Day 3: Donald Trump Has Been Elected President

tl;dr: It was a protest, not a riot. Don’t break windows. Not everybody can walk around, but do it if you are able to and feel safe doing it.

Yesterday after work I walked for a little over eight miles before I came home. For a very short bit of that walk, I joined last night’s protest. So I’m going to write a little bit about the protest, and a little bit about walking.

I was part of the protest for less than fifteen minutes, just during a short time as it crept along SE Grand. It was the biggest protest that I’d seen in town since the start of the Iraq war 13 years ago. I wanted to stay longer, but I was there without anyone else I knew and my nervousness around crowds of people sent me on my way. At home, I followed along Twitter and various livestreams.

There were the usual knucklehead “anarchists” that are just young white men that enjoy spray painting and smashing stuff. I put “anarchist” in quotes, because anarchy is a legitimate political philosophy that I think these guys are probably anathema to? Anyway, they’re the fringes of every protest that ever happens in Portland and while I seriously doubt they’re false flag-type plants, they’re extremely counterproductive to the overall goals of protests. They make for great photos and videos for the TV news where people at home who are angry that people are protesting, or that protestors exist, or that protesters create traffic can point their fingers at the TV and scold,”Shame!” There is not a lot of nuance in the image of someone smashing a windshield and that becomes a convenient avatar for someone’s idea of a thing they don’t like.

But like I said, these types are the very fringe of a protest – a couple dozen out of an estimated four or five thousand. So it was a little weird when the Portland Police Bureau tweeted this out a little before 9pm:

So now the whole protest was deemed a riot. “Riot” implies, at least to me, total chaos and that was not happening to the bulk of the protest. For the rest of the night, the protest in all its forms was called a riot. I don’t mean to downplay the ugly scenes that happened on NE Broadway and in the Pearl, but I felt that using the word riot was an intentional political choice, a conscious decision. Our current police chief is a former police spokesperson thus knows the importance of language. By calling the whole group a riot, this allowed the police to use different tactics, but also put the whole protest in a different frame of reference.

My concern was that the word riot would be latched on to by the media, particularly the national media, and that’s what happened. So now instead of a peaceful protest (a phrase that became a popular chant for the rest of the night), there was now rioting in the streets. In the morning, the national news on the radio was reporting that there had been a riot in Portland, and that’s now how the night will be remembered. It gives our new President-Elect a nice talking point should he want to use it. Kidding, right? Of course, Donald Trump is not going to exploit a more complicated narrative to work it towards his favor. I mean, he’ll be more nuanced, right?

Anyway, there was a bunch of damage that happened, and Portland’s Resistance, the organizers of the protest, put up a GoFundMe page to help out the affected businesses. I kicked in $10 to help out.

So: walking. As I mentioned, I walked around a lot last night. I walk around a lot in general. It helps relieve my stress, it is my own little protest against car culture and environmental destruction, and it is something that is a privilege to me as an abled white male. I want to talk a bit about these last two things, starting with walking as a privilege.

The act of walking is a basic function of everyone that has full mobility. It is a simple practice, and the primary method of locomotion throughout the bulk of human history. But it is not safe for everyone. Women are exposed to harassment walking down the street in broad daylight and who knows what imaginable horrors at night. When I think about it (and here’s a thing about privilege: I don’t have to think about it), for my entire life women have been discouraged from walking at night. “If you have to walk at night, walk with a friend.” A fundamental act has been identified as a dangerous practice – something to avoid if at all possible and certainly not something that you could possibly enjoy. And being a person of color on the street opens you up to harassment, but also subjects you to inherit bias. At least one study has shown that drivers are less likely to stop for African-Americans pedestrians than white pedestrians. Long before that study had come out, I’d seen it countless times in my real day-to-day experience: a driver might slow down to let me cross the street, but speed up and cut off the black person trying to cross right behind me. Spend enough time walking around downtown Portland, and you can witness it yourself. This has been the case in Obama’s America, and I have a feeling that it’s not going to change during Trump’s America.

This could be my own projections, but the day after the election, I saw a lot of women walking who looked more guarded than usual. I’ve read those anecdotes of street harassment including “grab her by the pussy” type exclamations or “jokes”. I haven’t seen any of it personally, but it doesn’t seem unrealistic.

Here’s my suggestion to men walking: when approaching a woman, give her sidewalk space! A good sidewalk can fit three people abreast, so walk towards the edge of the sidewalk. It is really not a hard thing to not invade someone’s space. And if you’re a fast walker, like me, be careful about over-taking women on the sidewalk. Make some noise that let’s a person know that you’re coming up behind them: it sucks for anyone to be surprised by anyone walking behind them, especially when they don’t know what that person’s intentions are.

So, my final thing: walking as protest. By not using a car when possible, I’m not burning gas, I’m not creating significant traffic, and I am not treating operating heavy machinery as a day-to-day tool. A lot of you who might read this drive as your main mode of transportation, and that’s fine. It’s your choice or need. Like I said, I have the privilege of walking, and not everybody does. Our system is built around the idea that person needs to drive, and that’s what I’m protesting – not that you have to use your car to get around. By walking as my main mode of travel, I also hope to help normalize it – to make people see that it’s aware as a possibility. But here’s a very realistic thing: my personal protest might have no effect on a single other human building.

Acknowledging the futility of walking as protest is something that is important for me to recognize, but I feel like its something important to think about. Any individual protest action might not have an affect on anybody. Our individual actions might not have a significant effect on influencing anything or anyone else. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it, because it does have some effect, if nothing else but to give you a little hope. I’ve got a lot more thoughts on this idea, but I think maybe it needs to wait for a different post.

Antique Shopping

I love shopping at antique stores. I rarely ever buy anything, but I can spend hours in them. Every object has some sort of story, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the person selling the item has written a little bit of that story down, a tantalizing clue into it’s past. And you can find entertaining lies and embellishments in antique stores. To-day I found a recently built “antique” armoire and some heavily refurbished other articles of furniture (including the unfortunate choice of putting a tacky marble top on top of a pretty nice looking 1920’s dresser). I found an old-timey print that bore a tag claiming it to be from 1896, when it was pretty obviously from the late 1960’s or 1970’s. And maybe a personal favorite in the “oh no you di’n’t” category was someone trying to sell some cheap “collectible antiques” in the original packaging that said “collectible antiques” on them.

Anyway, all that aside, the real appeal of antique shops for me is collections of old personal photos and postcards. Good collections of personal photos are rare, since ideally, they would be passed down through the family, but they are an excellent resource for getting ideas of how people lived, or what certain areas of towns looked like when the photo was taken. I’m always on the look out for old photos of Portland that have never been published before, but I haven’t found any good ones yet. Another fun thing to do with old photos is to look for photos that are embossed with a Portland photography studio mark (so you know it came from town), and then to find one with the person’s name written on the back of it. After that, you can go look up information on the person’s life. It’s like making a new friend, except your friend died fifty years before you were born. Postcards are good for the same reasons, but the obvious advantage of a postcard is that your new friend actually wrote something to a friend of theirs, giving you insight into the inner workings of the mind of the postcard author. Of course, Portland is full of people that have an interest in Portland history, so coming across Portland postcards can be a rare and expensive hobby.

Good for me then that I’m in Richland, Washington, right now (more on why I’m here later), where they don’t give a care about Portland or long dead visitors sending postcards out of the City of Roses. I hit a few antique shops to-day, and found a few treasure troves. Most of the postcards cost a dollar a piece, and I could easily see myself spending fifty dollars on the ones that I want. There are some real jewels I found here: “It rains lots out here but don’t get [something] like it does out in Dakotas. Mr. [forgot his name] died 1/2 hour after arriving here. Lots of Dakotans here.” or “I thought Mr. [so-and-so] told you that I was coming out here. I wish you’d stayed to see me. It was the first of April that I was coming here.” or “Don’t you remember me?” All of those are from between 1906 and 1912 if I remember correctly. I’ll go back to the shops tomorrow and pick out my favorites and share them with you.

I did find one that compelled me to purchase it to-day, just on the off-chance that it wasn’t there when I went back tomorrow. It doesn’t contain any of the implied drama of the other ones, but stood out to me for some reason. I’d like to post it now, but since I don’t have access to a scanner here, I’ll share it next week when it turns ninety-five years old. That’ll also give me some time to look up a little background on my newest dead friend, Leo Lange.

Walking Report: The Pedestrian Obstacle Course, aka the Morrison Bridge

Back when I first moved here in March of 2000, I quickly learned that the Morrison Bridge is the least pedestrian-friendly bridge of all the spans over the Willamette. I quickly learned to avoid it if at all possible. Now that the Burnside Bridge is closed for construction and I’ve returned to using the Morrison Bridge for my work commute, I will go a step further and say that the Morrison Bridge is a specifically pedestrian-unfriendly bridge. To-day I brought my camera along for the obstacle course of the bridge’s north side.

Continue reading → Walking Report: The Pedestrian Obstacle Course, aka the Morrison Bridge

Walking Report: Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Now that I work downtown again, I get to see a greater variety of weird things. Most of the “weird things” are actually weird people, like the “People aren’t as friendly as they used to be” homeless woman that’s eighty-sixed from Valentine’s for stealing a book, or the white Street Roots-peddling rastafarian wanna-be. I don’t have the courage or the callousness to snap photos of these people and post them on here, but I am camera-equipped for whenever I find weird objects. Like this:

It’s a stuffed toy sitting on top of an electric utility box. That in itself doesn’t seem to strange, but considering this was the third instance of spotting a stuffed animal sitting on top of one these boxes during my walk, I thought it was weird. There’s a lot of different kinds of utility boxes in town, but the stuffed animals are apparently only interested in attacking these kind, which I think are related to traffic lights.

I saw Gus Van Sant having drinks at Huber’s. He’s weird people. I didn’t take a photo of him. I’ve got to say, it definitely seemed like a good afternoon for drinks in front of Huber’s.

When I was getting up onto the Burnside Bridge, I noticed this bumpersticker on a van. It’s from a place called Matt’s in Minneapolis. That slogan there says “Fear the Cheese!” which is in reference to their specialty, the Juicy Lucy. The Juicy Lucy is a cheeseburger, except that the burger meat is packed around the cheese, meaning that when your burger comes to the table, it’s full of molten cheese. The waitstaff will warn you to let it cool down for a bit before you eat it, because you will otherwise severely burn your mouth. Unfortunately, I was a vegetarian at the time I visited Matt’s, so I can’t say that I’ve ever had a Juicy Lucy. It’s a great place, though, and if you’re ever in Minneapolis, you should definitely check it out.