On icons as body art

There’s a really great blog called I Live Here: PDX that has people email in their answers to a set of questions and then photographs them and publishes their answers. It’s a fun blog that really shows the diversity of Portland and always reminds me of the idiosyncrasies of this place I call home.

I was catching up on it just now and I was struck by one of the answers given. The question was “Name your favorite tattoo”, to which the answer was “Mao’s face, which will one day adorn my person.”

Portlanders love their tattoos. When I was working as a barista, my coworkers used to tease me about being the only barista in town that didn’t have any tattoos. I’ve thought about it, but I just can’t commit to adding something permanently to my body. Maybe some day–I’m certainly not opposed to tattoos, I’m just uncommitted for myself.

When I read this answer, I thought, Whoa. Really?! This man completely changed the face of his country in part through the imprisonment, brainwashing, torturing, and murdering of millions of his people and you want his face on your body? It seems rather insensitive. In a world where people think nothing of naming their cats “Chairman Meow” (I’ve known one myself) and where people get tattoos in languages they don’t understand on a regular basis (I once owned a shirt that said, in Japanese, “Dirty American devil”–but at least I knew what it said), I guess it’s just another way for people to show their ignorance.

Yes, Mao was a revolutionary. Yes, he believed that what he was doing was in the best interest of his country. Yes, he set in motion reforms and changes that brought millions a better standard of living. But he also did a lot of really bad things.

I’m not saying don’t get a tattoo of Mao if that’s what you really want to do, but please consider the weight of doing so before you do it. Don’t get the tattoo because you think he’s a pop culture revolutionary icon. Get the tattoo because you believe in what he accomplished and can honestly argue that his methods were just and reasonable. There are enough people out there doing things to damage our collective culture and intelligence (e.g. Kim Kardashian and her strong defense of opposite-sex-only marriage); please don’t contribute by getting a tattoo of a dictator who tortured and murdered millions just because you think it’ll look cool.

This isn’t the post I was going to write.

Now that we have that out of the way…

I bought a bike.

There is no doubt that I live in the most bike-friendly city in the country, if not North America. Shortly after moving here a year and a half ago, someone asked me when I was planning on buying a bike. I told him that I just wasn’t really a bike person, that I hadn’t owned a bike since high school and that public transit worked just fine for me (especially the expansive and easy to use public transit here). But, I told him, let’s be realistic. Give me a year or two and I’ll probably give in.

In a journal entry from when I first came to Portland on vacation one of the things that I focused on was the number of bikes everywhere. Perhaps what was most striking about it was how utilitarian most of the bikes were. Sure, a lot of them were new and shiny looking but almost all of them had a very utilitarian look to them: trailers, racks, extended frames to carry larger loads, panniers and bags of all shapes and sizes. And they were just…everywhere. Bike racks everywhere. Bike lanes everywhere. Bike racks on the front of every bus. Bike hooks in the MAX trains. Covered bike parking with neighborhood route maps. Secure bike parking at MAX stations. I chalked it up to just one more example of how green and progressive Portland was.

When I moved here, I didn’t seriously think I would last very long without getting a bike despite being a very determined pedestrian and public transit user. And, anywhere I could get with a bike, I could get on public transit. So, my decision to buy a bike wasn’t based on a need exactly. It’s true that waiting for a bus on a weekend sometimes takes longer than it should and that it will take me much less time to go to the grocery store or to the farmers market than it will via bus, but getting a bike wasn’t about time, either. It was deeper than that, more ethereal. I found this video after I decided that it was time for me to buy a bike. One of the women that they interview in the video articulated much better than I was able to why I decided finally to get a bike. Riding a bike in Portland is ‘traveling in the vernacular’. It’s just the way people get around here. We have the highest percentage of bike commuters in the country. And I saw something today about bike jams cropping up around town–imagine! bike jams!

So, I did some shopping around and quickly found a friend who had a bike he never used and sold to me for cheap. I brought it in for a tune-up and another friend donated an old bike bag that he wasn’t using anymore. I picked the bike up from the shop yesterday, installed a rear rack to attach the bag to and plan eventually to get a collapsible basket for the other side to increase my carrying capacity.

It’s been a while since I’ve been a regular bike rider but, oddly enough…it’s just like riding a bike. In fact, I rode to the grocery store yesterday to pick up some pie ingredients and then to the Man’s house for a bbq potluck and to bake the pie (blueberry). It felt good. It was entirely different than taking the bus or walking. It’ll take some getting used to dealing with traffic but I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough. One nice thing that I noticed very quickly is that most people will defer to bikers. Obviously, you can’t count on that all the time but I think as long as you stick to the bike routes and lanes, most people get it.

The best part, though, was biking home after the bbq. I’m not sure that I actually saved any time biking home versus taking the bus but it was a much quieter trip. I was biking through quiet tree-lined streets of southeast Portland, the full moon peeking through branches and peering over roofs. There were occasional cars but for the most part it was just me and a few other scattered bikers. Pedal pedal pedal. I was a little out of breath when I got home but it felt very satisfying to carry the bike upstairs and crawl into bed.

The friend from whom I bought this bike had bought it from someone who also wasn’t using it. Hopefully, a year from now, I won’t be selling it to someone else because I’m not using it. If it counts for anything, at least I don’t have a basement where I can stick it away and have it get dusty. My apartment is not huge. There’s really nowhere for it to hide. We’ll see how I feel about riding it in December when it’s 45° and drizzling but even if I’m only a fair-weather biker, it’s better than not being a biker at all.

Radio Silence

I feel like I haven’t even touched my camera in forever. I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I’m frustrated with both of my jobs for various reasons and yet, as you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of other options floating around for employment.

I’ve been working both of these jobs now for a year and though my schedule has adjusted  a little bit–I do now have two full, consecutive days off, the outline essentially remains the same. I work about 45 hours a week. Two of those days are doubles where I start work at 7.30 am and finish between 9 and 10.30 pm depending on the day with two hours off in between shifts, about 45 minutes of which is eaten up with travel time between job one and job two. I am lucky to live above one of my jobs, which means that I do get some home time in between shifts on those double days. Still, it’s certainly no picnic. And after a year, it has definitely gotten old.

But, here I am. The economy in the shitter and I want a different job. I do feel fortunate to HAVE two jobs currently and so have the luxury of not feeling rushed or pressed into taking any job I can get but I’m starting to feel as if I’d rather not have a job because of the level of stress and frustration that I experience from the two jobs I have.

I’ve been here before–trapped into something that I have little option out of except in the distant future. Before, it was living in Maine. The only difference there is that I was less stressed about work and more financialy secure than I am now.

Anyway. That’s part of the reason that I haven’t been posting photos: I haven’t been taking any to post.

Ruts are no fun to be in and having an argument on Valentine’s Day with your Man doesn’t help either. Not that I had big heart-and-cupid dreams about Valentine’s Day but arguments are no fun no matter what day they’re on. Not that it was really that much of an argument. It was more of a snap from me asking rather forcefully and loudly if we could please change the subject as four of us walked across the Hawthorne Bridge last night. Admitedly, it was not the most constructive way for me to express my discomfort with the topic at hand but the Man basically didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night and when I opted to leave the theatre at intermission, because I was suddenly exhausted and have a long day at work today, he felt it was better for me to go back to my place rather than to his and wait for him to come home. Which is fair since we hadn’t really had the chance to discuss what had happened and why I was frustrated and why he was frustrated. And more than likely, we wouldn’t have discussed it if I’d been asleep in his bed either. Still, it’s one of those things that has left a sour feeling in my stomach.

This relationship thing isn’t easy–I don’t think anyone ever promised that it would be–and this is certainly the longest relationship I’ve been involved in for quite a while. It’s challenging me an awful lot to grow and to let down barriers and to learn to trust someone more than I probably ever have. All of these are good things. Still, my past experience has seen people walk away from things far less serious than this for far more stupid things. If he were the kind of person to do that, the Man would have walked away from this long ago for something more stupid than this and I don’t really feel like this is going to be something to break our relationship.

Hm. I should probably think about getting to work now even though my thoughts aren’t really finished on this.

I’ll get back to pictures soon. I don’t know if I’ll try to catch up or just pick up where I should be. I’m almost a week behind now and Tuesday will be the earliest that I have the chance to try to catch up. Maybe I’ll set myself a photo safari for Tuesday. Actually, there’s some interesting construction going on over by the Lloyd Center that I’ve been wanting to get shots of before it gets too far along. Maybe I’ll head over there Tuesday and see what my camera sees…

24/365

24/365, originally uploaded by unspeakable_grooviness.

This is something that I’ve had to get used to here in Oregon.

In Portland, a Winter Weather Advisory means that it might drop below freezing, that it’ll probably be really windy and there might even be some snow.

I’m used to Winter Weather Advisories meaning about a foot of snow or a Nor’Easter. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

22/365

22/365, originally uploaded by unspeakable_grooviness.

This is a photo of Dan Savage. I swear.

So, Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, got himself into a bit of a pickle. Three years ago he had a brief romantic relationship with a young man who was, then, just barely 18. Sam was, then, 42. Two years ago, as his campaign for mayor was just starting, someone began floating rumours about this relationship. Sam denied them and insisted that it never been anything more than a friendship. The rumours eventually dissipated and Sam sailed to an easy victory to become the first openly gay mayor of an American city in the top 40 population-wise.

Two weeks ago, he admitted that he had lied. That the relationship had in fact been romantic and, indeed, sexual but that it had not become sexual until the young man in question had turned 18 (the age of consent in Oregon).

Awkward to say the least, especially when you’ve only been mayor for 20 days and have been involved in city politics for over 15 years.

Well, people called for him to resign and people called for him to stay.

I went to a rally in his support and sang along with the rest of the crowd ‘Stand by your Sam.’ Dan Savage, author of Savage Love, made the trip down from Seattle where he lives to speak in support of Sam as well.

Now, I admit, it sucks that he lied and I really wish he hadn’t. At the same time, his personal life is really none of my or anyone else’s business to the extent that it doesn’t impact his ability to be mayor. If he dates a younger man, well, I don’t think that has any impact on his ability to be mayor.

Perhaps he should have known better. The young man’s name is Beau Breedlove (really? really) and after he named his dog Lolita.

I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions from that.