Folks like to say “Keep Portland Weird.”
One of the first people I met in P-town was a fellow in a wonderfully old, tiny shop under the Burnside Bridge. He was screen printing bumper stickers with that now famous phrase.
“This is gonna be huge.” he said.
Everyone in the room was from Texas, he was from Austin.
I like the sentiment but I never thought anyone was weird. Later I would find out that being fascinating is a great way to get yourself classed out of your neighborhood. I arrived in this town after drifting around the U.S.A. for many years. I stayed because it was the reverse of most of what I had seen.
Portland was teeming with critical thinking. I had been searching for a place I didn’t need to be a rebel just to be. Portland was the perfect storm for creating an advanced culture. It’s not religious, it is educated and informed, lots of different kinds of people live here and the TV reception is crap. That's great food for thinking and growing.
I live in a town where you can see several women veiled from head to toe standing next to 6 half naked college girls stretching before a run. It’s colorful but it’s not weird.
To me, weird would be if the college kids breathed hydrogen and the religious ladies knees bent the other way. That would be weird.
I also think “cookie-cutter” culture is very weird. In my adventures I have seen miles and miles of strip malls next to catacombs of endless apartment complexes.
The sprawl is really gross and weird to me. Until I reached Portland, the whole world seemed to be sleep walking. I was a pariah for wanting things that aren’t actually radical desires. Food made out of only sun and mud, no corporate tyranny, and end to religious dumbing down and exploitation of our people, an end to man made environmental catastrophes. I always cared.
When I was still fresh off the boat, I got to witness a “Critical Mass” bike ride.
It was evening and again near the Burnside bridge. First I see a few bikes and hear some ringing bike bells, then it grew. It became a roar. I stood there on my own bike, dumbstruck, hundreds, then thousands of bikes filled my view. They just kept flowing in a wonderful river of humanity. I had never seen that many bikes in my life. They were all there for the same reasons I was there. They were making a stand for the environment and also defending people’s safety from cars to commute by bike. It was very brave of them. I started crying. (fun fact) We used heavy grease paint back then so my tears never actually touched my face. I had to quickly get myself together and get in the mob before it was too late.
We were also surrounded by all flavors of angry Portland police. Bike cops, horse cops, ATV police, squad cars. They saw the whole thing as a traffic violation. I got in close to the end, that’s when I first saw who rolls at the back of a Critical Mass ride, the tall bikes. Tall bicycles? That was weird I will admit. Never imagined I would ever ride one. The giant snake rode randomly all over North west and Downtown Portland.
Folks on the streets hooted and yelled, smiled and waved. Occasionally the cops would catch a small group or two. If any cars got aggro, or dangerous with a cyclist; they were dealt with very harshly by everyone. It's moving to see a hive protect a bee. Everyone felt each others lives were precious. It’s a protest but it’s also a party, a bike show, work out, and community meeting.
It’s all fun and games until the group passes a bridge. The law used to like to wait at the end of a bridge and swoop the whole bottle-neck en-mass. My first time that happened, I squeezed out fast as I could and ran into a quonset hut.
People were having a formal dinner party when all of a sudden a heavy breathing clown burst in with a cammo painted mountain bike. I would have freaked out, they didn't. That was impressive.
They were alarmed at first but they could also see the cops busting kids up through the window. They hid my bike and put a suit jacket on me. I took my cowboy hat off and sat with the back of my head to the window. A line of guys stood in front of me with fancy drinks, laughing and enjoying the cop show. Sooner than I would have thought, the coast was clear. I stayed for a bit longer, smoked weed with them and heard lots of gossip about people I don’t know, then split. I rode home smiling ear to ear.
After all those years on the road; I was comfortable in my clothes, comfortable in my skin, happy with my turf and didn't feel weird.
like what we do?
Visit our page
make a donation, find our next show, see some videos.
It's a great town to be a clown.