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
Portland was the official gateway to most of my childhood road trips—from Seattle to San Diego—a dour landmark that confirmed our family’s vacations were officially non-refundable.
Passing by the city, there was no sweeping skyline to greet us. I thought Portland had always lacked a stunning skyline, the dramatic, jutting structures of a traditionally dynamic silhouette. From faraway, the city’s profile seems to have been intentionally cluttered with mediocre architecture, dissuading fun-seekers and joy-trippers to a more glamorous San Francisco, say. Or, better yet, Los Angeles.
Anyone looking to be readily impressed by a city would have to look a little harder.
Portland is cut-through by the Willamette River. Interstate-5 runs parallel to the river, so that a drive North or South is a carousel past the bridges that staple together the city’s dueling banks. All the bridges look very old and rickety. The oldest and ricketiest of these was the Steel Bridge.
A seeming holdout from Portland’s frontier days, the tar-caked Steel Bridge appears, paradoxically, both lethally brittle and indestructible. It is a tetanus playground. A tangle of rusty trusses and railroad tracks that shudder like a drawer full of cutlery when trains clamor over it’s rickshaw rails. To accommodate the ships waddling into town, the bridge’s lower quarters are simply hoisted up two thick legs, as if to hike a squat dress, to allow the boats to pass underneath.
It wasn’t until my first ride through Portland, with a friend, that I became overwhelmed by the rotten beauty of the Steel Bridge. We were riding along the pedestrian path. In a gushy, foolish moment, I pulled up next to her, to swoon over the bridge when a bicyclist behind us swore at us for riding side by side and taking up the whole pedestrian path.
I was in love.
Often, on weekdays, there’s nobody at the pool. We have the run of the place. The water is eerily calm.
On the far side of the pool, there’s always a water aerobics class. The lady teaching the class has a playlist she hasn’t changed up in the three years since I’ve been going to the pool. On that playlist (mostly EDM remixes of oldies and 80’s pop), she has Turn Down For What at like, three different places.
I think someone made her the mix as a joke. It’s a good joke too. Every time she plays the mix, the song (that awful awful song) comes on and she has to run over to the boom box to skip the track. Most the time she just lets it play though. When she does, those seniors are real troopers. Sure, there’s a lot of eye-rolling, but they soldier on, working up a lather in the deep end.
I first saw him play long ago at the Velvet Elvis Lounge (RIP), when he played guitar for Himsa. Since then, he’s been art director at Southern Lord Records, photographer and in thousands of other pretty incredible bands.
I got to meet him the other day at his free show at Green Noise Music (an excellent shop btw), and the rumors are true — he’s a super nice guy. Always love to hear what he’s got cooking. His new project, Ramprasad, is a lot like Russian Circles—great instrumental metal. Not for the faint of heart. Fans of heavier music would do well to check them out.
This was maybe the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. It was offered by my sister, Gwyneth, who’d grown frustrated with me on a hike, long ago, through Yosemite National Park.
I was scrambling to keep up with her and my brother. Heaving for air, it was all I could do to keep an eye on the path and ensure that, along with bringing up the rear by a generous distance, I did not also misstep and break my ankle.
Why had I come all this way, she wanted to know, if all I was going to do was watch my feet?
It was a good question.
She didn’t know then, and I didn’t know then, that this small suggestion would become a staple through my life—to always take a moment to look up, to look for something. Pay attention on that commute you take every goddamn day. Ask one of your customers an unexpected question, if you can stomach it.
Chances are, every time you look closer, and with curiosity (even with the mundane stuff) you’ll see something new, something fascinating. You might even (gasp!) learn something.
I’ve been riding my bike under this tangle of forbidding freeway overpasses for almost eleven years. This particular spot, at the base of a steep hill on Interstate, does not lend to rubbernecking: going downhill, I’m often tucked into a bleary-eyed charge for that green light. While uphill is a breathless slog over the pedals for a cruel, steep climb.
Still, every time, I try to sneak a peek, because these overpasses are marvelous structures. Utilitarian, and also, soaring. Somehow, somebody was able to take these unfathomably heavy structures, and make them fly.
It is hard to not feel puny, riding under these overpasses. They are a stark reminder, twice daily, how small and insignificant I am, how crushable. Even a tiny earthquake could send them crumbling down on me and I would be squashed, in an instant. But, not just squashed. I would be reduced to a smear, an afterthought so completely obliterated, I might not have existed at all.