Portland

Notes From The Starting Line

Notes From The Starting Line

Today brings a bloom of beginnings from a tangle of endings. Perhaps that's not surprising. I suppose beginnings and endings all occupy coterminous space. And as I write, I'm struck by how my own beginnings and my own endings weave around one another and, often, between two places — Los Angeles and Portland.

But I'm writing today to recognize one simple beginning: the redesigned, relaunched version of my website*, upon which, presumably, you're reading these words. I do so hoping to re-introduce the world to my own background as a writer and journalist and as a storyteller, and to re-pique your curiosity about Melville Jacoby, whose adventures, romance and experiences as a journalist in World War II-era China and the Philippines will be the subject of a forthcoming book.

No Exit - How Low Car Life Will Save Portland When The Big One Strikes

No Exit - How Low Car Life Will Save Portland When The Big One Strikes

Bridges will tumble, rail lines will shut off and fuel will run low. But when the Big One strikes, 20-minute neighborhoods, bikes and even food carts may save Portland.

New rankings beg question: what makes Portland sustainable?

Can our ability to live healthily, prosperously and durably over multiple generations (my rough definition of sustainability) be gauged by simply totaling up new construction and how many gizmos it features, dollars spent, and the new kilowatt-hour reducing technology we build? Or should our analysis be a little more complex? Should we explore our actual behaviors, i.e., the actual effectiveness of the programs we incent, the way our buildings - LEED or not - get used and the type of demands we place on our power grid? Wouldn't that be the real measure of sustainability?

My un-scientific, un-journalistic assumption is that Portland would probably end up pretty far ahead on that sort of scale as well, but we -- everyone, but particularly journalists reporting on the environment -- might be well served by asking these sort of questions.

Do what I would do.

I'm going to someplace not Portland this weekend. If you feel like following me, you might head east of Idaho, south of the Hudson Bay, north of Mali and west of Bhutan.

However, if I were staying town, there are a number of things I might do:

  • Check out what the Cascades Volcano Observatory has to say about the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
  • Explore the Sunday Parkways in Northeast.
  • Make up for totally spacing last Saturday on National Train Day and ride the train somewhere.
  • Find a hammock to string up in my yard and whip together some micheladas.
  • Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring after eight years of constantly losing every copy of Tolkein's classic I get.
  • Write letters on my typewriter.
  • Head to the coast and see if there are any last minute yurt cancellations (doubtful).

Have anything else a would-be me should do? Let me know in the comments ... and share some ideas for later, when I'm actually not somewhere that's not where I am right now.

Ducking the Elephant in the Room

The day takes shape slowly. Getting out the door just happens. Once you do the bus is ten minutes late. Then, so is the MAX, but you don't mind. You've been quietly extricating yourself from time. You wait in the chill beneath an interstate, listening to teenagers gossip. Staring at the spikes lining the steel beams beneath the roadway you think perhaps a bit too long about pigeon deterrence.

Making the most of making the media

For years, though, as I hinted in a post last Spring, I've danced with another city. Over the past week, the motions became more certain, thanks in part to the energy I tapped into at the We Make the Media Conference at the University of Oregon's Turnbull Portland Center. When it comes to Saturday's conference, I've had to take some time to digest, get back home, and prepare my next steps. They include returning to Portland very soon — and more permanently — in part to join the community of mediamakers who emerged at the conference.

I want to reiterate this word “community.” For whatever it's worth, however hokey it might be dismissed as, I found community on Saturday. In a way I haven't been able to say for quite some time, I've found my people, at least my people for this moment. Perhaps I'm just famished, but I just haven't found these people in Los Angeles.

I'm emphasizing this for a reason. For all the critiques I have of We Make the Media, and all the many more already so eloquently articulated by other thinkers (Click here for a list of the reflections I've found, some of which I'm responding to here), I'm stunned by how, a few days later, I remain invigorated by the event. Like Abraham Hyatt and many others, I left the event quite drained, but now feel energized. Though the event may not have gone in the direction organizers hoped, perhaps it was a success anyhow.