From Oregon

Volume I, Number 2: Spring 1996

Here I am in Corvallis, Oregon.

It's the end of May, and time for a new issue of From Oregon. But I don't have a story to tell you! The best of the other issues had grand stories associated with them. This time there's no big story, just a bunch of small things, and one really great thing. Off we go.

Refrigerator Poetry

Hope and Mark Goldhaber sent a housewarming / holiday gift last December: the Magnetic Poetry Kit. It's a lot of thin magnets with words on them. Arrange them! Rearrange them! Make your own poems! My first was:

"cool lust"
tiny urge

Five syllables, including title. A new genre was, like, born. Then I got verbose.

"some need"
I dream you see

Glacier chimed in with:

the power of language in a hot wax

When the going gets weird, the weird write poetry. Glacier's acme is the phrase

smell the enormous woman

Moving right along...


Ah, there's something I missed in Tennessee: wind!

Corvallis has wind, but even better: it's an hour from the Oregon coast. I've been out there four or five times now, most of the time to fly kites on the beach. Wow. There really is nothing like the wind on a beach.

The first time I went out there, I wanted to get a good stunter kite. I borrowed Glacier's car and headed out. Shortly, was in Newport (home of Keiko the killer whale) and began hunting for the kite store. We'd been there before, and I had convinced Glacier to buy a stunt kite. It hadn't flown much since, and needed repair. But no matter. I was going to get my own.

The folks there were very friendly and helpful. It didn't take long to find a good kite. It's a Skynasaur Razorwing 74. It's a 74" wide delta, and the sail is black, raspberry, blue and purple. After a few adjustments in the shop it was ready to go, and I also bought a strange looking thing. It looks like an orange golf ball with a 10" spike stuck out of it, which is exactly what it is. It's an anchor. You use it to hold the kite's handles on the ground, and that allows you to fly a stunter solo. I've never been able to do that before. Yea! Primitive tech to the rescue.


It was March or early April. I had three layers on and it was still a little chill. The sun was very bright, and there was plenty of free space. There were few people on the beach. Don't ask me why; maybe the local folk wait until it gets really warm. I didn't care. It was time to fly.

I set the kite up, and still had some problems getting it in the air. No matter. I was out there for hours. Having such a steady strong wind was a new experience, and I had a lot of fun. There were a few other kiters on the beach too, but we were spread out. After a few hours my hands started getting cold, though.

After about three hours, I noticed some very interesting flying happening farther down the beach. Two bright stunt kites were flying as a team. I started walking in that direction, keeping the kite in the air. As I got closer, I saw that the two fliers were dancing their kites together across the sky. First they would fly next to each other, then one would fall away to the side, and the second would follow, only to arc up to the center, first leading, then following. It was graceful and enchanting. These kites would slowly approach the beach, flying on their sides, and then very gently and hesitantly descend until one wingtip would just touch the sand. The other would settle in behind it, and then lightly bounce on just the merest touch before jumping back into the wind, as if both taunting gravity's failure and exulting in their dance.

Back down on earth, I watched the people flying. It was an interesting group: a bearded middle aged man, and a guy who looked to be in his teens. There was also a woman watching from a log on the side of the beach. What amazed me even more was that the man was only wearing a thin shirt with the tails flapping. He must have been cold!

Somewhere along about the time they were packing up, I managed to crash my kite. Perhaps I was distracted. They came over, and we started talking. They're a family who all fly kites, and they also live in Corvallis. The father and the son have been practicing together for about a year. We chatted for a while, and they told me where they fly in Corvallis. They also fly their stunters at night with LEDs mounted on the outer edges. They taught me how to use the anchor spike to get my kite up in the air without hurting myself. Thanks!

It was a fun day. I sunburned pretty badly, too. Remember the sun tan lotion! SPF 30 is what I now carry in my kite bag.

Since then I've run into the same folks several times, both in Corvallis and at the beach. The last time was at the kite store in Newport, where I took Glacier's kite for repair. The son bought an indoor kite. It's light enough to fly in the breeze from an electric fan. Wow.

I mentioned car pooling with them out to the coast, but we didn't exchange phone numbers. Darn. Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, too.

The Oregon Coast

The coast has held some surprises. It's all public land, so you can go anywhere. The beaches can be more than a hundred feet wide. There are different kinds of sand on different beaches. Erosion can do strange things to rocks. Tide pools hold hermit crabs, anemones, and starfish. There are beautiful, rugged promontories with crashing waves and gentle wide expanses of quiet surf. The wind is great, although sometimes it can be too strong. Most surprising is how empty the beaches are of people. It's winderful (a spoonerism).

Oh yes, I bought another kite. It was just so pretty. It's a scarlet diamond with the Japanese ideogram "kaze" in black on a white circle. Kaze means wind (kamikaze = kami kaze = divine wind). On its maiden flight it tangled with a dreaded kite-eating tree! Fortunately, no harm was done. Both kites are up on the wall here in the apartment. I think my kite lust is satisfied for a while. When the rest arrive from Tennessee there'll be a dozen here.

The one drawback to the west coast is that you can't get fresh lobster. It shouldn't have surprised me; no one talks about how good the lobster is in Portland, Oregon. Maine, yes, but not Oregon. It's not fair. We just have a lot of tiny shrimp.

Apartment Life

Life in the apartment is quiet. Aside from the train, the only sounds have been a barking dog and a car alarm that went off too often for a week or two. By now I barely notice the train. I much more concerned that I'm playing my stereo too loudly. No complaints yet though.

The only regular visitor is Glacier, who comes to use the shower. Lots of nice hot water. Aaaah.

It really looks like someone lives here now. There are posters on the wall, a whiteboard, a full closet, and a few other sundry things. Two weeks ago I started running out of room, so I bought some wood and made very cheap shelves to hold CDs and books. They're full already.

My kitchen is better stocked than before. I have utensils and tools I don't even use once a week: a steamer, a cheese grater, even a vegetable peeler and potato masher. I still haven't gotten real plates and bowls yet. They're the last thing. I even have two saucepans and two skillets! Count 'em - two skillets.

One odd thing. When I lived in Albany NY, my last two dwellings were two blocks off Western Avenue, which is US Route 20. The other main E-W road was Washington Avenue.

Now I'm in Corvallis. Albany is also the name of the next town over. US Route 20 runs through both towns. I work on a building on Route 20, which runs through the downtown. I now live on Washington Avenue, and Western Avenue is a block away. Washington Avenue used to be Route 20 before they moved it. And even stranger - Beth and Eric live in Albany, California. More than coincidence? [1]

It's eerie - life imitating life.

I still haven't created tie-dyed wall hangings. This morning I measured the size the hangings should be.

Sundry Things

The "few sundry things" I mentioned above are two new additions to my world. The first is a weight bench.

I had one for a while back in Albany, and used it regularly. I can't tell that it did much good, aside from starting calluses on my palms. But it was a good thing to do.

Glacier had lent a bench and weight set out to a friend in Portland who has put his things in storage and is going to be driving around the continent. Just as I was thinking of buying this equipment, boom! Glacier offered me his set. So it's here, and it takes up a lot of room. Plus there are all these weights that I don't have a use for - yet. Eventually.

Wheelworld, Part I

No, it's not a new science fiction novel. It's not a sequel to Waterworld [2]. It's a new place I've gone to.

The other "sundry thing" that's taking up space is a bicycle. Yes, I've gotten vehicular.

There are two main reasons I want to get mobile. The first is to decrease my reliance on Glacier's car. The second is the concern that my job might move to a new building farther from my apartment. I'm eight blocks from work right now, but the new Rogue Wave building is 26 blocks the other way. It's a much longer walk, but pretty quick for a bicycle. Add to that the fact that the post office and all the other good stuff is downtown (opposite the direction of the new building) means I'd be walking about 70 blocks a day. Some parts don't even have sidewalks. Bleah.

A good thing happened that showed me the time was right to get a bike. It was a rather unexpected check that freed me from the evil company mentioned in Life in Tennessee Vol. II number 3.

The Divine Comedy, Part III: Ascent To Earth

I didn't get a W-2 from my former employer in Nashville. After a while I sent email to the CEO. It wasn't answered. Then I sent email to everyone there but him, and cc:ed him. Surprisingly enough, someone replied and looked into it. The response was that I wasn't going to get a W-2 since (I paraphrase) "I had been the only one paid out of that account and the amount wasn't enough". That's strange. I made over 10K there. Sounds like a W-2 to me. The email then went on to suggest that I treat it as unclaimed income - i.e., don't report it.

I marshaled all my documents and filed an estimated tax return. Included was a copy of the email I received. I was supposed to get a refund, but I didn't expect to see it. Would the IRS call me? What was going to happen?

In short, not much. The refund checks (fed and state) arrived on time, as if they were processed without any question. Maybe they were. I didn't care! More than the money, I was finally FREE of that place. No more worries, no more anything. It was finally over!

I returned from the Inferno, passed through Purgatory, and found myself back on the face of the Earth. Sweet relief. Thanks to Goat, who stood by me through it all and helped when he could.

Wheelworld, Part II

Having received money, I blew part of it within a few days. I'd already been looking at bikes. My eye had been caught [3] by a recumbent bike in a cyclery's window. I went in and examined it. It appeared to very comfortable and a lot of fun to ride, but it would be quite hard to see in traffic. It was also a lot more than I wanted to spend, especially since I didn't know how to ride a bike.

I didn't mention that, did I?

Yes folks, I lived more than 29 years without learning how to ride a bike. Somehow I just never got the knack when I was young, and didn't have much enthusiasm for it. The roads in the housing development where I grew up weren't bad, but it was isolated. To get into town meant taking either a dangerous road with a hill, no shoulder and much traffic, or a long hill with no traffic. There just wasn't much incentive, so I never learned. Corvallis is the first place where it really makes sense to ride.

Knowing that spending a lot on a first bike, and an odd one at that, would be a mistake, I looked around for options. Within a day or two I found a good place, and that afternoon selected the model. [Boring bike stats: Gary Fisher 15" Tassajara hybrid, Cro-Moly steel frame, etc. My bike is a nice blue.] In the evening they put the add-ons on (lights, bell) and then I walked it home. That was kind of funny, to buy a bike and then walk it home.

Glacier gave me a riding lesson in the parking lot of Rogue Wave's new offices. I fell over, hit the curb twice, and even hit a few posts. It went pretty well. I learned faster than I expected. After the first lesson (on Thursday), that Saturday was nothing but rain. By Sunday I'd forgotten everything and needed another lesson. It came back pretty quickly.

Since then I've fallen over less and even ridden on gravel roads without too much problem. Endurance, balance, and confidence to ride in traffic are the three areas I need to work on.

Corvallis is a good place to cycle. The town is very friendly. There are bike lanes on many roads, and there are plenty of places to chain up a bike. There's a Citizens Advisory Commission on Bicycles. It helps that the town is mostly flat and that there is a university. There are four cycleries in the downtown alone. The only problem is theft. I bought a chain and lock when I bought the bike.

This week was Bike to Work week. I did, even if it was just a short walk. I feel smug. Of course, it would have been hard to carry 18 pounds of groceries home last night. I walked back to the store for those.

So I'm having a new experience and enjoying it. Yea.

Scene From a Near Future

The street was dark, the only light oily reflections of windows with their shades pulled down. In this city, nobody wants to know you, and fewer people want you to know them. This is my town.

Out of the dark, a blues tune drifted up and wrapped around me. I pulled it out of my ear, took a look at it, and decided I liked the shape. Billie Holliday, the reborn Queen.

         "Don't know why
              That's my face on another guy
            Cloney weather"

Yeah. Living in a small piece of hell, made from a dead man's genes.

Sometimes it just eats at you.


So, you ask, what do I do with my time? Well, ummm, uh, well. Piddle around?

I've put up some Web pages, and have plans for a bunch more. Right now I need some motivation. I also have a bunch of other projects that are mostly computer related, but I haven't been motivated their either. If you spend all day at a desk, it's a little hard to work up enthusiasm when you go home and spend all evening at a desk.

There are contra dances twice monthly. I haven't been yet, but I mean to. Twice now I've just been too sleepy to go on Saturday nights. Plus I'd have to ride at night, but that's not really a problem. It will feel funny, after having gone to the Two Rivers contra dances and SCA dances in Albany. But best to just plunge in.

I've been reading pretty steadily [4]. My most recent books have been mostly nonfiction, which is a real change.


There's a lot to review this time around. But let's face it, how many people want to read reviews? We really read them because either we like the author's style, or we want to see something panned entertainingly. So what good does it do to praise something in a boring way? Not much. So instead here's a list of things that you'll like if you like that kind of thing.

Music: Joe Jackson Night Music (bittersweet music for adults) · Frank Zappa You Are What You Is; Joe's Garage · Kate Bush The Sensual World · 10,000 Maniacs Our Time in Eden (some good advices) · Jane Siberry Maria (Jane jazz) · The Residents Gingerbread Man (run, run as fast as you can) · Terry Riley A Rainbow in Curved Air

Movies: Much Ado About Nothing (delightful!), The Secret of Roan Innish (beautiful, quiet tale), Tank Girl (goofy fun)

Books: Scott McCloud Understanding Comics (understanding art, really) · Love and Rockets

CD-ROM: The Residents' Bad Day on the Midway · Doonesbury Flashbacks

In the past few months I've started reading more nonfiction, particularly books about legal cases that have gone to the Supreme Court. These books have included Randy Shilts' Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military, Peter Irons' The Courage of their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought their Way to the Supreme Court, and Nat Hentoff's Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other. My political shelf is getting longer. Upcoming reading is Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, Archibald Cox's The Court and the Constitution, Michelangelo Signorile's Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power, Victor S. Navasky's Naming Names (about the House Unamerican Activities Committee), and Lindsay Grant's Elephants in the Volkswagen: Facing the Tough Questions about our Overcrowded Country.

Also on the list are some science books, which all seem to be about the brain and perception. I didn't plan it that way. I just noticed the pattern. On the shelf: Don Gifford's The Farther Shore: A Natural History of Perception, William H. Calvin's The Throwing Madonna: Essays on the Brain, Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained, and Ronald K. Siegel's Fire in the Brain: Clinical Tales of Hallucination. I'm currently starting the highly anticipated new book by Douglas Hofstadter, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. It's fascinating.

The only fiction I'm looking forward to are Robertson Davies' last two novels, Murther and Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man, Lucius Shepard's Kalimantan, Bruce McAllister's Dream Baby, and (when they ever get released) Kim Stanley Robinson's Blue Mars, Samuel Delany's The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities, and Word of Night, George Alec Effinger's fourth novel of Marîd Audran.

For inspiring reading, I again recommend Eric Marcus' Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights. It's full of stories and interviews with people who did what they could to fight injustice. They are ordinary heroes.

Romer vs. Evans

Colorado's Amendment 2, which said, in part,

Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination. This Section of the Constitution shall be in all respects self-executing.

was overturned on May 20, 1996 by the Supreme Court decision Romer vs. Evans (No. 94-1039). The justices split 6-3, with Kennedy delivering the majority opinion. The ruling stated that Amendment 2 violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Justices Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented.

I heard this on the NPR in the morning. That evening there was a small rally in front of the Benton County Courthouse, with speeches and singing. Corvallis already had an anti-discrimination law in effect, I believe. But finally, we have a Supreme Court precedent! YEA!

The quotes I heard from Scalia's dissent were dumbfounding. He seemed to view the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution as the maximum allowable by law, rather than the minimum. It sounded like he was perfectly happy to let states restrict rights, rather than expand them.

Come on, folks, doesn't the fact that people tried to pass an amendment restricting the political participation of an entire class of people imply that there just might be a good reason for protecting that class from discrimination?

What was heartening was that six of the justices agreed that Amendment 2 blatantly violated the ciitzens' rights to equal protection. At the rally, a lawyer who had been following the oral arguments was pretty sure that four justices were on our side, but was quite happily surprised that we got all but the most conservative.

I have some bad news. As you might know, Goat and I had brought a goat named Rasputin down to Tennessee when I moved down there. Well, Rasputin died in May. He got a very bad lung infection.

His death upset Goat and me. Even if we didn't see eye to eye all the time, I miss him. He's a part of Short Mountain. Goat still feels him there.

I don't write much about Goat and the mountain, but they're often in my thoughts.

Goat came and visited a while back. He gave me a present that I hold close to my heart; a satyr necklace that I always wear. We had a good time going up to Portland with Glacier and his friend Felix. Goat and I went out to the coast for a last dinner together before he returned to Tennessee. I had promised him lobster, but didn't realize you can't get fresh lobster out here. The next time we're in Maine, this one's on me, Goat.

Unlike all his other visits out to the west coast, this one didn't give Goat a cold. Maybe that's because he had one when he came.

The Bard expresses some of my feelings for Goat:

   what we have we prize not to the worth
     Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
     Why, then we rack the value, then we find
     The virtue that possession would not show us
     Whiles it was ours.
                                      "Much Ado About Nothing", Act 4, Scene 1

The Future

Life in June should be comparatively placid. July looks a little crazier. My project at Rogue Wave is due for release on the 15th. On the 13th and 14, my mother's family is holding its every-few-years reunion. This time my parents are hosting it in Goshen, NY. I haven't attended one since I was a kid, so it's time. Plus it will be the first time my family's seen me in two years. I'd also like visit friends in Albany and fly down to see Goat on the way back to Oregon.

Of course, this is not without side effects. Glacier's hosting a gathering for Oregon and Washington gay men the same weekend. It's also the weekend of the Oregon Country Fair, which everyone tells me is spectacular. Why these events couldn't be on different weekends is beyond me. My lobbying efforts to change either date have been unsuccessful so far.

I'm also anticipating jumping from an airplane. Parachuting lessons are being organized by someone at work.


That's a wrap, folks. See you in a while.

Contact info:

   Email              Email

   Web site 

Take care, everyone.

End Notes

[1] No, just a coincidence.

[2] Which is a really stinky movie. I knew it was bad when I said "This movie could only be worse if Dennis Hopper played the bad guy.". Guess what?

[3] What a disgusting idiom.

[4] That's the one drawback to biking to work: I can't bike and read at the same time.

Last updated 5 August 2004
All contents ©1996-2002 Mark L. Irons

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