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Oregon line

Showing off a couple of Oregon lines: arm and nose category. c.1980


Like every city in every state, the Oregon line is ‘Think before acting on street violence.’ Always a good idea. If you see something going wrong, someone getting hurt, call 911.


Professionals know how do calm things down better than I do, maybe you too. However, if you believe in civic duty like I believe in civic duty, how could I walk past a situation that looked bad and heading for worse?


Maybe it wasn’t really happening? Just go home and let them figure it out? If it’s as bad as it could be I’ll read about in the paper, or watch for it on the news?


I could have done that, pretended not to notice the street fight. Maybe should have? But it was the woman’s voice that turned the tables one day coming out of Cinema 21 on NW 21st.


It was a perfect ending to a day that felt like something out of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a compressed time frame in real life. Here’s the short version:

A friend from out of town came to Portland for the day. I wanted to show him the best side of my new neighborhood, why it’s such a destination location, not a dive hole for losers on their last chance. Even though the place was full of them, full enough to make normal people wonder if it was safe, it still had a good side and I was looking hard.


I wanted to show I knew where the Oregon line was.


My normal was living in downtown Philadelphia a block away from Hahnemann University Hospital. My roommates were medical students, I was an Army medic. Some of them made the military deal exchanging years of school for years of service.


Another normal was my last apartment, 33rd and 4th in Brooklyn’s Sunset neighborhood. NW Portland was easy, had to be easy, was my feeling.


My pal and I visited people we knew in common. They lived near my place and I didn’t know. I didn’t know much at the time. Leaving ‘another’ important relationship more or less wiped my hard drive. So I was starting over like the other last chancers in a last chance comfort zone.


The visiting part of living in the NW Portland neighborhood was great…if you knew anyone, and apparently I did. It was a nice group. Someone mentioned weed. Someone had a phone number and left to make a call on a Oregon line.


In short time six people met in a hospital parking lot for an eighth. The suppliers forgot the weed, but wanted the money, and we’d meet in half an hour. What could go wrong?


The hardcore drug deal failed back when weed was dangerous.


How dangerous?


Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote


After Schedule I, it’s II, then Schedule III and IV:


Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are:

Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol


Those are current DEA copy and paste Schedules, no matter how odd they look. With opioid epidemics and anti-depressant addiction on the rise, along with the overdose deaths, weed was still more dangerous according to law.


And still is.


I wasn’t sure if not having a local connection was for the good or the bad. I didn’t have any phone numbers to call. I didn’t want one, but you meet people who do. Like right then, but instead of going for Weed King Pins, we all called it a day.


My pal got his car and left. The other guys had something else to do. Okay, they ditched me and I knew it. I was about to ditch them too. I wanted to walk the road less traveled anyway, which was NW Flanders between 23rd and 21st just then.


Personal Best ran across the movie sign at Cinema 21. I went in and came out with conflicted feelings.


Then the fight across the street. The woman’s voice calling out for help. It felt like an Oregon line to cross.
About David Gillaspie


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