I can't get enough of these Ninteenth Century Bike posters...
My Thursday started bad. A young man who has been trying to communicate with me for several weeks is slipping further away. His ideas and thoughts are now so abstract he has almost lost the grounding to negotiate through daily life. He wants to take me to the future but I’m no longer willing to go. I decided to be honest and tell him the conversation is going nowhere. He tells me, I am choosing to settle for less, and that I am obviously willing to accept the state of the world as it is because choosing otherwise might prove too challenging for me. He was starting to make sense and then he walked away from me, pissed off and disappointed.
I bluff my way through the rest of the day, trying to spend as much of it as possible outside, aimlessly walking around the downtown core. I walk past the addicts, taking their daily walk and smoke break around the block and the toothless homeless woman, who asks me for a $1 everyday. Today she is sitting spread legged on the sidewalk, her soiled underwear visible for all to see. Then, I get a disappointingly bland burrito. Should have gone to my usual Taqueria. I check a couple of book shops to see how many zines are left on the shelves. There are one or two stubborn zines, hanging out, refusing to be purchased. I wonder if I even care about the content anymore. It feels peculiar to have thoughts, ideas and stories, on display when I’m, not currently in the mindset I was upon creation.
My shift ends and I’ve procrastinated just enough paper work to feel a tinge of guilt about leaving but I look at my bicycle and it begs me to leave the office. I decide to take it easy and not to push my limits, but the air feels good on my pasty white legs and I’m soon huffing, puffing and sweating my way through traffic.
Back home, I rest in the cool basement to the tunes of Tommy Guerrero’s Jet Black Crayon. I drift off to the words of Pete Simonelli’s spoken word on one particular track. I listen to the same song ‘My Fair Romans’ over and over again. Why haven’t I heard of him before?
After a couple of hours, it is time to leave again. I stuff my backpack full of zines and hop back on my bike to try and sell them at the art show.
The art show is in a pompous clothing store. I set up the zines and Dennis Dread’s posters amongst a thicket of clothing racks and rapidly sip the free beer. The art is scattered throughout a thicket of mass-produced trendy clothes. I tempted to help myself to some jeans. As I weigh up the ethics of stealing from a store cool enough to allow us to host a fundraiser, I get side-tracked by watching people check out the zines. Most of them look vacantly through the pages. Some of them take more time and pause on the pages with illustrations and photographs. Does anyone read anymore? Is it too text heavy? Many, throw it back down on the table. Disinterested, they are here for the free beer or to finger through the discount jeans. I begin to wonder if I have any secret allies amongst the crowd. People like myself that see through the farce and filth. People who’d rather share a sunset in the wild than cruise the First Thursday art walk… Now I sound as bad as my young friend this morning. Oh, here’s one. It’s Jeff. Have a beer mate. We’re not indulging, we’re subverting. Sure.
Every once in awhile more secret allies reveal themselves. They are undercover like us. ‘Hey this looks interesting. Can I buy a copy?’ Yes, but let’s run through the streets screaming like wild banshees first.
The scene gets busier as the night settles in. My zine arrangement gets more and more cluttered. Wine and beer spilling onto them. Fuck this. It is getting claustrophobic. My friends have wisely vacated and I’m still standing there, now drunk, amongst over priced t-shirts. I neck the rest of my beer and stuff the remaining zines in my backpack. It is lighter now. That’s good, I suppose. I unlock my bike and take off into the warm night.
My knees and back feel lubricated by the free beer. I feel like I can ride forever. I pick up my pace and race through the crowded streets. Simonelli’s voice guides me through the city. “The ancients spoke of removing guilt for the sake of future societies.”
Short skirts and dress shirts. Lots of beautiful affluent young people on what was, not long ago, Portland’s skid row, eating good food, drinking fine wine, making the scene and taking in the palatable art on this eve of the Fourth Of July. I continue to ride through the masses. Is this my community? Is this where/when I’m supposed to feel patriotic? The crowds gradually thinning as I leave downtown. My SAD quells.
The occasional firework explodes prematurely overhead. America. Should I ask for a say yet?
Sweating now. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much energy I have. Pushing the bike faster and faster through the leafy Southeast Portland neighborhoods that I currently call home. I don’t want to stop. The internal dialogue is being snuffled under the whir of the summer night air, chain, crank and cogs. And Breathing. “I want to ride my bike forever” An over-priced t-shirt somewhere.