Every weekday I sit at a desk that's literally in
the middle of a hallway, with new staffers bumping back and forth
up and down the hall behind my back.
To my right I have pictures of living in Arizona, with a section just
to the side reserved for black and white photos. The first black and
white is of the Ramshackle, during a party Sarah and Joseph and Paul
and D threw while I was living there in the Summer 2002. Sarah stands
in the doorway between the front room and the kitchen, pirate-costumed
and in intense conversation with be-wigged Isaac and casually comfortable
Steph Dozono. It was a night of much Whittie alumni conversation and
random friendly Portland fun, one I remember as part of a memorable
summer in P-town living with the Ramshackle.
Sarah was one of a cast of five, but in some ways
she made the biggest impression on me at the time. I was 21, still
finding my way in the almost-free-of-school, still trying to do good
in the world zone. I was about to return to Whitman knowing I would
be there at least a semester longer than my peers, as had Sarah a
few years earlier. Hearing her stories helped calm my fears that it
was a mistake to take more time with school, that I would fail the
treadmill degree if I delayed a stroke past may 25th.
During the summer in Portland she would tell silly
stories of dating (unstable) older men in their 30's, eating an entire
batch of cookies in one night, and of the occasion in Mexico of having
to explain to "federales" what her gladrags were. The content
of her stories often wasn't funny, but her frank yet humorous way
of retelling the events transformed them into vignettes I would later
remember on several occasions. Whenever I wash out gladrags in an
airport bathroom or otherwise find myself in a compromising position,
I am able to shrug it off, thinking of her easygoing “Oh, well....
okay" response to stress that would drive others bonkers.
Sarah also introduced me to the wonders of homemade
chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, which she made for Joseph's
birthday that summer. They were huge and delicious. She and Paul also
dragged me to "Harold and Maude,” which I immediately loved,
and talked about theories of social and political importance we'd
read at Whitman and how or whether they could be applied in real life.
What I realized through these conversations and in
living with her was that it is possible to be young and human, figuring
out what positive changes are within reach and what challenges are
almost, but not quite too daunting. I still hope I will be as involved
in my community as she was, both with 100% Portland and Harry's Mother—more
importantly, knowing her has helped me better visualize what we're
all capable of.