Monday, June 29, 2009

Bicycles clanging

Last week, I made this video. Being there, taking notes by Pedicab, I felt so freakishly happy to be in Portland:

Around 4:30, after practice, Jason Fromme climbed into the back of a pedicab and prepared to conduct a symphony. About 40 bicyclists stood parked before him, singing a "low, pleasing melody."

"All right, let's see if we can make something nice," he told them, and they set off.

The event director, Mattie Kaiser, looked part bicyclist, part musician, wearing a white gown and a helmet as she led the crowd. Kaiser's the head of Classical Revolution, a group of 20- and 30-somethings dead-set on making classical musical accessible for all. During Pedalpalooza, that means taking the music -- by bike -- to the streets.

The group performed "How I came to Chicago and why" while riding along the Park blocks.

Galen Huckins -- a 22-year-old composer whom Kaiser calls "Boywonder" -- wrote the piece after a cross-country bike trip two years ago. He woke up in Indiana one morning, determined to bike to Chicago by nightfall. The symphony is what the 144-mile trip sounded like, he said. It's the sound of countryside giving way to urban sprawl, of a body long worn out, of a bike's natural squeakiness.

Not that any of that sounds particularly gorgeous. Wednesday's symphony was more Portland weird than orchestra pretty. But the musicians were smiling the entire time. And the onlookers who stopped to watch the noise-makers riding by seemed to like it.

The cyclists whooshed. They rang bells. They banged on their bike frames with silverware.

"I'm not getting a good sound out of this," one guy said, clanking a fork against his frame. "I think it's my bike."

The street offered its own improvised melodies: Motorcycles blared by, birds chirped, a couple fought over a suitcase, a man asked for change.

To hear a snippet of the symphony, watch the video.

Portland Bike Symphony from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Love the hell out of

The house across from Natalie's street is abandoned. But otherwise, much of what I loved about New Orleans was the same, including Jessica -- wild and electric, wearing outfits only she'd come up with. Walking through the French Quarter, a man hollered to her, "I love the hell out of that hat."

I did, too.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"We went to the swamp today"

We were eating at Cafe Du Monde when this kid next to us started making the craziest faces at us. "We went to the swamp today," he told me, then started making these flirting funny faces. His parents said, "Christopher, make a nice face" for the photo, and this is what he did:


Also, I don't love this photo as much, but I love this kid's ears immensely. After much persuading by his old brother, this was his good face:


I let him take a picture of me, and I, too, had powdered sugar on my face:


Monday, June 22, 2009

John & John

John #1 (John Hoswath) has been playing this long harmonica since he was a little kid. He's a retired chemical engineer who now hangs outside this convenience store with his friend of one year John #2. The cosmos opened up and gave them to each other, they told me. John #2 is an engineer of some other sort, he said.

John #1 played "When the Saints Go Marching In" for me then wrote his e-mail address down in careful cursive so I could mail him a picture sometime:




As we were walking off toward a junk shop, my friends pointed out this wig and a pack of Rave cigarettes lying near the store. I bent down to take a picture of then John & John said, "We know the person who wears that wig. Take a picture of him!"

Then they hollered into the store, "Hey, Reginald, there's a nice young journalist out here who wants to take your picture. Come put your wig on."

A deep, tired voice called out from the store, "Fuckkkkk you."

Reginald walked out, obviously not amused. He was wearing maroon velvet pants, pretty sandals and a purse. A few paper towels were stuffed into the top of the pants, and a big beer belly hung over that. I worried that John & John were making fun of him, so I tried to same some nice, "No worries have a great day" then headed off to the junk shop.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hung up

This guy tied a hammock high-up between two poles on Magazine Street. He worried too many of his pictures show him drinking. It was 2 p.m.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Water rope

Hot as F in New Orleans. We found what Jess called a "water rope" and went to f'in town:



Friday, June 19, 2009

Live from a 3-hour layover in Phoenix

June 19, en route to New Orleans:

The last time I was there was two days before the hurricane. We had packed tofu sandwiches and driven the three hours south all in the name of seeing a movie. Back then (and maybe still) if you want to see any kind of independent movie in the theater, you had to go to New Orleans or Memphis.

I read about the hurricane in a newspaper about halfway down. We were in a convenience store buying cokes, and I read the paper and figured it wouldn't be much of anything. I grew up with hurricanes. During Hugo in '89 in Georgia, my mom covered the windows with grey duct tape, and we all sat in the bathroom. Not a whole lot happened, as far as I could see. I didn't know then that South Carolina had endured most of the damage.

The summer of 2005 had already seen a few hurricanes. Just a few weeks earlier, they had evacuated New Orleans in the name of a hurricane that never came.

Not a whole lot happens, I figured, so I kept driving even though my mom called me, too, on the way South and asked if I knew I was heading toward a hurricane.

We got down to Canal Place early and ate our tofu (Lindsey had cooked it in red wine with herbs) in the food court. A bunch of women in movie theater uniforms were standing around talking about maybe going home early. Our movie either started or ended at 4 (I can't remember now), and they said if the showing wasn't canceled, it'd at least be the last of the day.

I was eavesdropping and told Lindsey I was going to be mad as hell if I didn't get to see Broken Flowers. I had been on a serious Bill Murray kick since Lost in Translation, and I had driven three hours just to see him.

They decided to go ahead and show the movie, but about half the workers got to go home. A man dressed up in movie theater manager clothes said New Orleans was being evacuated and whoever could should go on home and pack.

We went in to watch the movie -- which actually wasn't great -- and I was cold the entire time. For some reason, I was wearing shorts even though Southern movie theaters are always freezing with air conditioning.

Afterward, everything was empty: the mall, the parking lot, Canal Street. The other streets held only a few people, most of whom were nailing cardboard over windows. We had wanted to go shopping at Whole Foods -- another thing Jackson didn't have -- but it was already closed.

I can't remember what we talked about on the way home. I must have been shocked that people were taking it so seriously. It seems stupid now, how ridiculous I was. I can remember vividly those empty streets. All of Magazine, boarded up.

It took something like eight hours to drive up I-55. Everyone was leaving, I thought, leaving that city behind. Later, I realized New Orleans hadn't been empty at all.

Mississippi had its own damage. We didn't have power for 10 days, and looking for gas was a mad free-for-all I never could really explain to anyone. The day after, all of Belhaven looked like a giant had come by swatting trees over. We drove around looking for all our friends, hoping everyone was alive (Even in Jackson, three people died).

I haven't been back to New Orleans. I used to go every few weekends to see movies or go dancing or drink super-sweet drinks near the water. Once, in college, we drove down there after 11 o'clock at night to walk around. We got back just as I was supposed to be at work the next day. New Orleans was where went after break-ups; it was where I went to find you after heartbreak, to tell you I had made the wrong decision. You smoked American Spirits, and I wore a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. It was where I went to my first dyke march and where I picked up my car -- for $1,000 cash -- after it had been repossessed from school.

In a few hours, I'll be back. I know there'll be mosquitos and sweat that runs between your breasts even at 3 a.m., but what else?

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I just got this text from my mom: "U R a masterpiece."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Since before I could talk

Portland hosts its own version of American Idol every year. This year, I went to interview all 12 of them on camera. I also made them sing to me. I found most of them ridiculously adorable. Here they are:

Portland Teen Idol from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Sleepy has been Randi's for 23 years. He'll make another blog appearance soon. Here's his test shot, along with a song from the Subpop free sampler:


Vetiver - Strictly Rule

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I love little dogs

I took this a while back. It's not a great photo, which is why I didn't post it. But I just really love this dog, so I'm posting it anyway. Simone and Kyndall's baby -- Quimby:


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Seriously, this kid is incredible

One of the most fun things I've been able to do lately is meet this girl:

For months, Chelsee Caskey, 18, went to school in a wheelchair, smiling as if nothing had happened. But most days, she went home and cried until she fell asleep.

Ten months ago, Caskey was running in the Portland to Coast High School Challenge relay just south of Scappoose when a driver, high on meth, hit her from behind.

She spent more than a month in hospitals. She spent even longer trying to ease back into her old life.

Wednesday night, she graduated from Lincoln High School. After a year that changed everything, she was simply happy.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wish you were here

When I was 18 and first learning what music I liked (I spent my youth obsessed with contemporary Christian music. The only thing I knew otherwise was Counting Crows), I often played this song over and over once it got dark.

I hadn't yet kissed a girl.

Back then, I lived in a dorm room that was nearly completely wood. I played all music off a black Dell desktop on a Winamp player. That winter, I kissed a boy in the dark of my bedroom while this song played. A week or two later, I kissed a girl while listening to the same song. Kissing the girl was so. so. much better.

It was only a few months later that I told my mom in the church bathroom on Easter Sunday that I liked girls. That was an awful year -- a year spent crying in the stairs behind my dorm, a year of whispering pleas to God, a year of confused journal entries, a year of kissing boy after boy hoping to change it all. But in the darkness, listening to a classic song that was still new to me, I was only happy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The morning after

A few weeks ago, Caitlin Bernardi (Rainbow is her "club name") told me that once her reign as Miss Jr. Gay Pride ended, "Everybody's going to forget about Rainbow. That's how it always is. No one will remember me."

Last night was her last night. Today, she woke up at noon and walked with her best friends along the Willamette River. Maybe people will forget about Rainbow. But I know two people who won't ever forget Caitlin:


(Caitlin, Heather and McArthur, age 18)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You left me wanting, wanting ... like the wanting in the movies and the hymns

Lately, I feel like the main character in Henderson the Rain King, traveling the world with a voice in my gut saying, "I want, I want."

I want to be better so badly at photography and videos. I want to find more stories to do for work. I want to spend less time on the Internet and more time invested in the world.

I want, I want.

So how do I get there?

My windows look into your living room

A couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of a video set up, and some of my friends wanted to know if that's what my apartment looks like. So I decided to give a better, bigger view. Here's where I spend my time when I'm not at work or out on the town:



The green couch was a present from my parents. It was totally brand new and a surprise that just arrived one day, on the eve of my 'adulthood.' I bought the white couch the day Kate left, hoping to make my own new start in this space. The recliner, I found. The tiny pictures are Polaroid-esque (made my Fuji) pictures I take of anyone who comes in here. The painting is William Goodman's -- He sold it to be for far too cheaply for a deal I never came through on. My bookshelf is organized into non-fiction, fiction, favorite fiction and poetry. The TV is on the floor because it's too dang heavy to pick up to put on any kind of stand.

hugs and kisses from apartment 301 (the Media Center),

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Parts of a part

Two excerpts from a video interview Aaron and I did with Mr. and Mrs. Junior Gay Pride:

Rainbow and Chip Clip talk about the gay jeep from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

McArthur and Jakob talk about words from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pocket money

My grandmother sent me this for my birthday:


Also, just for good measure, here is a Rogue Wave cover of "Debaser."