04 December 2010

365 Days in the City: Day 89 - Herb Garden Buffet

I've been negligent in writing about my city life, namely because while there's a lot going on, nothing really quirky has occurred--well that changed last night.

A few posts back I mentioned how popular my front stoop is for night-time visitors. Since that time, I've placed plants from my apartment in Lake O out front, which has helped remind passers-by that in fact my loft isn't empty. Visitation has dropped significantly.

Two nights ago, I came home and noticed there was a lot of soil on the sidewalk in front of my stoop. Upon further investigation, I noticed someone had dug around in my strawberry pot and taken my small shovel. I was confused, but had frankly hoped the strawberries would die this winter anyway, so wasn't too concerned.

Last night, as I returned home and walked to my front door, I noticed a haggard-looking woman leaning over my oregano and thyme herb pot. As I neared the door and the clearly homeless woman, she didn't flinch one bit as she treated my herb garden as a salad bar. My first inclination was to tell her to back off my herbs, but then I remembered that in fact I didn't ever actually use those herbs, I had secretly hoped they (like the strawberries) would also die, and that she probably needed them way more than I did. So, I just walked by, opened my front door and called it a night.

She hasn't eaten all of my plants yet, but it's only Saturday, and I hear the Herb Garden Buffet has nightly specials throughout the weekend. If you're hungry, I've got a small serving of strawberry plant, withered clematis and some rosemary. I'm sorry to say, we are fresh out of oregano and thyme.

02 December 2010

Evolution Disillusion

Evolution, or the progression of a species, is an observable phenomenon that is constantly driving itself forward. Whether you believe it to be a part of a greater plan or simply the natural order of things, we can all agree that as species evolve or progress, they ideally become better and better.

The relationship of natural selection and evolution tend to go hand-in-hand, however in the case of human beings, I'd say that's not necessarily the situation. We have progressed so far beyond the simple concept of survival of the fittest, that we can all live without any real regard to the core rules of survival so closely adhered to by our many animal neighbors. While I don't really want to offend the majority of the population that would quickly die off if we had to actually resort to self-survival skills (and I don't exclude myself from that soft-exteriored majority), there is a lot of evidence to suggest that we have evolved to a point of uselessness in an actual practical sense. Brush aside the invention of Segways, reality television shows, Go-gurt, Paris Hilton, or the paparazzi that follow her (none of which would have existed if we were still foraging for food, or heck, even farming for that matter) and I would like to point out one particular piece of evidence that highlights my point.

Have you ever thought much about ending petlessness?

Well, I haven't either. However, apparently the folks down at the Oregon Humane Society have, and they mean business. Plastered all over every billboard from here to Timbuktu (that's a little town in eastern Oregon) is the most ridiculous (but admittedly endearing) campaign to end one of the least dangerous afflictions to afflict any afflicted people since the beginning of afflictions. Petlessness? Is that really something to combat or end? Aren't the petless happy?

To tie up the loose end on how this relates to evolution, the one great evidence of a species that has evolved past it's own usefulness (in my mind) is a society that addresses issues with zealous flair that are so unimportant to the core of that society's survival as to make them seem too trivial to waste the word trivial when describing them. Because so many of us aren't likely to die of plague or hunger any time soon (or be eaten by a higher mammal) and the most foraging we need to do is in our refrigerator (or to the nearest McDonald's), we can actually afford to spend time brooding on issues that have propelled us to the stratospheric upper-echelons of the nugatory.

I know. I'm being unfair. But I should at this point disclaim to you, my friends on the internet, that I love pets. I really do. Dogs, cats, rats, hamsters, parakeets, anoles, cockatiels, I'll take them all. I love pets. But some people don't, and that's okay. It's not a plague to be petless. It's not dangerous. It's not contagious. I doubt a single petless soul who sees that billboard or the hundreds of other media pieces that echo its message will say "Well heck, I never realized it, but I do need a pet. I'm going to get one today!" Because the truth is, most petless people are happy. The petless are like you and me. They go to work and live their lives. Like you and me, they enjoy good food, dancing, sleeping-in and all the other things an overly-evolved society enjoys. They just happen to like it without a furry companion to share every minute with.

Someone spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop and implement this campaign. Many someones thought of it and spent many hours working on it. They are the overly evolved who sit in squishy chairs and try to imagine what life would be like without a Whole Foods on every corner and the non-organic hell it would be.

In the mean time, there are the less fortunate of our over-evolved species who are actually still trying to survive. They are all around us. They are like you and me. They may or may not have work and are probably having a hard time living their lives. Like you and me, they enjoy good food, but may be grateful to have any at all. Dancing is something they probably only do once-in-a-while, and sleeping, let alone sleeping-in, may not be a comfortable, feasible or regular practice. They are probably not concerned with petlessness, organics, excessive individualistic freedoms or staying out of the mainstream. They are still concerned about surviving and maybe one day gaining admission to the indulgent club the rest of us languish in as we pine for a better world.

Indeed, we live in an overly-evolved society where trite, but influential pet projects (no pun intended) garner millions of dollars of public and private funding. It's a comfortable and gilded world where special interests so far from the basic necessities of life, or even the outskirts of resources for valuable personal progression, can command center stage and suggest that you and I participate in something as frivolous as ending petlessness.

No offense Oregon Humane Society, I'm all for those homeless kitties and puppies to find a forever home before their time is up, but in a world full of human homelessness, healthlessness, foodlessness, lovelessness, freedomlessness and hopelessness, I don't need to invent petlessness and add it to my list of things to fight to end.

02 November 2010

365 Days in the City: Day 58 - Asparagus Walls and Parking Tickets

So my loft has been coming along miserably. Between being out of town, working late and trying to maintain some vestige of a social life, my place has maintained the look of a second-hand furniture warehouse where you see 'Going out of Business' signs and offers on Craigslist for a pair of used armchairs for $40 (and yes, a pair of armchairs I own came from CL for $40).

The clutter of boxes and other personal effects (which, by the way, where the heck does that term come from?) was like a maze/obstacle course/sadistic Saw game/fire hazard and got so bad, that I accidentally dropped my wallet into a pile of things and had to cancel my cards because I didn't know where my wallet was and I needed to spend money.

Then came the challenge.

A good friend of mine suggested that what I really needed was a deadline. [Queue angelic, heavenly music indicating a break-through moment] He suggested that maybe if I hosted a dinner party (which he and his wife were of course invited to) on Sunday, I would be motivated to go balls out (pardon the brash term) and finish from Friday to 4:59 on Sunday before the party.

I accepted. From Friday evening to 4:59 (and actually more like 5:08) on Sunday, I spent several hours at Lowe's and Home Depot (where I bought a circular saw and a 13-foot ladder among other things), built a kitchen bar/island out of cedar wood and a salvaged door, painted a 12-foot wall twice (first color wasn't right), moved furniture, sold furniture on CL (and hauled it 15 miles to the person's house) , stashed boxes, trashed tons of stuff, vacuumed, killed the last of my summer veggie plants, swept, installed lighting, swept, and prepared a meal. [phew!]

It was a lovely dinner party. My wall is painted asparagus green (after the second paint color was applied) and so I decided to serve asparagus in it's honor. The only down side of the evening, was that as we set off for a walk between dinner and dessert, we noticed that both couples had received parking tickets, which made for a bit of a pisser (again, brash) on the evening.

Still a lot to do on the place, but once it's done, I will post a house tour on here. Until then, here's to another set of adventures in the city!

17 October 2010

365 Days in the City: Day 42 - Street Cars and Homeless Penguins

This day simply couldn't get any more entertaining.

I decided to ride the street car to meet a friend for lunch today. It was my first time trying it, and like a kid on the first day of school, I wasn't without apprehension. I checked the schedule and walked the two blocks to the stop. On time, clean and quick, it was great. Even better, I live in the fare-free zone that encompasses most of downtown Portland (what an amazing city this is), so it was without cost. Lunch was fine and I headed back to get on the street car.

As I was awaiting the car, a man sat down next to me who was clearly homeless (I was breathing through my mouth for a while). I didn't really pay any attention and continued my telephone web browsing, until a somewhat chirpy, sing-song voice said:

"Excuse me, could you tell me what time the next car comes?"
"In about two minutes," I said.
"Thank you, penguins are not very good at reading small print, but we can march in straight lines in temperatures of negative 50, so we are rather militant."

I'm sorry what?

I looked up and now noticed the man next to me. Penguin hat (like the ones that have a face on them and ear-covers that are like wings) and a face painted red. I decided to engage.

"Well, it's a good thing it isn't that cold here," I said.
"Indeed, but it was chilly today," he said as though he hadn't just suggested he was a penguin. "But I don't much like marching in lines, do you?"

I indicated that indeed I didn't.

"It gets quite sunny here, which can lead to sunburn," he said pointing to his face which was clearly painted cherry red and flaking badly. "But if you try to steal anything, they will catch you, red handed," he observed, opening his palm to reveal more paint. I laughed and he indicated that I sounded like I might be a Portlander, and asked if I knew the mayor, whom he said he was quite close with.

He asked where I was from and was excited to hear that I was from the DC area.

"I used to live in Dupont Circle! Have you heard of it?" he asked.
"Yes, I have."
"I worked for a congressman there for a while."
"Are you involved in politics, is that why you lived in DC" he asked.

I explained that my father worker for the Smithsonian (which isn't even why we lived in DC, but it's an easy connection. This revelation made him very excited.

"Ohhhhhh! The Smithsonian! Well, I used to work there also." he beamed "You could say I change jobs like some people do shoes." But then his demeanor darkened a bit. "But I don't like to talk about that experience."

Sadly the street car came at the moment. The penguin had explained to me earlier that he didn't like crowded street cars, and this one had quite a few people in it. So, he wished me well and we shook hands as he waved to everyone on the car.

Well, Portland has penguins who hang out with the mayor after migrating from the DC area where they enjoyed stints with congressmen and the Smithsonian. Well, not the Smithsonian, we don't talk about that.

Best. Day. Yet.

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