For years I have worn simple, sturdy, colorful Fruit of the Loom underpants. This has never occasioned any comment in the USA, even from my most intimate friends, but when I lived in Lesotho, my friends and neighbors observed my underpinnings hanging on the washing line and began to covet them. I learned this by indirection. “Those are nice underpants,” escalated to “I wish I had some like those,” and “I wish I had friends in America who could get me some underpants like those.” I wrote to friends in the USA and requested various sizes of Fruit of the Loom to be sent me by air mail, and I gave them away at Christmas that first year. There were dances of delight and jostling for status to determine who got them. So I know what to take to Lesotho with me. Today I went out to the suburbs and purchased about sixty pair of undies of various sizes, mostly women’s but a couple of packages of men’s as well. I’m also taking a few bags of Tootsie Rolls, some school supplies, some toys, and a selection of books and CDs, but the real thrill is Fruit of the Loom.
On my way home, I wanted to stop at Ricky Point, a little spit of land at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. I never knew Ricky, but he must have been quite a guy because his old friends have hung some Buddhist prayer flags there, next to a beautifully crafted wooden bench in his honor. I’ve been out there many times, and the flapping of the prayer flags in the wind, the call of sea birds, the deep drone of boat’s whistles, and the rustle of cottonwoods under a cloudy sky is all I need of blessing. But some time in the past six months, the Portland Yacht Club has tried to seal off access to Ricky Point. “No Trespassing” and “Do Not Enter” signs have been posted. Fences have been erected. Gates are hung with heavy chains and padlocks. I was shocked to see this, and I felt instantly rebellious. I ignored the signs and went out to the point. If they want to arrest a sixty-five year old woman with a point and shoot camera, standing under those prayer flags invoking blessings for the people who will wear those underpants, let them.