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Taking A Shot– By: Charles Westerman

I wrote this essay a couple weeks ago and thought maybe it would be a nice update on my life for anyone whose curious on where it’s at. Enjoy. 

I’ve been living in Portland for a little over a month now. The summer has uncharacteristically stuck around for a few weeks longer than it usually does, and believe it or not, this is the first day it’s rained since I moved here.

I should be writing on my other projects I’ve been working on, but I’m tired of writing about things where I have to think and structure and debate the moral integrity of my words. I just want to sit and drink my coffee in my blue chaise lounger and write words blindly. I want to wax philosophic and poetic and talk about things I’m still coming to grips with.

Once or twice a week, my roommate and best friend who I moved to Portland with – Brendon is his name – have these nights where we remember why we moved to the city to be writers. We talk like young men who are scratching and clawing excitedly to uncover their concrete purpose in the universe.

Such a night was last night. We met up for a drink with my friend Andrea who I know from working at my college newspaper. She works at the main newspaper in Portland, The Oregonian, and brought her friend Katherine who also works there. Both of them are the kind of people you want to sit down for a drink with.

We met them at this little hole in the wall bar called the Vintage Cocktail Lounge on the Stark street strip four blocks from our duplex on 78th avenue and Burnside. It’s already become our usual place. We’ve lived in the Montavilla neighborhood for about two weeks and have already been there three times.

They have a special called, “The Local” which consists of a single-shot of wells whiskey and a cheap tallboy for five bucks. If we’re feeling classier, they make great Old-Fashioned’s—garnishing them with both an orange wedge and real cherries, which they crush in the bottom of the cup before they do anything else.

It will be our McClaren’s Pub—our Central Perk. It’s long and thin and has crimson painted walls and artsy posters that were probably bought at Hobby Lobby. It’s not original or great art, but its pleasant to look at and goes with the vibe. The bartenders are social and want to remember your name and have you become regulars. The bar is two-thirds the length of the room and is a generous width. The shelves holding the liquor go from a foot above the floor to a foot above your head. Behind the shelves the wall is fitted with tin-tiles that are all imprinted with the same, thoughtful design. The beautiful aesthetic of the shelves communicates the honor the owners feel to the bottles of liquids that keep this place afloat

We sat at this bar with Andrea and Katherine and talked about the two-choices we had for President. They told us what it was like working in the trenches of a big-city newspaper. We told them what school-bus training was like in the basement with our instructor Gail and our fellow students. There’s Eddiemike, whose first name really is Eddiemike. He grew up in a big Italian family and has lived in Portland his whole life, yet has an almost country-boy friendliness to him. There’s Felice, who is the most pleasant and worrisome woman you’ll ever meet. Always asking Brendon and me if we’re nervous about driving a school bus, because she sure as hell is.  Then there’s Kevin, who has the most sultry-looking face you’ve ever seen, and even though he’s never done me anything to me, I don’t like him. Gail herself is overweight, smells like a basement, and is one of the best school bus trainers in the country. She understands her humble, but important role in the world and strives for excellence in that role and for that I respect her immensely.

Andrea and Katherine listened fervently to the little world we had become an unlikely part of. They thought it was funny we were becoming bus drivers, but not in a condescending way. Not in a “you went to college to become a school bus driver?” way. They seemed to take us seriously when we told them we were going to drive a school bus so we could pay the bills while we got ourselves established as writers. That it was a sensible part-time job because we had to wake up in the morning and do our route, but then had the middle of the day to write until we had to go pick our kids up in the afternoon.

And we would have to write, because we were going to be driving our bus in Lake Oswego fifteen miles away from our home in Montavilla. Fighting traffic to go back home in between routes wasn’t going to be an enticing option, so we might as well post up at a coffee shop and gut some words out while we wait.

We talked like this for a couple hours. About real things and funny things and things people our age in the place we are in talk about. Then we said goodbye and that we should meet like this again because it really had been a great evening filled with great conversation. And all four of us really did mean what we were saying—that we wanted to get together again. It wasn’t a pleasantry and that was refreshing.

Brendon and I walked the four blocks home with energy. Glad that we had met up with the girls, but glad now that we were alone and could talk about what had just happened and what was happening in a larger sense. We got back to our house and he stayed outside with me while I chain-smoked the cigarettes I’m not supposed to be chain-smoking because I said I was going to quit. I laid down on my back and puffed away and looked at the night-sky—it looked like the night-sky usually does in Portland—one all encompassing cloud blanketing the city and shyly reflecting its soft-glow. It’s sullen and peaceful and causes you to reflect on where you are.

We talked about finding security in the insecure life-choices we had made. A couple of small-town kids from Wyoming moving to a city with no jobs lined up and no place to live and enough money to pay our bills for maybe two months. With no choice but to write for our lives and trust that God was going to bless our decision to trust in his provision.

There’s a sense of calm you feel when you take a shot at greatness. When you jump off the cliffs of your future instead of making the slow, sure climb down. There’s a trust that somehow, you’ll fall up into that big-blanket of cloud. That you won’t look back at your life when you’re forty and regret that you never chased your dreams when had the chance, but merely obeyed what you thought was your reality.




About ananiasgo

Charles Westerman is a freelance writer, songwriter, school bus driver and murder mystery theater actor living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up on a ranch in Chugwater, Wyoming as the youngest of five kids and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Journalism and English Lit. in May 2012. In between driving his Jr. High minions back-and-forth from school, he is currently at work writing his debut literary novel, Where Heaven Meets Cheyenne and its sequel. A two-part telling of the story of his ordinary family that came together in an extraordinary way. For the past two and half years he has worked to tell this story with honesty, excellence and honor to the characters who made it possible.

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