Impudent Ways hits the road! Dear reader, I've taken some vacation time and headed back to the coast of my birth. I report to you from Portland, Oregon! It's here where you can take freakishly clean, freakishly free public transit. It's also here where my good friends Marty and Tera, two stunning pillars of humanity, moved this past May. Missing them terribly, and intrigued by this city of bike gangs and liberalism run amok, I've come to bask in the glory of the town.
So far I've horsed around inside the de-lightful Finnegans Toys, strolled around the Park Blocks, bought a Brooklyn band's cd at the shockingly well-stocked Jackpot Records and of course, of course, I went to pay homage at Powell's Books, the mecca of bibliophiles everywhere. A list of books I bought can be found below.
(Distracting Side Note: should you wish to check out that Brooklyn band link, it will take you to The Oxford Collapse. Please listen to "Please Visit Your National Parks." It's a humdinger!)
After hearing so much about how Portland is just the coolest place forever and ever, amen, I was anxious to get out and meander around. As Tera and Marty are normal and have jobs, I have most of the day to rock it Han Solo. So far Portland strikes me a weird amalgamation of where I live now, Brooklyn, and where I grew up, East Sacramento, bordering on the raging rat race of Downtown.
Sacramento's defining characteristic, at least in my memory, is its general sleepiness, even downtown near the capital. There is no "raging rat race." Portland has that sort of naptime vibe. Both cities have lots of lovely trees, but as a Sacramento girl I have to say that Sacramento has more, as the only city that has more trees than Sacramento is Paris, and I believe we're gaining on them. There are also the lovely craftsman style houses, all the tattooed youngsters walking around, the cafes and the bookshops. But mostly I'm reminded of Sacramento by the general feeling like it's always 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon. It feels like a Chris Van Allsburg illustration looks.
Native Will, my guide and translator has explained to me that apparently Californians are not a welcome bunch here in Portland. His family has lived here since he was a wee bairn and still gets flack for being from the Golden State. Perhaps this is why I suddenly can't get into any bars with my driver's license which just expired. Charming.
Something that Sacramento does not have is Portland's chatiness. I can't step out of Marty and Tera's house without having several five minute conversations -- some with people wearing clothes, some with people not wearing much of anything.
Yesterday, for instance, I was minding my own business reading "Red Son" when a gentleman wearing cut off jeans, an orange safety vest and nothing else stopped by to talk at me. It was something about how Superman called him to sell him kryptonite, because he's so loyal (as I could see, by observing his tattoo of Japanese characters which spelled out "Loyal") but he couldn't do anything about it because he's an alcoholic. The dude in the vest with no shirt, not Superman.
I also got some kudos on my fashion sense from some kids parked out on Burnside bridge . I've noticed that in Portland, rather than in New York, people really share the bounty. As Native Will noted,"Oh yeah. It's not like in New York where people wallow privately in their misery. People here will follow you around for a while and explain it to you."
However, there are some fabulous examples of non-crazy chat ups (er, I think). After my first day of walking/exploring, I was headed to my base of operations, when a fellow pulled up next to me -- on his fixie, natch -- and just started talking. This is not a dramatization:
Dude: -And my friends were like, that is such an asshole move of you, because I cut you off the other day, but I didn't mean to, it was just I saw you walking the other day and I was on the sidewalk, but I didn't mean to cut you off, but they were all "You're a dick," so I just wanted to know... Do you think I'm an asshole?
Me:Uh...No. But I also don't think I am who you think I am.
Dude: No, you totally are. I cut you off the other day.
Me: I just got here at like, 11 last night.
Dude:....This morning. Weren't you walking around this morning?
Dude: Where did you come from?
Me: New York. Hey, listen, this is me...Have a nice day.
And so I turned down my street. Then suddenly I hear, "In Portland, we say goodbye!" yelled at me from across the intersection.
Righteousness regarding etiquette is so much more palatable when yelled, don't you think? Jane would definitely approve.
I used to be a girl who lived in L.A. and was proud of being from Sacramento, and now I'm am woman who lives on the East Coast who is proud of being from the West Coast. Is it possible that New York has hardened some part of me, that I've lost the laid back aura of Northern California, withered away after six years of NY1, toll bridges, Augusts that make your blood boil, the F train and Gawker?
It's possible. Then again, it's possible that a man who's come-on line is "Am I an asshole?" already knows the answer to his own question.
In any case, Portland seems like a pretty cool town. Washington Park, local beers, a trip to the coast to greet the Mighty Pacific, and stalking Craig Thompson all await.
Books I bought from Powell's:
Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose. By Ted Hughes, ed. William Scammell.
The Laughter Of Foxes: A Study Of Ted Hughes. Keith Sagar.
Without. Donal Hall.
The Twilight Series, by Stephanie Meyer (I'M ON VACATION)
The British edition of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. (I wanted to have them all, and was miffed that they didn't have single, paperback, US editions of number six -- only in the box set. I like the US illustrations and design more -- probably the only time I like and American version of something more than the British version. However, there's a great mistake in the UK version of number six. Commenter Kudos to who can tell me what is! (Lee Booth, Arnold -- it's a face off. Which one of my two readers will persevere???)
Also, Ian passed along a fantastic mix entitled "This Is Like Being Alive" to give to Marty and Tera. So far the biggest hit has been this New Pornographer's song, "Sing Me Spanish Techno." You can watch the great video here, at Ian's mysterious blog.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather.
Ah, Bill Hicks, would that you were still here. Dear reader, if you haven't spent some time with Mr. Hicks, I can only say that not only will it open your brain a little wider than it was before, but you'll laugh until your eyes fall out of your head. David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Dennis Leary, Dennis Miller: all of them owe Hicks big time.
He executed pitch-perfect, ruthless attacks on the hypocrisies of Christianity, Middle America, the philistines, or in his own words the "hacks, mediocres and fascists." Anyone or anything that plays to the lowest common denominator attracted his wrath, delivered in eloquent rants, always with ciggie in hand, with almost no deference to the audience at all. If you didn't think he was funny, you could fuck off.
If you want Hicks at his best, I would suggest the dvd of his stand-up in Austin, Texas, "Sane Man." You can scare yourself silly listening to him talk about the stupidity of Bush, ("When they said anybody could grow up to be president, I didn't know what the fuck that meant until this year") and the war in Iraq. This would be Bush the First and Iraq War I. But it's hard to tell the difference, to be honest. Never again except for not even 30 year later.
Half the time the audience seems to be laughing just because Hicks has a mouth dirtier than the saltiest of sailors. After one particular joke brings crickets, tumble weeds and "*ACANCY" signs to mind, the man in black mumbles, "Is it me? Am I like an open nerve to you people? What the fuck." Every time I watch it, I feel like the audience is slightly bewildered as this prophet is screaming. Maybe it's the mullet and pleated black trousers...Oh man, the 80's. Who cares if you were a comic mastermind, you still looked like shit.
Anyway, I love most of Hicks' material, but I'm particularly fond of his impression of George Michael fucking Tiffany into the floor of a mall like a jackhammer, while she screams in terror and he occasionally smiles and sings the Diet Coke commercial.
Here's a bit of "Sane Man," but please netflix this shit immediately -- YouTube isn't going to cut it.
As unmerciful and as violent as his condemnation could be, for all "fucks" and Goatboy antics, Hicks was anything but pessimist. He believed in art, and beauty, and the revolutionary act of telling the truth. The real cynics are the liars and the powerwhores. In his last words, Hicks wrote,
Writing, acting, music, comedy. A deep love of literature and books. Thank God for all the artists who’ve helped me. I’d read these words and off I went – dreaming my own imaginative dreams. Exercising them at will, eventually to form bands, comedy, more bands, movies, anything creative. This is the coin of the realm I use in my words – Vision... Maybe in telling a little about myself, we can find some other answers to other questions. That might help our way down our own particular paths, towards realizing my dream of New Hope and New Happiness.
Like I mentioned before, there are a lot of current comics whose style and substance are heavily influenced by Hicks, some of which I go to time and again to shore up my defenses when the insanities of the world seems like one big joke that I'm not in on. David Cross frequently is a balm (especially when he's playing poet Allen Ginsberg), so imagine my joy when I happened to be in the same crowd as Mr. Cross, seeing a new comic who I think everyone should know about.
Daniel Kitson hails from the north of England, has a mighty strong stammer, and made me laugh so hard, I cried. I guess you could call him a comedian, since he's funny, and stands in front of a microphone, but he's got too much the poet in him to be just a comic.
Kitson is rarely in New York (word on the street is that he keeps to himself mostly, and shuns bigger scenes like the Aspen Comedy Festival) so I'm grateful I got the opportunity to see his show, "It's The Fireworks Talking," which was at turns snort-causingly funny, and heart breakingly beautiful.
Jesus, I know I'm cumming all over myself about this guy, but Dear Reader, I fell in love with his comedy. Comedy crushes are just as good as brain crushes -- even better as they're like a talent crush mixed with regular crush.
The show was (roughly and poorly put) a description of some of Kitson's most beloved moments of transcendental beauty -- found in fireworks, ocean paddling, holding a girl's hand in the darkness of the Australian outback -- with some fantastic sidetracks to round out about an hour and a half. A personal favorite was Kitson's description of being tired of the emptiness of flirting with anyone who seems to show promise. The texting, the e-mailing, the IMing, the messages, it's like candy that's ultimately unfulfilling and bad for you, only leaving you dissatisfied and hungry for more. Kitson confessed yearing for something more substantial, "I want a fucking potato. I want the domesticity of 'Honey, would you stir this while I go take a shit?"
Keats couldn't have said it better. Kitson went on, (bear in mind I'm paraphrasing)
"I want to be sitting across from someone years from now, looking lovingly into her eyes and have her say'Darling, do you remember when you fingered me up against the bin?' and have all our children and grandchildren yell, 'Not again'."
As his set came to a close Kitson moved back through his captured moments, pulling them together in some sort of pastiche (yes, pastiche, fuck you) of moments unsought after, flickerings of miracles, that only a true Romantic would see and cling to, and finished with a orgasm of words, "clinging to the hand of a girl drifting away," and it left me stunned and giddy with the discovery of a new joy to follow.
He didn't stammer once.
I think both Hicks and Keats would approve, and mightily.