Saturday, December 27, 2008

no more snow

my first white christmas. i now know why the eskimos had so many words for snow, because there are so many different kinds. walking in the snow last monday there were at least three layers my foot went through i trudged through the white mess that stopped transportation in its tracks. first there was the light, fluffy snow that was just falling. there a mold of inch thick frozen snow that kept the shape of the drifts in place. and under that a layer of thick, loose snow from the days previous. each step cracked and crunched leaving a huge crater in the drift. someone told me that this has been the most snow portland has seen in the history of weather record keeping, which means one hundred years. only some of the train lines were operational, and then the trains that would run would be late and crowded. and the buses were either blocked or late or crowded. and i just walked the four miles to work a few days because i couldn't deal with the transportation system any longer. but fortunately it warmed up a little yesterday and it started raining today and slowly, slowly, slowly all the snow is melting away. now you just have to watch for the icy quagmires of melting snow. there are puddles out there, locked in by the last of the snow, in which my entire foot up to the ankle would sink. and let's see if the river overflows. how many more months 'til summer?

i haven't done much the past few days. i worked six days last week, so now i'm resting. and watching the cats while helen and garrett are out of town. i love the cats. you know i do.

these are helen and garrett's cats.

this is thor

this one is butters.

vicious here.

the melting snow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


1968: just after the summer of love. yet according to this opinion poll from '68 republished today by the new york times, there was very little love for the modern world in the american people. some highlights: 81% think that law and order had broken down in the u. s.; 72% thought nixon a man of high integrity; 55% said scientific research is changing the world too fast; 49% felt more patriotic after the assassination of bobby kennedy; 31% felt that martin luther king, jr. had brought his assassination on himself. the top worries of 1968 in order: vietnam, civil rights, racial strife, crime (and juvenile delinquency), cost of living (inflation, etc). 2008: the economy, iraq/war, lack of money, health care, unemployment. 67% of the nation thought that black americans were asking for more than they were ready for, but 56% disagreed that blacks have less native intelligence than whites. i think a some of these statistics are kind of surprising. i think it's interesting that the top concerns of the years have changed so drastically. while the cost of living was mentioned in 1968, economic concerns have multiplied and narrowed in 2008. and civil rights issues, while not listed, might have become generalized. sometimes i've wondered if the past decades of the twentieth century have been as different from one another as we're led to believe outside of fashion decisions, but i think these polls do show a change in experience. the experiences my generation faces are completely different from those that my parents did, and while i can relate to some of the civil rights issues that plagues the nation during that era, i have not seen such a struggle affect the nation like it had. i think the wording about modern science reveals a huge change in our perception over the past years. i think science is another field that has been narrowed and specified. i no longer think we could poll for trust in science in general, but would rather need to be much more specific considering all the ways science and technology now affect our lives in a multiplicity of ways.

i wonder if polling toward the economy in different decades shows a trend of ever increasing multiplicity of categories or an oscillation. like i wonder if during the economic crisis in the late 80's and early 90's if specific questions and categories about the economy, breaking economic concerns down into money, housing, health care, inflation, etc, wouldn't become more generalized in the mid- to late 90's during the height of the .com wealth. i think now it will both imperative and interesting for the nation to watch as we prioritize our concerns over our own economy. will health care be pushed to the back burner under obama out of necessity? will green technology initiatives really be a structural part of obama's "recovery" plan?

i think it's a really great time to invest in green technology. and it looks like GM and Ford are beginning to look in the right direction. both these companies have plans for focusing on electric and hybrid cars. icheline maynard for the new york times notes that, "G.M. has pinned its future on the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric car due two years from now, and another small Chevrolet, the Cruze, aimed at many of the same customers who have bought Toyota Corollas the last 40 years," and "Ford, which did not seek federal assistance because its cash reserves are stronger, is adapting two European models, the Focus and the Fiesta, for the American market, and is about to introduce a hybrid-electric version of its Fusion, a family sedan." however, the third of the big three, chrysler, seems like be stymied: "Chrysler discontinued its only hybrid model earlier this fall. It is relying on Nissan of Japan to develop its small cars... Chrysler showed future models that included more new Jeeps, including an electric one, new pickups and muscle cars." so perhaps the big three, or at least two of the companies, will make it after all. although, i must say that it is predicted that if one of the three declares bankruptcy, the other two will probably be forced to followed considering how much the image of the three is tied to together especially now.

there is another american company that works with cars now that i'm especially interested in. the company does not actually produce cars; they're leaving that up to renault (and recently some japanese car companies i believe). better place is supplying the power. they are restructuring how cars get power and use power, much in the way that thomas friedman suggests in his book. these cars will be electric, and the batteries currently installed in the cars keep 100 miles to the charge. better place has designed new quick chargers and recharging will be a lot like a cell phone plan rather than just refueling when you need it, which helps regulate cost at different levels and regulates usages. i first read about this company about a year ago in good magazine when it was planning with israel to recreate an electric infrastructure in that country. now the company has extended plans to include denmark, australia, hawaii, and san francisco. it looks like i have yet another reason to eventually move nine hours south of portland.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

portland in white

"it's a marshmellow world in the winter..." you know that's my favorite song. and here in portland, it kind of is a marshmellow world; a brutally cold and mean winter wonderland. yet despite how horribly chilly it is, the snow does seem magical. i woke up this morning ready to walk to the store to buy some ingredients to make muffins. my coworker kevin was having a brunch today at his place in john's landing and so i was going to bring muffins with me. yet leaving the apartment i realize that the snow the weatherman has been predicting for days has finally arrive. i rush in and tell josh and booth. and unlike the snow i've seen when i was young, these flakes were coming down fast and furious. a frigid wind is blowing from the east sending snow everywhere. i decided to go out and find coffee and muffin mix, so i bundled up and headed out. i had to keep my eyes on the ground or the wind would blow the snow into them. my hands froze even through the gloves. and when i arrived at crema, the line for coffee was long. but there is a certain satisfaction to be found in the crunching of snow under your shoes, and the wind agitates the wind chimes all around the neighborhood so the streets are bright wind and filled with soft music.

when i finally got home, there was no time to make muffins if i was going to catch the bus down to john's landing, so i just walked out the door and over to the lloyd center to catch the train downtown. the snow wasn't bad downtown, the city being too close to the river to really get too cold, but that wind was brutal as i waited at the bus stop. after thirty minutes, when the bus should have arrived ten minutes before, i called trimet to figure out when my bus would finally arrive. "35 bus to macadam: next bus in... six-ty-seven minutes..." no, i decided there was no way i waiting an hour to take a bus anywhere and perhaps get stranded there when the bus stopped running because of the weather. so i ran across the street to stumptown, bought some coffee and headed home.

booth and i then decided to grab some brunch, so we headed around the corner to pambiche, the cuban restuarant, a delicious idea. i had almond french toast with fruit and cuban coffee while booth and i watched the cars and pedestrians walk through the 28th and glisan intersection. we watched a stranger help a van stuck in the slush and a mother pulling her children behind her on a sled. now we're at home trying to stay warm and dry and i'm trying to figure out how i'm going to get to work tomorrow. that 35 bus best not be an hour late tomorrow morning. i would kill myself. especially since booth just reported to me that says the temperature is 26 degrees but feels like 12. gross.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

on marriage and children at twenty-three

have i been responsible enough these past five years after graduating high school? probably not. and one of the reasons i moved to oregon was to put off big responsibility just a little longer. i didn't want to go to graduate school. i didn't want to find a career. i didn't want to settle down. i remember seeing these guys in a band passing through birmingham in a bar one night, in the garage i think, and i remember thinking, "how does that feel, moving across the country staying where ever there's a place to sleep, seeing the strange bits of america that not a lot of people get to see?" i'd never been able to be so completely free of responsibility. and i still am not. i have a job now. i have an apartment. i have no plans to move. i want to see how my life here in portland develops for a while, so long as i have a job.

and moving across the country, settling back into a routine, i realized i'm just not the type of person who likes an unstructured life. i like routine. i like having a plan and direction. and here in portland i think there are types of freedom i was missing in birmingham, but i've kind of found a similar life here across the country. however, despite my acknowledgment that i'm done with believing i can be irresponsible and wild, there are certain steps that seem so remote to me.

first of all, marriage. people getting married absolutely scare me. even if the relationship seems to work wonderfully and marriage seems to be a natural progression for the couple, the idea of marriage seems so remote to me. i just look at couples announcing their engagement and think, "but i'm too young!" i feel as if i have miles to go before i'm anywhere near ready settling down with another person. and this may stem from the fact that i've never really had a long term relationship with anyone, but such commitment seems to belong to an age group i have not reached yet. having said all this, congratulations and best wishes to those couples who have announced their engagements in the past few weeks. i'm so happy for all my friends getting married, i'd just like to say, i'm far from that point.

second, children scare me. not the actual children. i really do love children. but the idea of taking care of one scares me. hell, when josh goes out of town in two weeks to visit his family for christmas, he needs me to take care of his dog. the prospect of this seems daunting. i haven't had anyone except my beloved feline genevieve rely on me to take care of them. and genevieve was low maintenance. she didn't need to be walked. i didn't have any time frame in which i needed to be home. i just needed to play with her and feed her and she slept with me at night. but i'll have to get up earlier than usual and feed josh's dog and walk her; come home after work to walk with her again. and if i go out, i'll need to make sure not to stay out too long so that she can be walked again before going to bed. this is just a dog. children need far more attention, a lot more care. there are a lot of pregnant women in my office, with husbands or boyfriends, with children already, my age or younger, degree-less, and i think: how can you do this? how can you come to work pregnant everyday and be willing to give up so much time in your early twenties and most importantly, how can you afford having a child working this job? i can barely afford to live without anyone relying on me.

all i'm saying is that while sometimes i feel old and boring, too responsible in comparison to the twenty-somethings who drink and go out and party and go crazy, i still feel way too young for marriage and children.

Monday, December 8, 2008

the mondays

it was a mondayish sort of monday. i wasn't even in a monday mood when i went to work this morning. it wasn't as cold out this morning. i had lunched packed. i ate breakfast. i got to work on time. but the people i talked to on the phone were all having mondays. blue mondays. there's just no reason to be rude. sure, if you're not feeling upbeat, if you're having a monday, i can't understand. but there is simply no reason to be rude. luckily for me i had pumpkin pie with my lunch, stephen colbert's i am america (and so can you!) to read, and my winning attitude and stunning charm to get me through my day.

now, i have to look forward to dinner, iron man, and brian greene's the elegant universe which i picked up from the library this afternoon. and tomorrow, another day at the poop farm. "way down on the poop farm; got me working late nights." there should be musical notes surrounding that quotation, like with close captioning.

oh, i always have another commute on the train to look forward to as well. like today i saw a boy with a floppy and the close cut sides of his hair dyed with leopard spots. and the other day i witnesses a drug sale i think. i was sitting in the second seat from the front and this young black man was sitting in the row in front of me. at one of the stops downtown on yamhill, another gentleman boards, sits by the black man. They don't seem to know each other at first; they certainly don't say anything to each other. then the white man discreetly hold out his clenched first toward the other. the black man quickly takes whatever is in the fist and the white man tucks something in his plastic bag. then by the motion of the black gentleman's arm i can tell he's counting money. at the very next stop, one stop after the white guy got on, he quickly exits the train. at the stop after this, the black guy gets off. ah! the fun of public transportation!

and i can look forward to the gloves madre packed in the packages i received today. now my hands won't turn red and stiffen during my bike commute to work! thanks mom!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

another weekend in portland

the weather has been brutal these past few days. no matter how tightly bundled you are, how layered your clothing, the wind still bites at your face and hands. and i ride my bike in this weather, leaving the house a little after five o'clock each morning. josh says, portland drinks in bars during the winter, becomes sluggish, avoids the cold. and that's true everywhere i suppose, but the weather will not stop me. there may be a point when i start riding the bus to work in the morning, but it's going to have to be pretty cold for that. i guess i just need to find that ski mask i have someone so that the tip of my nose doesn't freeze off during my daily ride. i pass so many others at five in the morning biking; what do they do to keep warm? i shall have to observe and report back. the only good thing i can say about the cold is that the portlanders i have talked to predict that it may get cold enough this year to snow here at least once which would be fun. i love snow! snow, and kittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string...

however horrible the cold wind has made us feel, it has not stopped us from going out these past three days. josh, booth, and i braved the cold thursday and friday to attend the first of the month gallery openings in the pearl on thursday and two random openings in the southeast and north. i actually saw some interesting art thursday night in the pearl, some of the first great art i've seen here in portland. i usually find myself walking around mumbling to myself, "if you can't make it good, make it big and red..." because the art i've seen here is almost always never good nor big and red. the trend right now in portland is toward small, comic, colorful, fantastical works. sometimes stylistically they resemble merrilee challiss' work, except the three trillion guys and gals here don't have the talent, don't concentrate on the detail, don't work on the scale that merrilee does. it's super disheartening. however, thursday night i was pleased to finally shift through all the bullshit and see some serious art with a capital a, including stuffed cats stitched with pornographic images, a series of photographs of fishermen in icy, tumultuous seas cradling fish, and another series of photos in the gallery next door featuring portraits of people hanging upside down, their eyes bloodshot, their faces slightly pinched. some snapshots of this art can be seen in the last photo post.

last night, after work (i took some extra hours; why not?), i took josh by the arm and met booth at the blue diamond where he had been hanging around for a few hours like the rest of the odd characters who feature into that establishment. i drank a martini and then booth and i went out to the holocene. josh didn't feel up to dancing with all the other hipsters in portland, so booth and i rode our bikes down there alone. it took awhile for the scene to pick up, but we danced a bit and drank a bit. i talked to one guy who was pretty friendly before he left to start dancing. and really booth and i left fairly early. i'm old: i work all day, get grumpy when i haven't had dinner (at 4.30), and get tired early.

what you'll notice is missing from this post is a description of the political rallies i attended, the shows i went to, the crazy homeless people i had to wrestle. i don't live in that city. recently, my friend antonio sent me a message which ended with this request: "you should post more things about your new life in portland, no more meditations on complacency either. post exciting pictures of you doing exciting portland things, like going to gay bath houses, protesting globalism, vegan bbq's, etc." however, my new life is a lot like my old one unfortunately. not a lot has changed here. and even all the cool kids in america think "portland is the new san francisco," this town is too laid back to do a lot. there aren't really many protests against globalism, not since i've been here. while i know where the vegan neighborhood is, where the vegan coffeeshop, the vegan bakery, and the vegan tattoo parlor is located, not a lot of people here in portland are vegans, and i can't name a single friend who is. i have met a female to male transgendered individual who works in a bathhouse, but i would never actually go to one. besides, that's not even a portland phenomenon. does anyone remember the article in birmingham's black and white concerning the screening room? please.

so while i'm up for experimenting and investigating new ideas and trends here in portland, right now, not a lot has changed. i've been here exactly two months and there hasn't been enough time to go out and really get a feel for the culture here. and a lot of what i have seen here of portland's culture either a. doesn't seem that different from everywhere else, or b. doesn't really interest me. it'll just take time. but i am committed to taking my camera out, going out more, and taking pictures of everything. stay tuned.

Friday, December 5, 2008

la nuit americaine

these photos i'm posting represent a somewhat typical day in my life right now. but i guess there's still plenty of time for everything to change.

another post later.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

west coast slacking

what i've decided about portland: the people who are rude in portland are generally people from portland. they have bumper stickers like: "slow down! isn't that why you moved here?" and variations of this have been said to my face, as when i was walking into the supermarket the other day and some crazy man with a crane was apparently angry that i didn't wait twenty minutes for him to walk up a ram and through a door, though i didn't hear much of his complaint because i was already in the store and on my way. in the same store today, i believe the man at the cash register was making fun of me. he kept talking to me in that slow, drawn out, california accent as we talked about honey crisp apples or whatever. he even went so far as to throw out a groovy or some piece of california patois at me every once in a while. his eyes were bloodshot, his hair long and gray, so i figure, sure, he is some old hippie from california: nice, but a little too "far out" to not be slightly annoying. he hands me my receipt, showing me how much i would have saved if i had a safeway card, tells me goodbye twice i think, then turns to the next customer. i begin to collect my bags when i hear him greet the gentleman behind me. the cashier's voice suddenly lacks any of the drawling california accent it had before; his sentences short, his speech rapid. i look at him, my mouth gaping, trying to understand what's just happened.

do i seem laid back and west coast to anyone else? i certainly don't see myself as such. i'm still a little too east coast for portland: i want to get there fast, i want to get things done, and i don't want to stop and have a nap or a snack or anything else. i mean come on, i don't even know what to do with a forty-five minute lunch at work. that's just way too much time with nothing to do but relax! so how is then that i seem like some young lazy west coast kid? i don't understand this at all.

portland. in the next few days, if i can manage to wake early enough and remember to take my camera, i'm going to try to publish here a few photos of my day as it is now shaped through a regular schedule. i see a portland at five o'clock in the morning that few others are privileged to see.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


i've been trying to closely follow the situation in thailand. i'm always interested in protest, whether i find it effective or justified or not. the situation in thailand is interesting because it sits at a strange interstice of justified and effective. is the current prime minister somchai wongsawat's associations with the past prime minister thaksin shinawatra reason enough to oust him from his position? it's hard for me to understand the differences in perspective between the urban thai and the rural folk. i do think however that if a people is seriously concerned and unhappy with the process in which their government operates, it must do everything in its power as a collective to change that government. the protests in thailand, the takeover of the airports, have paralyzed the country. these people are affecting a response from their actions, they have affected their own agency. while the desired response from the government has arrived for the thai protesters yet, i think it remarkable that such a group effort could be effective in this way. taking over an airport seems to be what it takes.
so here's the response from our government and the european union as quoted in an article from the new york times this morning:

"The United States State Department called the airport seizures 'not an appropriate means of protest' and urged protesters to 'to walk away from the airports peacefully.'

"European Union ambassadors in Bangkok issued a statement that called the seizures of the airports 'totally inappropriate.'

"'We urge the protesters to evacuate the airports peacefully without delay in order to avoid a major consular crisis and its economic consequences for Thailand,' the European ambassadors said."

i read this and was appalled. inappropriate? certainly the international community should be concerned that thailand, the government, society, and commerce, has been paralyzed and the protest could potentially be economically devastating. but a people must do whatever it takes to affect change. and who are we to call this effort inappropriate when we invaded a country to change its governmental regime for that country, democratic philanthropists that we are. i think this statement by the state department is completely inappropriate. who ever issued this statement could not even offer a solution or a constructive comment in regard to the situation. he or she just offers this chiding comment directed toward the citizenry of thailand.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

young couples dining out

the alabama senator richard shelby continuously disappoints me, as do almost all Alabama politicians. here in oregon, while there are disappointing politicians as well, some amazing individuals also work for the state as well. however, i read an article this morning from the birmingham weekly (which I still read despite being translocated) concerning senator shelby's opposition against bailouts for American automobile manufacturers as well as Citigroup, an organization that has gained a lot of attention in the past few days. the post by Kyle Whitmire notes that Shelby thinks bankruptcy would be a better idea than any sort of financial bailout, though the only reasoning offered by Shelby in the article is that a bailout might not work and would just be a waste. which is true. would a bailout work? is a bailout necessary? while i believe a bailout is necessary for both the big three car makers in america and Citigroup, i also worry that perhaps these corporations will crumble anyway. the chevy announced that its volt will hit the markets a year later than planned and cost $40,000. while the car is a plug-in and american-made, what will differentiate it enough to make it more desirable over hybrids made by foreign car companies. "american-made" doesn't mean much to the liberal, middle-class individuals and couples who can afford to buy hybrid vehicles. so where is chevy's advantage?

my answer to the economic crisis has been: pretend it doesn't exist. it seems like the best thing to do is to continue to spend money as one would were there not a financial crisis, permitting your budget and projected job stability. this makes sense considering a conservative economic stratagem these past years has tried to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes, supposedly so that the middle class has more money to spend. however, tax cuts and stimulus packages didn't provide enough to truly stimulate spending. however, now the economy surely shows a higher percentage of saving as people consider the economic future. thomas friedman in his opinion piece in this sunday's times even advises young people dining out to go home and save money instead. friedman sees this crisis far from over. contrary to friedman here, it seems to me that spending is generally what will stimulate the economy, however, i will admit that due to the nature of this financial crisis, simple spending will not stop the slow failure of mortgages and in conjunction, the banks which hold those mortgages. so is saving the answer? at this time, like we need an environmentalist to tell us what the average person can do daily to help save the environment, we need an economist to tell us what the average person can do to help the economy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

tell me why i hate wednesdays

sipping a bowl of my favorite soup, cashew ginger carrot, i'm hoping to warm myself this evening. i've been cold all day. then hot. then cold. then hot. i have the cold and my body can't decide whether it's hot or cold. my throat is sore and i've been coughing all day. my nose is beginning to run. my whole body aches. i almost fell asleep at my desk, and for the half day i couldn't figure out where i was or what i was doing. it was a long day to say the least, especially after waking late and biking as quickly as possible all the way to the southwest. i took the bus back this afternoon so i could avoid the physical expenditure, and i'll probably do so tomorrow. i was so happy two days ago. remember? so, if i've visited you recently, you should probably lysol everything you own you'll be as confused and aching as i am now.

and now, drugs and a movie then sleep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

and now for something completely different

the weather and my life here in portland have plateaued. the last leaves fall from the trees, the air is generally cold except for the unseasonable warmth we've enjoyed through the weekend, and i expect the temperature to stay the same for a while until winter fully sets in around us. i found a job answering phone calls to a translation service. it's not glamorous or exciting particularly, but it's a job here in portland, the feat at which i thought i'd never succeed. after working three days now, i understand that while the bus system is warm and pretty convenient and efficient, it's not the quickest way to work. when i leave the house in the morning, i decide whether i have enough energy to ride my bicycle all the way to southwest macadam. by bike, the commute is little over thirty minutes, a little farther than four miles i think. if i decide to ride the train into downtown first and cut my bicycle ride in half, the entire trip takes about forty five minutes. basically, my commute is shorter now than it was when i was driving to work from either the suburbs or downtown birmingham. although, i worry that once the winter weather does brutally set in, it will be too cold to ride my bike all that way, especially considering that right now i am working from six in the morning to two forty-five in the afternoon, so i leave the house a little after five to be at work.

and despite the mean hours, having a job here in portland makes me feel more like i actually live in this city and less like i'm just camping out here or that booth and i ran out of gas here and couldn't drive any farther. josh helps cement that feeling as well. friday night, josh had some of his friends over, and booth and i invited helen, for a game night. we played all the portland usuals; games with mysterious names and instructions like "salad bowl" (which does not reference american multi-culturalism at all) or "the best game ever," which is truly fun, though nothing like you would expect. we also played "apples to apples" which reminded me of the long hours spent working in the coffeeshop at birmingham-southern, where the students would come and play board games for hours, screaming at the top of their lungs while i tried to study or read or watch a movie. alas, we were also probably a little loud as there was plenty of wine to be had, but we didn't have a midterm exam in a week for which to study.

josh and i slept in the next morning through the rally against california's proposition 8, which i really did want to attend. i think it would be exciting to see how excited oregonians can get about certain issues. i haven't seen any coverage on the event yet, but hopefully it was spectacular here in portland. josh and i did however manager to convince booth to sit around with us and watch the first season of twin peaks for hours and hours. it was suddenly dark and we made ourselves stop and be sensible. and after that, what? a quest for pie. i was hoping for pumpkin. the cold wind was against my desires and josh and i decided not to brave the walk to the market. we did waddle over to the blue diamond (the bar behind the house) to inquire into the possibility of pie. our kindly bartender informed us sadly she had none, but she did make a key lime pie drink for josh, which i tasted and which had the affect of only making me crave pie more. in lieu of pie then, we stocked up on junk food, and curled up with the television, something i haven't done in what seems like a while.

sunday, more of the same, more twin peaks, more television. we lied on the couch and relaxed. i hadn't done that in portland yet. just had a lazy weekend. no clubs. no parties. no socializing. and that's when i felt comfortable here: when i was doing absolutely nothing. it was just me and josh curled up on the most ordinary weekend. that's what it was: ordinary.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

yes we can?

in the coming days, obama will hold a news conference to underscore that despite the great jubilation that pours forth from our country after his win, our new president elect will not be able to wave a magic wand and fix our nations woes. the problems our nation faces are substantial and the solution complex, even with a majority in both the house and senate. even i must admit that as i woke yesterday morning dreaming of our new president, it seemed like the entire world was celebrating and changing. It feels like we're living in historic times, and it feels like everything would finally change with the close of the election, that somehow we would feel more comfortable, less worried, that i'd wake up and find twenty dollars. yet really, nothing has changed in this two days. and whatever change does come is going to be slow and difficult. remember what i've been harping on forever: the first hundred days! traditionally, the president is said to have the first 100 days in office to affect any real policy change. nagourney and rutenberg for the times report that barack obama wants something more: "They said they would discourage the traditional yardstick for measuring the accomplishments of a new president — the first 100 days. Mr. Obama told an interviewer toward the end of his campaign that it was more appropriate to talk about the first 1,000 days." but words are not the actual constraints of presidency and barack is no superman. for clinton, health care reform became impossible to pass, which, as you know, has been my big issue this election, and i only hope obama finds a way to deal with this his first term. but at this point, with the country in the position that it is, i couldn't predict anything. i mean, everyone i know, including myself, figured that the stock market would sing for at least a day after obama was elected. instead, "A nearly 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday was a reminder that Mr. Obama’s election did not bring the financial crisis to a close." who saw that coming?

despite the uncertainty of our nation's economic and political position, as well as my own personally, i am certain that in less than two hours both sara c. and sara b. will arrive here in portland on this beautiful fall day. and by beautiful, i mean overcast and predictable. they'll get a real taste of portland weather in the cold months. booth and i have no definite plans for the saras right now, but i'm sure we'll find some way to fill our weekend. these are our first visitors from birmingham and i've missed them so much. i might cry when they have to leave on sunday.

Friday, October 31, 2008

vote by mail in oregon!

booth and i just received our ballots in the mail!
barack obama's name looks so pretty.
i'm so ready to vote.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

every color of his bruise

so, the wounds from my bike-cident are all healing smoothly if not slowly. this is the massive bruise i have on my thigh. and now, since i went running yesterday, my knee is stiff and painful. i need to keep my leg stretched out so that it doesn't hurt when i stand up. but i can not stop jogging! must keep going! must run a marathon (half) by the end of the year. right now, i'm back at square one, running two to four miles at a time. but i'll get back up there. my favorite path right now is down sandy boulevard from our apartment, to burnside, to the east bank trail by the willamette river all the way to OMSI and back home. that's around four miles round trip as far as i can estimate on the map. but today, i'll take a break. do so yoga. relax.

portland google electric

could google be your next power company? i say, google for president. this article reviews google's new interest in investing in renewable energy. here it is thomas friedman. of course, thomas friedman in his recent book, applauds google's interest in "clean electrons," but has one problem with the company's justification by equation, RE < C, meaning a need for renewable energy cheaper than coal. friedman say, "It is true that renewable energy that is cheaper than coal is necessary, but, as I have argued, it is not sufficient. We also need innovation to improve energy and resource productivity, and we need an ethic of conservation - without which RE < C could wipe out massive amounts of biodiversity." i think friedman is probably a little harsh on google at this point in his book, and i don't see how a need for cheap renewable resources would contribute to a loss of biodiversity, however i do agree that cheap renewable resources cannot be the only answer and that stringent conservation must be employed as well. as the article in the times points out, at just its data center in the dalles, or (not very far from portland at all) google uses, "50 megawatts — enough to power 37,500 homes — but was built to handle even more capacity." luckily, most of this power in the dalles is already generated by hydroelectric dam on the columbia river, and as the article notes google has always sought to reduce its consumption of energy and increase its efficiency, but friedman's point is that just assuring that such a large consumption of energy comes from a hydroelectric dam or kites producing wind power is not enough. data center and skyscrapers and every other company and household in america must invest and invent new ways to conserve energy and materials.

Monday, October 27, 2008

happy birthday mr. president

today is teddy roosevelt's birthday! happy one hundred and fiftieth!
and this the interview edmund morris conducted with mr. roosevelt today on this historic occassion. this is actually an amazing, amazing piece. read it, it's a treasure.
my favorite quote from the "colonel" in responce to what he thinks listening to joe biden about foreign policy must be like:
"You can’t nail marmalade against a wall."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

it's sometimes sunny in portland

portland sees its most beautiful day today. the weather here is in the sixties; the softest breeze blows throughout the city; the leaves are changing to beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow; and the sun is shinning. however, everyone knows that the rains will soon be here, so soak it in while you can.

booth and i biked down to a restaurant on morrison called zell's to brunch with helen and garrett. i ate a wonderful smoked salmon scramble, while enviously dreaming of the fried green tomatoes garrett ordered last time we brunched at the screen door a few weeks ago. and after lounging a while, reading the times and drinking more coffee of course, booth and i walked a while to run an errand and admire the leaves.

though even at this hour, i wonder how much pain josh must be in still. a hangover seemed inevitable for him. let's put it this way, if drinking were a socialist activity, josh would have been sent to the gulag last night because he had more than his share. josh, booth, and i went to roturre last night to attend the glass candy cd release that seth informed us about. the show was interesting, what we saw of it. farah was horrible. glass candy was amazing. but of course, the star of the evening was josh, and i only hope after plenty of hydration and two asprins he feels better now.

and here, so that you can enjoy this portland day, let me share with you some of the fall leaves booth and i saw on our walk today:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

artists wanted

i made french toast this morning for josh and booth the morning (or midday) after we hung out at adam's house with friends late into the night. i drank plenty of coffee, consumed a large amount of sugary syrup, and felt energized and ready to go. it's beautiful here: sunny and in the sixties. a perfect day, one of those most perfect days that seems so full of potential. of course, such a sense of potential could just be the sucrose and caffeine.

booth and i walked north and west to north broadway after brunch to find the portland institute for contemporary art, a very official, important sounding moniker that promises something big and important. alas, after walking all those blocks (really quite a short distance) i was disappointed by what they had to offer. booth and i have not seen any really good art at any of the galleries to which we've been yet here in portland, and i'm beginning to believe that there is no such thing as good art or good artists here in portland. maybe there is a city ordinance against it; there do seem to be plenty of strange municipal rules and regulations here.
we were lured to PICA on the promise of an exhibition featuring a showcase representing one patron's purchases from one artist each year of twelve distinct works. the patron then takes what these artists create and gives them to friends and collectors all over the united states as gifts. sounds interesting right?

what we found instead was more small, boring works which represented nothing more than decorative bullshit. there were small strange sculptures with mysterious titles in french and german which would have looked perfect on an end table or on a credenza perhaps. there were the obligatory paintings representing that meaningless pastiche of found images collaged into a eye pleasing composition. you know i hate art like this. plenty of birmingham artists do it: "oh i found all these images in old books and they were so pretty so i collaged it all together!" really? 'cause that's really dumb and meaningless and you are what's wrong with postmodernism. and then last, but not least, were twelve door mats, woven with bright rectangular patches and a single depressed word like "poet" or "childhood" or "poop" sown into each. were they ironic? were we supposed to infer that we were wiping our feet on each of the concepts? that might have been interesting. but the garish colors were unnecessary and did not add anything at all. the message came across as confused, if that in fact was what the artist was attempting to communicate.

in short, i will completely surprised when booth and i finally do see good art here in portland. of course, as booth pointed out, we could very well put together a gallery with really good art and become an anchor here for art. yet i rebutted that we would have to import artists from outside the city because it looks like no one here has any idea what they are doing.

there is still hope though: at adam's house last night i spied some art that i assume he had made (as he has confessed to us that he attended art school) and the images i saw there looked pretty amazing. and booth and i still haven't been to the gallery openings on alberta st. at the end of the month. i'm hoping i'll see something amazing there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

christopher talks about tuesdays

Steve Israel and Norman J. Ornstein wrote an editorial this morning in the New York Times arguing that we should change our scheduled election date from a tuesday to a saturday or sunday. this has always made sense to me. other countries hold their elections on the weekend or declare the election day to be a holiday, and we have our election on a tuesday, an inconvenience for everyone and a voting impossibility for some. there are some people who are never able to get to the polls between getting their kids to school, preparing for work, working for eight hours with a thirty minute break, and then picking the kids back up and taking care of their families in the evening. voting is a luxury. and registering to vote is easy, and just because we've seen record number register to vote this year, the hope is that these same people will still be able to take time out of their day tuesday, a week and a half from now, and vote.
so where will we find the leaders to change this? that is the question i constantly ask myself. where do we find leader progressive and fearless enough to run for election to complete change the way government sometimes works, and how do we get them elected. i recently finished reading thomas friedman's hot, flat and crowded, which i highly recommend especially to the economically minded environmentalist, and found that friedman's main message is this: changing the type of lightbulb you use or recycling more does not really do much to conserve enough energy. he argues that we have to initiate a top-down change to regulate energy production and conservation in corporations and in power companies. america needs to invest in energy, in energy alternatives, in energy production, in energy revolution, and lead the world economically in this revolution so that we may once again become an economic world power. he says choosing the right leader to encourage such investment in technology and regulation is more important than changing the type of lightbulb we use in our house. and although i really love obama now, i don't believe he's radically enough to do this for us. what friedman does not delineate in his book is where america should look for such leadership.
in the mean time, booth and i are waiting for our ballots to arrive in the mail so that we can happy check the box beside mr. obama's name. here in oregon, everyone votes by mail. a ballot gets delivered to every registered voter in his or her mailbox. this is an amazing initiative to me, and if we're not going to change the election date from tuesday to a weekend date, each state should consider this voting method. this method might even more enfranchising and easier than the other alternative anyway.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

chapter 10: in which little christopher goes to lake oswego

so i had an interview for a job schedule with this employment agency yesterday morning. they called tuesday afternoon and asked if i wanted to interview, perhaps that day. i was like, "sure. i might could do that..." and the woman on the other end said, "great! well, our offices are in lake oswego..." and i said, "well... maybe it would be better if i come in wednesday then, since i'm so unfamiliar with that part of town."
lake oswego is a suburb pretty far south of portland, a place-name (how proustian no?) wrapped in mystery to me since all i knew of lake oswego was that it was a suburb and there was no way to walk there. but i made an appointment with this woman for ten o'clock the next morning. the transmission on booth's car is shot, so i decided i would have to find public transportation down there. the official website for public transportation here was no help; it could not find the address for my destination and so could not help figure out which bus i needed to take. but luckily, google is so smart these days, it will give you public transportation directions these days and then tell you how much money you're saving in gas! so i wrote down the bus numbers i'd need and carried on with my day, confident that if i left with plenty of time the next morning, i'd easily make to lake oswego on time.
i watched dexter with josh and a few of his friends at his apartment tuesday night. i drank a few beers there, and then when his friends left, josh and i, still parched after such prime-time excited, decided to get a drink at the local bar behind our apartment, the blue diamond. the blue diamond truly is a gem of a bar: smokey, not fancy in anyway, full of strange old men and women drinking whiskey or playing the slots. and furthermore, the bartender tells us great stories about all the regulars there and i'm swiftly falling in love with her. anyway, two beers, two whiskey and cokes, and then to top it all off, another beer, booth says i was drunk, and i really was fine, but i probably shouldn't have had that much to drink.
while i didn't feel as perky as i usually do when i wake up and drink a trough of coffee the next morning, i did promptly peel myself from the covers, shower, dress quickly, grab my rain slicker and head out the door.
my first mistake: i stopped by urban grind two blocks from the house for coffee on my way to the train to take me downtown. the coffee machine wasn't working and the barista was having to make americanos for everyone. it took forever. but i didn't want to be rude and just leave, so i waited patiently and told her i wish she would have a better day later. i arrived downtown on the train ("this is a blue line train to beaverton") at 8.30 and decided i still had plenty of time to make it to lake oswego by 10 since google maps predicted it would only take an hour.
i got off the train at 1st and madison (or morrison, i can't remember the train route right now) and started walking south toward the bus stop. when reading the directions i had i decided they told me to go to 3rd and some other road. but really they said to go to 1st and columbia, so i had to loop back. then i realized half way there i hadn't bought a train ticket, so i had to loop back and find a train platform to buy an all day ticket for $4.70. finally i arrived at SW 1st avenue and columbia. i saw the bus number i was looking for. it was 8.55, getting tight, but still plenty of time i thought. then i looked at the bus schedule, and here's my second mistake: the bus i needed to take south only ran during rush hour, so the last bus had run at 8.53 had stopped minutes before i arrived and did not run again until 2.30! i had a brake down. i swear i almost started crying there, at that corner, a block and a half away from the willamette river, in the heart of downtown portland.
i called the agency, explained that booth's car had lost its transmission and that i would not be able to come in that day. they thankfully let me reschedule for thursday, and i explained how embarrassed i was.
i walked home with a useless transportation pass (riding the trains and buses while downtown is free so i generally never have to pay for public transporation) and cold, weak americano.
my wireless adapter for my laptop stopped working that afternoon after our internet was finally installed. my face is all broken out because i'm so stressed out. and booth kept reminding me how fat i've become (jokingly of course). but he did tell me (which apparently he had while i was drunk tuesday night) that helen had offered to allow me to borrow her car to drive down to lake oswego.
so i did not drink that night. i read, and relaxed, and went to bed early under my electric blanket, which happens to be my best friend. i woke up earlier this morning than yesterday. i showered and called helen's boyfriend garrett to ask if i could borrow their car. he gratefully acquiesced so i allowed myself around hour to prepare myself, make myself look nice, make coffee, eat breakfast, read the new york times, feel smart and awake. i walked to garrett's place around nine feeling fine.
and then: driving in portland. first of all, i don't like driving other people's cars; it makes me nervous. second, i haven't had to drive in three weeks since i arrived here, and i've only driven once in the city of portland, so that made me nervous as well. i couldn't find the entrance to i-5 from se morrison, so i went all the way up to ne sandy like the directions said to try to find the westbound entrance to i-84, which was nearly impossible. then suddenly i found myself in the midst of portland's rush hour traffic, which wasn't so bad, so still a little scary. some jackass almost hit me from behind as i passed the city center on i-5 and headed south toward lake oswego.
i made okay, and on time. i filled out their application. i watched a dumb video on sexual harrassment. i interviewed with the exceedingly upbeat but friendly woman only to have the interviewer say to me, "well, you really don't have the qualifications they were looking for. they were really looking for someone with direct experience as a teller, but you only have experience in a credit union. so we'll call you if they go for that." she was nice and said she'd try to help me find something i would hopefully like better anyway, but i was still a little put off that i drove all that way, went through all that trouble to have her say that to me.
and thus, another week passes in portland.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the trail ended exactly two weeks ago

already i have developed habits and tendencies that identify me here in portland. i'm sitting in the library in a section of portland called "hollywood" as i type this. i usually jump on my bike every morning and pedal to a nearby library: the downtown central branch, the belmont branch, or now the hollywood branch. i sit in the library on my laptop for a few hours among the other crowds in queue to use the internet. the libraries here are packed; there are people here all day. no one in birmingham uses the libraries. i don't think people there even know where they are. here though, all the poor hopefuls looking for jobs crowd around terminals and mothers and fathers play with their children. and the downtown library here is amazing, filled with books that i would have had to request through interlibrary loan in birmingham. the other day i picked up a book about caravaggio published by MIT as an october book. it turned out to be a complete waste of my time as i am eternally disgusted with psychoanalytic methodologies. so i'm going to return that book and continue my avoidance of freud and lacan for a little longer.

anyway though, in the belmont library yesterday, sitting on the floor in front a shelf of fiction books by one of the two plugs in the entire building, forcing browsers to navigate around me, i suddenly see a new portland friend i've met nicolette. we greet each other and she says, "yeah, i heard you might be here." and i thought, so there's already wild gossip about me; i'm infamous already for sitting on the library floor on my laptop all day? another friend i've met here, josh, had told her she might find me there upon hearing that she was going. it's just remarkable that i've already become predictable here.

booth and i are having a party on saturday. and we have exactly five friends, so it should be a really big event.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

soft october nights

and seeing that it was a soft october night, booth and little christopher went for a walk around southeast portland. these are some of the things they saw in their neighborhood that night.

then we curled once around the house and fell asleep