The Nymph and Her Pack of Rats: The Windiad no. 7

beneath the stairs

Calypso the Nymph
Near the end of Odysseus’s journey, while he was adrift, clinging onto one of the planks of his ship, a nymph named Calypso rescued him. It’s fairer to say that he was fished out like a netful of squid.

Nymphs by nature go hunting for lost men and tempt them with immortality. It’s a game they play. Many men live to tell later that a nymph (who is like a fairy but human-size, without the wings, and much hotter) had fallen in love with him and begged him to stay with her. But it’s all egotistical nonsense.

As if any man would hesitate to choose immortality and bed down with a semi-divine knock-out. Nymphs get together for tea and laugh about how many sailors or woodcutters they’ve tempted in the last week. Immortality is rarely, if ever, granted. After a time, when the nymph is bored, the man is thrown back into the water to swim back home and go bragging to his mates.

Calypso had played the game for an eternity and decided she’d keep the next man she captured. Fortunately or unfortunately, it happened to be Odysseus. And she kept him around for 7 years. He’d be the first to admit, he would have stayed there longer, but he really did miss his dog, wife, son, and his kingdom, in that order. So during the night he felt an uncontrollable attraction to Calypso, but during the day when she was off tending her forest, or whatever nymphs do, he was bored and antsy.

In the end, it was Calypso who had had enough of domesticity, and she sent him off on a raft.

The Calypso on this trip is a whole city.

If Eugene is the city of my past, then Portland represents the city of my possible future. Just upriver of Eugene, where the laid back Willamette Rivers empties into the colossal Columbia River, Portland is like a bigger more urban version of Eugene. Or it’s like the smaller-scale version of Seattle. It’s a city of green and water, built for biking and strolling, drinking microbrews and strong coffee. It’s a magnetic city, having attracted most of my friends. Even high school classmates from Southern California have found their ways there.

Not only does my oldest childhood friend live here, but the three guys I hung out with the most in Eugene also live here. Calypso has them good. I doubt they’re leaving her island anytime soon.

me and kev

Wind’s Oldest Friend
I’ve known Kevin since we were ten years old. We go way way way back. Backer than back even.

We survived a grumpy alcoholic elementary school teacher who we adored.
We spent endless summer days swimming in his pool and then secretly smoking his mom’s cigarettes in his garage.
We snuck out late at night for midnight bike rides around the empty streets of our suburban wasteland.
We attended, somewhat accidentally, a fundamentalist Christian summer camp that didn’t allow anyone to wear shorts or hold hands, or really do anything other than to praise God (except without musical instruments and women’s voices in church).

And we’ve logged thousands of hours of deep discussions on spirituality, philosophy, existence, the universe, astronomy and mysticism.

It’s been great to see him evolve from a teenage slacker to marrying his junior high school sweetheart, Shamron, who I’ve long since counted among my closest friends, and raise two lively intelligent girls, and now a little newly-minted infant.

the rat pack

The Rat Pack or the Marx Brothers?
Then there are my boys, Gil, Omid and Jerry. Jerry I wrote about at length and you can read it here. I met them all at the YMCA. I really didn’t like any of them when I shared the gym with them. I barely tolerate them now, but I’ve kept them around because we have so much fun.

We’ve been compared to the Rat Pack. But we’re nowhere near as cool as the original. First of all, I don’t think we’ve ever worn suits with each other. But we did a lot of late night shenanigans and trouble-making. And only Jerry was smooth with the ladies. Indiscriminately so. Before he met his fiance, Omid was as subtle as a roundhouse kick. Gil was as aggressive as a stuffed bunny. And I could never close a deal.

The four of us combined were a lot cooler than we were individually.  We were a traveling sideshow, wreaking unintentional comedy everywhere we went.

It’d be easy to say Jerry is Sammy Davis Jr, but aside from their smoothness they’re nothing alike. Jerry is really the Frank Sinatra of the bunch. Charming, edgy, preening and talented, a dark cloud sometimes casting shadows on his glittery personality.

Omid is Sammy, deceptively self-effacing, cultivating an aura of trustworthiness, seemingly humble but is really sometimes just a reckless shark. He kept things exciting by keeping everything a little off balance.

Gil is Joey Bishop, kind of in the background, perhaps overshadowed by the oftentimes loud presence of us other three. But really he was the glue that held us together. Or maybe he was a roll of duct tape and staples. Gil used to chauffeur us everywhere. We coordinated our adventures through him. And he was always the most generous with his time and his place.

While Jerry and I hogged center stage and Omid glad-handed the audience, Gil was content to watch the show and be entertained. Then he’d sweep us all up in his tin-can Camry and make sure we got home safely, or at least within a few blocks of our doorsteps.

And me? I guess that leaves Dean Martin. Martin portrayed himself as a hard-drinking womanizer. It was just an act. His long-time 2nd wife wrote that he came home for dinner every night. And Shirley MacLaine said that he sipped apple juice at parties. I also come across as a party fiend. I do like to raise the energy , rile people up, make sure everyone’s having a good time. But I go home to read poetry while sipping herb tea. That’s how I roll.

That’s pretty much how we all roll these days. We’ll brag about how we spent those wild years stranded on that island, but then we’ll settle into a cozy evening with Frost and chamomile.


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