For a while now I’ve wanted to write more personal writing pieces, but never quite gotten there. Every blog I’ve tried to make has either felt forced, or neglected. Monthly is my best answer to that problem. In an effort to weed out over-posting for the sake of content creation, and posting one thing every 5 months and looking like a person who’s neglected a website, I’ve created a blog that this year will get exactly 12 entries. One for each month. I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be about, except that I’ll probably be in it.
February. Once again your end crept up on me. If it wasn’t going to you be you, it would’ve had to be June or March or August that was all shitty and short. You are a necessary evil.
The first week of February was more interesting than most first weeks of February in Portland, because it was that week that Portland did something that it does not normally do: Snow. I’ve lived in the NW virtually all my life. During my childhood there were, maybe 4 big snows, I think. The only one of those snows I can remember with any kind of clarity is the first or second one, I can’t remember which. There’s just this mind-polaroid of my back deck with something like 10” of snow on the ground; a rarity for the Seattle area. Since I’ve lived in Portland it has snowed and stuck exactly 3 times. Once in December 2006, once in January 2009, and now—just a little bit late of 3 years—February 2014. Personally, I think the Pacific NW has the best snow. I say this not as a transplant who can speak to the different types that exist in the USA. I’ve never even been to the midwest in winter. And yet I think we have a lot going for our type of snow that is overlooked, for example:
— The midwest definitely has more snow, but I would argue that it means less. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to stick. It’s when it’s going to stick, and how badly.
I live in a city of midwestern transplants—arguably, Portland’s greatest import—and if there’s one thing I’ve heard about it’s, ‘How lackluster our snow is’. How it hardly ever sticks, and how when it does, people drop everything. And honestly, they’re right.
But if there is something to snow, it’s Portland’s frivolity that makes it amazing to experience. It happens just infrequently enough to take people completely off guard.
My first week of February was busy. I was working 6 days that week, had a couple shows, and had several side tasks floating around my peripheral. It was one of those weeks where around Monday afternoon I realized that I might not necessarily be tired this week, but come next Monday morning, after just one day off, I might start to feel those effects. Semi-adult life has shown me why we as a people eventually settled on a 5 days on, 2 days off. Even if you’re doing something you love, there’s a odd necessity to rest, and more importantly rest again, before you go back to your day job. That was exactly what my week wasn’t going to be like. And then, I opened my blinds Thursday at noon, and in the only way Portland knows how it said, “Yup. We’re really doing this, you guys. I hope you like 4 day weekends.”* At the end of the day, we are all mothernature's playtoy; this being especially the case when you don’t have a reliable fleet of snow plows.**
Every time it’s snowed here, it’s been at an interesting period in my life. In 2006 I had just moved here to go to Portland State University. I lived in the dorms, I was just coming out of the honeymoon stage of my first relationship, I was 150 miles away from my parents. I was in about as much change as you can be in as a person.
Winter 2008 was a crazy time in my life that I still look back on with a mixture of reverence and confusion. I lived in a house with 2-3 other people, (I can’t remember when Max moved out), and as an unemployed person was playing a game you could call, ‘How Long Can We Keep The Heat Off In 29 Degree Weather’. The best metaphor for my life back then can be summed up by the fact that I actually rode my bike around in that weather. Despite all common sense, I donned almost every layer I had, rode to my friend Cary’s house, and even raced in an Alley Cat.*** My internal monologue is schizing out just thinking about it. There’s something to be said about a period in time where you genuinely and truly thought Kanye West’s “808s And Heart Breaks” was a quality album.
2014 paints a different picture. The awful house is gone, replaced by a very C+ apartment; nothing to scoff at, but maybe a grade that you just “forget” to tell you parents about. I turn the heat on when it’s cold, something I’m still getting used to/appreciating. And instead of riding a bicycle around in the snow, I get up in front of smallish groups of people and try to make them laugh. I have yet to decide which is more dangerous.
I can’t complain too much about this next thing because it’s been building for such a long time, but for the first time, video/audio production has actually gotten in the way of my stand-up. Putting that into words always comes out a little lopsided just because comedy is this looming storm cloud that’s either always on the horizon, or currently downpouring, so when I’m actually in a position to be like, “Sorry brain. Can’t dedicate 5 hours today to just thinking about a thing that may not even happen tonight”, it’s a change of place. Maybe not a pleasant one, I feel like you always have to be on your grind to an extent to keep something fresh in your mind, and it’s gotten down to the point where I can feel it in my bone marrow when I haven’t done an open mic in a couple of days.
For a brief and fleeting minute I actually had enough editing on my plate where my excuse for not coming out was actually “editing”. It creeps up on you. About a month ago I got a new external hard drive because I was just topping off my last one. 1 TB. It was a milestone. I got that thing 2 years ago right around the time I got a DSLR and it seemed like such a big number to fill. Then a month ago I noticed I only had about 50 GB left, so I bought a new one. 2TB this time. January passes and without even noticing it, BOOM! 400GB taken up. Half of what made up my last hard drive gone in 1/10th the time. It feels right. I think? About a month ago one of my favorite working comics, Baron Vaughn, came through town, and by some stroke of luck myself and my comedy production partner were able to get our mitts on a Canon C300. To illustrate, here are some things one could buy in lieu of actually buying a Canon C300, (just the camera body).
— 1.75 years of rent in a nice apartment, (PDX prices)
— An entry level Honda Civic, or a nice Hyundai w/leather
— Braces, twice
It’s bigger brother the Canon C500 actually shot the movie “Her” by Spike Jonze, so suffice it to say it’s a camera I never thought I’d even get to touch for a minute, let alone 2 hours. That coupled with 2 other Canon 5D Mark III sideline cameras shooting the same show had me with my first multicam edit. It puts me in a weird position. Our brains are basically fancy computers and for me, mine starts to slow down significantly once I start trying to pursue both the technical sides of comedy production, and the performance side of it. You just get tired. Like a MacBook from 2007 trying to run Adobe Photoshop CS6, and Final Cut Pro X, there’s just not enough RAM. I haven’t reached a tipping point. Yet. Give it time and we’ll see what happens.
By far the biggest thing that happened this month though was another comedy sabbatical. This time New Orleans. A lot of feelings when it comes to that area of the country:
For one thing, I’ve never visited a place south of Tulsa, OK, which for anyone who isn’t aware isn’t what I think you would term “the south”. It touches Texas, and it’s certainly has that muggy wet sleeping bag feel during the summer, but it isn’t the south.
New Orleans is definitely the south.
In a weird way it’s got a feeling that reminds me of a place like New York City just because it’s so...old. The Northwest is like a 9 year old in a family of 5, with 2 siblings. Precocious, unwrinkled, and with the burden of history to guide its growth. New Orleans is that older sister that is 10 years older than her closest sibling, and is very open about it’s misgivings. And yet it’s still so charming. I accidentally walked through the Tremé district with another goofy white comic after eating fried chicken****, and I still felt good about the situation.
New Orleans just seems to be a place where you can talk about it, and people will just listen. You can try and talk about Arcata, CA onstage, but it’s burdened with the mostly true stereotype of having all the weed. Cleveland, OH is funny regionally, but it’s hard to make universal to those who haven’t been there. And yet, for whatever reason, people seem generally interested when I talk about how New Orleans is basically a city built by a bunch of lost boys, all packed into this 1920’s jalopy that’s had the check engine light on for way too long. I think my friend Ariel summed up the feel of that city really well the other day, when commenting on how NOLA’s mayor got charged with 20 accounts of fraud.
“Ray Nagin is the first New Orleans mayor to be convicted for being a New Orleans mayor.”
*For what it’s worth, I completely respect and understand a large portion of people had to get paid/fly/other things. For you, I hope for another clean 4.2 years of winter. We all have stuff to do and places to go.
**I’m pretty sure we have 4. Maybe
***For a brief moment in Portland history from 2008-09, track racing became wildly popular. With that, brought a scourge of bike messengers, street kids, upper middle class white kids (me), and people with too much time (also me), to the streets riding around on fixed gears. Allowing a bunch of early 20 somethings to ride around without brakes is super dangerous. Letting them race around in the snow is just natures way of culling the herd. That race was called the “Snow Cat”. I almost crashed on the Morrison Bridge (not meant for bikes at the time), and couldn’t feel my back three fingers on each hand for about a week. If I remember correctly, it was fun.
****Fun Fact: Everyone who we told that fact immediately asked us if we had walked through there at night, and then immediately sighed a breath of relief we said it was during the day.