Thursday, March 10, 2016

Au Revoir, Stump Town

After wasting 15 months of my life, I'm over Portland completely and utterly. No more Portlandia inspired daydreams for me. The last time I strolled across Burnside Bridge at sunset, it was not gauzy lighting and curious Hipsters on bikes. It was dirty, loud and dangerous, like I might be pitched into the beige cesspool of the Willamette the minute some aging infrastructure failed.

There were all sorts of red flags that I shouldn't try to live there, but I had my Carrie Brownstein blinkers on. My first mad attempt should have curbed all my future Oregonian ambitions.

I met a room renter on Craigslist in October 2013 and moved into her 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo the day I met her. Two weeks into our cohabitation, she lost her job thanks to the Government Shutdown and receded into her bedroom for two weeks of Zoloft-inspired texting to her online boyfriend. She emerged long enough to tell me -- without any warning -- that I had 48 hours to move.

Portland invented flakiness and shucking personal responsibility. Now throw in some real Great Recession angst and you've got a recipe for a thoughtless upper middle class ignoring a growing sea of working poor.

The second foray up to the Portland area was more promising. In January 2015, I had a temp job waiting for me and got into a rental share with a nice, level-headed lady who also had a 3-bedroom  this time in Vancouver, Washington, the suburban tumor that clings to the top of Portland like a plastic cowboy hat. All was well for the first two months. Then the elderly bat-shit crazy landlady below us decided on a Vicodan-induced whim that we had to move. This was my first no-cause eviction. I now know they happen all the time in the Portland area, which is second only to San Francisco in pitching tenants to the curb ... for no reason at all. (Really it's about money, rents are sky rocketing in the Cleveland of the Pacific Northwest).

I found housing in Portland to be depressingly like Seattle: slumlords were getting $750 for motel rooms with kitchenettes. First, last plus vague $400 "non-refundable" deposits. That's $1900 for a shed.

I scrambled to find housing, spent a while living with a mean dude who was a quart-of-vodka-a-day alcoholic and finally settled on the last room I rented for $600 a month: a 10 x 10 square foot in the basement of a 75-year-old tract home owned by an Asian Hipster chick who was the definition of Pretentious New Ager. One of her six day jobs was re-aligning chakras. Seriously.

I took a job as a landscape laborer when my first temp job abruptly ended (they didn't want to spring for healthcare). I was 15 years too old for this dead-end job and Vancouver in June was 20 degrees too hot for that kind of work.

I interviewed for technical writing jobs at places like Intel where I was told over and over, "it was down to you and one other person." Stable, good-paying employment in Portland was like the summit of Mt. Hood -- pretty to look at and eternally out of reach.

Everyone had assured me that Portland and its surroundings were chocked full of Liberals. People who were avid recyclers, organic gardeners, Unitarian Universalists and believers in book sharing. I'd say this was true about 25-percent of the time. The rest of the time? It was Sacramento with trees and angrier NIMBYs.

For a town of 75,000, Vancouver had a lot of skinheads. And in retrospect, Portland is the only place I've ever been where someone in a coffee shop can say totally straight faced: "I'm a vegan and a white supremacists".

Black Pussy. Yes, there's a band in Portland that call themselves this. Read the drama here.
Overall, I found Portlanders to be insular and pretentious on a level Seattleites can only dream of. They're certain they're doing the right thing (their "thing") and they're certain everyone else is not.

Childishness isn't just endorsed in Portland, it's a valid lifestyle. People don't go to parties to drink and hear bands. No, no. They go to "art parties" to "engage in new mix medias". Think: birdhouses out of Popsicle sticks in the second grade. There must be 20 or so Meetup.com groups in Portland just for people who play board games. Not kids, not junior-high students, but adults in their 20s and 30s lining up outside bars to play Clue or Risk. (When I was a kid, the only time we played board games was when the cable was out).

Forays into yesterday's fads like 80s culture is fine, once in a while, but devoting all your free time to a past you likely were never a participant in, is just weird. 

Get your own fucking style, poseur.

At least people who were into swing dancing in the 1990s understood it would only be trendy for about 15 minutes and then we'd all move on from the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

I suppose I have too close a perspective on Portland and its Hipsters because I lived with two of them for nine months. But one of them was a trust-fund cunt who had a day job as a Pilates instructor despite the fact she couldn't get sober long enough to teach P.E. to fifth graders and the other was the High Priestess of channeling money out of rich, naive housewives from Lake Oswego.

They talked about organic farming, helping the poor, seeing other people's point of view, blah, blah, blah. But scratch the surface and they were as typically bigoted and selfish as the yuppie Realtor in the Prius next to you in traffic. Everyone is liberal minded until it's an inconvenience and then they're not.

Thank Gawd I'm too poor to be that self involved.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Zombies: They're all in your head

I like The Walking Dead. I loved Max Brooks' World War Z, even met him and had him sign my copy of the book. I think Robert Kirkman is a great writer. I listened to his interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast and he was interesting. And he's a talented storyteller who, unlike a whole lot of white men, has no problem writing about black characters, strong female characters, gay characters, any ol' kind of characters you can think of. Awesome.


She can't be hungry, no digestive system ... at all!

Here's the thing about zombies and the entire sci-fi/fantasy premise: It's complete bullshit. When people die, they swell up because of all the microbes and gases in their intestines, sometimes they burst, they smell real bad ... and that's it. Dead is dead. The very absolute end. Period. I've seen dead bodies a couple times in my life. I saw my grandma when I was 15. My aunt and uncle made the faux pas of having her casket left open. She looked well made up, hair neatly combed, slightly plastic and very dead.

Another time I was working in a retirement home for something like four dollars an hour and one of the long-term vegetative geriatrics in the retirement home died. The charge nurse didn't notice for several hours because, well, he never moved and was always asleep. His gurney was wheeled out of his room and into a hallway. His body was covered in a sheet. Aside from the fact his emaciated chest wasn't rising and falling, it wasn't much of a change from his prior state of being.

Dead people are without exception always one thing; very still. They don't get up and dance and they certainly don't rise up and start roaming shopping malls for human flesh.

If you are medically brain dead, you have no lower reptilian brain. You have no desire or compulsion to eat, let alone breathe. You can't see, hear, smell, taste or touch. Sorry Kirkman, zombies can't "smell" fresh human blood.

Prior to AMC's extravaganza, there was a plethora of zombie flicks. Like The Walking Dead, many take liberties with making zombies look as comically gory as possible. Zombies without limbs come out with their teeth gnashing. Zombies without spines slither menacingly toward the protagonist. Even more improbable, zombies without abdomens come lunging out of the dark, hungry for flesh. The trouble is, nothing without a digestive system, along with that all-important nervous system and circulation, has an appetite. Even invertebrates like parasitic worms aren't interested in lunch if you cut them in half in biology class.

I can't write fiction about zombies or any sort of zombie-sponsored apocalypse because some part of me is still a 12-year-old biology student who is gunning for an "A". I understand the basics of biology too well to suspend belief and stop snickering over the silly premise.

 Totally REAL. Complete, absolutely real and occasionally ridden by Vampire Bill.


I would more likely believe in fucking unicorns living wild and free in Narnia or Middle Earth than zombies stumbling after their next "meal".

Now vampires, those I totally believe in.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

"Wil" you write for free?

Ummm, no. I don't work for free. Awesomest post by Wil Wheaton in response to HuffingtonPost. This is great.

You Can't Pay Your Rent ...


And among the replies there was this awesome little social experiment:

Ask non-creatives to work for "free".

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Object of Desire (a short story)

One of my short stories is going to be offered FREE on Amazon Kindle starting on Tuesday Sept. 15.