Rednecks and Their Signs

It's easy to get disheartened about the state of the American political landscape driving up I-5. Every farmer between San Diego and Seattle seems to have a bunch of bombastic right-wing nonsense up on big signs, taking advantage of the fact that they're the only people with a reason to own property adjoining an interstate. "Get the US out of the UN," "Produce the Birth Certificate" (i.e. the horseshit about Obama not being a citizen), all manner of evangelical Christian crap, etc.

Living in St. Johns, we're right across the St. Johns Bridge from one of Portland's industrial areas off of Highway 30. Portland itself is a very blue-state, center-left city, but its industrial zones are a clear exception. The same kind of demagogic rhetoric is all over the place over there - the one I noticed today was a state congressional candidate whose sign promised "less government" - always a vacuous, disingenuous, and pernicious claim catering to the room-temperature IQ crowd.

But then, it occurred to me: the thing about the right is that being angry, confrontational, hyperbolic, and mendacious is a central aspect of its political identity. The point of left politics (dumbass anarchists with spraypaint cans aside) is REASON, thinking about things carefully and considering how one's own outlook is conditioned by perspective. It's predicated on a fundamental sense of fairness, of justice, of how the world could be if people renounced their own selfishness in the name of a higher ethical calling. Thus, for the most part, we don't put up big angry billboards; that's not who we are.

The trick is knowing that we're out there, that just because the right has the sound and the fury, we're the quiet, smart, thoughtful people who occasionally carry elections.



I know every parent thinks that their kid is the cutest, but check this OUT:

Unreal, right?

I've told a couple of people this already, but it's a damned good thing Plan C is so adorable. B and I are the kind of honest that would have totally admitted it if she was ugly. Dodged a bullet on that one!

Note: picture taken by my darling wife, who is a much, much better photographer than I am. She has recently promised to start blogging again. Also, if you are on her list of flickr buddies, you can see tons of her awesome pics here.

Compu-Update and Damn! It's Hot!

Compu-update: my iBook miraculously booted this morning, on the last, spur-of-the-moment check before I reached for a big flat-head screwdriver to finish prying it open and extracting the hard drive. The keyboard is dead, so I've got it hooked up to my PC peripherals. I'm still going to have to get a replacement, since the whole thing could easily go tits-up at any moment, but it was a relief to be able to get everything off of it first.

Damn! It's hot! We just went for a walk down to our favorite neighborhood spot: Cathedral Park. But it's F'ing 80 degrees out! And it feels a lot warmer in direct sunlight, BELIEVE YOU ME!


Utter, Total, Computional Disaster

When I woke up this morning, I thought I had two functioning computers: my trusty iBook G4, trucking along after over four years of loyal service, and the PC I built about three years back, living happily in a box waiting for us to get our own place.

Then I spilled cereal and milk on the laptop. It didn't work anymore.

Then I unpacked the PC because I need a computer to work on stuff and apply for jobs. It didn't work anymore.

So now I'm typing away on B's laptop, sans computer of my own. I ordered a replacement motherboard for the PC off of ebay, which (hopefully!) will fix the it. The iBook is dead as fried chicken, so we're trying to figure out what to do about it (a new 1000 dollar Apple laptop or a 450 dollar PC laptop with linux are the front-runners.) I have never done anything quite as straight-up idiotic as destroy a cherished computer out of pure clumsiness. The PC thing is just insult to injury. This is payback for all the times I have gotten a lucky break in the last year or so; the law of averages is a cold, harsh mistress.

P.S. Apple made it ridiculously difficult to get the hard drive out of its laptops. I plan to get it tomorrow, whether or not I have to use a blowtorch, and then use a USB adapter to be able to get at its contents. What a pain in the ass...


Notes from the Leisure Class

A former housemate from years ago always referred to his unemployed male friends as "gentlemen of leisure." My homie Ransom and I got laid off from the same stupid dot-bomb at the same time, so for a while 2/4 of the people who lived in that house were gentlemen of leisure.*

I'm now in a very peculiar kind of leisurely situation.

B and I don't have fantastic savings, but they are a heck of a lot more viable in PDX than they ever could have been in (stupid, ridiculously expensive) California. We're living with B's brother, who has been kind enough to welcome us in to his awesome little pad in St. Johns. We're buying health insurance from Kaiser for about 340 bucks a month, which isn't cheap, but is a lot better than it could be. Long story short, while I know they're out there somewhere, the wolves aren't really at the door. I'm an unemployed academic / former IT guy, and while some part of me knows I ought to be worried, I just can't get the worry train moving (for once.)

In the meantime, along with the daily job hunt and my ongoing random textbook gig (which is another reason I'm not that worried...supposedly I'm going to get paid New York money for working from home), B and I weed-whack the lawn, we go grocery shopping, we see old friends, we go on walks with Plan C. We discovered that St. Johns definitely has its sketchy side on a walk this evening, but as is usual with Portland sketchiness, a block from the sketchy is perfectly nice.

So, um, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

* Of course, the same guy who liked that phrase was probably the most leisurely of gentlemen I have ever known. His mom owned the house, so he didn't have to worry about rent, and he would make enough from one carpentry gig to live without working for months at a go and spend his time playing his vintage synthesizers in the basement. When I got a replacement 9-5, I was very, very jealous of him.


In Greater Detail

So here's how it went and how it's been:
  1. I rented a 22' Penske truck to do the move, which would have been more than large enough for our crap and the crap of my brother in-law / new landlord, but the peoples at the rental joint only had a 26' one available for me.
  2. A gang of the strappingest of tough kids in Santa Cruz showed up and helped us move everything into the truck. There was Tecate and Dominos - the leftover pizza was donated by our friends E+N+N to the skate punks in the park.
  3. I only hit one curb driving that monster.
  4. I screwed up at the first truck stop and tried to buy gas in the commercial truck section. My friend K, serving as driving buddy, bailed me out with the nice redneck lady inside and we got our diesel. We had Popeye's for lunch en route.
  5. It was a 12 hour drive to Portland. We arrived punch-drunk tired but intact.
  6. We unloaded the next day with a mix of family and friends and friends of friends helping out.
  7. We've had five days since, unpacking, settling, seeing people, and starting to check out our new home turf, the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland. It's amazing here. We have a clear view of the bridge from the house, we're a five-minute walk from the local farmers market, maybe a 15 minute drive from downtown PDX, etc. And it's been raining. I don't really want an academic job anymore; I just want a teaching job here.



PDX backyard BBQ weather! As in, it's RAININ'!

I have way too much to post about (for once), and I think I'll devote a subsequent post to describing what it's like driving a 26 foot diesel truck 750 miles, and interstate moving with a tiny baby, and the sudden shock of waking up in a beautiful, welcoming, affordable city after living in one lacking those qualities for four years.

I'll keep it to this, then: we are in Portland, we are almost done unpacking and organizing, and I feel like I can breathe here, breathe like I haven't been able to in a long, long time. It's nice to be home.


So Long, Santa Cruz

I'm 32 today. We've been packing for four days solid now; B did the entire kitchen over the course of about 11 hours yesterday. I have a few minutes right now before I run downstairs to the one shared washer/dryer for the 23 apartments in this building to swap loads. Tonight I scoop up B's brother A and my old friend K from SJC, they help us clean tomorrow, then a pack of rabid rabbits comes over Saturday AM to help us pack the huge 22' Penske truck. Sometime around 1pm Saturday, I head north, and that's the end of the KFR Santa Cruz experience.

My contempt for this town has colored this move in a weird way; I've been so excited to leave and to return to Portland after six years in the academic wilderness that I've only realized in the last few days how much I'm going to miss my friends here. Let it be repeated: Santa Cruz is a dump, but a dump that has a lot of really wonderful, smart people (most of whom are affiliated with the university.) The crazy hobos and ridiculous cost of living do not cancel out the redwoods or the walk along West Cliff or the brilliant people at UCSC.

Likewise, B and I have done very, very well living here. Her job was amazing, as is her resume now, we had a kid in a wonderful, supportive medical system, I completed a PhD and emerged owing zero dollars to anyone or anything. So we don't have jobs to move to; neither do we have any debt or (much) regret about anything. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have worked harder here and there, to not only finish the degree as quickly as I did, but to flesh it out more so that I felt more proud of my final results. That said, I didn't do bad work and I think I have a reasonable shot at being a teacher. So that's fine.

Anyway, thanks to all of my friends here. You guys are amazing and I will miss you.

People of PDX: see you soon.


Back-Breaking Bullshit

Criminy, I mean, yes, I already knew that moving sucks, but moving sucks, man! Our apartment is now officially in mid-packing bomb-went-off mode, and we haven't even gotten to the "kitchen" yet.*

Anyway. I don't have the mental horsepower to post about this topic, and I'm on beer number two for the PM, but neither do I have anything else to post about, so here goes a short summary: apparently, the only way capitalist economics works is by inflating bubbles, riding them on the way up, then rich people jumping ship as they burst and everyone else getting screwed. You can't read the whole thing unless you're on a college campus, but this New Left Review article does a brilliant job of summing up the current situation with global economics. It scared the crap out of me (again, more) because the point is basically that there's been nothing but bubbles, no "real economy" to speak of, for thirty years now. Should we all be hoping that another bubble comes along that temporarily lifts the situation?

To sum up: there still is neither hope nor justice in the universe. But we knew that.

* Our "kitchen": a teeny hallway with a miniature Italian fridge. I am not making this up.


Looking Back

It's a pretty standard caveat to start a blog post with "sorry I haven't been posting to my blog very much," especially lately. My once mighty cadre of fellow bloggers has shrunk to an elite task force of semi-regular updaters (ongoing big ups to my homie K for his always-enlightening posts.)

The thing is, for me, it's like: baby. I have this baby, and that's about it. I could complain about the lack of jobs, the worries about the future, etc., or I could talk about how elated I am at the prospect of returning to Portland. But most of the time, I'm just making ridiculous noises at Plan C to get her to giggle and/or bouncing her around to get her to go to sleep.

BUT: what I did want to post about was something B and I were talking about the other day, namely, the fact that we can't remember the first two months of Plan C's life in anything except hazy nightmarish images and dreamscapes of insanity. That's the thing about really serious sleep dep, of course: your memory gets shot to shit. It's also a kind of very softcore version of post-traumatic stress; it's just so bloody hard to deal with a newborn, the constant screaming, the fact that they have absolutely no sense of their surroundings, the simple fact that to be awake is to be unhappy for them, etc.

Happily, that changes. Having heard the horror stories from friends with kids, I think we're pretty bloody lucky. The little croc has her self-soothing techniques (she sticks her whole fist in her mouth, mostly), she giggles when we dance around, she plays with stuff, she naps, she sleeps at night (mostly), she does all kinds of rad shit like that and is generally hilarious. As far as I can tell, she's only four months old and she's already a lot easier than most of her baby peers.

Once the move is over, I hope to have new and interesting things to post about (no promises, though. I am pretty boring.) In the meantime, I'm just happy to have this funny little kid and to be moving back to my favorite city on earth.