So, it appears my lovely little city has been in the news lately.  It feels kind of strange for us to be in the national spotlight like this…we’re usually a bit more under the radar.  Now, everywhere I go…my Facebook newsfeed, the newspaper sites…it’s Portland this and Portland that.  So, how are things here in Portland?

It’s been a bit difficult for me to get around to writing this, because the events of the past weeks have been giving me unpleasant flashbacks to my childhood in a totalitarian state.  Those flashbacks actually started even before things were going down in Portland, back when Trump gassed the protesters in DC to get his photo op, when he was speculating about putting tanks in the streets.  I have memories of things like tanks in the streets, living under martial law, secret police.  The more I see this recreate itself here in the States, the more I become paralyzed and quiet, and the harder it is for me to write and talk about it.  It’s like I’m hoping that if I remain silent enough, it will all go away, like a bad dream.  But we all know that’s not how nightmares like this go away.

However, I also have to make this clear–Portland is not some terrifying war zone, not a “city under siege” with violent anarchists running around and setting everything on fire.  The right-wing media has been portraying things this way to justify the federal government’s actions.  I live out in the western suburbs of Portland, and if I didn’t turn on the news or social media, I wouldn’t know that anything was different.  I went on a drive through downtown Portland recently, and except for a few blocks, everything looked normal, businesses were operating, cafes and restaurants were welcoming customers (with some COVID restrictions).  A few stores and banks in a small area of downtown had plywood up and some graffiti on the walls, and most of the plywood had beautiful murals painted on it by local artists–which…I have to admit…looked way more creative than the corporate logos you would usually see there.

Another thing that’s important to know–the vast majority of the rioting, burning and looting happened on one night back in May.  This is important because people keep conflating what happened back then with what’s happening now.  So…you will hear someone say “Well, the Feds have to snatch people into unmarked vans to stop the rioting!”  Except…umm…there really isn’t rioting anymore.  I have multiple friends who have gone downtown to protest the past few nights.  These have been large peaceful protests.  A group of Moms goes down there to form the Wall of Moms to protect the protesters from the police and the Feds.  Not wanting to be outdone, the Dads of Portland have shown up with leaf blowers to disperse the tear gas.  Last night, there was a wall of military vets.  Point is, these are nonviolent protesters, and night after night, they continue to get tear gassed, clubbed and shot with rubber bullets by their own government.

Which brings me to another suggestion.  Some of the most trollish comments I have seen about this situation have come from folks who…surprise, surprise…don’t live in Portland.  They are always the ones flapping their lips about how it’s the city’s own fault for not having things under control, and how they’re hoping Trump finds a way to crack down even harder on us.  My message to them is…if you want to live in a little Trump-worshipping cult compound, that’s on you, but please fuck off as far as my city is concerned.  Don’t tell us how you know what’s going on here and we don’t, don’t give us advice about how we should run things here, how we should vote here, don’t encourage this loser of a President to show up with his goons and try to run the city for us.  STAY THE FUCK AWAY.  We don’t need you or your fascist worship here.

Of course, that is easier said than done.  What does the future hold for us?  Who knows?  Our Attorney General attempted to stop the Feds by filing a restraining order against some of their more secret police-esque actions, but her request was turned down by a federal judge.  I know what you might be thinking…nope, this judge was not one of the many recently appointed by Trump…he was a George W. Bush appointee.

Meanwhile, the dark shadow spreads across the rest of the country…DHS agents have now landed in Seattle.  Once again, this is “to protect federal buildings”…but what we’ve seen in Portland is that this is only a flimsy excuse and their actions range far beyond that.  Also, the agents sent to Seattle are part of a tactical border patrol unit from Texas…what in the hell?  If you think Seattle and Portland are border cities, you are really stretching the concept….

So, be careful and stay safe.  This is happening in Portland right now, but it will probably soon be coming to a town near you.  I really wish this wasn’t the case.  Hang in there, everyone…we’re in for a rough time.

 

 

 

I miss downtown Portland.  I used to go there every couple of days, for work or for socializing or just my own entertainment, but haven’t been there in a while for the obvious reasons–I’m working from home full-time now, and haven’t been going out to do anything beyond the bare minimum since the lockdown started.

I miss my favorite places–our own, much smaller version of Broadway, the huge Powell’s bookstore, the Central Library, my favorite hangout Case Study Coffee, and of course, all those bridges.

Don’t get me wrong, my neighborhood is very nice.  But being in the suburbs all day long can…drive you a little nuts.

It’s been a few weeks since the last time I drove through downtown, so I have no idea what it looks like right now.  From what I hear, it’s been bruised and battered a bit.  First the pandemic closed down businesses, and then it got hit a second time by the social unrest.  Some fires were set and some windows were broken, and there is quite a lot of plywood up.

But that’s okay.  Change and turmoil happens to everyone and everything, and that includes cities.  Portland is still my city and our city, and we will clean it up and open it back up someday.  Except that, hopefully, we will not bring it back to what “normal” used to be–we will make it even better, a more beautiful and more caring and more creative place than it was before.

See you soon, PDX.

Downtown Pics BroadwayDowntown Pics SunnyDowntown Pics Wells Fargo

 

So I have spent the past few weeks of my life reading a truly atrocious right-wing prepper novel.  I’m a masochist, I know.  The story takes place in the Northwest and is every armed MAGA hatter’s fantasy.  Portland, which is naturally a socialist hellhole, collapses in riot and flames, overcome by raging violent hordes of Antifa types.  The intrepid conservative heroine of the tale, who’s been hoarding guns and vacuum-sealed bags of food, has been ready for this moment and escapes into the mountains of Colorado, which are blessedly free of Democratic voters and immigrants.

Reading this alt-right daydream about the collapse of the world as we know it reminded me of a suspicion I’ve had for a long time now–that if an apocalypse comes, I don’t think I want to survive it.

I can picture it now–the day all the preppers have been waiting for.  Smoke is rising from the ruined cities, no doubt done in by the disastrous policies of providing union jobs and offering free school lunches to kids.  As the murderous socialist hipsters finish each other off in the blue urban areas, the few who are wise enough to understand what’s going on flee to the red countryside, where they go back to the old ways, hunting and sewing their own clothes and working the land and…barf.

I know, I know, you’re supposed to appreciate being alive no matter what.  But seriously?  I grew up on a farm and never liked farming.  I don’t even like gardening in my suburban yard.  I’ve never felt any kind of mystical connection while digging around in the dirt, except for the mystical thought that I wanted to go back inside and read the news.  And don’t even get me started on my failed attempts at sewing back in home economics class.

And I would miss all the things I’m not supposed to miss about the modern world.  Starbucks.  Playing around on my phone.  Riding on a crowded bus.  The gentrified downtown of my city.  Truth is, I actually love working my comfy cubicle job and eating artificially colored snacks from the vending machine.

Right, if only I could learn to let go of all that stuff, I would find that there is a magical, natural lifestyle waiting for me of running barefoot in the grass, baking my own bread made from my own grain, which I would be able to eat in the log cabin I built myself.  I refuse to learn that lesson.  Why?  Because I’m happy right now, in this messy, cluttered, imperfect world.  I get the feeling that a lot of the preppers are secretly hoping for a catastrophe, because there is something missing in their lives (maybe excitement?).  I also hope that they do find what they’re searching for…but without the rest of us having to go down in flames in the process.

So in short, if the zombie apocalypse ever does come, feel free to throw me off the back of the truck as bait.  No, really.  I’m okay with not continuing my existence at that point.

Knowing my luck, though, I will end up very much alive and stuck in some happy clappy farming commune.  I’ll be easy to spot–I’ll be the one sneaking away from the fields with a beer, desperately trying to find a wi-fi signal.

Note:  For any of my readers willing to torture themselves, the prepper novel is titled A Great State and written by Shelby Gallagher.  It’s part of a trilogy, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach the other two parts.

Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

The young woman had been camped out in front of City Hall for over a month. Her hair was straggly, but she had a smile on her face and she was holding a donut.

“Can you tell us why you’re still here?” the local news interviewer asked.

“I’m here because of my deep commitment to equity and fighting the oppression of marginalized communities,” the woman said. Granted, she looked like she wouldn’t recognize a marginalized community if she tripped over it on her way to her local co-op vegan cafe, but I loved her anyway.

I was obsessed with the protests. Every afternoon, as soon as I got home from work, I dropped onto my couch, slipped off my shoes and watched the latest. The campers were opposed to the Mayor’s harsh treatment of the homeless. Their encampment was supposed to be a reminder to him of how those without a home were forced to live. It sprawled out from City Hall into the nearby park, littering it with insulting signs, red flags and communal kitchen pots.

They weren’t going to accomplish anything in the end. And there was no way that I could go sit there with them, not with my job and my mortgage. Despite all of that, I fantasized about the protesters. I fantasized about ordering pizza for them, going to bring them homemade soup. Maybe I could knit scarves for them. I would hand out a scarf to each of them, give them a hug and tell them how special they were. I would be like the Mother Theresa of the City Hall camp. It was the least I could do.

I turned off the TV and went to pour myself a glass of wine. The rice was already cooking. I switched on the radio. The local leftie community station was broadcasting from the camp. I listened and the little butterfly of excitement started fluttering around my belly again.

I could feel a shift in my body and suddenly, another voice drowned out the activist on the radio. The voice was calm and logical, sounding very confident even though it was offering public testimony in front of the city council.

It’s not that we don’t want this development to be built at all. It’s just that it’s too big. It’s going to change the character of the neighborhood…

I shook my head and stared down into the sink. No matter how much I wanted it to turn off, the voice continued.

And is the building going to have sufficient parking? Where are the residents going to park? I’m betting the cars will end up on our street…

I turned off the radio. Mother Theresa. What was I thinking? I walked back to the living room with my wine glass, but the voice followed me.

We all agree that affordable housing is so important, but…

The shift had already happened to me a long time ago. I had turned into the person who testifies against affordable housing projects if they’re being planned for her neighborhood. I could indulge in rebellious nostalgia all I wanted to, but I was not who these anarchist hippie kids wanted to see at their protest, not any more than I wanted to have an actual conversation with someone who was homeless. Not any more than I would have liked to see the City Hall camp in my backyard, if I was going to be honest.

I had shifted far past what I had once believed in, floating off on the stream of comfortable daily habit until I no longer knew where I was. Was I even a progressive? I had no idea.

Well, sitting here and feeling bad for myself certainly wasn’t going to help anyone. I wiped my eyes and turned on the Lifestyle Channel. They always had the best decorating tips.

A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

It’s the middle of the week and I’m still suffering from severe post-Pride depression.

I went to the Pride parade last Sunday. I usually try to go. Other cities may have bigger gay pride celebrations, but the Portland one is always such a fun party.

After a while, watching the parade really makes me feel like I’ve landed in a magical alternate universe, full of color and glitter and dance. Rainbows are everywhere. There’s a giant disco burrito rolling down the street. Happy people are wearing shiny unicorn horns and fluffy raccoon tails, and happy dogs are wearing pink tutus. I end up cheering at everyone and everything, even the guy selling balloons.

And then it all ends, and it’s such a coming down. At first it’s not so bad, as I leave the waterfront with a crowd of straggler unicorns and other partiers. But then the celebration scatters, and it hits me. I’m back in the mundane world. It looks dull and drab. Instead of fantastic drag queens, it’s the usual assortment of families in Wal Mart-style T-shirts and flip flops, and drunken dudebros with their pants sliding down to their knees.

Yes, I’ve officially exited Wonderland and find that I’ve returned to my greyish-brown cubicle existence.

But hey, I guess that’s what makes any celebration, whether it’s Pride or Christmas, special–the fact that it only happens once a year. Wouldn’t be the same if I felt that way all the time. I’m sure that next June, Santa will bring me an even bigger and better parade–right?

Fall to February — A bunch of guys in ugly uniforms giving each other concussions. Some of them have underinflated balls, which is apparently a problem.

February — A has-been pop star performs crappy music and the TV plays a bunch of dumb commercials. So the usual, but there’s also a game of some sort.

Spring — A bunch of guys strolling around a field, scratching their (not underinflated) balls and spitting out wads of chew. This is also the time of year when soft-spoken public radio hosts reminisce about hearing the crack of the bat when they were little children and bemoan the fact that America’s national pastime is no longer as popular as it used to be.

April — The Portland Trailblazers lose again. “We’ll definitely win next year!”

May — Awwww, look at the cute horsies getting raced to death.

Summer — Portlanders put on colorful scarves and pretend that they care about sports and that they’re European. Hint to Portland: Real soccer hooligans set cars on fire.

Summer, Once Every 4 Years — The world comes together to celebrate peace and harmony through athletic competition. I can tell that we’re totally serious about it because there’s a giant dove puppet involved.

Also Once Every 4 Years — The world falls in love with the most beautiful game, as FIFA is paid massive bribes.

Winter — Figure skating! Finally, I can watch a real sport! Also, the weirdly hypnotic appeal of curling. Hands down, the best part of the year.

Except that it’s back to the guys in the ugly uniforms again.

Mom was staring at my plate in shock. It was covered with a messy pile of bacon, cheese and chicken.

“What is *that*?”

I was stunned myself. “It’s…it’s a…salad.”

Ah, the danger and the mystery that is the American roadside restaurant. You never know quite what you’ll get served. Somewhere, underneath all that protein, a few wilted green leaves could be found, or so I suspected.

But I was a wimp compared to my fellow eaters. Other families seated in the Kozy Kitchen dining room placidly awaited their deliveries of greasy eggs and meat, with two and three dishes per person, while here I was, a rank amateur, unable to handle a simple “salad”.

“There’s no way you can finish that.”

“Maybe I can, but I’ll need a stent right after.”

Let’s face it, on our trip through the towns of Southern Oregon, we must’ve acted like the most obnoxious of tourists. “Do you have anything with kale in it?” “Why doesn’t this store have an organic veggie section?” And things got even worse when it came to the alcohol department. “What do you mean you only serve Bud, Coors and Corona? This is a joke…right?” At least I dissuaded Mom from her idea of bringing her own personal lime into restaurants with her, so that she could “fix” the Caesar salad dressing. I figured the natives wouldn’t take too kindly to that.

Leaving my little hipster nest to travel the rest of the state has made me realize just how Portland I’ve really become, and has made me appreciate living here much more.

And my bacon and cheese salad? Well, I managed to eat about half of it, and was sick for the rest of the day. Like I said, I’m a total wimp. My review of the Kozy Kitchen–it’s only for the strong.

There is a race going on in this country right now which I’m following with great interest, and I’m not talking about any of the 2014 political contests, although I’m sure I’ll do plenty of grumbling about those later. No, I’m thinking of the race to open the first cat cafe in North America.

The idea for the cat cafe started in that home of the strange and bizarre, Japan, and they are wildly popular there–along with other novelty cafes, like ones where you can have lunch with stuffed animals if you’re feeling lonely. The cat cafe trend has since spread to Europe and Australia as well. It’s such an addictive concept that I’m surprised it hasn’t popped up earlier here in the States–you can sip your favorite caffeinated beverage in the company of anywhere between 10 and 30 kitties which you can pet and interact with. Most of the American cafes which are being planned intend to have the cats up for adoption, so they will serve a good cause as well.

Naturally, when it comes to the cat cafe race, I am rooting for Purringtons Cat Lounge, which is tentatively scheduled to open here in the Portland area sometime in the fall. But Purringtons has fierce competition. There are ideas being bounced around for cat cafes in Seattle, Reno and South Florida. And if I were to bet on the winner of the race, my money would be on the San Francisco area–either KitTea, which is trying to open its doors this summer, or the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, which already has a location and a possible September opening date. I should add that all of these cafes have Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns going, so if you want to support your hometown’s cat cafe bid, you can help make the dream happen.

The hilarious part about all of this is that I love cats, but am very allergic to them, so I will probably choke to death as soon as I step foot in one of these fabulous places. But no matter–it will be worth it. A glorious death, surrounded by all those cute cats! If I don’t make it back out alive, remember me as one who adored the kittehz. And best of luck to Purringtons!