Five Ways To Improve PDX

I often like to think of myself as being on the cutting edge of social change, so here are five ways we can all pitch in to help improve our community. I urge everyone to take action… NOW!

1.) Purchase a large quantity of disposable razors, and put a stop (once and for all) to all the bearded indie-rock that’s ruining our fair city.

2.) Since the beginning of time, humankind has rarely accomplished anything worthwhile between 3 PM and 6 PM. (Look it up; would I make this up?) I suggest we institute a mandatory siesta. Those who do not take advantage of the mandatory siesta are not allowed to interact socially until they’ve taken three hours out of their day to rest, relax, and calm the fuck down, before they’re allowed to go out in public again.

3.) For every show, concert, party or otherwise artistic social event that starts at 10 PM and ends at 4 AM, an equally cool, equally fun, and equally accessible event needs to also occur between 10 AM and 4 PM.

4.) Reading Parties instead of Cocktail Parties. Home Cooked Dinner & A Rented Movie instead of Going Out. House & Basement Shows instead of Paying a Cover. Burning Parties instead of buying records. Interacting With Your Friends instead of Everything Else That People Do.

5.) Stop. Raining. Now!

Booze-A-Ma-Hol: A Personal History

This Used To Be Me
This Used To Be Me

I quit drinking over the summer, and while I had one or two bevvys between then and New Year’s Day, since the beginning of the year I’ve taken a hard-line about it, and haven’t had any alcohol in any form.

There were a confluence of reasons for deciding to quit: personal, medical, financial, social, etc. It’s hard to single out any one thing, or rather, I couldn’t shift the rational to something specific. There were just too many things all pointing to the same thing, and I’m a big believer in self-analysis. I guess I didn’t really need a reason to quit, per se, but in my mind it was that much easier knowing that it wasn’t just a passing desire to prove that I could, but rather a well-reasoned decision that came from within me that was informed by my entire life.

When I tell people I quit drinking, invariably there is a pause while a strange look creeps across their face. The look says, “Oh. What happened?” But the next comment is generally, “That explains why I haven’t seen you.”

It’s weird. In our culture, there is an assumption that either you never drank, you currently drink, or you have a problem and you shouldn’t ever drink. But in my case, I don’t think I had a problem: I never missed work, never missed school, paid my bills as near to on time as is possible in the US, and never blacked out or became violent. In fact, I would be hard press to remember a time that I did much of anything differently than I would when I was sober, except drive and remain conversationally coherent. Of course, none of that means I didn’t have a problem, either. But I was always of the opinion that I was a fairly pleasant drunk who really liked bourbon and the places that sold it.

I’ll be honest: I drank a lot. I pissed away so much of my income over the years that it’s hard to imagine what I could have done with that money in the meantime. (A car? A House? A nice stereo, for Earl’s sake!) I woke up with so many hangovers that it was starting to feel commonplace, and you could pretty much count on me buying something most days, if for no other reason than to restock the fridge or get another bottle of Maker’s Mark. I know perfectly functional people who drink WAY more, and plenty who drink way less, too. I guess, for me, it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. Or, rather, when I went to pour myself that final shot, I began to question if I actually wanted it, or if I was just used to the idea of wanting it.

I know, I know. Far too, “What Does It All Mean?” for someone outside of France, but it’s been interesting observing my fellow humans lately. I know one or two people who don’t (and never) drank. I know another married couple who both used to drink a lot, and now don’t for more or less the same reasons. And outside of that, it’s been really hard to find other people who don’t drink.

Nor am I only looking to hang out with people who don’t drink; I encourage it among my friends and have even bought beer and wine for the house so I could offer some to guests. But there is a certain amount of pervasiveness about drinking that is starting to worry me, and a casualness to the quantity of drinking going on around me. It would be one thing if the majority of the drinking I saw around me was your typical kind of Workin’ For The Weekend partying that I am 100% behind. Unfortunately, it seems, that is only a small percentage of it.

Yesterday while I was getting breakfast, I saw a table of PSU students at 9 AM on a Thursday each with a cocktail and their Engineering Books on the table. None of them could be any older than 22 or 23. They were actively scribbling notes, using calculators, going through texts, etc. As the waitress came by and asked if anyone wanted more drinks, there was an emphatic, “Yes,” from everyone. Then, one guy adds, “But that’s it. We’ve got class in an hour.”

Next time anyone asks me why I quit drinking, I’ll just tell them that story. I think it gets the point across much better than, “Well, I just quit.”

Dogs! In! Space!

Dogs In Space
Dogs In Space

After many years of being obsessed with this movie (mostly due to the near-daily viewings of it when I lived with Lyra Cyst), I finally managed to borrow of cassette copy of it, encode it digitally, and make myself a CD version I can now bump and grind whenever I want.

While I can never adequately explicate how stoked I am about this, liken it to when you finally managed to figure out the name of a song you taped off the radio years ago because a friend of yours just so happened to play it at a party.

Why is it that encapsulated in the two above-mentioned experiences, I think I’ve managed to summarize a good 70% of my previous emotional experiences? Sigh.

Percolating Ideas

The Male Body
The Male Body

I just finished plowing my way through a huge section of The Male Body (by Susan Bordo), which falls into the “Social Sciences” genre. (I’ve always wondered about the phrase “Social Sciences.” Is there hard-science to social behavior? Or observations and assertions?) In the chapter I read, she discusses a few different aspects of constructed male behavior (distilled into the folk-wisdom, “Boys will be Boys,” that so often gets repeated in our culture).

These constructions are, ironically, presented as a biological imperative, or an evolutionary hold-over from more primitive times. (One example she returns to again and again is the popular late ’90’s psychobabble that came in the form of, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” In it, the author asserted that men and women are just “hard-wired” differently in a way that was, unfortunately, unknowable, and therefore something we just have to learn to live with.)

Without trying to make the claim that there aren’t differences between men and women (which, I’m sure, would stir up trouble for all concerned and is actually pretty far from what I believe anyway), I have to agree with Bordo’s point: modern male behavior , what is and isn’t acceptable, and how people respond to images of the male body, are entirely constructed in a given culture.

And dammit, I wish I’d known that sooner. I have often suspected that the reason I don’t relate to sports, hunting, cars, fighting, and macho bullshit – essentially, most men that you meet – has less to do with me as a person, and more to do with what other people think they should be relating to. I have never been able to articulate this notion as well as I just did, but I always felt that it wasn’t my fault that I’m not interested in typically “male” things. Now I’m pretty stoked to realize that all that Hemmingway crap was exactly that.

Which is odd, because I distinctly remember thinking simultaneous and divergent thoughts when it comes to this kind of behavior. I would watch two of my friends start throwing jabs at each other and say, “Yeah, that’s just the way guys are,” and then look at my complete lack of interest in doing anything like that, and wonder, “Why not me, then?” While Bordo doesn’t manage to clear up all of my confusion about the constructed nature of masculinity (I would have liked to see more source-cited research to support her claims), I feel much better knowing that there is some amount of validity to how I’ve felt most of my life.

I don’t want to throw a football. I don’t want to be the strongest guy in the room. I don’t want to accumulate sexual conquests. I don’t even want to grow facial hair anymore. But I still want to be a man, and feel good being one. And I think that some of the ideas Bordo is getting at are, in a strange and very unexpected way, finally making me feel that way, too.

Any further recommendations on this subject?

For A Change Of Pace

So often this space is reserved for those moments in my life when the tension finally tips the scales into the realm of irritation, and I find myself time and again starting new paragraphs with the phrase, “And another thing…”

So, here it is, for the very first time: a different kind of list!

Things I Love

1.) Virtually incoherent experimental music.

2.) Modernists art films that border on an unbearable length.

3.) Meta-Text, in all it’s forms. (Including this one.)

4.) Comics, especially rambling sagas that go on for hundreds of pages, preferably with an adventure / sci-fi angle. The writer’s from the UK? Perfection!

5.) Lost. (I know, I know, I’m a sucker like everyone else.)

6.) Alphabetizing, filing, sorting, cataloging, indexing, and organizing in every imaginable permutation.

7.) The invention of baking, hygiene, and written language.

8.) Daylight Savings Time (fall back only)

9.) A sense of accomplishment.

10.) The people in my life who make all of this – everything, in fact – entirely worth it. Thanks.