Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Manic Monday

I've made the most out of Monday, getting up early and now refusing to retire.  I worked a lot.  I enjoyed most of it.  The work was successful, which helps.  Of course I shouldn't be tied up by results, but you know ...
There was a point today after spending some time with an old friend's parents after the first part of my workday that I felt extremely happy and connected.  After that I rode my motorcycle to have dinner with a friend.  He shared some strange stuff with me.  Stuff he's shared with me before, but today I just had to tell him I was confused and that I understand why he might be confused about his behavior.
I was distracted when I was with him.  As I've been distracted all evening.  I did some web page stuff for work.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be and that made me happy, but it took a very long time and ended up being tiring and tedious.
I like the motorcycle.  Glad I got it.  I need some sort of bags so I can ride it when I have stuff to carry.  I've been a lot more comfortable on it the past couple of days.  It's weird.  Like something has opened up in me, yet when I feel that way it feels reckless.  Maybe it's carefree and I'm being paranoid.
There's been a fair amount of communication in my life recently that I may be misinterpreting.  Perhaps more paranoia.  I don't know.  Maybe it's that I'm out in the open, living more.  Not hiding out in my accustomed ways.
I used my new camera for another job today.  I like it.  It's pretty amazing to be able to shoot stills and HD video with the same camera.
Feels like some things in my life are changing fast.  That's the likely source of what I've referred to as paranoia.  It's probably more simply a case of just shaking things up a bit.  Quite a bit, actually.
Maybe the reason I don't want to go to bed is I'm dreading a couple of tomorrow's appointments.  I was looking forward to them, but  like I said, there's been a lot of change happening.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Portland, oh Portland

I was born in Portland and have lived here for about two-thirds of my almost forty-three years.  I've lived in other places that captured my imagination and my heart for a time, yet I've always returned here.  For many years it was because my family was here, though that's no longer the case.  Sometimes I came back here because it wasn't working out someplace else.  There were times that I thought I might not ever return and others when return was inevitable.
This city has changed considerably over my lifetime.  There are a lot more people.  New buildings.  New people.  Neighborhoods that used to be undesirable now have reputations as destinations worth checking out or investing in.  I don't know.  A lot of it is hype.  Some of it is cool.  You really have to decide for yourself.  I just moved to a very nice, but very uncool part of town.  I like it a lot more than I thought I would.  But I'm not going to suggest you move here, unless of course your needs are similar to mine (good schools, families, trees, big houses that are not new construction on big lots for under 650K).  The New Seasons just down the hill from my house is just a good grocery store.  In North Portland and Southeast, where we lived over the past few years, the New Seasons offer more than the opportunity to buy locally at a reasonable price without going to a farmer's market.  There seems to be more of an agenda aside from shopping for groceries in those Eastside stores.  I really like to buy food that comes from a farm rather than a factory.  And I suppose that could be a political choice, but it really isn't for me.  I eat at restaurants all the time that buy crap from food factories.  I would rather not, but life is too short to try to sort all that stuff out.  That's part of what I like about living on the Westside.
For many residents of Portland these issues seem to be the type of thing that preoccupies them.  Riding bicycles is a political statement.  Eating is a political statement.  I ride bikes.  Sometimes I even put my bike on my car to drive to a better place to ride it.   I like all the bike lanes in Portland.  I'm guilty of turning right across bike lanes sometimes without giving that extra bike-specific look in spite of logging over three thousand miles on a bike myself last year.  When I forget to look, am I bad person?
Last weekend I took a motorcycle safety and skills course.  One of the questions on the written test was, Why do drivers in cars and trucks have trouble seeing motorcyles?  The answer was because motorcycles are relatively smaller than the other vehicles on the road.  There was no moral quotient.  One of the things that they emphasized is that as motorcyclists we are responsible for being aware of the fact that we are hard to see and that we should ride as if we're not seen at all.  Again, this wasn't suggested as a political compromise, but simply to preserve our physical safety.
So no, I'm not a fan of the smug and the arrogant.  Yet I'm really supportive of getting people out of their cars and onto bicycles or onto mass transit.  And I appreciate laws and traffic devices that encourage and require me to watch out for bicycles.  As I appreciate the growing awareness of the many issues that the residents of Portland trumpet: safe food, safe water, sustainability, all that fantastic stuff that hardly anybody had anything to say about just a few years ago.
A former news editor at The Portland Mercury just left Portland and wrote this farewell on his blog. A friend brought this to my attention just yesterday.  I have mixed feelings about it.  First off, he's young.  Secondly, he's English.  And third, the Mercury just doesn't inspire a lot of admiration on my part for incisive journalistic content.  Still, I think he makes some fair points.  But the problem is that he's speaking to a very narrow section of Portland.  He's now in New Orleans, a perfect destination for someone seeking an authentic experience in their place of residence.  A recent post talks of getting his hair cut by an eccentric local.  I used to get my hair cut by a very unknowingly eccentric barber in a tiny shop across from Civic Stadium.  Carl the barber was there for years in the big green Multnomah apartment building that has been replaced by a high rise with some slick corporate street level anchor tenants.  Maybe if Matt Davis had moved here in the early 90s (when he was still a teen) he might have liked Portland more.
Back to point number two as to why I can't take this guy too seriously - he's English.  I find English people very suspect in general.  They take a lot of pride in never being sincere.  Always giving you the wind up and taking the piss.  It's amusing for awhile, but I'm too old for all that now.  Imperialism is in their genetic makeup.  While they may seek authentic culture, they are all too eager to improve upon it.   Another thing I don't trust about English people is their accents.  No matter how long they live abroad, they still retain their accents, yet when their pop stars sing, they sound American.  Okay, now I'm taking the piss.  But there's some truth to what I'm saying.  And yet another thing about the English, they often live somewhere other than England and go on and on about how rubbish everything is.  I've spent a bit of time in England.  I enjoyed myself and found a lot to like, but it's pretty clear to me why they're bitter in general and why they're in no hurry to get home again.
There was a time that people moved to New York to become New Yorkers, but in the past twenty years or so, those that move to New York want the city to accommodate them.  This is a problem everywhere in the digital age.  And yet, in an age of rampant global cultural homogenization Portland seems to be emerging as a distinctive place.  How could this be?
Portland is not perfect.  It's pretty.  It's easy to live here in many ways. (Maybe too easy.  Davis blogs about putting his emergency kit and his evacuation plan together for the upcoming hurricane season.  He jokes about not having experienced the trauma as some other residents down there have. I just received an email yesterday from a New Orleans native friend that referenced his Katrina PTSD in a somewhat more sober manner.)  Portland is kind of provincial.  It's not very snarky.  The weather often stinks.  You can get out into the countryside very quickly compared to cities in California or the East Coast.  There's a lot of creative stuff going on here that's pretty interesting given how relatively small Portland is compared to other American cities.  There isn't a very fascinating cultural heritage here - logging, fishing, some soggy little native tribes scattered about the region.  It's fairly homogeneous racially.  Though over the years I always seemed to have a variety of friends in Portland of different races and politics in spite of this being the whitest city in America not run by Mormons.  There are a lot of rental houses that can be shared by a lot of young self-proclaimed hipsters so that they can live cheaply and create a weird little quasi-artistic subculture.  They're kind of annoying in their rigid lemming-like limited fashion sense and their disinterest in the contributions of the generations that preceded them, but I suppose they bring something into the equation of what makes Portland earn its identity.  I miss some of the mom and pop businesses and Carl the barber, even though I wouldn't dare let a barber like him touch my hair now that I've been getting $75 haircuts for ten years. 
And when I've gotten sick of Portland, I've left.  So a fond farewell to those of you that don't like it here.  It was probably a good decision to move on.  It probably won't do any good, but I suggest you drop the animosity.  It's just a city.  And you never know, you might end up back here someday.  I did.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Digs and Gigs

I gotta get back to that DW trailer.  But first there's a plumber coming in the morning.  I would rather call a plumber and shop for a new tap for the kitchen and a new dishwasher than cut that f*ing trailer.  Editing is not really my thing.  I can do it quite well, but I don't enjoy the process.  I need results quicker than is prudent.  I did get back to the music this week, though.  Rejected a song that the composer brought me.   Hated doing that, but it just didn't feel right at all.  He had the idea to contact an old friend of ours that specializes in the type of music I want for that particular scene.  After D. left I composed a quick blues strut in Garage Band to play under a bar scene.  Need to add some barroom chatter and glasses tinkling and maybe some sort of jukebox effect filter for the blues tune.  I knocked that song out because I'm really tired of losing momentum on DW.  I really want to finish that goddamn film already.  I'm just not that interested in making films as a writer-director right now and yet I need to finish what I started.
I got a call to produce a cool photo shoot for one of the awesome photographers in town.  It's for a prestige client and agency.  I worked up the budget this morning.  Even if it doesn't go through, I was really happy and encouraged to get the call.  I'm hardly broke, but I need to earn some money.  Mainly for my psyche.  Filmmaking was starting to feel like a giant vanity project.  Doing something that I like doing, that I'm qualified to do and getting paid well for it has been a long time coming.  I've made plenty of dough in my life, but I haven't enjoyed the ride on a paying gig for a long, long while.
Earning money on that photo shoot last month and the video gig I'm working on currently felt really good.  I want to keep it up and the potential gig I worked on today is heartening.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Avedon, Stegner, Curtis, Hatfield, McCoy ...

The American West.  Says a lot.  Ralph Lauren made his fortune on it.  Hollywood spent much of the 50s and 60s filming it.  I've lived most of my life in it.
One of my great-grandfathers walked behind a covered wagon from Minnesota to Oregon in the late 1800s to his family's new homestead, the wheat ranch where my father grew up and my grandmother and two of his sisters still live.  Pendleton, home of the famous rodeo and woolen mill.
I spent my first seventeen years yearning to get out of here.  I wanted to be in New York and Europe.  I lived in the latter and then settled on San Francisco before making my way to the former.  I longed to be part of the East Coast establishment - educated, sophisticated, genteel.  Preppy.  Throughout high school, Lisa Birnbach was my guide and fashion consultant.  Wanting to go into some sort of foreign service career and sometimes Wall Street seemed attractive.  Then, suddenly I realized that wasn't me at all, and I wanted to be an architect and a painter wearing leather, engineer boots and riding vintage motorcycles.  Levi's four sizes too big with a Ben Davis work shirt or a crisp white tee.  Working as a bike messenger, window display artist, in nightclubs and  as a graphic designer.  A psychobilly bohemian, looking the part and only occasionally building or painting something.  Then finally to school to study architecture, then painting, then history, then Spanish; thinking academia might be the answer while rediscovering hip-hop.  The clothes were the same, except I swapped the leather jacket for a Carhartt and pulled a stocking cap low to my brow.  I swapped the vintage bikes for a Chevy low-rider hooptie.  Whenever the cops had a chance to stop me, they did and I always ended up sprawled on the pavement while they searched me then the car.   When that got boring, there were more vintage cars, but nicer and with drop-tops.  The clothes changed to DaVinci shirts and crisper jeans with a turned up cuff.  The music rockabilly, early country and jump blues.  I wore an Open Road Stetson and Justin ropers.  I scoured thrift stores across the country, sometimes selling things that weren't my size to vintage dealers.  The outlaw literary hero, living the life without doing much writing, doing my best to look and carry on like Johnny Cash and a cowboy version of Charles Bukowski rolled into one.  I then stepped into a life as a cartoon character living concurrently in the late 30s -early 40s and the mid-90s.  I wore tailor made suits and hats, danced the lindy-hop in spectator shoes, drank in speakeasys and dated girls with complicated hairdos and vintage dresses.  I could continue, though things settled quite a bit after the Swing phase.  Basically, there's a trend of fetishizing fashion and lifestyle choices.  I cringe at the searching and the vanity while admiring the resourcefulness and the energy.
I haven't been inspired by this type of thing for a while.  I recently embraced athletic and outdoorsy clothing which I'd abhorred for much of my life, realizing that such activities were better enjoyed wearing the proper gear, but I never wanted to be seen in a social environment dressed as such.  I rediscovered preppy to an extent.  Brooks Brothers opened a store in Portland.  It felt comfortable to a degree.  A little stiff.  Funny how it coincided with reconnecting with many high school friends after more than twenty years.  I'm certain many of them assumed that I had been dressing in the same manner since high school.  I rather liked giving that impression as I felt slightly embarrassed by my various clothing fetishes over the years, especially in the eyes of my conservative peers.
To my credit, over the years I rarely totally abandoned one look for the next.  Most of the time I repurposed my wardrobe, transforming the way I combined things rather than swapping out my entire closet.  (Though I must admit that my zoot suits were worn primarily as Halloween costumes for a few years after the Big Daddy Swing phase and though I have no foreseeable use of them, I cannot part with them.)  And once I added permanent ink to my body the tattoos,  many of them vintage flash, served as long-term commitment to a bit of an outlaw rockabilly legacy.
Original Glory is largely about trying to hold onto an idea of the past through one's devotion to fashion, though the characters' view of their style is so myopic that they don't see it as fashion but a direct embodiment of themselves and their ideals.
Anyway, lately I've come around to design and fashion with a renewed appreciation.  I've been wearing my handmade cowboy boots that once cost me a month's pay.  I bought a motorcycle - the Bonneville.  I've been reading up on Pendleton blankets and Native American history.  I've been researching cowboy boots and bought a few pairs of gorgeous Luchese's at a church rummage sale yesterday.  I'm going to start going on some buying trips in search of boots and blankets.  I plan to keep the blankets for my growing collection and sell the boots on eBay or to a friend that's a retailer of vintage western wear.  While I'm on these buying trips across Oregon and other western states I'm going to be photographing locations and people for my production resource library.  And I'm going to make the effort to get to know people in these communities by attending their fairs and other community events.  Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to play matchmaker between city and country folk in various ways over the coming years.
And all the while, I'll have some time to myself out on the road to explore my own stories.  I'm sure my fascination with the American West will ebb and flow as it always has and that I'll discover many other interests along the way.