Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Three weeks ago today, I arrived in Portland. I have been sick half of that time. What the hell?! There is something about Portland's microbial make-up that defies even my superhuman immune system (thank you public education and all of the lovely germ-carriers you serve for giving me one hell of an immune system). Mario, one of the friends I'm living with, says I just haven't been exposed to Portland's germs and it'll get better. I hope so because I'm over it. I have this super rattly cough and it's obnoxious when trying to fall asleep at night. Also, my knuckles have been permanently cold for two days now. The rest of my hands are warm, but my knuckles feel like they've been hanging out in the freezer. I considered stopping by the drug store to buy gauze and sport tape so I could wrap my knuckles and hopefully keep them warm, but I thought that would just make me look like a boxer or MMA fighter. Not a desired effect In other news, I had a job interview yesterday. I was really anxious about it and had a long train ride to ruminate and make myself more nervous. I plugged in my ipod and I'm happy to say I have found the perfect song to relax before an interview. Here it is: The Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 I'm signing up for a 24 hour zine contest, which is pretty ambitious considering that I've never actually self-published before. The writing will be easy. We'll see about the publishing. I have to come up with a zine idea, write 24 pages, make at least one copy with illustrations (or, in my case, other people's pictures), and bind it in 24 hours. I'm doing it simply to kick my own butt into gear. I have been writing like a machine here, because inspiration is everywhere. But historically, I never follow through with publishing anything. I've decided that needs to change, and what better way than a little baptism by fire? Finally, this has totally become me: I've been thinking a lot about my biking here in Portland. I've recently become infatuated with a zine called Taking the Lane. It's a zine about female bicycle commuters and the challenges and triumphs we face. The most recent one that I read was about biking and our bodies. In the forward, the editors talk about how bicycle commuting is still heavily dominated by men. I believe I read that only 30% of the population of bicycle commuters is female (it might actually be less than that). The percentage is higher in Portland, but I've definitely been looking around as I bike the city and noticing that I am in the minority. It's kind of cool, because it makes me feel all avant-garde and what have you, but it's also problematic. I have had men try to give me tips about how to take care of my bike on the Max (Light Rail), and even lifting my bike off the rack for me, which I find completely depowering and absolutely annoying. I am perfectly capable of lifting my own bike and one of my intense pleasures is enjoying the fluidity with which I can lift my bike and carry it up and down the multiple flights of stairs to get down to the Max station. Please don't insult my taking my bike off a rack that's one foot off the ground for me. I have also noticed that women take the brunt of drivers' rage at cyclists. I have never once observed a driver being confrontational toward a male cyclist even though I have observed several male cyclists behaving obnoxious, rude, and even antagonistic toward drivers. On the other hand, I have witnessed on a couple of occasions where drivers have yelled at or nearly hit female cyclists to make a point. On one occasion during a group ride I was involved with, the leader of our ride (a female) rang her bell at a man who was getting out to have his car parked by valet. She simply wanted him to know that we were there and that swinging his door open without paying attention might hurt one of us. He screamed at her "I'm parking, you bitch!" Now, I'm pretty sure he was an out-of-towner, as this was in front of a hotel downtown and most Portlanders are way too passive-aggressive to say something like that to a cyclist. It still bugged me. Anyway, that's my rant. But I have had to become like Fred Armisen in the above sketch, because drivers just cut it too close. Oregon law says that if a cyclist does not have a bike lane they may take the lane. I read somewhere before moving here that, you should really take the lane (like place you and your bike at least 2 feet from the curb or edge of the lane). If you try to make yourself small out of consideration for drivers, they will take advantage of it and drive way too close to you. It's true. In fact, when I take the lane, I ride square in the middle of it. I have already nearly been hit about 6 times. If they want to pass me, they can get in the other lane, damn it. I mean, really. I'm the one puffing and sweating up these gigantic hills only to gain minimal speed and reprieve on a downhill. All you have to do, driver, is slow down for a moment until you can pass me and then press your foot ever so slightly on the gas pedal. My efforts take priority over your self-importance in this case, buddy. Hah!
Friday, June 22, 2012
It's a weird day. I'm not feeling well again. The weather is cloudy but not raining like it promised. And the job market is pretty dried up this week. All of this leaves me feeling fatigued, but not downtrodden. That contributes more to the weird day than all the funky circumstances. I've spent the day moseying through job searches, perusing garage sales, drinking tea and eating toast with Strawberry Rhubarb jam. Not super productive, but it feels nice, especially considering how active my week has been. I went on two group bike rides to celebrate Critical Mass/Pedalpalooza. The first was a Portlandia bike tour and the second was a zine bike tour. The Portlandia bike tour was about 40-50 people, a lot of whom were bike enthusiasts. There was a positive energy and lots of bell-ringing, shouting of Portlandia quotes, and exchanging of quips with passers-by. Everyone in Portland associates Critical Mass, exclusively with the World Bike Naked Ride that happened last Sunday evening. I'm guessing you probably can infer what the World Bike Naked Ride entails. Anyway, on both of our rides we got a lot hollers about why we weren't naked or shouldn't we be taking our clothes off. Each time one person from the ride would ask why the holler-er wasn't naked. I figured they had a point. From where I come from, riding a bike, even in a group setting doesn't automatically mean you're itching to do it naked. In fact, I wouldn't be so afraid of the World Bike Naked Ride, except for biking naked sounds quite painful. I'll be keeping my clothes on, thank you, and not because I'm shy about my body, but because I want to keep all my tender bits in tact. Once again, I digress. The Portlandia ride was rowdy and raucous-- a festive mood to be sure. The Zinester's Ride was a little different. These people are passionate about radical culture, do-it-yourself, and self-publishing. It was a smaller group of riders (about 10-15) and they were very warm and welcoming. As some of you may know, this blog is simply serving as a stand-in until I complete my zine. I have one zine that I am writing about my move to Portland and two ideas for zines that I haven't started (one about pole dancing and one about relationships between sisters). I am intimidated, however, by the process of actually self-publishing. Writing I can do; publishing, even if it is just cut-and-paste with a copy machine, feels like a whole other animal. I was able to learn about the many businesses that support zines and, most pertinent to me, the Independent Publisher's Resource Center (IPRC) that resides in Southeast Portland. Along the way, as we stopped at these venues, one of the participants would read from their zine or talk about the certificate program they were completing at the IPRC. They were a tight-knit group, who also readily welcomed outside enthusiasts crashing their party (like me). I felt very at home. In fact, one of the women who was on the ride spoke with me at length about where she was from and having lived in San Fransisco (another city I would like to live in, that's how we started talking). She mentioned that she never felt like the Bay Area was home and Portland did. I said "You know, the weirdest thing for me is that I've been here two weeks and I'm settling in. I'm already settled. I'm invested in living here no matter what and I don't even have a house or a job yet." She agreed, saying that before she and her husband even had a permanent residence in Portland and were couch-crashing at a friend's, they knew that this was their home. That's Portland. You just try it on and find that it fits perfectly. Living in Portland reminds me of when I was in college. Every lifestyle is welcome and people are passionate. I've never found more adults in one place who whole-heartedly believe in the lifestyle they are living, whether that's alternative or mainstream. And you can find your niche for either lifestyle effortlessly, just like in college. Free newspapers, forums, posters plastered all over the telephone poles in the city-- all of these resources provide endless amounts of "stuff-to-do." Portland is just easy. Everything is easy here, from riding your bike, to learning public transportation, to drinking beer on a budget, and making new friends. My song of choice for contemplation: Monogold- Dead Sea Minerals http://youtu.be/K_AiTZGg19I Irrelevant, yet juicy side note: On the zine ride, I met someone I really like. Two weeks in Portland and I've already developed a crush. Goodness, what's the matter with me? I think I will be seeing her on Saturday when I go to the AmaZine event at the IPRC. We'll see what comes of it!
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The one-year-old with whom I am living brought home a delightful stomach bug from daycare, so I spent the last two days laying in bed, sleeping it off. Today, I finally felt well enough to go work out. On my way to the gym, I stopped by New Seasons (the local organic grocery chain store) and grabbed The Portland Mercury. The Mercury is one of two free newspapers that is printed weekly and features all the cool stuff to do in town for the hip and trendy (like Westword for you Coloradans reading this). I like to read The Mercury to find group bike rides and free events where I can meet people, like the one I'm going to this evening. So, I'm perusing the newspaper today and I find Lovelab, the section of personal ads. Jackpot. I mean, what better way to waste a couple of hours? My favorite are the "I saw U" adds. I'm totally fascinated by these missed connections. It's like these ads are a last-ditch effort to maybe, hopefully redo what you wish you'd done in the first place. Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few samples for your Hump Day (Note: All ads are written exactly as seen in The Merc, it's more fun to read them as they were without my editing anyway): Ripped Jeans on Yellow Max You were a clean cut boy with dark sunglasses, standing with an ipod. You kept looking. I was the punky boy with ripped jeans and gray beanie. You smiled when you got off the Max. Let's ride together next time. When: Thursday, June 7, 2012. Where: Yellow Max, chinatown. You: Man. Me: Man Kneed my knee gave out or something and you ofered to look at it. i said no thanks, b/c dropping trou your restaurant seemed weird. you can guard my life anytime. When: Monday June 4, 2012. Where: PSU. You: Woman. Me:Man. Happy Hour Holiday Hero To the delectable, fair-haired lone beauty with the green All-star high tops drinking whiskey and a micro trying to study while watching NBA playoffs, I salute you. When: Monday, May 28, 2012. Where: Holman's Happy Hour. You: Woman. Me: Man. ...and my all-time favorite for its weirdness/creativity: Venus in Spurs? Celestial viewing party at Omsi-- I entered a trance as I saw fiddle-fucking with the telescope projection on your chest. My sunblindness made a complete once over and supermarket wink implausible. The jazz flue further eclipsed any logic. Let me be your Lioness. When: Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Where: Omsi. You: Woman. Me: Woman. And speaking of Hump Day. This was the add I saw next to the personals. So fabulous, so Portland!
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Every time I feel homesick, Portland loves on me. I was pretty lonely at Pride today because everyone was with a lover or their friends and I didn't have anyone to share the experience with. I decided to stop at a bar on my way home, to ease the pain. I cried while drinking my Widmer Hefeweizen and wearing my aviators as armor. I anticipate this, but knowing it was going to happen didn't make it easier. It just helped me understand that it would pass. In the midst of my silent blubbering, this crazy guy in his mid-forties come coasting down the hill to the bar. He's decorated with the hallmark war wounds of a bike accident. He sits next to me on the patio so he can watch his bike, which he didn't lock up. Predictably, he talks to me. He's so warm and friend and he reminds me of my dad, but I'm attracted to him. The human contact yanks me out of my gloom. His two lady friends show up and I play the part of the voyeur. One thing I will never give up is my gawking, especially in Portland. People in Portland feel safe airing out their private affairs in public because other Portlandians give them the dignity of privacy. I don't. I love to hear people's inane conversations-- imagine when my ears settle upon the intimacies of life. Yes! So, these three individuals are talking about their son's and daughter's indiscretions, lies, and screw-ups. The crazy bicycle guy talks about and shows his massive bruise from when he got hit by a car on his bike. They're talking about their divorces and their dating and I am eating it up. I almost feel like they are choosing to share this with me (I mean, they've caught me smiling/staring/visibly listening several times and they just smile). And this man, he smiles at me sweetly when we make eye contact and tells me he likes my shoes. Punctuating their lovely exchange is the owner of the bar that I predict will become a haunt of mine while I living on the west side: she says to me as she brings me a third round of the delightful hefeweizen, "Your hair is beautiful! You look like you belong in Vogue." I thank her profusely. That's it. Depression crisis averted. Portland is only as good as the people who populate it. Today, several strangers (including the crazy bicycler and the bar owner) convinced me that I will find my place here... in time.
I learned what a squat-house was today. Evidently, it's any abandoned building and it can be occupied b homeless people as long as they do not steal or vandalize, and they leave peacefully if an offer asks them to leave. I learned this from a guy who looked about 16-years-old at the Gay Pride Parade. He asked me if I was gay, too, I think because I was alone and don't necessarily read one way or the other (because I'm not). But really?! Where the fuck have I been that I've never heard of this elusive squat-house? I asked if this was an Oregon-specific law-- as of yet, no information. I guess I have a back-up plan, though.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
I had my first interview this morning with a large, upscale department store for which I worked when I was getting my degree in Design and Merchandising. At the time, this company was the perfect fit for me, but I left them because, even though I didn't know it yet, retail wasn't really the place for me. I thought it was just the company that wasn't a good fit. Anyway, in my desperation to find a job, any job, I applied with them and was contacted quickly. I like this company because they treat their employees well. However, this particular position requires me to work in customer service and one of the quotas that I need to make each day I work is to sign at least one person up for the "rewards program." This sounds innocuous (they did that on purpose), but it's actually their store credit card. Now, I believe myself to be perfectly capable of meeting this quota, but I was instantly uncomfortable at the suggestion. At a time when I moving into a do-it-yourself mentality that privileges self-sufficiency over consumerism, I find myself struggling with convincing people to sign themselves into more debt. Debt (both credit card and student loan debt) has gotten me into trouble, and I am still struggling to climb out of it. How can ask people to make the mistakes I made, knowing that they will pay for it far into their future? I also found the company's labeling of the credit card (the "rewards program") deceptive and feeding into the buy-crap culture in which we live. Part of my move here was to purge myself of my own obsessive consumerism and live a more simplistic, self-reliant lifestyle. I'm now debating whether I can accept this job. In a city where unemployment is at 8.5% (not the highest, but still high), I have been offered a pretty sweet deal if I get this job (which I think I will. I interviewed well.) I would be at an "elevated position," which means I would get paid more and could live a more comfortable lifestyle. My principles are telling me not to accept the job, but if don't accept, I have to wait longer to move into a house, get my dog from Colorado, and start living my life here. Hmmm... Maybe I won't get the job, and the problem will be solved for me?
Friday, June 15, 2012
Portland is where happy hours go to die. Dollar-fifty pints, $2 wells, whatever you want. But here's what makes happy hours so magical in the City of Roses: it's nearly impossible to miss them! Most places in Portland have two happy hours-- one during the late afternoon and one at night. And they often last for five hours each. A bar's hours of operation sans happy hour can be as little as three hours. Thank goodness I have to work for my hooch by biking to the bars. Otherwise, I'd be sporting one awesome beer belly.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Alas, this is not a story of boy-meets-girl or girl-meets-girl or any other variation thereof. Actually, it's a band. Guys, I have officially found the perfect song for bicycle commuting.. at least for now. I was so excited to listen to He Met Her's song "Control" on my iphone today that I plugged my headphones in for my ride home from the gym. I got home about ten minutes faster than normal, which is pretty impressive considering that I was dancing/convulsing on my bike the whole way home. Something about this song compels me to sing and dance in public while riding my bike. I got a lot of friendly stares and encouraging smiles. They just thought I was happy, I'm sure. Crazy and happy. He Met Her- Control
Monday, June 11, 2012
Dear Reader, It has come to my attention that I have been using facebook to chronicle my journey here in Portland. That relationship is not working out for me or my facebook friends. I can't get in enough writing to satiate my need to expound upon the events and emotions I am experiencing, and my poor facebook friends have to endure way too many posts from me. Annoying. In lieu of facebook and as an addition to the zine that I am writing on the side, In Transition is my attempt to work through the anxieties, joys, frustrations, and bizarre episodes that I face in my reckless move to Portland. For anyone who may later follow this blog who is not acquainted with me (though I suspect only friends and family will actually endure my verbose rantings and idiotic sense of humor), I recently quit my job as an English teacher and moved from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon (not Maine). I did so without any job prospects, without a house (I'm bunking at a friend's house), without a car, and, ultimately, without any real plan. All of this unknown has been inspired by way too much zine reading and an intense desire to become a part of the radical community. Portland got me into zines, independent publishing, bicycle polo, anarchy, social activism, and living on the fringe over two years ago. I came for a visit, but wasn't so sure about this city. But the people won me over. The people make Portland. So, here I am. Begging to be one of them and hoping you find me and my journey (both geographical and existential) as amusing as I do. Write Soon! Carly