On unruly teens
So I was at the Oregon History Museum, doing some adventuring for Ren’s and my new cool adventuring blog, and it was a little bit boring, there were covered wagons and stuffed squirrels and the usual, and I kept trying unsuccessfully to draw things and I’ll post more about it tomorrow, BUT just as I was starting to get super bored I wandered downstairs to this exhibit called OREGON ROCKS! which is about popular music in Oregon through the ages. It was also kind of a boring exhibit. Only there was this one display about the Seaside Riots of the 1960s?!??! This is Seaside, Oregon, a town where the most interesting attraction is the Nike Outlet and one time I made out with a guy named Carl in the movie theater which has a giant (medium) wooden lumberjack at the entrance.
But apparently in the early ’60s, for a couple of years in a row, over labor day weekend the teens would just riot on the beach! For no apparent reason! It was probably the rock ‘n’ roll! And then one year the Kingsmen apparently lured all the teens over to a stage area with a performance of “Louie Louie” so the cops could pen them in and tear-gas them.
Obviously this isn’t a very well-researched account of the Seaside Riots and if you’d like to find out more just wait seven or eight years and then you can read my dissertation about it. But! The Kingsmen! I can never listen to “Louie Louie” again! Except maybe that part in Mr. Holland’s Opus. I love that movie.
Today I walked into Chapman Square in downtown Portland, which is currently being occupied by a lot of really earnest people and I think also a few people who are not so earnest, and I walked past some dudes skateboarding in drug rugs and somebody repotting plants on the sidewalk and a LOT of soggy-looking cardboard signs that said a lot of very different things and a few babies and some dogs and bales of hay mixed with leaves piled everywhere and people having official-looking meetings every few feet. Everyone looked cold and wet, or ready to be cold and wet at any minute, even though it hasn’t been raining much. I found the information booth and I basically said, “Hey…I want to help out? I’m a nanny??”
So a very nice Ducks fan named Rob led me over to what he thought was the kids’ tent. On the way there he told me he was thinking about running for mayor and he was trying to garner support within the movement, or maybe just convince someone more qualified to run, but when he talks to people about it lots of them just say “fuck you” because they’re anarchists. When we got to the kids’ tent, we learned that actually it wasn’t the kids’ tent, it was some other tent, even though it had a big sign outside of it that said “DINOSAUR CLUB!” The library tent was next door, so we asked the people in the library tent whether they knew anything about the kids’ tent, but they didn’t really, but they said, “If you want, you could help us implement the Dewey Decimal system?” And actually I really did want to help them do that, but there were like four people in this cramped little tent filled with mini bookshelves and it looked like maybe they had it under control for the moment.
Anyway, eventually we found the kids’ tent, and there were a LOT of toys there but zero children. There was a sign that said “PARENTS: PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN UNATTENDED.” And there was a girl named Emily with a walkie-talkie and a really long braid, standing at the back of the tent by herself.
Emily said she was with public safety, and that the people who run the kids’ tent were in a meeting with a lawyer to talk about whether the kids’ tent was a daycare center or a co-op, but maybe I want to help with public safety instead? So I said sure…except I have no experience with conflict management. And Emily said, it seems like you have good social skills, and you know how to work with kids, and there’s a training you go through before you start, and I think you’d be good at it, so do it, please! But also just so you know, the public safety committee is kind of a patriarchy and there’s only one woman besides me, and some of the guys are ex-military and they think they’re cops.
Hmmmmmm. But I gave her my phone number and she gave me a hug, and I said to text me tomorrow and I’d come start the training. Then I headed home, and on the way out of the park I heard some dude calling some other dude a faggot.
Here is the thing. I support the Occupy movement and I want to help. I think it’s important for people to speak up when they think things are going wrong, when they aren’t being represented, when they want to make change. I think it’s awesome that there are people running library tents who are encouraging others to educate themselves. I also wish that the reality of what’s happening in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares fit better with my idea of a truly progressive movement, and that it wasn’t so obvious that the men outweighed the women, and that I hadn’t heard someone using hateful language. Emily asked me whether I’d be willing to come camp down there and I kind of balked at the idea because honestly, it didn’t seem like the kind of place where I could feel safe on my own. Dane would have to come too! But Dane’s busy trying to get someone elected to Congress so he works pretty much every hour of every day and probably couldn’t even be helpful within the movement because he’s so exhausted and he hardly even has time to eat, which, :( :( :( is all I can say about that.
For my latest experiment in domestic bliss, I cut the top off a gourd, scooped out its insides, carved out pieces of its flesh to resemble a symbol for feminism most commonly used in the 1970s:
…and then I rinsed off the seeds and put a bunch of spices on them and stuck them in the oven and now I’m eating them. I used this recipe, although my seeds look nothing like the ones in that blog. I guess if I’m going to blog regularly now I have to get a camera or something, because so far I’ve been taking all my pictures with my Macbook (circa 2008) and they make my life look really grainy and sketchy and generally kind of creepy-Swedish-serial-killer-y. Want proof? Here are my pumpkin seeds:
YUM, RIGHT?! The ones on the left got burnt because I was listening to an old episode of Radiolab where a bunch of baboons learn to stop being warlike because of a trash pit that gives them all TB and I forgot to take the seeds out of the oven. But the ones on the right are good! Spicy!
See what I mean about the pics though? I really think that DIYcutesycraftfoodlifebloggers fool everyone into thinking their lives are so cute and awesome because they have nice cameras. I have an outdated Macbook and a bunch of hand-me-down furniture in various shades of medium brown so my life looks like Lars Von Trier’s The Kingdom or something. Well I had a LOT of fun baking these pumpkin seeds, and it was JUST like a Miranda July movie and not at all like Lars Von Trier!!
Speaking of Miranda July, here’s a new blog I started with Ren that has absolutely nothing to do with Miranda July whatsoever: goforthadventurers.tumblr.com. It’s gonna be fuuuuun.
On sauce and fugues
Currently making this tomato sauce, which Ren turned me on to and which is apparently so famous for being THE MOST AMAZING TOMATO SAUCE OF ALL. It kind of is. The recipe goes like this: put a can of tomatoes and a stick of butter and an onion into a pot and let it simmer for 45 minutes. It makes the house smell like…well…buttery oniony tomatoes. Mmmm. Domestic.
Meanwhile I’m reading Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation, an entire book about the worst feeling in the world. I’ve just started chapter 2—actually, Wayne says in this book they aren’t chapters but fugues, a word that applies to music and basically means parts that weave together slowly, but also has another meaning that applies to what happened to this woman and was a running joke my senior year of college, when we all always felt like we might jump confusedly into the Hudson River at any minute.
Anyway, chapter 2 begins with a description of the humiliation of women who suffer from obstetric fistulas. I won’t describe. Basically, if I was ever at risk of becoming too comfortable or enjoying this tomato sauce too much, I’ve lessened that risk by opening Wayne Koestenbaum’s book.
This morning I cleaned out this closet.
Cleaning my apartment is both a guilty domestic pleasure (I listen to public radio weekend programming while I do it, which I find deeply comforting) and a dreaded leap into a dark abyss filled with crawling and biting things that want to hurt me. When Dane and I moved in to this place back in August, we were super pumped about it. Stairs! A yard! Two bedrooms just for us—what will we ever do with them?! Cheap (kinda)! So much cleaner than our last place (which was a hundred years old and literally sinking into a pit in the ground)! Yaaaay!
Then after we’d been living here for a few weeks, Dane discovered that his lower legs were covered in red, extremely itchy bumps. We flipped out and checked for bedbugs. Our mattress appeared to be clear. I said maybe there were just a lot of mosquitoes around? We started googling, which is always a mistake, and then we asked our moms, which was worse, because they both had a lot of terrifying thoughts about what the bumps might be and MAYBE YOU TWO SHOULD JUST MOVE BACK HOME FOR A WHILE?? Eventually some website told us to put a white piece of paper on the ground and see what happens, and almost immediately after we’d set it down there were little black dots jumping all over that shit! I actually ran crying from the house.
So it turned out that the previous tenants had had cats, and the cats had had fleas, and the fleas had made a home deep in the wonderfully lush brown shag carpet that covers every inch of our apartment, where they’d lain dormant for a few weeks (because fleas can do that for a LONG time) until they got hungry and decided to start biting the hairiest animal nearby.
This was so, so traumatizing, especially for a girl who had lice for like six months in fifth grade and thought they were gone and then went on vacation in Mexico and got really awesome cornrows only to find that supertight braids are perfect places for little lice eggs to hatch. I was not about to be Licey Lindsay again! We ended up moving in with my mom for two weeks, I washed all my clothes like 53728957429 times, and I still jump whenever I see a black speck anywhere in the apartment.
Then Ren stayed with us for a month, and upon her departure she informed us that she was pretty sure we had mice.
It’s been a couple of weeks since then, and as far as I can tell there are no mice, but all I’m saying is that taking a deep breath, flinging open the door, and diving in to the giant mysterious pile of junk that used to be in this closet was a serious victory for me today.
On being scared
In the fall of 2008 I discovered some essay by Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, that Elizabeth Gilbert) that said a lot of stuff about how writers have to just LIVE as much as they CAN. Here’s something I wrote in my journal during the anxious period that followed:
“No matter what, I just have to remember not to move back to Portland just because it’s comfortable and my parents and my books are there. My parents will always fly me out for Christmas.”
After that comes a lot of stuff about how I was going to get an apartment the next year with my very-long-distance boyfriend at the time (we broke up over Skype soon after) and the apartment was going to be in Harlem (I lived on campus) and then I was going to get a job in the city while I went to school (I babysat in Westchester) and then I was going to move to Montana and be a ranch hand and then go to grad school at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop!!!
Instead I fell in love with somebody else and moved back to Portland immediately after graduation, and I haven’t left since except once to visit my friends in New York, where I kept thinking, “Blech, this is even smellier than I remember,” and once for a family vacation where we stopped in Seattle and I had a panic attack in the market where the guys throw the fish because it was TOO CROWDED.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what to do next. And because I’m virtually unemployed and the person I love/live with works 11-hour days, I also spend a lot of time thinking about what to read, and what to make for dinner, and which blogs to follow, and which crafts I think I could get good at, and whether I can get over my fear of crowds and strangers and go down to Occupy Portland to volunteer. I spend a lot of time thinking, “Be brave! Go forth!” and a lot of time being sad that there aren’t any more episodes of Downton Abbey to watch while I make a friendship bracelet. Sometimes I think about sitting down to write a story and I don’t do it. Sometimes I look at cute little DIY blogs and think about whether I am a person who bakes mini apple pie cookies.
Those cookies look good. What’s keeping me from baking them? I want to write stories and be an active citizen of the world, so why the fuck am I googling “cute curly hairstyles”?
The answer to both of these is that I want to be comfortable and it pisses me off. I won’t make the cookies because that’s one too many baked goods this week! No matter how cozy it feels, I refuse to be a person who sits around and bakes all the time! But I also won’t write the stories or volunteer downtown because…well, I don’t want to talk about that! Shut up! Leave me alone!
According to various refrigerator magnets I’ve seen, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’m not going to do that, but I am going to blog about the things that scare me (be warned: they are often stupid) and the things that are so comfortable I find them kind of scary too.