eugene one more time

i returned to eugene just a couple days before the uber-popular holiday of thanksgiving, a holiday that for as long as i can remember has always troubled me. it doesn’t take a genius historian to recognize the lies, the fallacies, the roust of the story we have been told since we were wee ones. yet and but it seems so benign as far as american celebrations go…wanting to gather friends and family to give thanks. if that is the reason for the gathering, why was it always so damn stressful? why do grocery stores and markets depend so heavily on the capitalism that week and especially that wednesday before? and then there is black friday the day after…all so consumer and money driven. gather the crew and spend spend spend and the capitalists give thanks.

i feel like if i made this post during the depths of “the holiday season” people would shut down or get defensive, and there would be no discussion or giving of space to question why and how we celebrate what during this time of year, and as we are doing more questioning in this country about how and why we celabrate events such as columbus day and moving it to indigenous peoples day, we can do the same with the last thursday of november (a month to celebrate the people native to this land). and i have to say, my favorite moments for this time have been the many friends-givings i’ve gone to or hosted over the years.

this year, in eugen, was a pretty special one. i spent it with 2 people who have also been questioning how to mark this time of year; a time that has been marked by countless cultures through the ages for many reasons. it is also marking the ending of the adventure that started two and a half years ago when i left oregon, along the coast, sent off by these same 2 humans. this wasn’t planned, but that is how great moments come to be when i just let them, and it is in retrospect that i realize just how right it was for us to be together during this time.

we decided that we would try and go camp somewhere, make it just a simple celebration of all we have to be grateful for individually and collectively. one buddy found the last remaining cabin on the coast and they snagged it! yahoo! we just needed to make it over the coastal range where snow was called for. it was a cold morning, and we did see snow up on the peaks through the whole journey, but when we got over the costal range we came across a managed herd of elk in a meadow, a cleared space from ranchers come to settle the area back in the 1800s. we had a snack as we watched the herd graze, then it was off to the dunes and the ocean. it was sunny and that kind of warm/cold one can find along the shores of oregon. so we wondered in the sunshine, ate more snacks, watched the surfers, and smiled as the sun began to decend on the horizen indicated it was time to go check into the cabin and set up, start a fire of our own, before the sun moved across the horizon and out of sight. but not out of mind.

one of things i’ve been learning more about as i spent more time with these wonderful humans is about the sun and the moon, its movement and how different cultures have marked time, space, and ceremony by its phases and placement in the sky in relation to life on this planet. the solstice is one event that we all agree is meant to be acknowledged in some way, but what is it really marking? something we had been thinking was that both summer and winter solstice, in the western world mark the first of summer or winter, but really, when one considers the way the sun travels, it is the mid point of summer and winter. for example, the first day of winter marks the time the sun starts winning the battle over darkness and we get longer “days”. in the pacific northwest, this was vital to our mental health. so much to unlearn and re-educate myself on, for “traditional” cultures have acknowledged this movement of the sun and seasons differently, and i feel deeply moved to learn the ways of people who lived based on the land/place.

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once our abode for the night was set up, we poured some wine and we all kind of went into ourselves. i contemplated all the ways i’ve concidered celebrating thanksgiving. once, i heard that it had been suggested that it be a fasting holiday instead of feasting, so i’ve considered that. i’ve read the thanksgiving “prayer” of the haudenosaunee (iroquois nation) while preparing food for folks to come over. i’ve spent the day in solitude, meditating. but how do i want to keep moving forward in how i mark the movements of time and of the seasons, for lately i have been considering that the only constant is movement not change, but that is another discussion for another time.

we did make a lovely simple meal together that night. we gathered around the heater in the cabin. we read (one worked on school projects), and we chatted until it was time to snuggle into our sleeping time. and i slept, i believe we all slept and dreamt deeply .

the morning brought a slow walk around the lake our cabin overlooked, staying in the sun as much as possible with our mugs of coffee. watching the sun hit the cold air as ducks swam out of the rising fog. we made it back just in time to pack up for check out, and it was off to find a sunny picnic table to make the pancakes and snausages (vegan sausage). we all took turns flipping flapjacks for ourself or one another, basking in the warmth and the view of another lake amongst the sandunes separating us from the pacific. and then it was time to point roscoe (the latest adventure vehicle in their lives) back to eugene for a(n) (anti) black friday party. it was a perfect celebration for us, for me. old friends. new friends. good times.

this was just so damn perfect on so many levels. i have taken this gift i have given myself, of walking away from one life, to contemplate how i really want to be in this world. i turned 50 during this time (a cold winter night alone in colorado before i made the wonderful friends i would soon know). i’ve visited the friends and family that have helped me and encouraged me to be me as long as i’ve known them. i have made so many new friends and gained a faith in so much beyond myself, but not in any organized faith. all things i will talk more about as i keep unpacking what these past 2-1/2 years have meant to me, the foundation this time has created for how i want to move in my life.

today i am finding a new place in the desert southwest in a small city on a few boarders with such open expansiveness that there is room to contemplate so much. and everywhere i go there is proof of all the people who have moved through these lands for centuries. i couldn’t be happier. what a wonderful place to keep working on decolonizing my life. one of the many ways i am doing this is by trying to read as many people of color as possible, mostly women and queer folks. same for the music i listen to, movies, and food too. one truth i have come to recognize, and am willing to talk “come out as” now is i am calling myself a writer, finally. one partner i had decades ago told me a would write a book one day. i though she was had no idea who i was. sure i could write little article to go with photos if no one else was available for the paper. now here i am working on a book, a story, that keeps getting bigger and bigger. than i can actually see as becoming a series. and there is more, another big big project, but i will wait to release that when it has more form.

some resources for ya, if you are considering the disconcerting feelings that come up specifically around thanksgiving (also known as thankstaking or the deeper truth of thankskilling, i’ll post some at the end. i am not saying we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving. i do think the roots are beautiful; to give thanks for all we have done to prepare for the cold months of limited resources that allows us to go in and repair, heal, create…it is a gift. even if we change nothing in how we gather, it is important to know what and why we are gathering…i think.

thanksgiving toolbox

anything by the tierra incognita media

read indigenous peoples history

follow indigenous people hike

these are just a few that can lead you down the interwebs to so much more. and if you have favorites, share them. let’s lift up their voices!

eugene

so much has happened. eugene, surprisingly inspiring for me. i spent 3 months here, and once i gave up on the idea that i would or should get a job, i welled up with creative ideas. plus, PLUS, i arrived to adventure buddies, and adventure we did!

first off, i don’t want you think i barged into my friends’ lives for 3 whole months. i have my faults, but that i did not do. i did reach out to the local hostel and did some work-trade for a bunk, so i guess i did sort of get a job, but it was 4 hour shifts 5 days a week, so not so bad. and it was super easy for me to request to work/not work certain times to go adventure. also, i met even more people moving around this world in different ways for so many reasons, reasons i will be exploring in many ways.

as for the creativity that opened up in me once i recovered from logistics hangover, i am still amazed at how much i am giving in to it. it could be the space i am creating and plans i am laying out so that i don’t spend precious mental space worrying and fretting. but i have started having dreams at least once a month about ideas and directions that i want the book/story/potential series i am working on. things i haven’t been able to work out during waking hours.

i have also taken the time to teach myself how to draw, or should i say let youtube videos teach me to open up to the possibilities that i can create with pencils and pens..maybe water colors. i have never let myself do this. art supply stores intimidate me. i have looked at art classes, but was shy and afraid of not being good enough to share, and they always make you share.

so i have taken one of my dry bags and filled it with my journal, sketch pad, and a pen and pencils…my little art bag. it is so fun. sometimes when i am on a hike or some such fun activity, i don’t always want to write, or the words won’t come to describe my thoughts and feelings, so i draw it. i has effected all aspects of my expressive outlets. my photography benefits as i adjust for lighting or looking for the small details. same for my writing. if i am imagining a scene to write about, i can sketch out not just what i see, but people, lighting, feeling tones for the place come to life sort of speak and fill in what i’ve been missing. its great! also, it is yet one more thing that i can use to procrastinate what i am “suppose” to be doing now. so win win!

adventures! so many!

first, i got there and eugene was having a late summer pride event! it reminded those of us who came out in the 80s and 90s of those smaller community prides we use to have. ones that were free instead of 20 bucks or more and use local area entertainers instead of big names that blow the community’s budget for other things. i do appreciate both for different reason, but definitely love the smaller community feel.

my fellow bike adventure friend took me on a bike path tour one day. showing me how to get to the river trails, what streets are good for getting to favorite breweries and bike spaces. then he left to visit family and left the two of us alone to mischief. the other pal in this crew is more of a walker, so we walked all over the town. he showed me how to get around to the parks and buttes to walk and wonder. we went to the museum, heard some music, and he introduced me to some of the friends the two of them had made since being in eugene. this was the first time the 2 of us had so much time with just the 2 of us, that we really got to know one another even deeper. such a special time i can’t even express.

the adventures i had in eugene were mixed with solo and buddies. it has been so long since i had an adventure buddy, i forgot how much fun it could be. the adventures i had with my friend in kansas city was remarkable, but it was piece of my longer plans. also, with all the flooding, the planing was different. so planning micro-adventures with someone was just so fun.

eugene does have a wonderful public transit system that reaches out to nearby communities, including the mckenzie river ranger district, so i took a couple trips out there to wonder the river woods and hot springs. we took the bus down to cottage grove to bike the covered bridge route and play around those little towns. all for the cost of a regular bus ride of $1.75 or $3.50 for a day. i also rode my bike out to springfield fairly often for the fun of riding the river trail out to have a beer or for big queer yoga on friday nights.

i can’t say enough just how beautiful this valley is. how easy it is to so any different unique nature places from ancient forest to high deserts and mountains. hot springs and ice cold rivers.

i do have to say getting back to the trails up and around the sisters wilderness was pretty great. my buddies had decided to get in a backpacking trip before school kicked back into gear for the year. so we decided to rent a car and i would drop them off and we’d camp out together for a night. then i would get another car and pick them up and we’d have a little hike and adventure on the way back. there had been a fire recently where i walked them into the start of the loop they were doing. it was eery for sure, but still so beautiful. i feel fortunate to have experienced this forest in both situations, and to see the freshness of the fire mixed with the growth already returning. it was so soothing to be back up there smelling those piney forests and absorbing high altitude sunshine. catching the views of the first snow setteling on the peaks of the sisters’ peaks.

sitting by those high altitude lakes i was able to do more internal exploration of what is my responsibility to these areas that i both recreate in, and have reverence for. it is where i am refreshed, renewed, and fills me spiritually. it is a deep relationship that i feel whatever “wilderness” i am in, and it should be, needs to be a reciprocal relationship. so what is my responsibility? what do i have to give back to these forms of kin?

settleing in eugene for the winter is certainly a tempting thought, but there are many dark sides to this little city, besides nike. certainly here was the first time on this trip i truly felt unsafe. it was the topic of many conversations i had here. it was a tough topic to talk about because it could go in many ways and we wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren’t talking about the fear of the high rates of houseless folks living on the streets and in tents by the river. it is mostly in white men and not just the drunken frat boys. there is a high rate of people on meth and other drugs that are unpredictable who will do about anything for their next fix. it is a complicated topic that goes deeper into a myriad thread of our social ills in this country.

on the flip side, i think that being in eugene was more of a coming home than being in portland for a few weeks, but we’ll talk about that when i do a portland adventure wrap up. but that will be after our overnight to the coast #optoutside!

philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

kansas city ii

”the soul has greater need of the ideal than the real. it is by the real that we exist. it is by the idea that we live”

this qoute of victor hugo’s is on the outside of the the nelson atkins art museum. it has stuck with me all these years. as a kid i would walk around this museum and try to piece together what it is suppose to mean? is it in relation to the art collected, stolen, and displayed in it’s walls? is it reflecting the creative process? how we are to be effected or interact with art? why does it have to be seperated?

i’ve spent the last week wondering around the streets of this city that does have a hold on me, maybe the only city i would live in again if an option arose. the mid-town area that is.

it is this museum holds a special place deep inside of me. there is something sacred about walking these halls and grounds. i can remember coming here with my cousin, an amazing and talented creative human. when we were little his mom, my aunt, would take us here and let us roam. when we grew older, and i would roll into town for a visit, he and i would find a reason to ditch the fam and spend the day here. walk around with our own thoughts then meet down at the courtyard for some wine and catch-up. repeat until we felt ready to join the family again. usually winter, summer would be out on the grounds with a frisbee and byob.

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it took me awhile to realize the special space museums hold for me…and libraries too. the places where people are suppose to be quiet and not interrupt other people deep in thought…even white guys seem to understand this. wherever i am, i usually find the library and the museum and i walk. maybe sit for a bit. some have places one can even read or write. for me, it is like the solace of nature in the city. more than parks or city forests. there is no multi-tasking of jogging with your dog, or taking on the phone while getting in your daily step count. here, the multi-tasking is internal.

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the halls of this museum introduced me to cultures that stick with me to this day, like   story telling of asian art. i remember the first time i came up a staircase and ran into the huge golden buddha, and he wasn’t fat like the ones i grew up seeing at my grandparents’ house.

but it is the lawn here that hold most of my memories. though i adopted a vegan lifestyle in syracuse before moving back to the k.c. area, the lawn at this museum is where i went to my first community vegan potluck picnic thing. then later, across the street is a park where i went to my first rally against vivisection. there is a lab just right there that has been testing on animals for sooo long.

these led me to the peace/anti-war gatherings at the fountain at the plaza. these were organized by the people i had a more spiritual connection with…mostly buddhists and maybe some universalists, quakers even possibly? all kinds of people.

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i spent an extra week in kansas city, trying to figure out how i was going to get around the floods. i did take a few momments to explore and catch up with a couple friends. much has changed and stayed the same. k.c is a beautiful city with a mix of the old and new buildings with rich and complicated histories, much like myself. and i’m not sure how to say this piece that i enjoy about kansas city. but when i look around, i don’t just see white people, and that gives me great comfort (? not sure if that is the right word, but too many of us white folks makes me twitchy).

i got to drink some good beers at new brewries, some whiskey at new distilleries, coffee on rooftops with good views, a vegan donut at a vegan coffee shop, and i walked. with the exception of the bike infrastructure needing serious help, this city may fit me even more these days…maybe.

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tgifebuary

yesturday i woke to the smell of spring in the air. it was a perfect balm to a winter-weary soul. it seemed like january was it’s own year. i don’t really know why. sure it was cold. reallll cold. and lots of snow. all good for the ski industry, but it wore on me. the sky has been so grey that it feels like being back in the pacific northwest…grey and cloudy for days…weeks. and with all the snow, it feels like life is a black and white film. in fact, some of my pics i can’t tell if i shot them in b&w mode, or color.

oh well.

as of today, i have 70 days left at work, not work days, but time with a job. and that notion is also a balm in its own right. and it is a bit of “oh shit”. that is 70 days to get everything dialed in a little more, get rid of the things i’ve collected in the past 13 months, get back into bike/walk travel shape, and gather maps and outline a plan. it is all coming together pretty nicely to be honest.

i’m keeping the plan open to possibilities of festivities and spontaneous encounters with new and old friends. so. if you would like to. get (or keep) in touch and let’s do some riding and playing together. join me for any part or give me a reason to come to your parts of the world.

in the coming weeks, i will start posting my basic outline of adventure. until then here is a sample of me playing with the new adventure buddy: fuji film xt20 camera. this pic range from around new years on the mt to birthday weekend and don’t forget the eclipse. it’s a fun camera to play with for sure. and yes, there is that double exposure setting that i am super stoked about!