No Pity in the Rose City

It was a beautiful morning in downtown Portland.  I’d just walked my lady friend to her office in the sort of spring sunshine that brings the promise of cook-outs, and beach trips, and pixies in cutie sundresses.  The morning was bright and clear, and people on the street smiled at each other as they passed.  Smiles filled with the type of understanding that comes from many months of winter rain, and accompanied gloom.  Life was good that morning, and we could all feel it.

I turned onto Burnside and was confronted by a middle-aged homeless man beating the shit out of a fire hydrant, with what appeared to be a rolled-up newspaper.

His body heaving with anger, but he made no sound.  Just furious smacks ringing out against the morning traffic, complemented by grunts of exertion.  The light changed, but I made no move to cross the street.  This was way too interesting.  What could possibly be going on in his head?  Shaggy homeless dread locks flying through the air, framing the thin sheen of sweat that had developed across his forehead.  The light changed back and traffic moved once again, drivers staring on in a mixture of shock and horror and intrigue, not trusting their still sleepy eyes and the sight that confronted them before they’d had a chance to enjoy their second cup of coffee.  This is Portland, but keeping it weird has limits.  There must be limits, and a middle aged homeless man absolutely beating the snot out of a fire hydrant with a rolled up newspaper at 8:53 in the morning is simply unreasonable.

The man stopped and stared at me.  I stared back.  It’s best not to show fear in these types of situations, but to play it cool, like this is nothing new or out of the ordinary.  I shrugged, as if to show him that I understood, and in a way, I did.  Who hasn’t been there?  Society, and the need for acceptance is what holds us back from such acts of casual, yet intentional violence.  But a man removed from those constraints is free to act accordingly.  Perhaps I’d just witnessed something beautiful.

A crowd had gathered at the intersection, a mixture of downtown office workers and joggers and tourists; we all waited for the light to change.  A tattooed punk with a bike stood next to me, having seen most of the incident.  An older couple of affluence, complete with their Portland Guide book and expensive Japanese camera stood slightly behind us, peering at a map, trying not to make eye contact.

Suddenly, the man was back in action.  Grunting and swinging, beating on that fire hydrant once again with what remained of his rolled up newspaper.  Clearly fighting demons that I would never understand.  The punk and I shared raised eyebrows, and exchanged shrugs of, “well, what are you going to do?” while the tourists swore under their breath about the ‘homeless problem’ in downtown Portland.

The punk turned to them in a voice hard with pride, and said, “The fuck did you just say?”

The tourists, clearly startled and overwhelmed, first with the savage beating the homeless was laying down on an innocent fire hydrant, and then by the accusatory tone of this tattooed beast, replied, “Someone should do something about him, he’s clearly on drugs, at least our homeless in San Francisco are well-behaved.”

I studied the black swirling letters on the punk’s neck, as they bulged to constrain his anger. “Fuck you, and Fuck California!” He shouted as the light turned, and the masses swarmed into the street.  And he was right.  The homeless may be crazy here, but they’re our homeless.

As he crossed the street, I was able to read the letters on the back of his neck, “Rose City Pride

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Faith vs Work

I’m a very strong believer in having faith.  Having faith in life, faith in my friends, faith in the strangers I meet on the street.  But more than anything, I have faith that things will work out for the best.  And that’s a dangerous thing.  It’s a dangerous trap to fall into.  You can’t always send positive vibes out, and just expect good things to come back to you.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to have faith, but faith is only half of it.  There is also the rest of it.

At some point it hit me that no matter how much positive energy I send out, I can’t sit around waiting for good things to fall into my lap.  There is also the putting in work part.  The long hours and the grind that every successful person knows.  This is a fact of life, and something I’d forgotten about.

No one is going to hand you a job, a contract, a life out of nowhere.  These are things you have to work for.  This is the getting up early part.  The long nights, the struggle, the grind.  These are the failures that you don’t dwell on, because you get back up the next morning, and do it all over again.  This is putting yourself out there, and taking chances.  Having hope, having faith in long shots, but putting in the hours that no one knows about.  All the work that goes along with it.

I know this life, I used to embrace it.  But somewhere along the line, I’d forgotten the rules to this game.  Maybe it was traveling, where you have to take things easy, and not get too upset when things don’t go as planned, because there is literally nothing you can do about it.  I think maybe that carried over when I came back to the States.  This complacency, this outlook that things will always work out in the end.  And then you wake up one day, and you know what you want, but you have no idea how to get it.  And you’re not sure how’ve you gotten to this particular spot in life.  That’s where the work part comes in.

Career, relationships, happiness in your personal life, they all follow the same rules.  You won’t just land that dream job without the long hours at thankless internships and entry level positions.  She won’t love you just because you want her to.  You won’t wake up with a happy, fulfilled life just because you’re a good person.  No one is going to hand you a book deal because you put up a couple blog posts every now and again.

Having hopes and dreams are important in life.  Turning those into measurable goals are the key.  Grinding it out, and taking chances are a necessary part of the process.  I remember that now.  I’m not scared of work.  I’m not scared of the overnight shift, or the double shift, or working weeks without time off.  I’m not scared of working full days for someone else, coming home exhausted, and then putting in countless more hours for me.  Writing, typing, revising, editing, posting, and then typing some more.  I’m not scared to go without sleep.  Sometimes that’s the only way.

You’ve got to keep the faith, but you’ve got to put in the work too.  You’ve got to be a good person, but you’ve also got to grind.  You’ve got to have dreams, but you’ve got to put in the hours to turn them into reality.  You’ve got to take chances and put yourself out there, but you’ve got to get up early the next morning and do it all again when things don’t go exactly as you’ve hoped.

Keep the faith, but in the meantime, put the hours in.  It’ll all work out, but only if you work hard enough for it.

Amazing inspirational video, I want to wake up in the mornings and brush my teeth with this video. This clip came to me via my bud Martin who writes at Siempre Mejorando, take a second to check him out.

He’s family.

“Yo cuz, what’d you say your cousin got out for?”

“ah, he took some kid’s eye out.”

“what?”

“yea man, some kid was running his mouth about something or other and it came to a head.”

“what’d you mean, it came to a head?”

“I told you, boys had words, it got sorted out. What’d you want from me?”

“I’d like to know how our new roommate came to be incarcerated, and if he is a threat to you or me or anyone we might happen to have over to the house.”

“Listen cuz, you know that’s my cousin, don’t say shit like that.”

“Respect, and you know I love your mom, but I’m saying…you know what I’m saying.”

“It went down like this…”

“We were at the pub, you know Shamrock’s up on Randolph, and my cousin is with this new girl. And this girl is legit, right? Not one of those Broad Street girls from back in the day. But a real girl, smart, classy, all that. Anyway, it’s freaking my cousin out, because he ain’t ever been with a girl like this. Not just a hot girl, but someone with substance behind her, and he doesn’t know how to act around her friends. You know?”

“yea, I can dig, who hasn’t been there?”

“Truth. Anyway, so they’re at this bar, and this girl, she’s all class, she’s introducing him to all her hipster friends, and my cousin, he’s getting hot. Not cause of anything anyone has done, but just who she is, and where she’s from. And then this kid, this yuppie fuck from Cathedral Hill starts running his mouth. He’s one of those hipsters who life hasn’t touched, so he thinks he’s untouchable. But you know my cousin, he can’t stand on that. So this yuppie, he says the wrong thing one time too many, and it gets my cousin’s Irish up. You know, you can only push a kid so far, and my cousin, he got pushed far enough that night.”

“So what then?”

“So, this yuppie, the prick, he goes to take a piss, and my cousin, he’s right on him. He waits until the kid goes to the bathroom, and he follows him in.”

“Christ.”

“Christ is right, but Christ ain’t helped that yuppie out that night. Must have been praying at St. Luke’s, when the kid should have been at St. Mary’s, how you going to help a kid like that? Anyway, the kid goes into the bathroom, and my cousin follows him in. The yuppie gives him some shit, calls him a fag, my cousin just smiles. Worst fucking smile you ever saw, like the devil had his hand in the whole thing. Anyway, my cousin, asks the yuppie if he wants to keep the right or the left? What a weird fucking question you know, the yuppie spits at him. Wrong move, my cousin pulls out his bottle opener and removes the kid’s left eye.”

“What’d you mean, removes?”

“I stutter? He took the bottle opener and scooped out that kid’s left eye. Got three years on assault.”

“And he’s going to live with us? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“What can I say? He’s family.”

Wandering Aimlessly

Nights like these were made to be shared. Meant to be enjoyed, embraced, experienced together with your favorites in the world. These crisp winter nights in Portland are meant to be walked around in, and if you’re as lucky as I am, to be enjoyed with a cutie brunette at your side.

The city is alive with the hustle of office workers on their way home complemented by last minute holiday shoppers, and those like us, just out enjoying the scene. We pause at a cross walk, waiting for the light, and she looks up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and smiles. We don’t say much on these walks, we don’t need to. Side by side, the company is right, and the night is right, and sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need in life.

The city is beautiful tonight. All the storefronts decorated, and the trees lit up; and though neither of us particularly enjoy the Christmas season, it’s impossible not to appreciate it tonight. We pause again, still not speaking, yet understanding each other perfectly. No destination tonight as we wander aimlessly through the park blocks and downtown, lost in our own thoughts, but still comfortably together.

I wonder about her sometimes. She’s a creature of routine and habit, and she seems to find comfort in that. For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to see its appeal. It wouldn’t be so bad to settle down in one place for awhile, to go on these walks with regularity. I’ve been scared of commitment since I was 17, but for once, I can see the joy in it. Perhaps I’m ready to get off the road, to settle down, to put down roots, together, with her. All my best friends are getting married and becoming adults, and finally, I think I see what it is I’m missing with all my random traveling. Perhaps there’s a beauty in familiarity, and perhaps it’s even better than the excitement of someone new.

We stop at another light, and she looks at me and smiles. There’s something in her teeth, and yet that makes her all the more adorable. She’s been in this city longer than I have, but walking around with her at night, it feels like home. Perhaps this life isn’t so bad; perhaps this is something I could get used to, perhaps its time to grow up.

And get a dog.

Thanksgiving

So it’s a couple days late, and I hope you’ll forgive me for it. The holidays are such an interesting time, busy and exciting, hopeful but sad. I’m thankful for so many things and so many people; to pause and think about it, it’s almost ridiculous.

I’m thankful for my life, and the opportunity to live it on my own terms. That I have the health, and the innate sense of wonder, of adventure, to take off and move at the drop of a hat. I’m thankful that I feel comfortable on The Road, and with friends I’ve just made. I’m thankful that it’s gone well so far, and that I still have the fire to explore, to dream of the next horizon, the next town, the next sunrise.

I’m thankful for my family, extended and immediate, and everything they’ve done for me. I’m not always the easiest person to deal with, so I’m thankful for their love and understanding. And when they don’t understand, I’m thankful for their acceptance of my need to move.

I’m thankful for my friends. For the ones I go back to elementary school with, who will always be friends, not matter how much time passes. And also for the new friends, the beautiful people I’ve met along the way. The ones with the couches to crash on, and friendly smiles, even when I show up unannounced a thousand miles from home. Their offers of good times in new places, their directions of places to go.

I’m thankful for the strangers, and their words of advice. The interesting flavor they cast upon my world. The bums on the trains, the crazies in the bar; their soulful presence downtown, late at night. I’m thankful to be old enough to appreciate the good times, and also the bad. I’m thankful for the realization that good days are to be savored, and that bad days will pass. I’m thankful for the beaches I’ve seen, and the brutally harsh Midwest winters that help me to appreciate them.

At the moment, I’m thankful for this out of the way downtown bar. It’s the place I go and don’t tell my friends. It’s dark, and the beer is local and tasty; the shelves are full of dusty books, and there is a piano that you’re welcome to sit down at. Tonight, when someone walks in the door, the whole room cheers, and the entrant doesn’t really understand. They look around, and look behind them, trying to figure out why the room is cheering. And then they get a big smile, and someone yells out, “We’re happy you made it!” And everyone laughs and smiles some more. I’m thankful for this comfortable scene, and all the smiles and laughs exchanged in my half hour here.

I’m thankful for all of this, and today, I’m also thankful for pretty girls with beautiful eyes and nice smiles. Especially when they smile at me.

Missed Connections

The first time I saw her, it was only for a moment, and in passing. It was on the street in downtown, towards the end of the work day. Hundreds of people in passing, hundreds of glances into the cold downward stares of strangers, all focused on their own lives and their own problems. Everyone in the dark, neutral colors of winter, bundled up to insulate against the cold. Headphones in to insulate against the conversation of strangers. Just for a second we made eye contact, her dark blue eyes carried the hint of sadness. My lighter blues the promise of mischief. Her bright red winter hat stood out amongst our dreary day.

The second time I saw her, she was in the park, still with her red knit winter hat. Walking a dog, an old lab mutt who seemed to be enjoying the fresh air a lot more than she did. Impatient or bored, she implored her mutt to hurry, so that they might retreat into her downtown loft, with its central heat, and prime time television, and dinner for one. I was in the park, imploring a mutt of my own to do the same. It was cold and clear that night, and though my apartment would prove to be lonelier than the street, it was still the acceptable attitude to carry. The conventional move to make. In my apartment, looking down at the lights of the city, at the bums and the hustlers, I feel lonelier than normal. And yet that’s where I end up every night.

The third time I saw her she smiled. It was so unexpected that I shyly looked away. It was on the train over the river, and I was lost in my own thoughts. I looked up, and there she was. Shoulder length dark hair spilling out from her red hat, dark blue eyes not as sad today, but studying me curiously. Stylish business casual with her requisite shoulder bag; she was a trendy product of our environment. It probably dawned on us both that I was staring, studying her, when she smiled. Quick and friendly, an invitation to say something, to say anything; I was stunned. And I quickly looked away. At the next stop she got off.

The fourth time I saw her, I didn’t even see her, until she was right in my face with a, “hello, I’m Katie.” I looked down at her, and her pixie smile, challenging, teasing. The promise of adventure. Bold. Daring. New. A half-step from her comfort zone. Her dark blues somehow lighter now, glowing, beautiful.

“Hi Katie, I’m Sean.”

It’s such a waste of money to look poor

Hi Friend.


I saw the most beautiful thing on the train this morning. The sun was shining and the music was playing, though headphones were no longer necessary. The sky hammers a blue haze at sunrise, but I missed it yet again. No chucks today, or anytime soon. They got hip and expensive, and it’s such a waste of money to look poor.

Hi Friend.


Kid Cudi rocks my coffee shops, and I intend to wear these sandals until the snow flies. Fire flies and Pixie girls wear discerning scowls as they frequent my train, no time for smiles during this Occupation. A shantytown took over the city park, a modern day urban petting zoo for the banksters’ lunch time constitutional. Man cannot live on rice and beans alone. But I try. With extra hot sauce, because life is too bland for an upset stomach. Smiles are still free in these parts, but she saves hers for a down payment on a townhouse up in Northwest.

A stolen study space provides ample opportunity for observation, and my hoodie smells like menthol cigarettes. I am constantly asked directions here. I’m somehow “safe” and “approachable” despite sporting the same fringe uniform of every other individual in this too hip City of Roses. I decided not to fight it, and bought a map to the stars instead. We’re all pawns and ants when viewed from a passing plane. Which is why I hitch hike whenever possible.

Hi Friend.


Black wire framed glasses complement her silver MacBook pro nicely, she’s going to make an excellent corporate accountant someday. People aren’t as friendly as I remember. But the beer still comes cold and cheap, a Midwest import; just like me. The old spots have taken on a melancholy shade of gray, their winter coats guard against the rain. It’s not hard to survive on one meal day, as long as there’s a bottomless ceramic mug of black coffee. Sugar will rot your smile. Black as his jacket, skinny as her jeans. Parted sideways like her haircut. Crooked as my teeth. With gaps where white should be. And why shouldn’t there be? Soft spoken and misunderstood, with brown suede pants and an infinite longing for excitement. We should all be so lucky.

I’m not nearly hip enough to type here. Luckily they still accept cash money, even though my eyes don’t beg for acceptance. No, instead my eyes project a breezy confidence, an acceptable amount of aloofness, a nonchalance that isn’t trying to play their game. It acknowledges their game, but instead of choosing to win or lose, my eyes give away the fact that I’m no longer playing. The elusive third option.

Calf skin boots march next to the vegan option, and they’d both be beautiful if they weren’t such obvious clichés. I’d settle for frozen fish, and a good Zombie Movie. But on Friday we will drink rum and lament the fact that we missed out on Puerto Rico in the early 1960s. Though I’ve never been much of a bowler.

Carved into my worn wood desk, it says, “Ignore the Naysayers” which strikes me as ironic, because this is a Quiet Section. I feel like the Naysayers would first be politely warned, and if that failed to stifle their Saying of Nay, they’d be taken out back, and beaten like mules, wrapped tightly in burlap sacks and floated down the Willamette, only to be sold into white slavery, or perhaps to the paper mills. Where ever the price is right, in this ugly economy.

If only she’d look up and smile, I’d feel like I could finish this rant.