Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cool as a cucumber

Portland summers are usually breezy, warmish kind of days. Sometimes you can get away with shorts, but by nightfall, you’re usually trading them in for pants. I only know one person with air conditioning. It’s a window unit. Last summer, I don’t think she turned it on.

But this summer has been different. This week has been a sweaty kind of mass hysteria. After three days of triple digits (Seriously, 108!) I sat on my bed Wednesday morning and cried. I hadn’t slept in days. My showers turned to sweat as soon as I stepped out. My apartment smells terrible (rotting bread! rotting fruit! rotting Casey!).

Call it wimpy. I grew up in cities where humidity exceeds air. And triple digits? That’s a regular Louisiana summer. But friends, in those cities, we have air conditioning. And we run it. Hard.

So I called Ryan up. He’s from Arizona and headed to Sudan in a month. He’s also a wimp. By 1 p.m., I had paid for a swanky hotel room outfitted with a roaring, freezing air conditioning unit.

It may be the best money I’ve spent this year.

After a solid bout of sleep, I stumbled out of bed. Ryan had left for work already, but had scribbled on our hotel door (We stayed in hipsterville, where the doors are made out of chalkboard): I LOVE U! WE HAVE AC! I LOVE AC!


Before we crashed, we took photos of each other from the vantage point of soft, white beds.






(Ryan took that last photo. He made me do the peace sign).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Like Hallmark, we care enough to send the very best

This is a thank-you card I made for Gosia and her roommate and their 13 chickens:

chicken thank-you card

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Riding the rails

July 27th -- on the blue line to Gresham (temporarily, for a trip over the bridge)

A man wearing long sleeves is selling candy bars for 20 cents. It's 98 degrees outside and not much cooler on the train.

"Spare 20 cents ma'am?" he asks, holding out the box of chocolate. The girl sitting next to me hands him 50 cents.

"But I don't want any candy," she says. ""It's too hot to eat that stuff."

"Gummy bears?" he asks, prying out a hidden bag.

She's wearing a tank top with a too-short jean skirt that reveals writing on her leg. "I <3 MEGAN 4EVR." There's a pack of cigarettes balancing on her knee.

"No, it's too hot, too sweet," she says, louder.

He walks off. "It's too hot," he murmurs to himself. He puts the candy in a backpack. "Too hot."

He picks up a plastic cup of ice water and rubs it all over his head, which is buzzed short. "I wish I could cool down. I wish I could cool down," he says.

At the next stop, he gets off. People outside are advertising free hugs, but no one is taking them.

Caught by the river

Lately, it's been too hot in Portland to do anything but get in water.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Last week, I rode with the cops

In the Central Precinct, 10 minutes before roll call, three officers are watching the biggest flat screen TV I’ve ever seen.

Deep voice says, “Lil Rick’s crippin’ had gone too far. The balancing act was torture.”

By 4 p.m., roll call is in full swing. There’s only one female.

“Let’s do like we always do and keep our hats and bats with us.”

Cops pass around documents - bench warrants, photos of wanted suspects - and swap stories. One cop tells of a man who has been getting on elevators, pulling out “Captain Winkie,” shaking it, then putting it away. “Then he’ll just say something casual then get off the elevator,” the cop says.

By 4:30, I’m riding shotgun on a patrol through Old Town. Lately, crack has made its way back into the neighborhood. We’re going to see if anyone’s dealing.

Around 6 p.m., my cop stops to talk to a few people sitting on a wall that used to belong to an old Burger King. The restaurant - now burned through - is plastered with No Trespassing signs.

The woman farthest from the cop is all teeth chattery and bouncing in her white tennis shoes. While he’s checking others’ IDs, she sneaks off into the street, crosses a crosswalk and is gone.

“Officer, there may be a discrepancy with my address,” one of the women still standing there says. Later, I learn her name is Angela. She’s the most facilitating. She has a brand new bicycle, a nice voice and a a felony warrant out for her arrest.

Her friend Yvonne has a little bit of crack in her pocket.

“Am I going to find any more on you?” the cop asks her.

“No sir, I just had a little something this morning,” Yvonne says back.

While he’s frisking her, a tooth falls out of Yvonne’s mouth. A cop on a bicycle wants to frisk the front of her. Yvonne, instead, pulls up her shirt and her bra to reveal no drugs, only large, large breasts. Her driver’s license says she’s 260.

A passerby walking on the sidewalk yells back at the cops as he passes, “Don’t be startled, I’m just a black man walking behind you.”

Yvonne - now in handcuffs and sitting on the curb - tells the bike cop that part of her tongue ring is in her back pocket. Can she screw it back on?

The bike cop bends down to tighten a knob onto Yvonne’s tongue. She jumps back when she realizes she’s stepped in human feces.

“Those are your new shoes, right?” another cop asks her. That cop is eating a granola bar, talking to the two people they won’t arrest in the group.

The cop I rode with - Chad - is holding up Yvonne’s purse. “Yvonne,” he says sweetly. “What’s vibrating in your purse?”

“A dildo vibrator,” she says.

Chad looks sheepish.

The officers move Yvonne to the police car. While they process Angela, Yvonne and I are alone in the car.

“It’s just crumbs, ain’t a whole lotta dope, just three crumbs. Shit,” she says to herself. “Shit.”

A cop tells one of the two non-arrested members to break a crack pipe they found in Yvonne’s purse, so he walks off the sidewalk, sets it down gently.

“Dooooooon’t!” Yvonne calls from the backseat.

He looks bewildered. “They told me I hafta.”

He steps on it quickly. Parts of the crack pipe fly in through my open window and land on my shirt.

“Man, shit,” Yvonne says. “Why? There wasn’t nothin’ wrong with it.”

“They told me to.”

About this time, Chad puts Angela in the back of the car, too. She’s handcuffed, but she wiggles around to where she can hold a cell phone.

“Hey, I’m going to jail,” she says. “Yes, I’m arrested. I gotta warrant.”

Chad gets in the car. Yvonne asks, “Why are you wasting your time on me? There’s alotta dope out there.”

“There IS a lot of dope out there,” Chad says. “But you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t buy it, dealers wouldn’t be able to sell it.”

“I didn’t buy it,” Yvonne says. “Somebody bought it for me. And anyway, if there wasn’t dealers, there wouldn’t be anybody to buy from. Go arrest a dealer.”

“New dealers would just come around,” Chad says.

He reads her her rights.

The bike cop comes around to ask what Angela wants to do with her bike. She wants Chad to call her fiancee Raymond, who’s 10 blocks away. When Raymond arrives, Angela is crying. They look at each other in disbelief. He takes the bike, and Angela, crying, says to Chad, “I’ve lost everything I’ve ever worked for.”

“What’s that?” Chad asks.

“Nothing,” she says, crying.

“She said she’s lost everything she’s ever worked for,” I tell Chad. “I think she’s sad about the bike.”

“You’ll get your bike back, Angela, don’t worry,” he says.

“I don’t care about my bike,” she says, crying harder. “I’m going to lose my job, my house, my fiancee. All over something I did 10 years ago. I tried to get it taken care of in court, but I couldn’t get a document from Florida.”

Chad turns to me. “The warrant is over a dangerous drug possession.”

“Am I going to get a bail?” Angela asks.

“Uhh, no,” he says, eye-ing a processing paper. “Your bail is zero. Hey, Yvonne, what’s your address?”

She’s silent.

“You not talking to me anymore?” he asks.


It’s 6:45 p.m. I’m due back at work. It’s sunny; the windows are down. There’s crack pipe on my shirt. Chad drops me off in front of the newspaper office, but I walk to Safeway for dinner instead.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

They named him Nico.

Jess and Tom had a baby about a month ago. I finally got to meet him!




Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

The sun was setting on the Columbia

I went sailing with a bunch of teenage boys:










Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Born to run

This isn't a technically good photo, but it really cracks me up anyway. This dog had been chasing one of Gosia's 13 chickens around. When the chicken pecked back, the dog took off:


Sunday, July 19, 2009


Randi, Chelsey (with Emmett) and I made homemade ginger ale. It tasted like ginger-flavored kombucha. Some batches were better than others. But on day 1, drinking out of the 2 liter version, Randi and I sure thought it was delicious.

I present I love ginger, of course, but I also only like her (ale) [with apologies to Fred Armisen]








Friday, July 17, 2009

More tales from Mitchell

I have no accompanying photos, but here are a few things I heard in the Bridge Street Cafe in Mitchell:

Waitress: We do have a felon in Mitchell. He’s usually hanging out here when they take him to the pokey. The sad thing is, he’s one of the nicest guys here. He’s the only who doesn’t spend all his time talking about everyone else.

Random patron: Where’d the last woman who owned this go?
Waitress: Peggy? She went to Fossil to take care of her mother. Didn’t do a good job, though. They put her in a nursing home. Then I don’t know what happened to her.

Waitress: Keifer Davis keeps wanting to be deputy commissioner. Trouble is, none of us want him to have a gun.

Chelsey also heard a story while I was outside of the waitress talking about a man who keeps playing a trick on the sheriff. He’ll steal his handcuffs then handcuff him to something or another. I can’t remember what. He did it three times, though.

Bring out your Vivian Girls

The music video I worked on while in the mountains has debuted. Check it out:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Closed up shop


Judy Perry says this place has been closed as long as she's lived in Mitchell -- 19 years -- but that the former owner's son just put it on the market this year. When we were there, the price had been newly reduced.

It's across the street from the old grocery store. Mr. Schnee ran it. Then he died, and the store closed.


Monday, July 13, 2009

More tales from Mitchell

Judy Perry, 49, grew up in Madras but moved to Mitchell for love. About 20 years ago, she spilled a platter of drinks in Chris Perry’s lap. Two months later, they were engaged. Two months later, she was married and moving to Mitchell. In 19 years, she’s always found work. Any time she’d lose a job, one would open up that same day. A few years ago, she and her husband opened up this store, Second Hand Treasures.

Her husband is the county commissioner and his business card says Chris Perry — Scrap Metal, Hay. But he used to drive the school bus until the family moved out of town and the route dried up. Back then, Ed, the jack russell fox terrier rode the school bus, too. He’s had his own adventures, such as the time he got stuck in a wire fence chasing a rabbit.

The county seat is about 10 miles away in Fossil, and though it might sound like a good idea for the county commissioner to live there, Judy said she never would. “I said it once right in the courthouse, I will not live in Fossil,” she said. “People there are snobs.”

I missed it, but Judy apparently told a story about a little boy who "clomb" up a hill.




Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mitchell, Oregon presents Hugh Reed

Until 'recently,'* Hugh Reed, 70, lived in a tree house. These days, he lives in a house with electricity with his 'pretty young thing' of a wife -- Skeeter, 49. They run the Oregon Hotel together, and Hugh spends his days drinking coffee or Keystone Light while running the town's one gas pump or selling ice out of a little shack. He is also the owner of Henry, a bear who was declawed as a cub. Henry likes to eat dog food one kernel at a time. Hugh says Henry also likes for Hugh to put his hand in his mouth and scratch the back of his tongue. I did not get physical proof of this.

Ask anybody in town about Hugh and they'll roll their eyes. If you listen to him, his own mom would, too. He insulted her once by asking her if she was raped by Big Foot -- "Look at me," he told her. "I look half animal. Plus, I was born in Roswell, New Mexico, where anything is possible."

Hugh offered to teach us 10 minutes worth of self-defense, but we never got around to it. He did show us a callous that he says is a result of an upward palm jab to the nose.



*I suspect 'recently' is actually 26 years.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Painted Hills

I went to the desert:




Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The night Michael Jackson died, I went around town looking for dance parties. The night started auspiciously at the foot of the Steel Bridge with about 100 bikers dancing. Here are two videos I made from that night, including one gorgeous eulogy about what MJ had to do with biking anyway:

The day Michael Jackson died: A cyclist's eulogy from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Portlanders dance to Michael Jackson songs from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Also, if you're interested, here are a few mash-ups between MJ songs with some famous rappers:

Jay-Z over Don't stop till you get enough

Lil Wayne over I want you back

Nas over You rock my world

They reminisce over you

As a shout-out to my best B, I carved a letter in the samosa baby pie. Everyone made fun of me, said they could have carved one better, but I'm not artful in the ways of cutting and carving, and this is not news to you. The photo also isn't focused, but I hope you'll see my love either way:


Friday, July 3, 2009

The blues will never go out of fashion

After a week of taking the bus, I rode my bike again today. It’s hot in Portland — both suffocating and burning if you’re out there long enough — and I had to concentrate so that my lungs got their rhythms back just right. But my legs are still strong, my balance still steady.

Somehow I was surprised.

I keep seeing Portland in new ways. All along I have thought I would be here temporarily, like any day now some great newspaper job would invent itself in the South, and I would run happily back. I’d be tan and eat snowcones and see my brother whenever I damn well please.

Newspapers being where they are, that is serious dreaming, but here’s the thing: Lately, I’m not even dreaming for it anymore.

Maybe I’m just carrying it with me? Talking more thickly, cooking red beans and rice and sharing more stories.

Or maybe I’m just loosening up, learning to look at Portland, eyes-wide-open. This has happened twice this week. Once, I was riding the bus over the Broadway bridge. I was a reading a New Yorker piece about something or another and listening to Tupac. I looked across the river and realized that I am, still, wholly myself. What a gift.

Then again, today, biking over the Hawthorne Bridge, I looked down and saw so many sail boats docked alongside the blues festival. It’s no Subway Lounge — the Mississippi club where I went in college. It didn’t open till midnight, and you could get in with any ID (literally, I frequently used a 45-year-old black man’s ID), and if you wanted beer or hot dogs, you had to go to a house next door. It stayed open till 4 a.m. till one day it all came crashing down and the musicians (formerly sweaty and crammed into such small spaces) moved down the road to Schimmel’s, a fancy, open-spaced, air-conditioned joint — but the blues festival on the river was a nice little reminder of home.

Anyway, I looked out at the river again and felt like I actually love being here.

I keep thinking I have lost something (myself, my muscles), but it’s always there. My essential truths are all in tact.

Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
-- t. hayes

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Music in the woods

I spent last weekend in the mountains of White Salmon, Wash., just a few miles away from the Columbia River Gorge, making a music video with a crew of about 20 people. I'll post the video here when it's out, but for now, here are some shots from the weekend:










Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nine months later, life as wrecking ball

You'll find me revved like a motorboat, gliding [chugging?] over water. Did I make those waves? Were they there before? And what of motion? Does it mean anything at all?