It’s been over a month since I last posted here.  It’s been a hot, heavy, brutal summer, though, and one I truly can’t wait to see the end of.  Things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse, and I could use with a minute to decompress. Grab a seat, if you’re curious for a catch up.

July and into August saw the rise in temperature and the disappearance of rain here in Portland, Oregon.  This happens every summer, and while it’s seemingly oppressive when it comes, the truth is, I don’t mind a hefty dry-out after months and months and MONTHS of damp and darkness.  Where I’m from, the seasons seemed more balanced, with winter being the most exaggerated out of the four, plus we had that interim mud/ice/ick season that came after winter and before the sprouting of green grass again.  Here, it tends to drift from dark and rainy to hot and dry, without a lot of space to adjust in between.  I’m still learning, nearly five years into my life here, and I’m never going to be as well-adjusted as the locals, but it’s coming.  The saving grace for the last year has been owning a vehicle that I can use to get me out of the city and off into the hinterlands of the state.

That vehicle, however, has proven to be a chore this year.  While riding with Ray back on Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, it decided to throw up an electrical demon.  The wipers wouldn’t shut off, nor would the lights.  The horn blasted without a pause.  When I went to shut off the vehicle, the engine wouldn’t quit.  I ended up having to stall it out using the clutch and brakes, and then roll it over to the curb so that I could disconnect the battery.  This was the fourth time that this has happened since purchasing the Jeep, and I was none too happy about it.  I called and had it towed to my dealer, and for a month, it was there.  The work was all charged off to Fiat Chrysler of America, as it was a well-known issue with this Jeep, and as I could have been far more vocal about my complaints (and far more public), FCA decided to do the right thing by me.  I was thankful.

I have managed to fully pay for an upcoming trip for Ray and I that will take us to the Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington, where we will be glamping in style at a massive overnight show put on by one of our favorite groups, Above and Beyond.  ABGT 250 is going to be a joint celebration of both Ray’s birthday and my 40th birthday, and we are doing it in as high of style as possible.  While it seems strange to be at my 40th and finally getting to one of these gatherings, I truly hope it’s a wild experience for us both.  I’ve been fans of A&B for years now, as has Ray, and we are both in desperate need of a vacation.

You see, this summer, Ray has taken on a new role out in wine country here in Oregon.  Pursuing a life-goal of his, he’s finally found a spot where he can feed his curiosity about wine and wine production, as well as integrate his design and marketing skills to the benefit of a winery undergoing a major update and revamp.  Getting in at the ground level, Ray has positioned himself to make a full-on career out of this move, and I am so thrilled for him.  Being by his side for the last three and half years while he has screwed up the courage to do this thing that he truly loves has been really inspiring to me.  I knew going into it that it would require some serious sacrifice on our part, and a trust in the strength of our relationship.  Thankfully, both he and I have managed to find security in what we have, and have come to rely on it as a bedrock for our lives, because as it stands now, we’ve got but one day together during the week, and that day is usually stretched thin with other obligations that cannot be met while either of us is at work.  We’ve carved out some small adventures and such during that day off per week, but our camping gear is dusty, and we haven’t shared the smell of a campfire in forever.  It pains me to write this because those overnights into the wilderness were some of the best moments of our first years together.  I remain hopeful that, once fall comes, Ray can take a further step back from his job at the wine bar here in town and focus more completely on the winery, which should free up more of his time.

So, while we are preparing for this massive trip east this fall, in about a month’s time actually, I decided to take the Jeep into my local repair shop to have the clutch checked. It’s been making a rattling noise since I bought it, and while I’ve not thought much about it, it’s still a nagging thing that I needed to tend to.  Well, that has turned into a hornet’s nest of it’s own.  It would appear, to both my mechanic and myself, that the previous owner beat the ever-living hell out of the Jeep in the short time they owned it.  It had 40,000 miles on it when I purchased it, so it’s still fairly fresh and new.  Still, they replaced the clutch with an aftermarket, sub-par part, and that’s been the reason for the rattling.  Also, and for kicks I’m guessing, when whoever did this work on the vehicle was taking apart the transmission housing to access the clutch, they broke the actual housing.

See, the housing is made of aluminum.  Thick and light, that material works brilliantly as a means to contain the gears, dissipate heat, and not weigh down the vehicle.  Still, when you are applying pressure to it – by way of a tightened nut, in this case – aluminum has a very unforgiving tendency to crack and break if too much is applied.  The idiot who opened up the transmission must have skipped the part in the instructions about measuring the torque on the bolts when reassembling the housing because they snapped it.  They also snapped off one of the bolts holding the piece to the rest of the transmission.

The dealer who sold me the vehicle either didn’t notice or didn’t inspect the transmission for this damage, and signed off on the necessary paperwork required for the extended warranty coverage of my purchase, which turns out, is a massive blessing.  Working with my repair shop, the warranty company has decided to cover the replacement housing piece (to the tune of $1500) and the labor for everything ($400).  All I need to pay for is the new clutch.  Sounds like a deal, really, and I’m sooooo so glad I bought the warranty.  Still, the part we need to do the work has taken ten days to obtain and ship, and now my mechanic is taking a well-deserved week off from work as the part arrives.  In the end, what should have been a one-day effort to replace the clutch has turned into a three-week fiasco – and put the total amount of time my damned vehicle has spent in the shop rather than as my chariot out of Portland to almost two solid months.

When this is all said and done, though, I should have a solid vehicle, one that I can take Ray and I on our journey to the east.  For the love of all things holy, that’s what I want, at least.

Through all of this mess with work and my car repairs,  there has also been the navigation and constant fury at the state of affairs here in America, 2017.  We have a white supremacist sympathizer in the White House who has sullied the office of the President.  We have swaths of the country inundated with a massive opioid crisis and little support from our government to meet this challenge.  The wealthier are getting wealthier and the poorer are being driven more and more to the knife-edge of life.  Ray and I stay engaged and do what we can with the little time/energy is left over after just trying to pay the bills, but it’s all so damn overwhelming.

It occurred to me yesterday that this fact, this aspect of consumerism and capitalism, is part of the problem.  I am working to pay the bills.  I find myself working more and more to pay the bills that just keep going up and up.  Rent will never come down.  House prices are in the stratosphere and will likely remain there forever. The price of heat or electricity won’t come down anytime soon.  Laundry needs to get done and that costs more and more.  Groceries are never going to be cheaper.  It all piles up and adds up over time, and now, as I sit here, I’m making more money than I ever have in my entire life, yet I’m still seeking out whatever scraps of savings I can from my energy costs, food costs, and the like.

After all of those basic needs are met, after I’ve eaten something sustaining, and just need a rest, then I’m washed over with all of the other problems in my community and country, and there is simply no battery left in me with a charge that’s big enough to meed the demands.  And that, right there, is where I’m finding a huge source of my frustration.  I need to find a way to dig deeper, to allot more time to the right causes, to educate myself more in what’s going on around me so that I can be a better person.

I should also mention, though, that my writing project, the damned memoir that I’ve been working on since the dawn of time it seems, has taken a new and exciting little twist.  I don’t have much to share now on that front, other than that I’m super thankful for my little writing group.  The ladies I work with on a bi-weekly basis have really helped me find courage and honesty in my voice and how I tell a story, and it’s because of them that I’m willing to take this adventure to new places.  Doing so has helped me figure out where I stand in the world of today, and what I might have to offer to the community around me.  It’s not punching Nazis, yet, but it’s part of the counterbalance to the hate and vitriol that seems to be consuming all things these days.  So, put a pin in that.  I promise I’m not done writing.

So, in the end, it’s been a slog of a summer.  I miss my boyfriend.  I miss my Jeep.  I miss our outdoor adventures.  I’m hoping that all of this hard work and effort now, though, pays off for us going forward, and we can find a way to restore balance between work and pleasure.  We both require it, and we both want to be strong and bold in our stances against the forces of hate in the world of today.

Go punch a Nazi.  They need to be beaten down.

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