Showing posts with label Portland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Portland. Show all posts

03 April, 2019

Field Notes, from March 29 2019: Oh, The Humanities


Air palpable with earnest outcries
read to the appropriate audience
words spent on prayers to gods
too busy to grant wishes

(From my last day at AWP:)

The folks I saw yesterday (Friday) were not out today. I want to believe that the old guy flying a sign on the corner of Halliday and MLK -- who, up close, doesn't look much older than me -- got what he needed and was able to sleep in doors last night. I want to believe that Tanya J. McDonald -- who told me her name 5 times and who was clearly released from a hospital with no sense of where she might end up -- was able to find peace and safety and some comfort in mourning her mother's death.

I saw them. I looked them in the eye and took their hands and helped in some small, temporary way. I want to believe it made a difference.

But I don't feel that optimistic today.

There's something about all the appropriate mourning and moaning here that's just so far-sighted in all the wrong ways. People see injustice at a distance and want to engage it. But when it's up close, they overlook. Or worse, they look through it like it's air.

Of course there's talk about Trump and  the peril to democracy -- mostly by white academics. When I hear work by writers of color, or by immigrant writers, or by people recounting stories of assault and the abuse of power, there is no presumption that democracy is in peril.

There is no presumption that democracy exists at all.


Beauty is abandoned
in the course of natural process --
the fragrance lingers,
a memory seized
right in the moment breath freezes.








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27 March, 2019

Field Notes, 26 March 2019: Savage Bones, Savage Beauty

Nice, if chilly, walk to a neighborhood coffeeshop. True, there was a Starbucks closer, but I wanted to find something local, something of the neighborhood, before I head downtown. Breakfast, along with a triple shot cappuccino, was a plank of avocado toast -- lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Delicious.

Spent a significant amount of time yesterday afternoon learning about the terroristic activities of the Portland area Proud Boys and the long tradition of racism, Sundown Laws, bigotry, and violent exclusion in Portland. 

Sadly, it echoes of home.


Apparently they are rolling around in groups looking for people to attack... specifically people who don't prescribe to the Proud Boy (read: fascist) ideology of gender normative dress and behavior. At least one member of the Trans Community here  has already been put in the hospital.

All the camps here are arming themselves, and all it will take it one dumb scared kid from either side to mishandle a firearm. It was pointed out to me that the Proud Boys are out numbered. It was pointed out to me at least three times. But the cops never fall on the side with Antifa. They tend to call this neutrality, or adherence to ensuring the law applies to everyone... but that falls as flat on an intelligent ear as the late night station guards insistence he is ticket checking everyone "regardless of what they look like."

America's savage and tribal underpinnings are being exposed like old tree root systems are exposed by heavy rain and flash floods.

But the water isn't going down any time soon.

Flowers blooming in South Portland
while workaday folks carry on.
Wind off the Willamette and Columbia
lay bare rusty bones
leaving us all standing on sand.


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30 May, 2012

Homo Viator (The Westward Expanse) The Rash, Part 2

Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces. -- Marcel Proust 


It's a beautiful tale, and today is a beautiful day without any bugs.  -- Hugo Pratt


To say I didn't sleep well would be an understatement. Not being familiar with how to cope with having a peanut allergy, I naturally stayed up most of the night in that less than optimal motel chair thinking of all the possible long term impacts of having a newly acquired one.

First and foremost: WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO EAT?

Trail mix -- and hence, peanuts -- are a staple of my traveling diet. I try and make sure to get something resembling a real meal -- once a day -- when I'm stopping over night. It doesn't even have to be anything fancy... though I try and avoid fast food. The truth is, I'd rather have soup beans and a hunk of bread than a Whopper.

But without trail mix to tide me over, I'd have to get creative. REALLY creative. Because with a peanut allergy, it's not just about food that has peanuts or is made from peanuts.

Like peanut butter. Fuck! Don't get me started on how traumatic it would be to be denied peanut butter.  

That would also knock potato chips, corn chips, pretzels. A lot of snack foods... because even if there are no peanuts in whatever Food X happens to be, it could have been made in the same area where some Food Y with peanuts in it was prepared. Also, if peanut oils or extracts are involved, I would still have to avoid said Food X.

Second: I COULD DIE.


Sure, now it was a simple rash. But the next time my esophagus could close up and my face could blow up like a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon of a hobo.

After all, weren't the Pilgrims nothing more than vagabond with a vague destination in mind? Get on a boat until you see land? Really? How is that not being a bum?

Dying on the road would, in my opinion, be far less satisfying, if it happened because of something incredibly absurd or ironic. Dying from a heretofore non-existent food allergy? Me? That's up there with being run over by a bus because you're too busy thinking about some story or poem or something. (Sorry Victor Hugo. But's that was a stupid way to go.)

Third: I COULD DIE AND I WASN'T WEARING CLEAN UNDERWEAR.

Ok, I wasn't really worried about that. 

But in deference to My Dear Sweet Ma, who really did try and raise me right by attempting to instill in me some sense of common decency -- which, I might add, is totally lost on me by no fault of hers, my father's, or the societal structure I am in the process of extricating myself from -- 

I thought I should mention it.

Fourth: IF I SOMEHOW MANAGED NOT TO DIE, THE COST OF TRAVELING WILL GO UP.

Specialized foods cost money. Ask anyone who tries to buy healthy groceries and not the deep fried pig slop find on sale at every grocery store in America.  Then there's the spectrum of specialized foods that, in spite of having FEWER INGREDIENTS actually COST MORE.

Welcome to one aspect of the global food scam. Bend over, fork over your debit card, and thank them for robbing you and keeping you healthy... ish. If you don't believe there's scam afoot go to Google (not now) and look up the following terms:

  • MONSANTO
  • GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD
  • ADM

At some point, I managed to fall asleep, but it was not restful. And when I woke up the following morning, it was snowing. And cold. And I had to walk through it, into the wind, to get to the bus station, which was also cold, and technically not open for another 4 hours. Luckily the waiting area was open -- but the air conditioning was on instead of the heat and sitting inside was only moderately warmer than sitting outside. So I was cold, wet, having to wait until 7 that evening for a bus. I was also hungry. But since I didn't know what to eat, and had spent more on my  night's lodging than I really could afford to spend, anything of substance or lacking substance was out of the question.

I wasn't even sure I could eat a hot pocket. And I don't even really like hot pockets.

Eventually I was able to buy a cup of coffee, thank gawd. And the bus did eventually arrive. I decided to speed up my trip to Eugene, Oregon... where I wasn't expected for another week by Grindbone brother, fellow writer, and future Top 10'er on America's Most Wanted hit list, Noah S. Kaplowitz and his extremely patient girlfriend, Becca. I sent Kap a text -- while the battery on my phone was still holding out -- and told him the situation. He told me to come on ahead to Eugene, Oregon and to drink plenty of water.

In short, don't panic.

What the fuck? Doesn't he KNOW me? Of course I panic. I just do it QUIETLY.

I'm actually pretty laid back. Until I'm not. And somewhere on the bus, rolling in the darkness trying to live on water and fruit pilfered from the free "Continental Breakfast" that morning, It wasn't working. I like fruit, don't get me wrong... even semi-not-quite moldy fruit. At a short stop, somewhere between Butte and Spokane -- the first transfer point -- I decided to buy what was traditionally a favorite traveling junk food:

Combos. Pretzel and cheese. None of the fake flavored shit.

It wasn't until I started eating them that I realized there was a very real possibility that I was eating something infected, in some way, with peanuts. 

DAMN IT ALL...

So I stopped eating, chugged some water, and waited to die.

My eyes were getting heavy, but I didn't want to go to sleep. I was waiting for signs of the rash to kick into high gear, for my throat to close, or for my head to swell.  Kap was texting me regularly, Jewish mother that he is, making sure I didn't asphyxiate in the dead of night in the back of a bus. I ended up having to turn off my phone, though, because the battery was draining entirely too fast. There was no one sitting next to me; so, in the event that I DID die alone in the dark on a Greyhound bus that had no outlets for me to plug in my cell ... in the event that I wanted to make any last minute gasping phone calls or listen to my favorite song before I kicked off.

I woke up when the bus driver announced that we were pulling into Spokane. I felt my face. 

Would I be able to tell if my eyes were nearly swollen shut?

I figured that if I couldn't tell that one of the women on the bus, upon seeing my Elephant Man visage, would scream in horror.

No one said a word.

The bus schedule was such that I only had 10 minutes. That gave me time to piss and look at my face in the bathroom mirror.

I still looked like me. I walked down to the handicapped stall, closed and locked the door, set my pack in a corner and pulled down my pants to check the rash.

It was fine. 

I took another look at the rash. The redness on my knees was fading and I noticed the tiny little bites centered on my right knee, coming down from my leg, near where the ragged hem of my boxers sat.

FUCK ME.

Bed bugs. Before Butte I spent a couple of days in an affordable (cheap with hourly, daily, and weekly rates) motel in Rapid City -- The Lewis and Clark Inn. The Lewis and Clark in is the sort of place where you don't have to worry about using a black light to check for disgusting things on the bed covers; you're better off assuming they're there and being very careful about removing them. There was also no need to worry about the temperature of the room, since the central air didn't work. There was also no need to worry about the television being too loud, since the volume button was broken, and no need to worry about setting the drapes on fire since there weren't any.

But it was a smoking room. 

I must've been bitten in my sleep. 

The nice thing about traveling on the cheap is that you occasionally run into indigenous wildlife: cops, drug dealers, hookers,  bed bugs. Roaches, even. No roaches at the Lewis and Clark, thank gawd. No cops, either, from what I noticed. I assumed the others without looking for them.

By the time I got to Eugene, I was exhausted. I walked off the bus and into the station. Kap was leaning against the door frame of the Pearl Street exit... as far as I could tell, the only exit there was... looking like he needed to smoke a cigarette. We greeted one another:

Me: "You really ARE swarthy aren't you?"

Kap: "I thought you'd be shorter."

He handed me a cup of lukewarm gas station coffee and an apple. Then we walked out to the minivan, where Becca was waiting. Before we pulled off into the afternoon streets of Eugene, Oregon, Kap turned around and gave me something else to eat:

a small bag of salted peanuts.

28 May, 2012

Homo Viator (The Westward Expanse): The Rash, Part 1

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes. -- Henry David Thoreau

A thick skin is a gift from God. -- Konrad Adenauer


Traveling can teach you to be calm, how to handle things, and what you can and can't handle. At the onset, it's not unusual to feel hearty; to feel, on some level, like you can handle most anything. You feel some kinship to the settlers, sojourners, pilgrims, and travelers of old. You realize that there are some things you can't plan for; but you also know... you know, like you know what your belly button lint smells like, that you can handle anything.

There's also quite a bit about traveling that feast or famine. When you have money, you let yourself live a bit more comfortably. Plan it out, be thrifty, be cheap, whatever...  it's important to make what nickles and dimes you have stretch a bit more, last a little longer. This means ferreting out the cheapest accommodations possible. It may mean, depending on your background, adjusting what you consider to be your minimum requirements. But it's also important to allow yourself a the comfort of a bed when you can.

 (Note: if room service is something you require, you are not a traveler. You're a tourist. If, on the other hand, you consider having not to share a communal shower a luxury -- hell, if you consider having any shower at all a luxury -- you're a bit closer to what it means to be Out and About.)


By the time I reached Butte, I was past thinking about the Lewis and Clark Inn (with NEWLY RENOVATED ROOMS... and if you believe that I have some water front properties on Mars for sale) and focused on what was ahead of me... Butte. I wasn't sure where I was going to sleep, but I had faith in my ability to find affordable accommodations.

After arriving in Butte, and finding shelter -- which cost me more than I wanted to pay, and more than I really could have afforded -- I had to rush and settle in for Grindbone Narrowcast 52. After the narrow cast, I stripped out of my road clothes, turned on the television, and tried to relax a bit before trying to do some writing and go to sleep.

I was stretched out on the bed in my boxers, flipping through channels and trying to find The Weather Channel, when I noticed my that my legs. Specifically my knees. They were red. Rash red. And the rash -- or whatever it was had spread up the inside of my legs.

Now, keep in mind. I don't get rashes. I had bad allergies when I was a kid... or, at least, an asthma doctor convinced my parents that everything from pollen and dust to X my stuffed owl and the carpet in my bedroom could kill me. But I've never had odd reactions to any food, to scents, shampoos, deodorants, fabrics, cleansers, or anything. Ever. My eventually-to-be ex's step-mother is hypersensitive to chemicals and dyes in everything from perfume to deodorant, and handled it by learning to make her own using plants from her garden.

(That shit, works, by the way. The problem is that we're a culture that so afraid of germs, so inoculated from what people smell like -- the dizzying impact of pheromones, the musky sweaty odors that are as much a proof of our humanity as the opposable thumb and enlarged pre-frontal lobe -- that we mistake something sensual for something sick, and something necessary to our existence... because gradual exposure to germs does actually help build resistance to those germs... as food and shelter.)

But I'm not someone who HAS that sort of toxic sensitivity. I couldn't think of where I got rash. The first thing I did was go and take a shower, making sure to clean the area of the rash. That seemed to help.

That didn't tell me where the rash came from though. I began by thinking about what changes have occurred in my life.

My residential status is a given. But that, in and of itself, means nothing.

I thought about my diet.  Traveling as I've been doing has impacted my diet. Although I try and make sure to get at least one  solid meal a day when I'm in one place for more than a day, when I'm in between I limit myself to liquids, crackers, and trail mix.

Trail mix. Trail mix.


FUCK!


I'm not sure how the idea of a peanut allergy occurred to me. Like I said, I'm not allergic to food. I don't like beets, and I suspect that eating them might kill me in some existential sense. But I'm not ALLERGIC to them.

What the fuck am I going to eat if I can't eat trail mix? 


A peanut allergy could unhinge a lot of things. A LOT. It would mean having to pay more to find something to eat... especially since nearly everything either has peanuts in it or is made with some derivative of peanuts. Even a lot of potato chips are made using peanut oil.

I was also worried about maybe some contact infection. Maybe the detergent the motel used to wash the sheets. This made me paranoid to lay down, even though I was exhausted. All I could do was sit in a chair, which, thankfully, had arms on it, and try and relax. I've slept sitting up on buses, after all, right? This should be easy, right?

I forced myself to stay awake and make sure that I was still breathing, that some come from behind respiratory problem wasn't going to kill me.

How would that play out?

Anonymous Homeless Man [REDUNDANT] Found Dead in Motel Room, Clutching a Book of Rumi and Holding a Bag of Peanuts.


I dismissed that thought almost as soon as it entered my head. Silly vagabond. Headlines are for important people.