Occupation Zone

I listen to NPR on and off throughout the day most days; sometimes I start my morning with a dose of their news programs, sometimes I don't tune in until mid-afternoon, still other times I don't hear what's happening until I prop open my Mac and stream while prepping dinner. It's safe to conjecture that at some point in time on any given day I will garner some kernel of wisdom from their programming. This morning I tuned in en route to the library; the programming was a mixed bag of news, stock market reporting and personal interest dialogues: the market's up (for the next 15 minutes or so), the Italian's are pissed off about proposed austerity measures (hmm, pissed of Italians, who'd have imagined) & the talk which followed called attention to a new HBO documentary about breast cancer (the interview was interesting enough that I might have to see if they'll post the doc on the web) and featured an interview with Atlanta's Mayor about the going's on at the Occupy Atlanta event. Atlanta, like Oakland and a few other cities has begin the process of removing Occupants from its turf; Mayor Reed was quick to point out that the removal in Atlanta was not like that in Oakland, that it was a respectful, carried out in a non-violent and peaceful way. The Mayor's interview is quite interesting to listen to, I hope that you do; he and the interviewer draw correlations between the tactics used in the civil rights movement and those that are being (or not) used by his cities' Occupants. I listened with interest initially, but by interview's end, ultimately had more questions than answers; key to the Mayor's view were the differences between how those involved in the civil rights movement conducted themselves and how the Occupants don't follow the some code of conduct. Mayor Reed states that the Occupants lack of strong leadership, unclear listing of demands and loose comprehension of solidarity fly in the face of the way those in the civil rights movement effected change. I wonder if he paused a moment to consider what the civil rights movement might have looked like had Dr. King's inner circle had the luxury of the cell phone and YouTube? I think of the old television footage that I watched in civics class in school which showed police brutality perpetuated on blacks & whites as they marched in solidarity for change. I wonder if Mayor Reed made a personal attempt, perhaps walked from city hall to Woodruff Park to address Occupants himself rather than sending one of his ambassadors or aides; I wonder if it crossed his mind that he might have to ask to speak, rather that assume that he would be heard--that any of his representatives would be heard. 
We have Occupants here in Eugene as well, a peaceful mass of them; their demands are few beyond the right to peacefully assemble. They want to show their solidarity and common ideology with those who occupy Wall Street; among them are intellects, students, the homeless--they are young, middle-aged and old, amongst the throng wade the Fates I am sure. I think often that I should swell their ranks, if only by one, but draw back because I know not what platform upon which to stand. I understand the frustration with the financial system in our country, I understand the need for a change to the system; I am enraged by our political system and its largess, we need an instantaneous revolution that is led by the citizenry, not those who "represent" us; I understand the frustration, ennui & depression that our citizens wear upon their faces, for this much to show so clearly in our eyes I wonder how deeply these emotions are rooted. I pause at the steps because I feel--strike that-- I know, that I am as much a part of the problem as the solution; I'm left waffling because I know I've done wrong and part of me feels as though this is the "There will be hell to pay" part. I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone; every news report that I listen to states that there are millions of Americans enraged at the current state of the financial system, yet, just like election time, all those millions fail to turn up and make themselves heard. We see Occupants on the news, we sympathize, we shake our heads in silent agreement with their cause and then we go on. We do the same thing on election days; I wonder how many of the politicians that are currently in office--any office mind you, from drain commissioner to mayor to governor to president would continue to hold their office if 100% of the registered voters in this country showed up and cast their vote? We are given a role in the process and we still let the minority decide, the numbers are not quite as skewed as the 99% vs. 1%, but they may as well be...


Are We Pre-Post-Social(networking)?

Those of you that have been following my posts may remember an earlier post about the difficulties that I have faced meeting potential beaus; I've lamented the loss of coffee-culture, the loss of bar culture and the loss of early net-culture. The www now appears crawling with social media and networking sites; at the heart there is FB and its predecessor My[____]; there are the new sites like G+ and MeetUp; for those wanting something less vanilla there are Grindr & Scruff. A few quick profiles checked off, a picture or two uploaded (or taken, compliments of robust Android & iOS) and you are well on your way to meeting future friends, lovers, soul mates or tricks--you can even link these services together, perhaps augmenting them with Twitter so you can broadcast who/where/what you are doing anywhere in the world. Turn on the location finder, you can see all the users that are within a few feet of you, actively cruising without a care in the world. I'm left wondering what's next and what those of us avant-garde & pseudoavant-garders are going to use? Thoughts? I'd consider working in granite if it weren't so heavy (and I'd be assured he'd still be around by the time I finished the letter...)


Because We HAVE To

I'm still mulling over what I want to write about this one, but I wanted to throw it out there in cyber land and see what any of my readers thought...
I met a co-worker of one of my house-mates last weekend; she's a well-spoken middle-aged woman, someone who sort of reminds me of my mother (though a bit more artistic), we were talking about the Occupy Eugene group, our political views and what was being reported on NPR. All three of us chimed in our thoughts on the matters, bringing up health care just before we parted ways; my new friend stated that she thought it very unfortunate the number of people, citizens, that felt that they needed to continue doing work they hate doing just because of the cost of medical insurance; "Imagine," she said, "If people could do the work that they wanted to do, the work that they were passionate about. Imagine what we could accomplish if only we didn't have to worry about the cost of medical care."
The thing that struck me most about this is how right she is; I know many many artists, musicians, engineers, scientists, philosophers and others who have to set aside what truly drives them, inspires them or inspires others to don their version of the "red vest" for 8 or more hours just so their spouses, partners or children can have access to medical care. Thoughts?


The Best Way to a Chicken's Heart

I recently rented a cabin in the woods, a small space with lots of light and a small solarium that faces south; there are a few such structures dotting the oak savanna that a group of us call home. We are all residents of varied interests; most everyone is a student of some sort, among the number we have two doctoral candidates, one master's degree seeker and a BA holder seeking a BS; we have a resident glass blower and now a resident gardener (me...); one of our number keeps a small herd of goats for milk production, they share their space with a quartet of Muscovy ducks. The glass blower keeps bees, though we have yet to see any honey. There are chickens too, all hens, a variety of colors and sizes; sadly, their owner built them a home and then had to move on. The flock moved to another resident, one who now too has moved on. The poor girls, they simply have nowhere to go. We've been trying to figure out if they lay eggs, but nobody seems to remember if they did when they first moved in or not; the fact that they are for the most part free-range means they keep their nests hidden, even as they have "official" nests in their coop. I did some research which suggested that we put them in their coop for a few days and not let them out to roam--if they can lay, they should; now if we could just catch them...
I did some more research and found that if one approaches them in a non-threatening manner, suddenly standing (sic looming) very straight, they will flatten themselves to the ground just before trying to take flight; that is the best time to gently grab them. I suspect that this advice may have been from a Victorian Farming in Central London pamphlet or something, as none of us who followed the advice could get the hens to prostrate themselves. Another source suggested putting feed in the palm of your hand, getting the chickens accustomed to hand feeding; pet them after they have been acclimated and then proceed with gently picking them up, remembering to support their feet and to gently restrain their wings. I (notice the singular) decided to give this method a go. Let me first state that gloves are nowhere mentioned in this method, but I would highly suggest them (unless you can deal with a flock of chickens pecking the hell out of the palm of your hand, I imagine this is sort of akin to catching a rubber ball shot from a sling-shot, over and over...); second, while the chickens will indeed readily eat from the palm of the hand, it will take quite a bit of food to get them acclimated to actually letting you pet them; third, once they are used to you petting them, you still have a ways to go before they will actually let you pick them up. Other observations: after your hand-feeding experience, said chickens may magically appear anywhere you are, they are not really looking for a hand-out, they're just looking for their mother hen; depending on your initial interaction with them, you may or may not name them--the two big Rhode Islands are Lucy (flaming red head) & Linda, the pied gray one, Ursula...the Bantam and the other are nameless as yet; you may realize that they have personalities (Would you want someone telling you to lay an egg?)


Teeming Hills

I've been out on a couple of occasions now to look for elusive chanterelles; on both occasions our little group donned rain gear, Tilly hats & wellingtonesque boots with the intention of slogging up timber road cuts to seek out our amber or smoke colored prey. Few mushrooms were seen on either foray, instead encounters were made with several patinae banana slugs, lying as discarded drawer pulls on the forest floor. Salamanders too were observed, ochre backs and fiery red bellies displayed as flashes against fallen hemlock needles and rotted leaves. Millipedes aplenty too, scuttling around from well-rotted wood buffets and ancient decaying logs. Life was everywhere. We found blackberries, festooned on bushes larger than any I have ever seen, some as big as my thumb, others dainty and seed-filled. There was a curious plant that no one knew, looking like a cross between kale and a turnip, wavy venous leaves sprouting from the shoulders of something that held the promise of becoming a swollen root. Winter berries and wild grapes too, amazing that the fruit remained on the plants here in black bear country; we wondered later if there was perhaps a big cat in the area or a herd of elk, something to drive away the ursa. The locals told us we were too early to find chanterelles on this side of the Coastals, that we'd need at least 3" of consistent rain and cooler, wetter days; days that would be here soon enough they promised. I'm looking forward to gathering those promised fungus, tossing them in the sautee pan with butter and a bit of rosemary, slipping them into the folds of an omelet with bits of chevre, pouring myself a glass of pinot gris and listening our rainy herald.


Avid Manhattanite

Those of you that know me, know that I love wine and I love dark beer, but if I'm really in the mood, then a bourbon manhattan is my drink of choice. It's got to be perfect, don't be shy on the vermouth, on the rocks, bitters optional, olives for sure, none of this twist shit. Tending bar, I've made about 10k of these, just the way that I like them, sharing them with the unsuspecting public; most manhattan drinkers order another one and then another one... I'm here in Eugene at one of my new favorite places in the city educating the bartender...apparently, here the standard recipes for drinks do not apply...ask for a perfect manhattan...pour a dash of both sweet and dry vermouths in the glass, swirl, empty, shake bourbon and bitters with ice, strain into glass, garnish with twist and serve. Want it the "real" way? Then you need to order it extra wet and stirred... A standard manhattan has 1/2oz vermouth and 2-3oz of whisky, usually with a cherry garnish and an optional dash or three of bitters. A dry manhattan uses dry vermouth instead of sweet, a perfect manhattan uses half of each, so... 1/4 oz each sweet and dry vermouths and whisky (sic) or bourbon. Try to explain to the bartender what you want, it'll come out in oregon-speak as a super wet perfect manhattan... I've decided that if the bartender would measure out the drink we both would be happy, especially after I go through the trouble of telling him how I want it, failing that, I'm asking for the bottles to be placed on the bar in front of me so I can count out my own pour. I shudder to think what I might get if I order an Old Fashioned...


Danger, No-beau Inside!

I've now been in Eugene just over a week, long enough to meet some of the locals, get a flavor for what there is to do (and the inverse) & make a few friends. Most of the people that I've met fall into three categories: a) transplants from elsewhere that came here for a job or with a spouse, b) undergrad, grad or PhD students, c) travelers, some here for little more than a day, others here for some indeterminate span of time, like ice floes entering the South Pacific, they may dissolve into the deep overnight.
I had dinner the night after I got into town with a new Jewish gay friend and some friends of his; we had homemade Indian food and drank local wine, shared conversation and told each other bits about our lives. It was a low key evening that reminded me of nights with friends when I'd lived in Michigan; there was a sense of leisure and ease that one often experiences when in the presence of like minds. We all went our own ways later in the evening, promising to keep in touch--via FB, we have.
Later in the week a few of us went to a local LGBT event at one of the downtown bars. A long narrow space, it was standing room only with overly-loud music, bad acoustics, emaciated go-go boys, lithely buxom naughty nurses, over-priced drinks, dark gooey floors--all the things that you might expect from a bar trying to be something it is not, in a place trying to conjure an illusion of something it has never seen. It was fun for a while, but the crush of bodies and lack of air ultimately proved repressive, I walked back home in a light rain, welcoming the warm enveloping mist and lung-filling fresh air. I think I'll pass on the next event, perhaps make an early evening of it or show up after midnight like my friends and I used to at bars back home.
There's not really a gay "scene" in Eugene a guy told me at Cowfish (gallery-cum-coffeehouse-cum-pool hall-cum-dance bar-cum-alternative spot) last night; I'd gone in for the variety show to observe a friend of mine, bought a beer and plunked down at the bar. Solo at the bar, variety night in full swing, I was apparently fodder for the ministrations of a self-appointed "Welcome to non-gay "scene" Eugene" roving vagabond. Sitting beside me, he launched into a well-practiced introduction, brief bio and explanation of his drawl--Dallas by way of Louisiana--then asked for reciprocation. Intros aside, I made polite small talk, cracked my knuckles and generally stared off into space, hoping, that perhaps any of this might dissuade whatever my no-beau was working himself up to. I'd thought that perhaps one or two of my new friends might appear as knights in shining something-or-other, but both saw the no-beau and made bee-lines back from whence they'd come (note to self, reciprocation may be warranted in future). Stuck apparently, I tried to extricate myself by disagreeing with whatever point the no-beau was making. Did I like musical theatre? No. Did I like the crowd? What crowd? Didn't I just hate it when you go out and a place refuses to alter everything on the menu to suit your tastes? Why go out at all then? If I'm spending money, I should have whatever I want; if I say I don't want something made a certain way, I should get it however I want it. Again, why go out, especially if you are going to make those you are with uncomfortable and piss off the people that are trying to accommodate your whims. If I'm paying for it, I get what I want. Always? What about the proprietor that looks you square in the eye and tells you to "Go fuck yourself"? This last comment just laid more wood on the proverbial fire, which started another round of bizarre conversation, culminating with the advice that we should all just say what's on our minds. No-beau then excused himself, promising to return...return he did, billowing cloud of cigarette smoke and all. Hmm, say what's on our minds huh? I think he started to fall off his chair when I told him that I detest cigarette smoke, perhaps gaining in the fall when I mentioned that I don't date/see/screw around with smokers; I then went for the coup de gras when I stated that I don't like live music (he sings with this group and that...ad nauseum); coffin-box nails in hand, I ordered a bourbon and went back to contemplating the art on the walls.



I was running early for a meeting with my new housemates last night, so I decided to stop at the "Golden Arches" for a quick snack. While in line, I noticed that the Monopoly instant game was back. I remember collecting pieces for the game as a kid; you'd order fries or a shake or a Big Mac and get a playing piece stuck to the wrapper or cup of each item. The playing pieces corresponded to properties found around the edge of the Monopoly board, some of them were instant winning pieces, garnering you a free meal or a coupon; you could also collect properties to turn in for larger prizes, cars and vacations or collect all the properties and you'd be the winner of a cool million greenbacks. I reminisced on my family collecting the pieces, never quite getting enough of any of them to amount to something other than a medium Coke or shared order of french fries. Perhaps it was because we only ate at McDonald's on rare occasions or perhaps it was because we were unlucky like scores of other Americans also playing the game. Waiting in line last night, I read the placard advertising the promotion: essentially, when one buys any of the non-value menu items, one is gifted with a playing piece for the game; 1 in 4 pieces will be winners, you too might win a Coke or a Big Mac (though not one of the more expensive items which you've had to shell out for in order to get a precious game piece) or a vacation (4 nights for 2 adults and 2 children [under the age of 15] msrp $7k) or a $1k gift certificate for spa services (unless you are in Guam or Saipan [evidently there are no spas in either place, so you will receive an equal amount of prepackaged Aveeno brand mud]) or, as a grand prize, a Nissan Z-series (base series only, player must possess a valid driver's license, msrp $39k). I'm sort of scratching my head on this one: 2 decades ago you got a piece with every damn thing that you ordered, you were playing for a million bucks and I don't really remember hearing about anyone ever winning that, let alone the promised entertainment systems or Hawaiian vacations. McD's is probably spending about the same amount as before to print and promote their game, but they've tweaked things so I need to order anything averaging $2.50 in cost to play the game and the best thing that I can win is a Nissan Z? What gives?


Falling Rain & Floods of Coffee

It's raining out there, not really all that hard, gently warm drizzle that neither smells of earth or city. I love this type of precipitation, a kind unknowing whether it is to fall or float in the air, not really fog or mist or droplets even, subtle indecision, as though one minute fog might emerge or blinding rain could appear. The trees are coated in water, so too the sidewalks and cars and all manner of others--on some blocks great green leaves shed all, sending torrents of their own making to the earth and passer-by below. The mosses that last night were hidden by gloom and dull city lights are thrown in jade contrast to water-darkened roads of bark, places ideal it seems for mosses to grow, yet clear for unknown reasons. I feel sorry for the plants that simply exist behind the walls of glass in this shop, brightly lit from without, bathed in air redolent of roasting arabica, human breath and uncertain bakery aromas; a sad looking fern, a wiry hoya, a fledgling anthurium. I imagine it raining coffee in this shop, acid-etched concrete floors flowing with swelling rivulets of Sumatran roast or pocked with myriad puddles of Tanzanian swill; tiny beaver-like bacteria might rush to build dams, directing life blood to oft forgotten backwaters. I imagine that the fern might sit up a bit, its fronds full of stimulant, its roots coursing with a new-found tonic. The anthurium would fill out rapidly, leaving its pot by the window, creeping up the wall to bathe in the downpour; perhaps throwing a spathe somewhere in the midst of its rapture. Perhaps the inside would mimic the outside, fat drops not really sure if they should fall or just waft to and fro; perhaps cling to greenery or envelop any patron foolish or awed enough to encounter them. It's raining out there, when really it should be raining in here, pushing against the door, rushing away long-hardened notes of coffee and humanity.


Chances Are

I've been at the hostel for a few days now, in that time I've met more than a few interesting people: a guy named Benji from Bern, very social and an all-around fun guy to hang out with; Lauren, a Cisco networking guy from Phoenix, who knew all the best places to people watch, eat pizza and just socialize; a pair of Dutch guys that I never caught the names of, constantly aloof and very full of life; Tashira (I've probably butchered your name, but I never got the spelling, just that I should remember "To Share A"), a bubbly Italian beauty that's piqued my interests in her mom's recipe for chicken gizzards; and a few others that I've not yet learned the name of. Sure, there have been others somewhat suspect: the guy from LA that didn't really know why he was staying in a hostel, but was very forward that he was from LA, worked in the film industry (a best boy maybe?) and traveled a lot; the Japanese jazz-lover that shared our room, who went to the bathroom every 20 minutes and talked to himself all night, asleep or not; the young woman who had to get down the coast, by any means necessary, but was unwilling to accept any offered advice or help. The owner of the hostel, a guy named Mac, seems an all-around good guy, he's quick to smile, quick to make small talk, engaging and well-roundedly interesting, plus he has a super chilled-out mutt, Oso, who's really more of an Otis.
I like staying in hostels; anywhere you can meet interesting people, cook your own food and not pay an arm and three legs for lodging is a prime spot to be. All of the hostels that I have stayed in tend to be in prime locations, easy access to food or entertainment or museums; likewise this. The people too are cut from different cloth than those that you meet in insipid hotels or resorts; most are traveling the world or moving to the area, it's a sort of instant friend pool and support group, with a few foreigners thrown in just to make things all the more interesting.
Last night Mac and his band gave an in-house performance, the local beer was tapped and the music was made. Last Fridays in Eugene are showcases of all things artful from one neighborhood to the next; tie-dyed t-shirt sellers and wandering musicians and abstract painters and any other form of art one might conceive. The shops in the area were open late, most having a resident or visiting artist; local wine was flowing, people from all walks of life were browsing and communing. Judging by the late sleepers this morning, I'd say a good time was had by most.
Last night I met a couple of the guys from the next dorm over; one sharing my name, another blessed with  a name even more common. Good guys both, but one was a little high, the other a little inebriated on alcohol; it doesn't really matter which was which. One is gay, the other somewhere outside of confused--they'd been banished to my dorm by a fellow sleeping traveller--I was awake, lights on, so it was left to me to listen and agree with what they were saying... I warned them that I'd have split attentions, sharing my intellect with both friends on screen and the two of them; an issue it did not seem to be. Their talk was all over the place, punctuated by obscure references to philosophy and other arcana; I did my best to contribute when I could, feigning indifference when needed. More than once I wondered if our conversation was going somewhere, the vibes that both seemed to be throwing off were more sexual in nature than mere curiosity; I half expected one or the other or both to proposition each other or all three of us. About an hour after they arrived, they departed for bed.
To say this morning was awkward would be untrue; for me, it was not. The two of them though? Stilted glances and hit or miss glares; I wondered what had happened (or not) after they'd went off to bed. I had coffee with one half of the pair, made small talk and avoided topics of discussion from the night before. It was oddly one-sided, but I wasn't sure if I should cheer my new found gay friend for boldly pursuing the straight man or if this would add salt to some unseen wound; better to play it mute. The fact that the two of them went from avoiding eye contact, to making plans as the day progressed further threw me for a loop; still unsure how to address either of them I let that dog sleep--knowing full well that later, said dog will either be heard panting profusely or whining at its exaggerated sense of self.