Sunday, February 27, 2011

Despicable Me

There was once a time when the early morning hours were mine alone.

Mojo and the Peep are sleepers. They love their sleep, they crave it, they cherish it like a rare, delightful treasure, and whenever possible they indulge themselves by drowsing on into the late forenoon. And that was always fine with me. video
I could get up early and make coffee, savor the rich scent and the dark, earthy taste in silence. I could read, or exercise, or go on-line. It was my private world before the rest of the family got out of bed.

But now I have another early riser; Little Miss is seldom asleep past six and often awake before five. She's never noisy or fretful. She comes stumping out, her little legs determined as her eyes are still full of sleep. She wants to be cuddled, and happily crawls up in my arms and curls onto my lap.So I feel like a real heel resenting the loss of my private mornings.

But I do; as sweet and quiet as she is, the girl won't be ignored or put by; any attempt to park her on the couch or in front of the television results in a monumental sulk, and this girl is an expert sulker; once you've hit the "sulk" button it's nearly impossible to reset - she will fuss and fume for a good hour or so.And even the semi-silence of her immediate snuggling is transient. Soon she is fully awake and wants to play, or use the computer. And I'm reminded of the old saying about playing catch with a dog; you will tire of it long before the dog does. So with Barbies or ponies or LEGOs. There are only so many scenarios the girl can invent, and we usually run through them all inside of five minutes or so. After that the only variable is how durable my patience is; the eventual consuption of it is never in doubt. video
So I feel like even more of a lout; I love my little girl and all she wants to do is share my time. But I resent, somewhere ranging from mildly to bitterly, the loss; like a miserly old curmudgeon, I am ungracious about dividing the early hours of the day with this child who loves and depends on me. God, how despicable can I be?

I suspect that this says something truly unflattering about me, and in my better moments I try and staple a smiling face over my bad attitude. But then comes the thumping of the little feet down the morning hallway and my smile fades like the stars in the sunrise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Jukebox: Too Cold To Dance Edition

Heard this on the "new rock" station the other day and was immediately hooked by the catchy..umm..hook.Plus I loved the notion that this insanely catchy, peppy, DANCY pop song is called "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'".

The "Scissor Sisters" seem completely silly, utterly disposable, and the Teens answer to the Brothers Gibb but, whatthefuck, it's Friday, the sun is out and I just feel like dancin'.

Have a great weekend!

Orange Alert

This is courtesy my friend Brent, "The World's New Security Levels", written by John Cleese.I repost without further comment just because, frankly, I need a bit of a laugh this Friday. So:

The World's New Security Levels

Great Britain: The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

France: The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender."The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

Italy: has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing."Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

Germany: The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs."They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgium: Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual;the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Australia: meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is canceled."So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.So wherever you're travelling this weekend, remember: be afraid - be VERY afraid!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Dreams May Come

from Brian Turner's wonderful "Phantom Noise":

Illumination Rounds

Will the girl find a bed among stones?
Will the fighter find a trench?

-Saadi YoussefParachute flares drift in the burn time
of dream, their canopies deployed
in the sky over our bed. My lover

sleeps as Iraqi translators shuffle
in through the doorway- visiting
as loved ones might visit a hospital room,
ill at ease, each of them holding
their sawn-off heads in hand.

Wordless, they wait for me
to dress in my desert fatigues,
my aid pouch with painkillers

of little help in sewing the larynx back,
though I try anyway, suture by suture.

-----------

She finds me at 3am shoveling
the grassy turf in our backyard, digging
three feet by six, determined to dig deep.
We need to help them, if only with a coffin.I say, and if she could love me enough
to trust me, to not cover her mouth
in shock or recognition, her hair lit up
in moonlight; if she could shovel
beside me, straining with the weight
each blade lifts in its gunmetal sheen,
then she'd begin to see them - the war dead -
how they stand under the lime trees and ash,
papyrus and stone in their hands.She stares at these blurry figures
in silhouette, the very young and very old
among them, and with a gentle hand
stays the shovel I hold, to say -
We should invite them into our home.
We should learn their names, their history.
We should know these people
we bury in the earth.

Snow Day!

We woke up to a magical blanket of white.It was a snow day in North Portland.Mind you, Portland is not like your typical, say, Midwestern or Northeastern city. We react to a stray falling crystal of frozen water like a Baptist deacon's wife receiving a pink plastic dildo in the mail; great outbursts of fearful hysterics and shrieking. So when the day dawned on a one-inch carpet of snow the Portland Public Schools were already closed.It was my turn to stay home with the kiddos, so Mojo went slipping away off to work and I led (or was led by) the progeny out into the wintery landscape.Portland snow is usually a bottomish sort of snow on the Snow Quality Scale; thick and wet, half water before it even lands, it makes decent snowball-and-snowman snow but is somewhere between moderately adequate and semi-crap for skiing and sledding. No matter; the little ones slid about on it was much as they could, the North Portland plateau having no more defilade than would provide a small rodent with cover.The snow fun lasted for an hour or so, and was fortified by the addition of the neighbor kids, until the cold and wet were sufficient to drive us back indoors. So there had to be cocoa, and Tinkerbell, and video games (coffee and gossip for the grownups).And by noon the snow was gone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Bourne Stupidity

I'm a middle-aged American guy; I was raised on "spy thrillers". And don't get me wrong - I enjoy the celluloid adventures of spies and counterspies as much as the next guy.Not to mention the stylings of the deliciously cerebral Franka Potente.

So it's just kind of irking when my country's spies don't seem to have watched those same flicks or have forgotten the plots. WTF, Felix Leiter?

Take the case of Raymond "Not Jason Bourne" Davis.

Remember this guy? The "diplomat" who shot his way out of the holdup in Lahore, Pakistan?Okay; first off - I have no idea what the hell happened in the streets of Lahore on January 27th. It seems very plausible to me that the guys Davis slotted were robbers, bazaar badmashes intent on at least holding him up and possibly murdering him.

But.

This discussion by a BBC reporter reports that
"investigations by the police, forensic labs and the local and international media suggest that the two men were driving away from Mr Davis when they were shot. That "no fingerprints had been uncovered on the triggers of the pistols found on the bodies of the two men. Furthermore he said that tests had shown that the bullets remained in the magazines of their guns, not the chambers."
Even more damning, far from the bad guys the U.S. has suggested,
"...the men have no criminal records as such. Both...were carrying licensed pistols (and) security sources in Lahore say that they were part-time or low-level operatives for the local intelligence services. Although reports are sketchy about what they were doing in relation to Mr Davis, security officials believe it could be the case of a surveillance operation gone horribly wrong."
Well, damn. So maybe it really was the case of a guy getting flaky at the wrong time and busting a cap on a couple of local snoops from the Lahore ISI Nose Patrol.

But, whatever, you've seen the movie and you all know what happens now, right? Our hero disappears into the crowd, makes his way to the "safehouse" where he changes his appearance and his identity cards and then slips out of the country one step ahead of the dictator's secret police (or his own agency, whichever is cooler...). Every spy has seen this part and knows what to do now.Or not.

Seems that the guy gave himself up on the spot, and was thrown into the local carcel.

Now this is the part where the CIA activates its cunning plan, sends its mole into the Lahore cop shop while the suave State Department spokesmodel spins a seamless web of denials and diversions that baffles the locals, enemies, and reporters alike. Our boy is whisked out of the country as if he had never existed, right?

Or not.

Of course this gentleman was not a "legal" CIA officer, accredited as a U.S. diplomat; he was another damn contractor, more of what appears to be the "secret" side of the war in central Asia which is about as secret as Lady GaGa's underwear. Instead of a cunning plan the U.S. government began by loudly beating the stupid drum by demanding his release AS a diplomat, despite the fact that it seems that both the State Department and the Pakistanis knew from the get-go that he was not.What's worse, the U.S. has insisted in doubling-down on this lie from almost immediately after he was arrested until just this past week after everyone from The Lahore News and Advertiser to the Onion published the truth. Finally, after several British news outlets stated the truth, the U.S. 'fessed up.

Well, damn.

So now what?

I doubt whether this guy is going to rot in a Pakistani jail; he'll get some public spankings to placate the Paki mobs and then quietly slip out of the country.But in the meantime, again, the U.S. ends up looking both foolish and deceptive, reinforcing the Dubya image of the idiot cowboy, shooting up the surroundings and bagging nothing but a couple of cottontails and the local schoolmar'm. And looking incompetent; the bumbling spy is a classic staple of movie comedy from Buster Keaton to Peter Sellers.

Don't get me wrong; I'd prefer that my country not be sneaking around other people's countries unless there was a hell of a good reason for it. But I'm realist enough to understand that all sorts of spying happens for all sorts of reasons, and many of those reasons are too secret for me to know. So I know my country is going to spy all sorts of places for all sorts of reasons, good and bad.But is it too much to ask that if we're gonna sneak around the globe making real-life spy films my country tries to spy more like Jason Bourne and James Bond than Phil Moskowitz and Inspector Clouseau?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arc of a Diver

Bear with me, because I'm really thinking out loud here.

But I wanted to talk about something that I've been worried about for some time now.

Let's start with some of the elements that have been elemental to human life since Sumer, and some others that appear to have become more essential to life in the United States in the early part of the 21st Century.

First, let's begin with the proposition that human well-being comes from a variety of sources, but that the basic principles of Maslow remain sound. Physical needs like adequate food, shelter, and safety come first. If you are starving under a bridge in the February rains it doesn't really make much difference whether you are in a terrific love match. You will be dead soon of exposure, leaving your amorata bereft and looking for a new place to sleep.So securing those fundamental needs is the primary concern of humans everywhere.

For most of us in 21st Century America this means a job; gainful work, work that pays enough to secure that rented flat, food enough to live on, clothing, and the small fripperies that differentiate living from existing.

Let us further assume that political ideals and concerns will always come second to the primary need for security and well-being. Mark Twain called this "cornpone opinions"; tell me where a man gets his cornpone, said Twain, and I'll tell you what his opinions are.

To put it another way, a person fearful of want and hardship, of losing his job, that she will fall into desperate straits, is unlikely to worry much about the abstracts and deeper implications of policies and politics. As hard cases make bad law, frightened people make bad politics. While it would be nice to think that humans respond to desperate times with calculated courage, my experience is that the pressure of fear and want make fools of the hardiest of us. The usual reaction to pressure is panic. The main reason that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to limit the franchise to men of property is that they feared the "passions of the mob" - by that they meant the impact of the landless and moneyless being led, or driven, by their need to truckle to those whose patronage employed or supported them.And that brings us to the moment, the second Winter of our economic Discontent.

We the People have been assured, reassured, re-reassured that the key to economic strength is through the unshackling of the creative engine of capitalism. That the Market would bring us all prosperity, and that the best way to spread that prosperity was to lift the bonds of taxation and regulation on the Masters of the Universe, the financiers and entrepreneurs and captains of industry.

The rising tide that their flood of wealth creation would break loose would raise all our little boats alongside their yachts. We would lave ourselves in the streams of lucre they would bring forth, like Moses bringing forth water from the rock.

So we helped them, we cut their taxes - lower than anytime since their grandfathers smashed the Republic on the rocks of the Depression - and we waited. We, many of us, demanded the end of public unions, the crushing of deficits, the end of public spending, just as the powerful and wealthy told us would help - and we waited.

And certainly their tide has risen. The stock market is rising, many of the largest companies and corporations are awash with profit.

But for many of us the water is still at low ebb.Employment is still around 10 percent. Worse, many more of us have just stopped looking for work, or are working at menial or part-time jobs that pay little of what we earned before and not enough to live on above the meager minimum.

And here is the worst part of my fears.

I think that this Great Recession may be the harbinger, the slow drawback of the sea that fortells the arrival of the tsunami.

I think we are seeing a great convergence of political, economic, and social changes that spells trouble for those of us ordinary citizens of the Republic.

I think we will find that many of the lost jobs may never return. And I think that this may portend the end of the great "Middle Class Era" of the U.S.

When you think about it, wealth for the ordinary American went through two great periods of expansion. In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries that expansion was literal, physical; the nation prospered as it grew larger, incorporating huge territories into itself. If an American needed or wanted to try and prosper, he or she could move physically to a richer or newer part of the land.

By the end of the 19th and into the 20th Century, the expansion was technological and industrial; people left off farming and started making things, and the things we made became ever more complex and valuable.

But this depended on two things;

First, it depended on resources, and, more importantly, on domestic resources. The iron and coal were mined here, the petroleum drilled and refined here, the cotton grown here and the fabrics woven here. Americans largely used American resources to make American products. That economic power enabled us to purchase resources we couldn't find in North America and still have wealth to spare; our manufactured goods were as much in demand overseas as the resource materials were here.

Second, it depended on tariffs. For much of our nation's history we protected our industries with tariff barriers that made trade within the nation more economical than trade without, despite the relatively high wages we payed each other.In some cases we protected our industries absolutely; in the early 19th Century importing German or British steel would have been cheaper than using steel from Pittsburgh or Cleveland, even though the German and British steelworkers made no less (tho probably little more, and that little enough) than our own. But high tariffs forced Americans to trade with each other.

Well, the resources - especially petroleum - are gone and will not return. And we have chosen to lower the tariffs in the name of free trade and the acquisition of volumes of Cheap Plastic Crap. That has been good in the short run, and for the manufacturers of CPC. Now I think the bill is going to come due.

Because corporations have realized, and, soon, I think the American people are going to find, that many, many formerly living-wage jobs can and will be done by people in places like Brazil, Rangoon, Calcutta, and Guangzhou.These jobs don't take a vast amount of mental acuity, and, what's more, the education the people in Calcutta and Guangzhou is becoming no worse than our own. And their costs are much less than ours. We simply cannot compete with engineers in Mumbai who can design as well as engineers in San Francisco and for a fraction of the price. I think that we will be surprised, and dismayed, by the number and type of jobs that can and will be offshored.

I think that we are going to find ourselves with an indigestible 10 to 20 percent of the population that is going to become "long-term un/under-employed". I think this will have a disastrous effect on U.S. politics.

It's easy to forget that prior to the War on Poverty that roughly a quarter of the U.S. population was poor. Really poor.Shotgun shack, barefoot-hookworm-and-pellagra, bad teeth and rickets poor. What saved us, to a great extent, is that most of those poor were either immigrants living in city slums or the rural poor. The first were too cowed and frightened to be much trouble, the latter were always able to eke out some sort of living, even in bad times.

But the rural poor are pretty much gone; what's left are agribusinesses feeding crap to the poor and lower middle class and the craft farmers feeding slow food to the upper middle class and wealthy. The bulk of the urban poor and suburban poor have lost the skills to farm; the countryside has lost the ability to insulate us from culture shocks. And the likelihood of as much as 20-30 percent of the U.S. becoming poor again, really poor - especially if the recent Republican fervor for dismantling the social safety net takes effect - is likely to remove much of the fear from the urban slums.

In revolution the real devastation begins with the thought "What the hell do I have to lose?"

And the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening again, to an extent unseen since, again, the Depression.It's worth remembering that FDR wasn't some sort of aristocratic Santa Claus. Yes, he had concern for and interest in those suffering from the worst of the Depression. But he was also a cunning politician, a frighteningly bright guy, and an old New York patroon. He could see what was happening as hard times made desperate people make mad and bad choices; the wealthy and then the middle class dead and imprisoned in Russia, fascists springing up in Germany and Italy, class war in Spain, and he didn't want to see it here. His opportunity came when the banksters and the free-marketeers shit the bed in 1929, and he rammed through some arguably unconstitutional measures that bought social peace for the succeeding fifty years.But I think that deal, that New Deal, is falling apart.I honestly have no idea what can be done. I can't see hopes for reviving the U.S. middle class the way it was created after the Depression; by raising the working class into the "middle" by paying them a wage that brought with it middle class expectations, manners, and mores. The competition from foreign workers is just inescapable.

I can't really see the creation of "new industries"; we're at the tag end of a technological cycle.

For example, look at the pace of technological progress, say, between 1910 and 1940 - practically the entire industrialized world changed! An American of 1910 would have had a hard time recognizing the world of 1940.

Another thirty years - from 1940 to 1970 - saw great changes as well. But not was great as the preceding thirty.

Between 1970 and 2000, still more changes. But changes in scale, or type, rather than in method. We went from landlines to "bricks" to cellphones to iPods - but a phone is a phone. We went from mainframes to laptops - but a computer is a computer. The next great technological leap may well be out there...but it seems increasingly like a "black swan". The arc of the present technologies seems predictable and increasingly incremental.

So the U.S. seems presented with the prospect of an increasingly divided society, with a small group of very wealthy at the top, a sullen lump of intractably poor and unemployable at the bottom, divided by a frightened and dependent remnant of the middle class between.Unwilling to tax themselves, the wealthy retreat to their gated enclaves. Unable to pay for themselves, the poor are lost, increasingly nothing more than a mob of votes to be bought and sold. Resented by the proles and ignored by the aristos, the rump of the middle finds themselves chained to the rock of their stagnant mortgage values with the vultures of the rich and poor rending their livers as they dread the day their job is finally outsourced or offshored.Now - don't get me wrong. I don't think that we're crash-diving into some Mad Max apocalypse, or that the U.S. is going to become Afghanistan tomorrow.

This country has always been tremendously resiliant. We have great reserves of human energy and creativity, and there are always events that can break favorably, unlike the gloomy scenario I've painted.

But combine everything we've talked about with a world that wants, and is getting to the point of being able to demand, what we have kept to ourselves for fifty years; with the increasing possibility that we are producing and consuming petroleum orders of magnitude faster than it can be formed from biomass; with the collapse of the post-WW2 political center into the repolarized politics of the Oughts and Teens...

I wondre if we have the wherewithal - political, social, economic - to reverse this trend and reestablish a broad middle class of the sort that had such a large effect in stabilizing the nation between 1945 and 1980; that is, the nation that most of us grew up in and take for granted.Is it?

One solution could be to "lighten" or "open" the U.S. economy. Until now we've rested like a massive stone wall on agriculture, resource extraction, and manufacturing. Above that foundation are the wood floors, the service industries, from the architects, engineers, and designers to the attorneys and the doctors. Above that are the gingerbready attics; the caterers, beauticians, the financial gamblers, the writers, the graphic artists, and the people who sell kitschy knick-knacks in twee little shops.

Agriculture and mining long ago lost their mass employment potential; most of us now work in the service industries. But there has to be a foundation, and that foundation is increasingly looking rather seedy. But do we need "mass employment"? Can we design a society that uses technology to replace human bodies, relies on creativity and a "nimble" exchange of good and services? One that is based on fewer people, but those people capable of more complex tasks? Could the way out of the dilemma of the un/under-employed be to simply have fewer people to BE unemployed?Or perhaps that next wave discovery occurs and revitalizes the U.S.

Or...or something.

I hope.

Because if not I am worried about my children and the nation that they will grow up in. If not I am worried because of what I see as the political and social state of the nation; I'm not convinced that we are prepared to deal sensibly and effectively with the sort of problems I've discussed.

If not I am worried that my children's lives will be more difficult than mine was, and that is every parent's worry.

And I am worried now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let The Fire Fall!

Back in the Sixties the concessionaire that ran the hotel at the top of Hosetail Falls in Yosemite National Park used to do this thing where his staff would set up this big ol' bonfire at the top of the Glacier Point cliff. As dark was falling they'd light this sucker up, get a good hot blaze going, and then...well, let's let this guy take up the story:
"At 9:00 each evening in Camp Curry, the crowd which had gathered for the nightly campfire program, would fall silent. A man would call out to the top of Glacier Point "Let the Fire Fall!", and a faint reply could be heard from the top of the mountain. Then a great bonfire of red fir bark would be pushed evenly over the edge of the cliff, appearing to the onlookers below as a glowing waterfall of sparks and fire."
This went on from the 1870s until 1968, when the Park Service came to the realization that horsing burning logs off a cliff in a wildland national park wasn't, well, very "wild".Or natural. And stopped doing it. There are people who have been grousing about this ever since.

But the thing is that it turns out that under the right conditions Yosemite's Horsetail Falls can do the same thing or better:
"If there's enough water and if the sky's clear enough to get a sunset, the setting sun will be at an angle to the falls and this causes it to glow. It's rare to get such great conditions - a lot of water and decent sky. It's pretty wild to see because, at first, you can barely make out the waterfall. As the sun starts to set, it glows yellow a bit and then, all of a sudden, it lights up and looks like lava."
Gorgeous, isn't it?But isn't that just like fucking Nature?

Instead of giving us a good show when WE want it, it makes us wait and wait and wait and wait until everything is just right before doing something spectacular. And sometimes it never does it at all.

No wonder more people go to Disneyland.

Mea culpa

A frind of mine posted this little bit of advice from Rabbi Yehuda Berg: "Reminding yourself of your shortcomings, troubles, and transgressions will only trick you into a state of sadness. And bring you further away from your dreams. Be kind to yourself today."

The person who posted this is one of the most creative and compassionate people I know, and I can see why this quote appealed to her. It is a very compassionate thought, and one that points towards the creation of dreams and happiness. It's just kind of a nice little idea.

I, however, am not particularly compassionate, and my talents tend to destruction as much as to creation. So my thought was as I read it was that it seems to me like WAY too many people are willing - eager - to ignore, forget, excuse, and justify their shortcomings, troubles, and transgressions rather than take the time to get up off their dead asses and Do The Right Thing.

In many ways I can't avoid thinking that we have become almost entirely a culture of Forget, Forgive and Rebrand; it seems that instead of Puritanism and religious Awakenings we are all about not reminding ourselves of our shortcomings, troubles, transgressions, evils, pettiness, foolishness, and greed.

It's hard to explain the continual reappearance of Dick Cheney any other way.

So pace Rabbe Berg, I guess my advice to the stricken would be:

"Embrace your failings; they remind you you're human. Recognize your shortcomings; they are as much a part of you as your strengths. Accept that your troubles are often as much your own missteps as others' malice. Regret your transgressions; your shame will help you punish your own wrongdoing.

And then work to reduce and rectify them, so if nothing else, you reduce your chances of kicking your own and other people's dreams in the ass.

Don't be kind to yourself today; be honest with yourself today. Because kindness only forgives you yesterday.

Honesty helps secure you tomorrow."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Her arms long and small

I made Mojo this little valentine and liked the result so much I wanted to post it.The inspiration for the graphic were these lines from William Wyatt's "They Flee From Me":
"...but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, "dear heart, how like you this?"


My love seemed to like it almost as well as the gift card from Sock Dreams. I like that, too.

Sun!

It must be the depths of winter when the mere absence of clouds and mizzle makes me as giddy as an opium fiend and as excited as a debutante.
I'd blog some more, but the sunny day beckons like a scantily-clad houri.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

View from the Bluff

Just finished a couple of cold, rainy days drilling on something called "Oaks Bluff" down in Sellwood.I like Sellwood, one of Portland's older "inner suburbs", much like my own St. Johns. Like St. Johns, Sellwood was a pioneer town in the Portland basin, founded by one John Sellwood, an Episcopalian divine who wandered here in the Earlies and got himself a Donation Land Claim, one of those nifty deals that let you grab up a couple hundred acres or three of rich Oregon bottomland if you got here ahead of everyone else.

Well, except this pesky injuns, but the smallpox and forty-rod'll see them sorted.

Anyway, Sellwood has been absorbed by Portland...
(just as an aside here, I often wonder why the City of Portland doesn't simply move out to the northwest and swallow up the remainder of Multnomah County that lies down the Columbia from the city. As you can see from the map Portland - the red bit - sits smack in the middle with the bulk of unincorporated Multnomah County lies east of the Sandy River, predominantly the Cascade foothills and the western Columbia Gorge along with various little towns such as Dodson, Cascade Locks, and Corbett. The west County is scraps and bits, with the largest single piece the eastern half of Sauvie Island but nost of the rest tiny assarts in Forest Park and oddball little cul-de-sacs between the City and Washington County to the southwest. The City could annex the west County and become the City and County of Portland, and Multnomah County would consist of the eastern part, all the countrified parts. If I was the mayor, I'd go for it. Perhaps it's just as well I'm not, then...)
...and become a pleasant little neighborhood, partly residential and partly semi-trendy little shops in a very Portland-y sort of locals-only kind of way.Mojo's Valentine's present, for example, was a gift card from "Sock Dreams"; only in Portland, and especially in Sellwood, do you get a funky little shop that sells only footwear, from toe socks through cashmere all the way to flirty stockings.

So it wasn't a bad thing, working along the bluff overlooking Oaks Bottom. It's not often that you get to work and watch a bald eagle worrying away at the carp it hooked out of the pond nearby.The days were an amalgam of a Portland February, going from a dim overcast to driving rain and wind, back to high clouds broken by a sunny ten minute springtime, before returning to the mizzling rain. The weather kept the crowds indoors but Portland in winter means rain, and Portlanders still venture out in it, layered in fleece and gore-tex in pairs and alone.

And their dogs, do, too. One of the less pleasant aspects of the trail down Oaks Bluff was the quantity and distribution of used dog food. I once thought that I lived near the Pacific Northwest Strategic Dogshit Reserve, but after two days observing the carelessness with which Sellwood deals with its dog's eggs I'm tempted to race out to McKenna Park up here and roll about in the fetid grass in apology to North Portland's dogs and dog owners. We are paragons by comparison.So the dog plop, and the irking unconcern with which the owners let their dumb chums race about the wildlife area; whilst I'm sure that every doggie mommy and daddy think that they and their furbaby are Portland's Speshul Snowflakes there's about a fucking bajillion mutts running around the Rose City - our parks overflow with them - and only about a dozen bald eagles. You get the rest of the parks, nature preserves, and soccer fields. Oaks Bottom is supposed to be for the wild things.

The wild things were out and about, too, even in the rain. Busy flocks of bushtits, chickadees, and kinglets - the small canopy skulkers that band together in the winter to forage - rioted through the treetops which, given the steep slope, were at eye level with us. Comorants and herons hunted the pond, geese browsed the fields. Even the park squirrels seemed a little more untamed than our NoPo powerline wire-walkers.Another Portlander was out for a walk today, dressed in the usual layers of warm and waterproof, noticible only by her somewhat odd and deliberate pace. Her movement caught my eye but I couldn't see anything to explain the careful way she moved until her path turned along the base of the bluff and she came close enough that I could tell that whilst from the ankles up she was well-protected against the cold rain below that she was completely naked.

It takes a rare and hardy soul to stroll barefoot about Portland in February; inside my insulated, steel-toed boots and wool socks my feet were cold just looking at hers. But she trod along, placing her bare soles down in a manner appropriately cautious in a public place known to contain broken bottle-glass, metal bits, and discarded junkies' works along with the more common if more odiferous unscooped poop. She seemed very confident that her barefoot march would not end badly, and I was fascinated enough to watch her out of sight; she walked unscathed out of my view.We finished our work, wrestled the small drilling rig, the power generator, augers, buckets, the wheelbarrow full of tools and wherewithal down the switchbacks at the end of the trail and out onto the flat, loaded the truck, and the drillers drove off down the muddy track to leave me to climb slowly back up to Sellwood in the early-gathering dark.