If you were one of the five or ten people who semi-regularly followed my blog, you've surely noticed by now that I've stopped updating it. I feel a little guilty about becoming deadweight on other people's blogrolls (hi Eric), but what can I say.
If you remain at all curious about my internet presence, it has pretty much shifted to my flickr page recently.
I checked the stats and it looks like my blog, despite its moribund status, still gets an average of about 10 hits per day. By far, most visitors come here by searching google images for "container ship wrecks" or some variation on that phrase, which leads them to this post, which isn't really even a post, but just a quickie link to someone else's site. But I suppose they'll find what they came looking for. Also, a couple of posts I've written about legitimately free fonts seem to attract lots of folks looking for pirated fonts, but everybody wants something for nothing, right?
I sincerely hope the people who landed here after googling "blue muscle bullet", "velcrow blow up things", and "ladies high heels for men" eventually found what they were looking for.
If you're in search of some websurfing entertainment, allow me to recommend a recently discovered favorite of mine, the new shelton wet/dry, which is updated every friday with an international buffet of visual non sequiturs, pseudo-science, outrageous financial scandals, bizarre pop cultural detritus, crime trends, taxidermy, and hipster sleaze.
FIRST CLASS FOREVER is a new magazine about:
interesting queer people and the things that they do
creative queer people and the things that they make
smart queer people and the things that they think about
issue #1: CONTRADICTION
I'm making a tradition out of traveling for my birthday, after a few consecutive years of high expectations followed by disappointing celebrations. Last year was a brief visit to Southern California to visit my brothers, with a couple days of sightseeing in Los Angeles. As soon as I got back I began making plans for New York, which I hadn't seen since 1994.
I was prepared to shell out for a stay in a hotel — but hooray for internet social networking, which, long story short, got me an invitation to stay in Brooklyn. Joshua was my gracious host, knowledgable tour guide, and subway navigator for eight days in the city. Thanks Joshua!
In no particular order:
- I relaxed my drinking ban and had a beer at the Dugout, and later at Ty's, where I ran into a couple of guys I recognized from Portland (small world, etc). Other bars visited: the Eagle (surprisingly low-key), the Cock (good DJ, but perhaps the $5 cover was to blame for the lack of patrons?), Nowhere ("Bear Essentials" drew a good Tuesday night crowd), and the Phoenix (chill place with a nice make-out bench).
- I got a couple of invitations (more internet social networking) to the Assume Vivid Astro Focus opening party at Deitch Projects, but couldn't make it, which was fine I suppose, since I didn't have an appropriate outfit to wear anyway. Instead I wound up at a crowded party at a fancy Soho loft which I was told was owned by the owner of Gawker. I met Paul, who was friendly, but most of the other people there seemed pretty boring, and since it was too loud to start up a smalltalk conversation with strangers, I was unable to test the assumption.
- Joshua and I rode the train upstate to Dia:Beacon, an old Nabisco factory converted into a museum which is installed with extravagantly large and very highbrow art. A museum visitor warned Joshua about entering one of the gargantuan Richard Serra sculptures, "don't bother, there's nothing in there." We went inside anyway:
If there is such a thing as extravagant minimalism, this is the place for it. Mostly, it left me cold, but I did enjoy the gallery of Bernd and Hilla Becher photographs, and the exhibit of creepy/sexy Louise Bourgeois sculptures.
- Visits to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Die Neue Galerie, MoMA, and a rainy day zigzagging between 10th and 11th Avenues in the Chelsea gallery district. The exterior of the Guggenheim was hidden behind scaffolding, and inside was a zoo, packed to capacity with visitors literally tripping over Cai Guo-Qiang's installations of arrow-studded tigers and broken crockware.
- Spent way too much money shopping for new clothes at Nom de Guerre, Odin, Uniqlo, and especially Dunderdon. They make sturdy, simple workwear-inspired clothes for people like me, who don't have the burly shoulders to fit into actual workwear made for actual blue collar workers.
- I'm not a new-ager but I want one of these crystal lamps:
- Bekah is my only high school friend who I still keep in touch with. We met for lunch at a diner in her neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Not the most flattering photo, but keep in mind that she had gotten no sleep the night before — busy working on a research project for a demanding Hollywood director, and also preparing to host her extended family who were on their way to see her Ph.D. graduation ceremony. Yes, she's a bit of an overacheiver.
- Prospect Park is lovely, especially the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. This plant is called 'Banana Cream Allusion':
- I got my hair cut by a Russian lady at an untidy barbershop that had the ambiance of a small factory.
- I noticed a disturbing number of parents pushing strollers with children who looked completely old enough to walk on their own.
- I think my favorite building in New York is the Central Public Library. Check out the hot typesetter.
- It took a bit of searching, but my craving for an authentic knish was satisfied at Yonah Shimmel's on E. Houston on the Lower East Side.
- Other good food included highbrow amuse bouches at WD-50, the kind of place where the staff spoke with foreign accents, the clientele was a mix of expense account types and snooty Europeans, and the menu is intentionally "provocative". But damn, those bone marrow and foie gras appetizers were tasty.
Pork buns at the trendy noodle shop Momofuku (cross-cultural observation: the arms of New York foodservice workers are surprisingly free of tattoos; here in Portland a chef won't be taken seriously unless he's got at least one full sleeve).
Comfort food at the uncomfortably crowded Westville.
Organic cookies at Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakery, where the "sustainable" ethic reminded me of home — except that in Portland you'd never see a group of several fashionably dressed black ladies in high heels buying hippie food.
Hopefully it will be less than 14 years before I visit New York again. And Joshua, I'm already making a list of things to do for when you come to visit me.
Two more reasons to like Portland:
1. Oregon's vote-by-mail system is convenient and relatively non-corrupt.
2. Portland's likely next mayor, Sam Adams, will be the first openly gay mayor of a top-40 USA city.
The first time I saw him in person was when he was campaigning for city commissioner a few years ago. On a Saturday afternoon I watched him park his pickup truck on Stark Street and carry a handful of campaign signs into Silverado (Portland's trashiest gay club). For a politician, he seems pretty down to earth — he rides his bike, and raises chickens in his back yard in North Portland. And then there's this bizarre story.
[UPDATE: he won.]
In my post-adolescent years I was a pseudo-radical who idolized Guy Debord and was way too cool to take mainstream politics or voting seriously. I'm sure that at least once during that phase of my life I nodded in agreement with the slogan, "if voting actually made a difference, they would've made it illegal already!"
I voted for Nader in 2000, because seriously, Democrats are lame. It never occurred to me that the dipshit loser Bush had a chance of winning. Really, who the hell would have voted for a dipshit loser like him anyway? But he won, and that sobered me up a little bit. For better or worse, I now follow national politics closely and daily.
Still, I can't bring myself to register as a Democrat. This year I wanted to, so that I could vote for Obama (in Oregon's closed primary system only registered Dems can vote in the Dem primary), but I missed the deadline. But unless the Clintons have some powerful tricks up their sleeves, Obama will win the Dem nomination. While I'm not enthusiastic about his centrist policies, I'm really looking forward to November when I get the chance to vote for an accomplished, intelligent person who speaks to us like adults, and in grammatically correct sentences. I might even put a bumper sticker on my car.
I'm jumping on it.
Blackstreet "No Diggity"
The Soft Pink Truth "Real Shocks" (Swell Maps)
Swell Maps "Midget Submarines"
Pitbull Ft. Piccalo "Dammit Man"
Universal Order of Armageddon "Visible Distance"
Menomena "Air Aid"
Steely Dan "Any Major Dude Will Tell You"
Botch "To Our Friends In The Great White North"
King Midas Sound "Surround Me"
John Cage "Sonata #5 for Prepared Piano"
Gang Of Four "Natural's Not In It"
Drive Like Jehu "Bullet Train To Vegas"
Stevie Wonder performing "Superstition" live on Sesame Street. This video is so awesome it almost made me cry — partly from thinking about how crappy today's children's entertainment is in comparison, but mostly out of joy.
And while we're on the subject of Stevie Wonder and tears, I'd like to take this opportunity to brag that I've made the ladies cry with my karaoke rendition of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life".
My last glass of wine, ever
I've always been a light drinker. I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten trashed in the past two years. But I do often enjoy a drink, maybe two, so I was pretty disappointed today when my doctor told me:
No alcohol. At all. Ever.
So, it looks like I need a new vice.
Gambling? It's never been a thrill for me.
Weed? Makes my heart palpitate, my hands shaky and my brain foggy.
Coke? Only if you're buying.
Shoes? I already have plenty, although I guess I could clear out some space in my closet.
Please offer your suggestions in the comments.
About ten years ago a friend of mine set me up on a blind date with her coworker, a guy named Andy. At the time I was living a date-free existence while going to school in Eugene, Oregon, and visiting Portland on weekends every chance I could get. So I was up for anything. Andy suggested we go to the Eagle. I'd never been, but it sounded interesting. When he told me that there was an Underwear Party that night ("but you don't have to take your clothes off if you don't want to, I'm not going to"), I knew I'd be out of my element but I did my best to act cool and unfazed about it.
When we came in, the bar was crowded full of men, mostly undressed and mostly quite a bit older than us. It wasn't as creepy as I was expecting – everybody was friendly – but there was plenty of naughty behavior going on in the dark corners. "Oh, it's nothing like it used to be," people told me, "this place used to be really sleazy back in the 80s."
Years later I was telling newcomers to Portland about the Eagle, "it's not as sleazy at it used to be back in the 90s. Over there where the pinball machine is now, that used to be the BJ nook. And you never knew what kind of scene you'd run into in the bathroom."
For a few years the Eagle seemed to be on the decline, and the dozen or so times I went there after my first Underwear Party it was usually boring and sparsely attended. Until more recently, when a new owner wised up and let the younger generation inject some energy into the place with monthly club nights like JACK!, Blow Pony and some other events, where the crowd was mixed and the music was better than average, or even fresh. If you went on the right night, instead of geriatric suburban leather daddies you'd see the Eagle packed with eager young revelers — men, women, girls, boys, and ambiguously gendered persons, punks, hipsters, bears, freaks, average joes, exiles from the shitty house music and jaw-clenching vibe of Portland's other gay bars.
At the same time, on the other side of Burnside Street, the neighborhood was completing its transformation from a gritty, if picturesque, warehouse/industrial district into a utopian yuppie paradise of well-executed urban planning, overpriced condos, and elite consumerism now known as the Pearl District. The writing on the wall became obvious enough for everyone to see: "Vaseline Alley", the short stretch of SW Stark Street which has been the center of Portland's gay nightlife for decades, inevitably would become a casualty of gentrification.
Saturday, February 9th was the Eagle's last night before moving into its new location in Old Town. Blow Pony burned the place down (so to speak), drawing a huge crowd of people who, like me, were surprised that they'd ever feel nostalgia for the dingy mezzanine, slow-moving lines at the bar, smoky air, and overflowing sewage flooding from the bathroom onto the dance floor.
I took a few pictures.
So what's next for the corner of SW 13th and Burnside? More condos, of course! But at least the plans, by architect/developer Skylab Design Group (with a reputation built on elaborately styled attention-getters like the Doug Fir Lounge), look a lot more interesting than the typical towers sprouting up in this part of town. An automated parking garage? A restaurant extending over the rooftop of the adjacent Crystal Ballroom? Twenty-two stories on a 5,000 square-foot lot? It looks pretty over-ambitious, especially in the current real estate market. "We have a lot of work to do to understand how we might achieve this financially and technically," as Skylab principal Jeff Kovel put it, but if they can pull it off, I'll be happy to see a lively and unique building on such a visible site. (a press release, a forum discussion, and the most up-to-date info at the Portland Spaces blog)
in the foreground, Whole Foods Market and an abandoned gay bathhouse
In a previous post I mentioned how on my trip to San Francisco I took a stroll down Castro Street and unsuccessfully searched for the storefront that used to be Harvey Milk's camera shop. The current tenants of the space have made sure that won't happen again—they've commissioned a very visible commemorative mural inside the front window, inscribed with Milk's famously prescient line, "if a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door." More pictures and background at Towleroad.
And while I'm here, I'll recommend the 1984 film The Times of Harvey Milk (Ebert review, YouTube preview), which would be an excellent documentary even if the subject matter—the nascent gay movement in 1970's San Francisco, its charismatic figurehead, and his tragic assassination—weren't so compelling.