Indefinite Shutdown, Infinite Shutdown

Last call.

With coronavirus cases growing exponentially, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has ordered the state back on shutdown for two weeks, with Multnomah and some other counties being shutdown for four weeks (at least). I’m not mad about it or disagree with it, but this is an absolute nightmare for owners and employees of restaurants and bars – especially bars.

The first lockdown was incredibly hard for lots of service industry people, but this one is going to be even worse because there’s no financial support coming from the federal government for everyone affected by this. Theoretically, there’s unemployment for people, but Oregon’s unemployment system has not exactly been weathering the pandemic very successfully. We’ve already seen a ton of restaurants and bars permanently close since the pandemic started and this is probably the death knell for a large number more.

If we had a competent federal government, maybe we wouldn’t be here, but I think that we also needed a competent response by the public. Last night, when the above picture was taken, my wife and I were at a bar with outside seating spaced reasonably apart, having a last beer before they closed indefinitely. A patron from a nearby table came over, mask-less, and bummed a smoke off of my wife. The dude then asked,”Mind if I sit with you while I smoke this?”

“Uh, no, you can’t. We’re pretty concerned about the virus.” I gestured to our masks.

“Huh. Okay. Fine. By the way, you don’t need to wear a mask.”

A Personal Blog? What is This, 2008?!

After Trump won the 2016 presidential election, there was this ridiculous suggestion made, if nothing else, at least it would inspire great works of art (here’s an article from January 2017 referencing some of those statements). The idea was dumb, offensive, and entitled in this sort of way that ignored the potential for harm from a Trump presidency. Anyway, I guess now we can all look back and see how that went. I went on sporadically making art, but I sure wasn’t inspired by the fact that a deeply racist, misogynist fascist was in charge of the nation. If anything, my creativity was limited due to the psychic weight of Donald Trump being the President of the United States. I mean, seriously: at least once a week, I would be shocked and dumbfounded as I stopped to think about how the tacky grifter from one of the dumbest reality game shows from the 2000s was somehow elected to be the leader of the country. By the way, wasn’t the early 2000s an embarrassing time culturally? Frosted tips, bedazzled ass-pockets on jeans, “Jon & Kate Plus 8”, Justin & Kelly from “American Idol”, reality shows in general, but especially “The Apprentice”. I couldn’t ever figure out why anyone would want to watch such a blatantly hateful phony demean and bully greedy dumdums.

Anyway, that asshole has lost re-election and when Biden/Harris’s win was called yesterday, I spent the day feeling like a huge weight was lifted off of my back. I mean, Trump is still in office for another two months and will likely continue to do irreparable harm for our democracy. But yesterday felt pretty good.

I’m mostly writing this post, though, just to post something on this blog. A couple weeks ago I’d realized that it had been nearly two years since I’d posted anything here, so I added “Make blog post. ha ha” to my weekly to-do list (I have daily and weekly to-do lists). Having a personal website when I’m not actively trying to make money off of it or showcase my art is the definition of a vanity project, but I pay $5 a month for the hosting, so I may as well do something with it. I’ll keep “Make a blog post. ha ha” on future to-do lists, and – who knows – maybe I’ll even make something that could be considered art.

Day 1: Donald Trump Has Been Elected President

I went to bed after several drinks last night, not surprised but not fully prepared for where the election was headed. Heather, my wife, came into bed later, crying and holding me and confirming what I feared. I felt numb, and comforted her as best as I could.

I woke up this morning with the same dumb numbness, but NPR came on to the alarm clock. The announcers were too upbeat for the reality, and Heather started crying again. I shut it off and lay in bed. I didn’t look at Facebook and I didn’t look at Twitter. I didn’t know what to do. When I thought about what to do, I thought about deleting both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I had an idea, an idea that stills seems reasonable, that interacting on social media instead of in person was destroying us. I’d also attended a demonstration the previous day of software that efficiently scrapes all of your social media for immediate review and consumption. I was thinking about how President Donald Trump might use this technology. President Donald Trump. I checked a few permission settings on Facebook and walked in to work.

Nobody harassed me on my walk into work – it was no worse of a walk than usual. The day progressed as normal, with the exception that I greeted people with “Hello!” instead of “Good morning!”

There was a protest happening after work, just a block away from me over at Pioneer Courthouse Square, and I considered joining. I was starting to feel again, realizing that this is our new reality and that to be numb and turn away from it is the equivalent of apathy and death. I also wanted to go to the Library, where I do my research on Wednesdays. I decided to check out the protest, which filled Pioneer Courthouse Square. A thousand people, easy. There was also a contingent of sad men that supported Trump doing a counter-protest. I decided that the crowd was big enough that it didn’t need me, so I went to the Library.

The Library was closed. I’d later learn that the Library was closed due to the protest, but it felt really fitting that a library would be closed the day after Trump won the presidency. I decided to join the protest.

I couldn’t find the protest at first, which seemed silly considering the amount of news helicopters hovering above the city. I walked around for a while and finally found the protest as they were taking the Morrison Bridge. As a pedestrian and a guy who hates cars, I love a protest that shuts down traffic, but I have a lot of empathy for car drivers that are frustrated by sitting in that traffic. I want to help shut down traffic, but then I think about the person sitting in their car (idling, needlessly) who gets mad about the protest without thinking about what the protest is trying to accomplish. I decided not to join in, and kept walking around.

I walked through Waterfront Park, which was close enough for me to enjoy the protest, but not to be part of it. As I was walking, I heard the horrible crunch of metal hitting a smaller metal target. The sound came before my sight, but it happened in such a way that I turned my head towards the noise and saw a bicycle and a bicycle rider flying through the air. It took me a second to process, and while I was understanding what I saw, the driver who hit the bicyclist pulled off to the side of the road. The bicyclist pulled himself from the ground and immediately started staggering into the park. He saw me calling 911 and waved my concern off – it seemed pretty obvious that it was a stolen bike that he had left demolished behind him. I paused for a moment before pressing “dial” on the call before deciding not to dial. I feel a lot of concern about the health of the guy, but he didn’t want that call to be placed. I stopped the call. Whatever that guy’s scenario was, I hope he got the help he needed.

The driver stayed behind, and was clearly concerned about the cyclist. I didn’t see what led to the crash, but the abandoned bike was demolished. The driver behind the driver also stopped to get out. They were both concerned about the crash, albeit in different ways. The driver that hit the man on the bicyclist told me “he ran a red light!” I’d normally take issue with that – you should always travel at an appropriate speed to anticipate unknowns – but this injured dude just booked it. I advised both drivers that the guy did not want help, and left. I don’t feel very good about it. That driver was driving fast enough to send a person through the air. Confronted with a crash that sent a bike rider into the air, I left that driver to deal with his own conscience.

After the traffic crash, I never caught back up with the protest even when I followed the news helicopters. I was within blocks of it, but never got close to join. On the Esplanade, I enjoyed the calm of one direction of traffic being shutdown.

I got off of the Esplanade and climbed the stairs at the Burnside bridge. A pickup truck drove by me and a passenger yelled “WOOOO TRUMP PENCE!”. At the Burnside/MLK intersection, someone gunned their engine as they sped around the turn. I don’t think that’s related to the election, because it happens all the time, but I assume the perpetrator was a Trump supporter. That might be unfair! Who knows.

As I got closer to my house, I walked through the houseless encampments in my neighborhood. As a white male, I have the agency to do this – a lot of women, regardless of color, feel unsafe doing this. It’s understandable! A lot of houseless people in our neighborhood have taken to carrying improvised weapons with them – it’s a threatening scene.But like they need to arm themselves. They’ve been attacked a lot, politically and physically. I saw a lot of houseless people emerge after the Great Recession of 2008, and I’m seeing more of them appearing now.

I walked by a couple of houseless youths, one armed with a crowbar and the other armed with an axe. The guy with the crowbar got in my face and yelled “Fuck Trump!” I responded by saying “I agree!” He was a little startled.

I don’t feel numb anymore. Here’s our first day. We can’t run, we must be present. We have to acknowledge our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, our biases, and we have to fight. We have to fight.