Achilles. (Part 2 of 2)
“I was a boxer from the age of 5 to 37. Unfortunately, I was forced to retire.”
“I was run over by a car making a blind left turn.” He listed off the injuries to his back, neck, shoulders and knees. “They told me if I wasn’t so strong it would’ve killed me. But I had a good career. I trained under one of the best trainers in the world, and up against some great fighters.”
“Do you work now?”
“No. Well, I sell Street Roots, and, well… it’s a job and I’m glad to have it. I’d love to work other jobs, but with my disabilities, no employer wants to take on the risk of me injuring myself on the job and then having to pay workers comp. But I’m getting ready to leave Portland soon. I’ve got house in Wyoming that I bought when I was 17, and I’ll never go back to live there so I might as well sell it, and… “
“Wait, you bought a house when you were 17?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend at the time was pregnant with triplets and my dad helped us out and bought the land and we bought a mobile home on the property.”
“You have triplets?”
“We were going to have triplets. My girlfriend and I broke up for about the thousandth time while she was pregnant, and she was dating this other guy, and then things went badly. He pushed her out of a car going 40 miles an hour when she was seven months pregnant. Two of the babies died.”
“But my son, he’s 36 now and he’s great. He was such an easy baby…I was the one to get up with him in the middle of the night. His mom and I had this great system worked out. I got her go back to school because she was waitressing and I knew at least one of us needed an education. So I’d watch him in the morning while she took classes and then she’d have him all afternoon while I worked. And then I’d take him on the weekends. I would tell his mom, ‘You go. This is boy time for watching football and boxing.’ So she had a lot of free time and that was great for her. She was so protective of him though. One time he threw a stick at a tree and it bounced back and cut his eye and of course she got upset and I was like, ‘It’s fine! He’s a boy, he’s going to get bruises and cuts and broken bones. If you shelter him from doing those things he’s going to grow up to be the most boring person in the world.’ She thought my ideas about parenting were screwball.”
I interrupted him for a moment to point out a pigeon walking nearby with an obvious limp. “Weren’t you just telling me about a bird with a broken foot?”
“Oh, yeah. I feed that bird on a regular basis, so he comes around when he sees me. I brought him a bagel today.”
Achilles (Part 1 of 2).
It was hailing. I found refuge from under a structure in Firefighters Park and found Achilles reading a western novel. We made small talk and watched people run by, trying to escape the downpour. “Do you read a lot of westerns?”
“Oh, not necessarily. I’ll read anything.”
“What character do you relate to most out of any book you’ve ever read?”
“Probably Achilles from The Iliad.”
“By the same name? Is that a self-given name then?”
“No. My parents let my grandma name me. All my siblings have normal names and then my parents let my half-senile grandma name me Achilles. Kids gave me a hard time about it when I was in school, but then once I read the book, I was like, ‘Wow, he’s a pretty strong guy,’ and I brought a copy of the book to school and convinced the other kids that it was cool until they left me alone.” He went on to tell me volumes about Achilles, the Spartans, Julius and Augustus Caesar, Cleopatra and the discrepancies between the real histories of Greek, Rome and Egypt and the way blockbuster movies portray them. The man was a living history book.
“You have so much knowledge!”
“I read a lot. When I was a kid I was diagnosed with ADHD and I told my dad I didn’t like the way the medication made me feel, so he told me I didn’t have to take it. I remember my dad pointing out a bird with a broken foot, and he told me, ‘See that bird? You don’t see him begging. Even though he has a disability, he doesn’t ask for help from anyone. He just finds a way.’ So I decided that I was going to train myself to read for an hour every day to help myself focus. My dad got me an egg timer, and it was really hard, but I made it happen. I read everything now.”
It’s getting real in a SE Portland Parking lot.
"When I look back at the love relationships in my life, and you know, sometimes you’re young and you take them for granted— like, there’s a lot of fish in the sea— but I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone like her, specifically like that again. But I have hope."
"I’m not able to be as patient as I used to be, and it drives me crazy. I’m in so much pain all the time it’s hard to have the patience I once had. And I’m not used to being alone. I don’t usually come out without an escort, so this is my first time out alone. Thank you for sitting with me while I waited for my cab."
"My name’s Leo, but my mom hated my father and I was named after him, so for as long as I can remember she called me Pete. She hated me too, because if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t have had to marry him."
"When I was in high school, I wasn’t really partying, but I was just exploring with drinking and my parents freaked out and sent me to rehab. Turns out I loved it there because there were all these other kids there who understood what I was going through with my parents. I cried when I left because I had to go back home to all that nonsense."
I found Portland’s Easter Bunny.
"You want a picture, Grandma?"
"My first love was my high school basketball coach. I spent a year at it, but he was a teacher, so I never told him, of course."
Humans of Portland made Portland Monthly Magazine's “100 Reasons to Love Portland” in the issue that hit the racks today! We… YOU… are #2, second only to this city's damn fine coffee. Go pick up a copy! (See the full-page feature on p. 31!)
"My wife and I met online on a blogging site and were flirting with each other in comments and things, and then we first met up in person under the marquee at The Roseland. I eventually proposed to her there. We had plans to meet up that day and were coming from opposite parts of town so I casually, was like, ‘Let’s meet outside The Roseland, It’s pretty central.’ I had coordinated ahead of time with them to put ‘Jenni, will you marry me?’ on the marquee. When she saw it, she just kept saying, ‘Oh my God, what are you doing?! What are you doing? Oh my God!’ and I was like, ‘Jenni, be quiet for a second, I have some things to say to you.’”
I’m an advocate for authenticity, connecting with people, doing what you love, and trying to make the world a better place. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do to take these values of mine and make them an actionable part of my life. So far, Humans of Portland has been one of the best ways I’ve found in my life to express the things that are important to me, but to be honest, there are times (a lot of times!) when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, or maybe I have ideas about what I want to do next with this project, but am not sure how to go about it. I’m going to guess I’m not alone in feeling this way. Am I right?
I met with Megan earlier this week. Like all of my meet-ups, whether planned or spontaneous, I had no agenda or pre-conceived ideas about what we might talk about. I was pretty excited to find out about the organization Megan works for, called Idealist.org.
“We help people identify what their intentions are and help turn those into action. A lot of times people don’t know what they need to turn their ideas into actions, so we help identify those needs and provide resources to help bridge the gap.”
“Wow, I love that! Do you mind if I share it on Humans of Portland along with your portrait?”
“Um…sure! I mean, I guess…this is not what I expected!”
“Well, me taking your portrait was kind of a prerequisite to meeting, you know?”
“Oh, I guess I missed that part!”
Thank you, Megan!
(Find organizations, volunteers, jobs, events and other people looking to make the world a better place! Get out there and connect! http://www.idealist.org/)
ps. In case you were wondering, promoting this organization was 100% my idea and entirely unpaid.
"I’m going through a divorce right now and I’m looking forward to just focusing on myself. You know, after a while of being with someone, it’s going to be exciting to do things and not have to run them by anyone."
"What are you most excited to do?"
"I’m not even sure. Just possibility."