2014

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2014 has been… a year. I managed to do some things that I’m really happy about:

  • Started (and finished) a series of hikes that covered all 80+ miles of trails in Forest Park.
  • An epic tree burn at Kelley Point State Park. I rented a U-Haul truck and brought approximately 30 trees to the event. It was most excellent!
  • A trip to Todos Santos, to celebrate my birthday. A massage conducted poolside, rolling in the surf, and lazy days rocking in the hammock.
  • A road trip to central Oregon to explore the mundanely named Hole-in-the-Ground, Crack-in-the-Ground and Fort Rock.
  • Attended my first “Brides of March”, which involved buying and hacking a wedding dress to fit me.
  • Attended the Rang Barse festival in Beaverton.
  • Started seeing a personal trainer once a week.
  • Went to Breitenbush with Manda for her Spring Break.
  • Went to Cirque du Soleil when they came through town.
  • Hiked Smith Rock again.
  • Volunteered with the World Naked Bike Ride. Did some site setup and cleanup, and started running the web site for selling WNBR swag.
  • Hosted a “Rang Barse Ride of Colors” during Pedalpalooza.
  • Assisted with building the Portland Souk project (the Cascadia Trading Post) for Burning Man 2014.
  • Attended SOAK 2014, volunteering with the Greeters.
  • Went mountain biking in central Oregon with our friends Chris and Lori.
  • Explored Oneonta Gorge for the first time, and loved it so much I went three more times.
  • Started dating someone wonderful.
  • Attended Burning Man 2014, volunteering with the Portland Souk project, the Retrofrolic Camp and with Arctica.
  • Started practicing massage more regularly again.
  • Taught a class on making your own floggers (using upcycled bicycle innertubes)
  • Started attending personal training twice a week.
  • Volunteered with Sepia for Placement for the Burnout event.
  • Resumed a relationship I thought was dead and gone.
  • Started doing “Couch to 5K”.
  • Spent Xmas at the coast with Dan, Melody, Anita, Owen and Ed. So good for my heart, and so hard at the same time.
  • Was stunned to discover new depths and previously unexplored places in a relationship that I thought was settled and defined. Positively revelatory!
  • Maintained the weight lost in 2013, and even lost a bit more.
  • And last but not least, I maintained and deepened my relationship with Bobo. Over eight years now, and my love and appreciation for her only continues to grow!

 

And several things that sucked:

  • Ended a relationship.
  • Ended another relationship.
  • And then ended the biggest, most significant relationship of my life, 18 years long. Excruciating, devastating.

How do you summarize a year like that? Lots of new events and growth, and then lots of “another fucking opportunity for growth.” In the grand scheme of things, way more pain than joy, way more heartache than I’m built to take. And that comes on the heels of a 2013 that was almost as bad. Over all, 2015 can only be better. It fucking well better be.

A better me

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The start of 2014 felt like one old-man injury after another; my low back would be sore, or I’d have a crick in my neck, or a sore shoulder. Nothing debilitating, but a constant low-level annoyance. Grrr…

So in April I started going to a personal trainer once a week. This is the same trainer Bobo has been seeing, and I really liked what she had to say about him and how much stronger and more confident in her body she seemed. During the first meeting, the trainer asked what my goals were. “I’m already reasonably active with hiking and biking; mostly I want to be able to do that longer, farther, more often. I want to be fit enough to sustain the life and activities I already enjoy.”

So we started a routine of what he calls “cross-core”. Lots of work with cables and pulleys and elastic bands, natural body movements, mostly using my own body weight and leverage for resistance. And the results have been good. I’ve maintained the weight loss of 2013, and have even lost a smidge more. The nagging old-man injuries have dramatically decreased in frequency. My clothes fit better and I look better naked. But mostly the changes have been gradual enough that it’s hard for me to notice them from one week to the next.

 

But this year at Burning Man, something lovely happened. Mags and I were biking through the open playa and came across the ePOD, an open-truss sphere about 7 meters in diameter that spun on its vertical axis. Multiple people were perched on the top and sides of the sphere already, so clearly I needed to join them, right?

With the sphere already rotating at a good clip, I walked up to the base of the sphere and reached overhead to grab two struts and pull myself up. Because the sphere was spinning, my feet left the ground immediately and I kicked my legs forward to try to catch my ankles in the truss so I could pull myself up. And I failed. My feet didn’t make contact and the apparent centrifugal force swung my legs out away from the sphere.

In that brief second, a dozen thoughts and emotions went through my head. “I can’t do this! How embarrassing. I’m an old, fat man and should bike away and find something more my speed. What was I thinking?!” And in that second of shame and embarrassment and failure, I realized I was still hanging on. And had enough juice to hang on at least a couple more seconds. I swung hard again, pumped my legs forward… and this time I hooked the truss with my ankles! From there it was easy to monkey my way inside the sphere and start climbing up. I made it! I fucking did it!

browse on the ePOD Sphere, Burning Man 2014.

browse on the ePOD Sphere, Burning Man 2014.

And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it, prior to starting personal training. So yay! Let’s celebrate growing, changing and becoming a better version of yourself!

PS: Since October, I’m now going to training twice a week. Hell yeah!

Ruminations from the playa

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At Burning Man this year, I had one especially rough day, and I think the people I was camping with could tell. As evening settled in, I was standing near the street watching the crowd roll by and the head of our camp came over and said, “Tell me what you think. What do you make of all this?”

I hesitated and said, “You’ve caught me in a pretty cynical moment; I’m not sure you really want to hear what I’m thinking.”

He said, “No, go right ahead, lemme have it.”

I took a deep breath and plunged into it. “Well, I’m thinking about all the time and effort and money it takes for me to come here. And then I multiply that by the 80,000 (more!) people who are on the playa this year. And I can’t help but wonder… really? Is this the best use we can make of all that focus and intention? Surely there’s something bigger and better we could be doing with all those resources.”

He nodded thoughtfully and said, “I hear you. That’s a totally valid question, and one I’ve pondered before.” He paused before continuing, “Here’s the answer I’ve come up with to that question, for myself. When you think about how much time and effort you put into attending the Burn… well, I’ve run this camp for several years now, and there’s a lot of gear and planning that goes into it, so I can assure you I spend a lot of time thinking about whether it’s worth all the hassle.”

(Editorial note: This guy runs a theme camp that is the biggest, baddest BDSM play space on the playa. He constructs a huge public play space, with all manner of associated furniture, gears and toys. Epic in scale.)

He continued, “Each year at Burning Man, I see people come into the camp who have never even considered anything in the realm of BDSM before. And their eyes get as big as saucers. And they end up discovering something about themselves that they never even knew existed, a whole ‘nother side to themselves that they had never even considered before. Something they never had to opportunity to explore, or never felt safe enough to explore, and they found it here. I find that to be pretty amazing. For me, that makes it all worthwhile.”

 

That thought has really stuck with me. I had already been thinking a lot about how much easier it is being a Portland Burner; we’re physically so close that simply getting to playa (including all your camping gear and toys and art projects) is vastly simpler than it is for someone who lives in Indiana. Or Toronto. Or Israel.

 

But this is yet a different issue on top of that. I live in Portland. I live in a city that has an annual bike ride of ~10,000 naked people through the heart of town, and it barely makes the papers. I live in a city that has a guy who rides a unicycle, while wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader mask, while playing bagpipes, which also blow flame. And we’re so used to it that we shrug and say “Oh yeah, him.”

 

The Unipiper

 

Which is to say, I think it’s easy for me to take for granted how much freedom, how much personal liberty I have to express myself in this town. All things considered, Portland is a pretty supportive environment for radical self expression. And so many people do not have that same confidence about where they live. I met a number of people on the playa who spoke openly about how the playa was the one place where they felt like they can truly express themselves, the one place where they can meet like-minded people, the only place where they can “let my freak flag fly”. It’s good for me to remember that I am in a really fortunate place, compared to such folks.

 

Oh jeez, did I just write a blog post about “Portland privilege”?

My life doesn’t suck

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This afternoon we walked out the front door and noticed all of the young families on the street; adults making chit chat while their toddlers wobble and weave among them, squealing and shrieking. As we walked to the car, Girlfriend 1 said in a sing-song voice, “Going to the sex sex, we’re going to the sex shop.”

Oneonta Gorge

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One of the items on my list to explore this year was Oneonta Gorge. I finally made it happened, and was so overwhelmed I’ve done it twice more in the last month.

First let’s talk about gorges. Most people in this area are well familiar with the Columbia River Gorge; it’s the river bed between two tall bluffs of stone, right along the border of Oregon and Washington state. And it’s big, massive, large enough for the Columbia River to flow through.

Branching off from the Columbia Rover Gorge is the wee little Oneonta Gorge. By “wee”, I mean it’s a short passage, only one mile back from the road, and it’s a narrow slot of a canyon, only about 30-feet wide for most of the walk. But the slot is deep, well over 150-feet tall. (I’m horrible about estimating distances; don’t hold me to these figures.)

When you leave the road and scramble down the hillside to the creekbed, there’s an immediate log jam to cross. It’s about 20-feet tall and maybe 60-feet long. Slippery rocks and wet, barkless logs make this a non-trivial passage. On the first time I did this hike, there was a fellow nestled in the logs, doing a watercolor painting of the scene.

A fellowing painting at the log jam of Oneonta Gorge

 

Once you’re past the logjam, the path flattens and there’s a pleasant wade through the deep, mossy ravine.

Mags posing in Oneonta Gorge

 

As you get even farther back, there are a couple of places where the water gets deeper and you have to wade through fairly deep water, up to your chest. Hold your backpack high if you care to keep it dry!

Kat wading in the deepest part of the Oneonta GorgeOnce you’ve had your adventures in wading, the falls are in sight!

The water from the falls is all snow melt, but wading through the creek isn’t too bad; the water runs through enough shallow creek bed and has a chance to warm up a bit. But the pool at the very back of the gorge, at the base of the falls, I swear it’s a good 10°F colder. Brrr! But it’s so amazing, so stunning that people can’t resist swimming in it. The bravest swim to the back and climb the rock wall to jump into the pool.

Bobo posing at Oneonta Falls

 

And finally, here is your intrepid blog author, posing at the falls.

browse posing in front of Oneonta Falls

If you’re local and it’s a hot day, I would love to introduce you to this sight; it has become one of my very favorites.

The Green Menace

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I found this site a couple of days ago; it’s scraping streetview data to show the urban decay of various properties in Detroit over the past several years.

http://goobingdetroit.tumblr.com/

Creeping Green Death

I’ve looked at it several times since the initial viewing, and I’ve had very different reactions each time.

First it was just “Ooof, Detroit looks rough, and it seems like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

When I looked a day later, I found it heartening how quickly nature will reclaim a space. Within the space of a year, some of the houses are almost invisible under a layer of foliage.

And then I looked another day later, and I suddenly viewed the encroaching greenery as menacing. Like zombies, the plant kingdom is marching towards us, slowly but surely, trying to choke us out and wrap their creeping vines around our necks. Looking out my back window, there’s a row of raspberries with menacing briars, and past that a line of grape vines that make annual attempts to engulf my trees. “Look out, they’re coming right for us!”

Yesterday I went hiking in Forest Park, and took a break in the middle to lie in the shade under the fronds of a fern. I thought about the vegetal threat, and then started picturing it from the plant’s side. I can just picture the fern cackling to itself. “You fool, you’ve fallen right into my clutches. Yes, that’s right, nap in a carefree fashion while I bring closer your inevitable doom! First I will… hey… where are you going? Come back! Sigh. I almost had that one.”

And then later as I was hiking I could image Carl (the fern’s name was Carl) boring the fuck out of his green brethren for the next month. “Hey, did I tell you guys about the hiker I nearly caught? I swear, he was this big!” “Jeezus Carl, only about a dozen times, give it a rest why don’t you.”

I live an active fantasy life.

On comics

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I read two things today about “comic books” that seemed to be saying separate and contradictory things. And I found myself agreeing with both of them.

Here are the two items:

Superheroes a ‘cultural catastrophe’, says comics guru Alan Moore

and

It’s hard to speak about these things in public, so he drew this instead

Take a couple of minutes and skim them. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I have some real sympathy for Alan Moore’s position. Comics can be such an expressive medium, it’s sad that (American) comics are predominately focused on superheroes. Such fare is too often dumbed down to adolescent power fantasies and highlights the message that there is no problem so large you can’t punch your way out of it.

But to say that is all there is to be found in superhero comics is too simplistic, almost as two-dimensional as the medium itself.

The genre is also capable of speaking to people who feel powerless, and offering them hope. It can offer the example of someone who fights on in the face of hopeless odds. It can offer moral lessons about helping those people who have less than you, and trying to make the world a better place. And it can offer comfort and hope to people who may feel like they haven’t a friend in the world. And those are the aspects of the genre that Dean Trippe addresses in his piece.

Frankly, Moore’s piece comes off sounding angry, bitter and cynical, while Trippe’s is sad, wistful, and finally just a bit optimistic. I know which essay will echo in my head longer.

Snowpocalypse 2014!

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I’ve been hoping for a good pasting of snow, and February finally delivered! The storm began on Thursday afternoon:

Dangerous Polar Conditions!

Portland Snowpocalypse 2014 Update: Conditions are becoming dire. In addition to heavy snowfall, the polar vortex has raised area winds to dangerous levels. Gusting winds are blowing the whipped cream right off my Spanish coffee. I don’t know how we will survive the night. Send supplies as soon as possible! (Bacardi 151, Tia Maria, TripleSec)

Friday morning came and I decided to fulfill my neighborly duties by clearing the steps and sidewalk of snow.

Melting snow with a flamethrower

 

Saturday arrived and it is still coming down. Here are a few shots from walking through town.

The Casa in snow

The Casa in snow

NE Sandy

NE Sandy

E Burnside

E Burnside

SE Belmont

SE Belmont

Laurelhurst Park pond

Laurelhurst Park pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taint

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I’ve been getting more involved with the local Burning Man community in Portland, and for the first time I went to the area regional burn, named SOAK.

Gosh, how to describe it? Imagine if 1200 of your friends went camping together far out in the sticks. With outrageous costumes, fabulous lights, music everywhere, an excess of amazing and sublime artwork. And each night some of the most massive and amazing pieces of art are burning in an unbelievable bonfire. And at the end of the four days, every trace of it is cleaned like we were never there. (You can read more about it here.)

 

 

This is my favorite story from SOAK:

Early one morning I’m sitting cross legged outside my tent, tending a campstove. The campground is quiet and still, with only a few people beginning to stir. Down the trail come two girls, and one of them pauses at our camp and looks at me curiously. She says cautiously, “Did I see your taint yesterday?”

I think for a moment. Oh, right. I participated in a “Kilt Walk” the prior day, an event where a collection of kilt-clad men walk over a line of reclining women. “Heh. Yeah, probably. At the kilt walk.”

The other girl looks at me for a second longer and says, “Is your name Robert?”

“Uhh, yeah.”

“You taught me Calculus this Fall!”

Her friend turns towards her with a grin. “I saw your teacher’s taint.”

 

And that’s how SOAK went for me. 🙂

Lying and Hiding

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I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, thinking about deceit in relationships. If you’ve read my previous post, you know why.

Lying was a significant part of my parent’s marriage. My mom was really big on hiding things from my dad. From childhood through my teens, I can remember occasions where I would come home from school and mom would call me from work. “Hey hon, can you do me a favor? Bring in the mail and see if there’s a letter from WhateverCorp. If there is, put it in the top desk drawer and I’ll take care of it. I don’t want your father getting upset.” I can’t even remember where the letters might have been from. I assume it was a past due bill or a credit card charge she wanted to hide or some such. I didn’t ask, she never volunteered.

Which was also a pattern of my family; unasked and unanswered questions. For instance, my dad’s father was just never talked about. I had three grandparents, everyone else had four, and I never asked why. I have a hard time explaining why I never asked. It’s not like I agonized over whether to ask about it or not. It just didn’t seem like an option. It was like some elephant in the corner of the room that no one ever talked about. That’s just how my family was. (And let’s not even talk about the child mom put up for adoption before I was born, that I never found out about until I was 30.)

 

I never thought lying or hiding was an issue in my relationship with my ex. Until we were splitting up and I discovered the smoldering shambles that was our shared finances. By the time she moved out, I found myself with no car, no assets, and $40K of credit card debt. And support payments, naturally. I slept on the floor for months, because I didn’t even have a bed to sleep in. It took me years to dig out from under that debt. And it left me with anxieties and distrust around money that I struggle with to this day.

 

There’s a quote that is allegedly from Nietzsche, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” (For what it’s worth, that’s not really what Fred said. His real quote was, “Not that you lied to me but that I no longer believe you has shaken me.” from Beyond Good and Evil. *)

And that’s where I’m stuck right now. I can’t help but think, “This time, when you tell me you’ll never lie to me or hide things from me again, why should I believe you? What makes this time different from the last time? (Or the time before that?)” I haven’t heard an answer to that yet.