November 30, 2007

Asterisk shaking fist asterisk.

If you can think of a thing that people could conceivably just up and start doing on a strictly voluntary basis, it is a good bet that someone in Portland is already doing it. For instance: Breakfast on the Bridges. On the last Friday of every month, some folks set up little tables on two of the bridges and serve donated coffee and pastries to people biking to work. I discovered this last month, when my erratic bike-commuting habits and their regular coffee-serving habits coincided for the first time. I was running so catastrophically late that morning that I figured I'd better not stop, but I did some Googling and discovered that they are in fact on my bridge every month. This is AWESOME, so of course I spent the month of November planning to attend the very next one rain or shine.

Today I practically leapt out of bed, waltzed into my clothes, ventured a quick breakfast but eschewed coffee, sauntered to the garage for my bike, found it in good working condition (unlike pretty much every other time I have mentioned my bike here), and left with ages to spare. Wheee!

But the Broadway Bridge, my regular commute bridge on which I saw the breakfast folks last month, was completely devoid of people and bikes and beverages. No cheery folks calling out to me to stop and be refreshed this time. Nobody else riding, either, which is deeply weird since Broadway is normally so crowded with bike commuters that they start acting almost as rude and annoyed as the car traffic next to them. So what gave?

I Googled when I got to work (early, of course, because I hadn't gotten to stop for coffee). Just now -- this month -- they have decided to permanently change their nothern location from the Broadway Bridge to the Steel Bridge. I went sulking through the "older versions of this page" archive on their website and discovered that they updated the location all of ten days ago. I, naturally, did not check within that time.

The thought did occur to me while I crossed the strangely empty bridge that perhaps the event had been moved. I tried to, without riding off the bridge, squint at the next bridges over and look for signs of companionable breakfasting. The next one to the north is a freeway bridge with no bike lanes, so that obviously wasn't it. To the south is, in fact, the Steel Bridge, but in my coffee-less slowness I was looking at the vehicular upper deck instead of the lower pedestrian deck. So I saw nobody, so I didn't turn around and head over and join the revelers even though I had plenty of time to do so. Of course they were on the lower deck.

Portland: people doing really awesome things which Dianna keeps fucking missing, damnit, through shit luck and relatively little fault of her own.

Posted by dianna at 09:24 AM

November 25, 2007

In which Dianna vaguely resembles your grandmother.

My house is eighty years old this year, and very weird. Therefore my roommates and I are doing what you do for someone who is eighty years old and weird, which is use them as an excuse to throw a party. The house, unlike your 80-year-old great-uncle, has a basement lounge with a full bar (mirrors, drink wells, ice bins, tap) and oppressive wood panelling and it could, theoretically, have been a speakeasy during Prohibition. Probably it wasn't, but the attitude among my roommates and myself is basically that if it hasn't been one it should have the chance now, and if it has, that's simply fucking awesome.

So of course we are having a speakeasy party. My owning roommate is making home-brew beer, there is a password, costumes are highly encouraged, and last I heard there was going to be a still in the bathroom. For show. I think. One never really knows. In any case, I am not on the committee responsible for actual decoration and planning, so I am viewing the whole affair the same way I tended to view Kingman parties: purely an excuse for costumes that don't even need to be practical enough to leave the house.

I contemplated going as a gangster. Moustache! Hat! Silly tie! Toy gun? Sleazy dames on either arm? But sleazy dames aren't that easy to pick up in this town, so I thought about being a flapper instead. And then I realized: the 1920s may be the last decade of American women's fashion that I can really get behind. In fact I can get quite wholeheartedly behind it, seeing as it was about skinny leggy women with no boobs trying (within skirt-related limits) to dress like adolescent boys. Baggy sweaters and sailor collars and short hair and no waists and clothes you can move in, nay, not just move but in fact dance lewdly in. I don't do that much lewd dancing, day to day, but I like for clothes to allow the possibility in general.

Hence, after spending two hours and 20 bucks at Goodwill, I do perhaps resemble your grandmother, if your grandmother spent the 20s being awesome with reckless abandon.

And of course the sensible flapper, though she may be a contradiction in terms, needs to plan for it being December in Oregon with people coming and going through the giant garage door making it freezing fucking cold. More to the point, the sensible flapper contemplating this point realizes that it gives her an excuse to buy a perfectly awesome sweater which, being a skinny woman with no boobs who more or less dresses like an adolescent boy at all times, she will rock with equal aplomb whether flapping or not.

I still need to find myself a long string of fake pearls, because my jewelry here is not quite doing it, but I'm awfully proud of what I've collected so far. The critical insight that made it possible was that, for once, I did not need to scour Goodwill for a dress that fit me. I just needed a dress that fit me so badly as to totally lack waist and bust definition, and that is precisely what Goodwill is always awash in. The above is not really remotely a flapper dress; it just, on me, hangs like one. Also, I must have a large head because every hat in the world fits me like a flapper hat. Easy!

Posted by dianna at 08:15 PM

November 23, 2007

Fuck Cranberry Sauce, Or, Dianna's Recipe For The Most Delicious After-Thanksgiving Breakfast Ever.

Note: I thought I'd posted this this morning, but apparently I was rendered senseless by hydrogenated oils and didn't do so. You can still use it as reference for tomorrow morning.

Become awake and motile around 9:30. Wander down to the kitchen and discover that since the only Thanksgiving cooking you did was making fudge, the only thing you have left over (besides a lot of fudge) is a whole tub of Tofutti. Have an epiphany.

Go back upstairs to get four more layers of clothing, and then walk over to the bakery on the next block down. (Notice on the way that even though it is now 10 a.m., there is actual frost on your actual lawn outside your actual house and you actually live in this ridiculous climate.) Buy an enormous loaf of ciabatta and bring it home all fresh and yummy-smelling and peeking out of its paper bag.

Now cut a bunch of slices of this deliciousness and toast them VERY LIGHTLY until they are just nicely warm. Take a bowl, and a spoon, and use the spoon to fill the bowl with big dollops of Tofutti, raspberry jam, and slightly softened Earth Balance. Make some coffee and go sit at the dining room table with your bowl of various goops and your stack of warm bread bits. Use the bread bits to scoop up goop in all possible combinations and devour.

To those who hesitate, who worry, who ask can we really put Tofutti and Earth Balance both on the same piece of bread?, I say: in case you hadn't noticed, commie, this is America. We don't worry about these things here. Now eat your goop.

For a very brief time yesterday the weather forecast for Portland was predicting snow showers for December 1st. In the time it took me to absorb this fact and enthuse about it to my renting roommate (who is from somewhere in upstate New York, views Portland as a big crowded city with no seasons and no nature, and would probably die of shock in Los Angeles, and who is condescendingly amused by pretty much all of my weather-related reactions), the forecast was revised to sun and a high of 40 degrees. You know the famous quote about if you don't like the weather in San Francisco? Well, here, if you don't like the weather forecast, you can wait five minutes and it will be entirely different. And still about 95% wrong.

Happy day after Thanksgiving. Don't buy things this weekend.

Posted by dianna at 09:25 PM

November 20, 2007

The yak.

Zach has just ensured that I will not rest easy until I have gone through my entire excessive, unedited book collection and calculated its proportion of fiction to nonfiction. It's too easy to manipulate me this way; all you have to do is say, "Hey, Dianna, I read somewhere that men do X and women do Y," and there are no lengths to which I will not go to figure out my own level of adherence and then argue with you about it. If you told me that women on transatlantic hot-air balloon journeys accompanied by at least five merino sheep are likely to acquire previously undiscovered German-language proficiencies roughly 3/5 of the way between New York and London whereas men are not, I would probably have to go and find a balloon, five sheep and a German tutor and go and test it out. Uncited and suspiciously essentializing studies are to me like a dangling string in front of a kitten.

But it will be impossible for me to tally up my books until I take remedial driver's ed! We could play a game of Guess The Convoluted Chain Of Connected Actions, if you like.

Posted by dianna at 07:23 PM

November 19, 2007

Will one of you please talk about something besides bicycles?

No, probably not.

I was noticing this morning on my walk from train to work that some of the egregious construction-related congestion in downtown Portland is easing up. It's all to do with the new transit mall project; they've closed long segments of several major streets in order to put in light-rail tracks and bus shelters and stuff. It has, with delicious mid-project irony, made it impossible to navigate the city center by bus or bike or foot for the entire time I've been here. But they're starting to reopen streets as they finish laying the rails in, and today I noticed that 5th and 6th avenues are finally usable again.

If you're a car, that is. Or a pedestrian. Not if you're a bike.

There's a difference between a street that's simply not set up for effective bike use and a street that's Total Fucking Bicycle Suicide. Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley is not set up for effective bike use -- it carries heavy traffic and horrible traffic jams and has no bike lane. Market Street in San Francisco is Total Fucking Bicycle Suicide, because in addition to the above problems it has MUNI trains and MUNI lanes and people in cars going in the train lane and then getting the hell out of the train lane and getting in front of the train and generally acting like dorks. Also, train tracks are not my friend.

SW 5th and 6th in Portland are now Total Fucking Bicycle Suicide. I actually discovered this several weeks ago, while attempting to bike back to work from Veganopolis with a delicious bbq unchicken sandwich that I needed to be alive to enjoy. I rode on 5th just for the novelty of the thing, and I discovered that the 5th Avenue of the future is 1.5 lanes wide with no stripes(?!) and no bike lane, and it has MAX tracks that veer gently back and forth across the entire driving surface of the street.

Let's have a quick review of bike/train-track interactions.

  • 90-degree angles: fine.
  • 45-degree angles: okaaaay I guess as long as nothing's going to make me swerve at all.
  • 30-degree angles: not really very safe.
  • less than 30 degrees: seriously, fuck off.

The gently-veering tracks on 5th avenue require the non-deathwish-having bicyclist to continually swerve in and out of car traffic to get even close to a 30-degree angle crossing the damn things. But swerving in and out of car traffic every two blocks is almost as suicidal as riding over the tracks at acute angles, and will cause the drivers (who have no idea what's going on because their tires don't get stuck in the tracks) to shake their fists, honk at you, roll their eyes and bitch about how Portland bicyclists are reckless and unsafe and should be banned from the roads.

6th, I confirmed today by some eyeballing on my walk to work, is just as bad except that it is fully two lanes wide. So the odds of having the (crappy) right side of the street to yourself, without cars behind you while you veer and swear under your breath and try not to die, are more or less zero. This is what the downtown planning folks cheerfully call "improved bicycle access" on the Portland Mall project website. I do not accept it.

Bonus! Here are descriptions of the best routes I have currently found for biking southbound into downtown and northbound out of it. They're really fucking stupid.

  • Southbound: Broadway. Beware "hotel zone" with cabs pulling in and out of parking spots to your right. Also, due to construction, be prepared to merge two lanes into car traffic while climbing a very steep hill.
  • Southbound alternate: Park/9th! Cross lots of busy streets without lights.
  • Northbound: 4th St. You have no bike lane and there are at least six buses running behind, around, in front and occasionally through you.
  • Northbound alternate: Park Ave! Allow two blocks on pedestrian park pathway due to sidewalk closure, one block on sidewalk due to road closure, and two blocks in which traffic suddenly reverses and goes southbound while you are going north. Then just cross Burnside without a light, make a left across traffic onto Broadway, and you're home free. This is actually my usual route home from work and I haven't--quite--died yet.

Posted by dianna at 10:27 AM

November 16, 2007

Meat gift.

I've been short on morning reading material since the Oregonian stopped trying to court my subscription, so today at breakfast I was looking through the Wine Country Gift Baskets catalog. Corporate holiday gift baskets of wine and status food are not the most logical thing to look at while eating one's homemade vegan peanut butter muesli (recipe forthcoming because it is de-goddamned-licious) and one's reusable travel cup of fairly traded coffee with unrefined sugar and soymilk, but I freely admit that the glossy pictures, the brightly excessive packaging, the carefully arranged abundance, the illusions of generosity and decadence, it all works precisely as designed and attracts the hell out of me. There. I said it. I lust after lavishly presented overconsumption, particularly when it involves expensive foodstuffs.

But despite my embarrassing familiarity with the contents of these damn catalogs, there is one thing that shows up in probably half of the baskets and I simply cannot wrap my head around it.


I cannot come to grips with the idea that people give meat as part of their pseudo-luxury gift baskets. It's just hilariously gauche. The fact that meat really is a luxury when considered in the scheme of human gastronomic history doesn't help to convince me it's not ridiculous to wrap up a chunk of flesh and give it as a fancy gift. I'm not even sure it's related to my own diet; after all, 98% if not all of the things included in these baskets are wildly unvegan. It's all cheeses and salmon patés and milk chocolate and butter cookies and the hell if I know what else. When my old office would get one of these baskets I'd generally run to unwrap it and find that I couldn't even nibble on the dry crackers because they were full of whey. But out of the whole mess, nothing seems remotely as perplexing and outrageous to me as the salami.

I mean, just look! How completely inappropriate does that salami look, nestled in among all the cookies and chocolates like a dildo on your kitchen counter? Let alone in your office. I'm beside myself.

My perusal of the catalog and website so far has suggested that I must be the only person in the world who thinks this way about, snicker, meat. Heehee. Seriously, am I insane? Alone in the universe? Please tell me your thoughts about, haha, giving people meat. For the holidays. In the office! Snort!

It's worth noting that while I am enjoying the hell out of the double-entendre here, the whole concept really is independently hilarious and I would like for you to address it on its own merits. Or just make inappropriate jokes. Whatever you want.

Posted by dianna at 05:13 PM

November 14, 2007

Taker-onners and taker-downers.

My profane bicycle PSA suffered a severe setback this morning when I realized that people are fucking taking down my stickers. I had thought I might get city cleanup crews scraping off the stickers all over Broadway, or maybe overzealous campus maintenance taking off the ones around PSU. I figured that Banana Republic probably sent out employees with dental picks to remove any unauthorized flair from the bike racks outside its downtown store, so I didn't bother putting any there. I did put them outside the courthouse, the Oregonian's downtown news office, and (accidentally) an office of the Portland Police Bureau, and although I made my peace with the idea that someone might take those down they actually appear to have stayed.

But outside Columbia Sportswear and the Bike Gallery, both places where people should be bang alongside the idea of protective sporting gear, stickers went up and stickers were removed. Hey! Damn you! Be on my side! I noticed the lack at Columbia Sportswear first, and made a point this morning to walk by and slap another one over the spot where someone's vigorous scraping had taken off not only the first sticker but most of the bike rack's paint. It was so unseemly of them that I felt I ought to cover up their faux pas with another sticker. Obnoxious, but thoroughly delightful.

The missing stickers outside the Bike Gallery, though, just made me depressed. I'd spent a long time debating with myself whether to put them there, because I didn't want the bike folks to think I was being bitchy about the whole Brett Jarolimek thing. Finally I decided that a) they are probably as in favor of helmets as anybody, b) downtown is so covered with these stickers at this point that I'm clearly not singling anybody out, and c) they are a bike shop damnit and they may have a sense of humor. So I put up two stickers, one on 10th and one around the corner on Salmon. And the fuckers took them both down. One was contact paper and could have been stolen to stick elsewhere, but the other was grippy mylar and after removal would have been fit only for the trash.

I'm feeling somewhat deflated. I know I've been saying that the whole point of my PSA is that I am one grumpy mutinous person supported by no respectable authority, but being actually opposed by the locally respectable authority of a bike shop with a fund for grassroots safety projects is kind of demotivating. I wasn't expecting them to write ballads in my honor or give me their safety project money to buy sticky mylar, but, well, damn.

I stuck a couple more stickers further down 10th on my way to work, but my heart wasn't totally in it. Maybe I need to switch to another project for a while.

Posted by dianna at 09:55 AM

November 12, 2007

I really thought pr0n would be more fun than this.

I'm still trying to read this damn porn book, because I think it's bad form for an aspiring social-sciencey person to not finish a book just because she doesn't agree with it. On the other hand, this particular book also makes her angry and italicized because it is full of what she regards as bad scholarship and bad logic and bad writing, and she got as far as page 46 this afternoon before slapping herself in the forehead, flinging the book down dramatically, and beginning to pace fretfully around the kitchen with her coffee cup while lecturing the cats about passing off this nonsense as social criticism.

The offending page, coming hard on the heels of several pages of AA-style narrative asking the reader to congratulate the author for his difficult journey to a moral and porn-free life, contained the following exchange: another author working on a study of pornography pointed out to Jensen that she had found some porn offering different messages and dynamics than the sort he was focusing on. She offered to provide him with a list of titles in case he wanted to draw some comparisons. He took her comment as an attack on his right to write about Gag Factor #10 or whatever, and he replied snippily that he was not interested in her recommendations. After relating this in the book he went on to say, "It might be easier or more comforting to pretend that the pornography industry isn't churning out thousands of overtly misogynistic films each year. But it's not clear why we would want to ignore that reality if we are trying to understand the real world."

It was precisely at the end of that paragraph that the forehead-slapping, book-flinging, and peevish pacing commenced. I cannot read this fingers-in-the-ears bullshit! Willfully ignoring a particular body of information while accusing those who try to offer it to you of being blind to your favorite information is a conservative trick, and I won't have it in my feminist camp. It's like the old blah blah blah we will not listen to your studies about the inefficacy of abstinence-only sex education you are only trying to keep us from spreading our good message OMG WHY ARE YOU BEING SO CLOSED-MINDED?

Crapola. I think this means I get to go back to Powell's and find myself something better to read. Give me suggestions.

Posted by dianna at 09:30 PM

November 10, 2007

Charismatic megafauna!

I just went to the zoo! It was unexpectedly nice out (read: sunny and not raining but still 48 degrees) today and I was casting around for something outsidey to do when I suddenly realized I had not yet been to the Oregon Zoo. So I grabbed my camera and hopped on the train, and spent two hours roaming around the zoo by myself getting strange looks from small children.

One toddler was so much more interested in me than in the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit that I felt compelled to gently inform him that I was not a zoo animal. He continued staring anyway.

The zoo was, as zoos generally are, awesome for the little kid part of me and kind of horrifying for the adult part. I spent several minutes standing in front of the chimpanzee habitat apologizing on behalf of Homo sapiens sapiens for the fact that fuzzy people who use tools and exhibit complex social structure and optional bipedality have to live in glass-walled concrete boxes instead of in the forest. Of course, non-fuzzy people who use tools and exhibit complex social structure and obligate bipedality live in concrete boxes for the most part too, so maybe I should apologize to myself while I'm at it.

Then I saw a peacock standing in line at the coffee stand. It was patient and orderly and stood behind this dude for several minutes before anyone but me seemed to notice it.

I took a crapload of pictures, but because I was trying not to be the jackass with the camera flashing lights at the animals, I took them all without flash. Ergo they are mostly blurry and dim, but in light of the important lesson I learned about the animal kingdom -- they are not at all impressed by me and feel perfectly at home showing me their rear ends -- the lack of clarity is probably not that tragic. But I will show you a few of the ones that turned out okay.

That, right there, that is a giraffe. I knew giraffe, and sir, you are no giraffe.

There was, through careful selection of the viewing flock no doubt, only one black sheep. I felt a sudden cliched and exaggerated kinship. And for the record, what I thought was people making unconvincing "baa" noises at the sheep was, in fact, the sheep. Making unconvincing "baa" noises. THEY SOUND JUST LIKE PEOPLE SAYING BAA. What the hell?

I thought this was a gnu and so I had a clever comment about freely distributing its picture all ready for you guys. It turns out that I was totally misinformed about gnus, and this is, er, something else.

That is a sarcastic twentysomething taking pictures of herself making spooky faces in a fake hippopotamus den next to the Lagoon Of Invisible Hippopotami. Five seconds after this picture was taken a speaker next to the fake hippopotamus den started making incredibly loud, and above all close-sounding, hippopotamus noises and the sarcastic twentysomething got the hell out of there at high speed. She was subsequently, well, sheepish.

On the way to the zoo I had a strange encounter with a sort of pressingly-friendly dude riding the Max. He tried to strike up a conversation with me, but by two minutes in it had turned with apparent irrevocability to the subject of whether I wanted to hang out with him sometime and what we might go do. I ended up refusing to give him my phone number and failing to articulate the perfectly valid reason why not, which was that having established no common interest or rapport with me in the course of my few halfhearted responses, his intense interest in making plans with me was out of all proportion to our interaction thus far and I found it unnerving. But since of course that clear explanation wasn't available to me on the spur of the moment, he was taken aback and insulted. I hereby confess that his subsequent pointed ignoring of me totally failed to make me repentant.

Look an elephant!

Posted by dianna at 07:02 PM

November 09, 2007

Fucking, hell.

I'm 41 pages into Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity by Robert Jensen and the only feedback I can think to give the author is, in fact, "Deeper!" For a serious feminist scholar he seems to have an awfully superficial analysis of his chosen subject.

The problem I'm having with his arguments so far is this: a lack of distinction between "X" and "A particular dominant form of X which I am going to use to make arguments about X in its entirety". He defines masculinity as entirely composed of machismo, necessarily constructed of violence and anxious striving for dominance, and he dismisses without consideration the very idea of alternate masculinities not based on such exploitation. When he calls for an end to masculinity, therefore, he is requiring that the male half of the species forfeit its collective gender identity as well as all possibility of obtaining a new one (because, of course, the only male collective identity possible is the unacceptable masculinity).

Likewise, he defines pornography as entirely composed of the current body of mainstream pornography in which men dominate and humiliate women, and for all that he has clearly watched a truckload of porn in the process of this writing he seems entirely unaware that there exists on the fringes of the porn industry material which skips the patriarchy and abuse and is just, you know, hot stuff about sex. So he calls for an end to porn in the same way that he calls for an end to masculinity, without entertaining the idea of reform and without consideration of the notion that the corruption of these things into institutionalized violence may be an effect of the larger problem of patriarchy and not evidence of the inherent evil of masculinity and porn. Jeez.

He also seems unaware of the fact that women are consumers of porn as well as (hand to forehead) helpless victims of the violence inherent in its production and popularization. Robert! You are not an anthropologist but will you please try to identify the agency of your subjects instead of simply running off at the mouth about their structural exploitation? Again, jeez.

I'm thinking that he could still pull this thing off if he were to give some serious time and thought to the fact that the primary intended use of pornography is solo sexual self-gratification, and since women are consumers it is therefore part of the paraphernalia of a personally-owned sexuality not tied to men, relationships, and reproduction. And therefore the exploitation depicted and encouraged by the increasingly creepy body of mainstream porn (I will of course grant him that it is, indeed, extremely creepy) is a conundrum and a contradiction deserving of some actual nuanced analysis. I hold out hope for such analysis, but the table of contents is not encouraging.

Besides, his agenda appears to be entirely self-defeating. If he succeeds, as he appears to be attempting to do, in persuading men of the feminist-criticism-reading population to become ashamed and eschew pornography, he will have done nothing but leave the enterprise to those who have no qualms about the exploitation of women. That's called turning your back on an incredibly influential medium and allowing it to become even more scary and extreme. It's not like porn is going to go away if sensitive progressive men convince each other to wash their hands of it, and they are deeply unlikely to convince the rest of the male population (or female, damnit) to do the same. It is still going to be there. 12-year-old kids of both genders are still going to sneak looks at it with great joy and excitement and fairly enormous influence on their developing ideas about sexuality. So knowing that, do you call it an unredeemable evil and drive it underground where it can continue along its present trajectory of increasing objectionability, or do you drag it into the light and point out how that trajectory is making a damaging mockery of its basic goal of being sexually pleasing and try to create a demand and a desire for a form of it that doesn't validate and perpetuate violence?

Trying to abolish porn because it perpetuates violence strikes me as like trying to abolish sex because it enables rape. The medium is not the message. Just as rape is not about sex, the violence in porn is not about the porn; they are both about a manufactured but thoroughly entrenched gender war that people have been convinced can be won by forcible domination, and that war has permeated so many aspects of human culture that if you go around eliminating everything that highlights it you will have nothing left. For instance, no one will be allowed to wear shoes anymore.

For fuck's sake. Literally.

(Fact: I am actually posting this way too late on Saturday night, rather than the time listed for the entry, but I wanted to keep my zoo pictures at the top of my page for a while longer. They're fuzzy!)

Posted by dianna at 01:18 AM

November 08, 2007

Hey stranger.

Last week, on Halloween, I had dinner with my bike friend at the inimitable, excitingly-mostly-vegan Vita Cafe.

As we were standing up to leave, my messenger bag caught the attention of one of the friendly waiter types. He hustled over and asked me where I got my "veggies make you sexy" patch. When I told him I'd made it myself his eyeballs went all acquisitive, so I asked if he wanted one. Indeed he did.

Tonight my house was empty and boring with both roommates out of town, and lacking any other pressing errands I decided to go back to Vita and give the man his patch. I also gave him a couple of stickers I'd made with the same design on my ridiculous wheat-pattern contact paper. One of the stickers was immediately and enthusiastically stolen by a cute waitress who'd decided to go vegan mere hours earlier.

The friendly waiter dude had mentioned paying for the patch, and I had spent the bike ride debating with myself whether to decline the offer or accept a token buck for materials. But inspiration struck him in mid-pocket-exploration, and he asked excitedly if I would rather trade for a piece of cake.

All I can really figure is that there must be a god after all. Someone wants to sport my patch and buy me vegan desserts? And figures this is an even trade? It's fucking ludicrous. So I pulled up a seat and had a giant piece of gooey coconut cake instead of dinner.

On my way out I chatted some more with the friendly waiter dude about make-it-yourself silliness. He told me he used to go around Seattle pasting homemade replacement gerunds on "no parking" signs to make them forbid dancing, thinking, walking, and anything else he could think of. And I thought, Seattle nothing, if this is Thursday and a friendly stranger is telling me animatedly about something creative and subversive, this must be Portland.

Posted by dianna at 10:56 PM

November 06, 2007

From the Oregon Department of Ghostly Glows

I've been wondering how anybody in Portland ever manages to get undressed.

The issue is layers (and ogres). When you are wearing three shirts and two sweaters, or a skirt and two pairs of pants, it just isn't that easy to take them all off. But my owning roommate and my bike friend have both patiently explained to me that this is just how we operate around here: not with big heavy coats, but with hoodies on top of sweaters on top of thermals on top of other thermals.

Not with a bang, in fact, but with a whimper. At least not with a bang if we cannot conveniently remove enough layers to get on with the banging. Perhaps this is why Portland is such a city of immigrants -- the Oregonians are not making more Oregonians because their clothes are in the way.

I speculate that bedtime is not a problem because people simply don't go to bed at all. Around 4 am the entire city shifts en masse from late nights with crappy beer to early mornings with good coffee. Maybe the bars have trick walls like the casinos in Dick Tracy, and at the appointed hour they all swivel around and turn into coffeeshops. The bleary-eyed barflies take their places behind the counters and turn into surly baristas. They sulk behind the espresso machines until mid-afternoon and then swivel back with a sigh of relief to become barflies again.

It goes a long way toward explaining why, after 5 pm, you can't buy a cup of tea but you can have three drinks in three bars without walking a block.

I suppose these are hipster circles in which we operate, and so showers aren't strictly necessary. But I wonder if they've worked out some way around going to the bathroom.

Posted by dianna at 09:38 AM

November 03, 2007

Is it that time of the decade again?

As I type this, I am wearing leg warmers.

On Wednesday night I observed my friend Dan rocking a calculator watch and puffy sneakers along with big glasses and an off-center baseball cap. All at once.

The leg warmers were an idea that I had yesterday to stop my ankles aching after cold bike rides (which they have been doing unacceptably often in this here frozen northland). I thought vaguely to myself that the whole 80s retro thing is doing well at the moment, what with the, you know, gold-lamé leggings at American Apparel and all. Ergo there must be leg warmers for sale. I thought I'd just go by the mall and get myself some.

The mall, right? Turns out they don't have any. I did go into numerous stores and ask for them while trying to subvocally communicate my practicality, unconcern for fashion, and singleminded focus on cold ankles to everyone around, but it totally failed to score me any embarrassingly hip legwear. I had to get them in the socks department of the totally un-fashion-forward Fred Meyer, and I'm still trying to work out whether they had them because they are cool or because they are uncool.

They're comfy, anyway, for the record. And I can't speak to the puffy shoes but I am willing to believe that the calculator watch is nothing but handy. Maybe I should look into it.

Posted by dianna at 06:10 PM

November 02, 2007

PhoPo: Photoblogging Portland #1.

On Wednesday morning, once again with the blinding fog, I rode to work past the increasingly weird intersection of Interstate and Greeley avenues. This time, having camera in hand, I stopped to take pictures.

Here is the intersection as it presently looks. It's a nasty piece of work as intersections go, thus the accident last week and thus the enormous heap of flowers. But that's been discussed ad nauseum in every blog and newspaper in this city, and I would rather talk right now about the stuff that people have been leaving there. Flowers, yes. But this is Portland.


Junk sculptures! I am deeply impressed by this. The little man riding the bike is made entirely out of rusty chain, and I haven't got the faintest fucking idea how someone got it to stand up like that.

And let's look at the flowers again, anyway. Under the heap is a ghost bike, which presumably has the typical black-and-white "A Cyclist Was Killed Here" sign on it somewhere, but bike and sign are both obscured by the rest of the heap at this point. Other things tucked away in the pile include: biking medals, a paintbrush, fingerless gloves, a small gear mounted on a board, a bandana, a water bottle, a spare chain, what appears to be a shoelace, and a couple of rubber bands. (Edit: and my cycle computer, which is stuck reading 8.9 mph at all times. I saw it this morning and decided to helpfully illustrate the moderate speed of the locked, stationary, nonfunctioning ghost bike.) I can't figure out whether it's more like leaving things that the dead might want to have in the next life (dude you do not want to be without your water bottle), or just people leaving whatever they happen to have on them when they pass by. Nor can I really figure out which idea I enjoy more; they both tend to make me go "awww".

In conclusion:

It didn't help this time, but damnit, it never hurts.

Posted by dianna at 07:31 AM

November 01, 2007

No beauty, only beast.

Running essential parts of your childhood through the Grumpy Feminist Analysis Engine is always fun. Actually, it's not. It's usually shocking and kind of sad.

On Katie's last visit I scored a bunch of DVDs to borrow and copy, including several classic Disney movies. We've talked about this before; it's not news that Disney's sexual politics and moral compass are severely out of wack. Mothers are almost always dead, teenage heroines act like wives to their lonely fathers, and any woman past the first flush of adolescence is a wicked witch. Some of that has changed in the more recent movies -- though my attempt to illustrate that using The Lion King is being undermined by the fact that I can remember the name of every character except Simba's mother. Fuck. Anyway.

I started watching Beauty and the Beast with the idea that it might have been the first "classic" Disney story to get a little bit reasonable about women. Consider Mrs. Potts -- yes, she is a piece of crockery, but she is a woman and a mother and there's no suggestion of her being an evil enchantress. She's competent, nurturing, and trustworthy, and in the Disney universe that is nothing short of revolutionary. So I had high hopes that, G.F.A.E. or no, I could watch the movie without needing to shower off the creepiness afterward.

I will tell you now that it was not so.

Beauty and the Beast is, like most of the other Disney fairy tale adaptations, someone's idea of a glorious romance. Gaze on these lovebirds, you starry-eyed girl child, and hope to be so lucky. So who is this idealized male lover to whom you should aspire to bind yourself? Well, he's a big roaring beast with an awful temper. But, see, he wasn't always that way. He was turned into a beast by a disguised enchantress.

Full stop. Your lover is violent and cruel and angry, but it isn't his fault that he yells at you and breaks things and intimidates you. He can't help it. A woman turned him into this. It's her fault.

Back to the story. You, starry-eyed girl child, you should aspire to be Belle. Be beautiful, intelligent, brave, and forgiving. Stay in the beast's castle and befriend him. Tend his hurts. Defend him. Gently show him how to be civilized. Don't give up on him and don't hold a grudge.

In other words, stay with your abusive partner, respond to his violence with submissive gentleness, give him infinite leniency because he doesn't know better and can't learn, and be his mother and his anger sponge and his only friend. Believe that the outside world is out to get him and if you leave they will hurt him. It will be all your fault. (Remember, Belle leaves and in doing so she accidentally inspires the villagers to storm the castle and try to kill the beast. Woman's faithlessness brings man to ruin. Leaving is wrong.) Above all, forgive him his violence over and over again.

I tell you with some shock that, instead of being a tiny step forward for Disney, this is a bigger step back than I actually thought possible. I can't think of another Disney movie that so explicitly hammers home a message this damaging. Can you? Leave it in comments.

Posted by dianna at 10:15 AM