I gave this assignment, asking the three of us to my sisters to do the following:
I'm thinking about Christy's recent trip to Priest Lake, Carol's to Seattle, and mine to Eugene. Let's all describe and write about an unexpected pleasure each of us experienced on this trip.
Carol's post is here. Christy's is here.
I traveled to Eugene by myself on Friday, this past September 28th in order to attend Louise LeClair Jackson Harrison's Celebration of Life on Saturday. I spent Friday wandering around a bit, having coffee with Margaret and Michael, and drinking a pint of 3-Way IPA at 16 Tons.
I decided I'd hoof in the evening and dropped my car off at the house where I was lodging and walked into the Whitaker neighborhood where I'd decided long ago I'd have some dinner at Izakaya Meiji Company, a slow dinner of Japanese small plates, capped with a single cocktail, a bourbon and ginger.
It was only about nine o'clock when I started back home. I was tired, mostly from all the driving I'd been doing to get to Eugene. In the back of my mind, I'd thought that maybe I would pop in and out of a few places in the Whitaker, but I decided heading to my room was a better idea.
As I was walking down Van Buren, I passed below the apartment of a person with a superb sound system. It was a warm evening and the apartment's sliding door opened into the gorgeous night and as as the refreshing air wafted in, the sound of Pink Floyd playing "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" from their album, Wish You Were Here, drifted out.
The music transfixed me. I stopped, put my hands on the top of a fence that was slight taller than me, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and drank in the music.
This wasn't the first time this song has transported me. Back on Saturday, August 8, 2015, I drove to Ivy City in NE Washington, DC to sample some beers at Atlas Brewing. As I sipped from about my fourth small pour on the sampler tray, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" came over the house sound system and suddenly Richard Wright's keyboard prelude transformed the tasting room into a sacred place -- for me, a church -- and I began to long for companionship. I had my own "wish you were here" moment, wishing the Deke and I were sharing this flight and I longed for the Troxstar and my friends at Billy Mac's and as David Gilmore's mournful guitar slipped into the mix, I longed to be back teaching World Lit, reading and discussing Rumi, and listening to Coleman Barks talk with Bill Moyers about the soul's many longings.
Down in the Whiteaker neighborhood, a similar longing possessed me as the song continued. I was alone. The Deke had returned to Kellogg to make sure Maggie was all right after her surgery and I was suddenly lonely for her company and then I was lonely for Jeff. Jeff's wife, Louise, had died a month ago. I'd be going to the celebration of her life the next day. I wanted to embrace Jeff and even if I couldn't say it, thank him for being such a good friend these past thirty-two years. Then my memory transported me to August 15, 2008. Jeff had an extra ticket for a show by the Floydian Slips, a Pink Floyd cover band. When I went to the Cuthbert that night, I hardly knew Pink Floyd's music and this concert changed everything. In the bucolic splendor of the amphitheater near the Willamette River, that night I was converted to the music of Pink Floyd.
Down in the Whiteaker neighborhood listening with by head bowed, I remembered a drive I took in the late summer of 2008 to Bonners Ferry, ID. I had just purchased Wish You Were Here and I played it loud and strong in whatever car I was driving. I'd been in touch back then with a Facebook friend who had lived near Bonners Ferry and I took pictures on this day of landscapes in the very north of Idaho and I loved that I would post them for her to enjoy and that I was intoxicated with Pink Floyd while I took them.
There was so much else going on in my mind: the Floydian Slips shows at the McDonald Theater, especially the New Year's show as 2008 became 2009 and they opened with "Shine on You Crazy Diamond". There was the Australian Pink Floyd show at the Hult Center and I nearly wept as men and women my age, all sitting around me up in the balcony, were themselves nearly crying as they sang together, "How I wish, how I wish you were here/We're just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year".
I then I thought about when Pink Floyd's Richard Wright died. I was on the Interstate, somewhere between, say, Troutdale and Eugene, listening to Deep Tracks on Sirius/XM satellite radio, and a program paying tribute to Richard Wright came on. He died on September 15, 2008, about a month after I'd been converted to Pink Floyd, and listening to this tribute awakened me to the beauty of his work. At some point, the program featured Richard Wright's keyboard work in "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" and suddenly the little red Honda Civic I drove back then felt like a sanctuary. I managed to drive all right, but I was driving while in a quiet ecstatic state, moved, fulfilled, at one with the sublime, outside of time and place.
I felt much the same way with my hands above me hanging on to that fence on Van Buren, memories of my many years in Eugene washing over me, arrested by the joy of solitude and the ache of loneliness, joyous that I was experiencing these euphoric moments alone, but yearning for another to share in it.
I didn't leave Izakaya Meiji Company expecting an ecstatic experience.
It was the most unexpected pleasure of my brief late September stay in Eugene.