I remember Union Avenue, and a neighborhood where everybody looked more like me. Ironic that, as a child, being in N/NE Portland during the summer was an all-Black experience. There were no white neighbors. We walked to visit with my great-grandmothers neighbors and friends up the road, and cabbed anywhere further. Lloyd Center was an outdoor mall, and as teens we avoided specific downtown spots that were hang outs for racist skinheads. Then crack came…
Now, a few decades later; I stand only half a mile from my great grandmother's former house, that now is home to my father. I see two youngish yuppy white women jogging down MLK, in expensive running gear. Everyone sitting in the coffee shop, that I just exited, is white. Sometimes, I just want a cup of tea without a gentrifying reality slap across the face and reminders of community lost.
Portland has changed.
I'm less than two weeks form the opening of Roots, Reality & Rhyme: The One-Woman Show. Rehearsals and practice are acts of repetition, with required emotional engagement. Feels like pulling all of the skeletons out of the closet and asking them to dance. The role of the actor is to inhabit the character, embody the scene and NOT act... So I am becoming a better dancer.
Gliding my way over muddied, potholed places of memory; sometimes I still act surprised to find my shoes dirtied. As if I could walk through repeatedly unscathed! I court the geography of my past, mend the wound of a break-up, adjust to being without either of my grown-ups living at home. I am living alone, for the first time in my life.
I know this place, this intensity of emotion and expression, where it is just me and the bones, left alone to twirl after twilight.