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Not Back to Normal

Trying to have a staycation in a time of unrest


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In January, I made plans with a lady friend to go on a little mini-vacation. We reserved three nights in May at McMenamin's Crystal Hotel in Downtown Portland and got tickets to see Girl Talk at the Crystal Ballroom. We would have checked out the Rose Festival, spent an entire day in record stores and Powell's Books and eaten at some of my favorite PDX spots like Delta and Harlow. Obviously, none of these things happened.

Oh, how I've missed you, sweet, sweet theaters. - KELLY COX
  • Kelly Cox
  • Oh, how I've missed you, sweet, sweet theaters.

Last weekend the stir craziness caught up to us and we tentatively decided to dip our toes back into the world and try an even mini-er vacation, but without leaving the confines of Central Oregon.

We started the weekend with brunch at McKay Cottage, where sitting outside in the sun felt more decadent than the food. Then a pre-roll and a walk through Shevlin Park helped me reconnect to nature in a way I desperately needed after three months alone in my living room. We did the only sensible thing we could do after that and booked a room at the Riverhouse, watching horror movies on my laptop. We wrapped the evening with dinner at Crossings where I had my first (and likely only) piece of fried chicken of the year. It was perfect and just like me: flaky on the outside and bursting with chicken-y goodness on the inside.

But the real treat, the treat o' treats, was to be found the next morning when we journeyed to Redmond. We had breakfast at my personal favorite spot in our neck of the woods, One Street Down Cafe. After the literal best Benny I've ever tasted, it was time for the thing I was looking forward to the most.

Holy sh&* guys! I went to a movie! Like in a theater and everything. I missed seeing movies in the theater like normal people miss the outdoors or a loved one on deployment. That communal experience of sharing either art or trash with friends and strangers is my home, my church and my safe place rolled up into one sticky floored, sometimes awkward, experience. Even the worst theatrical experience I've ever had is more enjoyable to me than the best baseball game I've ever seen.

Odem Theater Pub is open for business. The popcorn was hot, the movies were new (although available on VOD) and the beer was flowing like, well, beer. I didn't even care what we were seeing. Anything to take my mind off of the news. I needed to put a pin in reality for a few hours.

The fact that the first thing I saw upon entering Odem Theater Pub was a giant TV blasting Fox News and the Minneapolis riots at full volume wasn't going to deter me. Got the popcorn, got the IPA and got the tickets for a British coming-of-age dramedy called "How to Build a Girl." As the lights dimmed, the thoughts of COVID-19, 100,000 dead, George Floyd, murder hornets, unemployment, mass protests, the president retweeting that the only good democrat was a dead one...they didn't go away.

They used to. As soon as the trailers begin, my mind would meld with movies and I'd forget everything else. But not this time. This time I just kept getting angrier. Maybe it was because the movie wasn't very good (it was grossly naive) or maybe I'm just not the same person I was the last time I saw a movie in the theater (March 10). Either way, it just wasn't fun to be watching a painfully stupid movie while it feels like we're fighting a civil war.

I was going to end this by saying I hope things go back to the way they were and that movie theaters feel like my safe haven again. But I'm not sure I do. I don't think I want to forget reality anymore. It's a privilege that I was ever able to in the first place. I'm ready to stay awake now and, as lovely as my little staycation was, it's just not a good time to sleep.

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