Writer Ianthe Jacob is currently travelling around North and Central America. She shares with us her 'ode to Evan' a friendship that formed with the host at her stay in an Air BnB in Portland, Oregon. She muses at why people connect so quickly and deeply when in transit.
The list of ways in which the accommodation booking site Air BnB has altered lives is arguably incomprehensible. Starting as an air bed on the floor of Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky's property in San Francisco it has now gone on to completely reshape the short term lettings market, win multiple awards and cause endless passive aggressive discussions over the fairness of it's practises. Somewhat bizarrely I've recently found myself giving a lot more thought than is strictly sane to what might actually be the most pivotal air bed in the history of time, but for far more personal reasons.
It started in Portland, Oregon. I found myself there for complicated reasons which further down the line will be subtly alluded to, but frustratingly never fully explained. If full context is your bag, it might be time for a swift Irish goodbye on your end. Myself and a friend needed somewhere to stay for a few days whilst we immersed ourselves in the vibes of Portland (beautiful vegan food and Wanye's World extra auditionees if you were wondering.) We picked somewhere seemingly at random that looked pretty nice. I say seemingly because I'm not convinced that small acts don't happen for a reason, especially when they have lasting consequences.
We rocked up to this house on the corner of a quiet street in the Hawthorne district of Portland. It had a combination code instead of a front door key which frankly was the tip of the iceberg of the glory and ease that was about to ensue. The house itself was an inexplicable medley of art, instruments and out of context objects that made you feel a bit like you were on drugs. Each room had been designed by a different local artist which gave it this patchwork bohemian feel to it. I noticed a canoe overturned through the window in the garden. I instantly felt welcome. It turned out it was one of those Air BnBs where the host lives in the same property that you stay in and that, Dear Reader, is where titular Evan enters the frame. He said hello and within 5 minutes I knew I liked him because even from his greeting I could tell he was eccentric and weird in the best way imaginable. There was something really familiar about him which I initially wrongly attributed to him reminding me faintly of my Dad.
Over the next few days, in between having just a really good time in Portland, I found myself gravitating towards Evan. Every conversation we had made me like him more. It felt easy being around him, kind of like we had met before, potentially in a previous life and been best friends. Now is probably the perfect time to mention that I had pretty much gone to Portland directly from Burning Man, so my preoccupation with chakras clearing, stars aligning and fucking sweet vibes was potentially higher than the norm.
There was one day during our stay when my friend had to work. I had loose plans to catch up on emails and do something productive but between my room and the front door I bumped into Evan who was making a mural out of small pieces of square wood he had painted himself for the kitchen wall. We start chatting. He tells me he'd got accidentally high on paint fumes the day before as a result of his art project and I decide to get a coffee. We laugh for way too long about him purposefully poisoning me with out of date milk. I sit on the bottom stair, and I know the emails are getting sacked well and truly off. I won't bore you with the next hour of hastily assembled personal jokes, but Evan wanted to get lunch, I wanted to buy shampoo and all of a sudden we are strolling down the road in a new realm of friendship - the real world.
As we walked we chatted non-stop, and at points I threw all cool out the window and literally doubled over laughing. Evan was so pumped about what he was saying that the coffee he was drinking in a take-away cup sporadically spilled out over onto the pavement. It's kind of like how he is the quintessential worst but best YouTube watching companion ever, because he talks over every last second, drowning out the content, really wanting you to understand the good parts. When I say Evan is weird I mean that it manifests in the most inspiring, cool way possible. I actually don't remember how old he is, but he gave off this infectious youthful bounce that is depressingly rare in 'grown ups.' I can't picture him at a desk. Him doing a tax return is unimaginable. Even thinking of him watching TV is a bit of a stretch. He's the inside out t-shirt of the adult world, the odd socks of his generation, the antithesis of a 'kind regards' email sign off and this made me feel so much better somehow.
We stopped into a Fred Myers' so I could get shampoo, and Evan told me my taste in coconut scent was cheap and overwhelming. This is the intervention I've needed all my life. We went to a Mexican restaurant and somehow Evan knew my favourite type of low level smashed is in the day time on dirt-cheap margaritas. We sat down and had the best kind of conversation which is one that is hilarious but also touches on more meaningful tangible things, kind of like a Rick and Morty episode. He told me the house I was staying in had belonged to his family for years and had effectively been the bed rock of his life, which explained why it felt so warm and lived in. We talked about familial disputes, journalism, why relationships go wrong and pretty much everything in between. We spoke about the shitshow that is Trump, and I remember thinking it felt pretty life affirming to distill the issues that divide so many, with someone so like minded. Our shared opinion and ability to laugh at a horrifying situation helped to reestablish what I've always wanted to believe which is that there is more that connects us than divides us.
There are so many things I liked about Evan. I liked the way he had a clock with a face that spun hanging on his wall because it was fun and slightly inexplicable like him. I liked the way he had a shelving unit made up of cubes in his kitchen that served as the resting place of a gifting community amongst his air bnb guests because it showed he was laissez faire with material possessions. I liked that speaking to him was so easy that it sent me into a vortex in which I was able to say things I probably haven't said to many. I'd like to thank him for suggesting I read Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, because he was right, it's one of the best (sort of) profiles I've ever read and I can't believe I'd never done so. I am grateful he introduced me to Ween, I have listened to them every day since. I like that I didn't think twice about sending him a text in block capitals of lyrics from a Mountain Goats song after discovering that we both love them. I like that as a result of a confusing, convoluted joke I have been sending him photos of where I am in the world with a detailed description of it's aroma.
I came away with this sense that I'd met Evan for a reason. He didn't know I'd had a mentally and emotionally bizarre time just before at Burning Man, he didn't know I'd just gone through a sad time relationship wise but I suppose there wasn't any need for him to. I felt I'd met him at the exact right time. It was as though I was faint and hangry from lack of potassium and he was the banana of solid gold vibes planted there to right the wrongs. In some senses he was a soothing vehicle offering a walking, talking, laughing example that there are many routes to living an authentic life, which is basically exactly what I needed to see. My interaction with Evan held a mirror up to my life, and helped me decipher what I was feeling, and why I was feeling it. I would go as far to say that I think everyone would at some point benefit from meeting their own personal Evan, if they haven't already that is.
In hindsight, I can sense it has shifted my view on meeting people in transit. I remember asking if I was his favourite ever guest and then afterwards wondering what had driven me to introduce such egomaniacal bullshit into the equation. It's taught me not to covet time, attention or priority in someone's life. That a good time with someone is not devalued by the occurrence of good times with other people.
There is something about being able to see the finishing line of spending time with someone that encourages a radical honesty to be included into the dynamic. There's a dull sense of urgency to express what they have meant to you when your path with them does not lend itself well to meandering or wasting time. I think saving his number under 'Evan Best Friend' and then showing him probably hammered the sentiment home loud and clear, but if not this article will decimate any confusion.
There is a message in here somewhere about being open and honest about your feelings towards someone. If someone enhances my life, from now on I'll just tell them. When a connection occurs, why wouldn't you acknowledge it? The worst that can happen is that it's not reciprocated, or maybe in this case on receipt of this article they call the police and look into ways of filing for a restraining order. Meeting Evan has taught me it's important to push past the broken intermediary of our self conscious and be truthful with our thoughts.
The day came when I had to leave to go to Seattle. It could have been potentially traumatic but Evan texted me to say he'd gone for lunch over our exit time because he thought he might cry. I felt the exact same. I was unwillingly sitting through a masterclass in how to deal with travel and the art of losing friends. You think the sadness comes from leaving them, and of course that definitely plays a crucial role. But there's a different, more emotionally taxing question of why you are so able to connect with someone that you are not destined to know forever. The uneasiness spawns from the fact that for whatever reason you felt more alive with someone who has an unsettlingly high potential to fade back into strangerhood. You felt more like yourself than you did in your older, more familiar relationships.
Two weeks later, I check my emails - "Evan has left you a review." I internally fist pump, absolutely thrilled at the prospect of seeing confirmation of our time together immortalised in writing forever on the internet. I log onto Air BnB. I read and digest, and then start looking at how to do the same in reverse. But then, disaster strikes. I've missed the deadline to review my experience at Evan's. My heart sinks and I feel genuinely distraught. I text him to profusely apologise, and he replies joking that now how will I ever let people know how amazing he is? I mull this over for a few moments and then I guess I found a way.