Red Hen & Ruby
It's July, 2017. I've parked Ruby - my rusted-out 1982 red diesel merc - across the street from Stephanie Sprinkle's house in John's Landing, Portland. It was a long, hot drive up from Oakland: windows down in 96 degree heat, filling my mason jar with water at every rest-stop along the way. Ruby makes friends everywhere we go: grizzly-bearded bikers gesture a cool hand sign when we take turns passing each other crossing the border into Oregon. The guy pumping my fuel wishes he could introduce her to his '85 Jag, Rusty. A lady with a cardboard sign under the bridge asks what year Ruby is, waving and giving us a smile that tells us we are seen and loved. Jonathan outside the AM/PM in Redding helps me jerryrig a new latch-lever for her hood at nearly midnight last week. I start chatting with him en español and his eyebrows shoot up in disbelief; "Eres latina?!" "Para nada," I laugh. But Ruby makes people see the best in me, I guess. She has this way with folks, and somehow she does it on her own terms. Everything happens on her sweet, slow clock. She has seen it all, and we're not halfway there yet. Her odometer stopped counting years ago at well over 200K. I couldn't ask for a better travel companion and teacher.
It's been a rough month. Then again, the last year was no picnic. Let's be real, I'm struggling to remember a time when I thought I'd just turn on cruise control and sit back. So I'm out here, pushing my heartbrain to the limits, jerryrigging and macguyvering (are all the terms for what I'm doing named after dudes?) and scraping together personal, professional and automotive victories out of the breakdowns and the albatrosses and the obsolete. Ruby's way of doing things feels so conspicuous. I'm always hyper-sensitive to how visible we are: slow locking and unlocking each door individually, slow waiting for the glow plugs to heat up before I crank the key, slow on San Francisco's crazy steep hills, slow merging onto the freeway, slow on the journey - sitting in the pocket of 65 mph where she comes as close to purring as she ever will.... I feel guilty for holding up the world around me. Everyone must have somewhere important to be, everyone must be desperate for us to get on with it or get out of the way. Don't we look like idiots, Ruby and me? Who do we think we are, taking up so much time and space, acting like the sky isn't even falling? A couple of stubbled white guys in an enormous muddy pickup pass us on the left, the guy in the passenger seat turns a wide grin to us. "Fuck Cancer" says the sticker on his back window. My eyes fill with tears. Each day with her is Valentines Day.
Ruby is how I go. So Ruby's way is the way I am building Red Hen. Built with pieces that are meant to be maintained and repaired, not busted and disposed of. Built so that every person who comes into contact with us becomes part of our community, makes us part of theirs. Designed not for speed or fashion but for distance, for consistency, for carrying us soundly through a lifetime. There is time. Time is the resource that I have. I'm supposed to rush, to spend fast and pull the trigger and get it moving so we can make our returns so we can save our money so that we can buy... time. But time I already have. So I invest it into building this Hen right from the beginning. We are building a family, and we are a manifestation of every person's divine right to be indispensable. Every farmer. Every winemaker. Every dishwasher. Every person who works with Red Hen. Every investor who puts five hundred or five hundred thousand of their nest egg into the coop for safe keeping and safe growing. Every curious or thirsty individual who picks up a bottle off a shelf. Ruby says get in and buckle up; we've got a long road ahead and a lot of stories to tell.