Getting Into Vans with Strangers

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[By Guest Blogger, Megan McDonald]

So. I was an English major in college, graduating from Oregon State University in 2010, and the day after graduating, moving to Portland, Oregon (I am from Oregon, so I don’t want to hear it, locals).

Yeah, I’ve heard the old adages and inquiries regarding this liberal arts driven decision, including but not limited to  “what a useless degree,” “what did your parents say?” “do you regret it?” “have you read Catcher in The Rye”  “I love Harry Potter!” “I love The Great Gatsby” and the ultimate question “what are you going to do, teach?”  But there it is. I graduated, none other than highest honors, or summa cum laude for you linguistic worshippers of the dead languages, and for you youths that might be reading, let me just say “#humblebrag.”  For, after all, I am a mere wench hailing from a tiny town with a struggling family of which you know not, about an hour and a half south of Portlandia (where indeed the 90s kids go to retire into retail-hairstyliest-bartender-barista-dom), and having re-located to the weird-kid mecca (which is quickly turning into a less rainy version of San Francisco and a just-as-rainy yuppified (BUT STILL WEIRD) version of Seattle, I’d have to say I’m financially stable, but as rich as The Grinch when he finally gets his feelings.

I have some good friends which have been in my life for years, those who I know will be in my life always, but distance separated us, and as it was, post-college, I knew I was destined to find some gems here in Portland. And so it has been in this town, and through an analytic English-major lens that I have come to find friends and family here: weirdo transplants, passers-through, musicians, drunks, intellectuals, and the vast combinations thereof that define me in my ruminating Shakespearean and whiskey-filled mind.

I’ve always been a cross between an overachiever and a woman on the brink

of disaster. Tame and cautious on one hand, and on the other hand totally willing to
get into a van with strangers. And that’s how I met Sit Kitty Sit.

One morning afternoon, incredibly hungover and trying to piece together the

previous night’s shenanigans, my significant other (henceforth known as Aaron)
could not find his keys (mind you, he has janitor keys; he’s not a janitor, but good
lord the keys could have fooled you), and so I had ventured out into the world back
across to the west side of town (on the bus) where the show was to search for his
keys. You see, Aaron and I have an agreement. The less hung over party performs
tasks and snack foraging for the more hung over party, so that day it fell to me to try
and find the keys.

It was probably around 4-5 when I finally got my shit together enough to get

on a bus and get to the bar. Once there, myself and the bartender searched for the
keys, which were not anywhere to be found. As I was routing my bus trip back
home, standing in front of the bar, a one-armed man who appears to be a ruffian of
some type yells to me “OI! Can I come look at your tattoos?” Usually…usually, I would scowl and walk away from that comment, but this time, I obliged.  Who knows,
maybe I was still a little drunk, and the cute girl with platinum blonde hair sitting
next to him didn’t hurt in the context of his request.

He walks over and starts fondling my arms with his arm and partial-arm (henceforth referred to as stump, actually the term doesn’t come into play again I just wanted to say stump), which is a pretty odd way to meet someone. We start talking, and he is a one-armed solo guitarist/song writer who was adopted part way through a tour with a band the platinum vixen was in: Sit Kitty Sit. His name was Haywood Macabre, hers Kat. We went inside and got a bloody mary and started talking, where I met Mike, the

drummer. It felt like the beginning of an awesome, and super fucking weird, date.

Probably half an hour later I find out their show that night is on the east side

and they offer me a ride back over, wherein I took little to no convincing to get in the
back of their van and go. Somewhere between getting in said van and being in said
van, I call Aaron and let him know that I’m getting into a van with three strangers to
return to the east side, and he should meet me at the bar they were playing at. He’s
somehow never surprised at me when things like this come up. “Megan’s in a van
with strangers? Must be a Saturday or some shit…” I feel like sometimes all you can
do is laugh at yourself.

The night proceeds with a few other SKS fans coming out, all lovely, and the

show commences. Haywood killed it, and I’m reveling in the experience. I’m smiling
to myself all night, thinking I must be in the right place. I’m now beaming, I’m
drinking whiskey again, and I feel this love of life wash over me. One of “those”
nights. Sit Kitty Sit’s music only increased this feeling of warmth, of inspiration and
being enveloped in music that one is to fall in love with as recordings later, but falls
in love with live. They were incredible.

Life goes on. There are more weekends, more hangovers, fleeting moments

of beauty, and everlasting moments of frustration. Each time Haywood, Kat, and
Mike have visited Portland after that night, Aaron and I’s home would become
theirs, wherein “come and go as you please,” was never asked nor explained, but
assumed. Each time they left there were tears, and “why can’t we live closer…” was
inevitably uttered in a hushed, worried tone through stifled “I’ve got to go or I won’t
leave,” hugs.

A couple years later, I would think to myself  “if Aaron had not have lost his

keys that night, if we had not have drank so much, we would have possibly never
met Haywood and SKS.” It’s an odd and a peculiar thought to think that
irresponsibility could lead us to people that we know will be in our lives forever.
That we love from a distance, but never less. That it’s known they always have a
home where you are, and that when you’re together, it’s home. I believe that
sometimes maybe fate does exist, to a degree, but you have to take it by its creepy
fictive hand and it lead it the rest of the way. I think that maybe sometimes, even in
adulthood, you don’t get to choose your family, they just simply are.

We never did find those keys.

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