Thursday, May 31, 2007


WARNING: profanity ensues

We are on the MAX yellow line in Portland, after leaving our cheap, two-star hotel in the Rose Quarter -- where, I noted, we are the only two occupants who aren't entertaining guests by the half hour. While it would be quicker to drive, or even swim across the Willamette, we are riding the MAX because my best guy friend, Jay, decides that the entire reason he's accompanying me to Portland is so he can ride both the MAX and the streetcar in the same trip. As a result, the fifteen minute ride to dinner takes forty-five, exacerbated when we take the streetcar just because, and then have to walk back to where we started. But all that comes later.

After the MAX crosses the river, we stop in the Pearl District, where rows of trendy shops and high-priced lofts crowd the area's less successful residents. The train's doors whisper on their sliding tracks, and I gaze idly at an eight-foot high Banana Republic advertisement until a massive, inebriated woman obstructs my view. She slings a hank of greasy, dishwater blond hair over her shoulder like a sack full of dead fish, shouting loud enough to rouse the train's dozing passengers. Three or four men, all of whom appear loosely associated with her, follow, coming to roost along the opposite rail.

"I wanna fuck," she announces to no one in particular. "Do you wanna fuck? No -- not you," she says, catching the shocked expression of an elderly woman. "Not you, sweetie."

Behind her, one of her cohort makes a snide remark. Unfortunately, he is too drunk to be intelligible, but she gets the gist. "Hey!" she yells, and gets up with her fists balled.

Jay and I exchange sidelong glances. "Toldya we should've grabbed a seat up front," I muttered.

"Whatever," Jay says. "Maybe I *wanna* f--" but he's cut off by the woman's outraged caw. "Hey, you owe me money!"

All eyes on the train rotate towards the front of the train, where a scrawny man with a rat's nest of white boy dreads is slinking towards the door.

"Oh boy," her friends jibe, "Go get 'im." They laugh, but we're watching as she storms towards the front of the train. Naturally, the doors close as she reaches him, and he proceeds to turn on his heel and walk the length of the train with extraordinary poise, never saying a word. She follows him, a torrent of curses filling the space between them. "My money! 'Scuse me," she adds, knocking past a pair of necking teenagers.

We decide that perhaps we will exit at the next station...which we do, followed promptly by the skinny guy, the raging drunk, and all of her oafish friends, who lollop behind her like junkyard dogs. Only, not so bright.

I turn to say something to Jay, but the next thing I know, she's shouting for her guys to "get him!"

"What's in it for us?" one asks.

"Bitch owes me $80!"

We swap skeptical glances with strangers. Eighty bucks split five ways is, well, apparently enough, because their quarry comes skidding by like a fox going to ground, followed in hot pursuit by a pair of hounds. One of them appears to be carrying a white tube sock filled with quarters. He raises it over his head and begins swinging in irregular ovals.

"This can't be," I say.

"Oh, but it can," Jay replies.

"It's broad daylight! It's seven in the evening! Are we seriously watching two grown men chase some guy with socks full of quarters?"

A dull, metallic thwock removes any doubt, as the prey suffers a glancing blow to his shoulder in front of a Crate & Barrell. Fortunately, the man swinging the sock is too drunk to aim. Moreover, the sock itself is not designed for full-scale deployment, as the heel seam splits upon impact. A shower of quarters cascades onto the sidewalk, and the scrawny man turns tail and vanishes down another street.

I look at Jay, who's sniggering. I can't say that I blame him. Along with a crowd of people dressed for the opera, we still can't quite decide if what we've seen is funny, disturbing, or a bit of both. We look up the street, where a bored cop leans against a low wall, oblivious to the entire scene. Behind me, a new person who's just entered the scene tells his friend, "They better not bring that back here. I will own their sorry asses."

"Welcome to Portland," I mutter.

Jay turns to me, and now he's laughing uncontrollably. "When they ran past me, I really wanted to say, 'Naw, homie, don't play that'...but I kinda figured they'd turn their sock weapons on my sarcasm."

"A wise decision."

"The odds just weren't in my favor. Besides, I doubt you could take on the loudmouth."

"Come on, you know I fight dirty."

"But quarters-in-tube-sock dirty?"

"You're probably right." We turn and walk up the street, past the officer, who's turned his attention to a troublemaking trio of eighty year-olds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of those times I like to remind the world that I am from a much smaller "R" town - and that is definitely NOT a suburb of "P-town." I, for example, have never seen anyone use quarters in a sock as a weapon (what a waste of perfectly good money!). I have seen horse manure used as a weapon. And a super-lifted pickup. But never quarters. Perish the thought.