Monday, May 28, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

Three of the men in my family drove off this morning. My dad was driving his truck, his dog Morty in the cab with him. My brother was in the fifth wheel being pulled by my dad, his cat in the bedroom with him. My grandpa was in the U-Haul, his dog in the cab with him. They were heading north and then east, to my parents' new home in Arlington, Oregon--"the booming metropolis of Arlington," as my dad always calls it. My grandma had left about an hour earlier, and my mom won't be leaving until Friday of this week. As two dogs and a cat pulled out of the driveway with three other Carlton men I felt my stomach clench up. I've moved out of my parents' house quite a few times. In 2000 when I left for Wheaton College I felt as though I was moving out. Each summer after that it still felt a bit like moving out. When I packed up my stuff and drove to Phoenix, well, that was moving out. When I left to start school at Fuller Theological Seminary, that was also moving out. Even last summer, when I packed up to drive the hour north to Eugene to start at the University of Oregon, I was moving out. But for every time I've moved out of that house I've moved back in. Every time until today. And even though I've moved out about once a year since 2000, my mom and dad had never moved out of our house. Until today.

I know that change is what happens in life. I also know my tendency to get sentimental and my distaste for that sentimentality. But I think I'm on the cusp of turning weepy at the slightest provocation. I know that the stress of finishing my program, trying to solidify my job for next year, getting ready to take a big certification test, and figuring out what I'm teaching for the next few weeks could be contributing to my emotional imbalance. But I think I am legitimately sad about moving out of our house. We moved in about ten years ago, which means I lived in that house longer than any other in my life. And even when I was moving in and out, it was still home base. I'm excited for my parents, and I'm moving to Los Angeles anyway, but there's still something really sad about leaving a place that has been very much my home for the last ten years.

In an odd--and forced--way it resembles this summer for the Blazers and for us as fans. About ten years Bob Whitsitt decided to begin making his mark on the Blazers. The problems didn't start right away, but it was kind of like moving into a weird neighborhood. Actually, it was more like having your neighborhood change in front of you. Some of the people you knew well stuck around, while others moved away. The new neighbors were okay, but they didn't fit the neighborhood's personality. All of the sudden houses are being remodeled, big fences are going up, and people are competing to see who can have the nicest car in the driveway. It's still a decent place to live, but something has changed a lot. Even after Whitsitt resigned in 2003, the neighborhood still felt weird. It was like the new guys wanted to just force people out of the neighborhood instead of turning the neighborhood into the kind that would draw our kind of crowd. Last year was the year in which the right crowd started making their impact, and I don't think Pritchard's role with the team is coincidental to that. His emphasis on building a "culture" is exactly what was needed to rebuild the neighborhood.

Now there's a chance to solidify the neighborhood. I still don't know if we should draft Oden or Durant. Both guys seem like they'd be the type of neighbors I'd want near me. But I do know that the possibility of being good soon can't be allowed to push our culture out the window.

Hopefully my brother doesn't push the cat out the window. It's unlikely, since he really likes that cat, but she was screaming at him as soon as they pulled out. The cat doesn't like moving, and it's never lived anywhere but in our old house. My brother knew he'd need to ride back there to keep her calm, but he realized a few miles into the trip that it wasn't going to be tough. He called to tell me he was going to build a barricade in front of the door. Sometimes it takes doing things like that, because people are afraid to change everything even if what is new is better. I'm not saying that's the case with this move, but that is the case with the Blazers. Either way, June 28 will mark the beginning of a new and exciting era in Portland basketball. It's pretty scary right now, even though it doesn't seem like we can go wrong. Hopefully Pritchard continues to show himself as the best young GM in sports, and helps our neighborhood grow as he keeps the culture the same. We can celebrate with a block party like the one they had in Portland 30 years ago.

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