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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)