Zoned Out in Zone 2

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After posting about emergency preparedness, I spotted a poster one afternoon on my way home from work. Hmmmmm, Zone 2?

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If a nuclear blast hit downtown Portland… Wait a minute. I’m already invested in worrying about an impending earthquake. Do I really need to consider a nuclear blast? Unless somehow really has it out for Mayor Hales and Councilman Novick, I’d like to think we’re safe from a good old atom bomb bombing. I had to consider what the sign meant by Zone 2.

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Okay so if I’m in Zone 2, I have lung hemmorhage and third degree burns to look forward to. This sign was spotted at least a couple of miles from downtown so perhaps I don’t have to consider moving to East Portland yet. I think I may worry more about the impending condo implosion.

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These posters were placed as a reminder of the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I appreciate how we have to consider the consequences of the havoc brought on by nuclear war.

My thought was to create a pledge, probably not too original but If I can get all seven billion plus of us to sign this, I think I could get a handle on ending the threat of nuclear war.

So please cut and paste this, print it out and post it where it will be seen by your friends and neighbors and even your enemies:

A Pledge to Prevent Nuclear Escalation

I, (your name here) pledge to no longer consider making nuclear weapons, use nuclear weapons in any shape or form or proliferate the ones that have already been made.  

Sure it’s an over simplification but it’s a start. Let’s get ready for the earthquake and hope we never have to deal with the folly and the skin and lung ailments that would result in a nuclear blast.

While I’m getting political on the pages of a blog that usually concerns itself with random acts of creation and other assorted trivial matters, I thought I’d throw out a shout out to the people at the bridge this week. While I missed most of it because I started a new job I did catch enough to see the conclusion of the stand off. The end was actually the ship escaping the Portland area by scurrying under the St. Johns bridge. The only coverage I was able to provide is a picture I took of the action as it was being broadcast on our television set.

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The Fennica is an arctic ice breaker ship working for Shell oil. I can only assume it is on it’s way up north after having it’s hull repaired in Portland. There were people hanging off the bridge on what looked like colorful ribbons and many kayakers in the water making a desperate attempt to keep the ship at bay. While I’m not a fan of that cutesy label kayactivists I admire the efforts of anyone fighting the Coast Guard and Big Oil. Of course it failed. I documented our run in with the Coast Guard on this blog. I’m aware of how tough they can be. In fact what I saw on the news looked like a Coast Guard boat running over a kayaker while a woman in a Bay Watch bathing suit jumped out of another boat to grab the man who had been knocked out of his craft.

Sometimes it all seems like a whole lot of something for nothing but I appreciate those who tried. I understand that many of the folks were outside agitators from Greenpeace, but there were people from Portland who were also willing to risk being arrested for the cause.

I really see it as a time to start considering our energy future and whether it’s worth tampering with the delicate ecosystem of the Arctic. Every time there has been a sHell No! protest in the area in recent weeks I’ve had some prior commitment but I’m proud of the people willing to raise a little Hell to bring some awareness to the struggles of our times.

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Prepared in Portland?

A couple of weeks ago I helped an ex-coworker move. He was paying me a generous rate and it was a good opportunity to catch up with an old friend. When I noticed his Neighborhood Emergency Team gear, I had to pick his brain about emergency preparedness. Most Portlanders have heard for years about the impending earthquake that’s over due. This became more prominent news based on a New Yorker article about the earthquake that is expected to hit the Northwest. Not having read the New Yorker article, I did see some responses to it on Facebook. This was a motivation to explore emergency preparedness and take additional action to get ready for the big one.

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Emergency preparedness has been on my mind for a while. I’ve learned enough to consider what’s in store for the Portland area. The science behind it confirms the “meganess” of this quake. My denial about our impending doom has me wishing for a little earthquake that would jolt us into the idea of getting ready to deal with a major one. Maybe because it hasn’t happened for 300 plus years and due to the nature of our subduction zone a doozy is expected. We’re dealing with a disaster that’s hard to get one’s head around. Rumor has it that not everything around town has been seismically retrofitted to withstand tremors. It feels like we’re in store for an epic and real life disaster movie or maybe it will seem more like a play because it will happen in real life. I’m sure I could get a sense of if from seeing the movie San Andreas with all it’s CGI bluster. So far I’ve decided to pass on seeing it. It feels like there’s a bit of a safety net living some distance from the coast which is expected to get the worst of it. The first step is to survive the quake itself. I had forgotten that I need to consider what to do when the actual event hits. Stop, dropping and rolling isn’t going to cut it. I even thought I’d be a bit more secure if I had an idea of when earthquakes generally occur–is it early in the morning, afternoon, or whenever the mood strikes? Nobody seems to know anything exact except the inevitable.

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When I think basics, food and water top the list. At the very least a three-day supply of water and food is a necessity. There’s probably old food in our refrigerator that would get us through that. I think there’s hope that after three days the Government will help but I can’t rely on that. I hate standing in line too much. My goal is a two-week supply of provisions. There should be no procrastination in this matter. The shaking could start at any moment. All I have to do is drill up the plastic barrel I was going to use to capture rain water. If I fill it with the hose we’d have 55 gallons.  Based on the recommended water suggestions, I’ve calculated needing 42 gallons for two people and a dog for two weeks. I’m not going to pile 42 jugs in the basement. Water is crucial. The last time Portland had an issue with drinking water and there was a water ban due to contamination I felt cut off. I was struck by that feeling of not having access to something and then craving and obessing over it. I was dying of thirst.  A coworker at the time told us that hours after the water ban people were fighting over it at our local Fred Meyer and every last drop was bought up. I used a couple of the older gallon jugs from the basement and felt prepared.

My wife and I have one plan that may not be realistic. It involves me dragging two kayaks and a dinghy for the dog and crossing the river to the west side where she will be involved with dealing with the emergency situation at her job. As absurd as any plan might be its at least good to consider one. What would you do?  Think about how your plan might change at different times of the day because in an earthquake all your other plans will change. It’s worth imagining the hardship we will face due to this particular type of natural disaster. I’m trying to get my head around two to three months of electrical outages, the horror of the event itself (at least the Rock won’t be running around or even flying above in a helicopter) and the disruption of schedules, social order and the general agony (think telethons) that would come with this type of situation. I may be imagining some grim times ahead, but  for me there will be a challenging aftermath to endure.

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Then there’s at least one special wrench you need for turning off gas. That sounds intimidating but I’d like to prevent fires. Everything from where you’ll be going to the bathroom to what you’ll eat and heat sources and lighting has to be considered. So it seems obvious to me that I better have a roll of duct tape.

My friend broke it down and offered a few tips. He had done a presentation for one of his college communications classes so he was well versed in these matters. He talked about about starting small, getting a few extra cans of food a week at the grocery store.  If I’m starving I’m not going to be picky, so pinto beans it is. He said you should have cash in small denominations so you don’t end up paying 50 bucks to the guy who can’t make change. We’re also going to need to present our financial and identification info to FEMA at some point so we better have the important banking, insurance and other information and numbers available on a USB drive or a DVD in a safety deposit box. He went so far to pack Jack Daniels and coffee for possible barter. Soon after the hoopla of this article we managed to order a new crank radio to replace the battered old one. I’ll save the new one for emergencies. We also have something called a Lifestraw for filtering water and flashlights that work.

Earthquake reality is something we have to live with and a bit of action may help with the anxiety it creates. Should it all go down, I’m sure I’ll have a blog post about it six months after it happens.

Can you Survive a Portland Summer?

My brain dead summer series continues. I’m exploring personal reactions to living in the Portland area.  If you’re looking for a more Orbit like theme you can get your pet cemetery fix at the Pittsburgh Orbit.

Note: I’ve got nothing against The Rock who stars in the disaster flick San Andreas. All I know is that when the earthquake hits it’s sure to put me in a bad mood and a muscle bound hero type running or flying around saving everyone is going to be annoying.

Let the Red Cross help you:

http://www.redcross.org/or/portland/preparedness

Into the Heart of Darkness: Midnight Kayaking on the Willamette

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I’m an amateur kayaker. I know there’s not much to it, some shoulder rotation and the dipping of a paddle from side to side that causes you to glide through water but for the times when I needed to pull up along side the person I was kayaking with I found the craft tough to control. I couldn’t turn or avoid crashing into my partner when I was getting too close. It’s fair to call me a kayak spazz. Give me a wide river with no rapids, waterfalls and plenty of sunlight and I should be fine.

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My wife, Ronna, and I set out for a kayak cruise to downtown Portland on the Fourth of July to see fireworks. We gave ourselves plenty of time beginning this journey at the St. Johns boat ramp around 7:30pm. If you’re familiar with Portland you know that’s a long way, but it was sunny, warm with a few more clouds than I expected and I accepted the mission. I was concerned about paddling back in the dark but was more focused on the first part of trip–get to the fireworks and watch them. I considered lighting but only had a miniature flash light that would not have done much so I left it at home. We had no marine lighting in the house. After we piled the boats in the car hanging off the tailgate we headed to the boat ramp.

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Once in the river we were surrounded by thin bands of pink clouds from an epic sunset. Everything was gorgeous from the reflections of the water to the light of the setting sun.  People were camped out along the river bank. I listened to a woman haranguing someone from inside a tent. Otherwise it was quiet with the occasional boat creating a wake that had us bobbing up and down. The water that splashed on me from time to time was warmer than I thought it would be. We drifted past a giant navy ship, the USNS Charles Drew that was docked around the Vigor ship yard. Fireworks were starting early, before it got dark. We kayaked under five bridges getting a different perspective as we passed underneath them. Heading toward the Broadway bridge as it grew dark, we passed a small boat with a light on its stern. When asked if we were heading for the fireworks, I confirmed we were. The boat light was bright and seemed like a good idea but the people were giving up, calling it a night, turning away from the fireworks. People gathered on the Broadway bridge–an ideal place for firework observation. One of the onlookers yelled, “Shark” down at us. This was the least of my worries.

We where heading under the Steel Bridge when a spot light hit us. A man asked if we had a light for our kayaks. Ronna said we didn’t. He told us that we were in the middle of the channel and that we needed to go home before we were killed by a boat that wouldn’t be able to see us and would crash into us. (I’m paraphrasing here.) Needless to say this condemnation put a damper on our kayaking adventure. I admitted that this was good advice. Seeing the lettering on the side of the boat, I realized we were dealing with the Coast Guard. I didn’t want to risk further run-ins with them so I was ready to head back. Ronna was determined to see fireworks. We pulled over to a dock on the shore before the bridge and talked to a couple of guys who had seen our encounter.  I was willing to continue mainly because I thought we were almost there.  It seemed like the whole sky would open if we could elude the Coast Guard and get under the Steel Bridge. Instead we ran into a giant concrete barrier that stretched on and on and blocked our view of anything. We saw people lined up on this bridge too and caught flashes in the sky, otherwise we heard or saw no evidence of a firework display.

We regrouped again back at the dock and realized we weren’t going to make it. We had lost our chance to see the Portland fireworks display. Ronna expressed regret about experiencing what felt like bully tactics from the Coast Guard. It occurred to us that we should hug the dock for a few minutes. With everyone heading up river after the fireworks we hit some serious wake action. Rogue waves sloshed into the kayaks. We were tossed back and forth but it’s hard to say how challenging it would have gotten if we hadn’t stopped at the dock. We headed back closer to the shore as not crash into any stray boaters. The lights from the bridges made amazing reflections on the river’s surface. We caught amateur firework displays, saw camp fires along the river bank, spotted fish jumping around us and even saw a falling star–nature’s fireworks.

By the time we loaded up the boats it was 2:30am. After seven hours of kayaking I had to wonder if it had been worth it. I learned that I could kayak for that long without my arms falling off. I wasn’t disappointed about missing the fireworks because we survived. Despite the Coast Guard’s warnings, we didn’t get chopped up by a giant ship propeller or collide with a pleasure boat. There would be future opportunities to see fireworks. That night I saw the river from a perspective I never expected. It’s a stranger world in the dark. We experienced the river with its strange, late night industrial noises in the industrial section to crazy boaters blasting tinny music from mounted speakers. One passenger hanging off the back of a speeding boat, while it was still light, mocked me by making exaggerated paddle motions but a slow cruise up and down the Willamette had me experiencing the river in all its lit and unlit glory.

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It’s summer in Portland and while I try my best to enjoy it and appreciate it, I’ve found myself breaking from my usual style. I’m writing more personal blog entries about my Portland experiences. The planning and more general subject matter isn’t far off. As my old friend Peter Geddes pointed out: August is a slow news month. July seems like one too. I’ll be back Friday, July 24th. I swear!

All Photos by Ronna Craig

Portland T-shirts

When I arrived in Portland I looked for volunteer opportunities to meet people, possibly network, and to experience the city. If you volunteer in Portland a t-shirt usually comes with the deal. It’s a tradition and now I expect something when I offer my labor. The shirts I have collected show signs of age marking the time I’ve lived here. Every shirt has a story, these stories date back to 2008 when we moved to Portland. Due to  a lack of employment, I had plenty of time for volunteering.

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The Johnson Creek Watershed t-shirt was my first exposure to the Portland t-shirt phenomenon. Going out to a section of Johnson Creek to plant trees and pull weeds seemed worth doing. It was the chance to see an outlying area of Portland. We met a woman who mentioned that it had taken her 15 years to understand the communication styles of Northwest residents. This seemed farfetched at the time but now seems closer to the truth of how long it can take to become accustomed to an area. I drank my fill of coffee and ate pastries on a damp and chilly day and got a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow volunteers but I never quite gained much attachment to Johnson Creek which feels remote in relation to where we live. At least it was cool to see goats in a yard in the valley below the bluff we were working on.

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Holes around the collar!

It must have been Craigslist where I saw the call for people to gather at a downtown park to participate in a Public Service Announcement. I remember standing around wondering if I was in the right place and then talking to folks who had received the same vague information. There was an actor named Jimmy Carter yakking it up and talking about his work. His name invoked discussion about my favorite President. Another guy was heading off to teach film studies at George Fox University. I later realized it was the same guy I’d seen acting in a local short film. Someone else told me, while we were standing around, that Portland was a great place to live once you found the right job. It all seemed very Portland to gather in this park chatting with folks. I even spotted Art Alexis from Everclear hanging around. I believe he had a stroller with him.

Our costume was the yellow Lance Armstrong Livestrong shirt. I remember the crew being from the advertisement agency Wieden & Kennedy and a tall ladder being set up. The camera operator looked down on a group of us spread out and standing in the park. A couple of people had lines they recited in earnest. I became deathly afraid that I’d have a speaking part to repeat in front of all the extras and the director. I began trying to creep off camera and whispering to Jimmy Carter for acting advice. The most attention I received was a request to take a few steps back. While I know Livestrong had an important message it’s all been tarnished by the doping controversy. To top it off I never saw the P.S.A  but the bold yellow shirt always worked well to add a splash of color to any ensemble I’ve worn. This may not be saying much for someone who has the fashion sense of a nudist. At this point the shirt seems a bit thin and is showing signs of wear with holes around the collar.

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I volunteered to shoot a video project in 2008 working with PSU student. It was for a group of kids who were learning about peer mediation. I spent a few afternoons video taping students at Ockley Green school. It reminded me of the time I’d spent working in educational television. It seemed cool when I took a coffee shop meeting. The woman was buying and brought along her friend named Shady. The video taping culminated in a gathering of students in workshops and participating in group discussions with me doing more video taping and picking up a t-shirt. I always liked the brown hand shaking the black hand that was part of the design.

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Boring, but blood worthy.

There were times in my life when a friend and I would have discussions about selling our blood. These would end in resignation when we weren’t able to find a place offering cash for blood. The Red Cross had cornered the market and made everyone accept that they should offer their blood up for donation. I know it’s possible to sell plasma but the places I’ve heard about seem prohibitively far away. My wife, Ronna and I were motivated to donate blood when we heard about a Star Trek vs. Star Wars themed blood drive at the Red Cross building in North Portland. I can’t remember if it was New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, but the t-shirt were an added bonus to the guilt free opportunity to eat cookies out of a plastic bag. Star Trek vs. Star Wars was a nice enough gimmick with people dressed in various costumes but it wasn’t represented on the t-shirt. Unless I’m going to see a Jabba the Hutt or Princess Leia represented I’m not going to get excited.

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Parke Diem was a city-wide volunteer event. Ronna, and I spent time working in the Kenton Community Garden. Parks and Recreation t-shirts seem to involve some kind of pun. This shirt was more of the bastardization of a famous Latin phrase. The power fist, central in the design has inspired me. This lush and thick shirt has an impressive quality. Of course it has a Nike swoosh on it too.

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For a better example of puns related to volunteer work, I photographed the t-shirt my coworker wore at our temp job. Sam received it for pulling ivy. Note the two punny phrases, “De-Vine Intervention” sits atop No Ivy League with each phrase  attempting to out-pun the other.

If you’re offering your time and effort to volunteer you might want to check in advance to see if you will be getting a t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if volunteering seems a good use of your time for networking opportunities or meeting people, a t-shirt should still be your first priority. If it isn’t offered run like hell. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities with t-shirt payments out there. The shirt for work exchange is your best bet for building your wardrobe. Your time and sweat is worth it.

Photographer: Ronna Craig

Models: David and Sam (No mannequins were available.)