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MailTribune.com
  • Flirting with panic from the world's worst host

  • Fact: I am very much looking forward to seeing my best friend when he visits from Illinois next week.
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  • Fact: I am very much looking forward to seeing my best friend when he visits from Illinois next week.
    Fact: I am a terrible host, always have been.
    Just because I am the world's worst host doesn't mean my friend, John, and his girl, Tam, won't have a good time when they land in Medford on Wednesday. They are low-maintenance folks who just want to relax in the Southern Oregon sun with their old buddy from the corn desert.
    However, there have been times when people drop by my abode during long road trips and I meet them at the door with a generous hug and then spend the next 10 minutes standing in my living room blinking at them.
    "So "… um "… you have anything in mind?" I'd mutter, helpless, desperate, afraid.
    I then wither under their I-told-you-I'd-be-stopping-by-on-my-way-to-Los Angeles-three-weeks-ago-what-the-hell-you-want-from-me gaze. Sure, I had three weeks to plan something (anything!) and froze when the moment of truth came.
    And my digs are about what you'd expect from a 33-year-old bachelor-hermit-samauri. I have just enough forks, spoons and plates for one person to get by for a week. I sleep on a futon that rarely finds itself in the upright position. My ottoman is a way station for books, comics, coffee mugs, a pile of discarded Netflix envelopes, a Predator action figure and at least one video game controller.
    On my good days, I think of myself as a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, honoring his "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" ethos.
    Stop laughing. It's my view of self, and it's all I have.
    The problem with hosting is it grates against how I interact with the world. I am a compartmentalizer. I have my alone existence. I have my work existence. I have my social existence. These streams rarely cross. When they do, I get jittery and my hands twitch, and I bounce on my heels.
    And the problem with being a compartmentalizer is that I truly enjoy company. I'm a social raccoon who thrives in the pack, but the pressure of hosting others and having the sole responsibility of dictating the fun leads to hand-twitching and heel-bouncing.
    This shouldn't be an issue in Southern Oregon. I live in what amounts to the country's backyard playground. If you can't find something to do with your time here, then you should commit a felony and file yourself away in a prison. Institutional living would suit you.
    The only visitor I've hosted since moving to Jackson County are my parents. Easy, right?
    Actually, these hypocrites frustrate the hell out of me when they drop in for their yearly, two-week stint. All year long, I have to listen to them chew my head off for not calling home enough or making plans to fly east to see the family.
    "You need to come home for a bit and see your people, Chris," my mother gripes. "It wouldn't kill you. We do miss you. Don't you know that?"
    Yet when they make their trip from central Illinois, it suddenly becomes a totally different reality. When their plane hits the runway and they catch a whiff of warm Southern Oregon air, feeling the dry summer heat and ample sun, suddenly Chris the Slacker Son becomes the second priority.
    Last time they visited, we met for dinner at a nice place in Ashland, during which time they asked how my job was going and whether I was getting enough to eat.
    Two hours later, they were filling me in on their plans for the week, which included trips to the redwoods, the beach and other Northern California things that obviously did not spare room for yours truly.
    "We'll see you when we get back from the coast!" they said as their rented car disappeared west.
    Even worse, the one Southern Oregon experience that seems to have registered the most with my extended family is the Oregon Vortex. The folks back home are obsessed with this roadside tourist stop. The majesty of Crater Lake? Seen it on postcards. The redwood trees? Eh, we got some pretty large oaks out here.
    But the Vortex? You mean there's a magic house in which water runs uphill and brooms stand on end without wires or CGI? We have to see this!
    I try to explain to them that it's all optical illusions and that anyone could have a Vortex in their backyard. All you have to do is build a shack and then push it on its side with a bulldozer. Instant Vortex.
    I won't be taking John and Tam to the Vortex. We will do the Crater Lake thing, though, because you have to see a natural wonder when you get the chance. There also might be a trip to the Oak Tree Northwest Bar & Grill in Ashland, my home away from the Mail Tribune.
    My goal is to let my close friends catch a glimpse into the life I've made for myself here in Jackson County. I might be a hapless host, but I recognize the value of sharing your existence with those closest to you.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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