Well, I have procrastinated a bit in writing my December update for Portland. It’s a few days before Christmas and I seem to be coming down with something. So now I am holed up in my boyfriend’s bedroom writing this.
When I first started this series with my friends TJ and Rheea, in China and India, I thought the updates would be an interesting snapshot of what life is like in other countries. What I forgot is that I am also living in “another country”. Life in Portland Oregon, as mundane and familiar as it seems to me, might sound quite exotic to someone somewhere else in the world.
So, this month I want to talk a little bit about the small details that I tend to forget about, or gloss over because I have lived in this part of the world my whole life. Here goes:
I live near where Powell Boulevard turns into Highway 26. Highway 26 goes up to Mt. Hood and the towns of Sandy, Rhododendron, Welches and eventually Government Camp. The Sandy River that flows near my house, which is swimmable and somewhat calm in the summer is cold up on the mountain year round and the river is full of boulders. People who live in Government Camp (or “Guvvy”) call everyone else “low-landers.”
My boyfriend Bernard lives between Division Street and Powell in Portland and I usually take Powell into Portland when I drive from my house to his. I wish there was better public transportation in Portland. I wish there was a light-rail line down Powell. Powell runs essentially from the top of Mt. Hood, through the old historic part of downtown Gresham, past the Gresham City Park and the post office, up a hill, through the poorest part of East Portland, with its gravel sidewalks, garbage on the street, slum-like apartment buildings, strip clubs, medical marijuana outlets, “lingerie modeling gentleman’s clubs,” dive bars, Mexican import stores, second-hand stores, chiropractors, check-cashing-predatory-institutions, pawn shops and Walgreens, and then past the big skate park at Ed Benedict Park, under I-205 and then through the edges of the Jade District, Portland’s new-ish Chinatown (since the Asian community abandoned the traditional Chinatown downtown due to high rent, crime and drunken mayhem on the weekends ) and then into a slightly more affluent neighborhood, close to where my boyfriend lives. I would usually comment here about how this is the part of Portland that many citizens do not see. I would comment about how many people don’t consider this part of Portland when they envision the city. But I won’t go into that today.
Instead I will write about how they just installed a bike path all along Powell Boulevard. It is now illegal to pass on the right on Powell because this forces you into the bike lane which is obviously unsafe. However, people still do this all the time and if I’m quick enough, I honk at them. It used to be quite the wild west on Powell; it’s just a two lane road for much of its length and if someone in front of you was stopped to make a left hand turn, traffic would often veer around into the nonexistent sidewalk and gravel area on the right and continue on. It’s strange because I hardly ever see bikes on Powell and there are still no sidewalks. I see a whole lot more mothers with kids in strollers, people in wheelchairs and people with shopping carts than I see bicyclists, and still there are no sidewalks – just trash-filled muddy ditches.
Life has been difficult for me this month, to be totally honest. I started a new birth control and it’s making me a little depressed. I try to keep my spirits up because I know these feelings are just temporary, but it’s hard a lot of the time. Also, my schedule and low energy has not allowed me to get to the gym with my boyfriend as often as I would like. Our gym is on Sandy Boulevard, a busy diagonal street that runs through Portland. We lift weights together at the gym and I am amazed how, on most nights, I am the only female in the weightlifting area. I often leave my purse unattended on a shelf near the bathroom. I’m not worried about anyone stealing it because the room is filled with men that look like they are just waiting for a chance to use their huge muscles.
I have a lot of other thoughts about my storytelling event at Tad’s, and a new open mic event I’ve been attending on Monday nights at Velo Bike Cult off Sandy (conveniently near my gym,) the podcast I plan on starting, studying for my real estate exam, my zine, and the direction I see myself going in artistically… but I’m not going to talk about any of those things.
I am also thinking about my friend TJ in China and the column he recently wrote for PQ monthly about trying to date while gay in China. Sounds rough and a little scary.
This month Rheea Mukherjee wrote about the stray dogs that fill her city of Bangalore. I liked this story a lot - you should read it.
Any dog found wandering around in Portland is picked up fairly quickly by the pound or animal control. There are many stray cats. A couple weeks ago someone poisoned thirty crows in downtown Portland. There have been unusually large flocks of them this winter and maybe some wacko got annoyed and decided to kill a bunch of them for no reason. We see raccoons and possums all the time, especially as it gets dark very early this time of year. It’s been raining for three days. It’s not the misty, pretty kind of rain. It’s the thick, cold, unrelenting winter rain that soaks through your shoes and makes your coat damp all day. It’s the kind of rain that makes me want to hole up inside and watch documentaries about the Roman Empire. My boyfriend’s back patio is covered in wet, brown leaves. Poking through the piles are a dime, a bottle cap and pink conch shell near the chain link fence.
If I can get on a cruise through the cruise company I used to work for I may be able to go to Mexico near the end of January. If not, I will go to New Orleans with my sister Sarah. They are still looking for the bodies of the missing students in Mexico.
It would be stupid not to mention the protests that have been going on here in the states over police brutality towards communities of color. I haven’t been to any of the protests but I hope to in the future. I won't be putting myself in harm's way though… Unfortunately, not having any adrenal glands makes me a bad candidate for civil disobedience; I can’t get arrested because I don’t trust the police to make sure I get my medications. The other night I was talking to my boyfriend’s coworker at their annual Christmas party. When he heard how many medications I’m on he said, “That must be scary.” I told him it’s actually not that scary. I get used to it. My main meds have to be taken every day at around the same time, otherwise I immediately know that something is up. If I were arrested, and presumably under a lot of stress because of it, I could easily go into shock and I’ve heard too many horror stories about people dying in police custody. As long as I stay “in line” I’ll be okay. That’s depressing, but not scary.
I said to him, “Mention peak oil, and that will scare me.” I’m not sure he understood me, but the fact of the matter is that all my meds are made in factories run on fossil fuels. The end of oil is the end of me. Then the woman sitting across from me mentioned something about “natural alternatives” to hormone support. The problem is that people don’t realize my meds are not “support” they are replacements. When you tell me there are natural remedies for my hormonal insufficiencies it’s kind of like telling an amputee that he should just lean against a wall instead of using his prosthetic leg. And that’s not even a good enough analogy because I would essentially straight-up die if I were to try alternatives to my hard-core meds, made in a factory, synthesized from porcine hormones, and shipped to me in little plastic bottles.
In other news, people are still racist, the world is still sexist and violence is everywhere. I got some wonderful earring made of marbles from my brother in law for Christmas. He told me now that I would “never lose my marbles.” I think he knows me pretty well.
I am excited about my writing, and even though this is a fairly morose update, I am excited about life. In truth, I am very blessed and it is an unlikely miracle that I am alive today on the planet, even if it is still raining and I am in bed, in my pajamas, craving a slice of pizza with pepperoni and pineapple.