Writings and observations

transition

This is an excerpt from the Ridenbaugh Press book Transition, by W. Scott Jorgensen. More will be appearing over the weeks to come. The book is available now from Ridenbaugh Press.

October 2010

When I started to think hard about leaving Grants Pass, one of the first people I met with was Carl Wilson. Over the years, he had become like a second father to me.

We met at the Bluestone Bakery in downtown Grants Pass. It was surprisingly quiet, as the sun was shining brightly and the Growers’ Market was underway just a few blocks down the street. Carl pulled up on one of his many motorcycles and we took a table outside. The coffee shop was almost completely empty.

For more than two years, I had been responsible for booking the Wednesday talk shows at the radio station, as well as the Tuesday shows that Carl hosted. I always tried to book the shows about a month in advance in order to allow for adequate preparation, and was already working on November’s schedule. As such, one of my first orders of business was to tell Carl that I was leaving town, and would be unable to continue booking and hosting the show.

He listened patiently as I gave him the rundown on what was happening.

“Sometimes it’s all right to take a leap of faith,” he said.
Though I was no longer working at the paper, I was still doing the Wednesday talk shows on KAJO. This worked out well for me. Packing and making all of our moving arrangements would have been a nightmare if I were still commuting 45 minutes each way to work eight, 10 and 12-hour days in Cave Junction.

I was doing a show one day when I received a text from my longtime friend Robert. It stated that he wanted to “beat me to a pub.”

Because of my busy work schedule, I had rarely seen Robert or my other friends since they had helped me move from Cave Junction back to Grants Pass nearly a year before.

“What’s this about ‘beat you to a pub’?” I asked Robert as we sipped beer and played a game of pool. We were joined by his girlfriend, Nirvana, and our friend Tim.

Robert responded that every Wednesday, he and our other friends all received their unemployment benefits. The first one to wake up texts the others the location of a chosen pub, and the last to arrive buys the first round of drinks.

This was probably happening all over the place, as the national unemployment rate was at 9.5 percent. Josephine County’s seasonally adjusted rate was at 13.8 percent.

Although it was nice to see my friends again, I was saddened by the whole situation. They had all clearly seen better days. Robert had actually been my manager at the portrait studio in the mall. Now he was reduced to seeking multiple part-time minimum wage jobs just to get by.

We left to go play a round of disc golf at the park. Disc golf is pretty popular in Oregon, and involves tossing Frisbees into baskets. Now unemployed, I could do as I wanted, and I relished the opportunity provided by the nice warm weather.

I also had the time to make multiple donations to Goodwill and took maximum advantage of our last month of trash and recycling service.

As I sorted through my possessions, I came across the box containing many of my old newspaper clippings. This was essentially all I had to show for my entire career. If I had any interest in maintaining a career in journalism, I may have been less reluctant to empty that box. But it was more of a reminder of the frustrations I had experienced in my eight years as a professional.

I saved just enough clippings to prove that I had worked at some of these publications, or that they had ever existed, and proceeded to toss the vast majority of them in the recycling bin.

Going through my stuff even gave me the chance to check the status of the dress clothes I wore while working as a legislative aide at the state capitol in Salem during the 2005 session. But being married and regularly fed, and quitting smoking, had helped me put on some weight, and none of my old shirts or blazers fit me anymore. I didn’t want them anyway, as they all reeked of desperation, failure and stale cigarette smoke. But I was sure that the folks at Goodwill wouldn’t mind having them, so I went by and made a donation.

My last few days in Grants Pass were spent visiting as many of my old friends as I could. That included Dave Ehrhardt, the former publisher of two local weekly papers where I had worked.
One of my last errands was to purchase a yearbook from my stint at Grants Pass High School. I stopped by to pick it up, and the lady at the bookkeeper’s office said she recognized my name from the radio show. She said that she listened regularly, enjoyed it, and was sad to see me go.

Our move began with a quick up-and-back trip to our new house, located outside of Vancouver, Washington, using the opportunity to take in some live music.

Until this point, I had been to Vancouver approximately once. As such, I spent awhile driving around in circles, hopelessly lost.

While exploring my new surroundings, I couldn’t help but notice all the different political signs. I didn’t recognize any of the names on them, so contrary to what I was used to. I was more accustomed to driving down the street talking to candidates on my cell phone about the placement of their signs: “Hey, it looks like you need some more signs on Highland Avenue. ‘D’ Street looks pretty good, though.”

I eventually found where I was going and dropped off the boxes we had already packed. There were now a few hours to kill before the Suicidal Tendencies concert I planned to attend later that evening at the Roseland Theater. Luckily, I had friends in Portland, so I phoned one of them, Josh, and went over to his place on Northeast Alberta Street. We were joined by another friend, Bobby, and spent a few hours hanging out, and then I headed downtown for the concert.

The first time I had been at the Roseland was in 2000, to see Sonic Youth. Because I was only 20 years old at the time, I couldn’t sit at the top section, as it had beer gardens and was reserved for those of legal drinking age. But now, I was able to join the adults and watched from above as the young and fearless circled in the mosh pit. I was definitely too old for that anymore.

Suicidal Tendencies put on a great show that night.

The weekend seemed to offer me a snapshot of the new life I hoped to establish. I could spend my weekdays working from 9 to 5 and my weekends going to concerts in the city. I was still dazzled by the possibilities as I hit Interstate 5 the next morning and drove south to Grants Pass.

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