Cutting in line

The mixed blessings of getting what you want

BY HENRY ABBOTT

In May 1984, Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man” tour came to Portland, Oregon. I was 10 and my sister was 12. My dad got tickets and jammed us, along with our neighbors, into his old Mercedes: four kids in back and co-chaperone Mrs. Kurisu up front. 

It’s funny how memory works. There are whole vacations, even years, that I can barely picture. But looking back, I can still hear, feel, and even smell that car ride. 

My dad owned and operated his own busy medical practice back then, and did an exciting job of being a divorced, single, half-time dad. He was constantly, aggressively late and this concert night was no exception. In the back seat we knew we’d be late. In the front, he mashed his foot on the gas pedal, optimistically singing out English-accented ETA predictions over the radar detector’s beeping.  

As I-5 meets downtown Portland, the freeway pops up off the ground and, like a very tame roller coaster, swoops up above the Willamette River and switches allegiances from the…

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