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Litefoot is Gary Davis. And Gary Davis is a man with a mission. That mission is to inspire people to get up off the couch and take action.
At the last Mt. Hood Cherokee meeting, our new friend Gary Davis stopped by to share a few words. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Davis spoke about his interesting life story, but the story paled when he drove home a message at the end of his talk, about hope, tenacity, longevity, purpose, action, and faith.
He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma but fell in love with a woman who lived in Seattle. She turned out to be smart and capable, as well as beautiful, and Davis knew that there was something for him in the Pacific Northwest. It helped that he’s a huge Steve Largent (Seahawks) fan. He’s lived in Seattle with his beautiful family (they all came to the meeting too!) since 1997.
Davis took the stage name of Litefoot and began rapping for his friends on the reservation as a teenager. His first rap album was produced in 1992. His music touched a nerve for some and resounded for others, bringing up painful or powerful topics from an Indian’s perspective, in contemporary music. He reached even more people with his first movie in 1995 when he was The Indian in the Cupboard. He added television roles to his movie roles. And all the while he kept making music.
Back in the early days, Davis said, he knew what he wanted to do and he had a meeting with Chief Wilma Mankiller and told her about it. “I knew Oklahoma was not the rap or hip hop capital of the world. What I wanted to do was bring a message to the people. People were hanging their heads. Other people recognize what we have to be proud about that we don’t even realize.” The Chief could have reacted in any number of ways to a young punk making modern music, and she chose to ask him to sing at a function for her. “But there’s one thing,” Mankiller said to him, “I want you to speak.” Davis said he thought he was nobody and had nothing to say, but he did as she asked.
It wasn’t that there was nothing on his mind, but more like too much on his mind. “Things have gone on for so long that people can’t even find a beginning point in order to find something to say. I prayed for the right words and 15 minutes later I stopped talking and people started clapping.” He knew speaking was for him. The high only lasted until the end of a show when a girl met him and demanded, “What did those Pilgrims do to you?” Davis said he thought to himself, “Brother, you have a long way to go. You have people with privilege who don’t even know they’re privileged.”
Since then he rapped in Kodiak, Alaska all the way across the continent to North Dakota and Maine. He was invited to perform in Rome. In 2005, he and his wife Carmen Davis started the Reach the Rez tour, to bring a positive voice to native people. To “get out ahead of drugs and suicide” he told us, “not once something has already taken place.”
Davis is every bit as active as he says people should be. I mean, he walks the talk. His message resonates with me personally. I can get a little uneasy among my Cherokee brothers and sisters, and I begin to feel like an outsider when I don’t find people who think about our heritage the way I do. So many Indians are about spirituality and artistic expression to connect to their indigenous heritage or to send a message. But that mooshy stuff simply doesn’t really resonate with me. I totally get that there is a power in activism through radiating your positive energy into the world. I totally believe that people’s lives are changed through creating or experiencing artwork. But…uhh…it makes no sense at all to me. Listening to Davis made me feel like I belonged again. Here is another one of us, and this man is about practicality and action. I am that kind of Indian.
He told us that someone once gave him a critical message: “No one cares.” We can moan about how poorly our ancestors were treated, or about how hard it is to get ahead now, and how racism and how cultural appropriation weakens our power, but it will not get us anywhere. People have too much going on in their lives to give us their effort and attention, and there are competing stories of need. “I care, because I am one of you,” Davis said. “But in general, people just don’t care.”
The answer is to become your own change. Do something. Volunteer, help build a home, help get legislation passed so that kids have access to better education. “I’m willing to think outside the box. It may not be the most comfortable for me, but I do what has to be done, in order to make it happen. People sometimes only see you for how they see themselves. They’ll say ‘We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.’ or ‘Nobody has done that.’ But don’t let their words limit you.”
“If it doesn’t speak to you; if it doesn’t resonate with you like you’re on fire, then get out of there! What is it that you’ve been born for? I love education, but it’s not the be-all end-all for everybody. What’s your thing? We need to know our own value. We need to know how brilliant we are.
“So many of us, so many Indians, have important things to do and we need to get out of our own way. Sometimes people live their lives as though on accident. Ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ If it is just about checking the box, it’s not the right reason. We are who we’ve been waiting for. There’s nobody coming, man. It’s up to us. We’re good enough to do this. We’re capable enough.
“We weren’t still supposed to be here in 2017. We were supposed to shrivel up and go away and die. Most of America doesn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning and see that we are still here. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Are we gonna sit here and talk about what they don’t do for hundreds and hundreds more years, or are we gonna do something?
“You can make excuses, or make a way. Just start. Take a step.”
Litefoot is working on his 12th album, scheduled to be released June 27th on the birthday of Warrior Kai McAlpin. This sweet little Cherokee tyke was sick with cancer on the day Davis spoke to us, and died three days later. It allowed us to hear Davis say “Kai is…” and we thought of Kai that day, alive and loved in Oklahoma.
I live 47 miles from Astoria, Oregon. It’s a lovely town at the mouth of the Columbia River, sheltered a couple miles in from the Pacific Ocean by a serious sand bar and Cape Disappointment (
There are three stories I want to tell you. 1) The story itself: the real life nation-building story. 2) The play about the story, which somehow totally works! 3) The Armory, the building hosting the play.
I entered the theatre with a virgin understanding of the journey about to unfold. That is, no understanding. I had learned, in the course of reading a brief synopsis while buying my tickets, that the man who financed the expedition to found Astoria was John Jacob Astor. And in that way, two weeks ago, I learned how the town got its name. That should illustrate the level of not knowing the story I’m talking about.
Over the next 3 hours I began to realize it’s a *monumental* story of how my part of the North American continent became the United States instead of Russian territory, or British, or Canadian. Before the play I could tell you more about the founder of the McDonald’s franchise than I could about the early explorers of Oregon, because we are products of what we’re fed through media. Why oh why aren’t we fed the good and healthy stuff?
The play is based on the book by the same name, written by Peter Stark. It’s set mostly in 1810. Astor was a wealthy German immigrant who wanted to become more wealthy by capitalizing on the fabulous otter pelts that rumor had it were there for the taking on the Pacific Coast. From his home in New York City, Astor arranged for two separate approaches to the Columbia River: one by land and one by sea. Back then, the sea route was by way of Cape Horn, Chile. Remarkably, the sailors got there first. The time pressure is a plot point, since whomever establishes the first trading post will control the fur markets on the west coast and will certainly have access to the most wealth. Astor is constantly fretting about news that the French might beat him to the prize.
Hundreds of people joined his expeditions, including men from Scotland, Hawaii, Quebec, Ireland, and England who joined the original Americans on the teams. And original, original Americans (indigenous people) contributed further to the survival of those who did make it to the destination. Because yes, many people died along the way, including the two Hawaiians who froze to death trying to cross the bar into the Columbia River. They were not the only men who died at the bar, in the shadow of Cape Disappointment. Remember I said “foreshadowing?”
What’s remarkable, and irresistible, about this story, is how much went spectacularly wrong. Many people died by accident, and some were killed. Two went insane. Often people fought with each other, and hated each other. Miraculous are the repeated incidences of survival in the snow, survival from starving, survival from drowning, from raging ocean storms. Though catastrophes don’t always result, there was always a threat: of mutiny, getting lost, scalped, abandoned.
Chris Coleman, the artistic director, pulled off magic with that stage. One set, mind you – with occasional backdrops – conveyed a ship on the open sea, or a wealthy fur-merchant’s home, or a frontier fort, or a camp in steep mountains, beside a creek. We got up close and personal with four people rowing a boat, we listened to quiet conversation among the bunks below deck of the ship, we huddled close to the fire and tried not to feel hungry while a trapper told a story, we gasped in despair when three provisioned boats smashed and were lost in a river, and we watched while travelers reluctantly slid from their horses to continue on foot. All one set, and it worked. Like I said: magic.
Scenes with all actors on the deck of the ship were convincing partly because everyone swayed in unison with the waves. We soon learned that tables can be anything, often boats. I enjoyed the artistic creativity throughout, such as when Astor meets with three potential leaders of the excursions. All three are on stage at the same time, in points making a triangle. As each one leaves the meeting with Astor, they rotate until another is before Astor.
More magic: 16 members of the cast! Just imagine how many people you would need to portray the multiple journeys (one by sea with all the crew to run a ship, the overland party split into two, and still Astor remained in New York), and then imagine only 16 people bringing it to life. It’s a tribute to the quality of the actors that they were able to pull this off, switching back and forth between dramatically different characters, such as when Leif Norby starts as John Jacob Astor but becomes a crusty, bearded Frontiersman Edward Robinson, and back and forth. DeLanna Studi is introduced as Astor’s elegant wife, then becomes a pregnant Indian woman, then switches back. The accents switched from thick Scottish to Kentucky backwoods to prim English to French to German. Wow! I’ll interject my only criticism here: impressed as I am by the ability of the actors to do this, it was distracting to look into their faces and recognize other characters. This was amplified because I was in the front row and so close I could discern crow’s feet. I think at a distance it would not have been such a problem for me.
Action never stopped, and even the slow moments were tense or foreboding. In real life the years-long journey was a grueling series of hardships day after day, but on stage the successes and catastrophes rode each other’s heels, barely allowing an audience-member’s heart to settle in between. Amidst the hardest times in life, humans manage to find a way to laugh at their circumstances, and thus we had a not insignificant number of funny moments, such as when a couple of Frenchmen gazing at sharp mountain peaks began comparing them to breasts (“Grand teton” is large breasts, in French, and we can only imagine our travelers must have been in Wyoming about then).
Surprisingly, there was a lot of singing, though it was not a musical. I found this to be very effective support to enriching the scenes, helping us to be back in time with the actors, and helping us to understand the cultures blending on stage. One funny example was during a scene with many people rowing a boat and singing to keep the cadence. It was one of those classic tunes that multiple countries claim, with their own lyrics, and the rowers from different lands were competing for which was the “correct” version of the song, with good-natured and rowdy aggression, singing louder and louder like sports fans arguing over favourite teams.
At long last the overland parties reunite and find the Columbia River (though not yet its mouth). Captain Thorn sends enough sailors to the bar that eventually some of them live to find the entrance into the river. And that’s the end of part one! We have to wait until Portland Center Stage presents next year’s performances, to find out what happens in the end. In the meantime, I’m going to read the book.
I mentioned earlier that the performance was about 3 hours, but that includes a nice long intermission halfway through. Before the show I had admired some of the structure of the old brick building, called the Armory, and at intermission I investigated further.
The brick structure appears castle-like from the street, but it’s hard to get a good look at it because it’s downtown in the Pearl District and surrounded by tall buildings. Inside, I saw that the entire expanse is open: no support beams the length of it. There are two levels, but the second level is merely a balcony, a mezzanine level, that surrounds the open lobby with places to sit and chat, or look out the window. So I looked out the windows, which are bonafide rifle slits – glassed in and wood-framed, ha ha – leaving no doubt about the military origins of the building. I walked right up and put my hands on the bricks. Something about touching something helps me connect to the proper time and place to understand it.
So many bits were intriguing to me that I had questions about its construction, and sought out the concierge. I asked for an information brochure.
“We have a book, if you want,” he said. “It’s a regular, bound book, all about this building. We give them to people who are particularly interested.”
It was the most serendipitous outcome of a random question that I’ve had in some time. The man walked off, and returned moments later holding a large, gorgeous, illustrated, full-colour, 192-page book about how a crumbling and abandoned former military armory became a modern theatre. In fact, that’s the name of the book: “Voices of the Armory: A Chronicle of the Transformation of a 19th century icon into a 21st century theater.”
“Here you go!” he said, obviously pleased to hand it over. “It’s free! I think you’ll love it. I have one and I love it.”
The show was originally supposed to run through February 12th, but was so successful that the run was extended. If you are in Portland, you can still see it, and you should! Look for it at https://www.pcs.org/ Tickets are available through February 19th.
I am proud to say that I was among them.
I’ve had the edited photos sitting on my desktop since the evening of the 21st. Waiting to be posted, and shared. Waiting to spread that energetic joy and solidarity. I began an effervescent post that day, in my heady, giddy evening, finally thawed and dry again. I was too tired to finish it that night, but this is part of what I wrote:
“I joined what event organizers estimate was 100,000 people who turned out in the cold rain to support inclusivity of all people, and mostly women. I saw thousands of Pussy Hats (on men too!), which I had never even heard of prior to arriving, but soon enjoyed the joke with everyone else. I got totally soaked and my fingers became so frozen I couldn’t even operate the camera function on my iPhone anymore, and missed some good shots, and through it all, I was laughing. And the men and women next to me were laughing. And the police were smiling at us. And the bystanders on the sidewalks were smiling and waving, and some of them were singing to us. Singing! Women’s voices lifted in spiritually bolstering sounds of protest songs.
Downtown Portland was jammed. Shoulder to shoulder, and you-could-poke-an-eye-out with that umbrella, jammed. When it was time to start the march, at noon, the police escort vehicles could not get from the organizer’s stand to the front of the crowd to begin the march. Their lights flashing, they inched forward and people smooshed aside, and we did not begin marching till 1:00pm. There were so many people that when I was all done marching, and in the Jeep running the heater to get warm and dry again, people were still under the Morrison Bridge, waiting for the press of people to thin so that they could begin their march.”
…and on January 22nd, the wind was knocked out of my sails. And I was so angry I began a second post, which still sits in my WP drafts folder, filled with damned good reasons why I’m angry. Because I, personally, have been attacked by my own President (because I’m female, a veteran, mother of a transgender child, a person with disability), and then explaining how all of us were not only ignored the next day, but shown an enormous orange middle finger. Not only was the administration working as fast as possible to repeal a plan to reform our nation’s health care system, but the President’s immediate reaction to our exquisitely clear message (i.e. women’s issues are important to many, many of us, and it is so important that we need our country’s leaders to know it), was to wipe out U.S. assistance to overseas organizations that provide healthcare and counseling to include family planning. Read: women’s health issues.
No attempt to acknowledge that there were millions of us asking for the total opposite. No explanation for why we were ignored. And just to make it perfectly clear, an executive decision that was a resounding slap in the face. “Here’s what I think of women’s issues, and of your opinions, bitches.”
After an event that manifested into so much more than promised, after it spread not only to all parts of the U.S., but to places around the world, our movement should have been undeniable. The polite and democratic – and LOUD – message from men, women, and children of America should have been undeniable. That is, undeniable to anyone whose finger is on the pulse of current events; anyone who realizes that leaders are supposed to reflect the voice of the people. And the one man we were trying to poke doesn’t have those qualities, apparently.
Though I use this blog to post my soapbox rants periodically, that day I didn’t. I was seething, and I do not want to spread that nasty energy out into the world, so I couldn’t post. My anger turned to sadness and disillusionment with time, and I still did not want to send that out. I love you. I want to share my perspective, but I do not want to stir up your darkness just because mine is stirred. Yes… sometimes I do it anyway… but I like it best when I can cool off first before spouting off.
See look, it might be relevant background information to know I just finished reading Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance. Wouk methodically tracked, month by month, the devastating sweep of dictatorship in WWII. The gradual shift from one man’s delusions of grandeur to his psychotic reign of terror. The hesitant but acquiescing actions of first a political body, then a nation, and then the neighboring countries of Europe, remorsefully handing over their citizens because it was easier than pissing off Hitler. I saw how possible it was then (and could be now) for so many people to help him with his goals, and how many of them had facts right in front of their faces, but instead yelled about lies spread by the opposition! I’m telling you, I was freaking out. I sort of still am.
But the people of the world are shining their light and it turned me around. This is 2017, not 1941, and maybe some of us remember history. The day that turned it over for me was January 27th, when the President signed another executive order, banning entrance to the US for anyone from seven specific countries. Almost immediately, lawyers were rushing to airports, actively looking for people in need, pro bono.
I lifted my head and realized that a lot of people were still just as loud about human rights today as they were last month, or in November, or last summer. People are on fire, and the fire is not going out!
There is organized opposition to the confirmation of various people selected to run our government, particularly Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, and Scott Pruitt for Environment Secretary. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates declined to support Trump’s immigration ban. And was fired. When the administration enacted a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency, halting all action on projects in progress, removing information from their website related to climate change and emissions, and banning all communication with outsiders, memos were leaked, and staff of the EPA began immediately sharing their stories on a personal level to make sure the information got out anyway. Local activists on the city level began using Tea Party tactics as a guide to mount a different resistance. These are just a few stories off the top of my head.
I don’t know the facts of all of these issues, so I can’t endorse the arguments of the opposition but I DO endorse the opposition itself. I am not in the let’s-give-him-a-chance camp. Not one bit. The buffoon has already made it clear that I, Crystal, have no value to him, and so my response is in kind. When my leader proudly announces that he refuses to lead me with honor to the best of his ability, then I owe nothing to that leader. Our job, as democratic citizens, is to watch his every move like hawks. And to come down hard when something is illegal or counter to American values that we are famous for: freedom from religious persecution, equality for all citizens, progress, and engagement. And when we can’t fight him directly like Sally Yates did, then we will have to settle for annoying him and jamming sticks into the spokes of his demagogic mechanisms.
I do have a little hope now. Maybe you do too. Please enjoy these photos from the march. It was *pouring* rain the whole entire time, and it was so cold. If it had been a little colder, it would have been snowing, and then we would not have all been soaked to the core. But despite the wretched weather, spirits did not seem dampened at all! There were thousands of women, and thousands of men, and people with no gender at all. There were people using wheelchairs. And people on prosthetic legs, and people who couldn’t see. And people who didn’t speak English. People who weren’t old enough to talk yet, and people so old they had seen this all before, a hundred times, and were responsible for some of the rights we hold today. People were holding BLACK LIVES MATTER signs, ACLU signs, and people holding signs in Hebrew and Russian and Arabic and Chinese, that I couldn’t read. One in Spanish I could read: Somos Uno (We Are All One!).
Half of them were wearing Pussy Hats, which I had never even heard of before that day. I could tell the hats looked like they had cat ears, and I got it right away, because my President was caught on camera joking about grabbing women’s pussies. When told it is offensive, his response shows that he thinks we’re overreacting. Basically implying that boys will be boys. So it turns out, zillions of people found the knitting instructions online, and made these caps in all colours, but mostly in pink, and men, women, babies, and police officers, and group organizers, and everyone was wearing them. Many people held signs that said, “Pussy Grabs Back!”
Two favourite signs of the day: Babies Against Bigots! It was pinned to the coat of an infant being carried in a backpack on her father’s chest. The other said “I know signs. I make the best signs. They’re terrific. Everyone agrees.”
What did women achieve that day? (And men. Do me a favour and skim all those photos and notice the men in every one) Oh gosh, I just don’t know. What was it all for? Were we only preaching to the choir? At least I spoke up, but it doesn’t seem enough. And I feel too small to do more. But my hopes are up again, and I still have my voice, and I’ll continue to use it.
I was invited to my very first Portland Timbers game last weekend. The Timbers are a soccer club in Major League Soccer. There is a waiting list for Timbers season tickets, and most of the individual tickets are already sold out for the year. Because of this, getting invited to the game was a pretty big deal.
However, that’s not the reason I was thrilled to have a chance to attend. We all know the game is called futbol to everyone else in the world, soccer to those of us in the U.S. I bring that comparison up intentionally, because here we do something else that is common around the rest of the world, but rare in the U.S.: Portland hosts some ferociously enthusiastic soccer fans. They call themselves the Timbers Army. I had been invited, not merely to the game but to join the Army, and it was an opportunity to experience ultimate soccer fandom. The Timbers Army is kinda famous. I read about them in Sports Illustrated in 2009. Yeah, a story about the fans.
So we go, and we sit in the north section of the stadium where the Army has taken over. Thirty minutes before the start of the game, the Army section is already packed, people cheering, flags waving, and the rest of the stadium has barely begun to fill up. You can see this in the photo at the top: a clear line of delineation between regular fans and the Army.
Let me take a tiny step back from the scene for a second. My degrees from Brandeis are in cultural anthropology. Even before that, at College of the Redwoods in northern California, I had studied cultural anthropology, and over the years gained experience in conducting ethnographies. This is when you, an outsider, try so hard to understand a community that you actually join them. You do what they do, in their environment, in an attempt to gain their perspective. While I stood there in the stands at Providence Park, surrounded by roaring and chanting and drumming fans, I was constantly thinking of ethnography. The group is rich with things to study.
First of all, the chants got my attention. Listen here as they yell “When I root I root for the Timbers!”
You’ll also notice both hands go in the air, in a sort of genuflection. However, the position of the hands can be a little tricky. As a friend explained to me at one point, “You have to make sure you’re holding your beer in your right hand during this one, because you don’t want to be doing the Nazi salute.”
Down in front of the stands are the capos, like cheerleaders, who get the crowd hyped up, on their feet, and howling in unison for over 90 minutes without ceasing. Everyone around me knew every song by heart. There are particular songs sung at key points in the game, according to action on the field or minutes on the clock. Fans sing songs and cheers borrowed from futbol around the world, and the ensuing roar is nearly overwhelming. They do not. stop. yelling. Not for the entire game, and for some time after it is over and the teams leave the field. Fans immediately call out players faking injuries, rolling around on the ground. They see error in every single call by an official against a Timbers player, and justification in every single call against the opposing team. They see unwarranted aggression whenever the other team gains an advantage. They scream with approval when their own team does the same. Put it all together and the energy is outrageously fun. And loud.
There are so many rituals that I couldn’t keep track of them all. Key to so much of it are the scarves, worn by nearly every single person in the stands (I was able to borrow Tara’s and thus had my uniform). The scarves say Timbers Army on one side and No Pity on the other, and are held into the air in unison to send the appropriate message. Some cheers require scarves to be flipped vertically, some call for spinning scarves, sometimes we only had to hold them up to display. The scarves also come in handy when a smoke bomb is released after a goal, and you need to cover your mouth and nose.
Another fun ritual after a goal is when Timber Joe saws a piece off a huge log. After cutting the slice, Timber Joe passes the wooden disc through the crowd so people can touch it. At the end of the game, players lift the discs while the crowd erupts.
They borrow a lot from European futbol fans, including the tifo, which is a big visual display of support from the people in the seats. It’s often done with cards, with flags, and as you see here, with an enormous banner. People have drums and trumpets (I was waiting for vuvuzelas, and surprised not to hear any). The flags are waving constantly, also seen in the photo. People brought in green and white paper streamers, and thousands of people gratefully took programs and brochures at the door, and began tearing them into pieces. I saw all around me hats upturned in laps, filled with torn paper, and pockets being jammed with paper, and it took a long time but YES, you guessed it: confetti filled the air at the first goal. In minutes, people swept up much of the paper in the stands and filled their hats again, awaiting the next goal.
The game was tied in the end: an odd end for me, since I’m used to games that require a winner. The Timbers failed to make the most of an extraordinary advantage, when the Salt Lake City team was down one player (11 vs. 10) for much of the game, and down two players (11 vs. 9) for several minutes at the end. We only managed two goals (not counting the beautiful one at the beginning of the game, which didn’t count due to a penalty). It wasn’t for lack of trying, as the marquee pronounced 26 attempts in the second half of the game alone.
One final ritual was when wives of the players brought their children out to them for the closing ceremonies.
Ok, if your interest is piqued, you’ve got to see the following video from The Daily. It’s only 4 minutes and does a great job of showing the fanaticism I’m trying to describe. Well done.
A couple weeks ago I attended the Rainier tree-lighting ceremony. It was a small affair. My new community of Rainier is pretty tiny. Its heyday was when the Trojan Nuclear Facility was running, which lasted until the plant was closed in 1993. Rumor has it that the TV show The Simpsons modeled their nuclear plant after this one, which makes sense, since so many Simpsons characters are named after streets in Portland. When the nuclear plant shut down, the town of Rainier slowly began to disintegrate. It still exists because of the logging industry, with multiple mills on the Longview, Washington side of the Columbia River (two largest employers there are Weyerhaeuser and Kapstone, timber/paper companies). But it’s not enough to keep a town thriving, so my home of Rainier is understated and I can almost see it shrinking.
The indefatigable citizens organized a caroling event and tree-lighting on the steps of the impressive City Hall building. It’s the only impressive building in town. The tree appears newly planted, and is about 8 feet high and not quite grown into its oversized decorations. About 30 of us stood on the sidewalk along Highway 30 in the rain, and listened to Christmas carols.
Soon the city fire engine pulled up next to us, and Santa himself climbed out. The kids all broke into a rousing version of Santa Claus is Coming To Town, and Santa helped sing. When the song was over, Santa led us in a countdown, and the lights of the tree came on at our command.
Then everyone hurried inside and out of the rain. Kids got in line to talk to Santa, grownups grabbed hot cocoa and cookies to wait for the kids. There was a long table piled with donated goods from local businesses. Each person who walked through the door got a raffle ticket and so everyone stayed to see if they won anything good.
This waiting around took a long time, and I entertained myself by wandering the main hall of the City Hall. There are historic photos on the walls and I was delighted to discover that one of the largest original industries in the town was the Rainier Soap Factory, providing critical employment for women as well as men.
Finally, Santa was done talking to the kids and assisted with the raffle. I won a little basket with a stuffed animal and some Christmas dishes, but traded it with the next door neighbor girl for a squirrel magnet. Squirrels are my favourite.
I also found an old photo of the City Hall (not very good, so I didn’t include it here) with interesting bits from the back of the photo posted beside it on the wall. “The new City Hall. The American Legion post here was given the privilege of obtaining two cannons, which in a moment of enthusiasm they decided would be fine placed at either side of the entrance to City Hall. It didn’t seem like such a good idea after they were installed, so they were moved to the grounds of the new High School on Nob Hill (1926).
“In the building, provisions were made for a hall above for the American Legion. Also for the library on the east side.
“Bord Kegh, carpenter, built the fire bell tower to the south east side of the building (1922). On Sunday morning, young Robert McKinley (1925) begged the janitor of the Methodist Church across the street for special permission to ring the church bell for Sunday School. In his youthful enthusiasm, he rang it with such vim and vigour that he called out the fire department – the bell tones were similar.”
My first question about those notes from the back of the photo is “Why was it a bad idea to have cannons at City Hall, but a better idea to have the cannons at the High School?” I’m also curious about the timeline, since it appears that the fire bell tower was built in 1922, but the cannons weren’t removed till 1926. Apparently it took years for the bad idea to be discovered. And finally, look at that vigour: Americans in the 1920s also used the British spellings, just like me. Maybe I’m channeling my inner frontierswoman.
It wasn’t the flashiest Christmas party I’ve ever been to, but it was a good night because I visited my City Hall and learned some great little tidbits about the building and my town’s history. These are the kinds of things to make a person feel more connected to her home.
A favourite September tradition in Portland is to gather on a grassy hillside and wait for sundown. As dusk settles, Vaux’s Swifts come in from miles around and gather to descend into a brick chimney for the night.
Tara and I invited J, who had never heard of it, and we didn’t tell him what was going on. We just said, “Meet us at Chapman School. Parking will be hard to find, but when you’re parked, come to the top of the hill behind the school. There will be lots of people and blankets on the grass. We’ll be looking for you.”
This is one of the events that reminds me of the very best of human nature. We humans love to gather with friends and family and enjoy the shared awe of an event. It’s particularly special when the event is a gift from nature, and nothing that we can control. In those cases, all we can do is sit back and smile and soak up the atmosphere, and be glad to be alive. It reminded me of the warm evening I spent on South Mountain outside Phoenix.
Please read my other post about the swifts from 2007, the first time we had ever seen it, to get more information about what’s going on here. Vaux’s swifts are migratory, and have several roosting areas near Portland. The most famous is the Chapman School chimney. Once the school’s heating system was converted, the chimney was no longer used by the school, but has been kept in good repair specifically for the swifts, who roost there at night, since they can’t perch.
The show doesn’t start till the sun goes down, and during the waning light hours, families poured in. Volunteers walked around to answer questions, and pronounced it Vox (I had been saying it wrong). The volunteer we talked to had a little plastic box that held a dead swift, so we could see one up close. The children were mesmerized by the tiny bird and did not want to relinquish the box, once they held it. Voices from hundreds of people swelled with laughing and calling to each other, as well as the squeals of the kids sledding down the steep grassy hill on flattened cardboard boxes. With the gathering darkness came the gathering swifts, and we were able to hear their high-pitched chirping as they circled above us.
There was a large bird perched on the edge of the chimney most of the afternoon, and it was deterring the swifts from descending into it. The volunteer confirmed for us that it was a Cooper’s hawk, a predator with an excellent hunting spot. The sky grew darker and still the birds did not enter the chimney. I grew impatient and finally told J what we were waiting for.
It was exciting to anticipate the conclusion of the building drama, since more and more tiny birds formed a circling cloud overhead. They whirled like debris in a dust devil, waaay up into the sky, and then spiraling down down down as though into a drain. But… approaching the mouth of the chimney was too great a risk, and they dove past and shot out to the horizon again.
Then! The hawk launched from the chimney and struck and captured a swift. Immediately about ten other swifts chased it away and the crowd cheered. Now it would begin.
The cloud of birds formed their chirping funnel cloud and streamed into the chimney for a long time. More and more dropped inside, with every set of human eyes entranced and kids hooting in excitement. I took a few photos then put down the camera and watched (me with my mouth open, I am sure). When all but a few dozen birds were safely tucked in for the night, the crowd clapped and began picking up their blankets, and hugging each other goodbye.
I hope you enjoy the videos below. I was holding the camera in my hands and not very steady, which makes it hard to watch. In the second one, the Cooper’s hawk is still on the edge of the chimney. Small groups of swifts head down, then veer off to the side, not entering. In the last video, the hawk is gone and the birds head in.
Today I noticed the Kumoricon folder in my September photos on my computer and realized you haven’t seen these great photos yet. My deepest apologies.
Without further ado: Kumoricon 2015
Long time readers will be familiar with our annual foray into bringing anime alive through cosplay (costume play). As in years past, the characters selected do not stay within the anime realm alone, but cover any kind of popular thing that can be found online or in print. Well…one guy came as an enormous raindrop, so really, come as you are.
Kumoricon is the name of the three-day anime convention that is held each year in Vancouver, Washington over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Once again the gathering has grown too large for the venue, and the 2016 convention is destined for the Convention Center in Portland. Tara has been going every year as a participant, and I go to see how many fabulous characters I can photograph.
I am terrible at recognizing which characters are being represented, but Tara is a pro. I showed Tara one of my photos, and they said: “Oh that’s Pacha’s wife. You know, from Emperor’s New Groove.” I have watched that movie two dozen times and did not realize that’s who I was looking at. And when I looked, I saw she had done a remarkable job with the costume, and was perfect for it, since the woman I photographed was heavily pregnant, as is Pacha’s wife in the movie.
When I do recognize the character, it increases my pleasure a million times. Like this one below. Hands down, my absolute FAVOURITE from the day I was there. It’s Garnet, from Steven Universe. As if you can’t tell with a split second glimpse. As if!
One thing I love about this convention is that it often catches innocent townspeople by surprise. They are usually delighted (sometimes scared), and pull out their phones to take pictures so that they can prove to the people at home that they really did see it. Kumoricon is across the street from Esther Short Park and the park becomes a logical place for the cosplayers to hang out and play games and eat lunch. Mario and Luigi (Mario videogames) might toss a volleyball with Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony) and Godzilla, and Spiderman might share a pizza with Naruto, and some Homestuck trolls. Local people will ride through on bikes, or stop at the Farmer’s Market – also held in the park – and their eyes widen with amazement.
These young people spend months putting their cosplays together, and will typically have a different one for each day, and often an extra for the “ball,” held after hours for 18+. When I wander through with my camera, they are eager to pose for a photo. They will stop in the midst of anything when I approach, and I think it’s because they see the photography as validation for everything they have done to prepare. Tara says there are a lot of complaints for when people take pictures without asking, so I always ask. But that’s my MO in any case. I try to get the pictures up on my flickr page as soon as possible, because these kids will hit their hotel rooms in the evening, and scan the Internet looking for pictures of themselves. During anime and comic conventions, my flickr views go up by thousands.
We live an hour away from the city now (Vancouver and Portland straddle the Columbia River), so Tara spent four days with friends of mine who live in Vancouver to make it easier to get back and forth. I was only able to make the trek once, so my photos are from a single wet day.
Tara is applying for scholarships. We are both interested in as much financial assistance as possible. Oregon State University is not the most expensive school, and there is in-state tuition, but the fact remains that college is startlingly expensive for regular folks like us.
Here’s one from dosomething.org: Thank You cards for wildlife rangers.
Students make cards for wildlife rangers who are involved with protecting endangered species. The theme of the cards must be from the list of key species, including elephants, marine turtles, tigers, giant pandas, and rhinocerouses. Rhinoceri. Rhinocerim. Rhinos.
For every two cards a person submits, their name is entered into a drawing one time. There is a limit of 10 cards, and therefore 5 chances to win. The prize is a $10,000 scholarship. Totally worth the effort!
Tara and I and a friend got together at a coffee shop and brought art supplies and pulled up images of endangered species on our smart phones… and started drawing.
Drawing is slow work. Luckily, Tara already had a bunch of elephant block prints from last year’s art class. I aboslutely love this elephant. You’ve seen it previously, on my Good Things Jar (where it remains, of course). There were several other versions of the same elephant in Tara’s art folder, so they cut them up and pasted them to handmade cards.
I have called myself an artist for a long time, but I don’t prove it to myself often enough. I consider my writing an art, and my photography is an art. The way I think about the world is through an artists eyes and ears. But look, I can draw too! (I drew the rhino) And look what Tara can do! (Tara drew the tiger) We went in jointly on the sea turtle – Tara drew the first draft, and I finished up the details and did the colours. After the fact, it occurred to me that we had just copied a copyright image (Crush from Finding Nemo), so I made the turtle purple and yellow in a weak attempt to say “This is not Crush, this is a different turtle.” Our friend did the other sea turtle, insisting that all he could do was stick figures, and look how good it turned out!
Cross your fingers for us in getting a few scholarships this year to help soften the blow.
P.S. Last minute addition below. We discovered that we had only 10 cards, so Tara quickly folded a scrap piece of paper in half and handed it to me. Since it was small, I thought just a face would have to suffice.
My lovely friend at Appleton Avenue nominated Conscious Engagement for the Sunshine Blogger Award! On this rainy October morning, a sunshine blog post is the perfect choice. Receiving a nomination is humbling and I know I can never fully convey my appreciation that someone would take the time to validate what I’ve been doing here at Word Press. My thanks will come out all jumbled and silly. It’s just… well… it’s so neat. The best I can do is graciously accept.
So thank you Appleton Avenue!! I love your blog for the way you convey your spirit, your honesty, you bravery in baring your real and personal life for all the world to see. You’ve got an irreverent streak that is irresistible to me.
The last time I was nominated for an award, I did some research to find out more about it. I like the way that post went, and was prepared to begin my next foray into researching blogger peer awards. I was stopped in my tracks by the very first post I read, in which Jo, my newly discovered blogger-of-like-mindedness, did all the investigation for me. This is what she found on her post, Blogger to Blogger Awards: The Sunshine Award Unveiled:
It appears that the Liebster Blogging Award and the Sunshine award may have been the same award at one time. I tracked posts to 2008 that had them intermingled. It’s not clear when they split off into distinctive threads but clearly it happened. The purpose of the ‘award’ hasn’t shifted too much over the years. It is essentially a virtual ‘pat on the back’ for a positive or creative blog that inspires others or brings ‘sunshine’ to their world. Typically it appears to originate from one post that really ‘shines’ on that person’s day.
Jo explains the downsides of blogger awards, including their similarity with chain letters, and the upsides, like online networking. And of course, I can’t ignore the greatest benefit, which is the opportunity to pat another blogger on the back and say, “Hey, I dig what you’re doing here.” Read the rest of Jo’s post, and get all the finer details.
Like every blog award, there are a set of rules. I especially like the part where I get to list 10 interesting things about myself. I am the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac, and I tend to enjoy being the one making all the noise in the center of the circle, ha ha. In fact, that can be interesting fact number one.
I am also able to nominate others for the blogger award. The rules contained in the nomination I received say it like this:
- Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award – “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
It’s not my style to nominate. But as I did the last time, I am eager to share with you the blogs I do like to read. In that way I can let the hosts know that they’ve made a positive impact on my life. Also, isn’t the word “blogosphere” kind of fun and spacey?
Ten things about me:
- I’m a Rooster (see above)
- I almost never make good French Toast, despite the fact that I can prepare a lot more complicated meals with ease. Can anything be more simple to cook, I ask you?
- I prefer audiobooks read by people with a British accent.
- I’m adamant about proper punctuation and spelling, so much so that when I read poorly written correspondence, I judge the person who wrote it more than I judge the content (I’m terrible, I know). If you find mistakes in my blogs, please tell me so I can edit. Except for the ellipses… I can’t help myself with those.
- I still miss my mom.
- I’m scared to death of riding a bike in traffic. I live in one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, and people are always saying how I should bike because it wouldn’t hurt my bad knee so much and because it’s easy exercise, and good for the environment. But I remain irrationally afraid that the moment I’m on a road, I’ll be squashed by a car.
- I can still sing the jingle “Two all beef patties, special sauce…” by heart.
- My 17-year-old just registered to vote, and it was not my idea. I’m so proud.
- I love eating sweet stuff with my coffee, but can’t stand sweet stuff in my coffee. That’s weird. Right?
- I have house baggage. My next house must have a bathroom that will allow me to extend my arms in any direction (or better: two of them!), countertops high enough so I don’t get back pain while washing the dishes (are typical people really that short?), and a kitchen that can hold at least four people. At once. Without hugging. I know that exposes the spoiled American that I am, but there it is: I want a bigger place.
Blogs that I really enjoy reading:
- The Crazy Bag Lady @ Bulan Lifestyle (you saw that one coming!) But check this out: She found my blog because of my post about the other award, and we’ve been following each other since. Evidence that blogging awards are a force for good.
- A Tramp In the Woods. This blog is fun every single day. Fodrambler’s spectacular micro photos of insects are captivating, and his thirst for knowledge about all the woods-dwelling life forms would make even a teenager excited about science. Every topic is packed with fabulous information and non-stop wit. The guy can be hilarious.
- Nicholas Andriani writes about his travels. And specifically, about one amazing time abroad in which he explored north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East. He cares about the world and illuminates it with his skilled writing.
- Monochromia is a photography website for black and white photos. Together, this group of contributors display ridiculously good B&W photos. The photos are surprisingly varied and all remarkable. It’s a beautiful medium to display their art.
- Ram On is a great place to get one person’s take on “what it all means in a global sense.” Bruce writes extremely well and somehow manages to find a baseball analogy to nearly every story. His posts are thorough and thoughtful and exhibit his engagement with life.
- Corners of the World is without question a window into some corners of the world you didn’t realize you have been wanting to see. Aanchal simply exudes joy and a spirit of exploration as she describes beautiful places and documents her wild adventures.
Six is a good start, yes?
One more thing I need to say: I am writing this post because I realize I am delinquent on acknowledging blogger awards. AppletonAve is only the first blogger to nominate, and there are two more nominations in the queue. I have procrastinated in the hopes of doing them justice, and if you are one of those other two bloggers please know you are not forgotten.
I thank you – all of the people who are reading, and all of you who are blogging – and wish continued exploration for you in both the physical world and among this beautiful community of netizens.
An example of how my world is larger because of blogging: I’ve been watching this flower grow against the foundation of my neighbor’s house, and I can’t help but imagine it sketched by The Crazy Bag Lady over at Bulan Lifestyle.
The Crazy Bag Lady’s posts are filled with her delights and inspirations and many beautiful sketches. She will sketch anything that catches her fancy, but my favourites are the micro views of plants and flowers.
Some people are naturally inclined to see connections in life. It can be an irresistible game to play – a perpetual mind puzzle – to absorb as much as possible and then to link pieces together and look for patterns. My Tara has been doing it since the toddler days, and at first I thought it was an unlikely skill to have learned from such a young age. But the more I think about it, the more I think that appreciating connections isn’t learned but intrinsic to our character. It will blossom when embraced. Some people (myself included) delightedly blurt out connections we discover, even while people nearby aren’t playing the game. 🙂
This flower embodies the qualities I notice in The Crazy Bag Lady’s sketches: haphazard petals, white like the pages of her moleskine notebook, bending stems, delicate and proud stamens in an orange circle like a sunburst. The longer I live, the more intricately my web of connections is spun, now linking me to this flower (and soon only the memory of it), and a lovely lady far away, who expresses her joy in life through her art.