Archive for October, 2007

temperate climes

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

I am officially unemployed now, so no commute, but today was another gorgeous sunny day…! So I hopped on my bike to run some errands and tool around the city. Inspired by the Vélocouture Flickr group, I wore my favorite dress:

I probably covered 15 miles or so, and caught the sunset/moonrise on my way home.

It was a nice contrast from yesterday, when I looked like this when I got home:

I guess you can’t really tell that I am pretty much soaked through in that picture. But I am. Woo Portland!

pretty beautiful

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Boy is today ever a day for falling in love with Portland for the thousandth time. After work I took a detour to go by the cleaners’ to see if I could pick up my purple jacket… they were closed, but I got to ride leisurely through some close-in southeast neighborhoods I’d never spent time in and admire old houses with huge porches and strip off my layers one by one to feel the sun on my arms. I ended up on Belmont and decided to ride over to Hawthorne and stop at Ben & Jerry’s to treat myself to a scoop of Phish Food ’cause the weather was damn well perfect for it! Yum.

(Note the BLUE SKY.)

At work today I bought a big ol’ handlebar bag that just so happens to be a fantastic shade of salmon pink. My bike keeps getting heavier and I keep loving it more. My dad helped me pick out a small multitool to carry around today, and as we were comparing them, he said things like, “well, this one weighs more, and you probably won’t need these things…” Hah! Weight shmeight.

When I’m riding my bike and thinking about the blog entry I’m going to write about riding my bike, the entry always has a graceful continuity and flows easily from one thing I want to mention to the next. When I write it down it doesn’t work as well, of course, or I don’t have the patience to figure out how to make it work.

Anyway. My dad has a great time on his superlight carbon fiber bike. My coworkers have a great time wearing lycra to commute and racing cyclocross on the weekends. I have a great time riding to work in jeans and schlepping everything in the sun around on my bike. Conclusion: bikes = great time!!

I regularly read a bunch of sites that encourage people to think of biking as an easy, laidback way of getting around, not involving a change of clothes or even too much sweatiness. For example, Clever Cycles is a shop that opened up just this summer down on Hawthorne, and one of the owners keeps a great blog at their site about the merits of the Dutch approach to city biking, etc. And just today I found this awesome Flickr group: V√©locouture. Pictures of well-dressed people wearing clothes they bike in! I admit I am much less creative most of the time. I snapped this picture in my front yard when I got home this evening (”snapped” makes it sound easy. I balanced my camera on my housemate’s car, set the timer, ran and picked up my bike):

This is pretty much what I wear to work every day. If it’s cold (and it usually is in the morning), I add a cycling jacket (longer in the back, which I appreciate) and a pair of cheap knit gloves, and I pull my hood up under my helmet to keep my ears warm. If it’s wet, I add a pair of oh-so-sexy rain pants and maybe pack an extra sweatshirt in case my jacket gets soaked through. I wear these fabulous amazing super-comfortable and totally beat up boots just about every day, and the legwarmers and fingerless gloves (both of which are from Sock Dreams, a nice little business that happens to be based here in Portland) are pretty much staples as well. Maybe when I’m not working in a warehouse it’ll be easier to be creative. In the meantime, I’m comfy, at least.

Speaking of bikey fashion, I (and my bike) would love to receive a pair of these hammered steel fenders for Christmas. Y’know.

Biking is amazing. Every morning my alarm goes off while it’s still pitch dark outside and I struggle out of bed. But eventually I get on my bike and I bike to work and the sun comes up and the morning light is beautiful when it hits the orange and red and yellow trees (the green ones, too) and by the time I’m at work I’m downright cheerful. Maybe that’s ’cause I only have two days left there. I quit my job. Did I mention that?


Thursday, October 18th, 2007

This afternoon I passed a cyclist who was not only singing, he was singing while climbing a hill. I’ve been bested. I didn’t even beat him all the way up the hill, though I don’t think that’s really the point. I didn’t make eye contact with him because I was embarrassed to admit that I was breathing hard. I mean, that I was trying to beat him up the hill. I passed him again at the top of the hill and kept him behind me until maybe a mile later when I guess he turned off. What–can’t I be easygoing about anything? Would’ve liked to be moseying along, singing my own song, sharing a grin.

On my way into work it was Really Raining for the first time (during my commute) this year–and, surprise surprise, my jacket ain’t waterproof. It wasn’t too bad, though, and it wasn’t too cold out today so I dried off without too much shivering. And anyway I’m fleeing Portland’s winter in two weeks. To go to… London’s winter. And, hey, the French Riviera’s winter! I bought my Eurail pass the other day! I got a postcard from my friend Devin (in Ireland this semester) that my mom read to me over the phone ’cause he sent it to my parents’ house for some reason! We might be going to Amsterdam together! Thinking about my Europe trip makes me imagine big exclamation marks hovering over my head!

But the real reason I wanted to write tonight (quickly, before much-needed sleep) is another one of those things-I’m-going-to-do-when-I-get-back-(I-swear), which is: do Portland bike-culture-y things and maybe get involved in bike/carfree advocacy. Okay, mostly I just want to ride in some parties-on-pedals. Anyway I joined the shift email list, and the other day someone posted a link to this 2006 essay by Rebecca Solnit: View From the Future. The premise is she’s looking back on the first quarter of the 21st century from 2026. It’s brilliant and is one of a couple things (see also this article on expansion of the I-5 bridge by’s Jonathan Maus, for example) that have me thinking about… stuff. Here:

The resulting food crisis of the early years of the second decade of the century, which laid big-petroleum-style farming low, suddenly elevated the status of peasant immigrants from what was then called “the undeveloped world,” particularly Mexico and Southeast Asia. They taught the less agriculturally skilled, in suddenly greening North American cities, to cultivate the victory gardens that mitigated the widespread famines then beginning to sweep the planet. (It also turned out that the unwieldy and decadent SUVs of the millennium made great ecological sense, but only if you parked them facing south, put in sunroofs and used the high-windowed structures as seed-starter greenhouses.) The crisis spelled an end to the epidemic of American obesity, both by cutting calories and obliging so many Americans to actually move around on foot and bike and work with their hands.


Every schoolchild now knows the Old Map/New Map system and can recite the lands that vanished: half the Netherlands, much of Bangladesh, the Amazon Delta, the New Orleans and Shanghai lowlands. And who today can’t still sing the popular ditties about those famed “fundamentalists without their fundamentals”–the senators who lost the state of Florida as it rapidly became a swampy archipelago. Most schoolchildren can also cite the World Court decision of 2016 that gave all shares in the major oil companies to Pacific Islanders, mainly resettled in New Zealand and Australia, whose homes had been lost to rising oceans (a short-lived triumph as the fossil-fuel economy ebbed away).

Or, perhaps most pertinently for this blog:

The future, of course, is not something you predict and wait for. It is something you invent daily through your actions. As Mas Kodani, a Buddhist in Los Angeles, said in the early twenty-first century: “One does not stand still looking for a path. One walks; and as one walks, a path comes into being.”

Today I spent awhile looking through old letters and journals from the past few years. I have done so much looking. It is hard to start walking.

Solnit draws an analogy between this new future and natural history museum dioramas’ illustrations of the Age of Reptiles giving way to the Age of Mammals. Tom Robbins, in one of my favorite books, Jitterbug Perfume, also imagines contemporary society as an age of dinosaurs and reptilian reactionism… but for him, the next age is one of flora. Loaned my copy to a friend recently, so no quotations to draw from.

P.S. I am thinking about changing the title of this blog to “slow going”… hm?


Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Going-slow observations (GSOs? I ought to come up with something a little catchier):

  • a guy in a brown pinstriped suit and a fedora skateboarding across an intersection
  • another guy snapping a picture of that guy
  • a house with a tetherball pole securely planted right smack in the middle of the driveway (no cars here, ONLY FUN!)

    Guess it’s not all pretty.

  • gumption

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    On Sunday I went for a desperate endorphin-seeking ride down (or up?–east) the Springwater–despite the fabulous weather (I wore just a t-shirt!) it didn’t really work, and so I called my friend Judith and we agreed to meet at the Pied Cow on Belmont. I biked down there and waited in Sunnyside Park until she showed up (by bus). We ate some bagels and talked–and that did work. We ended up walking back to her house off of Holgate, exploring residential side streets on the way. A few hours later I biked home and hit the sack.

    Yesterday morning I drove my car for the first time in probably long enough to be not very good for its engine–eight blocks round trip to take my cat to the vet (here’s where I’d parenthetically add “she’s okay” if I knew that she was, but I don’t, and so). Then I walked the same eight blocks again ’cause I’d forgotten my credit card at home. Then I biked to work, and home again. On the way home I let myself get a little competitive with another commuter, whom I caught and eventually dropped, much to my delight. (When I caught her and we pulled up to an intersection together, she looked over and asked, “is that a singlespeed?” I said no and she said, “oh good.”) In the evening I walked to my friend Sarah’s apartment, and we walked together to a coffeeshop on Powell at Milwaukie (or thereabouts) and back.

    This morning my wrist hurts. I’m a little baffled.

    When I was in college and stressed and sleep-deprived all the time, and partying when I wasn’t (and when I was), I thought my life would even out and my moods would steady themselves as soon as I’d graduated and started getting exercise on a regular basis and eating well and all that. And okay, I’m still working on the eating well part of that particular equation (though I could be doing much worse), but I keep wondering when everything is going to get easier. Or steadier, or just… better. Less confusing, at least, maybe.

    I am leaving for Europe two weeks from tomorrow. I have, consciously and subconsciously, made Europe into a kind of deadline. My trip will be some kind of last hurrah, or a voyage of discovery and adventure, or whatever, and when I get back (conveniently, for symbolic purposes, around the New Year), I will find a job I like, I will throw myself headfirst into the Portland theatre scene, I will cook a real dinner every evening, and I will successfully pursue my various hobbies: knitting, painting, dancing… I will not be broke; my car will be sold. I will learn to maintain and repair my bicycle. I will go for long, long rides. I will never ever flake out on my friends. I will keep in touch with all of them, near and far, and I will even make new ones. I will go on spontaneous adventures with my boyfriend. I will make up with my ex-boyfriend. Et cetera, etc., &c.


    Patience and acceptance.

    I wonder at what point patience and acceptance ceases to be an adequate substitute for (to borrow a page from the show I just finished working on) …gumption?

    Just some things to think about, I guess.

    I sometimes make ridiculous facial expressions when I’m concentrating on something, or thinking about something, or biking up a hill or whatever. Every once in awhile I catch someone looking at me and then I feel very silly. I was thinking about how visible I am on a bike (when you see a car, you see the car; when you see a bike, you see the biker) and how I miss listening to music during my commute (I don’t feel safe with earbuds in while biking)–not necessarily related thoughts, but still. I used to sing along to the radio all the time. So I decided to start singing while biking. Feels GREAT on downhills; not so practical uphill. And while I love riding alongside cars belting something off key, I get self-conscious every time I pass pedestrians or other cyclists, and I shut up or else whistle or whisper instead. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Something else to think about. Gumption indeed.

    “the odyssey years”

    Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

    I took a new route to work this morning, one recommended by a coworker as a way of avoiding Killingsworth (though not its intersection with Columbia–that’s unfortunately unavoidable). I had to get up my steepest hill yet–but hey, I did it! And I was rewarded with a quiet ride through a residential neighborhood, a golf course down a hill to my right. The houses were big, the lawns were green… it looked a lot like suburbia. Very nice and all, but I thought about the things within walking distance–a school, a convenience store, a gas station. That’s about it. Made me remember to count my neighborhood in the things I’m thankful for. I can walk to a grocery store, a video store, a couple coffeeshops, a pet store, my cat’s vet, a public library, Reed’s campus, a hardware store, a great Thai restaurant, a yoga place that I keep meaning to check out…

    Awhile ago I found this website: Walk Score. You put in your address and it tells you how walkable your neighborhood is. Mine (the Woodstock area, in the 40’s) scores 89 out of 100. My work’s address (out in NE near the airport) gets 29. Ouch.

    Mostly it kinda drives home to me that living close-in in this amazing city is pretty much where it’s at. I am pretty blessed to have ended up exactly where I want to be–and where it is oh-so-easy for me to use my car as nothing more than a landmark to help people find my house, these days. (For the record, I’ll be driving it to my parents’ house in a few weeks and they’ll sell it while I’m in Europe. Their idea and probably for the best.)

    I probably should hesitate to say things like “exactly where I want to be.” What do I know? There are many, many reasons to love Portland. Sometimes I’m not sure if the reasons I have found to not like Portland aren’t actually reasons to love Portland after all–if you follow me. The theatre gigs I’ve gotten since graduation have ocassionally been frustrating in their, you know, utter lack of real pay and such. But I was talking to a friend and found myself saying something along the lines of “but, I don’t know, I kind of like tiny incestuous communities where everyone knows each other…” Theatre people in Portland all have day jobs, but they also have enthusiasm and generosity that remind me of the theatre community at Reed (my alma mater, where I majored in theatre and literature, for the record). And maybe they don’t have that hint of bitterness that comes from relying on your passion for your income…? Or maybe I’m reading too much into my comfort zone. My beautiful, rainy, mountainous, bikey, friendly comfort zone.

    Anyway I’m leaving for two months to wander homeless through foreign countries. I am terribly excited! Anyway I have a paying theatre gig when I get back. If somewhere between one and two bucks an hour counts as “paying.”

    My mom sent me an op-ed piece from the New York Times a few days ago: “The Odyssey Years.” It suggests the existence of a new life phase, odyssey–”the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.” That’s us, right now, blah blah blah, according to this salt-and-pepper, receeding-hairline, spectacled guy anyway. Admission: I have never read Homer’s Odyssey all the way through. But Odysseus knew what he was heading towards, didn’t he? His wife and kid, his home island or whatever it was. The author of the New York Times piece claims we know where we’re going, too–we “have highly traditional aspirations ([we] rate parenthood more highly than [our] own parents did) even as [we] lead improvising lives.” I don’t know–every time I think I have something figured out, I learn something about myself or my environment or the world or whatever and I doubt everything again. So mostly I just work on not being bothered by the doubt.

    But hey, somewhere my instincts lined up with this NYTimes guy in calling this blog, in which I’m mostly writing about my routines and lifestyle(s) and choices and futures, a travel blog. Right? I’m not a confused 20-something–well, maybe I am. But I’m also hella journeying or whatever. Got my oceans to cross, my cyclops(es?) to battle.


    Monday, October 8th, 2007

    Going-slow observations, part 3(?)–

  • an impressionist-painting gorgeous partly-cloudy evening sky
  • same sky, reflected spectacularly pink-tinged in one of those mirrored downtown buildings
  • found object graffiti: someone had used a fork as a stencil
  • the other day I saw a tag that said “‚ô•more”
  • I kind of like watching the slow decay and flattening of roadkill I pass by over the course of several days…
  • the shadowy imprints left on sidewalks by fallen leaves that have blown away
  • a guy walking at least eight tiny dogs on at least eight separate leashes
  • two badass leather-jacket types, walking together, carrying groceries and a gallon of milk
  • annoyances

    Monday, October 8th, 2007

    Some things that drive me nuts about bike commuting (and biking around in general), to counteract my bicycle evangelism–

    1. inconsiderate drivers
    Well, of course. This includes drivers who roar down the street perilously close to the bike lane; drivers who roll slowly up wide, but bike-line-less, streets lined with parked cars, without leaving room for me to pass them without entering the perilous door zone (i.e. the zone in which I could get whacked by doors opened by oblivious denizens of parked cars); drivers who try to squeeze past me at intersections because they can slip into or between gaps which are too small for me; drivers who don’t use their turn signals and thereby cause me to miss gaps I might otherwise be able to slip into or between, causing annoyance as well to the inconsiderate drivers behind me who haven’t already tried to squeeze past me; and drivers who leave their turn signals on, leading me (made antsy by the drivers behind me) to lunge into a gap that does not in fact exist and leaving me fearing for my life and forced to pedal furiously across the intersection.

    2. excessively considerate drivers
    What? Yes, really. This includes drivers who stop at intersections when they have the right of way and I, say, have a stop sign. If I don’t stop I’m breaking the law; if I do, the result is often a cat and mouse kind of hesitation game in which I move forward and stop, then the car moves forward and stops, then I move forward again… and we both spend more time at the intersection than necessary. This also includes drivers who stop for me when I’m waiting to cross a busy street, despite the fact that cars are still coming from the other direction. By the time there’s a gap in the other direction, the overly considerate driver has usually gotten impatient or figured I’m oblivious and begun to move again.

    3. hills
    (Pant, pant–) I– (Deep breath–) hate. Hills. (On the other hand, I have thighs of steel and I think I’ve dropped about a pant size since I started biking regularly.)

    4. scary intersections
    I really only have to deal with one of these: NE Killingsworth and Columbia Blvd. It’s a three-way intersection and I have to turn left from Killingsworth onto Columbia. Killingsworth is two lanes in each direction, there’s tons of huge trucks, and the speed limit is 45mph. There’s also no pedestrian crossing whatsoever. I have to either act like a car and merge across two lanes of traffic into the turning lane (the light for which, thank goodness, is on a timer and not a sensor), where I wait as cars and trucks whiz by, or I have to stop at the intersection, wait for the red light, and run in front of the stopped traffic to the turn lane. The intersection is almost as bad on the way home, despite being a right turn. The lane on Columbia Blvd is narrow and goes under a bridge at a bend, making visibility bad. Traffic often backs up here and it’s difficult and occasionally terrifying (what if they don’t see me and start moving??) to pass trucks. The intersection itself has been recently repaved and restriped–there used to be two lanes from Columbia Blvd, one to turn left and one to turn right, but for some reason they have left only the used-to-be left-turn lane, and there’s a kind of curb at the edge of this lane and running along the intersection. So in order to turn right, I must either bike along the very edge of this curb, avoid slipping into the used-to-be right-turn lane, and execute a too-wide turn towards the haven of the bike lane on Killingsworth, or I can dismount and walk my bike over the curb, then remount while cars whiz by at 45mph.

    5. glass, gravel, and industrial and consumer waste strewn across bike lanes
    Leads to pinch flats and occasional fishy handling or disturbing crunch noises.

    ode to my bike

    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

    This afternoon, as I biked home from work, struggling against a ferocious headwind and staring at the cloudy sky, wondering if it would dump on me (it did), I hummed Peggy Lee’s “Fever” to myself–only in my head, it went something like this:

    you give me freedom…
    freedom! in the morning
    and freedom all through the night…

    And of course that freedom is illusory. I still get up before sunrise every morning, go to a job I merely tolerate, come home, eat some dinner, hang out for a few hours, go to bed and do it over again… Um…

    But man! Endorphins! I gotta get back on my bike before I dwell any longer on how many of my daylight hours are spent in that warehouse…

    ‘Least it gives me someplace to bike to, right?

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