Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

Bar Coffee Blues: a COVID-Age Story

I indulged yesterday: after taking a long walk/ bus ride/ walk/ Portland Streetcar ride/ farther walk/ even farther walk*, I stopped at the longtime bar/ diner My Father's Place. I like the place (and I've had good meals there with friends, like Alicia on one of her visits) and it was worth waiting for. It's doing very limited outdoor seating, plus takeout. By limited, I mean three sidewalk tables, all occupied when I arrived. So I waited until a table opened.

Lunch — late lunch by then, with all the traveling I'd done leading up to it — was good: steak quesadilla, potato beef soup, and black coffee. I specified black, so the host wouldn't have to bring out cream or sugar and so I could have the coffee at maximum heat. (Well, maximum safe heat. I know what led to the McDonald's coffee lawsuit.)

And it was an indulgence. Like, um, the time last summer when I ate inside at My Father's Place. And my one indoor meal this summer at Beulahland. And my lunch with Mom at longtime restaurant Kyllo's in Lincoln City. Where limited indoor seating was allowed, but was still a risk.

Even yesterday's meal felt to me like a risk. Was I too close to someone with COVID while I had my mask off to eat? Was I going to get a common cold and be worried that it was the first sign of getting sick with something else? Do I already have COVID and have I passed it to the nice hostess pouring me a refill?

And I got annoyed because I wanted the indulgence of having a warm mug of coffee at a place not where I live, and even that small indulgence was/ is a risk. And, superstitiously, I worried that saying online how nice it was to have coffee in a frickin' mug was somehow asking for trouble.

Indulgences are...different this year. Yeah, no kidding.

Now. More seriously:

There's a scene from 1991's The Fisher King that I've thought about a lot this year. Parry, Robin Williams's character, lives with trauma as well as mental health issues. He's repressed that trauma. A little over halfway through the film, he's starting to feel real happiness again...and his demons confront him. His demons seem to take physical form. Parry turns to the apparition that he believes is threatening him, and he begs to it, "Let me have this."

His demons don't.

What I'm feeling is nothing compared to Parry's struggle in that film. But it feels like I was inviting The Bad to come and take away something Good.

As I've done almost this entire year, I am trying to stay vigilant. I am trying to stay healthy. I am trying to stay careful. I am trying not be a vector for something that's killed hundreds of thousands of people. When will it be okay not to be so vigilant, so worried, about something in the air killing us?

There will be an end. I just have to keep helping it not be a bad end.



* TriMet 14 bus from my neighborhood up to Hawthorne; off at SE Grand; north until I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to board a just-arrived B Loop Streetcar; up to Broadway, across the Broadway Bridge, through the Pearl District and into SW Portland; off the Streetcar at the OHSU classroom building at Tillikum Crossing, the new-ish bridge; walk down to the OHSU clinic building, because it was open AndI could use a restroom; walk across the Tillikum with the plan to board another B-Loop Streetcar; seeing the schedule suddenly change so that I'd need to wait nearly half an hour longer to get the next train; and deciding "Okay, I'll walk."
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