I have never been very current on fashion, so my trips to the mall usually included eye-opening updates on trends. Apparently, judging by the three Russian figure skaters, there was some huge fad for czaritsa chic going around.Read More
I love malls. This is an essay on how I came to fall in love with malls, accompanied by a series of pictures I shot in January, of Portland’s Lloyd Center Mall.Read More
Even if it’s just to write out a shopping list, I feel anything is possible. And maybe it is only placebo, but I might be better equipped to accomplish something exceptional.Read More
Whether we like it or not, art is all around us. If we’re paying attention, we might just have the opportunity to be its chaperone.Read More
A creepy encounter with a strange old man and the seedy backstory behind the pillars of Kenton, Oregon.Read More
Stand anywhere in Portland, Oregon, throw a rock in any direction and, with that rock, you could hit two bicycle frame builders. Maybe though, don’t throw rocks. (Just a thought.)Read More
While I love a good, handmade bicycle, I’ve always been especially impressed with custom built racks. Racks are often overlooked as strictly utilitarian. They are, after all, meant to be covered by whatever they’re built to carry.
There’s something extra when such care and attention is spent to build a non-centerpiece beautifully. Our world has no shortage of shady corners and seemingly mundane objects. When we are able to tidy-up, and make pretty the humdrum places and things (even when it’s very likely nobody will discover and appreciate that hard work), we are doing the good work. This is especially true when you consider how much of a pain in the ass racks are to build, and even more of a fight to build well. I won’t elaborate on the boring, esoteric reasons why a rack’s manufacture is so mind-bogglingly horrible. You’ll just have to follow along when I say, rack building is a grossly under-appreciated art.
This blog is a companion to Norther Cycles Will Save America
The road is a roiling, lusty sway through the always-green tangle of our Tillamook State Forest. West, the forest’s magnificent deepness drains suddenly to gash-open swaths, clear-cut raw. The shorn hills seem caught bare, obscenely bright and dry and uprooted, scattered about with the once-wise trunks of once-impenetrable forests, now gray and kindling. This moonscape is only made more conspicuous by the roadline of trees—spared by the loggers—serving as a faux curtain to obscure the landmaster’s handiwork. (It isn’t fooling anyone.) Quickly though, the land pulls back again, under the heaving shroud of fir and blue spruce, the drinkable wetness of sod and turgid cedar and the iron tang of constant and forgiving rain.
First, salt, then ion. A creamy seabreeze indicates large water is near. Here, it seems, salt is a way of life: a fine, ruddy patina has settled on, has worked its way into, all surfaces. We’ve only just unpacked the jeep, hauled the coolers and the many bags into our rental and, already, my daughter’s fine hair sprouted a wicked twang of voluminous curls. The beach is near, so we walk, and as we walk, the ocean’s deafening shawl gathers, a constant punctuated only by a thumping wave tearing at the breakwater. Mom is out of her sandals and, toes-spread, makes for the water’s edge. I leave on my shoes and, still remembering the many ruined vacation-shoes of my childhood, sandpad delicately behind her. From here, from the water’s edge, stretching inland behind us, a tsunami plane, for miles and miles. Everything within its incredible reach—houses, people and even the solid forrest—is doomed.
Dad and I set ourselves to a practical task: building a fire. It is a simple task, but one that requires some amount of teamwork, cooperation—which can be touchy work for a father and a son. Luckily, our prospects for fuel are scant—we must scour a nearby forest for kindling. We return with a bumper crop of branches and logs—all of which are hopelessly water heavy. Miraculously, a saw is located in our host’s garage. It is small and dull, but we have time. Dad holds down a thick, surprisingly solid wooden corpse while I maniacally lop off burnable hunks. From a nursery of tissue and twigs, puny flames are coaxed into a roaring, white-hot fire—the sizzling wood weeping an acrid liquor. For now, brute determination has won the day, which, normally, is not a good thing. But this time, at least, it feels good—this small accomplishment between men notoriously clunky at (but eager for) knowing one another.
In the absence of birthday cake, pumpkin bread—impaled with candles—will have to suffice. My daughter helps to blow out the waxy fire threatening her grandmother’s cake, nearly losing her eyebrows in the melee. Cheap champagne (a new family tradition—landing the cork in our neighbor’s back lawn signifies good luck) is uncorked. The shot ricochets around the rental. We consider a long life lived, and how—glasses raised, clinking—it actually isn’t long at all. But there is no time to mourn—the past may be brief but mourning only makes it briefer. There is only time to fashion a notch in this moment and move on, happily spent, back home and back to work.
Witnessing the Winter Solstice, it's not hard to imagine why its first observants wanted commemorate the occasion. It must have been scary as hell, a moon like that, and without the lights of the city to dilute its fullness (as they did here). Will the year's crops fail? Are we all going to die? Or, does this foretell good luck? Is this the year my wife will finally buy me that Ferrari I've always wanted?!
On a recent whim trip to Seattle, an old native is stunned to see the city he once knew, transformed into… something else. Here is a small tour through the place he once knew, accompanied by wildly inaccurate and purposely false claims about their history.Read More
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
when Dan quit his job, I set out to write him a LinkedIn recommendation. What started as a simple endorsement turned into a longer story about one of the best/worst jobs I’ve ever had, and the lovely, highly capable man I had the opportunity to share it with.
These are excerpts from that story.
That magical time of year, we can eat cornbread every day.
One Thanksgiving, (it was more of a 'Friendsgiving,') I was the only one who brought stuffing to a dinner of over twenty people. I made a cornbread stuffing. Like all my stuffing and chili (and pretty much anything else I cook), it was a prototype. Sometimes the prototype is a flop. But this batch was incredible, and I'll never be able to recreate it. Not ever again.
I made my way through the obnoxiously crowded room, to the buffet, where there were a host of other dishes—potluck style. Everyone had brought a dish to bring. It appeared, there were a couple trolls in attendance, determined to ruin everyone's Thanksgiving dinner with gluten free, nut-free, vegan, sugar-free, enjoyment free food. There was something called a ‘Vegan Paleo Pumpkin Pie’ that looked like something fallen to earth, from outer space. It was horrifying.
Thank God! I thought. I had the mind to bring stuffing. And delicious stuffing at that. I was saved.
I went to the kitchen to fetch myself a wine glass and, literally, as I was rummaging around the cabinets for a glass, the party was called to the table and a crowd set upon the buffet. I was at least ten people deep (I'm not too proud to say, I'm always at the front of any line for the buffet) and in a panic behind the undulating, slow moving crowd.
By the time I was reunited with my stuffing, there was only a cranberry and crumbs left. I'm surprised those assholes didn't lick my pyrex clean.
To this day, I'm weird about my cornbread. I'm even weirder about my cornbread stuffing. Forever chasing the One That Got Away.
Here’s my totally not-special recipe:
1 cup flour (white, pastry if you got it)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup granulated sugar (closer to a cup)
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup melted butter
1 large egg
1 cup milk (whole milk, even if it means using the last of your wife's milk so you have to run to the grocery store and buy some more before she has her morning cup of coffee)
I mix the dry and the wet separately. Stir in the melted butter with the milk/egg. If you pour without stirring, (unless your milk and eggs are warm,) the butter will congeal into big clumps and leave melted pockets in the cornbread and it will be weird.
Once you combine the wet and dry, mix only as much so the clumps have disappeared and then immediately scoop into a well-greased pan. The reasoning for scooping immediately is that the wet reacts with the baking powder and the batter ‘rises.’ If it rises in the bowl, before you scoop, it ‘deflates’ in route to the pan. Scooping it immediately helps it rises in the pan, before going into the oven, all those air bubbles make the cornbread fluffy and cake-like, rather than sturdy and dense.
Serve with honey, butter and cracked salt
One night, after picking up a box of wine from Fred Meyer, I noticed a stolen bike leaning against the rack next to my bike. After confronting the man standing next to it, I got maced, twice, trying to rescue the bike. Initially, I set out to write this story down but It became a much larger story than just this incident. Here are some excerpts.
Houselessness in Portland
It is impossible to discuss bike thievery in any city without discussing, homelessness. The homeless situation in Portland is bad and getting worse:
“[Homeless camps] are ubiquitous all over Portland, mostly because our city has not been able to decide what should be done for our homeless community, beyond a well-meaning but largely inept stop-gap measure of benevolent tolerance, punctuated by fits of police-state cruelty. This has created a weird and horrible game of whack-a-mole between the city and its camps: the homeless are allowed to flourish for a period of time (which they do, with aplomb) until, randomly, the sheriff and a hazmat crew are called in to raze them and any of their structures from the earth.”
“Maybe, long ago, these chop-shops used to operate in the shadows, but not anymore. Now, perhaps because of the sheer number of stolen bicycles to process, and the lack of shadows, they set up tool benches and get to work out in the open, stripping and processing enormous quantities of frames and valuable components to either be sent to other cities, where they can be anonymously sold, or to stay here where they’re pieced together as any of the myriad frankenbikes seen creaking around town.”
Vigilantes are assholes, so why did I become one?
I’m not proud of what I did. So why did I try to take back a stolen bike? Especially, one that hadn’t even been stolen from me.
After having two bikes stolen in Portland, I’ve developed a knee-jerk reaction to bike thievery—not so much one of consideration, or even (dear God) heroism as it is an inability to think clearly, or act otherwise:
“I never felt proud about taking the bike, I was ashamed. I thought that was obvious. I thought it was obvious—a man’s recklessness shouldn’t ever be confused with heroism. And it was reckless, especially for a husband and a father. Foolishly, I expected everyone would be on board with that concept.”
On getting maced
Before getting maced, it’s hard to tell—what’s the big deal?
As far as epiphanies go, getting maced was surprisingly effective. Certainly, it wasn’t as bad as getting shot. But still, a facefull of mace is enough to inspire reflection—to consider the decisions we make in life—about the big-picture missteps that brought us to this unfortunate moment. If only long enough to regroup:
“I’d never been maced before, (check that off the bucket-list). It was alarming how disabling the mace was. I could breathe but the air was spicy and toxic, like sucking in a handful of red-hot tacks. Before being maced, it’s hard to imagine the effect—I once minced a pile of peppers without gloves and spent an afternoon dipping my fingertips into cream. But this was like bathing in peppers, and drinking it in with every breath. Everything was on fire, deeply, and the fire spread everywhere.”
Have we learned nothing?
Somebody (either Einstein, Mark Twain or Benjamin Franklin) once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I like that quote (though, in my case, I might switch ‘expecting’ for ‘hoping’). That quote handily summarizes the most profound takeaway from this (and similar) incidents: wishing, somehow, I could have done things differently, but also knowing, given a similar opportunity, I’d probably do it all over again.
I loved my white bicycle like some people love their dog. So when the bike was stolen, I went a little nuts.
The bike, an all-white, single speed, had a very specific look, so whenever I saw a bike with even a partial resemblance, I locked in, fight-ready to rescue my beloved bicycle. Occasionally I spotted similar looking bikes on the road, going the other way and, without hesitation, I spun-round and chased them down.
I suppose that must have been very alarming for those poor cyclists. One minute, you’re riding along. The next minute, some asshole pulls up alongside, creeping hard on you and your bike, and then, inexplicably, turns away.
Who even does that?!
This was not the first bike I’ve seen stolen in Portland.
One sunny day in June, 2007, at the end of my first day of work at OMSI, I returned to where I’d locked my bike and found it had been replaced with a junker bike with two flat tires. My lock was still there, it had been either clipped or sawed-through and wrapped around the junker.
While I wasn’t excited about the theft, I was also kind of glad to see that bike go. I hated that bicycle and was thankful for the excuse to finally replace it, which is, I guess, if you’re bike is going to get stolen, the best possible outcome.
The white bicycle was the first (and last) bike I assemble from brand new.
I’d recently been hit by a car. The driver was gunning for an open parking spot in the Pearl District (a rarity). The driver turned hard and sent me sailing into a gather of signs for a nearby construction site, mangling my bike as they drove over it. The last thing I remember, as I was launched out of my saddle, was reaching down to the bell on my handlebars for one last, angry ding.
I got a quote from a bike shop for a replacement. It was a modest quote, but realistic. I took that to the lawyers, and returned to the shop with the paydirt. I’d never done anything like that before. The swagger! To walk around the shop and point to rims, components, a frame and all the trimmings, saying “That one.” and “I’ll take that one.” and “Two of those, good sir.” And so on.
I chose a white frame, with silver components. Even the rims were painted white! Even the chain was white. A white chain!
It’s safe to say, I got a little carried away.
Temporary insanity notwithstanding, I’d managed to murder-out a stunning bicycle. Even if it was a boutique piece, it was solid—bombproof.
Likely, that is what lead to the bike’s theft—it was, too pretty.
There’s a valuable lesson to be learned there. About pretty things, about the impermanence of life, and the consequences that come with showing-off—especially if you’re as careless as I was—to have left it parked in a friend’s backyard, leaning against their garage, like a radiant unicorn in the night.
This was on a quiet suburban street in North Portland, not much foot traffic. To get into the back yard, meant moving aside a massive gate, a very loud chain-link fence that creaked and rattled like a marching band every time it opened or closed. We were all inside the house, playing board games, in a room close to the driveway—nobody heard a thing.
Someone passing by had seen the bike, seen their chance, and, like the wind, took it, and disappeared.
What a pro.
I’ve recounted this story numerous times, to many people. Almost every one of them catch on the part where I’m chasing after bicyclists who are riding a similar looking bike. They want to know what I would do if one of those cyclists I chased down were actually riding my bike.
It’s a good question.
In spite of appearances, I’m not thrilled that my first, and possibly only instinct, would be to attack—take back the bicycle, end of story. Especially since so much time has passed now, the bike, if it’s still in one piece, could have been sold many times over by any number of people. Even if it hasn’t been sold, even if I encounter the very thief who took it, I am loathe to admit, they stole it fair and square. They didn’t even have to clip a lock. There’s a solid argument that any cyclist whose bike is stolen in such a way was probably not the bike’s rightful owner in the first place.
The chances I’ll ever cross paths with my dear bicycle again are exceedingly slim. I’d like to think I would be able to behave myself, even if, historically, my track record is not stellar.
Until then, I can only dream, as I often do of my white bicycle, hoping its new rider is giving it a run for its money. Hopefully it’s out there, somewhere, slicing through traffic like the radiant unicorn it was meant to be.
After our ungodly dry and hot summer, the wet has finally returned to Portland—with aplomb. Thank God.
Just in time for the rains, I finished repairing our rain barrels. It wasn’t a moment too soon. At the first hint of rain, they were filled immediately—two, 50 gallon water barrels. I thought this was amazing and decided to look into this further. I have since gone down the nightmarish rabbit-hole that is DIY rain-harvesting where I found this interesting fact:
For every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect about 600 gallons of water. So, ¼ inch of rain on an average roof = 3 full rain barrels.
That’s a lot of water.
I have no idea what I’m going to do with that much water.
Also, now that we’re drowning, there’s no need to water my garden from my rain barrels, which was the whole purpose of getting them watertight in the first place.
Actually, that’s not the real reason I built the rain barrels. The real reason I built the rain barrels is for when the big earthquake hits. Not for gardening. Fuck gardening. Who am I kidding? I couldn’t grow weeds if I tried.
No, the water is a doomsday piggy bank. After the earthquake hits, the big one, and Portland is rubble, our water will surely be shut off. The rain barrels will provide a source of fresh water we can use for drinking (filtered, of course. I’m not an idiot.) and for washing the car.
However, providing a solution for one thing only creates problems for another, and now that I’ve got the water problem solved, I’ll have to buy guns to protect the rain barrels from post earthquake looters.
I don’t think that’s overreacting.
Once, in 2012, after a local reservoir tested positive for bacterial contamination, the City of Portland issued a boil notice for our water supply. Everyone went nuts. There was a run on the grocery stores. The beverage aisle at the Interstate Fred Meyer was decimated within the hour. I was there. I saw it happen since I’d foolishly stopped by for ice cream.
In real life, I saw a guy standing in the checkout line with a cart overflowing with what looked like the store’s entire stock of Mountain Dew. And that was just for a boil notice. There was still plenty of water.
Maybe people just forgot the recipe for boiled water?
I hate to think of what happens to a community when the taps run completely dry. There certainly won’t be any more orderly lines at the Fred Meyer checkout.
Recently, the CDC issued a massive recall on all romaine lettuce. This means we’re poised for another round of scarcity frenzy, this time, for lettuce.
Leave it to Americans to go nuts the moment they’re told they can’t have something. Even if that something is something they don’t want. Not long from now, every anti-salad vegetable-hater will declare the long hand of the government is infringing on their God-given right to lettuce. Keep an eye on Twitter for the upcoming #lettucechallenge, as scores of fed-ups—in another fad-wave of misguided protest—post videos of themselves eating tainted lettuce.
It would seem fitting that, given our universe’s cruel bend to black humor, lettuce should turn out to be the keystone to our social structure, and its sudden and complete scarcity should lead to our country’s implosion.
So, rather than hope my countrymen are capable of holding it together, even for a lettuce drought, it seems the sensible and proactive addition to our earthquake kit are guns. Loads of guns.
And grenades. It’s gonna rain grenades.
There’s a lot of ideas floating around. With a lot of time and a lot of luck, they’ll come together and become a book. Or two. Or three. Here’s what I’m currently working on.Read More
Giving a reading is the laziest form of show business. It requires no physical agility, unless standing still is considered agility.
There’s no singing, no dancing.
Not that song and dance is forbidden at book readings. I guess, if the mood should strike—knock yourself out.
But in terms of pizazz, reading from a book is one step above dragging in a tv.
It’s also a terrifying business.
What if nobody shows up? What, on earth, am I going to talk about for an hour? A whole hour! And, also, who even am I to be giving a reading? Last I checked there was not a deficiency of middle-age white mansplainers. Could the world be clamoring to hear from one more?
In spite of all this, I gave a reading at the Kenton Public Library.
The Kenton Library is my home library. So it was weird, to walk into my library and launch into addressing a crowd. I kept wanting to use my library voice.
More people showed up, than I thought would come. And the crowd was patient and forgiving. Some of them even got my jokes! (I think.)
My two new friends, Heather and Patty, even bought a copy of the book. I sure hope they like it. I hope, if we bump into each other around Kenton, that we’re still on speaking terms.
I’m very lucky for the opportunity to read at the Kenton Library. The staff was quite generous in offering their space and the valuable time of their employees. I am very grateful.
After my modest reading, and thanking everyone for coming, I was glowing. It was a lovely evening. It seemed like there was nothing that could ruin—
Saturdays, I’m the only one in the office. It is very quiet.
It is very quiet, except for the sounds of our building, which, when you remove the people—the shuffling din of comings and goings—become accentuated.
It takes a little time to become familiar with the sounds of an unpeopled building—the broken clunk of the heating or cooling units turning on and revving up, the neighbors opening and slamming doors, the passing traffic outside. Even the patio-diners at the brewery across the street, their joyful conversations from the picnic tables seem to float up from the sidewalk, murmuring softly across the street.
When the building’s cooling unit suddenly shuts itself off, its background hush evaporates, pulling back the curtains on the tiny, inaudible tinkerings. The footsteps in the hallway outside, the expanding tic-tic-tic of the sunbaked rooftop, comes rushing back.
Despite the eeriness of a building void of both people and their busyness, the sounds of a breathing structure become oddly comforting.
The only other sound I’ve known like it had the complete opposite effect—a home I’d lived in for two years. After it’s sale and thorough cleaning, I took one last walk-through and was overcome with the emptiness of the place. You would think, living in a place would make you an authority on its goings on. You come to know a room as having a feel, which floorboards complain the loudest. But when the furniture is gone, the rugs are gone and the clothes and the mess are all gone, a house becomes resonant and empty—alien. As if departing a beloved home wasn’t emotional enough, the disquieting newness of sounds is a swift kick in the pants on your way out the door. It is a reminder that, underneath the familiar surface of things—the things we think we own and know—is a broiling, churning inconstant and we are only visitors.
This is a silent pact I’ve made with our empty office: you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone and maybe, together, we might be able to just enjoy one another.
I wrote a piece for Medium titled “In which my subscription to the New York Times becomes a (tiny) act of protest.”
It’s hard to imagine, a subscription to the New York Times would become an act of protest. But, these are strange days. Normals are no longer normal. Things we never thought we’d see, are now shockingly commonplace.
I don’t always agree with the Times. I’m aware they have a liberal lean. It is not as bad as most, but still it’s my job as a reader, to be objective about that potential bias. Along with my favorite NPR, they’re close to center of truth. And the truth is a rarity these days.
Sure, people might argue that the facts don’t matter anymore, and we’ve been living in a post-truth world for so long, our politicians think they can get away with telling us ‘the news media is the enemy of the people.’ They think they can tell us just about anything, and we’ll eat it up.
...his very presence at the podium was an orgy of make-believe.
He claimed the media, not he, was the common denominator in the slew of bad news that persistently dogged his campaign. That he, a swaggering plutocrat, who literally has a gold toilet in his Manhattan high-rise penthouse, gave a rats-ass what became of coal miners and their families. That a twice-divorced man with three failed marriages gave a shit about the institution of family. That an unrepentant philanderer cared for sanctity of life or that a sexual predator who routinely grabs women by the crotch could be a champion for women’s rights.
Here was a man whose inherited fortune was barely kept afloat only through sheer fuckery and caucasian luck (his inheritance would have fared better as a Roth IRA), yet he expects to be revered as a savvy businessman.
He told us he was a powerful and compassionate man with regular-sized hands—a capable man of influence and wealth—as opposed to what we could clearly see with our own eyes, which was a basted Easter ham, garnished with a taxidermy wig and squeezed into a too-tight collar to suffer, quite publicly, the pangs of an inferiority complex so robust, it would have made Mussolini blush.
Our free press is under attack, and I wanted to do something about it. I’m aware that, as far as protests go, a subscription to the Times is pedestrian, not to mention self serving. Even though, it’s puny, we’ve got to start somewhere.
I don’t believe in disclaimers, so here is a disclaimer: this blog post isn’t about fishing for compliments, or even aligning myself with an agenda—it’s about the news, and how, collectively, we’re being asked to disregard our own common sense and replace it with hocus-pocus.
This was the first real sign of Autumn in Portland. I just get so excited. I just love Autumn.
I know it’s dumb to swoon over a season, believe me, I just spent a whole Summer listening to the sun-lovers go on about how the sunshine gives them life, and a reason to live. About how their visits to the beach (or whichever sun-drenched hell-hole) was such a rad opportunity to get back in touch with the things that really matter in life.
Give me a break.
Summer is the alpha cheerleader, the star quarterback, the one that grew up with all the friends and the charmed life. Summer is the one that grew up pretty. And because Summer grew up pretty and popular, Summer didn’t have to work for anything so summer grew up stupid and lazy and uninteresting and will die alone.
Autumn, grew up ugly. Autumn had to fight for its place at the table. And because Autumn had to fight to survive, Autumn is the funny one, the one that read all the interesting books and knows how to cook and loves all the best music. So you’ll please excuse me while I gush, I’m blossoming, for the first time in this year. I just feel so, alive, finally in tune with the things that really matter in life.
This week I:
auditioned with a friend for The Amazing Race
stood uncomfortably at a great (really loud) show
tried out the new e-scooters that signify the end of western civilization as we know it. Then, I wrote this satirical essay
wrote this love letter to Portland’s Steel Bridge
captured the dulcet tones of my neighbors kicking the goddamn shit out of each other