Tag Archives: Travel

Stumptown Thoughts

I’ve been asked to cobble together my thoughts on my trip to Portland, to give my impression on the city, the state, and its people. It’s taken me a while to digest and put it into words, because the city doesn’t exactly have a strong flavor. In my five days of taste-testing, there’s just no singular flavor note on the palate that I can mark down in my notebook.

If pressed to find something, it’s this: Portland is a city of abrasive contrasts. That’s the biggest takeaway I have.

From the lips, it’s warm and inviting; from the eyes, it’s paranoid of everyone it doesn’t recognize. The people there will smile and are friendly to the end of the transaction, but behind it is a distrust. You have to be there long enough, as a neighborhood resident, as a frequent customer, to be welcomed and embraced, to be pulled into a long conversation about nothing. Otherwise, you’re just some guy from the street. The homeless problem there is so bad, the housing situation is so exclusionary, that as a tourist, walking around with my black hoodie and black backpack, I felt the side glances, the silent judgments, from those wondering if I was a danger or if I was going to ask someone for weed or bus fare.

The city is caught up in the act of change, like a film scene of a man painfully turning into a werewolf. Once upon a time, it was a manufacturing and shipping town, but with the decline of those industries, Portland’s manual labor workforce is hungry and bored, and all the warehouses, grain silos, docks, railyards, are slowly being emptied out and taken over by land developers. That’s a universal story at this point, but it’s strongly marked there in Portland.

So you have all these areas that are decaying, oily, dirty, fenced off, disused, or otherwise vacated. Contrast that with the verdant beauty of the place; the constant humidity and frequent rainfall means the botanical landscape is always exploding with everything green and orange. It’s a fantastic place if you like forests, hills, mountains, streams, rivers. I wish I could’ve taken more pictures that captured just how beautiful the place is. But in the big middle of it all is this gentrifying grease pit of iron and brick.

I guess with all the paranoia, hope, helplessness, overcast skies, furious growth, middle-class delusions, and distrust in everyone and everything despite all evidence, the city of Portland is me. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know that I have no desire to move there. It would consume me before I could ever take it all in. My life here in Austin is just as cold and distant as anywhere else I’ve ever lived, but at least Austin has warm days to help me ignore all that.

I could move there, I guess, but why? I dunno. That’s why my vacation there was more an expedition. I needed to know what it was about, and my five days there showed me, at least on the surface, what was there and gave me a peek at what was underneath. I could be completely wrong; I could find the greatest friends and the most wonderful loves of my life in that weird bond of shared meteorological and financial hardships, but I won’t know without enduring at least a year and a day in its city limits.

And that opens up an existential question that I should ask myself daily.

Portland

Unless some people told you, you’d never know they’d been on vacation.

AUS → SLC → PDX

Lights and sights on Monday nights

Mt. Tabor and its distant neighbor.

Blue to the zoo

Otter under wotter

Trunk punk slunk through his bunk.

Praise for the fallen

Eastbound, drawbridges down.

View in Lan Su

Heaven is a city named Powell

Strong breeze pacifies me.

Goonies never say Die.

To Do Is To Be

Constant existential nagging.
Feeling it pretty bad lately.
The stable half that pushes for self-sufficiency
Is in a lockstep battle with
The unstable half that pushes for self-agency.

I don’t think I’ll ever be fully settled in my life,
One of those lives lived in
A permanent state of temporality.

I think it’s a side effect of moving a lot while growing up,
Never having much time to put down roots
And grow from that.
Ever since moving to Austin,
I’ve always felt itinerant,
Like I’m always two paychecks from disaster
And will have to move out in an emergency.
That’s certainly not the case anymore,
But nothing really feels like it lasts forever.

Some things, I’m grateful that they don’t last forever.

What doesn’t last forever is
My youth and agency.
I need to punch Eject and go wander.
The wanderlust is strong.
But I don’t need to,
I want to,
I desire to.

But then what?
Do I return back home,
Return to zero,
Lose concrete resources
And gain ephemeral experiences?
Lose personal capital and
Gain a camera roll?

I don’t think Nietzsche and Sartre ever had a proper answer.
Did they?

Until the End

In 1991, German director Wim Wenders released his magnum opus “Until the End of the World“. It is the penultimate road movie. It follows this young woman Claire on her journey from self destruction to finding her purpose to being a saving angel. It shows that we really are connected. The scale of this film is breathtaking. Although it had critical acclaim, it never had a wide audience.

I finally saw it a month ago. After hearing about it over coffee, yet knowing about it for a few years, I rented it. The only copy available anywhere in town was on VHS, so I had to dig my VCR out of storage. Even then it was at almost 3 hours long. On the first viewing, I was blown away. But there are more edits of this film than for Blade Runner.

Today, I took the opportunity to see the film in its original director’s cut, remastered, on the big screen, weighing in at 295 minutes (almost 5 hours). It was amazing. So beautiful. It’s so long that it truly is two movies in one. It shifts gears just before intermission. The first half is a globe-trotting chase of intrigue and exploration. The second half takes place almost completely in an aboriginal cultural preservation center in the Australian outback. It went from “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” to “Johnny Mnemonic”-gone-native. It went from an expansive examination of the human condition on a broad scale, to an intimate examination of the human condition on a deep scale.

What the 5-hour cut had over the 3-hour cut was a lot of backstory, sidelines, and asides. We see the reason behind the character actions, such as why Claire was on a path to self-destruction. So much is explained, so much is explored. In watching the 3-hour cut, the characters go from one thing to another, and in the awkward jumps you can tell that there were some assumptions the viewer had to make. Those are fleshed out in the full cut.

It didn’t exactly have a happy ending, but it didn’t need to. It had a satisfying aftertaste. I was absolutely blown away, and I felt the connection to the characters and to the world more deeply. I feel like I’ve been on a vacation. I’m still savoring the flavor, texture, and aroma; it’s that good. I don’t have any life choices hanging in the balance, no actions to take, no resolutions. It’s not life changing, but I see things differently. Just like a road movie, my life is a string of events and episodes with motion but no direction; a ship under power with no captain at the wheel. Maybe, somewhere in the self destruction, I can find a transoceanic current to draw me toward making the world better. Who knows the sea?

Anyway

driving around texarkana area tonight. wandering. thinking.
funny how the new happens, old memories still return.
north jefferson. in the highbeams, telephone poles look like crucifixes. fields of them. three sixteen. gethsemane. sheol. texarkana.
sugarhill road. old beech street haunts, youth groupers lived there. parents successful. edge of town, suburbs.
sanderson lane. saw stars. cassiopeia. mash of others. streak of cloud confused the glow of the milky way. blurry x in the sky.
distant stars. distant headlights startled, mustn’t get caught on the side of the road looking up.
mustn’t be caught wanting to be alone. inviting inquisitions. accusations. trouble.
started car, drove away.
waffle house. read dharma bums over coffee. found a chum behind the counter, told me to read palahniuk. told him to read miller.
cruised the downtown. bright lights, empty city.
turned right. hwy 82. widened to 4 lanes. still 45mph.
turned left at orphanage, where first girl laura lived. confusing times, those. longest month. first 2 weeks in love, remainder alone together.
drove to rondo, turned right. cruised past amy’s house; father ministered rondo methodist church. retired. house has changed hands.
phil and sandy’s old place. now just sandy’s place.
anyway.
turned left, 82 outbound. thinking. remembering. upward bound trips.
stars through the window. geolocation by the domes of light on the horizon. there’s hope.
there’s nashville. there’s ashdown. there’s magnolia.
anyway.
stars and moon came up. the old man. the half moon. the couple arising in glory. winter’s first glimpse of orion, my old, old friend. memories.
fields at ouachita, talking, communing with the old man. asking questions, questions.
stars in the window on my radio. wrapping it around, inspired returning to the inspiration. the born back to the place of birth.
heavy moment and smiles.
found myself in stamps. tiny sleepy burg. orange lights, dusty houses, gravel garages and propane tanks.
ez mart has no bathroom. sacred and profane. u turn and found a boat ramp. pissing in the river.
made something live. left my dark mark on the light caliche. train whistles and dark lights. key to pedal to getting out of there.
returning. remembering. arkansas life. distant memory, but soaked into the makeup of me.
had a tough time of it then. knew things but didn’t know things. smart but stupid. brilliant but ignorant.
built the half moon and old man i am.
dreams. had dreams. spoke poetic jibberish, it all came from here, but needed the distance to speak the verses.
no support structure, no friendly air.
but in finding my people outside, i found my voice. then i lost my people along the way.
and then austin.
those voices spoke poison. so ragged and bedraggled. so negative. so cruel.
enough time with them, my own voice stopped. creativity shriveled. mustn’t get caught looking up.
mustn’t be caught wanting to express. inviting derision. humiliation. trouble.
why did i care about their words? why close lips and hope to sneak on by?
texarkana. the source and fuel for my psyche. texarkana. where i lost my soul. fields of crucifixes. three sixteen.
our god is an awesome god and holy holy holy.
sublimation.
no way. no fucking way.
anyway.
43 and on mute. 25 years hence trying to find myself. ongoing battle, eternal war.
turning. wandering. searching.
searching for the voice.
seeing yesterday.
remembering the dreams.
i miss tomorrow. tomorrow is not what it used to be.
ever hoping, but driving into the uncertainty.
eventually. eventually.
anyway. anyway.