Self-service airline

July 23, 2008

A Southwest Airlines pilot goes the self-service route at Boise Airport for my flight home to Portland on Tuesday. Whatever it takes for the clearest possible view works for me. Read More

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More than music

July 22, 2008

Being there is everything. Not just attending small venue concerts to hear musicians I’m enthralled with but making sure I’m pressed next to the stage.

I want to see what’s written on their faces, to witness the up-close interplay with their band mates, to judge how they play off the audience. I want to imagine how they feel as they peer into the bright lights and hear the adoring cheers. How much do they reveal of themselves, and how much is a mask of repetitive showmanship played out over and over from one city to the next? How much do they genuinely give besides music? Read More

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It’s oddly comforting to walk along my street and see the Gnome. He’s always there, sheltered inside the hollowed-out base of a tree.

He’s been there longer than the five years I’ve been walking past. His expression never changes, even when vandals spray-painted him black and broke his arm, or passersby deposited flowers at his feet. But is he happy with what he sees, despite the ever-cheerful expression? Does he see what transpires “out there?” Read More

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One word, many meanings

July 18, 2008

When I spotted this trash can with a message today on Northeast 28th and Couch, I immediately thought of its broad theme: Portland’s intense recycling and reuse ethos.

Now I realize it might be a so-obvious-it’s-subtle hint: look inside, stupid, and get rich. Or maybe part of a treasure map, and the long shadow points the way. Read More

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Fanciful stories

July 17, 2008

Not fully grasping an intriguing story appeals to me. Take Lisa Barcy’s arresting animation and Andrew Bird‘s somber yet whimsical song “Lull” that accompanies it (click the image). The story instantly captured me. With each viewing, I see more in the drawings, hear more in the sounds, comprehend more meaning in this odd, fanciful tale.

I’ll be mulling it over for a long time, filling in gaps and creating a back story in my head. (Update: Turns out that the video is adapted from Barcy’s much longer Mermaid, which no doubt would fill in some of my gaps.) Read More

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I’m hardly an art critic. And I don’t abide by the cliché, “I know good art when I see it.” Like many people, I gravitate to images that trigger an emotional and visceral reaction that lingers. That’s the experience I had last night, stumbling upon Steampunk wallpapers while cruising boingboing. Read More

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Pirate of memories

July 14, 2008

I’m stealing a memory. It belongs to my youngest brother.

The memory is about Gertrude, a row boat that Bill found submerged in our lake in Florida when we were kids. He and a friend somehow hauled her to shore, patched a hole in the bottom, and retrofitted her into a floating fort. Read More

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More than one thousand bicyclists crowd beneath the Broadway Bridge, waiting for the annual Night Ride to start. Some sway to the sound of fifteen young people pounding away on drums and cymbals. When the din ends, bike bells ring in applause. Red and white bike lights are flashing, mine included. Bewildered Amtrak passengers leaving Union Station next door tow luggage through the throng.

My grown son Zack, visiting from Florida, and my wife Suzame, fiddle with their glow stick necklaces, proof of registration for the sixteen-mile ride, a benefit for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. We’re among the bland riders, though Suzame has attached fluffy animal slippers to her helmet. Read More

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Frat boy farewell

July 12, 2008

Choose your most admired U.S. president. Imagine him saying this:

Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.

Now imagine him grinning widely and punching the air. And saying it while leaving a meeting of world leaders who had gathered in Japan to discuss combating climate change.

According to a British newspaper, those present, including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, “looked on in shock” at George Bush.

Maybe the bigger story is why anyone was shocked.

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Bridges to nowhere

July 10, 2008

Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?

That, Thornton Wilder said, was the underlying question of his acclaimed 1927 novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The book explores the lives of five people who fall to their deaths when a rope bridge in Peru collapses.

I don’t think about the book when I cross Portland’s river bridges. But I do when I pass one block of Northeast 33rd Avenue. Several years ago I spotted two wooden bridges spanning small yards on opposite sides of the street.

No one will die if these bridges break, but I immediately linked them with Wilder’s work, which won a Pulitzer Prize. They’ve nagged at me ever since, something more than curiosities. But what? Read More

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Boy and the bug

July 9, 2008

This morning at breakfast, my little boy Atticus freaked out when a big fly buzzed on a window near him. It seemed like an overreaction for someone who dug worms and fed them to the goldfish in our little pond before he could walk. (Easy for me to judge.) Maybe this stunning photo will make him less afraid. Or more:

I wish I could say I captured the image among our Portland rose bushes. Instead I’ll say “keep up the great work” to Robin Gage in Atlanta, a photographer friend of my daughter Erin. Robin proves once again that the world we typically perceive isn’t what it seems. Check out more of Robin’s rose gallery on her blog.

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Where did all the creeks go? That’s what I’m wondering, thanks to a Google terrain map of my Northeast Portland neighborhood.

Zoomed in as close as I can get, I see unlabeled squiggly lines in several parts of Irvington that typically indicate water’s fickle flow. One crosses my street a few houses to the south. Yet no creek exists.

The neighborhood has been developed for many decades. My house was built in the 1920s. The neighbor’s house across the street was built in the 1910s. I see no evidence of vacant land anywhere that once accommodated meandering water routes.

No doubt Google has access to maps based on contemporary survey data. So why the tease to what use to be?

Imagine if the creeks returned one day, adding geographic variety — and potentially rain-swollen chaos — to our neat and symetrically plotted urban lots. I feel a petition drive and bumper sticker sale coming on.

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Faded away

July 8, 2008

How will Atticus, my son of nearly three, see his past at my age, more than a half-century hence? At his fingertips he’ll have countless digital photographs and videos chronicling his life. Hundreds are already burned onto hard drives and into his brain: the boy loves to sit on my lap and watch them. The Early Years in umpteen million crystalline colors, viewed again and again.

My early years are chronicled in precious few aged snapshots, incongruous on a computer screen. In some, poignancy emerges from ethereal haze:

The photographer’s ghostly shadow, dead mother hovering over faded sons, their youth fading like film undeveloping.

Still, I’m grateful to see us then. But how did we feel in the moment? File can’t be found.

In the end, no matter how many megapixels fill up a memory drive, they don’t record what’s lost. Maybe at my age Atticus will vividly relive the past by logging into an emotion capture program. You’ve got mail old feelings! That’s the killer science-fiction ap I yearn for. But using it might be too intense to bear.

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