I've been in Portland since August. I live in John's Landing, near Stanich's restaurant. In case there's someone out there who isn't familiar with Stanich's "Milo" burger, allow me to digress. They put the bottom of a bun in a wax paper-lined plastic basket. On top of this they add shredded lettuce, a pickle relish sauce, some tomatoes, onions, then bacon, then ham. (As the expression goes, I'm as serious as a heart attack.) What goes on top of the ham? A fried egg. I told my father and he laughed for twenty minutes. "I've never heard of such a thing," he said. Yes, they put a fried egg on top of ham which is on top of slices of bacon. Then the patty! Then cheese. Once they get the bun situated they stab it with one of those frilly toothpicks. This isn't an epicurean flourish; without the toothpick the whole thing would riot. When the waitress set it in front of me I took a picture with my cell phone and then I cried. It came with a side of French fries. The fries were brown and limp, like someone had cut up Meriwether Lewis's shoelaces. They were miserable, but it hardly mattered. There's a frame around the Mona Lisa, but no one talks about it either.
One of the first things I did when I got to town was head up to the Deschutes River to have a go at the steelhead. It's easy to screw up a day of writing, but harder to screw up fishing. I was up there with another member of the Lewis & Clark faculty. We both brought papers to grade. I felt like Wordsworth above Tintern Abbey. The scene reminded me of a pot-luck dinner in Iowa City, when a friend argued that Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It was the best book of the last thirty years. Understand, my friend has a genetic defect that makes him a sucker for any story that revolves around a good brother and a less good brother. I don't remember if our conversation reached any sort of resolution. A few years later my friend discovered Saul Bellow and he hasn't mentioned Maclean since. But back to the Deschutes. I didn't see anyone catch anything, but that in no way ruined the experience. Fishing is all about the expectation of something happening, which is why it is a melancholic activity. It's like baseball in this way.
This is the wrong week to talk baseball, but January in Portland feels like April back in New England, so forgive me. You see many more Red Sox hats than Yankee hats in Portland. And, though it hurts to see him go, reading Johnny Damon's autobiography took a bit of the sting away. Besides, his replacement has the best name in baseball: Coco Crisp. Now if the Sox can fill the gap at shortstop...
What, you think you don't like baseball? Read this and tell me that.
P.S. My forehead is not as large as it appears in the photo. However, it is formidable.
Books mentioned in this post
Justin Tussing is the author of The Best People in the World: A Novel