years into this pandemic and the only real certainty is that there will continue to be lots of uncertainty. Will my kids have school today? Is there another, more dangerous variant on the horizon? Will the garbage and recycling pickup come today?

Will Noe and I be driving Marine Drive forever?

Monday, January 3, 2022

In appreciation of male friendship

“Male friends are important to me, and the ones that I love are vitally important. These two guys, I loved.” -- Ben Bradlee, in his memoir A Good Life, on his friendship with Art Buchwald and Ed Williams

The guys in the picture above are Alfredo and Jose, both of whom I met in 2019. I met Alfredo first through a Latino professionals networking event that we’re regulars at (well, at least we were in the Before Times). I followed up and asked if we could have lunch in early 2019, and would ask again every couple of months. Thankfully, he always agreed and we began to hit it off. 

Jose I met through Alfredo in the summer of 2019. Alfredo looped us both into a text thread that has never stopped nearly three years later. As we subsequently met up in person, the chemistry was instant with Jose, and it wasn’t just our common fandom of the Dodgers.

It's been really serendipitous to meet two Latinos who are age peers and with whom I have a lot in common. Whether it was nerding out about baseball, talking about our families (immediate and extended), or providing a space to vent and compare notes on navigating our professional lives, the conversations have been enriching and deep.


It is invaluable to have people in your corner who can relate on a number of levels and can keep you honest or offer an encouraging word when it's necessary. But I’m also very grateful we had that time to cultivate the friendship and form a bond of some kind before the pandemic shut everything down. I’m pleased to say the bonds have stayed strong as we navigated these last couple of years.

As I've cultivated these friendships, my mind drifted to Ben Bradlee’s memoir, A Good Life. It is firmly in my wheelhouse because of the cross-section of journalism and history and is a book I reread at least once a year. I even own an audiobook version, read by the man himself, his gravelly voice filling my earbuds or speakers upon every listen.

It’s an engrossing read, thanks to a charismatic central figure who was a giant in his industry and had a direct hand in or close-up vantage point for many moments in post-war American history. (For the non-readers out there, I recommend a recent HBO doc on the man, which basically used his memoir as a script.)

One secondary thread in the book that always fascinated me was his friendship with Art Buchwald and Ed Williams, which is a recurring theme as he weaves through tales of JFK, working at Newsweek, the Watergate scandal, and more. It was a warm, deep and lasting bond between the three of them, and I always wondered what that must be like. Would I ever have an inner circle like that?

It wasn’t until I moved to Portland in the summer of 2018, and started networking and meeting people in the area, that it started to manifest itself. 

I had found my guys, and am very grateful!

I look forward to the time when we’re past this pandemic, whatever that looks like, and I get to see Jose and Alfredo more frequently. Because, yes, to paraphrase Bradlee’s line: these two guys, I love.