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Archive for the ‘Athletics’ Category

In Which I Watch Soccer and Greatly Enjoy It

In Athletics on June 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

Until yesterday I had played, but never watched, soccer. Like several other kids growing up in the 80s I was part of a parks and rec league, and when I lived in the hippie theme park that is also sometimes called Eugene, Oregon I played the game with my Ultimate Frisbee team when we weren’t playing Ultimate Frisbee. So, I’d kicked balls plenty. I’d run around plenty. I knew the basics of the game, but I’d never been a fan. Yesterday I watched my first soccer game. I watched the US take on Portugal and play to a tragic, last-minute draw. It was amazing, invigorating, and I think I might be a soccer fan now. A few observations:

-Soccer’s low-scoring nature is a feature, not a bug. When the ball does finally go in, it’s either a triumph or tragedy, depending on circumstances, and every single goal matters. When the ball grazes near the goal an air of suspense (either for something good or bad) takes over the watcher and soccer, moreso than many other sports, becomes a game of suspense.

-I saw the US game in a soccer bar and unironically chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” with a collection of strangers after a goal is, dare I say it, fun. It’s always fun to be part of something larger than yourself. The cynical part of me knows that that feeling is also where nationalism and all of its ugliness comes from, but it’s great in a contained space.

-It’s kind of great to see the US as the underdog. We win at all kinds of things on a regular basis like, you know, Cold Wars and defeating facism and going to the moon. Being in a position where the US is just one team among many and really has to earn its seat at the table is new, interesting, and probably mentally good for a country which tends to be fairly arrogant about basically everything.

-Soccer players are really, really handsome. These are guys who run around all the time, so naturally they’re fit, and they’re not bulky like football players or gangly like basketball players. They’re toned, proportional, and tend to have fashionable haircuts. They are by far the most good-looking of sports guys.

-The World Cup’s ranking system is interesting. Instead of being knocked out of a game due to a loss, teams advancement or nonadvancement depends on their relative status within a group. That seems like a far more dynamic way to rank and quantify teams than just single elimination.

-Soccer scarves make fans look like Harry Potters or Doctor Whos and I’m fine with that.

-Given how great watching soccer can be I’m now extra-distraught that FIFA is kind of evil.

-Seeing a team you support tie is weird. I’m used to watching teams I like win or lose, but when I saw the US tie I really didn’t know what to think. It was new and weird and a fairly interesting emotional place to be.

-I really want to go to a Portland Timbers game now.

I will definitely be watching again, and will probably feel appropriately crushed when the US inevitably loses. In the meantime, I’ll be squinting at 538’s World Cup coverage and hoping that the improbable happens.

On Running

In Athletics, Self Improvement on April 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

At the behest of my father, I ran cross country in high school. He demanded that I do some kind of sport, and I chose distance running mainly (I think) because it meant that I didn’t have to really cooperate with a team or do anything complicated. I didn’t have to learn to hit or kick or pass or anything subtle. I just had to learn to run. I thought it would be simple. I was right. Running is very simple. That does not mean that it is easy.

Since high school, I have only rarely jogged. When I lived in Narita I regularly biked through the rice fields and bamboo groves near my apartment, but seldom jogged. Last year, I went to a gym on a regular basis (before said gym went under) and worked on a number of exercises and weights a few times a week. I did not run, though. Bicycling, jumping jacks, push-ups, weights- these were all well and good. Anything but running. Running was the only exercise that I actively did not want to do.

I’ve started running again. I hate it. It feels great.

Jogging is at once an act of punishing self-abnegation, and also a source of great satisfaction. It does hurt. When I run, I huff, puff, and feel various parts of my body buzz and twist in pain. Or, if not pain, then some other feeling that is certainly not pleasure. I’m steady, but I do not go particularly fast. Every moment is a moment in which I have to tell myself “I have the capacity to withstand an additional moment of pain.” Every pace invites the next, and every unit of distance screams “we will withstand more.” Running is an act of passing through pain in order to get to other, additional pain, and more pain after that. Lots of life is like that. Running makes it explicit.

It is satisfying, though. I’ve only started running again recently, but at the end of a jog (or during it) I pause and realize that I do not need to be passive. Also, I realize that even though I create difficulty for myself (such as jogging arbitrary distances) I can also overcome such difficulties. Running is a visceral reminder that a human can take action and self-create both challenges and solutions. We can act. We do not wait to act or simply get acted upon, we do not just observe or stew or bide time. Running (such a simple activity) is a reminder that we can dramatically do. Also, it’s good for you, so that’s a nice bonus.

I would not say I like like running. I do however, enjoy it. I would not describe myself as a masochist, but knowing that one can both create (and subsequently crush) a given challenge using only the power of one’s legs makes for a worthy satisfaction, and a good pain.

An Open Letter to Joggers Who Jog on Surfaces That Are Not Sidewalks

In Athletics, Rants on February 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Dear Joggers Who Jog on Surfaces That Are Not Sidewalks,

Let me first say, that I admire your commitment to fitness and healthiness. I really do. I was a distance runner in high school, and I can say with no uncertainty that getting out there and forcing your body to ambulate forward at an accelerated rate is no easy task. On a regular basis, you must drag yourself from the comfort of sedentary life and out into the hurty world of actually moving about. That choice of activity over sloth is doubtlessly a Good Thing, and you are to be commended for your commitment.¬†What’s more, I understand the runner’s high, and the delight that comes from mortifying the flesh in a healthy manner on a regular basis. Being able to subject yourself to the rigors of Clean Living is both a duty and joy, and for that, you have my respect. So, I get it. I can see where you’re coming from. I’m on your side. That said…

Stay out of my damn bike lane, you huffing-puffing jerkwads.

Really. Stay out of it. Also, stay out of the street. On an aggravatingly regular basis I encounter any number of joggers bobbing along in a bike lane or a street, obstructing the paths of drivers and bicyclists.

Look, jogger-peoples, I can kind of see where you’re coming from. When you’re out there, you like to imagine yourself as a Fast Thing. No mere walker are you. No. You are more like a mighty gazelle or springing hare. Your legs are not mere muscle, but taut cords of purest forward motion. You do not belong in the same realm as those who walk, saunter, stroll or mosey. You belong in the street, with the other Fast Things.

Joggers, there is something you must admit- you go, like, 6mph or something. You are, no matter how zoomy might conceive of yourself, pedestrians. You’re fast pedestrians in tight pants, yes, but you are still pedestrians.

So get out of my damn way, and make room for people like me, bicyclists. Get back on the sidewalk so I have more room to annoy motorists.

What I Learned When I Started Going to a Gym or, Things That Happened After My Eyebrows Ceased to Work

In Athletics on September 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm

“My eyebrows,” I thought, “they are not performing adequately.”

The hairy arches just below one’s forehead are a body part that most of us (I imagine) take for granted. The vast majority of the time they’re just kind of there, and we don’t really think about their function of keeping sweat, dust, and general unpleasantness out of our eyeballs. I was suddenly quite aware of their function, though, because I was experiencing rather acute episode of eyebrow failure. Sweat was streaming down into my ocular bits, and I briefly thought that this might be why headbands existed. I was in a gym for the first time since college, and was being made abundantly aware of how long it had been.

Back at the U of O, I attended the student health center with some friends of mine where we’d lift weights, but since then I haven’t set foot inside any kind of facility dedicated to exercise. For some time I rationalized that I didn’t really need to, because I’m by no means fat (though I could do without the gut), I tend to eat fairly healthily, and I’m outside a lot, walking about or riding my bike.

However, that only takes you so far. A few months ago I started going to a gym and doing a regular workout, and have been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. I thought it was going to be nothing but toil and pain. Instead, it’s been toil, pain, and a bunch of other stuff. Here are a few things I’ve learned from going to the gym a few times a week:

Exercise gets you high

Endorphins and adrenaline are wonderful stuff, and usually after a workout there’s a feeling of tired satisfaction. Most negative emotions that might have been hanging around earlier are gone. I feel like I’ve done something visceral and worthwhile. This probably taps into primal human urges to go outside and punch mammoths, but in a pinch a heavy bag also works.

It’s satisfying to know that the body is changeable and upgradeable

I’ve often thought of my body (and, to my detriment, the rest of me) as something that’s more or less set, an unchanging system. That’s not the case at all, though. The body is elastic, and responds to stuff around it. Thinking about my decreased waistline has been great in terms of vanity, but it’s also neat to think about it as a variable that you can actually exert some control over. Experiencing agency, especially with something as intimately yours as your belly, is kind of neat. If you can change the dimensions of your waist and arms and legs, then tackling other problems seems much more doable.

In the right context, sweat feels neat

This is going to become obsolete kind of quickly as we get into fall, but I really like the feeling of sweat evaporating off of skin. It is, after all, supposed to be a cooling system, and when I’m on my bike afterward the air against the evaporating sweat really drives home what that wet stuff on your skin is actually for.

Pain can sometimes be fun

I’m not the kind of person who’d jam a needle into my palm just to feel something (those people are weird), but there is something kind of appealing about experiencing pain and then powering through it. Being able to endure something unpleasant, and walk out the better for it is a great way to feel powerful and able to actually do stuff.

More than anything else, it increases self-awareness

Not self-consciousness. Awareness. Now that I exercise on a frequent basis, I feel like I’m more aware of what my various bits are doing at a given time. I’m aware of my arms and legs and what my body is like and what it’s doing. I’m not going to claim that I’m some kind of super-conscious kung-fu master, but I have a better sense of what my corporeal being is doing now that I exercise. My various bits seem more my own now and something control, rather than something I just use and inhabit. For that reason alone, I’ll keep going back and having my eyebrows fail.

Dear Portland Trailblazers: Get a New Mascot

In Athletics, Portland on August 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Pioneer Courthouse Square was filled with people the other day for an Arvydas Sabonis event. The former Trailblazers center drew quite a crowd, and various Blazer-themed decorations fluttered in the wind.

There was also this monstrosity:

I’d forgotten all about Blaze, the Trailblazers’ feline mascot. I didn’t like much seeing him, given that he’s about as compelling a luckwarm bowl of unsweetened frog eggs. I don’t follow basketball closely, but I do have an affinity for the Blazers- I remember rooting for them back in the Clyde Drexler days. I like it when they do well, and was really quite thrilled when they managed to actually beat Houston at the end of last season.

The Blazers, though, really need a new mascot. Blaze seems forced and awkward. He is too cute and insubstantial, and there is nothing quintessentially “Portland” or “Blazerish” about him. Dress him in other colors, and he could be the capering cat of any team. A good mascot should be a standard-bearer. Blaze is a mere placeholder.

A while ago I was talking with some friends, and we all decided that a better option would be to replace Blaze with a sasquatch.

The Seattle Supersonics had the right idea when the did their mascot. Take a look at this:

See that? That’s awesome. Yes, it does kind of look like Teen Wolf, but I’m willing to live with that. Bigfoot is something particular to the Northwest, and a big furry ape is a symbol of our region and would do way more to jazz up the crowd than a cartoon cat in athletic shoes. Now that the Sonics have moved to Oklahoma City, the sasquatch is basically up for grabs.

Portland Trailblazers: Ditch Blaze. Use bigfoot as a mascot. Do it. I guarantee you everyone will love it, and no one will miss the stupid cat.


In Athletics, Video Games on January 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm
I recently had the pleasure of accompanying my friend D to that temple of geekery and consumption known as Fry’s- the magical place filled with myriad shiny toys and software. It’s one of those stores that fills you with the aspiration that consumption relies upon. Stepping over its threshold, one is filled with the knowledge that they, one, can own all manner of shiny gizmos.

I was there because D was getting a new laptop and I like to look at electronic things that I can’t really afford. While she was checking out the various computers, I amused myself by walking over to the game section, because, hey, video games.

The games that were set up were all fairly family-friendly and inoffensive. Gran Turismo and that ilk, and mostly sports. I suppose having bloody FPSs set up in an area with potential kids would not be the best PR move. I grabbed a PS3 controller and started playing the newest version of NBA Jam, a cartoony basketball game for people who don’t really like sports games.

Of course, I chose to be the Portland Trailblazers. When selecting my opponent, I chose the villainous and vile Los Angeles Lakers.

I don’t know much about sports, but I do know this: If you like the Lakers, you earn some major douchebag points. Likewise, if you are a fan of the NY Yankees or Dallas Cowboys, you’re publicly stating what prick you’re capable of being. Liking the Lakers, Yankees, or Cowboys is sort of like wearing Dockers: It’s boring and jerk-tastic at the same time. I know this is irrational, but whatever.

In my game of NBA Jam, Brandon Roy’s knees were working just fine, and he was able to outmaneuver, outshoot, outblock, and generally run circles around big-headed AI-controlled Kobe Bryant. The announcers kept shouting goofy catchphrases (BOOMSHAKALAKA! being the big one) every time my zanily-proportioned basketball dudes made a basket. I thought I was just going to give NBA Jam a try, but I ended up playing a whole four-quarter game right there in Fry’s.

I realized something about sports games: Of all of the types of games out there, they are the only genre wherein players can bring the hurt to actual, real celebrities. I have watched many a Blazer game going “NOOOO!” at the screen while the Lakers (bastards that they are) played well and scored points. While watching it with other Portland fans, we all believed that it was because the refs were biased and Phil Jackson has some kind of Nietzschian hypno-power that he was using on the officials.

Watching the Lakers win was always massively, horribly painful. Other teams, like San Antonio, never quite brought on that sort of emotion. When I watched the Spurs kick our ass I just thought, “Wow, the Spurs are really good at this basketball thing.” When I saw the Lakers do it, I filled up with rage. There was just something weird and awful about the Lakers- they were, after all, from LA. Jack Nicholson and his self-satisfied smirk goes to all of their home games. They represent a city that is everything Portland (supposedly) isn’t- sprawl, waste, stress and utter lack of culture.

Playing NBA Jam, though, made me realize how much I enjoy that rivalry and hate, how much sports really does need villains. It’s great that lots of people think LeBron is a dick- that’ll be a major boost to the drama and emotional stakes of his games. It was that rivalry that made NBA Jam so much fun. Also, I could not think of any other genre of video game where you can best actual, real media figures.

There is no game out there where I can challenge Sarah Palin to single combat, or get into a boxing ring with Glenn Beck. (Actually scratch that. Beck wouldn’t be any fun. He’d just start crying. I’d rather fight Bill O’Reilly- he’d make it interesting.) There isn’t any kind of game where I can humiliate Brit Hume or challenge Larry the Cable Guy to a lightsaber duel. Most of the time (unless you count fighting Hitler in Wolfenstein), I can’t pwn celebrities via video games.

Athletes, though, are a different matter. Dunking on Kobe was hugely satisfying not just because of the game play, but because, through the magic of video games, I was able to vent out a whole bunch of Blazer fan-rage onto cartoon Lakers. It was a nice release, and scratched an itch I didn’t know I had.


Late Evening of the Living Dead Bicyclists

In Athletics, Horror, Portland, Religion on June 28, 2010 at 9:35 am

Last night I found myself wearing a Jesus costume and leading a coterie of bicyclists dressed as zombies around NE Portland. Our fair city’s (now annual) zombie bike ride was upon us, and for a number of reasons I suddenly found myself leading the thing. Needing to stand out from the biking horde of slavering cyclists, I decided to comport myself as the most famous zombie ever, a dude who shambled out of his grave three days after a rather nasty torture/execution session.

We met up in a park, and my friend L was good enough to show up with a batch of corn syrup, red food dye, and flour. As I’d only recently had the responsibility of the ride foisted on me, and didn’t have any fake blood, L was a lifesaver (or rather, unlifersaver) for bringing the hemoglobin. A few pictures-
Here’s L, devouring her somewhat chagrined boyfriend:

This gentleman did the “military guy gets zombified” thing. He had very creepy teeth.


Slathered in L’s fake blood, this girl looked a bit more like Carrie than a zombie, but she certainly pulled it off. She should watch out, though, because the girl behind her seems to be contemplating Carrie-centric mastication.

Our attempt at a zombie last supper:

You can’t really see it in the picture, but these girls are covered in glitter blood. We decided they were Twilight zombies.

Zombie dance! We stopped at three places, and rocked out to Thriller at two of them. The night closed with zombie karaoke at a tiki bar where numerous zombies (as in the drink) were consumed. I decided that the best thing for Zombie Jesus to sing would be Highway to Hell.
As people went home, more than a few of them said “Thank you, Jesus!” I kind of love my lifestyle.

Night of the Living Naked Bicyclists

In Athletics, Nudity, Portland on June 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Yes, that’s me. In that picture I am wearing the following items:

-A bicycle helmet
-A messenger bag
…And that’s it. Saturday was the World Naked Bike Ride here in Portland, and I was not going to miss it. Last year, I learned of the event too late and wasn’t able to participate because I was playing Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, really. While thousands of other Portlanders were getting naked in the streets last year, I was playing D&D. (Though, it was a really fun D&D session…)
The Oregon constitution goes a bit further than the federal one with regards to protected speech. Because the World Naked Bike Ride is technically political speech (we were ostensibly there protesting oil dependence), the ensuing bike-mounted parade of butts, boobs, and saddle-mounted wangs were 100% legal. The police were out in force… corking traffic for us. Several of the cops waved, and one particularly enthusiastic officer of the law was throwing metal horns to the various naked cyclists.
This was the second time in my life that I’ve been naked on a bike, and just like when I got naked for a flaming lips video, it was pretty much entirely nonsexual. I’m not about to turn into some kind of ideological nudist, but damn it was fun. Lots of fun. Overturning social mores almost always is.
A steady crowd of onlookers had massed on the street, often with their arms out, high-fiving the participants. The naked participants, in turn, often shouted things such as “Take off your pants!” to the crowd. Amazingly, some of them did. There were more than a few naked onlookers, most notably a very well-muscled gentleman sitting naked astride a motorcycle and giving everyone a thumbs up. If there ever was a potential cover for a gay metal album, he was it.
One of the bums I recognized from Old Town also decided to get naked, and there, on the side of the road, he was wearing nothing but dirt whilst bouncing up and down excitedly. I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing filthy bouncing hobo wang, but there it was. Also in Old Town a rather obnoxious frat-boyish sort of guy screamed “Where the titties at?” I thought this was sort of a curious thing to say given that titties were everywhere.
Like I said, overturning social mores is nearly always fun. The feeling of everyone getting together and saying “Hey, guys! Let’s temporarily operate using alternative social constructions!” is precisely the kind of thing that can make lots of people say “Woo!” It’s a refreshing reminder that things are mutable.
It was highly neat. If I’m in Portland next year, I’m definitely getting naked again.

Tough Chicks

In Athletics, Eugene, Seattle, Sex on September 27, 2009 at 11:52 am

About two weeks ago I found myself in Seattle, watching several scantily clad women run around and tackle several other scantily clad women. They were, theoretically, playing football. Not very good football, mind you. There weren’t many completed passes, and the game was pretty lopsided, score-wise, but there were scantily clad women, which theoretically made up for that. (American football, by the way, is a game that I would be more into if there weren’t so many interruptions. It’s tactically interesting and can be exciting in fits and start, but the pace of the game really kills it for me.)

It was the opening night of the Lingerie Football League in Seattle, and as semi-amusing as I find the conceit I could not help but be reminded of the XFL, the failed and gimmicky “extreme” football league started (and folded) some years ago by wrestling mastermind Vince McMahon. Like the XFL, lingerie football seemed extraneous- an established sport with a patina of something allegedly interesting on top of it. The “extra” part of it, though, the girls and their semi-unclad states, was not sufficient to really hold my attention. Even though two teamsworth of conventionally attractive women were piling on top of each other (though not especially well) I didn’t really see too much of a reason for the league’s existence other than the brief novelty we were all enjoying in our variously semi-drunken states.

The whole time, I thought to myself “Roller derby is much better.” The comparison was unavoidable, really. Both are active spectator sports, and both feature attractive women falling down. The next week, miles southward in Eugene, I got to view my preferred ladysport, watching the last bout of the year of the Emerald City Roller Girls.

Unlike lingerie football, roller derby is something wholly new and other. It is not an approximation or copy of something else, not a parody of something established. The image I got of lingerie football was some barker saying “Hey, buddy! Yeah, you! You like football? You like bitches? Well guess what we have! We have bitches playing fucking football! You like that? Yeah you do. Get in there.”

Roller derby, however, is it’s own realm and species, unlike other forms of competition. Because of this, the attitudes and sexiness of it all come across as intrinsic and essential, an organic part of it without pretense or artifice. Moreover, it has teeth, and the teeth are half the reason I enjoy it so much.

For some reason or another, roller derby has become a sort of hipster/punk/indie/etc. event, a spectacle bedecked with skulls, flames and attitude. The derby girls sport noms de track such as “Lil’ Whip-Her Snap-Her,” “Bettie Aim Fire,” “Slapcat,” and “Reign of Tara.” Team uniforms are not uniform at all- embellishments and flairs of individuality are common. There may be fishnets here and garters there, flashes of nonuniform color or different stuff on helmets. The roller girls really do look a lot like a gang, like a bunch of like-minded people who just happen to dress in a very similar fashion.

Once they start rolling, the action itself stays, and interruptions are usually only about thirty seconds. By definition and nature derby is about speed and maneuvering, tactical issues that carry the unavoidable side effects of people falling down. It is jostling through a crowd, except the crowd is zooming and turning. There is action, music, and spectacle. Lingerie football billed itself as something explicitly prurient, and for that reason my interest in it (and the girls) flagged. Roller derby is not prurient. It is a real sport. There is impassioned competition flying by, courtesy of those wheels and axles. There is a sheen of sexiness upon it, but like I said that sexiness is emergent rather than applied. Watching the roller girls, I found them in their embellished uniforms far more interesting than any of the football chicks. Given the choice, I know which breed of female I would rather chat up.

Which brings me to a larger point. I’m going to ignore the creep-factor of a single guy talking about chicks, and talk about them anyway.

I’d take Bettie Page over Marilyn Monroe, thorns over roses, Suicide Girls over Hustler. My preferences are by no means radical or even all that unusual, but I like to think that this choice of attitude and aesthetics says something positive about me, makes me a better man in some respects. I would by lying if I said that I didn’t feel superior to “ordinary” guys because of these preferences. I set myself apart from the rotund guys wearing football jerseys because I think “I get off on better quality shit than you do, suckers.”

I don’t think that this is simple arrogance. I really, honestly do think that roller girls are sexier than lingerie football girls, and I actually do think that finding them so is the more enlightened/feminist/socially responsible/generally interesting position. The conclusion that I’m drawing here is that I like women who are actually ambitious, creative, and idiosyncratic. By extension, I’m putting guys who like conventional blond bimbos in a negative light- supposedly if I like these things, they don’t, and I, therefore, have a cozy place where I can feel arrogant and superior.

This does bother me slightly, but turning the idea over in my head I can’t get away from the feeling that I am, in fact, right. Heres why. The lingerie football girls all seem to be approximations of some kind of cenerfoldian ideal that remains unreached, and therefore they do not become as interesting as their skate-mounted counterparts. (By the way, I’m sure that individually they could easily be highly cool, but I’m dealing in generalities and images here.) The derby girls, on the other hand, seem to have dispensed with such uniform pursuits and mostly just present themselves in a way that they find interesting and suitable. This is much better, and why the aesthetics of roller derby interest me much more.

Armpieces, centerfolds, and trophies are boring. I don’t think this is a misogynistic conclusion to come to. If anything, I think it’s a very feminist position for a guy to have. I don’t want to personally associate myself (or find myself in the position of wanting) a girl who has all the personal constitution of a well-soaked piece of gingerbread. Granted, both the lingerie football and derby girls were presenting themselves as tough. But, in the case of the football girls, it was a kind of parodic and cute toughness, as if inviting us to say “Aw, look! The chicks are doing boy things!” Roller derby, though, has none of that.

I’ll probably never go to another lingerie football game, but I’m definitely catching roller derby again. The Rose City Rollers are supposed to put on quite a show, and I’d love to see it on a banked track, rather than a flat one. Wheels and attitude. That’s what will keep me coming back.

The Most Fun You Can Possibly Have Without Actually Having Sex

In Athletics, Horror, Music, Portland on June 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm

“Want some blood?”

Various bottles of the stuff were being passed around. “Thanks,” I said, and doused myself in a fair amount of it. I’d blackened my eyes, smeared white makeup all over my face, and torn up one of my dress shirts. I did not, however, have time for blood. I looked like an overzealous Misfits fan than a zombie, really, but my fellow undead were happy to fix that for me. Various other people were in lycra or street clothes, but the zealous hordes of the nonliving saw too it that they were sufficiently made up. I got myself good and red, dousing some blood on my face for good measure. I was ready to ride through Portland and demand brains.

Pedalpalooza is an annual sixteen-day series of bike events here in Portland, most of which are theme rides. Looking at the calendar, the one that I was determined to go to was the zombie ride, because, well, it was an opportunity to dress up as a zombie. Riding through Portland, shouting “BRAAAAIIINS!!!” at various pedestrians garnered us three main responses:

1- People ignoring us, pretending that a large crowd of bike-based undead were not, in fact, demanding culinary use of their grey matter. This was the most common reaction.

2- Some variant of “Woo!” This was fairly common, which I think speaks well of the citizenry of Portland. They are open-minded enough that they don’t mind restless revenants consuming said open minds.

3- Some variant of “Fuck you!” Very few people had this reaction. I decided that those who did take offense to our antics were tortured, unhappy souls who needed to get laid very badly.

We stopped at a few bars, where a few adventurous patrons allowed themselves to be bitten and slathered in fake blood. There were a few other patrons who did not acquiesce to such zombification, and they were much less exciting human beings. At a bar, though, I got a phone call from my friend L asking what I was doing.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m at the zombie ride.” I said.

“Oh,” she said, with a pausing, “I’m at the Bowie Vs. Prince ride.” Bowie Vs. Prince. At another event someone had rigged up a mobile sound system and was leading around a mobile 80s dance party that was stopping at various open spaces for dancing and antics. Long story short- my friend was able to give me directions and I was able to successfully lead a pack of zombies to an 80s dance party. When rolled up Thriller was, rather auspiciously, playing.

It was a blast- we rolled out with 1999 blasting into the evening, getting “Woos!” from various bar patrons. There was also some bike polo in there. Eventually the whole mass of people ended up at a dance party on the water under a bridge. The next day L and I formed a scavenger hunt team, biking around Portland taking pictues of cycle-themed curiosity.

The whole zombie/80s music/mobile dance party thing, though, made me think a lot about “hipsterism.” At their worst (and most people do talk about them at their worst) hipsters are shallow, image-obsessed douchebags who are only capable of interacting with anything after a safe cushion of ironic distance has been established. At its worst, “hipsterism” is alienating, cold, distant, grating, and fickle. The word “douchebag” is often appended to “hispster” for good reason.

At their very best, though, the young, creative population of a city like Portland is absolutely fantastic, a population that is not afraid of audacity or bold actions. They are a demographic that does have a particular “style” but there is a distinct lack of “one-true-wayism” to it. While things are recognizably “hipstery,” there is a definite pluralism to what can be incorporated into that aesthetic. Almost anything, if presented with a certain sensibility, is considered stylistically interesting, which I quite like.

Also, in answer to any complaints about insufficient illustration: I was having too much fun to bother with pictures. There were costumes, antics, and music, enough that I entirely forgot that I’d brought a camera.