For the last 6 years, I've run a blog dedicated to Gilda Radner. One thing keeps following me around, and I can't get rid of it. "Oh you like Gilda?" People ask. "Have you heard this quote?"
Imagine you're a Beatles fan and everyone keeps asking you if you've heard Hey Jude. That's how I feel about this quote. It's lovely, the context is sad, her book is incredible, her life is incredible, AND I'M SICK OF HER ENTIRE LIFE BEING REDUCED TO THESE WORDS.
My last few weeks have been heavy with sadness. Moving, ending a job with a family I love, and then most recently, my alma mater St. Mary's Academy refusing to hire someone because she's gay. As a person who also identifies as gay (or somewhere on the Kinsey scale akin to 'homoflexible') it was such a blow. Saying they just refused to hire her because she was gay simplifies the situation a bit, but this week for myself and other graduates of my school has been really hard. Everyone who identifies all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum has been very vocal about their dissatisfaction with this situation, and we've gotten a lot of support from current students also confused by the decision.
One thing that struck me was finding out that the staff had no idea about this situation until it had already been decided. A bunch of us decided to write letters to the staff, and I wanted to write one to the principal. "I know what this needs," I thought, "the quote."
They make magnets & cards with Gilda's words on them, and I was determined to find one before the week ended.
Hannah & I met on Tuesday to tie up some art project loose strings, and I decided I was going to go on a search for the quote. Over coffee at Caffé Umbria, Hannah and I theorized the bureaucracy behind making such a difficult decision, and curated photographs for her upcoming art show.
There was no quote at Powell's books on Burnside, no quote at the boutiques we searched in the Pearl. After spending the afternoon together, Hannah hopped the bus home, and I walked across the river.
The first place I stopped was Cargo. They'd had it a few years back, so I thought I'd check again. I almost cried as I walked through the doors of their new location. It reminded me so much of ABC Carpet & Home in New York, and I was delighted. I remembered the last few times I'd been in there. Once with a boy I'd been seeing; we got free fortune telling fish and both of ours said we were in love. Once with one of my favorite people Julie, as she was looking for decorations for the library she was going to work at. They were playing some smokey café jazz and I couldn't think of the title of the song. She started singing it immediately after I asked: "Blue skies, shining at me, nothing but blue skies, do I see..."
I grabbed a fortune fish after coming up empty handed. It said I was passionate.
The next place I went into was City Liquidators. That store has been a Portland staple for 40 years. I figured I may get lucky if they have a section of cards, but they didn't. I ended up talking to a woman whose parents owned the place about what 'Old Portland' meant.
"If I were going to describe old Portland," I said, "I'd send people here."
She thanked me and I went on my way.
I walked up Hawthorne, and stopped into Really Good Stuff.
"Can I help you with anything?" The fellow behind the counter asked.
"Um? I don't know if we carry that here. You may check the Buddhists up the street, though I think they have more Om than um."
I dug through accordions, hats, photographs, and player pianos. No cards, no quotes, no luck.
"Do you have any Gilda related um?" I asked as I walked out of the place.
"No, but I have some cowbell." He said.
"I'll come back when I have a fever!"
I continued my ascent up Hawthorne, thinking about how beautiful the weather was, (overcast and drizzling), how terrible my thesis was in college, (I was walking by a funeral home, which was where the story took place), got stopped by my friend Angie when I walked by her job.
"I can't find this stupid quote!" I said.
"Keep looking, you'll find it. If not, you can always make her something."
She was right, I could absolutely hand-letter this quote for the principal; but the fun was in the search, and I was not about to give up.
It was creeping up on 7pm, and all the boutiques on Hawthorne were about to close. Finally, at the last one I popped my head in, Presents of Mind, I found it.
After a dizzying turn of a day, I'd walked close to seven miles. Catching up, searching, laughing, remembering, and exploring. By the time I found the card I was exhausted.
I debated walking home, but decided to treat myself and take the bus. I'd written my letter to the principal already, and was ready to seal it into the envelope along with the rest of my feelings on the situation at hand.
As soon as I got on the bus I started crying. Everything was reminding me of everything else. I saw a bed frame at Cargo that was identical to one at ABC in New York. It was an east Asian imported day bed and they were selling it for 10k. I kept looking for the price on the frame at Cargo but couldn't find it. City Liquidators smelled exactly the same as it did when I was a kid. Paul Newman cat still didn't care when I came up to pet him at Really Good Stuff. He didn't even purr at me. I noticed the guy who runs the shop had finally sold a barry sax that he'd had for years, and I was bummed I couldn't scrounge up the money for it myself.
As I walked through the door of my house, feet throbbing, I was filled with immense gratitude. Gratitude that I could be so close to everything that made me think of everything else; gratitude that the weather was back to its normal Portland self; and gratitude that after all that looking, I found the quote.
It wasn't as though the sadness went away while I was eating dinner that night, or that I'd immediately felt a sigh of relief—I just made peace with it being there in the first place. I was able to sit with my sadness for the first time all day, and not let it swallow me whole.
Later that night I went to bed; and I slept very, very well.