Friday, January 31, 2014

The Dancing Truth


If you are a working, full-time, professional dancer these things will be true about your life. You will wake up sore. You will dance all day. You will go to bed sore. You will work seven days a week. You will take class, teach class, and be up to your elbows in projects. You will never stop having to take class. You will take on projects that go well. You will take on projects that go terribly awry. You will always worry that there will not be another project to take on. You will worry about your weight. You will memorize everything you do. You will get on stage and forget some of what you memorized. You will keep dancing anyway. You will never get sick enough to have to stay in bed. When you do get sick enough to not get out of bed, you will get out of bed. You will be alternately told that you are talented and gifted and that you have no talents or gifts. You will invest enormous amounts of time and money to train in what you do. You will get paid for little of what you do. People will tell you that it is okay that you do not get paid because you love what you do. People will also tell you that you are not really working because you love what you do. You will love what you do. You will still be working.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tell It Like It Is


If you do not remember or have never heard of the Yippies, let me explain. The Yippies were a social and political change group in the 1960's famous for shutting down Wall Street, running a pig for president, and other acts of radical protest. They were thinkers, truth tellers, activists, and pacifists. Abby Hoffman and his American flag pants is probably the best-known part of the Yippies, but their work and modern legacy hardly begins or ends with him. Judy Gumbo, one of the original Yippies and co-author of The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade, has emerged as an important voice in the 21st century debate over privacy, spying, and the power of government. Gumbo's writing about the 60's is not nostalgic but provocative, underscoring the need to face historical truth, and speak with clarity and honesty about the U.S. government, free speech, and the consequences of fighting for social change. Fifty years later is a great time to evaluate what we did and did not learn and accomplish in the 60's, perhaps it will help us find our way.

To read her important blog, Yippie Girl:


National Ball


This year the NFL will generate close to $9 billion in revenue, $500 million of that in association with the Super Bowl. Tens of thousands will attend the game and hundreds of millions will watch it live. It is, and has been for some years, the largest collection of human attention in the United States if not the world. And what do we choose to do with this opportunity to communicate with so many people all at once? Sell beer. And cars. And Beyonce. I think that more than reality television, or Facebook, or Twitter or Black Friday the Super Bowl reflects back to us what we already know about ourselves. We like to consume. We enjoy violence and competition as sport and entertainment. We like mostly naked women, especially if they only dance and sing. We really like beer.

And maybe that's okay. Maybe the Super bowl and football in general are all a part of healthy mass catharsis, a national blowing off of steam. Maybe it does drive business and the overall economy, creating jobs and revenue. Maybe hero worship and camaraderie forge the ties that bind us to each other. Or maybe it's the entire country enabling each others vices.

Super Bowl weekends are associated with increased incidents of drunk driving, domestic violence, gambling, alcohol and drug consumption, and human trafficking. Why are you watching?


Monday, January 27, 2014

Organic Darkwave


There is a quiet revolution taking place in popular music led by artists interested in both the evolution of digital sound and the complexities offered by the rhythms and melodies of traditional cultural music. Pushing past the early pioneers of fusion, Paul Simon's Graceland, for example, recent bands such as Beirut and Beats Antique have eschewed any sense of Americanism and instead have modernized and digitized old-world sounds. Now, bands like Black Magdalene are taking the strong vocals and dominant guitar and bass that characterizes American rock and layering it with North African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European rhythms, sounds, and mythology to create a wholly new, and wholly modern sound. They call it Organic Darkwave.


You can see Black Magdalene play live this week, Friday, at the Ninkasi home tasting room in Eugene, and Saturday at the Ash Street Saloon in Portland, Oregon.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Fish Or Be Fished


This week a Federal judge has stepped into the local salmon debate in a big way. Judge Haggerty has ordered the Sandy River Fish Hatchery to significantly change their operating procedures, described as "arbitrary and unlawful", to adequately protect wild salmon populations. While few studies have been conducted on the impact of hatchery salmon on wild populations, those that have indicate that increases in hatchery populations are correlated with decreases in wild salmon. Why is this happening now? Because in 2008 a pair of dams were removed in an attempt to increase the area and improve the quality of salmon habitat along the river. Unfortunately, removing the dams also removed the barriers between the hatchery and wild populations, fostering unanticipated inbreeding and competition. I think everyone can agree that protection of wild species needs to take precedence over the introduction of farmed species, so why is this being adjudicated at the Federal level? Because in Oregon, salmon is gold and hatchery fish are what feed the coffers. But I do not believe that it is time to give up on the wild salmon. I think they have some fight in them yet. Let's help.

Last year I wrote an essay about the salmon for the Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest. It won third place. You can read it here:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Shiny Toy


Ten years ago I would never have known or cared if some guy from high school that I was not even particularly friends with got married in a western-themed three day wedding. I would not have any idea how many people from that same high school went on to marry each other, or have large broods of children, or that they named them all in odd nouveau riche fashion.  I would not watch the tragedies of illness and accident play out in these peoples lives, instead learning about them, perhaps, as a footnote to another conversation with someone with whom I have an actual relationship. "Did you hear about so and so?" "Oh, that's too bad." Now though, I do know about these things. I see the happenings of all kinds of people to whom I am not really connected, but I do not really share in them, nor is it my place to. That person that friended me on Facebook after not calling for eight years is probably just satisfying either their ego (how many friends do you have?) or some kind of morbid curiosity (can you believe she looks like that now?). While I appreciate the opportunity to say a few kind words to an old friend or donate money to a good cause, I wonder if any of this is tangible, if any of the connections are real. More and more I find the shiny toy of social media useful only for the passing along of information, largely to and from people with whom I have no emotional connection. It serves as a wonderful newsletter and bulletin board and promotional tool, but falls short in maintaining any kind of real connection or friendship. I shudder to think that people who pay attention to my Facebook page believe they understand anything about who I am or how I live my life. 

Perhaps today is a good day to reconsider the role of social media in our lives, particularly with respect to the assumptions we make about other people, who and how they are, and whether or not we are actually maintaining a friendship with them. Consider the people in your life that really matter, then pick up the phone and actually speak to them, you will both be glad for it.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Backpacks, Rocks And Nuts - A Girl Gone Wild Excerpt


It is 6 am and I am sitting on the front stoop of my apartment with my hiking boots on waiting for a a guy I met at a bicycle event in a local brewery two days earlier. I am newly single, in my late twenties, and living in Portland, This means that I am accustomed to brew pubs, bicycle boys, and first dates that involve hiking. The six am is new. But this man seems nice, and has a long history of mountaineering and rock climbing, and wants to get an early start. In my mind I have chalked this up to being “hard core”. I also want to be “hard core” and also prove to my ex that I can still have outdoor adventures without him. Especially with men more hard core than himself. I figured that mountain climber beat kayaker and hiker any day. Besides, its going to be a beautiful sunny Saturday in late summer, the trails will be packed if we don’t get an early start, I quietly reason with myself, he’s just being practical. 

We have chosen a hike called Angels Rest, aptly named for the spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge from the rocky crag at the top of the trail. It is a moderate day hike, five miles with a steep climb over the loose rock of a crumbling basalt flow. When we arrive at the trail head we grab our mostly empty backpacks, containing little more than water and a light lunch and head out of the parking area. At the trail head he stops saying, “Hold on, I need to grab some weight.” And he reaches down and starts loading softball sized chunks of basalt into his pack. “I really want to stay in shape for my next ascent.” He says, barely looking up as he continues to shove rocks into his pack. Great, I think. This guy is nuts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Year Of F*ck You


I do not typically make New Year's resolutions and I find the middle of winter a poor time for making new starts, but this year, I feel ready for a change. You see, while never a perfect person, I have spent most of my life trying to please people and this year, I'm sick of it. So I have declared 2014 to be my year of f*ck you. No more feeling guilty for things I did not do. No more pandering to drama queens and tiptoeing around people that can dish it but can't take it. This year, I intend to stand up for myself, at least internally. Are you that guy that was mean to me for two years because you thought I said something I never said? F*ck you. The good friend that burned bridges on her way out of town that doesn't have the balls to mend them when they return? F*ck you. The person who's artwork I spent time and money supporting just to have you never pay me for my work in return? F*ck you too. I just cannot internalize it anymore, small slights, the person that steps in front of me in the bakery line, big righteous rudeness, the women who claim my life has no purpose because I don't have children, the guy that condescends to me at the electronics store. F*ck you all. I am doing the best I can in this world and have reached the conclusion that I would be doing even better if I didn't give the group of you-all any time or attention whatsoever. So this year, instead of seeing your bad behavior and blaming myself or thinking I can or should "fix it", I am just walking away to spend my time with less toxic people. Good riddance.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When Ninkasi Rules The World


Since 2006 a little upstart brewery in Eugene, Oregon has been leading a quiet revolution. Ninkasi Brewing led the charge of locally owned and sourced breweries in the Pacific Northwest and has proven that community-minded business can flourish even in hard times. They emerged out the the cacophony of the craft beer bubble, more than 75 craft breweries have opened in Oregon in the last half-decade, and most are struggling to find a piece of the market. In contrast, Ninkasi is brewing more than 95,000 barrels of beer each year and is a recognizable fixture in bars and restaurants throughout the western United States. They are the champions, and through no small effort. Jamie, the distribution guru is everywhere. You go to the tasting room in Eugene on a Friday night, he's there, go to the Country Fair, he's sitting outside your tent with friends, head up to Bellingham for a show, there he is again, working his own event, but with time to stop by and catch the gig. Nikos, though a little less visible, has shown himself to be a savvy and ambitious businessman, figuring out how to grow a business in one of the toughest economies in the nation. And, they have also been at the forefront of revitalizing the ailing Whiteaker neighborhood they call home, providing local jobs and supporting local events. They are consistent supporters of local charitable events and their tasting room and promotional concerts serve as needed and welcome opportunity for local musicians, performers, and visual artists. And Nikos and Jamie, the owners of Ninkasi, are exactly the kind of guys you want to see succeed. They are friendly and easy going and genuinely care about the community in which they live. It gives me hope for the rise of the of the American small business. And, they brew some freaking good beer. Cheers, guys.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Lucky Seven


I know that as a native Portlander I am supposed to like to talk to people about Portlandia, hipsters, and "green living". I am supposed to embrace all of these things as a part of my cultural heritage, especially Portlandia, the only thing that people from other parts of the country find capable of validating our little, insignificant, Pacific Northwest existence. But to be honest, Portlandia really irritates me. For a while I dismissed this as my own lack of sense of humor, an inability to laugh at myself. But try as I might I still just felt like I was being ripped off, like everything that was unique and special about my life was being stolen and used by former Sleater Kinney band members to make money. It couldn't be true. I was surely just jealous of other hipsters making good. Until.

Until one day someone sent me a clip from the show about the Lucky Seven punk flop house. A place that actually existed, that was cool, and filled with music and people and noise and dirt and parties. So who cares if it's in a Portlandia sketch? Most of the things in Portlandia are based in reality, why should I care about the Lucky Seven sketch? Why would someone go out of their way to send it to me? Because what they lifted out of my life was not just the Lucky Seven, they lifted my sister and her boyfriend, Kathleen and Lars. Kathleen and Lars were the real thing, real musicians and artists that really hung out at the Lucky and really lived in houses like the one from the sketch. And there they are, the only named people in the sketch, Kathleen and Lars. What are the chances?  

So no, it's not paranoia or pretension, it's just really hard to like something so clearly based off of, and then redirected back at you. And, my sister is way cooler than that Portlandia, do her some justice next time.

To watch the clip:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Would Have Been Nice To Know


Some days I go out into the world and interact with people and witness the process of all of us trying to make it through our days and I am astounded by how very many of our interactions are exactly as they were in say, the third grade. I am usually surprised by my irritation, I mean, this is clearly the way of the world. Somehow though, in all my education, I missed that piece, the part about some things just never changing. There will always be the kid that picks on people, the one that cheats or steals, the pleaser, the line cutter, and the outcast. People will still fight over shiny toys, equal division of attention and property and they will still stick their tongues out at one another. Today what gives me hope is the idea that if those childhood vestiges still exist perhaps so do wonder, playful abandon, easy friendship, and heartfelt apologies. Today I ask myself, which inner child will you choose to carry today?

"The most sophisticated people I know-inside they are all children." Jim Henson

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To Buy Or Not To Buy


In recent weeks both Macy's and Penny's have announced store closures due to significant decreases in sales and general revenue. The store closures will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and likely have a genuine impact on the local, if not national, economy. 

In reading about this I realized that I am a part of this story. I used to shop at Macy's. A lot. And not off the sale rack. Just out of graduate school with my first consulting job I found myself not only with the need for a new, non-graduate student wardrobe, but also with the income to obtain it. So I shopped. I bought business clothes, flirty skirts and floozy shoes. I bought shirts that I new would be out of fashion in six months and pants that I would have to remain abnormally skinny to fit into. I bought four-inch heels and hats and belts and pretty much whatever I wanted. For the first time in my life I had expendable income and I was pretty much just funneling in into department stores. 

And then, I ran out of things to buy. I got tired of dressing rooms and muzak and lines It didn't take long, perhaps a year, for me to have caught up, so to speak. My kitchen was finally filled with decent dishes and appliances, I had shoes for every occasion, and I was bored. So I stopped shopping.

When the recession hit and I quit my job to dance and write, I shopped even less. Now I wasn't just bored, I was also poor. I turned to online shopping, snatching up last minute sales and promotions, and returned to vintage and resale stores. I never went back to the mall. It turns out, neither did a lot of people. For the most part I think this is a good sign, an indication of a shifting focus in how we spend our time and money. I worry though, that rather than an indication of social change away from consumerism, it is just a symptom of a massive shift in how we consume. Either way, it is a good reminder to be mindful of our time and money, and how we spend them both.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The List


In 1888 Thomas Edison wrote a list of things to do that in all honesty, makes him seem like a total whack job. In addition to his normal routine of invention and innovation of electricity and light bulbs, Edison's list of things to do includes, ink for the blind, artificial silk, and an electric piano. Read in one light it is the rantings of a madman, in another light, it shows us that Edison had passion, creativity, and drive. It underscores the need to dream big, challenge ourselves, and investigate the edges of our talents in order to truly become successful. Success is not about making safe choices, fitting in or working within our comfort zones but about being different, dynamic, and excited about the possibilities, all the possibilities. The only confirmed path to failure is inaction. Do it right or do it wrong, but do something.

The List:


Monday, January 13, 2014

Things For A Monday Morning


The first morning of the week for me is often just the tangled remainder of a too-busy weekend that leaves me feeling more paralyzed than invigorated. From the tangle:

The cat has thrown up on the rug. I discover this by stepping in it in my socks.

I wore every pair of dance pants and tights I own over the weekend. I have four hours to do all of my laundry. Or I could just wear dirty pants.

I log on to email. 44 messages. I log back off.

I open my calendar to figure out my day, it is blank, just like the rest of the week. I put updating my new calendar on my mental list of things to do. I also put making a tangible list of things to do on it.

I drink the last of the coffee and think about the grocery store. Then I think about drinking more tea.

I walk downstairs and back up, three times, unable to remember what it is I am looking for.

I step in the wet spot from where I cleaned up after the cat in my last pair of clean socks.

I take a deep breath. I consider hunger and homelessness and addiction and violence and any number of other things worse than dirty socks and cat puke. I decide that attitude is everything. One thing at a time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Money For Nothing


I have reached a conclusion about the extension of jobless benefits that makes me feel like a bad liberal. The good liberal in me says that we should extend the benefits, that people get into a rough spot, lack the training and education they need, do not have the kinds of opportunities they used to have before we sent jobs overseas, and generally should not be left in the lurch by society. The rest of me says wow, 99 weeks is a long time to be on unemployment. The truth is, I don't think that we are helping anyone by just writing them a check. The economy is improving, unemployment is decreasing, people went back to school during the recession, there are opportunities. I believe that one of the biggest and far-reaching problems in the U.S. is economic injustice and that wage and income equality play a big role in that. But it has to be real income. Earned income. Where are the federal work programs, the state-run training programs and the affordable education that get people off unemployment and back to earning? Where is the student loan debt relief that could help pull millions of educated Americans out of poverty and into gainful employment? Where did our work ethic go? I think it is time for us to take a good look at the possibility of economic recovery the hard way, through hard work, sacrifice, and lifestyle change. We all deserve a living wage, but we all have a responsibility to work for it. All of us.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Higher and Higher


Mike Rowe of dirty Jobs fame has launched a campaigned aimed at higher education and the myth that it is the only path to success and financial security. Rowe argues that university education is over-valued and creating a generation of unskilled workers with large amounts of debt at a time when vocational occupations are struggling to find qualified workers. I agree with him. I spent the majority of my twenties in degree programs and have an embarrassing amount of both education and student loan debt. And no, I did not go to a fancy private school I couldn't afford, I attended state universities, worked while in school, received scholarships, grants and teaching fellowships and still ended up with debt which, as unsubsidized loans, compounded quarterly the entire time I was in school. Oh, hindsight. 

That being said, I use my education and do not regret the time or work or even the expense. My particularly strange collection of degrees and certifications allows me to live a lifestyle of my choosing and gives me a broad range of possibilities for employment. But that is not the case for the average undergraduate with a simple two or four year degree in a non-trade program. And most university students these days take on far more debt than I have up front, even before the interest begins to compound. As universities rapidly expand and the shape of education evolves at the pace of technology rather than human development, traditional education provides less opportunity for the average student than ever before. 

And trade work is incredibly valuable, lucrative, and offers opportunities for self employment, creative work, and non-traditional lifestyles that far better address the needs of the modern family. We need to re-value our carpenters, electricians, artists, foresters, and farmers and redefine education, what we teach and how we teach it. 


Monday, January 6, 2014

How To Start Your Day


I am not a particularly good sleeper. Though not an insomniac, I do not sleep easily or very much and am prone to nightmares and fitful sleep. Perhaps because of this, I often wake in a soft and vulnerable state, feeling the stresses and obligations of life press upon me. In order to shake myself loose from this and face my day I turn to morning ritual. Far better than half an hour of extra sleep is rising early to take time for myself to build a fire, have a cup of coffee outside with the birds, and stretch. The way I begin my day has everything to do with how I proceed through the rest of it. Taking time for yourself first thing in the morning is a reminder of your own importance and it allows you to gather your thoughts and plan a course of action. It is not selfish to take this time. Self care is what allows us to provide for others and give them what they need. 

A list of things to do to reinvent your morning:
Do Yoga
Drink a cup of tea
Eat breakfast
Make a list
Take a walk
Sit quietly
Play music, sing a song
Take a bath, not a shower

For more ways to transform your morning:


Sunday, January 5, 2014

What Can You Do?


These days I am struck by the remarkable ability of people to reinvent themselves. I marvel at the diversity of passages and achievements I see in the people around me, degrees earned, languages learned, families built, shifted, and rebuilt. I consider the possibility that at any given time what we are, who and how we are in the world can be and in fact is, just a product of our own storytelling, ambitions, and hopes. I am glad to witness the fallen rise and the unhappy cheer and cautioned by the stories of those with harder luck. I delight, too, in the more simple manifestations of this process, friends that master baking bread, trapeze, or a new instrument. I love these achievements, the investment of time and effort they represent and am inspired to inspect my own ambitions. I think it is important to investigate the edges of our talents and abilities. It keeps us fresh and child-like in the world. It also reminds us that we can face the larger changes and challenges, that all hope is never lost. You can be the person you wish to be today, right now. It may not last and you dreams may not all come true, but today, if you let it, your truth can set you free.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Green Pastures


I spent a snowless holiday in Sun River Oregon, a resort town that exists almost entirely because of what has been, until recently, some of the best winter recreation in the United States. This year, families rode bikes on clear bike paths, took sleigh rides in horse drawn carriages mounted on wheels and paid fifteen dollars for a day pass to sled on a small man made slope with man made snow. On the way home, over the pass, the Willamette ski area was a ghost town and there were deer idly grazing the grassy green ski slopes. This is our new normal. If you are still in doubt, or still believe that isolated extreme weather events can make up for what we lose in normal seasonal precipitation, take a look at the online exhibit from the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. A picture is worth a thousand words.