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Friday, October 29, 2010
Is this the face of the pro-marijuana movement in Oregon?
What you see here is the entrance to the Portland headquarters of the "Yes on Measure 74" campaign. It's tucked away in the parking lot of a tattoo parlor at the corner of SE 67th and Foster. The office isn't visible to passing traffic on the main thoroughfare. I drove over there last Monday afternoon. No one was inside and it seemed to be hidden, as if all involved were ashamed to be seen, out in public, supporting of the measure.
And that seems to be the case for the pro-pot movement at large in the states. Plenty of people support outright legalization and many more agree that the War on Drugs has been a farce. This country's ridiculous continued criminalization of weed has led to an intense series of clashes between feuding drug lords in Mexico that have resulted in thousands of deaths.
An article in Time Magazine from 2008 includes a poll that claims that 42% of adult US citizens have at least tried marijuana. Many Americans love weed and they're going to keep smoking it no matter how much its cultivation ravages our neighbors to the south. I'm sure you've heard these arguments before. The time has come, hell, it came 20 years ago, to finally legalize pot in the United States.
But yet the very topic, even medicinal marijuana, remains taboo. I asked several friends and family members if they'd be voting in favor of Measure 74. They all said yes but none of them were willing to stick a "Yes on 74" sign on their property or a sticker in the back window of their cars. Why is that?
Because marijuana is an illegal drug in this country and many of us have grown up watching commercials like the one below that demonizes it, putting weed on the same shelf next to meth and cocaine.
I'd go so far as to argue that weed is more harmless than alcohol. If anything, this country should have stuck with Prohibition but legalized marijuana. From a governmental stand-point, doesn't it make more sense to allow your citizens access to a drug that makes them goofy and mellow instead of sloppy, overconfident and prone to violence? Just saying....
It'll be interesting to see what will happen if California manages to pass Proposition 19 next week. Will the rest of the western states fall into line like dominoes? Will the issue make it to the Supreme Court? Could we be a few short years away from legalized marijuana in this country?
Well, here's hoping...
Monday, October 25, 2010
M.I.A. @ the Roseland
Last week this time I was waiting for M.I.A. to take the stage at the Roseland. A single blue spotlight was shining down on a microphone in front of the crowd as a DJ spun records. The place was packed despite a savage article that popped up in the New York Times last spring. It portrayed the rapper as a pampered princess far removed from the horrors of her native Sri Lanka but still smugly determined to exploit it all through her music.
As true as these accusations might be, what would you prefer? Another Taylor Swift contentedly spewing ballads about her various former celebrity boyfriends? M.I.A.'s latest album is a mishmash of beats and political diatribes that's a far cry from what typically clogs the pop charts.
She's also a hell of a live performer, somewhere between Bjork and Jay-Z. She seems keenly aware of her own bad press and eager to mock both herself and it. During the show, two dancers in jalbaabs and niqabs, what Bill Maher might describe as "beekeeper outfits," spun on stage near the DJ. As M.I.A. stormed around the venue, two buff male dancers helped her on and off stage. In the background, a video screen displayed bright red bullet holes and footage from her homeland.
Featured in this video are two songs from the show. "Paper Planes," her most well known track, kicks in at the 6:30 mark.
Cheeky exploitation? Guerrilla kitsch? Maybe. M.I.A. kept a straight face throughout the show, jumping in and out of the crowd and merrily waiving her feet ala Humpty Dumpty on the speakers when she wasn't climbing along the balcony over the crowd. The show lasted a mere 70 minutes. A minute longer and she might have collapsed from exhaustion.
With a crowd of female audience members dancing on stage, the set ended abruptly. "Come to the after party at the Crown Room," she offered. A line was stretching past the Magic Garden as I hiked back to my car. No after parties for me though. It was a school night.
Friday, October 22, 2010
And now a random Matt Groening factoid
"Cartoonist Matt Groening's two TV series are laced with references to John Bender, the teen rebel portrayed by Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club, one of Groening's favorite movies. The hard-drinking, sarcastic robot Bender on Futurama was named for him; school bully Nelson Muntz on The Simpsons was named after Judd Nelson; and Bart Simpson's catchphrase, "eat my shorts," was first uttered by John Bender."
This random factoid was brought to you by Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader, due out in bookstores on November 1st.
Why am I promoting the Uncle John's series? Uh, no reason. Nothing more to see here. *ahem*
Yes, indeed, enjoy the entire series of Uncle John's tomes, available online at Amazon and wherever fine, bathroom-themed trivia books are sold.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
A round of photos from this year's Oregon Country Fair
They may be a few months past their expiration date but that doesn't mean they don't still reek of Patchouli and weed! This year marked my fourth-straight visit to the OCF's grounds.
Click here for more photos over on Flickr.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Keep hope alive?
How quickly Americans have forgotten the Bush-era. The rampant corruption. The foolish wars. The fact that the insolence and incompetence of that administration led to New Orleans nearly being wiped off the map. Tonight I walked down NE MLK past a group of protesters holding signs that said things like "I Was Hating Obama Before It Was Cool!" One of them was screaming at passing traffic. A lady driving by him in a Volkswagen Bug jumped in her seat and nearly swerved into the other lane when he spat at her through an open window.
Sigh..."Teabaggers." Let's pray that the president doesn't do something REALLY bad and worthy of impeachment like getting a BJ in the Oval Office.
Is it really that easy to overlook the fact that the Democrats have actually accomplished things over the past few years? Supposedly, this Congressional Session was the most productive in half of a century, according to the Associated Press.
Let's go down the list, shall we? US troops are finally leaving Iraq, strides have been made towards healthcare reform and the Dems kinda, sorta saved this country from plunging headlong into a Depression that would have made our ongoing economic woes look like a night at the Playboy Mansion. Obama's biggest mistake was that he promised more than he could reasonably deliver during the 2008 election cycle. So many people painted him as a Christ figure that would magically wash away the despair of eight years of merciless Republican rule with a wave of his hand. The bar was set a million-miles too high for good ol' Barry.
I volunteered to work as a greeter at the Kithaber rally at the Convention Center earlier today. I'm not a huge fan of the Democratic candidate for governor and, I must confess, I didn't vote for him. I wasn't about to fill-in an oval for Chris Dudley though, for all of the obvious reasons. I decided to vote for my family's cat, Harry, instead. I think he would make a better leader than either Dudley or Johnny "This State is Ungovernable" K. At least our feline is adept at catching spiders. I went down there for Obama and "the liberal cause" or whatever you want to call it.
The afternoon began well, at least. There was a warm/happy vibe in the air as I headed down to the Convention Center. The crowd was buzzing, the sun was shining and, overall, it was reminiscent of Obama's stunning speech down on the Waterfront Park back in May of 2008. Would there be enough room inside for everyone? Would we have to usher spectators into a side-hall to watch the rally on a closed-circuit screen? Everybody was just so dang optimistic and upbeat.
At 4 PM the doors opened and the crowd trickled in past security. I stood off to the side and my duty was to answer questions and help the crowd. I must have said, "Yup, head on down the stairs to the convention hall" no less than 5,000 times. When I headed downstairs to see if there was seating available in the bleachers for a disabled woman, that's when I noticed something foul afoot. People were shoving their way in. The crowd was impatient and irritable, a far cry from the happy masses a few years back. Who can blame them? After having their "Pie in the Sky" hopes for Obama dashed over the course of the last two years, on top of the fact that they were being ushered into a gloomy, concrete hall that looked like a warehouse?
An hour later it was obvious that Obama, once a shining beacon of hope and change that drew 80,000 or so people to the waterfront, no longer had enough magic left to fill a 15,000 capacity hall on the eastbank of the Willamette. My fellow volunteers were bored and chatting among themselves as the line died down. A flustered woman was trying to get the attention of an indifferent usher, not a volunteer, who was on the clock. "I really need to get out of here," she sputtered. Without a word, he waved her off and kept walking.
So I decided to intervene as she began to panic. She was a teacher at a local school who had volunteered to escort four of her students to the rally. She had lost them after a bathroom break. I did my best to calm her down. Her hopes of finding them in the crowd downstairs was nonexistent and the eldest student wasn't picking up his cell phone. Her plan was to go outside where she could hear over the crowd in case they called. Members of PPD working the front doors weren't willing to let her leave for reasons involving "national security." Because no one else seemed to care about her dilemma, I grabbed another volunteer and headed downstairs to attempt to get her where she needed to be.
It was obvious that this wasn't going to happen with only a vague idea of where they were located. Long story short, one student finally called her and they worked out a rendezvous point.
On my way towards the escalator, an elderly woman pulled me aside. She had a thick envelope of prayers that she wanted to personally deliver to the president. "No one will even listen to me about this," she said with a sigh. I explained that I was just a lowly volunteer and, as nicely as I could, I told her, in all likelihood, there was no chance that the Secret Service was going to let her hand the Leader of the Free World a strange envelope. Undaunted, she wandered off in search of someone else to ask.
Once back upstairs, I found the cops breaking down the security scanners and most of my fellow volunteers gone. "Yeah, everybody just trickled away," one of them told me. "They didn't thank us for coming or anything."
Indifference and apathy, two things that are definitely plaguing the Democratic party these days, or at least their supporters. The cold shoulders of the staff, the treatment of the teacher and the envelope of prayers left me feeling sour. I took a seat on the carpeted steps outside of the 2/3s-full convention hall and gloomily checked my email. "What's wrong," another volunteer asked. "I'm thinking of leaving," I said. "This is just sad." "I know," he acknowledged. "I gave up my entire day for this in the middle of midterms. I'm thinking of bagging it too."
I looked up towards the skylight and the fading sun outside- what's sure to be one of the last warm days of the year. "Should I stay in here, in this concrete bunker filled with lethargic Democrats," I wondered. "All of them half-heartedly cheering for a candidate for governor they don't believe in?" I wandered back inside and spotted two girl picking through a stack of neglected, "homemade" signs made by organizers. They said things like "I'M FROM JEFFERSON COUNTY AND I'M VOTING FOR KITZHABER!" The girls opted to leave them behind and wandered back into the crowd.
Faux. Homemade. Signs.
Is this par for the course at political rallies? I have no idea but that was enough for me. I walked back to my car down SE Grand past the Teabaggers screaming at rush hour traffic and a streetcar expansion project that no one seems to want. Past the Migrant Labor compound and past the tired faces at a food shelter. One homeless guy nodded at me as I passed, with a look that seemed to say, "Shit, son. You look even more depressed than I am." Down on I-84, traffic was backed up for a mile.
So, yeah, the experience left me feeling pretty downhearted and disenfranchised, as if the storm clouds were gathering and the bad ol' days of Bush and Cheney were about to return again. "Great, a Congress packed with obstructionist Republicans and another two years of jack squat getting done," I muttered. A famous passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came to mind and I was feeling biter enough to tweak it for 2010.
""We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the late 2000s. That was the fatal flaw in Barack Obama's trip. He crashed around America selling "hope" and "change" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously. All those pathetically eager Americans who thought they could buy back the American Dream for a vote. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Obama took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style... a generation of permanent cripples forever stuck on unemployment in a land with no more careers or union wages, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of liberalism in the 21st century: that modern American society is fair and that, with a little help from the government, everyone has a real shot at being successful in this country."
I felt better after grabbing a cheap taco at Por Que No! on Hawthorne, where my fellow diners were completely oblivious to the outside world and talking about things that had absolutely nothing to do with politics. The restaurant's sound-system was tuned into a sappy soft rock station. A "Mexi-Coke" and Elton John's "Your Song" left me feeling a bit better. I jumped in the car and heard the last few lines of Obama's speech on KPOJ. I'll paraphrase it here:
"You give up now and we lose. Knock on doors. Make phone calls. Talk to your friends. Get them to vote. We're come far in two years and we can't let our efforts die. America can be great again...."
Well, here's hoping, especially if we finally get around to legalizing pot in this flippin' country. Hope? Pfffft! Keep dope alive!
I Love My Thugs
It's becoming increasingly difficult to root for the football team of my alma mater. Over the years, the NCAA press has been clogged with tales of University of Oregon players running a-duck (pffffft!) through Eugene like pillaging buccaneers. Millions of dollars were recently dumped into an "athlete's only" center clogged with expensive art and leather couches while many other campus facilities and classrooms continue to rot. Meanwhile, Nike-founder Phil Knight continues to dump his personal fortune into constructing stadiums and plush locker rooms. Rooting for the Oregon Ducks is like rooting for the Empire in Star Wars, especially now that they're (maybe? kinda?) the # 1-ranked NCAA squadron in the nation.
But the worst part of all of this? It's now more expensive to go to a flippin' college football game in Eugene than an NBA game in Portland. Tickets, which start at around $40 for nosebleed seats, routinely sell-out during the summer months, weeks before the first game of the season, and soon thereafter sell for upwards of $100 on various scalper websites.
Oh, wait, I just though of something more irritating than high ticket prices: this crap....
How much did the Athletic Department pay for that, exactly? If you can make it through all four minutes of this video and not become a life-long Portland Vikings fan, you're a better person than I. Also: take note of the Nike plug at the two minute mark. The days of rolling into Autzen Stadium with a $10 ticket or a free one from the box office at the EMU seems like a long, long time ago.
I spent a day down in Eugene last spring with my friends Sho, Chris and Chris' rather-awesome, obscenity-spewing exchange student pal who...dang, I can't remember her name. Anyway, we ate some tatter tots at Rennie's Landing and the waiter there was wearing a "I Love My Thugs" t-shirt, which we all though was rather awesome at the time. Check the Facebook page for that one.
Despite all the glitz and the pampered players and the irritating "home made" hip-hop, there's one thing that keeps bringing me back to the fold:
The Oregon Duck, AKA the "Hardest Working Mascot in the NCAA." He still does a push-up for every point the team scores during home games. I recently learned that the duck doesn't even have an official name. He usually goes by the Oregon Duck but has also been called Donald, Puddles or The Fighting Duck, according to Wikipeida.
What say you? Doesn't this adorable bastard deserve a proper nom de guerre?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The Perils of Public Nudity Part 1: What It's Like to Shower Alongside Hairy Hippies, Elderly Women and Old Classmates
I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, who enjoys the occasional trip to a nudist spa. I asked her about it at one point and, as with anyone who visits such places, she said, "Everyone there acts like it's no big deal beacuse it isn't a big deal."
Her favorite spa is frequented by people ranging from old men to mothers and daughters. It's not uncommon to see people of all creeds, sexes, races and backgrounds lounging in its pools and enjoying a soak. Having grown up in an average Protestant household here in Portland, I was intrigued by this strange world where people romp around naked and it supposedly isn't uncomfortable, weird or kinky. My friend has no problem with dropping her towel at these places and relaxing alongside shriveled elderly guys and young women alike.
I kept her anecdotes in mind when I found myself at the Oregon Country Fair last July. I woke up that Sunday morning, the last day of the festival, completely filthy. Worse yet, I had tripped and fallen in a ditch the night before while walking to my campsite. My back was sore and I smelled like a dirty hamster cage. About 100 yards from my tent there was a single shower for rent. The price for 5 minutes? 10 bucks. Then I remembered a place where I could bathe inside the Fair grounds. It would cost me some cash as well but there wouldn't be much of a line or a time limit. Better yet, I knew there was a steam room that might help with my aching back.
"The Ritz" looks like a Native American long house on the outside. A giant totem pole reaches up to the sky near the entrance. Behind it, an old wood-powered boiler heats a large, black vat of water. The Ritz sits toward the back of the fair grounds near the "Volunteers Only" section. I rolled through the main gates right when they opened and rushed over.
Only a few people were waiting and I was so eager to get clean that I neglected to read a sign out front describing the Ritz's rules and policies. I figured I'd get a small shower to myself. Nope. After removing my shoes and checking in my bag, I turned around and discovered a hundred people, all naked, either lounging around a fire pit or showering in a series of open stalls. They ranged in age from 18 to 80 and, surprisingly enough, there seemed to be an even ratio of guys to gals.
I remembered my friend's views: "this isn't a big deal." I'd already paid my money and I wasn't about to spend the day grimy and sore. I found a cubby-hole, took of my clothes and went looking for an open stall with soap in hand. There's a clear, unspoken rule in the Ritz. It's OK to look but not to stare. I kept my eyes up and found a spot next to a hippie guy and an old woman. They, and everyone else, went about taking a shower as if they were in their own homes. As I was smearing shampoo into my hair, two undergrad girls rolled up to the stalls across from us. They giggled but tried to stay focused on the task at hand.
I was surprised to discover that all of these bathers weren't hitting on each other and that no fully-clothed pervs were sitting in the corners enjoying the view. Instead, everyone behaved like people in a swimming pool. They kept their distance and focused on themselves or their partners. After I cleaned up, I headed to one of the steam rooms. Inside, a dozen or so nudists were staring into oblivion. Someone started a chant. Figuring I'd get bored, I felt the need to bring along a graphic novel. As I flipped through a copy of Superman: Red Son, I felt like someone was looking at me.
I glanced up and there, across the way, was a girl I went to high school with. Our eyes met and her face went white. She grabbed a towel and quickly made a break for it. "Huh, " I remember thinking. "She has a giant star tattoo on her right shoulder? She always struck me as more creative than that."
A month later, I ran into her at the Stumptown over on SE Belmont. After chatting for a bit, I worked up the nerve to ask her about the incident in the steam room. She denied that it was her. "I have dopplegangers," she said with a smirk. "We all do, at least a few. That must have been one of them. Plus, do you think I'd be so lame as to get a friggin' star tattoo?" I thought about it but wasn't about to ask her to reveal her shoulder, then and there, in the middle of the coffee shop.
No big deal, right?
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Oregon Outback
This photo was taken back in June in Frenchglen, Oregon with a very fancy filter. Click here for more photos from that corner of the state.
* I used the lens from a pair of eight dollar sunglasses that I bought at a truck stop outside of Eugene.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
This fine tome can be found at Powell's and various gift shops around town. The layout is gorgeous, the content is informative and, yeah, something I wrote about the Forest Park "Witch House" can be found on page 15.
C'mon, you know this thing would look a lot better sitting on your coffee table than that 3 year-old issue of The New Yorker (that's obscuring all those back issues of Maxim. You're not fooling anybody).
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Make it better...RIGHT NOW (the video)
In the words of Doc Brown: "Well, I figured, what the hell."
Friday, October 15, 2010
Why not make it better RIGHT NOW?
Like everyone else, I'm appalled by the recent slew of suicides among tormented gay teens in the United States. I've been a fan of Dan Savage's frank, honest and all around amazing column Savage Love since it arrived here in town via The Portland Mercury back in 2000. I admire the efforts of him and his partner to start the "It Gets Better" YouTube campaign, which has, in just a few weeks, received massive amounts of attention and hundreds of videos from successful gays who endured plenty of harassment during their high school years.
But there's one thing that bugs me about this whole thing: why should these teens wait? Why should they endure YEARS of bullying from their peers and the indifference of lazy or cruel families, teachers and/or school administrators? Look back over the course of American history. What led to effective social change for everyone from the founding fathers to members of the Civil Rights Movement? Action. The Boston Tea Party, the Women's Suffrage Movement, Martin Luther King's march on Washington. Expecting these poor teenagers to merely ENDURE these horrors is unreasonable.
I'm not the sort of guy brave enough to film himself discussing his own high school experiences like the courageous souls on YouTube, such as Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns who's video is receiving huge amounts of attention today on CNN (they aired the entire thing a bit ago). Still, here goes....
I'm not gay but that didn't stop plenty of bullies I dealt with at Robert Gray Middle School and Wilson High School here in Portland from labeling me "faggot." I was the scrawniest kid in my class and I graduated from Wilson weighing a grand total of 127 pounds, which is pretty frickin' lanky for someone 6 feet tall. PE class was a living hell for me. I managed to make it through 3 years of it at Robert Gray due to efforts of a teacher who knew what I was going through and, despite being an overgrown jock, had sympathy on me. I'll never forget his words when, with me in tears after getting pegged in the head by a volleyball in the 7th grade. He pulled me aside and broke out a speech I'm sure he had used on plenty of pre-teens like me over the years.
"Yeah, this game is hard, kid, but it'll be worth it. You'll get better at this volleyball thing and you'll be glad you stuck with it. One day, be it five years or ten down the road, somebody cute's gonna come into your life and they're gonna ask you to play volleyball. If you don't get back out there right now you're gonna have to tell them that you don't know how. And they're gonna think you're a schmuck."
It was enough to get me back in the game but, for what it's worth, no one has EVER asked me to play volleyball, cute or otherwise.
Freshman PE at Wilson was a different story. My new "coach" didn't have a shred of a soul left after years of screaming at teenagers on the gridiron. He seemed to delight in the torment the jocks in class caused me. During a two week course on wrestling, among the worst two weeks of my life, he ignored my pleas when another student, among the most rotten bullies at Wilson, put me in a "full pretzel." This punk held me in it so long I endured weeks of back pain afterward. "Hey, guys," he blathered to his friends. "Motherfucker's in some pain right now." They all thought this was hilarious.
Something beyond my spine snapped that day. I spent the rest of year finding subtle ways to get back at the coach. I'd sneak out of the locker room after attendance was taken or conveniently forget my sneakers at home during basketball week, sitting out games because all I had with me with was a pair of Birkenstocks. One morning, I decided to slowly jog during a race around the Wilson track. This pissed the coach off so badly that he screamed at me in front of all the other students and demanded that I spend the rest of the class sitting on the bleachers. When I approached him afterward to discuss this he yelled, "GET OUT OF MY FACE! I DON'T EVEN WANT TO LOOK AT YOU RIGHT NOW!" I trotted off to Algebra, savoring this small victory. My PE grade for that semester? A C+...the best C+ I have ever received.
During those years I was repeatedly punched in the halls, endured plenty of name-calling ranging from "nerd" to "fag" and was routinely spit on by one troubled brat in a math class. When I complained to the teacher she literally stared at me with weary, exhausted eyes. Without a word, she went back to reading a romance novel. If I can think of any single anecdote that sums up everything sick, sad and wrong with the US Educational system, it's this.
But, as Dan Savage advises a decade later, I put up with it. Then, during junior year, I decided to fight back, not with fists but with words.
I ran for Student Body President. I lost to a jock despite assurances from plenty of people that I had actually won the race. I'm still convinced that the Vice Principle conveniently "overlooked" my votes in order to allow a more suitable candidate into office. I ran again for Senior Class President, won this time around and, like the mischievous little shit that I was quickly becoming, I did everything in my power to subvert various school events. I insulted jocks in the middle of a rally attended by the Blazers' Damon Stoudamire, did a ear-shattering rendition of the school fight song at a school-wide assembly. In my most misguided and vengeful moment, I told my class during our graduation (in front of a crowd of 1,000 people in the Wilson Stadium, including former mayor Vera Katz) that they were all destined to lead doomed and unfulfilled lives in the suburbs. "This is good as it's ever going to get, guys. Hope you enjoyed the ride!"
Needless to say, members of my cabinet tried to have me impeached repeatedly.
But this wasn't enough. I landed on the staff on the student newspaper, The Statesman and because of a super cool teacher who looked the other way, published various articles mocking everything in sight. When he came to his senses and blocked the publication of one of my more ridiculous editorials, I decided to publish an underground newspaper using Quark on the classroom's Macintoshs. I put out 20 copies and was quickly called into the principle's office. When he told me I might be expelled for my actions, I mentioned all the torment I had endured over the years. When he said he would "sleep on it and consider what to do with me," I suggested that I'd be calling the media after school.
And that's what I did. I left a message for a staff reporter at The Oregonian and spoke to an editor at Willamette Week. He patiently listened to my story and, I'll never forget this, told me "call me back when you get expelled. THEN you'll have a story worth going to press with!"
When one kid, a die-hard Christian, threatened to kill me for some of the comments I published, I told him I'd return to him as a ghost, possess him, get him addicted to crack, get him infected with AIDS and so on. This not only shut him up but I saw the sort of fear in his eyes that he had conjured-up in so many of his victims.
In the end, I received a one day suspension and handed the paper off to another long-tormented misfit pal, who made it bigger and better...before getting kicked out of school temporarily himself. The paper eventually landed in the hands of our friend Cory who carried the torch after we graduated. He went even further with the project and was expelled, despite an outcry from the local press. Meanwhile, a well-connected son of a wealthy lawyer, received a slap on the hand for a prank that destroyed the floor of the cafeteria. That pampered prince? Yeah, he's trying to become a politician right now. I'd love to tell you his name but, honestly, he was always nice to me. I'm glad to see that he's running for public office rather than follow his father into the world of corporate law.
So, to wrap this up, fight back, kids. Get on the internet. Bully the bullies. Publish papers on Xerox paper and distribute them in lockers and bathrooms before school. Create Twitter accounts, make fake Facebook profiles for your tormentors. Take all the awful bile these jerks toss on you and give it right back them. If you're really feeling bold, grab all the other drama kids, nerds, tweekers, band geeks, dorks, choir pussies and losers and stage a sit-in the principle's office if your school's administration is too indifferent to stick up for you. Call the media. They love this sort of thing.
Don't wait. Make it better. Right fucking now.
Or bide your time, kick back, and enjoy a heapin' helpin' of Schadenfreude in a few years when the lives of some of those bullies don't work out so well. The last time I checked, the kid who spit on me has been in and out of jail over the past decade.
IT GETS WORSE
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Han Solo vs the Desert
Han Solo and his faithful Tauntaun set out against the stark ravages of SE Oregon's Alvord Desert. With dusk fast approaching, the beast, more accustomed to the frozen wastes of Hoth, collapses from exhaustion, dehydration and the sudden, lethal onset of a nasty case of crippling apathy. As Han struggles to carry his Tauntaun to shelter and safety, what dashing rogue will swoop in to lend aid?
Ok, what can I say? These photos were taken while killing time and waiting for the sun set on the desert floor this summer. I can think of fewer places in the world better to watch twilight descend and a nearly full moon rise. After dark, you may as well be on the lunar surface.
If you ever get a chance to make it out that way, I suggest a dip in the Alvord Hot Springs, watching the sun set and then jumping into your vehicle to race across the desert and back into sunlight again. If you time this right, you can actually watch the rays roll towards the hills and enjoy multiple sunsets. My personal record is a mere two.
The Corin Tucker Band, live at the Aladdin
Time mellows us all, whether you want to admit this or not, even quote/unquote "riot grrrls." A lot has changed since Corin Tucker and Sleater Kinney tore through Washington and the world with their "unique brand of post-punk, all female, ovary-powered rock n' roll music." The reviews of Tucker's new album 1,000 Years make note of this (over and over and over again) and are, for the most part, outright dismissive of a woman, now in her late 30s and a married mother of two, still making music. I'm baffled by the one over on Pitchfork, which gives the album a positive review and then inexplicably slaps it with a measly 6.5 out of 10. Entertainment Weekly gave the album a C+, mostly because it's "not a substitute for Sleater Kinney."
[eye roll] There's a reason why Tucker's project is called The Corin Tucker Band and not Sleater Kinney, people.
It was dispiriting to see only 2/3s of the Aladdin Theater filled during the first show of the band's tour, right here in Tucker's home base of Portland. As an audience member posted on Twitter, "what the hell?!! I though everybody in this town loved Corin?!!" Well, maybe five years ago when Sleater Kinney was coasting on the waves of their seminal album The Woods. Another local band, The Golden Bears, opened with their lead singer Julianna Bright all dressed-up in a Pete Townsend-inspired jump suit. Only a few dozen people were up front at that point, glumly nodding their heads along with the music.
Those who did show up at the Aladdin seemed like friends and family of the bands or local rock journalists. There was a lot of hugging going on and Bright caught up with some folks in the crowd before her set. Altogether, it all seemed more like a house party than a show, with most of the crowd north of 30 and in no mood to bounce around, with their minds likely on how much they'd have to pay the babysitter when they got home. We've all had those bittersweet moments with married friends and their kids when we realize that, yup, we're no longer in our 20s and we're supposed to all be adults now. That vibe was definitely in the air at the Aladdin on Thursday night.
Not that this is a bad thing. You wanna stay on this planet past the age of 30, well, everyone around you is gonna grow up and do adult-type things. We can't all pretend it's the late-60s or the late-90s forever (although there's plenty of gray hippies and Gen Xers willing to try, goddammit) but that doesn't mean you have to sit at home every night with your Capri Sun-soaked offspring and a Netflix copy of "How to Train Your Dragon." I was glad that people brought their kids to the show and dressed up like they were still in their 20s. One gal, in her mid-30s, happily spun around the theater in a pair of tall, leather boots. Some might have found the sight of this woman dancing and twirling her hair in the air pathetic but, hell, I found it inspiring.
During The Corin Tucker Band's set, the lead singer stopped the show during the encore to wave to a child sitting up in the balcony's general admission section. I can't remember if it was her own son or another member of the band's. I could hear him up there squealing with glee as Tucker dedicated a song to him.
I think this is the real reason why the response to the tour and 1,000 Years has been so lethargic. It's not that the music is bad or mediocre, it's just different. It's more laid-back and more mature than "Little Babies" and "No Rock n' Roll Fun," just like most everybody in the audience at the Aladdin last week.
Just because you've got a few gray hairs doesn't mean you have to stop making music, going to shows, etc. It just means that you have to do it differently, unless you're still Metallica or Weezer or Green Day or one of their perpetually young fans and you want to keep pretending that you're still 25 and can do tons of coke and play a 100 beats a minute while your aching, aching fingers scream in pain.
For those who doubt all of this, well, have fun staying home with the kids and whatever CGI fest Jack Black is doing voiceover work for these days. Here's a video for the band's first single, "Riley."
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
The Curse of Bly
Well, it's October and Halloween is only a few weeks away. I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about Bly. My pal Marie and I stopped outside of this tiny southern Oregon town during a road trip last June.
If you grew up in Oregon, you may have learned in high school that the only conflict-related death on mainland US soil during World War 2 happened right here in the state. In 1945, a Japanese balloon bomb detonated in a field outside of Bly, killing several picnickers.
During a long day on the road, Marie and I pulled into a rest stop outside of town. Along with an ancient bathroom and a memorial for the victims of the explosion, we discovered a well-kept playground littered with eerie playground equipment. About 300 yards up the highway, there was a ghost town with a few buildings. We grabbed our cameras and started walking.
A series of "NO TRESPASSING" signs and a fence blocked us off from a large house on its last legs. Signs likes these have never stopped me before and my wanderlust wouldn't have been satted if I hadn't slid under the gate to have a look around. Marie, feeling equally foolhardy and adventurous, gave me a "what do you I think I am, some kinda wuss?" look when I sheepishly asked if she wanted to explore the place.
The place was a disaster. '40s-era appliances were lying on their backs in the kitchen, looking like they had been tossed there by a werewolf. You could practically watch the rust spread on the springs of a bed in one corner. A blue recliner stood upright in the living room, its cushions shredded by a large blade. It seemed haggard and afraid, like a blood-soaked bystander after a nasty tavern brawl.
We shouldn't have been there. The house had a horrible, dark aura about it, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a summer day. Some places like this just ooze bad vibes. A slight wind seemed to growl like a dying bear. "Just go, get out of here. I don't want to get rough with you two."
I was in the backyard when I felt them on my skin. I batted one away but three took its place. Mosquitoes were all around me. I looked across the backyard and Marie was batting at her arms. Still hypnotized by the intrigue of this house, I stubbornly kept taking pictures, as more of the blood suckers descended. Suddenly, I was engulfed in a cloud of tiny needles and wings. It was a Biblical plague, remixed by one of God's most obnoxious and awful of critters.
We crawled back under the gate and hurried back towards the rest stop. I slapped a few of the mosquitoes on my elbow and came back with a palm full of blood. At first I said, "HA! Take that, you bastards!" Then I realized it was *my* blood. Now I tried to do the manly thing and escort Marie back to safety but they didn't seem to be after her. Despite the Crocodile Dundee fedora on my head, I turned to my fellow trespasser and said, "I'm sorry to abandon you at a time like this but they're fucking eating me alive!"
I took off running. The bugs, somehow, kept pace with me. I could feel them all over my skin, on my face, in my ears, down by shirt and up my cargo shorts. I flashed back to that scene in Stand By Me when Gordie and his friends made the mistake of jumping into a lake filled with leeches. I didn't even want to think about what parts of my anatomy the mosquitoes were feasting upon. I blazed up to the bathroom and slammed the door. I slapped myself all over, cranked the faucet and poured water all over my clothing and legs. My adversaries were dead or dying but I kept dumping water on myself.
A few minutes later, Marie strolled up and calmly knocked on the door. "You gonna live," she asked? "Maybe..." I sputtered. I ducked my head out. "Are they gone?"
"Yup, you're safe," she said.
At dusk the next day, we were sitting in the Alvord Hot Springs when we decided to count our collective mosquito bites. If memory serves, Marie had a lot but I had many, many more. There were at least 75 up and down my arms, legs and torso.
I've written about a previous run-in with the quote/unquote supernatural here on the blog. Am I convinced that this corner of Bly was haunted or cursed because of its dark history? Consider this: there was no standing water out there in the desert, as far as we could tell. Where had these mosquitoes come from? Surely there weren't enough snakes and jackrabbits to keep that large of a population going and thriving.
Whatever the cause or culprit, I won't be going back again. Consider this not-so subtle hint taken, Bly.
Oh, and Bly? Marie made a mix-CD to commemorate that weird afternoon back in June. It's filled with some pretty great music. If you or any members of your creepy mosquito legion would like a copy, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, October 01, 2010
An Open Letter to the Organizers of Burning Man
To Whom it May Concern,
On Sunday, September 6th, myself and thousands of others who attended this year's Burning Man Festival began "Exodus", a much-maligned annual tradition. I maneuvered my car into a long line reaching up to the highway around 3:30 PM. It was a nasty day weather-wise and I and my colleagues spent the morning and afternoon watching sand storms from our office over at the Black Rock Beacon.
There was a brief break in the weather in the mid-afternoon and I made a break for it. When I pulled up to Exodus, the line was at a total standstill. I had been through this before and knew I had a long-wait ahead of me. I turned on BMIR for information and, much to my annoyance, there was a hip-hop show on the air hosted by several DJs who couldn't have cared less about what was happening over at the front gate. The volume on their mikes was higher than the buzz in their collective skulls. They prattled on endlessly about having sex with each other and all the yummy drugs they had ingested the night before.
Hey, this is Burning Man. People talking about getting laid and stoned on BMIR? This is par for the course but not during Exodus. Attendees turn to that station looking for information and nothing useful was trickling through the airwaves that afternoon. Just tons of self-indulgence, broken up with the occasional bit of music. Signs greeting visitors at the main gate tell them to tune into 94.5 FM for vital information and tips and, yes, it makes sense for DJs to goof around when there's none to relay but this was absurd.
After an hour wait in the heat and dust, I was starting to get antsy. The line hadn't budged. Something was wrong but no one on BMIR was talking about it. Finally, a member of the Black Rock Rangers showed up at the station to deliver a message but the DJs refused to let him on the air. I could hear him arguing with them as they jokingly demanded to see his credentials. He showed them his badge as he irritably told them he needed to grad a mike. They finally relented once he pulled down his pants and mooned them.
He revealed that the main gate was in total lock-down due to a missing child. OK, no prob, but that would have been nice to know AN HOUR PRIOR. Everybody in line for Exodus could have kept an eye out instead of becoming steadily more and more frustrated with the wait. 20 minutes later, the gate opened and inched forward about 50 yards.
Other attendees in the cars around me were getting cranky, very cranky. One guy wandered from car to car, desperate for information. Someone else trotted a few feet from their car to relieve themselves in full view of us all and onto the playa floor. Others started drinking to kill time, always a bad idea before a long drive through the desert.
I had read about the new "pulse" system the administration had planned to trot out this year. Despite their noble intentions, guess what? This plan stunk worse than a Port-a-Pot after a virgin Burner has tipped it over while puking their brains out. The only thing that could have made this year's unbearable Exodus more tolerable would have been updates on BMIR, every ten minutes, at the very least. After two hours of waiting and with my bladder on the verge of exploding, I drove under the flag divider and pointed my car towards the highway, stopping only briefly during a white-out.
I was disgusted when I reached the turn-off to discover only a handful of volunteers running Exodus. They were confused and overwhelmed. A naive guy, no more than 21, bounded out of his Rangers truck to stop me at the gate. "Who are you," he demanded to know. I calmly explained that I was tired of waiting and had a family emergency. I absolutely needed to make a call in Gerlach, ASAP. "Ok, go ahead," the young Ranger spat at me with a sneer. "You're special. Very special!"
Of course, there was no emergency, other than that I had a long drive ahead of me and, if I had fallen asleep at the wheel, it would have resulted in one hell of a family crisis. Not that he knew this. That said, during future Burns, I will be using this devious tactic to avoid the nasty, irritating process that is Exodus.
You can cry "but what about radical self-reliance" until your lungs bleed but there HAS to be a better way to execute Exodus. Rather than merely moan and groan, I'd like to offer this suggestion.....
Continue with the pulse plan but in smaller groups so the line moves more than once every hour. Yes, it's an excellent concept that prevents engine idling and tons of carbon from drifting into the atmosphere. I think we can all agree on that. Also: snag professional volunteers to man the boards at BMIR on Sunday afternoon to keep the tired, cranky crowd at Exodus informed. We could have also used more Port-a-Pots out there. Many, many more. As it stands, the pulse system is deeply flawed and led to drinking, confusion and endangered the safety of thousands of Burners.
You can do better. We can all do better.
Back in Portland...
I arrived in town on Monday afternoon. Four days later, I'm still suffering from jet-lag after 3 weeks in Holland. I'm on the verge of complete exhaustion by 9 PM and I can't stop waking up at 4 AM. It's all very disconcerting and annoying. To make matters worse, I open my eyes every morning expecting to see my pal "M"'s couch in her Leiden apartment. I'm psychically in Portland but I guess my mind is still stuck in the Netherlands. Sigh....
Anyway, there's many stories to tell about Europe and Burning Man in the coming weeks, along with dozens of photos. I'll be rolling those out in the weeks to come while also struggling to keep this blog at least somewhat focused on Portland. After all, there's the title of this dang thing that I need to keep in mind....
Another goal: fix the comments. Blogger's system still refuses to work. If anyone has any tips or suggestions for another service, I'm all ears. Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.