Thursday, December 22, 2011

November 12: Portland, Occupied.

We couldn't live softly forever.

It was time to get back on the road so we said regretful goodbyes to the Jacksons. Grandma Jackson gave us a business card with every possible way to contact them and a bag full of food. Hugs all around.

"You be safe now!"

Truly, I love them.

We made a pit stop in Salem to give Katelyn her glasses. Her mom offered to take us to lunch after Katelyn got off work.

This was probably one of the busiest days JC Penny's portrait studio had ever seen, so it took extra long for Katelyn to be ready.

While Garrett and I waited for Katelyn, we wandered the blustery streets. Yellow, orange, red leaves at our feet. Cracks in the pavement. My long pink scarf. Garrett's plaid shirt.

Small, kitschy corner stores. Stores for people who like beads. Stores for old ladies with too much money and time, full of smelly candles and Absinthe-flavored mints (true confessions: I was curious to the point of almost buying them, but I thought it might be an un-vagabond-like move, so I didn't give 'em a whorl. Regrets).

Pit stops in which one could pray until Jesus comes again to save Salem.

Record stores. 

Lunch at Thai Orchid: too many options on the menu to make a decision, so, true to form, I asked the waitress for a suggestion. #84, Spicy noodles and broccoli. I'll have that. Good choice.

A warm yet sorrowful goodbye to The Resners. They were so good to us.

And then, off to Occupy. Er, to watch Occupy. To get Occupied?

The protesters were supposed to be out of the park by midnight, according to the mayor. We, of course, had to be there to watch it all go down--whatever "it" would be.

Buuuuuut midnight was a long way off by the time we got back into P-town.

We reunited with Kelly. Her mom was kind enough to order pizza and we shared a nice, quiet dinner together. We went to a little joint in Selwood called Muddy Rudder and listened to some music.

Then, for real this time, Portland.

As we walked through the park, I felt the chide of my political apathy of late. The Portlanders set their jaws for their cause. The Portlanders got on the mic. The Portlanders danced around the drummers. The Portlanders stood by their tents. The Portlanders lit cigarettes.

T'was raining, and pretty cold, but it still felt like a festival. 
A festival with an ominous drumbeat and a lot, lot, lot of dreadheads. 

The police expected at most 500 people, but more and more kept showing up. 

Aww, look at Kelly getting her political activism on. 

You can't see it very well, but this is a giant tent. 

We were not real Portlanders, so we did not join the mass of people on the corner of the park. Instead, we stood across the street with a view of the crowd under the bright lights. 

I believe this is the view from our safety spot across the street. 

We waited and anticipated. The really annoying geeky dude next to us talked at 1,000 words per minute about all the possibilities of midnight, of all the things the cops would or wouldn't do. 

It got colder. 

The people in the park kept yelling at us rubber-neckers and gesturing us to come over, join the flock. I was compelled to go. My feet itched for it. I wanted to dash across the street and press my body against all the hippies, the homeless, the angry small business owners, the moms, the dads, and the druggies. I wanted to decry the government with them.

I remember when I owned political fire. I mean, I owned it. 

In sixth grade I ran for Student Body President and won. This was probably was some miracle, because I was not that popular and my opponent, Jake, was. (True confessions: I had a huge crush on him. He was totally hott even though he didn't actually care about improving the school the way I did, obvi.)

Jake's friend Adam and all the cronies came after me the day they announced that I had won. He yelled, "You're worse than Reagan!" among other things that we were both too young to really understand. I don't really remember everything he said, but I remember the hyena smiles on all the boys faces, and Adam pointing at me with spit flying out of his mouth as I walked away. He was infuriated because I wanted our school to plant more trees in unused space on the playground.  

I remember thinking it was kind-of funny, even though he essentially threatening me. I was above the mud-slinging. I knew I was right.  

I even convinced the sixth graders to spend our money on a plot of land in the rainforest to save the rainforest. I don't know if the adults ever did actually spend the money the way we decided. I'm sure they felt it a more appropriate use of funds to buy more playground equipment or pencils or something.

I want my fire back. 

I think I let it die down into a subdued ember while I was at BYU-Idaho, which is disappointing. I got so quiet, so quiet, so that they wouldn't only see my rough edges. I let the fire die, and they never saw really my softness, anyway. 

If I were a real Portlander, I would probably have been one of the people with a megaphone, gesturing for the bystanders to join in. How could you stand there watching, and not join in? Come be with us. We need you.   

But I continued to stand there, the rubber-necker. It got colder, the geek kept talking. I tried to gauge if Kelly was bored yet or if she was still into being there. Kelly is a very good sport. 

Around 1 o'clock, the police hadn't stepped in. No mace in the face. 

Just a swaying crowd of chanters who cheered every time the Occupy bike gang rode past. I could see that Kelly was getting too cold and too bored to be a good sport anymore, so I asked Garrett if we could leave. I could tell he probably would've stayed all night. In all honesty I probably would have too, but Kelly was our host and I was more interested in her getting warm than the uneventful protest. 

The uneventfulness of the protest, however, is the main point. 

Nothing happened. The midnight victory came to pass thanks to the power of thousands joining together with one voice. 

I want my fire back. 

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