I have a tendency to keep score, in my head, of the fair-to-unfair balance of my personal universe at any given time. The scoresheet exists for one reason, and that is to help me justify doing or getting extravagant nice things for myself. These things are usually somewhat out of proportion to the unfairnesses that they're intended to remedy: I have just stubbed my toe so terribly that I need a big stack of new books to read while I lie in bed waiting for it to heal. I'm sad that it's cold out, so I need to eat this entire cake to make myself feel better. A five-page paper?! How dare they? Nothing but lots of stripey socks will make this okay! You get the idea.
Once in a while something like Fiasco Week will come along and tip the balance so far in one direction that it's not really possible to equalize, so I'll give up for a while and start keeping score again when things have settled back down. That is not what happened this weekend. What happened this weekend was that fair and unfair succeeded each other in such dizzying and contradictory oscillations that I've actually lost track.
See, I spent Friday being capital-G good. It was the last day of Spring Break and I was here at work doing things which weren't technically my responsibility but which saved other people from various terrible fates. I did paperwork for the faculty so that students' graduation wouldn't be held up. I intervened between the graduate studies office and students who were about to lose their jobs over grading errors. By the end of the day I deserved a damn halo, and what I got instead was looking in the mirror on the way home and discovering that one of my absolute favorite wood plugs had fallen out of my earlobe. I scoured the building to no avail; it was gone. To restore my faith in the justice of the universe, I bought myself a pair of beautiful swirly green glass ear danglies and went to my local music store to find some cheering music. The fact that I couldn't find an acceptable copy of the album I absolutely had to have warranted the additional restorative measure of having an enormous pecan sticky bun for dinner and going home to watch movies.
This is where it got weird. I found my missing plug in my bed, where it had fallen out the night before and I just hadn't noticed. So, okay, all of my justification for the new jewelry and music -- and therefore the sticky bun dinner -- evaporated. I spent the rest of the weekend being good; I even did my taxes like a responsible citizen even though my mid-year move made them, frankly, a bitch. I thought that warranted trying another record store for the elusive album (Hunky Dory, if you were wondering), but 2nd Avenue Records was closed and I came home freezing and empty-handed. At roughly this point my beloved sister called me for help with her bewilderingly fucked-up blog, and I did my technologically-limited best to help unfuck it. When we hung up after some limited success, I hopped in the shower and in so doing dropped one of my new, beautiful, fragile glass ear swirlies on the nice hard bathroom floor.
Since it's Monday morning, people keep asking me how my weekend was. So far all I've really been able to do is give them confused looks and reach for a pencil and paper to try to calculate the answer.
Bet you didn't know there even were degrees of separation between the revolution and me. Not because the revolution and I are inseparable, but because you can't have degrees of separation when things are simply utterly unconnected. Me, I am a child of the corporate 80s and complacent 90s and if I am a revolutionary, well, then my mom's a revolutionary, and she's not.
I just finished watching the excellent documentary The Weather Underground, about, yes, the Weather Underground. It was quite good. It blew my mind slightly: I grew up thinking of nearly everything that the 60s and 70s produced as out of touch, ineffectual, irrelevant, and ludicrous. Which is not to say that the Weathermen may not have been out of touch or ineffectual -- that's somewhat beyond me to say -- but I don't now have the impression they were irrelevant or ludicrous. [Edit: if it looks like I have rearranged my adjectives, that is because, on careful consideration, I have.] That they had clear and resolute ideas about what was going on around them, that they saw themselves not as an idealistic fluke but as simply the first to choose sides in an actual revolution that was actually supposed to happen, was to me a total shock. That surprise right there, that's the 80s talking. But this is not the point.
The point is that, in the credits of this excellent documentary, the film's creators thanked someone who just sent me a letter.
Weather Underground, organization
Weather Underground, documentary
Vanessa Renwick, filmmaker, Oregon Department of Kick Ass
My desk. Observe.
I periodically Google "wear your fucking helmet" to see if anyone has started talking about my stickers yet, and in six months the internet has given me exactly one mention. It popped up some time ago, and, with all the enthusiasm of a person who believes she's gotten her first mention of many instead of her first and only, I Googled the commenter, tracked her to her awesomely-named independent filmmaking enterprise, and mailed her a sticker. Between then and now she replied, sending me a nice thank-you note on awesome stationery with a sticker of her own (I'm still deciding what to do with it).
There you go: my credentials neatly arranged in a single frame. I'd say "let me show you my credentials" if I didn't think it sounded dirty. And now, if you'll excuse me, this nearly-being-connected-to-the-revolution is exhausting; I need to eat a bagel and go to bed.
I went out last night with my sister's Delightful Former Housemate (DFH for short), who is in town for an obscure classics conference I couldn't possibly comprehend less. We took a stroll through Powell's and then I dragged him across the river for dinner at a place that has probably by now been scientifically proven to be the best restaurant in the world. It's called Nutshell, for the record, although if you ask my sister she will tell you it is called either Nutsack or Sasquatch. No matter.
The thing about Nutshell is that it is a nice restaurant. It's quite nice. It's a lovely space with small attractive tables that have little candles on them, and I was there with someone whose company I find excruciatingly enjoyable. The DFH's title is not an honorarium; he is just exactly as delightful a former housemate as one could hope to find. He's also gay, which is at this point quite well-established and not that difficult to notice. For instance, the story he was telling me about how he managed to re-break his boyfriend's foot in the bathtub was a dead giveaway.
About halfway through dinner I realized this: I was sitting across a small candlelit table from the DFH, demonstrating my tendency when in the presence of delightful people to lean forward and watch them raptly as they relate adorable stories of tragic mishaps. Oh, and the DFH is a nice Southern boy with nice Southern manners who politely refilled my water glass any number of times and invited me to try various parts of his meal. I did so with gusto, because everything was fucking amazingly delicious. So enthralled conversation, sharing of food, refilling of glasses and, indeed, the DFH delightfully paid for my dinner. We looked like a perfectly plausible date if not for the fact that, you know, gay. I imagined the waiters eyeing us and raising eyebrows. That poor girl, they thought. Doesn't she know??? Maybe she's just hoping, you know. He seems like such a nice boy.
I'm sure the bathtub thing was just a, a, friendly misunderstanding, anyway.
When my sister tells me to watch a movie, I run, I do not walk, to the video store and I watch it. First she was right about Hedwig, and now this? After taking ten years to get around to seeing Velvet Goldmine, I am thanking god for giving us DVD so I can see it again without waiting for rewind.
Katie, if you're hiding any other gorgeous, dysfunctional, glitteringly homoerotic rock-and-roll love stories up your sleeves, I'd like to know. Thanks.
I can't describe to you the weirdness of the Portland Allergy Cult. Actually, I can: you know how Inglis, Florida banned Satan from its city limits? Portland has, by overwhelming popular agreement, banned rhinovirus. There is no such thing as a cold here, as you will find if you make the mistake of saying aloud that you have one. No, if you are unwell in the city of Portland, by definition, whatever the evidence, what you have is allergies.
Really? you might ask. What if it started with a sore throat and overnight turned into acute sinus congestion that feels exactly like every single head cold I have ever had in the state of California?
Your Portland listener will nod sagely. That's allergies. That sore throat? That's the allergies hitting.
It's about here that I start getting the narrowed Dianna-does-not-think-much-of-your-listening-skills eyes. Now, look, I say (as I did today), I must propose an alternate explanation here. Because, see, I'm stressed about finals and I've been missing sleep this whole last week and I'm pretty sure my immune system is not up to snuff right now.
More sage nods ensue. That's just when the allergies will hit you! says the interchangeable Portlander.
I try again. Fine. Maybe? Whatever. But that's also when viruses hit you. As they generally have done in my experience.
At this point another person in hearing range chimed in to suggest that everyone develops allergies when they move to Portland and that even though I may not know I have them yet, they're probably the problem.
If I'm recalling correctly through the fog of acute sinus symptoms that compose what, where I come from, we call a cold, I think my original listener at this point said something like, "You'll see. It's allergies." I was so floored that I actually let it go, because I couldn't begin to imagine how an entire city could become so resistant to the idea of a virus that it actually goes around telling people with confidence and assumed authority that there is just no way they are correct in their self-assessment of their illness.
I can't remember the point I was trying to make here, probably because my COLD is making it hard for me to concentrate. I mean, I'm actively working on listening to other people's suggestions and not necessarily taking my own assumptions as gospel truth quite as often as I'd like to, but there are some times when I simply must take a stand. In my nearly 27 years on this earth I've interfaced with the common cold more times than anyone else I know except my equally sickly sister, and by god I know how it works. I'm a damned snot expert by now. Questions? Just pick up the phone and call your local Dianna. Or, at the bobent, Diadda.
While reading about the repatriation of some skeletons rudely removed from an Alaska Native village in the 1930s, I came across a quote from one Douglas Preston, former manager of the department of publications for the American Museum of Natural History. I thought, hah, that's funny, he has the same name as the dude who wrote that totally egregious primitive-monster-as-modern-day-slasher novel Relic. How embarrassing for this guy that someone with his name is going around writing books about murderous monsters living in natural history museum exhibits. What are the odds?
Pretty good, apparently, as they're the same person. (And one of his brothers is Richard Preston, who wrote that very serious and not at all sensationalized no no we are scientists here Ebola book The Hot Zone. What did their parents do to turn all of their kids into cheesy thriller writers?)
I simply cannot believe that Mr. Preston's former colleagues at the Museum of Natural History were anything but embarrassed when this book started showing up in the stores with its lurid gold letters and menacing claw cover. It would be like finding your old Women's Studies professor's name all over one of those splashy romance novels with roses and billowing skirts if not actual heaving bosoms. You'd have to buy the thing in the hopes that it would be better than it looked and might even redeem your colleague, but then you'd read it while cringing with one hand over your eyes and if you ever saw the author again it would just be Awkward City.
"I, uh, saw your book the other day..."
"Great! What'd you think?"
"Oh, it was really interesting."
"Hey, I'm glad you think so!"
"Yeah, the way you totally abandoned good taste and your academic credibility was absolutely fascinating. Gosh, look at the time, I'd better be going. Nice to see you!"
I just realized I don't ever have to worry about wearing green on St. Patrick's Day again. I have a great big heap of leafy greens permanently inked all over my back and arms, and if anyone tries to pinch me I will just turn around and kick them in the shins. Not because having a big green tattoo makes me hardcore or anything, but because I, like Kristen, have an intense and irrational aversion to being pinched. It's not quite as bad as being tickled -- last motherfucker tried to tickle me spent three weeks in traction -- but still I simply will not stand for it.
You know how there's always that one kid who doesn't understand the playground flirting rules? Yeah. I'm still it.
Last night one of my roommate's delightful drunken friends asked me if I thought I was going to stay in Portland, and I shocked myself slightly by saying I wasn't sure. How could I say such a thing? All over town, local music and bicycle breakfasts and my friendly neighborhood worker-owned socialist vegan cafe are crying because I have betrayed them. The daffodils that have started coming up everywhere are trying to burrow back into the ground because really, why do they even bother if they're not appreciated?
Last weekend I rebelled against the massive paper I am supposed to be writing, and I spent the afternoon biking down to Southeast to spend some hard-earned dollars on a bunch of the bullshit that makes me love this place so much: outrageous stripy socks and obscure foodstuffs and a tasty lunch at the abovementioned friendly worker-owned socialist vegan cafe and an adorably ratty-looking home-silk-screened patch from, for once, somebody else's home silk-screening operation. (I did not buy the Anarchist Teapot Mobile Kitchen Guide To Feeding The Masses, but I thought about it.) And as I rode the sky was blue and the air was reasonably warm and the sidewalks were crammed with cherry trees and plum trees all frantically bursting into floofy puffs of pink and white blossoms. And the ground was dry and the daffodils were crowding up out of every otherwise unoccupied patch of ground and people were happy and cheerful and wearing short sleeves (optimistic, to my mind, for 55-degree weather, but far be it from me to stop them). It was glorious.
Two days later it was raining again, solid cloud cover from horizon to horizon, and the daffodils were all bruised from the raindrops and the cherry and plum blossoms were smushed wetly into the soggy ground. As of right now it is raining -- not the vague sprinkling that my co-worker calls Oregon Slowrain, but actual rain that goes drumdrumdrum on the roof and soaks through your sweater -- and it's supposed to rain for the next two weeks solid except for tomorrow. Tomorrow it will be merely "AM showers with a high of 51", and I'm finding myself paralyzed with indecision about how to spend this one outlandishly nice spring day.
On the eve of said nice spring day, which would be right now, I just had to re-close the storm windows in my bedroom because I was freezing. The windows themselves have been shut solid since October -- a thing I cannot stand is a room without fresh air, but another thing I cannot stand is a room that is 45 degrees Fahrenheit -- but I had thought a few weeks ago that I could at least get away with cracking the storm windows open an inch to let in the idea of fresh air. But my freezing toes and the frostbitten leaf edges of my little potted Bryophyllum both say otherwise. As I angrily told last night's asker, back home I would be wearing a tank top and basking in 70-degree sun, and here I am wearing two pairs of socks and three sweaters.
And I am inside. I can't handle it.
Do the following:
Fire up iTunes (or whatever music-sorting program you have that has both filter and randomize functions). Get into your main library, hit random, and start playing whatever comes up.
While it's playing, pick any word in the song title and enter it in your music player's search box. You should see an exciting new list of only the songs with that word in their title. Wait until the current song ends and shuffle picks a new one, then pick a word in that song's title, enter it in the search box, and repeat.
Make sense? Do it for a little while and then list all the songs you just listened to. Here's mine so far.
Wolf Parade - Modern World
Patsy Cline - (If I Could See the World) Through the Eyes of a Child
They Might Be Giants - Schoolchildren Singing âParticle Manâ
Stone Roses - Straight to the Man
The Fiery Furnaces â Straight Street
Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Brand New - Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades
Portishead - Glory Box
For posterity, I think that last transition was the weirdest.
Hilarious anthropological fact time!
So, the Ghost Dance, right? Pan-Native-American religious movement of the late 19th century, with political overtones rooted in the displacement, extermination, and general bullshit oppression of large numbers of Native American people and tribes in the 19th century as a whole. Successful practice of the religion would induce a great force to sweep all of the evil (which a reasonable historical reading identifies with some inevitability as mostly composed of white people) off of the continent. It was also supposed to bring about the happy reunion of the living and the recently deceased! Hooray! Your uncle who got shot by some white dude last year will come back and slap you on the back! Splendid times for the Plains tribes, but it didn't necessarily catch on in the Southwest. The Navajo, in particular, dropped it like a red-hot poisonous electrified snake. But why?
Plains folks: Do this dance! It will bring your dead relatives back!
Navajo: We really do not want to do this dance.
Plains folks: C'monnn. Think of your dead relatives!
Navajo: Trust us, we are thinking of them. Please stop doing that dance.
Plains folks: No way! We want our dead back! All of them!
Navajo: All of them?
Plains folks: Yeah! A great big ghost train full of all dead people.
Navajo: Fucking shit.
Plains folks: Oh, it's no big deal. We'll just all have a nice sit-down and catch up on times. Maybe play some checkers.
Navajo: Yes, and then they're going to turn into howling ghosts and put curses on you and eat your children and we don't even know what the fuck else. Do your insane dance farther away and please for the love of god don't wake up our dead guys.
It just goes to show you have to know your audience. You can be well-intentioned as anything, but, well, if your offer includes the chance to experience a fate worse than death at the hands of thousands of howling evil ghosts people just may not see it in the proper spirit. As it were.
Postscript: now that I'm thinking about this, does it really have to be dark and late with nobody else awake to help me deal with the hordes of angry Navajo ghosts that were just waiting to hear themselves mentioned before leaping out and eating my soul?
Post-postscript: Wow, this entry is exactly as coherent as I'd expect it to be given the timestamp. What I was trying to say is that unlike the majority of Plains tribes the Navajo consider the dead to be dangerous and evil and to be avoided at all costs, and so the striking appeal of the Ghost Dance was not just uncompelling but actually a huge turnoff for them. I don't know why I find this so funny, but I do. Probably it's because I'm a nerd.
The bibliography for my repatriation paper is five pages long in standard American Anthropological Association format and single spacing. This fact has allowed me to legitimately work on my paper for two hours solid without writing a single word of the paper itself.
In theory this is not procrastination, it's a smart way to a) get that pesky time-consuming bibliography out of the way so I'm not trying to do it at 2 am the night before the paper is due when I'm tired and missing citations and can't concentrate, and b) review the sources I checked out of the library a month ago and never opened, so that I can figure out what parts I really need to read and what I should be looking for. In theory, in fact, it's the absolute smartest way for me to start on this paper.
Gosh, look at the time. I think I'd better make some dinner.
My workday, my Friday evening, and $50 of my last paycheck have all been sacrificed to this.
Resist clicking if you want to, but I don't know if it's much use. I introduced it to a co-worker today and she told me I'd just ruined her. My only response was to suggest that, now the damage has been done, she may as well wreck in style.
My search for things to put on my feet has finally yielded a satisfactory result: I have become a Pacific Northwest dork in high-tech ergonomic dork shoes. They're actually pretty adorable for high-tech ergonomic dork shoes, and respectable enough to wear to work (although why I worry about that when even the Monday morning downtown types are wearing Keens with their suits, I don't know). They're also incredibly comfortable, which raises the following question:
If I was genuinely startled to catch a pair of cute women's shoes being comfy, which I was, then what the fuck are all the other shoe companies doing? It's not like I go around wearing towering pumps and pointy winkle pickers here; if I'm unaccustomed to comfiness in shoes it means toe-squeezing demons have infiltrated even the stompy-parachute-boot and recycled-hemp-moccasin market sectors.
New awesome shoes: Your feet go up right about here, and down here and here. We, too, go up here and down there and there. You will find this nice.
Old not awesome shoes: We think flat is a good shape for feet. Yours will adapt eventually. Onetwothreenotresponsibleforfallenarches!
New awesome shoes: Sidewalks are kind of hard. We think it might help if we were a little bit springy. Just enough so your heels don't hurt, okay?
Old not awesome shoes: If you want springy, you can develop a springy walk. This is not our problem.
New awesome shoes: We don't weigh much. You need to be able to ride a bike and and to sprint up the stairs to grab your jacket when you're late for the train and to surreptitiously dance to David Bowie when nobody's looking.
Old not awesome boots in particular: Five pounds. Not kidding. Five fucking pounds. You may as well just wear ankle weights all the time.
New awesome shoes: We have a neat little buckle strap that doesn't seem too breakable.
Old not awesome moccasins in particular: We have an attractive button fastening that turns out to be entirely decorative and secured by little loops of elastic thread that snap if subjected to too much stress.
New awesome shoes: Just go ahead and kick us off when you want to be barefoot. Won't take a second.
Old not awesome boots: Hahahahahahaha! Haaahahaha. You've got to be kidding me.
I find it worrying to contemplate the idea that something essentially functional in nature and kind of necessary on a daily basis could even make it to production if it failed basic tests like not making you hurt and not falling apart after you spent a bunch of money on it. I recognize that shoes are hardly the only offenders here -- women's underthings come to mind, for instance -- but, not to put too fine a point on it, you don't have to walk on your bra. It's slightly harder if you get frustrated with painful shoes to take them off and burn them.
Unless you get the ones that make your feet catch on fire, anyway.
My beloved sister is more years old than she was before!
Of course, a lady never tells how many, and so I won't either. Happy birthday, dude. Keep up the Retardcapades™.
I'm in denial about the amount of schoolwork I have to do right now, so last night I went to a volunteer orientation for the Community Cycling Center. I did hit this part with a hammer, and it did come off, and it was good.
I've decided to do voluntary non-stressful shit with my spare time next quarter, instead of the voluntary stressful shit I have been doing this quarter by taking a class. Fuck my GPA enhancement project; it's not going to work anyway if I'm getting crappy grades because I'm too overwhelmed to do my classwork. So I'm going to pass up Gender In Crosscultural Perspective and Issues In Cultural Resource Management and instead I am going to volunteer at the CCC and maybe someplace else like the library or Humane Society. Bikes, books, fuzzy animals: all things that make me into a happier and less stressed human being. We like being a happier and less stressed human being.
*Interjection of sudden recollection: I have just remembered that I had a dream last night in which I got back a graded paper that I had turned in for some unspecified class. I was given a bad grade and scathing instructor comments for various crimes against grammar, including an absolutely unacceptable preponderance of run-on sentences and comma splices. When I looked back at what I had written, I found that I had indeed used an absolutely unacceptable preponderance of run-on sentences and comma splices. I was horrified. This shit has got to stop.*
So what is the Community Cycling Center and why does it need me to hit things with hammers anyway? I am so glad you asked.
The CCC is a Portland nonprofit. It's possibly the most Portland nonprofit in Portland, being entirely dedicated to helping people get bikes and ride them. They run a holiday bike drive in which they put together -- entirely from donations -- a fleet of 500 shiny, working, bitchin' kiddie bikes to be given away to bikeless kids in low-income families. They run bike safety workshops and maintenance workshops and urban riding classes. They give away helmets and lights and reflectors and other devices for not getting killed. They have a create-a-bike-commuter program for adults who don't have cars and can't afford them, and they deck out huge fleets of nice townie bikes with comfy seats and good street tires and fenders and lights and locks and cargo racks (and helmets), and from advertising through social service agencies they have a 3-month waiting list of folks who want to come have a half-day safety & maintenance workshop and get a bike for their trouble.
I know the first thing about fixing bikes, and at the moment that's about all. I cannot build complicated parts or replace broken whatevers or determine if this worn-out dealie is going to snap off and kill someone, and you might think this makes me fairly useless to the CCC. Not so! they say. Improbably enough they welcome volunteers of all skill levels, and they have a weekly drop-in volunteer night where you can help them take apart crappy donated bikes for parts and recycling and bit by bit learn things like this is how you take off a freewheel. And after you've done that a few times you start to know enough to learn things like this is how you take the rusty bits off a fixable bike without damaging it and then you're halfway to this is how you build a bike from scrap parts so the mechanics can tune it up and make it ridable. And it's a glorious combination of helpful for their projects, and useful for your own ability to figure out what the fuck has gone wrong with your ride now, and totally satisfying because at the end of the day what you are doing is taking big greasy things apart with tools.
Last night I greasily learned that there are occasions on which it is appropriate to hit a bike with a hammer, and they are not the occasions I have thought of on my own (namely, when you are frustrated by another goddamn flat tire). It turns out that the right time is actually when you are taking the fork off the frame. It's an amazing strategy; you carefully loosen this bolt and then you whack the fuck out of it until it lets go.
Here is how much that helped: through misfortunes of timing last night, I didn't get home or have dinner until 9:45 pm. I was surrounded by strangers and required to take in new information on an empty stomach... and all of this with looming school deadlines hanging around the back of my head?
Didn't really bother me. Turns out when the tool you've got is a hammer, anxiety and low blood sugar just look like ordinary nails.
In the last two weeks in Portland I have found and purchased:
I have not been able to find:
I'm convinced there is something about this town that I am just not getting. Probably if I went around thinking very hard about how useful shoes would be in some kind of craft project, they'd show up for sale all over North Portland at 25 cents apiece.