Out in the cold

snow-falling-gif

 

“You can present the material, but you can’t make me care.”
― Bill Watterson

Just another winter’s day, just another icy commute in the dark. You can hear the shuffling of footsteps on the frozen ground. No one speaks, no one smiles, we all just keep moving..

People waking to and fro, many in a hurry, most of them with the same look; that same glazed over gaze which extends beyond the person right next to them as if the other person, the fellow human is not there at all. It is a tunnel vision of sorts, it could be more of a selective vision. It is an acquired ability. We are not born with it; this talent for ignoring the obvious.

 

It comes out of necessity and takes practice.  In this rapidly changing world, many of us are getting a lot of practice. If you live in a large urban area you probably know what I mean…

homeless-cold-person-snow

I know you’ve seen them: Their swelling number are almost impossible to ignore. The tents and blue tarps under bridges, the huddled sleeping figures in crowded doorways.  It’s not just in my city or yours, it’s everywhere.

And it scares the hell out of me. And I shiver. From the cold or that icy fear or both I don’t know.

Last night in my city of Portland, Oregon a newborn baby died possibly from exposure, sitting in its homeless mothers arms. This would be the 5th person to die from the cold in the last 2 weeks here.

 

homeless-child-mother-snow

What kind of people are we? We forsake our most vulnerable citizens. It is a sickness I think this indifference. One of ills of our society and one that just seems to be growing.

We are told those less unfortunate deserve their fate. It is easy to want to believe that. That means if I work hard and toe the line and do what I am told. I too won’t be one of those less unfortunate ones, it is tempting to want to believe this; it feels safer.

At least I think it does…

I think of all the people in the US who have just lost their health insurance. Again I could be indifferent here, I have mine. To me, seeing a doctor is not a luxury…yet.

I have a warm home and enough food to eat.

Why should I worry about these strangers? Many of them are probably drug addled or mentally ill. They probably want to be out here. They like living on the fringes of society. No bills , no responsibilities. Not my problem… Right?

funny-sign-man-hookers

The man at the bus stop with the unkempt beard and the wild eyes. He is hard not to notice; wrapped in a tattered blanket he is shouting obscenities at the sky.  My pulse quickens;  I am scared and I tiptoe past him hoping he doesn’t notice me, I walk down to the next stop.

Nothing is all black or white. But we are all human from the innocent babe to the wild man at the bus stop. We are all part of the same human family. I admit it is easier to care about the pretty, the untarnished, the salvageable.

homeless-man-face

 

I imagine the man with the wild eyes was that too once; pretty, untarnished, salvageable. Now he is just part of the wreckage left behind to lurk in the shadows, in the cold doorways, watching everyone look away…

Something to ponder on…

 

 

~nlm

 

winter-snow-nature-animated-gif-22

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
Stanley Kubrick

 

 

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Winterbirds, Lost ducks and Moonlight

punchbowl-falls-oregon-frozen-winter-snow-water

 

Winter has come. It has descended from the sky like a great and terrible bird;  declaring itself with a wicked wind that howls and screeches. Gripping you in it’s talons and keeping you there–chilling you to your bones. Bringing along a blanket of snow and ice that has worn out its welcome days ago, much of it trampled on, trodden on and fouled with soot and dirt and yellowish stains.

It is dark and cold; about 15 ºF with the windchill. I have deemed this yet another “3 layer day”, I am bundled up head to toe, all in black except for a flourish of hot pink scarf. I stand out against the whitish snow and in the moonlight. The beautifully bright and full moon has been kind to us early risers sticking around for a viewing well past the time I catch the 4:59 a.m. train.

night-snow

These are the days that will make me appreciate summer all the more I think. It is hard to see out the windows out into the darkness but I can make out in that same kind moonlight Under some of the bridges and overpasses I can see the outlines of tents flapping in that horrid wind.

I don’t know how I would fare out there without a home in the cold. I bitch and complain bundled up in my new warm coat, on my way to a nice warm office building. I have nothing to complain about.

The train gets me downtown where I catch an express bus that takes me the rest of the way. It is quite a commute but affords me the time to think. This I haven’t had for a while.

The sun is rising as the bus careens down the highway, making up for lost time I suppose. The sky is pink and orange; strange and beautiful against the whiteness of everything. streets. Metal towers and giant apartments are starting to litter the skyline as never before. There is a building boom. It seems everyone wants to move to quirky Portland.

The bus takes me to a suburb called Tualitin. I have a new job. It is better than the last one.  I have a lot to be grateful for.

night-pond-lake-by-work-lights-water

I can’t help but laugh at the poor lost ducks on the frozen pond that is adjacent to the building, they stand there waiting for everything to return to normal.

Nothing ever returns to “normal”. Just the definition of what normal is, changes.

~nlm

 

 

 

frozen-crows-portland
“Crows in Snow”by Walter Berg. Portland, Oregon. January 2017

 

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.”

Octavia E. Butler

 

Streetmusic

Here I am in the middle of downtown Portland. The city is alive and pulsating with  creative energy and the streets are filled with happy people in a festive mood. I am one of those happy people walking in the fresh sunshine on a noticeably warm Saturday.

It is akin to a carnival atmosphere out here among the sounds of the many street musicians that have chosen this perfect day to brighten the streets with their colorful music.

I walk in time to the rhythm of the beat, jumping off one curb and onto the next. There is a man playing the buckets at the end of the block. He’s putting on a pretty good show and hamming it up for an another, obviously delighted man and his daughter. The man continues; snapping pic after pic of the Bucket Drummer as I pass by.

I head for what I call Portland’s Dysfunctional Living Room.

 If you want to find some strange very Portland events and meet some very Portland people, with a liberal smattering of bewildered tourists, visit Pioneer Square. (It also has a thriving Starbucks by the way, if anyone is interested)

Today a band of teens backed up by giant refrigerators are setting up for what I imagine will be very cool display of teen angst pop accompanied by huge containers of milk. I wish I could stay but I must move on. I make a mental note to return to the Starbucks on the corner later but now I have important business.

I am on my way to The Portland Farmers Market to take in the good food and the fantastic atmosphere under the late summer trees at Portland State University.

It is a lively place with lots of beautiful food and a vast array of impromptu concerts in the park to keep one entertained.

These guys played some wicked bluegrass and I had to stop and snap some shots. They had CD’s for sale, I silently wished them luck and headed towards the glorious food.

l enjoy perusing fresh healthy food out in the open air with lots of friendly people around. Add trees and music to the scene and I am as content as can be. There is something about fruits and vegetables in the sun: the way they smell. The colors can be intoxicating as well and I cannot help but be in a good mood by this.

There is music everywhere! In addition to the market stage there are at least half a dozen acts playing sweet music under the trees in this lovely park on this lovely day in late September.

lt was all good and made a pleasant day even so much more so. I decided at that point that even good things must come to an end, besides it was getting close to closing time and I was looking to mainline some caffeine. I made my way back to the Starbucks, I ordered a tall one and sat outside near the front steps on a bench facing Nordstrom.

I like to people watch and this is an excellent location. I just sat there and took in the atmosphere…

…I did not notice at first. It was as if he just suddenly appeared.  On an empty street corner in front of the Nordstrom and there he was: in a faded and rumpled raincoat, playing on a ragged double bass , strings askew, bow clutched tight. His hair; long, blonde and dirty hanging in matted clumps partially obscuring his face which seemed remarkably unlined. His eyes were closed in deep concentration; each note was deeply felt , I could see it on his face.

The music was beautiful. Funny, I don’t remember the tune. It was classical and I recall it being familiar but that’s all. I do remember the sound. It was clear and sharp and amazingly beautiful. I don’t know how he got such a delicate sound from such a shoddy instrument but he did.

A crowd had formed around him. Maybe 10 or 12 people, each person with the same awestruck look. On another day, each one of us would have passed him by, not giving a moment’s notice to the rumpled and forgotten man huddled behind the bus stop or in some shadowy forgotten doorway.Homeless, probably mentally ill and alone, he had this one gift. This wonderful gift of music. It was likely he didn’t have much else, but he had this one thing and there he was sharing it with whomever would listen.

He played for what seemed like several minutes then stopped abruptly. He never asked for spare change. He had no sign displayed or an empty musical case as many of the street performers had. He had nothing and he asked for nothing.  We watched in silence as he stood up, picked up his instrument and his rickety stool and slowly made his way up the street never once looking back.

I never thought to take his picture. I had been snapping them all day but for some reason I didn’t think to snap his. I guess I thought it would disrupt the moment, that I might have angered him and sent him into a rage. I don’t know. I sound like a chicken but I bet I echo what others were thinking.

“Stay away from the crazy homeless person.”

No matter how beautiful his music may be. No matter that he awestruck a small crowd across the street from Portland’s Living Room.  No matter how his melodies brought tears to my eyes. No matter. He was a crazy street person and I like everyone else will just try to stay out of his way and pretend that he’s no there. I feel bad for thinking this…

I finish my tall black coffee and head out the door. Another has taken the place of the raincoated man. Must be a prime spot.

The new guy seems much more approachable but has yet to draw a crowd. That does not stop him from playing his heart out. I am moved by his pluck, so much so that I gather up some of my own and strike up a conversation with him. Being a shy socially awkward wannabe writer this is amazing and I am rewarded with a story and a song.

Ryan has been playing on the streets of Portland for 2 weeks. He loves it here but is surprised and a bit daunted by the skill level and sheer numbers of his competition. He too has a CD for sale and a blog…this surprises me.  I guess everyone has one these days. If you want to visit Ryan his blog is 16-dollars-a-day.bogspot.com.

Strawberryindigo.

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Berthold  Auerbach

Vote, Dammit.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a considerable amount of a beautiful autumn Saturday knee-deep and totally involved in the exciting and glamorous world of politics and intrigue, out there amongst The People. Me with ponytail and clipboard, voter registration cards and a friendly spunky smile with attitude…in my long-winded way I am saying that I was registering people to vote.

I know, the activism gig again. I can’t help it. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to well….a lot of things and one of them is democracy.  I am big on voting. It may sound corny but I am what I am and I had a blast!

Me with potential voters

True, there was some hard work involved but it was fun work. I got to meet so many interesting people! It was fantastic. Portland is such a quirky town and I savored all that quirky goodness.

I was just recently downtown and was ecstatic to be back. My turf was a section of The Portland Farmer’s Market at PSU. It is a lovely and lively place full of Farmer’s market type of people, college students and tourists.

If you are ever in Portland on a Saturday visit this place! It is full of good food and an eclectic and interesting mix of musicians and street performers all under beautiful trees in the south park blocks.

So there I was with a huge smile plastered on my face asking anyone and everyone who passed by if they wanted to register to vote. I found out that Portland, being the kind of town that it is, a lot of people have already registered and so it seemed more to me as if I was taking a poll than really helping anyone, but I was enjoying myself in the morning sun, talking to citizens about really how crappy the world is and laughing a lot.

Perhaps I was enjoying myself too much. An especially loud guffaw marked a change of tone just as old sourpuss entered stage left; apparently my spot was high on the list of appealing spots for do-gooders to stand. He made it clear through a series of looks, handshakes and innuendo that I was late on the scene; this was his spot.

“I’ve been here quite regularly. Several Saturdays in a row.” He told me.

His lips were moist and his breath reeked of old coffee. He stared at me with big bulbous fish eyes that quivered as he spoke. I’ve dealt with this kind before. I knew his type…

This was a prime spot–must be because of the close approximation to the coffee tent and Pine Street Biscuits which I hear is very good. I had a cute little grassy knoll with a street lamp to lean on. I liked the spot and I know this sounds a bit much but I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight!

I gave him one of those looks I sometimes give to my teenagers: it’s the “Don’t even try it or there will be hell to pay” look. I have perfected this and it never fails to work. Today was no exception. Mr Sourpuss moved on to the other end of the park. I would catch a blurry glimpse of him from time to time fueling up on coffee: he’s quite the drinker. He gave me a sourpuss smile. I beamed my bestest fake smile back, after all, aren’t we on the same side here?

These women had already registered but looked so fantastic I asked to take their picture.

I registered 12 people that day. Probably not a lot. Perhaps old SP made out better. I did however talk to a lot of people. I have found in my travels through life that we are more alike than different.

I talked to some independents, a smattering of Republicans (Blue State here) lots of Democrats (again Blue State) and a few alternatives; two leaning toward socialism and one anarchist. I was surprised by the number of people who choose the option not affiliated with any party.

Most of the people I talked to were articulate and engaged and passionate about our community at large. Many of us talked about how life was changing. We spoke of the economic downturn. I did not meet one person who hasn’t been affected.  Most were hopeful, but wary and many were confused. Everyone I talked to agreed on one thing: this partisan bickering fighting between the two major parties must stop if we are to move forward and fix what is wrong with the country, not to mention the world.

Our children will inherit what we have created.

I encountered some indifference, though not as much as I imagined. I didn’t try to sell anyone. I wasn’t aggressive. I represented myself with dignity. I was knowledgeable and engaged. I was polite to everyone and felt that I was an ambassador of sorts. Maybe not so much just to register people but to raise awareness about the importance of voting, because it is important. Many people have given up their lives for this right!

Too many….

So when THAT date rolls around, whether it be November 6th, 2012 or some other date, if you are fortunate to have the right to vote do me a favor, do yourself a favor, do your fellow citizens a favor and let your voice be heard.

VOTE, dammit.

One voice may be so quiet it is difficult to hear…keep adding voices and it becomes a roar of a sound that cannot be put asunder…

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

BEST WISHES,

Strawberryindigo.

“It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it”

Eugene V. Debs

Dress me up weird Portland

Here I am in the middle of downtown Portland.  I am wandering around looking for interesting goings on to write about. Portland is a city that prides itself on being weird. Bumper stickers with the motto ” Keep Portland Weird” is plastered all over cars. People take this to heart around here. That is one of the aspects of Portland I enjoy the most.

So it is of relatively no surprise when I spy Robin. Yes, THAT one, Batman’s Robin. Well, it kind of looks like Robin, he’s got the costume except this guy is unshaven and dirty and is carrying a backpack.  He’s appears to be flying a sign asking for spare change.

I hear” Hey Robin!” from a passerby. Robin deftly and quite expertly flips the offender his middle finger, I begin to laugh and I try to snap a pic of the scene but the boy wonder is too quick for me and hides behind his sign by the time the flash goes off.

This is the sort of thing I came down here to find. The raw, the unusual, the sometime crazy but wild creativeness that is urban living. I have been witness to many strange scenes on the streets of Portland but never before have I purposely set out camera in tow to look for them.

I told my family I was going downtown for the excellent hubs of blatant consumerism that I have been known to frequent in the past. Little did they know I was setting out into the wilds of the urban jungle in search of a story, or a little adventure perhaps. At least I’d be getting some exercise and getting out of the house.

Robin was the first but certainly not the last person I saw in costume that afternoon.

It didn’t take long before I saw two others dressed up. I tried discreetly taking their picture which resulted in some not so good photos. I vowed to get a better shot next time. There seemed to be a theme going. People dressing up in costumes and just walking around going about their business like it was nothing.

I have to admit that I am probably a bit out of it. I am a middle-aged mom with two teenagers. I’m sure people have been walking around in costumes for years…” Where have you been lately?  You may ask. I don’t know… but I do know that it is a little strange, definitely Portland weird for sure and I like it. I not only like it….

I LOVE IT!!!

I am jealous. I instantly wish I had worn some sort of really hip and happening kind of outfit, avant garde, edgy and creative….something with bright colors…wings too and boots!

I have always liked to dress up since I was a wee one. At five I would sneak into my Mother’s closet and try on her dresses and put on her makeup. As I grew older I would continue the tradition. I have always had a flair for the dramatic and when you are 10½ or even 20½ it’s considered cute and when you are 42, it’s odd to say the least. I realize this and have confined my dressing up to the only socially acceptable day for this sort of thing: My favorite holiday, Halloween.

I have accepted his little “fact” of life and I’ve gone along with it; waiting patiently for Halloween to arrive so I can let all my dramatic weirdness come out.  I’ve made it no secret that I am a big kid at heart. I think engaging in a little fantasy and play is good for one’s psyche.  Some of us take this adult thing way too seriously. We need fun and some of us won’t admit it.

I say embrace your inner child and if it doesn’t hurt anyone…Go for it!  No matter what it is…..as long as you have fun and who care what anyone thinks? Make a total fool of yourself (it’s not officially fun unless you do.)

So in the tradition of The Power Puff Girls and Robin, Larpers and Furries, Comic-cons and “crazies” let’s dress up!

Damn convention and all that….I DARE YOU!  

…I will if you do…

HAVE A FUN DAY!

Strawberryindigo.

Amuse me

I am big on childish fun. I live for it, so when I got the chance to visit the local amusement park recently, I jumped on it.  Who doesn’t need a little fun and amusement every once in a while?

My daughter still allows me to accompany her to places such as this and amazingly at 14, she doesn’t seem as embarrassed by my presence as she should be.  Maybe this is because I am a totally hip and happening middle-aged woman who is a laugh a minute and loads of fun to hang out with?  Could it be that she is a kind soul who takes pity on her poor fun-starved mother…maybe it’s because I’m springing for junky carnival food and deluxe ride braclets?

Oaks Amusement Park is a quaint old-fashioned little park nestled among the trees in Sellwood, minutes from downtown Portland Oregon.  Built in 1905 its sign proudly proclaims: “This is the place where the fun never ends…..”

This is the place for me!

Our fun started with greasy super bad for you corn dogs, loaded with fat and cholesterol and smothered with happy yellow mustard, accompanied by a nice tall cola, bubbling over with corn syrupy goodness.  We sat in the sun and slurped up our unhealthy booty in silence.   Aspie style, enjoying each others presence but not needing a lot of words.

After having our fill we did a short walkabout around the park. Mentally mapping out our itinerary.

THE SPIDER

We decided since we had just eaten all that junky food we should immediately go on The Spider; a ride that takes you way up in the air and spins you around.

This perhaps may not have been the smartest move…I realised this when we were dangling on top of the ride suspended in mid-air and all I could hear was blood curdling screaming:  My daughter kept repeating over and over “It’s okay Mother, (she calls me Mother to annoy me)  stop screaming. You are making my brain hurt.”  And her brain did hurt and so did mine for the entire ride…

And then we were off to something a bit more my speed so I could relax and get my bearings before the next round.

AHHHHH!!! Not this ride!!!
No Way!! I am a chicken, not THIS one either!
AHHHH…This one is better. 🙂
A very relaxing train ride.
miniature golf waterfall
Little kids roller coaster we were too tall to ride.
Americana at it’s best.
This happy girl makes it all worthwhile.

Waiting for The Sun

Here in rainy Oregon The Sun has become a reclusive and exclusive celebrity showing its dazzling brilliance only in limited amounts.

Phone calls have not been returned and it’s agent could not be reached for comment. Sources close to the star are suggesting a contract dispute might be behind this unusual behavior.  It is widely known in certain spheres that The Sun has been dissatisfied with working conditions lately: low, really no pay, overworking in one area but underworking in another, no vacation time or health benefits.  The sun has had it some say. But these are just rumors. What we need are cold hard facts.

Experts have been called in and a good number of them blame the clouds, saying it is they who block out the sun.  Many agree and this seems to be the general consensus. But there are some who disagree; a few have blamed the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Some have mentioned it could be the work of terrorists and one obvious lunatic has cited something called “Global Warming” as the cause.

All agree the situation has become dire and the mayor has put together a commission to study this phenomena.

Meanwhile the soggy citizens in the city of Portland are indoors; pressed up against the windows wishing and yearning and Waiting for the Sun.  Moss covered and sullen, NW gardeners are is in dismay; creeping around from bush to bush with a frown–in the city of roses the roses are down battered by pelting rain and blowing wind….have I mentioned that this is early July?

The local meteorologists seem worried and look as guilty as can be, it is as if they are responsible.  They keep telling us that summer is just around the corner, they mention forecasts for sunny days–always five days away.

My son is as pale as a ghost and my daughter is too, they seem to like it that way but they don’t know any better. I suppose I should be grateful, many places in the world would love all this rain and the lush green growth that results from it. (think moss) I am grateful really but I can’t help but think we are getting more than our fair share of moisture and our elusive sun problem is someone else’s elusive rain problem.  Too bad we cannot share the wealth a little…

And so while My fellow Portlanders and I pull out our summer sweaters, put another log on the fire and gaze out the window expectantly for you know who, we will be grateful for what we have–every drop of it.

Happy Summer!!!

Strawberryindigo.

HELLO