Sunday, July 13, 2008

Porsches, Putters and Typewriters

Saturday took me on a strange mission to an out-of-the-way (to me at least) part of Portland.

I packed seven typewriters and an old RC Allen crank adding machine into the back of the RAV4 and headed north on I-5 to the Expo Center.

I was to rendezvous under the freeway overpass with strangers from Bremerton.

Don Feldman had seen my Craig’s List ad offering up a host of typewriters. I’m paring back from 55, which I bought in a mad-dash, eBay frenzy three years ago. It is time to throw the frenzy into reverse. Sure, I’ll save a few of these endearing old creatures, but most have to be moved.

Don and I had carried on friendly but intense typewriter negotiations via e-mail until we struck a deal.

As I pulled up, he and his wife were dosing in their red Jeep Cherokee after returning from the Expo Center’s Antique Collectors Show across the street. He was younger than I had imagined, which is good because it means another generation will care for the typewriters.

He proudly announced that he has 500 in his collection.

Actually 500 and seven, I thought. But who’s counting?

We transferred the cargo, he paid me $300 for the lot (he got a deal), we shook hands and parted.

My next activity was to pace off my daily 10,000 steps somewhere. As I considered my many options, I drove behind the gargantuan Expo Center. The sprawling center is built on in-fill near the Columbia Slough. As I looked for the freeway on-ramp, the slough intrigued me. Ducks, songbirds, willows, cattails and patches of green water. I spotted the entrance to something called the Heron Lakes Golf Course and figured it might yield a hike.

I diagonal parked in a pull-off lot for hikers and non-golfers and set out along the electric golf cart trails that skirt the fairways.

If the golfers noticed me at all, I must have looked odd. No clubs, no “Titleist” or “Nike” golf/baseball cap, no electric cart, no competitive edge. Just me, my cleat-less hiking shoes, a floppy hat to shield me from the sun and a determination to reel off a few thousand steps.

Occasionally I would watch a foursome drive, lay-up and putt. I’ve learned gallery etiquette from viewing the U.S. Open. I've learned awe from watching Tiger Woods.

On Saturday, with a distant, respectful, almost worshipful silence, I watched the graceful arcs of the drives, a slice kerplunking into a slough and wobbly, befuddling putts.

As I was drawn deeper and deeper into the maze of links, a distant rasping invaded the silence of Heron Lakes’ rolling fairways. As I strolled the back nine, the noise became inescapable, persistent and, finally, rattling.

Somehow, the sanctuary of a golf course had been built next to Portland International Raceway, or maybe it was the other way around. In any case, all that separated the two were a narrow slough, a chain link fence and thin air.

On this Saturday, the throttle-jockeys, like the duffers, were out in number. Downshifting, sliding into the turns, then running up through the gears down the straight-aways.

aaaarrrrrrrrr!….aaRRRRRRR!….RRRRRRR!!!!! …. GREEEEEEEEEEummmmmmm!!!!! choff, choff, choff.

The golfers seemed unfazed. They crouched over the greens, studying, measuring, lining up their putts. Not 100 yards away, a pack of Porsches smoked out of a curve, spitting fire, screaming with speed.

No one, not even a pair of mallards in the slough, seemed to notice the incongruity of it all. I stood perplexed on a knoll above a bunker. Before me in the distance beyond the fence sprawled the fuming, reverberating track with its cockpit-encased, wheel-gripping speed freaks. And here, just a chip shot from my vantage, an intense foursome paced and deciphered the green before teasing white balls toward its hole.

By now, Don was on his way home to Bremerton, proud owner of 507 typewriters. I had 15 crisp $20 bills in my pocket as I wandered the fairways, feeding my pedometer.

As I turned for the long trek back to the car, I wondered what, if anything, it all meant, or whether it was even worth asking.

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