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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

It’s not the new new normal.  Not yet.

My absence from blogging1sorry, Mom can be explained — though not well — through those previous two sentences.  Without moving into the house, a routine has not presented itself.  A semblance of a routine emerges for the erstwhile bread-winner of our family after two and a half weeks of work, but it too is ephemeral; they currently hold court in trailers while renovations occur on the building.

No, to explain fully, we’re just going to have to dive into it and write a thousand-plus words.  Horror of all horrors, and not even in time for Halloween.

It seems strange to say without gainful employment but the last two weeks have been busy beyond belief.  I, bereft of opportunity to do so in Singapore, jumped at the chance to get back into my giving ways for some of the local LGBTQ organizations around town.  This is not difficult to do when you have many political and non-profit organizers as friends.  Organizers, by necessity, have refined their ability not to say no to an art form2Strange thing, I google’d ‘political organizer personality type’, searching for a word/phrase to encapsulate this archetype.  Google gave me links about martyrs and suicide bombers.  Um….  One of my longest tenured friendships in this space is with Justin Pabalate, who nearly as soon as I left town, accepted a position as the co-director of the Q Center, a beleaguered community center whose trials and tribulations were news in the months before the move.  Justin is a top-notch fundraiser, dedicated and passionate, obviously, but also blessed with the easy charm that puts people immediately at ease.  Such was the case when we met for the first time years ago in preparation for the marriage campaign; he had me saying yes to shift after shift of phone banking before I even knew what I was getting into.

Not that I’ve minded; just before then, I would have never — ever — considered myself an activist of any stripe.  And yet, there I was, a week after arrival, dressed in the only sharp clothes I possess, working the front desk and trying to make myself as helpful as possible.  Also maybe complaining about a lack of coffee.

Portland is now home to a public bike service by Nike called “Biketown”.  For a small fee, you can rent a bike to ride around town and simply lock it up when you’re done.  You can leave the bike locked anywhere, though there are some fees for not returning it to a proper lock up station.  Such was my transportation down to the Marriot, some twenty-five blocks away.  Not long enough to warrant driving, but just long enough not to want to walk first thing in the morning.  So I rented a bike and got to riding, while dressed for a Sunday brunch in my sports coat and slacks.  I’m sure it was quite a sight.  I even got a few catcalls, such is Portland.

Hey, I’m doing my part.

SHINE — that is to say, the Q Center brunch event — was a huge success.  I was floored by the amount of money donated within minutes, and inspired by the confidence that Justin and his co-director Stacey have been able to rebuilt, I too gave a small amount.  When I left town, the outlook for that center was not good.  Within 19 months, to see people literally lining up to give money to keep the lights on and the staff paid made my soul happy.

I had found out that my next volunteer engagement, Ignite — Basic Rights Oregon’s big gala fundraiser — was in fact, not a gala event as it had been in years past, but rather a costume party falling on the weekend before Halloween.  Not having much for a costume, I took my friend Manda up on her offer for help with a costume, and the day before the event, I was at her place in Sellwood doing last minute adjustments to an idea I had in mind for a while, a Social Justice Warrior3For those not in the know, “SJW” is used disparagingly by disgusting little Internet trolls to describe any progressive or their work.  Like “PC” but armed, I guess..  I decided to have some fun with the idea, dressing up like a white knight4also used as a disparaging term with “SJW” painted on my armor like Superman and armed with the Sword of Social Justice.  The costume turned out great, and even got one of my parents’ friends all disturbed enough to comment broadly on Facebook, so, mission accomplished, I guess.

After working with Manda, I decided to poke my head into a food cart in Sellwood I had heard about, Straits Kitchen, a Peranakan food cart featuring laksa.  For $10, which became a great joke to tell people in the Lion City.  “Yeah,” I’d say, “I can get laksa in Portland.  It just costs $10!”  Cue the laughter.  Roll on snare drum.

Great joke.

Anyway, I’m sorry to say that laksa, it really wasn’t.  The dish was amazing, a spicy curry noodle stew, but in place of the fish was chicken and eggplant.  The chicken was perfectly cooked and shredded, and left unseasoned, so that it would soak up the curry flavor.  It was delicious, warming and not all too spicy.

It just wasn’t laksa.  More’s the pity.

Ignite, really, is one of the big LGBT events in Portland.  It’s a bit top-heavy, a highly billed and expensive dinner event where one can rub shoulders with all of Oregon’s big movers and shakers.  Governor Brown was there.  Congresswoman Bonamici.  Many elected officials and left-leaning heavyweights made an appearance, some even in costume.

I’m just… not really good at recognizing them.  If I even know who they are.

Working the front desk, my job was to help get people checked in quickly and on their way into the party.  Part of this was getting a credit card on file if they so chose so that they wouldn’t have to come back later that night and settle up the dirty business of donation after dinner and drinks.  However, some folks chose to do just that, including one nice gentlemen with an elaborate but malfunctioning costume.  I make some banter with him, biting back the “uncle” that I’ve learned to say — in Singapore it would be appreciated.  Here, maybe not.  I thank him for his donation.  He introduces himself, and I take his hand and say, “Josh Bruce, pleasure to meet you.”  The volunteer next to me extends his hand and says, “I’m Mark!”

As our generous donator walks away, Mark leans to me and stage whispers, “Do you know who that is?”

I shrug.

“He founded the HRC5Human Rights Campaign.  They’re kind of a big deal..  He’s like, one of the wealthiest people in Oregon.”

Whoa.  Maybe it was good that I didn’t call him uncle, then.  That mode of address implies more familiarity than in Asia.  Then again, he seemed a likable sort of guy, so maybe?

The long and the short of this story is that I should NEVER be put in charge of glad-handing the electeds and various VIPs.

The new new normal involves a lot of house work.

No, seriously.  The house is empty and as such is a perfect time to do stuff like paint.  It’s also a great time to redo the floors, but there is now, I think, no chance that gets done before we move back in a week.  Such is the way of things when moving.  We went through this whole dance when bought the house, and because the timing didn’t work out, we never pulled the trigger on the new floors.  This time we’ll not be making that mistake.  We’ll just have to do it the hard way, I guess.

But I’m working on the painting.  And the yard work.  We had a landscaper, but he really only focused on the front yard.  The side yard was a bit of a mess, with an overgrown Oregon Grape6Seriously, homeowners, do not plant these. They’re like weeds, even if they are the state plant. and these god-awful vines that quite literally squeeze the life out of other plants.  We had dealt with these “strangler vines” years ago when we moved in.  I was dismayed to see their return.

So, does that catch you up?  The fabulous life of repatriation?  Where you left wanting more?  Maybe something about Portland food and beer and wine?

We’ll get to that.  I promise.


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