Short Stories

I’ve decided to read more short stories this year.  Perhaps I may even write one. I’ve also noticed that Powell’s Books has a good selection of chapbooks. In case you’re unfamiliar (like me), a chapbook is a short, flimsy, pocket sized publication. At Powell’s, they retail for a buck. I’ve picked a few up, and plan on reviewing them as I go.

Some People, by Chris Diken

This is a 24-page short story about a man in a bathroom.  I read it at the Freehouse Bar while drinking a Caldera IPA. The story is a fast read. It is mostly dialogue, and the author does a decent job of keeping the conversation engaging.

The story revolves around a man visiting the restroom in a modern art museum. Once he starts relieving himself he hears a voice asking to take a peek. The urinator is disturbed by the request, and discusses why he doesn’t want to reveal his goods. Along the way he wonders whether or not he’s participating in an exhibit at the museum.

I immediately liked this piece. The subject matter is fun: what’s not to like about a story about a man in the bathroom.  I may have liked it more if I read it in the bathroom, but I think it will work wherever you read it. I also think it’s a good critique on modern art. The protagonist is unsure whether he’s being asked to participate in an obscene act, or whether he’s unwittingly become a participant in a modern art exhibit. Artists often walk the line between obscenity and art. It’s interesting to experience this tension first hand. Check it out.

Eastbank Esplanade

Portland’s waterfront park is fairly well known. Just across the water, on the east bank there is an equally inviting, but less trafficked destination, the Eastbank Esplanade.

To visit it, I start at the Rose Quarter Transit Center near the base of the Steel Bridge.  Walkways and bike paths go through contortions making their way towards the water.  As I follow them down, I’m tempted to continue across the Willamette on the familiar lower span of Steel Bridge.  Instead, I keep to the left, and make my way south down the Eastbank Esplanade towards Morrison Bridge and the unknown.

Floating Walkway

I am walking on water. It keeps on flowing beneath me. It swirls away like grains of marble, rippling and twirling, carrying with it sticks and twigs, mats of leaves, and blades of grass. Forgotten banks shed their burdens. I do not know where the river takes them, except that these burdens are gone from me. I feel lighter.

Ghost Ship Bridge

I am floating in the air. It seems as if nothing sustains me, but I am safe, stationary. From here I can see the world below, stones and concrete, trees and water. They are familiar but none are my own. All I can feel is the air around me, the wind in my hair and small beads of water condensing on my skin.

Echo Cave

My feet are on the ground. Standing on stone, encased in steel and concrete, the world roars around me. I am secure and dry. I barely hear my own voice amid the roar of the world. But I know it is here, safe in stone. The river will not stop flowing, and people too pass frequently. Where are they going? Surely they must hear the world racing around them.

A small black bird has chosen to join me. It cries out across the path. Clearly: “I have found my voice. Listen your own.” I cannot stay in this moment forever. My vision crystalizes and the city is clear beyond the concrete and steel. I must go back out into the world.

Water Avenue

I go up the spiral ramp to Morrison Bridge and end up on SE Water Ave. It’s a small slice of post-industrial warehouses that have been retooled to craft Northwestern cuisine. Bunk Bar, Hair of the Dog, Water Ave Coffee, Boke Bowl, and of course, Clark Lewis await. I reflect on my walk over a latte, and then take transit back to the Rose Garden. I am back where I started, but I’m not at the same place.