Patriotic Sentiment

Gay mayor. Black president. The guy who heads up the neighborhood committee is both gay and black. I was out and about yesterday and saw people who were African, Asian, English, Latin and putting the hyphen and “American” with those folks would just be too much typing. What was remarkable was that they were all residents, not tourists or backpackers or jetsetters or the like. They all live here. All these cultures and peoples and colors and languages all shopping in the same stores to driving the same cars, it makes me feel pretty good to live in a place that has so much history from all over the world making their own stories here.

The feeling of being in a foreign land while living here in the United States is a frightening and unsettling thing for some Americans. Hanging out at Nicholas’ saves airfare to the Mediteranean. Buying coffee and a pain au raisin at Saint Honore is way cheaper than a weekend getaway to Paris. If I want to feel like I’m back home in Vietnam I’ll stroll through Fubonn and just smell the memories.

We got it so good, here. America rules.

The Hippies Next Door

I live in a pretty decent part of my town, not a lot of cars up on blocks in the yards or glad bags taped around window frames. There aren’t a lot of loiterers on the street corners or people fighting pit bulls, not too many car chases or gang shootings, though it isn’t Perfectville by any stretch, it’s a pretty nice neighborhood.

Which is why I don’t understand why the people who live next door to me won’t mow their lawn. Or fix their broken cars that are parked in front of my house. Or not run an extension cord from their house out to the trailer they have parked in their backyard. Or why the women insist on being as absolutely homely as possible, wearing clothes that obviously don’t match, as if they’re scoffing at the system of “normal people” and our “color and fashion coordination.” They also seem to be protesting the totalitarian concept of brassieres and makeup which is all fine except for the fact that the curb appeal of their house is identical to the scattered and filthy surface of their own physical appearance.

Not only do they make me cringe in pity, the dark economy of them lowering my property value is quickly turning me into that bitter old man who shakes his head muttering while dinking around in the yard.

The place next door was sold shortly after we moved into our house last year and it’s a beautiful old 1940’s bungalow with class and charm and the idiots who bought it somehow thought it would be a good idea to rent it out to a gang (there’s at least 8 of them) of unkempt hippies. Who, upon their arrival, made their mark by unloading a U-Haul half-full of thrift store goods and another other half of just pretty much garbage. Much of it seemed to be broken items of obsolete antiquity and I’m a great fan of antiques but if an object’s purpose and history are lost because it’s essentially destroyed or completely rusted into dust, it becomes REFUSE. Their entire backyard is like their hair, long, dirty and generally unsightly and I downright refuse to think of what might be lurking in its depths. Such mysteries certainly revolt the mind and give me weird feelings of hoarding and visions of being drowned in piles of rubbish while ridiculous wire spool tables and musty steamer chests are used for patio furniture.

It really hit me when I found myself edging my yard along the sidewalk and while finding a bit of satisfaction in keeping my yard tidy, I thought of how they were finding accomplishment in buying more Volkswagen buses to park along the street and dilapidated school buses to refurbish using spray paint and plywood. Seriously, one of these guys (one of whom lives in the trailer) drives a Mercedes. A 1970’s sedan with a bungee cord holding down the hood to the bumper. It makes me want to cry. Another one drives a Volvo, one of those old orange ones that looks and runs like an absolute POS. You’d think that being hippies they’d be concerned about the greenhouse gases they spew or how their backyard garbage dump would be harmful to the local ecology but alas, I’m unsure of what they think beyond remembering Jerry or clutching the money they’re saving by not buying soap and shampoo.

They shop at high-end all-natural stores, expensive whole foods grocers and drive European jalopies but they can’t afford a little time to mow the lawn? Or get rid of the junk so it’s not like Sanford and Son next to the house I had to give my internal organs as collateral so I could afford to buy?

Maybe if they traded in that quaint old fashioned push mower and stopped making dirty little hippie babies they could do what the rest of us do: edge the yard and grumble at the lazy POS’s next door.

I think I’ll run my gas powered lawn mower and shave one single strip through their overgrown front yard like a backwards mohawk.

No Government Cheese For Me

After applying at a ton of hotels and nearly on the brink of total discouragement, one of them actually called me back and offered me a job. Coincidentally it was the very one that I was most excited about. Goes to show you, if you want something enough, think about something enough and try for something enough, you will get it. Every time.

Providing that a certain background check doesn’t yield any anti-hipster conspiracies or sheep-related incidents, I oughta soon be working at one of the most historied and swankiest hotel bars in all of Portland.

Hot nuts!

All I Wanted Was A Pepsi

suicidalIn the early 90’s I used to roll around town in a developing mullet. Those days were rife with rebellion and destruction whereas I had just discovered this dirty, mostly British, violent political noise called punk and long-haired, headbanging songs of guitar solos and secret devil signs. I was indeed on the brink of my salad days, walking around with a scowl and a chip on my shoulder during a time when my only source of stress was my school and my curfew. If only I knew of the tension and bottled insanity that awaited me in adulthood I would have listened to much more Ace of Base and Bryan Adams and saved the heavy stuff for when I got a job and had to slave alongside chimpanzees dressed like people. Where competence was a foreign word and “I’m both and idiot and a tool” was the common moniker, I seem to have wasted all the intense music while I was carefree and young.

By “roll around town” I mean walking, skating, taking the bus or riding my chrome Mongoose around (until it got stolen by some jerk offs in Gresham, Oregon.)

Used to drink, used to rock, used to party in the park in ripped jeans and brainstorm ways to get little bags of weed we smoked out of pop cans on playground play structures. Adolescence was the time you either flew high or flew right. I was doomed to be the former first, then the latter later.

Memorial Coliseum Assembly Hall was a concrete bunker beneath the grand glass box that was Portland’s largest arena at the time. An underground sweat-hole where rock bands too small to fill the real joint up above would hunker down for the capacity crowd in the basement and blow the kids’ eardrums clean out of their skulls. Those shows were some of the roughest I ever saw and when Suicidal Tendencies came to town from Los Angeles, the sheer violence in the pit rivaled any thrash fest I’d seen.

I had a leather jacket and a Levi jacket with the sleeves ripped off and on the denim I had my aunt sew a Suicidal Tendencies patch across the back. It was so great because the adults couldn’t read it but all my friends could.

Turned out one day in the 9th grade I was walking out of a downtown Portland McDonalds and got my ass severely whipped by 4 guys who didn’t like Suicidal’s music, apparently. They definitely didn’t like my mullet because they had shaved heads. That was my first taste of getting a certifiable beat down in front of bystanders and all I really remember was me throwing a few but taking a lot more lumps and those waiting for the bus just watched. No one said a word. I suppose no one wanted 4 skins beating them up, either. That patch on my back then became my badge of badassness. I didn’t take it off until a year after I graduated.

Skinheads terrify me, though, even today. Yikes. Who wouldn’t be afraid of a drunken and pointlessly violent contingent of the world’s most supreme ignorati?

I Miss The Heat

How could I not miss the tropics? Nearly a year in the heat and the buzz and the thick sweat and fresh fruit, good god, I’m travel-sick. Oh, I love the Pac NW but the laid back thrill of being in Vietnam is a feeling that has permeated every bit of my displaced self.

I miss the friendly conversations and the grinning masses of the Vietnamese. Never have I seen such happy people and even in the face of poverty or hunger, their shining smiles and senses of humor brought a suspension of reality, where it didn’t matter how hard things may be because if you can share a laugh, then everything works out.

We have everything here in the States. Everything. Except the realization of value. We don’t know what it’s like to be poor (by poor I mean without possessions) en masse, as an entire society so we have nothing to strive for. Except more possessions. Those who live without luxury understand the earth, those in the dirt know nature and live within it. Those who have multiple bedrooms and televisions don’t know jack sqaut about the earth. (I know, my hunter friends may track and trap, but because you love to, not because you have to.) Have you slept on wood beds and lived in tiny houses with 5 relatives with no running water?

Those I met who didn’t have a lot inside their houses they sure were a happy bunch. Family, laughter, food and friends. No sofas or tables or desks or chairs but they had everything they needed. And for the Vietnamese who do have wealth and fortune, well, they’re chasing us Yankees to see who can have the most gadgets and flash.

Most importantly, I miss the heat in Vietnam. The need to find a cold beverage for mere survival. I miss the availability of fresh foods on the street, miss the balance of meat and vegetable and the sauce and spice, the purity and complexity of a simple meal. The way I’d sweat and groan after climbing a few flights of stairs, the reprieve of the shade and how sitting and watching and talking was at least an hour out of each day.

Sigh.

Huh?

When did shaving become a small investment? $15 for replacement (disposable) razors? Are they insane? They even have them behind a glass case so those with scruff and a volatile mind don’t just stuff a handful of the spendy little bastards down their pants and high tail it out to the wife whose waiting with the motor running.

I love how supermarkets are SUPER. Giant, formidable structures with sprawling ceilings and endless shelves packaged retail and racks of tabloids about fat, skinny, jealous and cheating celebrities. There is a “family friendly” checkout line where there isn’t a tabloid anywhere near it so children don’t see the Reader’s Digest asking “Is Your Child Sexting?” Thank goodness.

Why do girls with big butts insist on wearing pants that not only accentuate but literally advertise their over-juggly posterior? How can one not stare? There is such a big butt that is toned and structurally sound as a stand-alone part of the body that delivers curvy licentiousness but the ones in my neighborhood are jiggling masses of dimples and rolls wrapped in stretch pants or pajama bottoms. Nothing quite like late night cankles thrusting beneath pj’s and onto suffering flip-flops trudging down the Nestle aisle. Maybe property value has a direct relationship with the intensity and solidity of womens’ behinds.

Who started the first bank? Who thought of the idea of having someone leave their money in a building so said money would then be lent to someone else? And then reaping a percentage? Smart fellas, those bankers.

Fog lights. If you have them (they’re the two extra headlights usually just below your regular headlights) and it’s foggy, awesome for you. Crank ’em, I’m all for it. Safety first. But if it’s a normal night, no rain or anything inclement, turn them off because your sizzling xenon ultraviolet terminator headlights are quite enough, you SUV-driving-never-ever-once-put-it-in-4-wheel-drive-you-product-pandering-suburban-monkey, you.

Don’t get me started on turn signals. I drove through California a few years ago and I swear the cars down there just aren’t equipped with them. They got horns though, so who needs little blinky lights?

Are there white people who seriously think that the blacks in America aren’t still being screwed? Wait,  don’t answer that.

I have my first job interview tomorrow for a job I would absolutely covet. I’m nervous but confident, anxious but ready, scared but cool.

Writing is coming at a tougher draw, the stress of finding work is brimming beneath my collar and I’m finding myself escaping with alcohol and hobbies. Yes, hobbies.

Next time someone mentions the weather as a subject of conversation I’m going to reply with something completely fabricated and absolutely heinous like “I just remembered that as a kid I was touched by my scoutmaster,” or “I had my first nocturnal emission this morning.” No one cares that it’s going to be sunny for the next few days but if someone tells you that their father just went to jail for putting bombs under bums then you have a conversation.

Hugs not drugs. Arms are for hugging. Leave the bombs to professionals.