Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Consciousness Revolution Didn't Work

I was reading on Boing Boing the other day that my generation is known as the Consciousness Revolution. It's kind of catchy, but I think at some point we may have given up the fight. The reason I say this is the experience I had last week at the Aladdin. My friend G and I went to see David Lindley on Friday night, and unexpectedly ended up walking out early.

The opening act was a random phup on stage by himself, playing an acoustic guitar. He played, and played, and talked and then played some more, and then talked. We started to feel like the victims in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when they were forced to listen to the Vogon poem, "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning." He sucked bigtime. When song after song, and bad stories kept coming, we got a little restless and started making fun of him. Even with a few beers in us I didn't think we were being all that loud. During one of his monologues he abruptly stopped and said "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't talk about me", indicating that there were other people equally as bored, but closer to the stage. We felt like we were being chastised like little kids who couldn't sit still in church.

The audience was mostly white-haired ponytails, hemp clothing, and comfortable shoes. I used to go to a lot of bluegrass shows with my parents when I was younger, so I assumed that everyone was in their 50's and 60's. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. What threw me off was waiting in line for beers, and these two guys behind me were talking about their ex-girlfriends, and how hard it was going out with someone in their 20's. I was kind of surprised and asked them by chance how old they were. They said 60 and 61. I said "Wow, you guys look great for your age!", kind of shocked that they could manage to snag someone so young at 60, without having major money. They said, "That's not our age, that's when we were born." Oops.

During the show no-one showed much expression, politely clapping after each song, and acting like a bunch of barely animated corpses. As I looked around it dawned on me that these people where my age. I hadn't recognized them out of their natural element blocking the aisles at New Treasons. This was the same generation of people who used to dance barefoot on broken glass, drink until they fell down, and throw empty beer cans at the singers if they sucked. When did my generation turn into a bunch of boring snobs who eat regular brownies and drink water at a show, looking and acting like Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch's "lover" characters from SNL?

Between a lackluster performance from David, and an audience that was starting to get on my nerves, I ended up waiting out the end of the show at the bar. I wanted to let G enjoy the rest of it without me bitching. After a short time he ended up joining me. We couldn't tell if David was just getting older, or if the audience's lack of enthusiasm was hurting his performance. We felt bad because we had both seen him back when he was playing with El Rayo-X and he kicked ass!

We were a little disappointed, and I am hoping this was just an anomaly and not an indication of what everyone my age is turning into. I am looking forward to this summer full of eighties bands reuniting and holding fabulous concerts at the fairgrounds. I'm expecting to see a lot of mullets and extremely drunken behavior.

Here are the people who attended the show that night.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Let's Ride Bikes!!!

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ADHD, Wait, What Am I Writing About?

There is only one joke I can tell without screwing it up.

How many ADHD kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Hey, do you want to go ride bikes?

The whole concept of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, is a fairly new diagnosis. I haven't taken an abnormal psychology class for a while, so I don't know if they have added a new category to the DSM (sort of a Chilton's manual for personality disorders). I have come to the realization that I am adult ADHD, as are some of my family members, my more productive friends, and my son.

I don't consider it a bad thing. You learn how to deal with the distractions, and hopefully find a line of work that lets you do a lot of multi-tasking. It's one thing we are very good at.

When I was growing up ADHD didn't exist. Kids just had "a lot of energy" and were "fidgety." I was one of those kids. My mom and Grandma, both of whom are very sweet people, finally broke down and bought a leash for me when I was little, because I kept running away from them at the department store and hiding in the clothes racks. It was a nice leash. It sort of looked like the top part of lederhosen. I had to buy a hand leash for my son, because he thought it was a really fun to go run out into traffic when we were walking down the street.

You eventually grow out of some of the compulsive behaviors, that is, unless you are drinking. This can be a very bad thing, acting as a form of a sodium penthanol in my system. I have gotten into more trouble for opening my damn mouth when I shouldn't have. Games like Trivial Pursuit are really hard, because if I know the answer I want to yell it out. I got kicked out of the room one time because I wasn't playing but my friends were, and I wouldn't shut up.

I knew a few Psych majors in college. They always took it upon themselves to come up with their own diagnosis for my behaviour. It was pretty impressive, what with their four or five classes worth of psych, that I had to take as well because of my major. I noticed that most of the people who were Psychology majors, were fairly screwed up. It seemed like they needed the knowledge they gained at school, to use as a weapon during arguments. My friend Kim, used to do an experiment at school that he liked to call "Social Chili." He wasn't a Psych major, he just liked to #*!% with people's heads. He would take a group of incredibly insecure social climbers, throw in some distrust, rumors, complete fabrications, and intrigue, stir the pot, and watch what happened. He used it on me once, and I can tell you it wasn't fun. I managed to get back at him though,so we're on good terms now.

Since I am ADHD I'm going to use it as an excuse to go off topic for a second, and tell you about the really crazy Psych major I met my first year of college.

We never knew her name so we just called her Sybil. She was a fairly big girl, nothing unusual in that, but she had an imaginary friend. In the cafeteria she would sit next to her "friend" and have long, in-depth conversations. They would talk to each other while they walked to classes, and she always made sure there was a seat for her friend in the class.

I was on the bus one day going back to campus from downtown, and this girl made the bus driver hold this bus until her "friend" caught up. The very patient bus driver held the doors open for at least two minutes. When her "friend" finally got on the bus, the crazy girl sat down, unwrapped the biggest Hershey bar I have ever seen, and started chowing down on it, making really loud "YUM" noises the entire ride back to campus.

One of my friends was an RA at Sybil's dorm, and I guess when she left at the end of the year she decided to smear poo all over the entire dorm room as a going away present. For some reason we never saw her again on campus after that.

I guess my point is that there are far worse things then having the attention span of a gnat, constantly interrupting people, and being completely incapable of sitting through an entire DVD at home without getting up at least four or five times.

This has absolutely nothing to do with living by the train tracks, which is exactly why I'm telling you about the ADHD thing. Hey, do you want to go ride bikes?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Classic Adams Family

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Monsters are My Mac n' Cheese

When I was growing up I had to move a lot because of my dad's job. He was an aeronautical engineer, and we had to move every two years. I started out in Sacramento, and moved all over the U.S. As a result I had to start a new school every couple of years, and was always the "new girl" in class. I preferred that label to, "Pee Smelling Girl" or "The Girl Who Eats Paste." It took me forever to learn how to tell time, because my new school had already covered the subject by the time I got there. I think I was in fourth grade before I understood that quarter-after wasn't twenty-five minutes.

My dad was a huge sci-fi, horror fan, and my mom always worried about her little girl preferring Frankenstein instead of Barbie. (I had a Barbie doll but I shaved her hair off). He had a twisted sense of humor, and I remember when I was little he would hand-decorate Easter eggs with Dracula and Teenage Werewolf faces for me to find.

My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mom, myself, and my two brothers moved up to Portland from San Diego. Most of my extended family was in Portland, where my mom grew up, so we had a huge support system with grandparents, a great grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. The house we moved into was a large three story, built in the early 1900's. It was kind of creepy, but that wasn't a bad thing. I have to say I was really lucky because my Grandma supported my horror addiction, and would take us on trips to the used bookstore, Longfellow's on Division, to pick up Tales From the Crypt and old Mad paperback books.

The neighbors across the street took us under their wing, and made us feel welcome. They had like a million kids, and were more than happy to take on three more. The smell of Creepy Crawler goo always permeated the air. After school we would go over to their house and watch Batman, The Munsters, and The Adams Family. We all knew Batman was crap, but it was fun to heckle.

Halloween in Portland seemed like something magical to me. I know it sounds corny, but growing up in Southern Californial we didn't have seasons, and there were a lot of kids being kidnapped and hurt, so we had to trick or treat during the day. It sucked. It was so amazing to come to a place where there were huge, old trees lining the streets, with the wind blowing the orange leaves everywhere. There were kids wandering the streets, at night, without parents having to shepherd them. I felt sorry for the teenagers that had to haul us around, but I'm pretty sure they got a percentage of our candy take.

During the summer we were shipped off to my Dad's house in San Diego for a couple of weeks or a month. My dad had re-married by then, so we would spend the time with his new wife, Rita, an ex-stripper from Texas, and her three kids, all of whom had different daddies. We were sort of like the Brady Bunch, but I was the only girl, and I was Jan. My mom wasn't thrilled, but she felt is was necessary.

One of the highlights of our summer visits was being able to spend time with my dad watching horror movies, and science fiction shows. I remember watching the original Night of the Living Dead with everyone, which gave birth to my ongoing Zombie anxiety dreams growing up. Saturday afternoons we would watch "Seymour Presents." It was just like Elvira, but no boobs. One movie was so low budget they couldn't afford the entire eyeball covered costumes for everyone, so only the three people in the front row of the invading alien team got to wear the full costume. The guys in the back were stuck with half-eyeball, half-black tights. It was classic.

My stepbrothers, who were older and wiser, pointed out that my dad was usually pretty much wasted while we were watching the shows. He always kept a mini-fridge full of Budweiser next to the couch, which he would would work through during the afternoon. This didn't seem odd at the time. Drinking in California in the early 70's was "glamorous", and you could bring your kids into the bar with you while you drank. However, one afternoon my dad decided to tune the station by moving the entire 300 lb., 70's TV console, as opposed to adjusting the bunny ears. Maybe a little extreme, but we were having fun, and hey, I'll take my quality time where I can get it.

Passing on the tradition (not the beer fridge part), my son grew up with horror and sci-fi. He was addicted to Ghostbusters when it came on video. All I can say is thank God it wasn't Barney. I probably haven't been the best mom as far as his viewing habits. I didn't think he was paying attention to what his dad and I were watching when he was three, until we went to Tower Video to rent a movie, and he yells out, "I want to see the exploding babe, boob movie mom!" This of course being the movie Frankenhooker. Who knew?

He's 18 now, and lives up with his dad in the Puget Sound (better schools and acres of forests). When he comes down to visit, rainy Saturdays are horror movie or TV show marathons. We trade back and forth, and I have to agree to be open-minded about some of his picks, and vice-versa. I thought Slither kicked ass, especially since the lead was Nathan Fillion, from Firefly, his favorite series. He wasn't as impressed.

Our routine is, get up, check the weather, don't shower, grab all the blankets and pillows off the beds, make a camp on the couch, put out bowls of stuff to eat, and stuff to drink, and we're good for the day. Of course this is after a sensible breakfast, and doing flash cards for an hour to prep him for the LSAT test. Not.

Friday, February 9, 2007

I must not be in Jerusalem because the TV is on and I don't owe you twenty bucks. - Brian G.

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Haunted House Resident

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Gore Geeks in the Slaughterhouse

One of the stranger places I've lived was in an apartment, built inside a haunted house, built inside an abandoned slaughterhouse, down by the Kingdome in Seattle. My boyfriend at the time, who was raising about 30 rats in his apartment for said house, had convinced me to help work on the Variety Club sponsored haunted house, and I became addicted.

The crew of fifteen uber-goregeeks (myself included), lived and breathed the haunted house. The daily routine was, go to work, go to the haunted house, stay up all night building/painting sets and making creatures, go to sleep for two hours, rinse and repeat. The building itself took up an entire city block,so this thing was huge. We were the wild boys with power tools and implements of art destruction with no "adult" supervision. We made cool stuff like an animatronic skeleton that was fully articulated, creatures that dropped from the ceiling and popped out of hidden places, zombies, ghosts, dark mazes, a graveyard, and all the usual stuff that scares the crap out of people.

After the show run was over in October, we took a break for a few months, then started all over again in the spring. At some point in this mid-eighties tweaked environment,we decided it would be a really good idea to build a secret apartment in the haunted house, where we could live rent and utility free for a few months. We thought we were being really "edgy" 80's style, moving into this totally crappy industrial area, way before loft spaces were even considered trendy in Seattle. It was dangerous, dirty, and probably not the best place for us to set up shop. Meh.

We built the apartment and equipped it with a hidden door behind a false bookshelf, a loft bed, futon couch, space heaters, bookshelves, tables, a hot plate, and tanks for the rats. To get to the bathroom you had to go out the other secret entrance, run down the hall, and hope you weren't spotted by the homeless people who would get into the building every once and a while. We even had a shower with at least one minutes worth of hot water.

It was a ton of fun, and turned out to be a regular refuge for friends going through rough times. Couch surfers included: a friend who had just been kicked out of his apartment by his wife; my brother who had been kicked out of our parent's house for reasons I'd prefer not to get into; and the occasional person who had partied too hard and was way too wasted to go home. On one occasion the rats managed to get out of their cages, and looking for someplace warm, swarmed all over one of the unfortunate passed out people on the couch. If you ever get the opportunity to see someone wake up from a drug/alcohol induced stupor to find themselves completely covered with rats, I would highly recommend it.

After the show was over the boyfriend and I stayed in the apartment for a while. It was fine until late November when the snow started coming through the holes in the broken windows. Taking a one-minute shower in a room with snow slowly piling up on the floor had started to lose its' charm. At that point our relationship was beginning to tank, so we called it good, packed up all our stuff, said goodbye to the ghosts, and went our separate ways.

In the 90's they tore down the slaughterhouse to make room for a freeway off-ramp, and later blew up the Kingdome to build a new stadium. The only thing left from the haunted house era were the train tracks. We used to sit out on the loading bay at night, smoking cigarettes and watching the trains go by the house and the Kingdome, but I don't think we really appreciated what a unique moment in time we were experiencing.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bus O' Trusters

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06/06/06 Night

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06/06/06 All Hail Satan!

One advantage to living by the train tracks is the ongoing flow of entertainment afforded by our beautiful location.

When I first moved to Portland I found a place over in NE, just off of Sandy. Back in that time (and I swear to God if I hear one more person say "back in the day" I will be forced to rip off their arm and beat them over the head with it), Sandy was where a gentleman would go to find a companian for an hour or so. Prostitute central. Even Vera decided that maybe there were a few too many hookers, and declared that they were no longer wanted in the area. This was back when E.J.'s was still around, and Chin Yen's, Holmans, and the Hungry Tiger were the only real restaurants on 28th.

My entertainment at the apartment complex was walking up to the cars parked out front, where the girls were servicing their clients. I would walk up with a clipboard, and bang on the window with a bike light, shining it inside the car. With the light in their eyes they couldn't tell if I was a cop or what. It was fun seeing the girl's heads pop up and the guy try to zip himself back up. I would then give them my speech about getting the hell out of my fupping neighborhood before I started sending their license numbers to the cops patrolling the area. It was a pretty common occurence, and it wasn't unusual to find used condoms, and syringes strewn all over the street. Awesome when you have a five-year-old living with you in the apartment.

So now that I am in a way classier part of town, the new entertainment can range from: watching a guy hopped up on a speedball, walking on the train tracks and alternating between screaming obscentities and making chicken noises, taking bets to see if the cops would show up to take him away before an Amtrak turned him into mush on the tracks; to the people who showed up for 06/06/06 day to give their thanks to Satan.

It was about ten at night during a weekday, so silly person that I am I thought I'd get ready to go to bed, having to work the next day and all.

I hear fireworks going off, nothing unusal. Only it starts getting louder. I throw on my shoes and a coat and go outside to check out what's going on. There are people on bikes, some in costume, starting to congregate around the walkway by the bridge. I recognize some of the frankenbikes from the Chunk 666 group.

After a good size crowd gathers, someone sets up a cooler, pulls out a boombox blasting appropriate satan-worshipping music, and the major roman candle, pabst-drinking festivities begin. I would guess at this point there are about 30-40 people hanging out. Some people are running for winner of the Darwin awards by climbing up onto the fencing covering the bridge about 20 feet up, and dancing. Most the people were just sort of hanging out and seeing if anyone recognized how cool they were.

At this point I realize that they aren't going anywhere soon. I can either call the cops (boring), or go grab my camera and tripod and take some pictures. It seems like people assume no one lives in the area, even though there are houses all over the damn place. I have become the cranky person who goes out at midnight during the week, and yells at the assholes to stop smashing the beer bottles and get the hell out of our neighborhood before I kick their asses. I'm usually doing this in a bathrobe with my floppy slippers on, waving a broken wine bottle over my head. So far it's just been kids who get embarrassed and skulk away. Luckily I have neighbors for reinforcements.

So I grab my camera, steal a beer, and hang out taking pictures. The sparks against the corrugated metal were amazing. Unfortunately nobody fell to their death off the fencing.

Eventually things wind down, meaning they ran out of beer, and they pack up their stuff and leave. It probably was partially due to the cops coming around the corner. It turned out that someone got tired of the whole thing and called the cops. Apparently it's not okay to stand around drinking beer in a public place and lighting off illegal roman candles, even if you are by the train tracks.

I'm looking forward to the next impromptu celebration of his holy horniness.

Barely Pranksters

So a couple of years ago a converted schoolbus full of Merry Prankster wannabees from the East Coast parks across the street from my apartment. Figuring that it's Portland and all, I'm sure they assumed it was okay to camp out in a semi-industrial area during the summer.

I think they are still assigning the Tom Wolfe book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" to all the trustafarian kids back East. It's either that or there is a network through Reed College that transcends the usual avenues offered through the the Internet.

So these very sweet, dirty and overpriviledged kids set up their camp on the sidewalk, with old cardboard boxes, strips of brightly colored cloth, Tibetan prayer flags, tinfoil, etc. Sort of a poorman's SE Portland version of Burning Man. They were in good company because we usually also have a merry band of the extremely underpriviledged who set up their camp under the walkway bridge running over the train tracks. They of course don't have the same innate joie de vivre, "kooky" sense of decorating style as the traveling buskers, so their camp is decorated with old couches, shopping carts, and stolen bikes with the attached child trailers full of old socks, garbage, bottles and hub caps. Wait, I take that back, they also used old cardboard boxes and tinfoil.

After setting up camp, the Bus O' Trusters ask to use our hose out in the front yard, so they can take a shower. They also ask where the closest place is to go busk. They needed to earn some money to fill up on their supply of lentils (Yay Neal!!) and get more gas so they can head down to the Mothership in Eugene. We suggested trying Hawthorne, but in hindsight realized that might not be the best place to start out because they really wouldn't stand out all that much.

After unsuccessfully trying the Hawthorne gig, we suggested heading over to NE Broadway, by Peet's coffee shop, because they don't really get all that many "buskers" over it that area. Basically people will shove money your way so you will just leave them in peace to enjoy their non-fat, half-decaf, one-pump caramel lattes, and let them resume their conversation about the latest trends in teaching their yuppie larvae sign language at the age of 8 months.

To digress, that stretch of Broadway has not always been the lovely melange of boutique restaurants and boutique boutiques that it is now. When I first moved to Portland about 15 years ago it wasn't quite as pretty. We would be sitting at the picnic tables in front of the Tec having a cold one, and would be witness to the parade of not so rich people wandering over from the Plaid after picking up a forty-ouncer (after having craftily rolled the bag into a makeshift handle), and asking for change. One time this crazy guy carrying a box full of bones of an unkown origin, managed to run back and forth through traffic, screaming at people, without being hit or arrested. Some other idiot driving on the same street, hit the curb, ended up driving on the sidewalk, and took out a few picnic tables and a street sign. They didn't get hurt.

Unfortunately, due to gentrification and the neighborhood cleaning itself up, that sort of thing is rare now.

To get back on topic, in case you aren't familar with the term "busking" it usually means people doing a loosely translated version of street performance/entertainment for money. The Bus O' Trusts version consisted of wearing really bad costumes (cut-off khaki Gap pants with suspenders, costumes from when they took ballet as children, and smeared makeup) and doing some juggling and singing. They showed me their act, and I felt kind of bad because it looked like a really bad performance of "Godspell", but with a smaller cast.

After a couple of days schlepping all over Portland, I think the reality of their situation was starting to sink in. This isn't the mythical hippie town that they were lead to believe. The legend of the Green Tortoise, peace, love and happiness, and pot growing freely in every SE garden wasn't all that it was made out to be.

I kind of felt sorry for them, because it sucks when you have missed out on an era where the freedom to roam and find yourself, do massive amounts of drugs, and pretty much sleep with whomever and/or whatever you wanted to was "OK." I'm not saying that doesn't still happen, it's just not as rebellious as it used to be.

The combination of high 90's summer temperatures, living in a converted school bus with no airconditioning surrounded by concrete, corrugated metal siding, gravel, broken glass, no shade and no bathroom finally took its' toll. I let the girls go through my left-over bead projects so they could make trinkets to help support their busking efforts. They took one last hose shower, and filled up their water supplies for the trip south.

As they pulled away, slightly dented, but not beaten up, I wished them well, and hoped they would remember these past days, especially when they finally gave up and used the one-way plane ticket back to their parent's house.