Starting Anew with Punk

30 06 2019

The crash changed everything in our lives. Slowly we are putting the pieces back together.

The response from the community to our needs has been great. I remain grateful for each day and understand complaining does little good. That’s not to say there are no difficulties, but dwelling on the bad is not where I want to be.

It’s been a year now in the city.

Since coming to Portland I have learned a great deal about new cultures. Take for instance the punk, grunge rockers — a species of humans that never seemed to exist when we were in south Florida.

Some are millennials and some are still standing from the often overlooked Gen X.

And then there’s a whole new batch just outta high school that I’m not sure what to make of.

What I do know is I have fallen under another obsession spell. Not sure who cast it but they are obviously strong and worthy. The spell’s hold, I am finding, is harder to break with each passing day.

I’ve been infatuated before — notably Alabama ballet dancers & Miami bad boys — but this is entirely different ground. This one plays in a band. A petit transgender chick. MTF. She’s a Jewish girl from the South, who like me, is living on the west coast for the first time. She wears glasses thick as coke bottles, has pierced nostrils and tattoos on her thighs.

Far from the shallow

We work together which makes things complicated. I sought her help early when confronted by street harassment and rude customers. She was supportive. Intrigued I went to a couple of her band’s shows and discovered she played the bass and had a partner. David, seeing me fall under this trance before, warned me to keep my distance.

And I have, respecting the professional boundaries of our workplace and our relationships. The last thing in the world I want is to make someone I admire uncomfortable, particularly when that someone is doing remarkable things.

Rebuilding a life is no small task. Going through the process of transitioning genders, in my humble opinion, must be a super challenging thing to do. I’m not certain what it has been like for them, quite frankly I have been too scared to ask. I wonder about their moral core. I wonder if the doom music and denim jackets is a cover for a deeper spiritual awakening that is taking place.

I wonder if they are good kissers.

As we enter our second year in the Pacific Northwest — with a Presidential campaign on the horizon — I hope my muse can lead to more discoveries of what this community stands for & against. What do they care about? What is important in their lives and how do they make it happen?

For me it’s baby steps. I am striving to put the trauma of the wreck and to a lesser extent our cross country move behind me. Life is different now. It’s not easy starting over again.

Before friends come allies.

I sure hope Madeline is one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold Calculations

1 03 2019

It’s winter in Oregon. The winds blowing through the gorge can be harsh at times. There is very little snow fall in the city. That’s ok.

Getting through my first winter in the pacific northwest has been quite interesting. I was warned about the long nights, cold, dampness and the need to stock up on vitamin D. I am also coming to understand the nihilistic, doom and punkish attitude populating parts of Portland. “Keep Portland Weird!” is a frequently used expression.

It’s annoying sometimes. I’ve been harassed on the streets here so much that I worry my demeanor may be sinking to the level of those sludge covered “homeless” campers.  The empathy I had upon arrival is shrinking. Originally instructed to recognize these gypsies’ existence, I now recognize ignoring their savage tactics is the best option.

In the face of these challenges there is still much to be learned. What I am discovering about the pacific northwest millennial species is they are complex, creative, intelligent and quite daring. Winters push most indoors. There are those who brave the mountains, skis in hand. I haven’t ventured up to the slopes yet. This old Florida dude is still adapting.

At work I have benefitted from social policies enacted by left wing bureaucrats. The goal is to continue performing well and lifting the company. David reminds me not to focus all of my energy there. Journalism remains my passion. I write now for love and peace.

Travel-wise, San Francisco and Alaska have been on my mind. San Francisco is obviously one of America’s great cities and Alaska a newer frontier that seems forrested in mystery. Bored with work, I have decided to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning and design.

Entering the university academic realm again seems odd and the threat of student debt is like a flagger on a construction site. However, there are advantages to returning to campus. For starters, the interactions and access to a diverse representation of society is important. There is a human tendency to retreat into safe spaces and minority bubbles. We all live, from time-to-time, in our own little echo chambers. This probably best describes my tenure in south Florida.

After two meetings with the graduate studies director, I decided to seek a master’s in urban and regional planning. I ordered a book from the library in Burbank, California. It was recommended by my friend Wong in San Francisco. Guide to California Planning states there are five elements to planning:

  1. Laws & Regulation
  2. Environmental Analysis
  3. Socio-economic Analysis
  4. Political Approval
  5. Design

Dreams the way we planned them — if we work in tandem.

Shall we begin.

 

 

 

 

 





Future Designs Downsized

23 12 2018

PDXStudio

Space comes at a premium in most urban American cities. I’m fortunate to be living with a master designer and am getting quite a lesson here in Portland.

It’s winter now. I have my boots and heavy parka coat ready — if Alaska calls.

Working at the grocery store is making me stronger and wiser. Major construction projects continue around our market. Cranes coming in, yellow vested workers becoming more frequent and long nights with plenty of rain.

David has worked miracles with his design on our studio. I’d love to see him get a chance in the neighborhood. Portland’s northwest has some landmark structures, no doubt.

I have been learning how to operate in tight spaces. At home, at work, in life.

There are times when you must move your body certain ways. City living is a lot like yoga class only at a faster pace. Although David says this is nothing like New York. The market floorplan can be challenging for both consumer and employee. Even more so in a full, petit warehouse. I believe I am holding my own quite well, thank you.

David has done much of his studio design with a modest budget. Portland has some real gems in thrift stores but for furniture, we have leaned heavily on Ikea, the Swedish retailer out by the airport. You can shop and munch on meatballs as the jets hum overhead. It’s fantastic.

Our studio is 500 square feet. At first we took what we could get from thrift stores but it was never a proper fit. The studio is nearly completed now, just in time for the holidays. We have a dwarf Alberta spruce decorated with lights and ornaments. The idea is to put the tree back into the ground after the new year. It’s a different concept from before when we relied on artifical trees or ones chopped down in the prime of life.

Recycling and sustainibility are central themes of our new life here in Oregon.

When space matters, trash is reduced. A limited amount of room means clearing out the things you can live without and removing toxic elements. There are times when I miss Florida’s sunshine, but I will not weep over its entrenched political culture. It’s a deeper dive on the West Coast. Liberal positions on the environment, planning and engineering, social economics and human rights are embraced and implemented. At last, I have a job that pays a fair and livable wage.

Am I satisfied? No.

Getting a foundation should have never been this hard. Perhaps, that is my southern, white male privilege showing. I know I must let go of the frustration with Florida. Bitterness will only drag me down. I am determined to be happy and cherish all that life offers. I am committed to providing for my family and grateful for the strength to earn.

May these blessings continue in 2019.

Red Dawn

 

 





Gratefully Injured

11 11 2018

I injured myself. It was bound to happen.

“You’re lifting too much,” Ani said. Smart kid, that Ani.

Yes, my housekeeping duties require extensive lifting and reaching. It’s a physical job and I’m grateful to have it. Aside from cleaning chores, the interactions with co-workers like Ani are important. After years of indepedent contractor work, it is refreshing to be a part of a company again.

Great cities are built by great companies, mind you.

Life in Portland is going just swell. I have been invited on two press tours since my arrival here — Long Beach, California and Puerto Rico. Long Beach was a solo adventure and Puerto Rico a group effort. Both destinations interesting in their own way. Long Beach, in the shadow of Los Angeles, is run by a young mayor. A gay man determined to improve living conditions by implementing new concepts in this coastal southern California port city.

Puerto Rico, still suffering from a barrage of hurricanes, offers beautiful nature and lots of rum. Bacardi is the major player there. I learned how to make a simple refreshing cocktail. Pronounced Die Q Re. It’s basically sugar, superior Bacardi rum and ice. It’s hot in the tropics and ice is a key ingredient.

My tour group in Puerto Rico was a lot of fun. It included seasoned travelers and newcomers. It was designed for the LGBTQ community. There were journalists from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco there. I managed to connect on a personal level with some of them.

Our group sets sail.

Long Beach seemed to be this vision of what we can accomplish. Puerto Rico offered a chance to relax from the heavy work load, over-reaching and contenious mid-term elections. I knew I was hurt when the luggage became hard to handle at the airport. Perhaps I could have packed lighter. I did not use the laptop, but the sports coat was put to good use.

David gave his blessing on both trips. He stayed in Portland continuing to piece together our studio. We both received influenza vaccinations before I departed to San Juan. When I returned the doc diagnosed me with lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow.

So I’m slowed down. Just in time for the holidays.

Time to reflect on the incredible year we have had. A cross country move. New friends and new challenges. A rennaissance of the soul.

I believe this injury is divine intervention to force my conscience into absorbing the events of the past year. To still be standing and breathing — much less working — is something to be eternally grateful for. I am in a good place in life. Time to cherish that and offer a rum filled toast to even better times ahead.

Long Beach stairs

 





New Seasons in the PAC-Northwest

27 09 2018

The leaves are changing and some are falling. Autumn is here. I am content with my life in New America. The financial difficulties and poverty struggles are in the past, although the memory still fresh in my mind and it serves me well in my daily interactions with the less fortunate.

The streets of Portland and Seattle this summer were riddled with the lost — San Francisco, I heard, is way worse. In Seattle last week, I had a delightful time with a local son — a true west coaster. Kyle showed me the sights around Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I had previously visited five years prior with my good friend, Ryan.

Ryan is on the slow boat to China, but that’s another story.

Kyle is a visual merchandiser for a major American department stores chain headquartered in Seattle. He is a handsome man who likes to read and is interested in things that nourish your soul. He also enjoys a good laugh. We got a long famously.

Seattle, like Portland only to a larger extent, appears to be a growing city with cranes of construction abounding. It is picturesque with its hills and harbor — protected from the ocean storms that often batter the east coast around this time of year. From my perspective, Seattle is a politically left-leaning city that gets business right and welcomes tourists from around the globe.

SeattleKylesView

Before skipping around Capitol Hill with Kyle, I had to participate in yet another episode of David’s car breaks down. He drove the BMW up from Portland and took it down into the masses at Pike Place Market where the vehicle promptly overheated upon entering the parking garage. Smoke fumed from under the hood as we descended into the underground garage.

It would take 18 hours to get the car out of the garage. Two tow trucks couldn’t fit and AARP offered little assistance. Frankly, I did not handle the situation well. I have long since lost my patience with David’s desire to rehab this particular car. Fans, radiators, tires, you name it — I’m over it.

I wonder how many marriages have become divorces because of cars?

But I digress.

I remain grateful for our life here on the West Coast. The challenge of learning a new city, state and regional culture is exciting. Working your way up a ladder is fun and seeing David’s design spirit come to life is true joy. Revisiting Portland is a glimpse into where he was born and raised. The hospital is still here. We drove past his boyhood home in Mount Tabor. David was a junior in high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“My passion is still with architecture and design,” David said recently. “But I have yet to find my vision here in Portland,” he added.

DavidPortland2018

We still have our tiny flat in one of America’s queen cities. I now work for a B corporation and we are starting to make friends. I would like to see Kyle again. I’m not sure what that agreement would be. Maybe a trip to San Francisco or Japan?? You know, to save the lost…..

 





Coming Back, Gracefully

7 08 2018

Recovery going well. It has been a surprisingly hot summer in Portland. I accepted a union job offer from a local grocery store. Cleaning toilets and taking out the trash. It’s a smelly job, but somebody’s gotta do it and I am damn glad to have the work while earning a decent wage.

Walking the streets has been challenging but it has made me stronger. One must stay ever vigilant in certain sections of the city (Old Town/Chinatown) where those who have fallen on hard times lurk and dwell. I was not prepared for such a stark reality. Skid row here is ugly. Real ugly. These conditions I had not seen since the summer of 2009 in New York. People had lost their minds and were living like dirty gutter rats.

Old Town’s Stag

I’ve seen that here. On more than one occasion.

At my new job it is required to interact with the public. A daily evaluation of the local market. Even in brief conversations, messages can be exchanged. Understanding the neighborhood is important. Knowing hot and cold trends keeps you in the game.

Physically, the job can be exhausting. There is a lot of time on your feet. I average seven miles a day. There is also a lot of lifting to be done. There is even a demolition component involving “bottle machines.” The bottles and cans provide a source of revenue for people living on the margins. A tiny profit for people living on the streets or neighborhood folks trying to pay down bills.

I walk to and from work most days and nights. It is a safe neighborhood with a hospital nearby, plenty of construction projects, shopping and street car lines. Portland, I’m learning, is a major rail city. David and I enjoy riding in the street car. We’ve taken it to the riverfront, library and over to the eastside. Our studio apartment is coming along, albeit slowly. The biggest fix was getting rid of the leaking air mattress.

The Jeep is gone as well. God bless that vehicle. It did its job and more from Calgary to Miami. But, when in recovery mode — rebuilding lives — one needs less worries not more. Vehicles in the city are a luxury. There are risks to street parking no matter where one calls home.

I’m still reporting on queer issues for south Florida and, locally, have picked up a restaurant beat for a Portland neighborhood newspaper. We have joined an Episcopal Cathedral and begun volunteering at community events. Friends are planning visits…. I’m happy again. That’s the most important thing. 





A New Home In The City

15 06 2018

In Portland I had to learn the city streets again. A hard place to live. I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood a few times but decided it was better to walk. Cars are not as plentiful here as in Florida urban areas. There are many options for transportational needs. There are more options for a lot of things here.

Portland is the nation’s 26th largest city and largest in Oregon. It is often advertised as a brawny lumberjack type town — which still has merit but was constructed with help from a Japanese businessman. We struck gold near the city’s core. Space in an old apartment building in the northwestern section of Portland came open. A small studio that would soon be filled with peace and love.

View of Portland, Oregon from the roof of Washington High School.

Springtime in Portland sees a mix between rainy and dry days. The sun does come out and the nights become shorter. It’s an interesting city with many parks and gardens, a well organized public transit system and a abundance of cafes, theaters and micro breweries.

David’s brother helped us move in. It’s a two story walk-up from the basement and Russell’s extra lifting helped us get all of our belongings moved in one day. I don’t want to see another Uhaul truck for a long time. The studio has tall ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors with a tiny kitchen, one closet and mandatory tub, sink and toilet. We were glad to have found it. Our building supervisor is a pretty young lady with two small children.

We both sought aide from social services agencies and non-profits while beginning the search for a new spiritual home. We visited Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and UCC churches our first month. Trust God to lead us to the right congregation, David said. I researched the nearby Catholic Cathedral and Jewish Temple. Both had website videos proclaiming their embrace of diversity and same-sex couples.

Portland’s prevailing liberal attitudes is another reason why we settled here. In addition to equal rights for LGBT people, Portland is worker friendly and a solid pro-labor city. It has restaurants of every culture imaginable, a thriving arts and design scene and sizeable Asian population. Black lives matter in Portland. Women hold positions of authority and young people happily roam trendy neighborhoods.

People read here and the myth of print media’s demise is clearly exposed. I immediately linked up with the president of Oregon’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter. We had a nice chat at a downtown coffee shop and she referred me to a couple of newspaper publishers. I am still writing magazine pieces for South Florida’s LGBT community and working on a historical assignment for Huffington Post’s Queer section.

All and all, things are looking up.

“It will turn around, John,” I recall my friend Stephen telling me during our Valentine’s Day dinner back in Fort Lauderdale.

And it is starting to. A phone call came from the human resources department of a major company last week with a job offer. Hello, Portland. Glad to be here.