please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Journey of Self-Discovery and Shit

The center of Oregon is this weird wonderland. In the very center of it, there's this multi-hued, throbbing heart of pure geological and paleontological weirdness. And it's fun to wander north from it, watching it slowly, slowly fading back into just plain old land forms.

But it is also home to towns like Friend, and also the town of Post, which is said to be the exact geographic center of Oregon. I've never been to either. So what are we doing talking about this?

Well, it's Spring again, or at least pretty close. So that means it's time for the lady of the house and I to head out east. This is, as we have explored before, a beautiful time to be in the desert.

As we've also noted before, actually very little of Oregon looks like the Willamette Valley. Hell, almost none of it does. But you get so used to depictions of it being more or less culled from around here: when you see a montage about "Oregon," what you get is shots of Mount Hood, the view east from the rose garden in Washington Park, Bonneville Dam, Haystack Rock...Probably Crater Lake, but anyway...

But in the center of it all, where not really all that many people go (except for Facebook, which has already started building its new center in Prineville), there it all comes together in this serious riot of colors, with a reminder of the giants in the earth that once were here.

There's that thing that sometimes happens in the best of all pursuits: someone actually hits the perfect note, someone actually cooks the perfect meal, you have the exact amount of the right chemicals going on where you see exactly, once and for all, where you stand in the universe and what it all means.
And the funny part is what happens afterwards, as you back away from it, as you inevitably will have to. Like I say, heading north out of the Painted Hills, you can see remnants of the geological mystery that made it all possible, fading fading back away slowly.

By the time you get to Condon, it just looks like the high plains again.

So anyways, we're either gonna go over Hwy. 26, over the top of Hood (my least favorite way of getting to Central OR, by the by), or over to The Dalles, down through Dufur, Maupin, Tygh Valley, etc.

Spend the night at The Riverhouse in Bend, maybe go over to Tumalo Reservoir, maybe go to drink Mirror Pond within walking distance of the actual Mirror Pond! Oh, magical place, yo.

Thence over to Prineville, over the Ochocos to Mitchell, where I suspect we'll get lunch and visit with Henry the Bear. After that, the Painted Hills.

Then we go up to the John Day Fossil Beds, and possibly over to the Clarno Unit, where basically Oregon's version of Arches National Monument is.

And spend the night at the Hotel Condon. Probably eating Painted Hills beef, just like you would in any decent restaurant in Portland, just fresher is all.

Maybe go to the only other location of Powell's Books there is in Oregon outside of the Portland metropolitan area. (If it's still there. Michael Powell was apparently wandering around Central Oregon ten or more years ago and decided that Condon was just charming enough that it needed a good bookstore. Go figure.)

So, four hundred-sixty miles, does Google Maps say. That's according to its route, which I think maybe will not be my route, exactly.

Coming back to what looks like a busy as hell month, which is good. More to come, from de road.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Some quick thoughts after spending an afternoon hanging lights in a high school auditorium

I should just have a 'David Brooks' tag.

His editorial today about varying modes of leadership has lots of the hallmarks of Brooksiana: the on-the-fly creation of weird catch-phrases that somehow fail to stick and sort of make you feel a little sorry for him...The odd Greater Point I'm Getting At Here that comes from a series of 'well, I'm not sure that's actually so' moments...I ultimately like this one though, because he ends up going with 'The Humble Hound,' rather than 'The Lion in the Boardroom.'

The guy he is initially talking about, who says things like,

“I can talk about changing things for the better, even if I don’t know what it is we’re going to change. I’ll just say we’re going over there somewhere. And I don’t quite know what that looks like, but it’s going to be fantastic.”

is not specifically described as a delusional maniac you wish like hell wasn't your boss, but David does quickly go from there to a more introspective leadership style, which...Well, this is Brooksiana again...

"The humble hound leader thinks less about her mental strengths than about her weaknesses. She knows her performance slips when she has to handle more than one problem at a time, so she turns off her phone and e-mail while making decisions. She knows she has a bias for caution, so she writes a memo advocating the more daring option before writing another advocating the most safe. She knows she is bad at prediction...In short, she spends a lot of time on metacognition — thinking about her thinking — and then building external scaffolding devices to compensate for her weaknesses."

Okay, for starters let's assume you're a woman. In fact, let's refer to our nameless example here as a "her." He goes through a list of traits often attributed to women although generally at odds with the attendant stereotype of the ball-busting corporate cunt. The example of the Boardroom Lion is an actual person, The Humble Hound is a nameless woman.

This is why David Brooks Land is such a fun place to visit: he almost always distracts from his basic point by clumsy shit like this. It makes you stop reading his piece for content and instead start editing it.

He then (briefly) talks about being a stagehand, which is an oddly Collective Action and Teamwork thing for even a Thoughtful Conservative to be in like with:

"Being out when the applause is ringing doesn’t feel important to them. The important things are the communal work, the contribution to the whole production and the esprit de corps. The humble hound is a stagehand who happens to give more public presentations than most."

He then links to this article on actually being a stagehand. Note that 'applause not being important' thing. There's more of that. While the author, Peter J. Marks, gamely notes that it's just a stereotype that all stagehands are frustrated actors (or musicians), the fact remains that plenty of them are. They just happen to have a way more stable job in the entertainment industry.

If the point is that we're too centered and not-vain to seek the glory of the footlights and the adulation of the masses, I accept the compliment, even though it's often not true. I just decided a long time ago that I don't really want to hang around with actors. Or dancers. Or musicians.

Then too there's that thing I always come back to about stage-handery really being a refuge for lots of intellectually insecure people who want to have this one very specialized place in their life where they can lord it over other people. But really, that's any industry. I like the fact that there's a former theater critic who writes things very few people read on the Internet who is trying to impute some nobility to my profession, but it's still just a job, y'know? One I'm lucky enough to like, though.

But sometimes I still get a little misty when I watch all of us working together to build something, and the thing coming together beautifully. When we're all speaking each other's language, and having lots of laughs along the way. "The construction industry with less assholes," I've heard it called. It's the miracle of Cooperation, just like they used to tell you to about on 'Sesame Street'. Collectivist? Damn right it is.

And above all else, shit like this does indeed make me think that this would be the moment for a book that does for stagehanding what Kitchen Confidential did for restaurant kitchens, and The Immortal Class tried to do for bike messengers. Just seems like the blood's in the water.

But again, I'm unclear on what I'd call it.