Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:

“Hey, everybody,” my ex-boyfriend Adam said, as he rolled in unexpectedly on a Monday morning. “Get up and join the economy.”

So far Ethan was the only one up and he wasn’t supposed to be joining the economy until he got the kids off to school. In reality, instead of doing that tough job he was sitting at his computer dabbling at the edges of the economy while the kids were still in their pajamas playing games on their ipad.

It didn’t help to have Adam sweep in off the red eye from California to further distract Ethan from his parental duties. If it’s easier to wade around in the shallows of the economy than to get two boys off to school, it’s even easier to picture yourself somewhere in the distance with nothing to tie you down but a backpack. Running away was the one thing that could still compete with work for Ethan’s attention.

“Just think,” Adam said, dropping his backpack unceremoniously on the floor in the foyer, “it’s 7:10 a.m. here on the Least Coast while it’s only 4:10 on the Best Coast. You know why it’s earlier there? Because there’s more to live for.”

It didn’t occur to him that 7:10 a.m. can be a busy time on the Least Coast even if we don’t have as much to live for as people in an earlier time zone. For one thing, considering the hour, we’re already running late.

On top of that, though he claimed to be interested in the economy, he was far more interested in convincing us that San Francisco is the greatest city in the world, despite its irrelevance to anything that was supposed to be going on in our lives at the moment. He was still trying to get us to pack up and leave Portland though we were obviously having trouble just getting out the door in the morning.

“You can see why people find San Francisco more appealing than Chicago,” he said, pushing aside his former top-seeded city in favor of rows of Victorian houses.

Lucky for Chicago, Ethan has never been to San Francisco.

“Why? Chicago has just as good architecture. Maybe better.”

Then came the real reason.

“Remember all the great bars and breweries.”

He was thinking about the architecture of the beers at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square where we’d all gone on a beer-tasting trip last year.

“Right, but it’s much heavier,” Adam said. “There’s so much bricks and mortar.” Naturally that would be a problem for him.

He pulled up a photo of Pacific Heights on Ethan’s computer.

“Whereas look at these houses. Practically the whole city is like this.”

But Ethan was still thinking about the EuGene Porter at Revolution Brewing. A great beer architecturally, despite being heavy on the bricks and mortar. At any rate, Ethan was more used to bricks and mortar than Adam, even if he didn’t help much to keep it going.

He shook his head at Pacific Heights.

“Too light and frothy. It’s like living in a cupcake.”

“Then Portland is like living in a loaf of bread,” Adam retorted. Of course, supposedly we were talking about Chicago, not Portland.

At any rate, that woke Angela up. “There’s a loaf of bread in the drawer and turkey in the fridge for the lunches,” she muttered.

Even in her sleep, tossing and turning with a fever, she could sense that things were in disarray on the Least Coast. She got up and came out to the kitchen, where nobody was eating breakfast or studying for their fifth grade science test.

“You didn’t even feed the cats,” she said to Ethan, who’d gone back to his computer. “And there’s coffee grounds in their water. How come you never change it?”

He gestured dismissively.

“No wonder they can’t sleep,” she went on. “Now I see why they were always drinking the water in the Christmas tree.”

“They’re probably sleeping right now in their tree,” he said, listening only to every other word.

That was a mistake.

“No they’re not, they’re tearing chunks out of it. We’re going to have to get a new cat tree one of these days, they’ve torn so many chunks out of this one.”

“What a day that will be,” he grunted. “The end of an era.”

The bricks and mortar did eventually get to him when he was reminded of it too much. So Angela had to make the lunches herself even though she was sick. And she wasn’t happy about it.

“You never do anything around here. You’re the least useful member of this household. The cats at least kill mice.”

“I can kill mice.”

“Sorry, that position’s already taken.”

Then she turned back to Henry.

“How can you be more interested in your idiotic games than in a dinosaur that weighed 130,000 pounds?” she asked, opening the textbook in front of him at the table. It could apply to everybody sitting there, not just Henry.

“Because I’m interested in little things, not big things,” he said.

“Then how come you never talk about little things?”

“Because they’re so little you can’t notice them.”

He was obviously pretty good at playing games. But Angela ignored him. She opened another page in his textbook.

“It must have been weird to be a human in the time before language. You couldn’t even communicate.”

“Yes you could, you could grunt and gesture,” Ethan said.

But Angela didn’t appreciate the interruption.

“Maybe it’s not obvious to you because you don’t use language this way, but it enables people to convey ideas. Instead of just using language to mark territory like you do.”

Ethan grunted.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“Probably a quarter of 8.”

“It’s 7:46,” she said, looking at her watch. “You were wrong.”

She went out with the boys to get their bus.

“You’re going to love San Francisco,” Adam said, when the door shut behind her.

“I don’t think I can go,” Ethan said. “I’ve got to get some work done.”

“No, I mean some day.”

But Ethan didn’t hear him, he was too absorbed in his work. His parental duties done, he’d joined the economy.



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