I don't remember when I was taught Californians were bad. Whether it be from my parents, great-grandparents, their friends, my friends, my friends' parents, the newspapers.. there was always a sneer. "Californians," they'd say, lips curled up in an expression of disgust. Nor did I really understand why I was supposed to hate Californians. Just that to the native Oregonian, or those that lived here before the 70s, they were to be reviled.

As I grew older I began to get it. Oregon was California's overflow. Those who could no longer afford the San Francisco bay area, or were tired of too much sun in Los Angeles were coming here and driving up our property prices. Or so the explanation went. All of Portland's ills could be attributed to our more powerful neighbors to the south. "Keep going north," people would mutter. To Seattle. Seattle was more deserving of that fate than us.

I'm in my 30s now, showing that this distrust of anyone born with a SSN between 545-573 & 602-626 (see how many they get? Greedy.) goes much farther back than the distaste of the last 10 years.

Coming back to Portland in 2008 after my 7 year absence in Wigan I was struck with the changes in the Pearl District, East inner Burnside and North Portland. Developers had ravaged the landscape with lashings of shiny buildings with doormen, created a 23rd-esque shopping street on Mississippi and a vegan Pizza restaurant on Burnside. A part of me still wanted to buy mace for trips downtown on the Streetcar, didn't trust the 4 and wondered where the hell all the hookers had gone.

But Portland was big. While I was hanging out in a changing Salford, Portland was busting through the national scene. I noted on one visit we even warranted an appearance on a national news channel's weather map. In the Portland LAN forum on SomethingAwful and the damnportlanders Livejournal group there were daily posts from people who believed this city was something special and they wanted to be a part of it. "Where should I live? Where should I get a job? How much does it cost? I have a MFA in English..." Natives or long term residents sneered. "Better have a job," Oregon's unemployment rate is consistently higher than the rest of the country. If they did have a job? "Thanks for taking one away from the people who actually live here." Still they came, some said because they liked the trees, mild climate and mountains nearby. Others came for tech jobs at Intel or IBM. Others said it was their "spiritual home" and liked what they perceived was a more laid back lifestyle.

These people coming here weren't just our hated enemies the Californians either. They were from New York, Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Iowa and almost all the rest of the states. To some there would be a kind of knowing nod. "Oh you're from Texas? No wonder you want to get out." As much as Oregonians hate people who aren't from here, we still have pride in our state and especially our politics. As we watch women's rights get chipped away in other places, we feel like we overcame. As we watch partisan infighting we remember Senator Mark Hatfield's refusal to accept Nixon and Reagan's "Family Values" Republicanism. Never mind that anything beyond the geographically small space between the Coast and Cascade ranges bleeds a bright modern GOP red. Read the comments on the Oregonian's website or any of the news channels and you'll find plenty of complaining about Obama and gay rights. A former coworker who is a lesbian and originated from Boston once lamented "my partner and I speed through Eastern Oregon. It's pretty red state out there."

This week the Californian hate reared it's head in local and national press once more. This time it was due to the planned demolition of an old home in my neighborhood. See, even Northwest Portland, long polished and populated, is subject to change with the current wave of new Oregonians. Kevin Rose's now abandoned plans raised the hackles of his neighbors with me included. This is actually the second time in two months one of this district's old houses was saved from a team of contractors. The Goldsmith house on 24th was purchased by a group before it was razed for more condos.

Somewhere along the way, while I was angrily Tweeting about canaries, coal mines and increasing regional problems with inequity I let go of the Californian problem. The origin of our new neighbors and their families isn't the problem here, it's our inertia in the face of our old neighbors' greed. Oregon is one two states where rent control is expressly prohibited by law.  The other one is Texas.

How good are we now? A law passed expressly to prohibit rent control only benefits one group of people, those that own property. The ones that jack up the rent every year, exploiting a market that only benefits them? They're from Oregon. The development group that raised Starbucks on Hoyt's rent to $15,000 a month, (rumored to be the most expensive rental property in Oregon) causing it to close? Owned by an Oregon company.

The problem with rises in property prices and cost of living isn't people moving here for whatever economic or ideological reasons. Though that may be the underlying cause. The squeeze is coming from the inequities that we allow and from the people that don't meet the liberal impression of what Oregon is. Rarely does anyone ever say they want less money, no matter how progressive we and others think we are. And people are seeing opportunities to get a little bit more out of what they have. Like it or not, it's how our economy works. The destruction of old houses in NW Portland is a sign of things to come and should be a warning that what some value right now, is getting theirs while they can. But I don't think it's a prompt to protest houses with signs calling people Nazis or harass the construction workers (an industry that only recently started recovering from the recession.) We need to be pro-active in protecting each other and establishing what values we want to preserve, before the market does it for us.


Math Ghosts

"My name is Mr. Buckle." I watch him, he's moving quickly, taking things out of his bag and shuffling around. I suppress a chuckle, I can't remember the last time I called someone mister or missus for anything.

I'm in Math 60 and it's the first night of class. I survey the room, the class is full and consists mainly of people 10-15 years younger than me. I'm glad for someone I knew before from one of my French classes who is around my husband's age, I don't feel so old. See, what I did was go to PCC, get a ton of credits, apply to PSU, get accepted then get married and move to England for 7 years. Who needs college when Wigan calls?

The first day I'm anxious, "math anxiety" someone coined it. I wasn't great at this in high school, hence my dreadful test score. I already dropped this class once without a refund due to insane time demands and an absence of desire to be tortured for 8 weeks. So far this seems to meet my needs, we do our homework but don't turn it in and are scored purely on tests. That's fine, treat us like adults. I'm sure we can manage ourselves. It's a pleasant change from being told to raise my hand to leave class early.

I'm struck with regret that I took "History of Furniture" instead of Math 60 when it was on someone else's dime. Now the cost of the book and course is around $550. Plus there are fees just for the building I'm sitting in.

The first lesson progresses and my panic gives way to excitement. I've always felt a little stunted by my lack of ability to do algebra. When you get into a rhythm it's elegant and simple, it either is or isn't correct, no nuance. I might be able to get a handle on this after all.

But soon I'm bored and remember that it wasn't so much I was bad at math, it was I spent more time gazing out my classroom window at a sunny field than paying attention, so I never really learned how to do it. Like never learning to ride a bike because you're waiting for someone to push you. Got the bike, got the time, got the motivation.... just push damn it! Oh never mind, off to read.

There's massive confusion the first three classes regarding the way Mr. Buckle explained  how to work out word problems, in between one of his digressions. And there are a lot of digressions. I start doodling math ghosts as a way to waste time while he explains to us we really need to be informed voters and how property taxes impact your rent. "Tell me about it," I think to myself, "my rent just went up 3%. While we're on the subject, let's discuss water rates...." But I stick to talking to my ghost who is pretty upset about a bad pun I made.

A couple sessions in I wonder if part of my excitement was that it was taught in English. I'm doing my homework in class and looking up answers to things I don't understand on the Internet instead of paying attention to the lectures. I do well on my first test but only 89% because I forgot -22 is going to be positive and a couple other basic things. I make a note to make a mental note, possibly find some apps to help really drill it in like I do with French conjugations and vocabulary.

Then one day there's a change in the direction our class is headed, the way our instructor's teaching style is going to go. Mr. Buckle doesn't want to share the practice test online because the people who were absent "won't get the benefit." I'm struck by this. I don't really understand why should it matter to him if absentees are absent. "We're the ones paying, let us shoot ourselves in the foot if we need to. Lord knows I have," I think.

This train does not head back to the station we left at in January, soon after we receive an actual assignment, one that's literally just transcribing something from book to paper. Literally. Not Chris Traeger literally.


Then we have a roll sheet at the end of class, a worksheet to prove we were there. Roll call will now be randomly at the beginning or the end of the session.

If I felt old at the beginning? I feel 15 now.

Name changed to protect the guilty.


Want to talk about God?!

It was October and I hadn't seen hide nor hair of Matthew since May 5th when the Portland Police Department took him away from Community Court. The neighborhood changed drastically, there was no longer a feeling of tightness in my chest as I walked home from the bus stop at night. Northwest Portland isn't exactly dangerous but the verbal harassment was stressful and there was always a part of me that wondered when he was going to snap.

Then I sat on my step and smoked a cigarette, watching the people congregate around the corner at the neighborhood bridge and tunnel attraction and saw something. 

It was dusk and I couldn't be sure. I thought it might be Matthew. The man swayed back and forth as he fiddled with a cell phone and earphones. He didn't stop people for money or look my direction. Just focused on the task at hand, untangle the cord. He ducked into an alleyway and disappeared into darkness. I stared at the spot where I'd last seen him.

I was disappointed and annoyed. It had taken a year to get him out of here before. Why was he back? His caseworker had even said "the community" had turned against him. 

He came out and walked away, I still couldn't be sure. Over the next couple months I sighted him, as did my husband. One day Alaska ran up to me "you'll never guess who's back!" She told me he's on probation, has a place to live, a phone and is getting a job. And really wanted to talk to her about God. My husband told me he'd seen him petting someone's dog and carrying on a civil conversation about its breed. 

I was stunned. When all of this started I thought he would be a problem until the alcohol took him, or he pissed off the wrong person (reports were he'd been decked a couple times after spitting on people.) But wherever he was in the 5 months he was away, he found salvation and made it into recovery. 

Me? I'm skeptical. As another person I want the best for him. As someone who repeatedly called me names I want him gone from where I live. I doubt making amends to the people in the neighborhood is on his list of steps though. I doubt he even remembers. Though once, the other day, I saw him staring at me from across the road and wondered. 

I walked a little faster away.

Bud Clark Commons

Matt the Drunk. That's what the others on the streets called him. As of May last year he was a constant menace, not only to me but to others in the neighborhood. A few young women told me they'd started carrying weapons. Others just expressed general fear. Even though the police and Alaska, a beautiful homeless girl that lives in the neighborhood, had assured me he was all talk, the talk was violent and abusive.

Every time I saw him panhandle and it was in my path, I sucked my stomach in and forged ahead. I never knew what he was going to say or how bad it was. I didn't even know what the threshold actually was. Too much booze and he got abusive? Not enough?

I'd had enough. One night I stepped off the streetcar and onto the road. There he was outside Lovejoy Market, planted firmly in the sidewalk. I left my earbuds in and kept walking even though the music had stopped. "Can you help a guy out?" his mumble to my right. I kept walking.

"Hey!" I kept my pace steady, I didn't want him to know there was adrenaline spreading through my body.

"HEY YOU FAT CUNT," he started to scream, "AREN'T YOU GOING TO HELP ME OUT?!"

I crossed the road and looked back, the silver haired Korean man who owns Lovejoy was talking to him. He knew me, he saw me a lot as I went in for cigarettes or other random things. Matthew started walking away but towards me.

Shaking with rage and fear, I reached into my pocket and dialed police non emergency again. I felt guilty. Surely they had better things to do? But I'd been advised by the police to continue calling.

It was the usual sort of conversation, they couldn't do a lot since he hadn't actually threatened me but wanted me to keep calling to keep the pressure on. I was resigned and browsed Craigslist for the millionth time to find somewhere else to live. But the market's tight and I have critters that need air conditioning.

I'd had enough. I wanted to see where this was going wrong. Matthew's arrest record was mighty, at least one a month for the last year and everyone I talked to in passing about it had a similar story to mine, some worse. I decided to go see what Community Court was all about.

I navigated the mire that is the Multnomah County Courts website and finally found when he was scheduled to appear.

I scheduled the afternoon off work to head down to the Bud Clark Commons. It was a beautiful May day, warm and perfect. I stashed my things in a locker and headed into a little room with neon green chairs. In fact, so much green. It reminded me of someone telling me they wanted a website to look "healthcare-y." "What is it with that color of green?" I wondered.

People slowly filed in, signing the Deputy's sheet and taking seats around me.  A kid leaned over to me and asked. "What are you here for? Did you get a ticket for littering or something?""Oh no, just here to observe." He looked surprised and took something out of his pocket.

"Want a candy cane?"

Matthew slipped in right as the proceedings started. He didn't seem to recognize me. But even though I'd chased him away after he pissed in our yard, threatened me, called me a bitch and a cunt, that light in his eyes never appeared.

One by one the cases were called and decided. Most took community service or jail, only a few accepted counseling. Finally it was just Matthew and me.

"What's your name?" The court officer looked at his sheet and up at me.

"Tiffany, I'm an observer," he cocked his head and looked at Matthew.

"Matthew Breen?"

My body suddenly filled with rage. Sadly the acoustics in the room were poor so I couldn't hear what the ADA said. What came across was Matthew was the only one that they were against recommending something lenient. The judge looked concerned as they read the charges. Two people connected to Bud Clark who had been making volunteer arrangements spoke up. "We can't even get him down here to shower," their frustration was palpable.

"I've been getting complaints from the neighborhood," said his case worker.

Matthew rubbed his hand over his buzzed head. The judge started talking to him and Matthew argued. Someone had given him a job! He'd do the things they wanted this time. His panic visibly grew throughout the proceedings

 There was one thing that trumped it all. Matthew had a bench warrant issued by a different court.

I left shortly after. Matthew was going to jail and that meant a couple days of peace for me.


Goodbye Joe's Cellar

Philip and I walked into Joe's Cellar last Friday night as we almost always did. I almost didn't go. I had the beginnings of an awful cold that made me want to curl up on the couch and sleep. But it was our tradition and I promised a friend we'd show up. So we rallied and readied ourselves to hash out the week and put it behind us.

We'd had kind of a traumatic Thursday night. I unknowingly got a homeless girl's sleeping bag stolen and we were up past our bed time making amends.

We walked in and sat down at our regular booth. We waved to the bartender and sat down, slumping into the cushions. It was slow and kind of quiet for a Friday night. While Joe's was never as rowdy as the bars up 21st, it did get a little noisy, especially since some of the regulars took a liking to video game bowling. After some thought I noticed the wave from the bartender seemed off. Not with us in particular, just in general. I made a mental note to talk to her about it later.

Our waitress came by and we told her the story of the street kids we'd met and our eternal frustration with Matthew Breen. (Or Matt the Drunk) Part of me was still thinking about how much I have and their stories about what they lost. I kept thinking "I have all these things I don't need. They need some of these things. I should give it to them." But I didn't know how to give them the things I have without making it embarrassing.

Unusually downbeat, our waitress crouched, eyes cast down and traced the table with her hands. "So guys, sad story. Joe's is closing." She told us the city had condemned the building and the last night was Sunday. I asked so many questions but it came out there was nothing anyone could do.

"So if you know someone with a job, let me know..."

Philip and I were in shock. I spent a lot of time staring sadly at the newly revamped menu.

My first thought was a Randy Leonard-esque shutdown so the land could be developed. At this moment the area near 21st and Pettygrove looks like an industrial wasteland. Scattered around Conway are several large empty lots with remnants of a business that underwent a massive change. There's a garage with a ramp to nowhere, slowly decaying and vast empty parking lots with chain link fences. East of 23rd avenue, Pettygrove is the border to the Northwest Industrial District.

All of that will change over the next few years. The city gave the go ahead for a massive project that will totally reinvent all that unused land. Soon it will be more apartments, a grocery store (my money is on Whole Foods or New Seasons) and open space with ornamental trees. Joe's Cellar would be its neighbor. A traditional neighborhood bar doesn't exactly fit in to the pretty green drawings on the Oregonian's website. Not to mention a traditional neighborhood bar on a very, very expensive piece of land.

I sputtered my conspiracy theory about the convenient timing and was corrected by a regular that usually propped up the bar. "The building is pulling away from the roof. He (Jim, the owner) can't fix it." According to him, the city inspectors came out on Thursday and notified the business on Friday it must close that day. With some pleading, the owner managed to keep it open until Sunday. The reason the city inspector came out? According to them Jim was trying to fix it. The contractor discovered the defect, reported it to the city and that was it.

Throughout the night I e-mailed every media outlet I could think of. I wanted Joe's to go out with a bang. I wanted the bartenders and cocktail waitresses to make as much money as they could. Joe's deserved more than to fizzle out over a couple days. That night the Mercury called to confirm and ran a story on their blog. The ball started rolling on the Joe's Facebook page.

Over the weekend I tried to pin down why I was so upset about Joe's closing. Some of my friends said "it's just a bar." But it wasn't. When we moved into the neighborhood four years ago we had very little to do. Most of my old friends moved out of the city or had more stable lives. We'd just left our other friends in England and we missed them so much. We also missed our beloved Retro Bar in Manchester where we spent many nights laughing and singing badly. I started looking around for somewhere else just to be that wasn't home.

Over my life I've had a number of places I felt comfortable. When I was a teenager I liked to buy books at Powell's and go to the Roxy to eat cheese fries and read. Before I left for England it was Embers on a Wednesday night to drink and dance to goth music. (That's where I met my husband.)When we got to England it was ArA and the Retro Bar.

These places were all special in their own ways. But I chose them mostly because I could be alone but around people at the same time. There was a respect for privacy but if I wanted to engage I could.

The biggest thing they all have in common? Music.

The Roxy had The Clash on the jukebox. Very impressive to a teenage malcontent. Embers was goth night and played The Smiths and Depeche Mode. ArA, well, I DJ'd there for a time and always loved to play Planet Earth by Duran Duran. If I didn't like the music there I probably wasn't ever going to. Our wasted time at the Retro Bar was all about the Scissor Sisters and Rick Astley. (Don't judge, he's a local boy made good.)

The first night we walked into Joe's Leonard Cohen was on the jukebox. I think it was Democracy, though it could have been Closing Time. It made me smile. So perfect. A dimly lit smokey bar with wood paneling, my husband, a Sapphire and tonic, and Leonard Cohen. I'm not entirely sure when I joined in pumping money into the jukebox. But I do know the regular Friday night bartender, the amazing Sara, noticed. I think I must have been putting things on like The Jam, Erasure, New Order, Elvis Costello.... and the Scissor Sisters because I missed England.

In the end Joe's was our anchor. I celebrated my last birthday there. The beginning of March I grieved for my grandmother after a particularly horrible night at the nursing home. I did an awful rendition of "Bizarre Love Triangle" at karaoke. We were surrounded by people in front of and in back of the bar who worked hard. They policed themselves. If you wanted to be left alone, you were left alone. If you wanted to talk, they would talk.

While I appreciate Willamette Week, Mercury and KGW covering the loss, I feel like they all missed the most important thing to me. Joe's was a place of community, friendship and hard work. To us it wasn't an ironic dive, somewhere to go to say you have a favorite while sneering at the people around you. It was a place to have fun, to laugh and to live. 

For the people that worked there it was a job. To paraphrase Sara people supported their families working there. Joe's employed 24 amazing people and those jobs are gone. Chances are you've seen them around too. Cathie is a fantastic artist. Sara has a great band. Leisa's so compassionate. The kitchen manager used to work at the Green Dragon. One of the old cooks used to work at the New Old Lompoc.

So when I think of Joe's closing, I don't say "Portland lost another great dive." I say "24 wonderful people lost their jobs and we lost an amazing place in the community."

As far as the music goes my last song at Joe's Cellar was Age of Consent by New Order. It only cost 1 credit on the jukebox.


How do you solve a problem like Matthew Breen?

The first time I saw Matthew was in the fall of 2012. I was standing just off the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. He wandered up the driveway, stood behind the bushes and pissed.

I was stunned and not entirely sure what to do. Part of me was torn. I mean, the guy had to pee right? But as I watched people walking up the street to restaurants or down the avenue, families, couples, people out for a stroll, I thought I should probably chase him off.

And then he stopped.

I heaved a sigh of relief, he was done. But then he started grunting. Through the bushes I could see the tip of his penis and his hand firmly around it.

“Ok. You have your dick out. Get the fuck out of here before I call the cops.”

He stumbled away, apologizing and then punctuating it with “but I’m a man you know?”

I shook my head.

Across the street a couple employees from the ice cream shop were watching me, looking at me with some disdain. I scowled back. They looked away.

We started seeing him more often and he started looking worse. That first day he was relatively normal looking. He was shaved, with clean hair and clothes. I shrugged it off. The homeless in our neighborhood didn’t tend to be aggressive or repeat offenders. (I only saw a homeless guy poop in the courtyard once at my last apartment. He cleaned up after himself and threw it away.)

The most problematic pee-er we had was actually a long time local we see at our neighborhood bar. We could chase him away. He knew us.

For the most part we co-existed. We looked on as they dug through our bottles and cans. Occasionally tossing money, Sisters of the Road vouchers, or a hot drink at them during the winter. My favorite was (and still is) Boombox Guy. He wanders up behind the same bushes that became Matthew Breen’s toilet, puts on some soft rock on a portable radio and dances around to Steely Dan. Rock on Boombox Guy. Rock on.

In 2011 a survey, including people in transitional housing, showed Portland had 15,563 people that would be considered homeless. While estimates are hard to obtain, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates around 38% of homeless people are alcoholics.

This is likely the case with Matthew. After we found his mugshots online, we noted it was like watching the decline of a serious drunk on his way to cirrhosis. His most recent mugshots, from an arrest in January for alcohol in a public place, shows him disheveled and dirty. A marked difference in 6 months.

After chasing him off the property at least another 3 times and having him hurl insults at me. “You bitch, you bitch, fucking bitch” as he urinated outside our window, I finally called the police.

The non-emergency dispatcher said an officer would be in touch soon. But no call arrived. I described him as best I could at the time. “He’s about 5’10”, 180 pounds, brown hair, beard, gray hoodie.” I stood on the sidewalk for the officer that would never come and watched Matthew shuffle west up the street. He stood in front of a now closed pub and drank a bottle from his plastic bag. The CHIERS van showed up but didn’t get him inside. A few minutes later a Portland Police Department cruiser turned up as well.

I assumed he was going to be dealt with.

He wasn’t.

He appeared a few hours later in the bushes. Drunker than he was before. Urinating and sniffing a woman’s mustard yellow sweater.

CHIERS is our local transport for the drunk tank. Instead of burdening the courts and jails with people who are in serious need of help for addiction, they take them to a non-profit facility to sober them up and offer them help.

According to Central City Concern, the vans are staffed with EMTs who will assess whoever it is they pick up and then offer them recovery options.

After I saw Matthew again that evening, I called police non-emergency again. This time was different. The officer appeared and drove up the road. He called me to tell me he couldn’t find him. I wandered back outside to see if I could spot him again. There he was sitting on the corner.

I called the officer back. “I see him! I see him!” Within a moment the police cruiser pulled up. Matthew didn’t even start. He sat down on a brick fence and waited patiently, barely uttering a word.

After a half an hour another cruiser appeared. The first officer said pleasantly “Well Matthew, time to go.” They ushered him into the back of the car, handcuffing him and carefully placing his belongings in the trunk. One of them appeared to take his photo with his phone. Then they both drove off.

A while later the police officer called me. “We took him to Hooper. You shouldn’t have to worry about him for the next 5-7 hours.” I thanked him. He then gave me his name and told me to use that next time I called. “He’s known to the police in this neighborhood.”

Of course he is.
The officer further explained how it works with a lot of the homeless people in our neighborhood. It’s a revolving door he said, they go into treatment and come out, they go back to panhandling to get their fix.

Matthew’s burned almost all his bridges with the locals in our neighborhood. One of the clothing stores called the police after he was caught sleeping rough and was verbally abusing customers. Another business owner shooed him off the stoop a number of times before calling the cops. According to the mugshots he’s been arrested for everything from drinking on public property to theft. And the places where you and I can purchase alcohol are making it difficult for him.

The independently owned shop banned him from shopping there. The larger chain convenience store banned him as well. He doesn’t seem to get as far north as one of the other independent stores or the local co-op. Whether the grocery stores are selling him alcohol, we don’t know. Word on the street is he can still buy alcohol at Walgreens.

Most people ignore his requests for money as well. His tactics are aggressive. He gets in your face. “Help a guy out?” “Give me some money.” “Got a buck?” But some, no doubt well meaning (or particularly far sighted and vindictive) still give him cash. I watched as an older man in a blue checked shirt dug through his wallet for a dollar. Matthew snatched it out of his hand and walked towards one of the stores that banned him. He handed the money to someone going inside, who then came out and gave him the can. He popped the tab open and took a drink.

A part of me thought that maybe it was apathy on behalf of the locals that kept him around. No one calling the police, (I was hesitant. It’s a waste of police time right?) people just avoiding him or even that maybe we thought there aren’t facilities available for people like him. But now I realize it’s the powerlessness of law enforcement and treatment facilities that also leaves us hamstrung. He’s regularly given the opportunity to sober up and get help. He regularly turns it down. Portland has plenty of places to get hot meals, if not a bed and even has mobile showering stations. The homeless can even get a haircut.

But Matthew just wants a can of strawberry flavored booze and not to be helped or rescued.

And we don’t want to be verbally abused or have our bushes pissed on anymore.

It’s a zero sum game.



OSPIRG and money wrenching

I worked for OSPIRG in the summer of 1997. I wrote a little bit about it before, suffice to say I was lured in by the promise of something approaching an hourly wage and a job where I could walk around in the sun. It was swing type shift, started at 12:00pm and ended around 8:00, which always suited my natural rhythm.

It also appealed to my more idealistic sensibilities. I wanted to support the Clean Air Act.

I got the job easily and started soon after my interview. My first day we were sectioned off into canvassing groups and sent out into the wild. They gave us our scripts, pepped us up and we were knocking on doors.

I was still full of ambition, wanting to make the top tier and do the best I could for OSPIRG and the environment. But as the months passed and I received $95 dollars every two weeks, I grew more disheartened. We were sent out to neighborhoods where we were certain not to get any donations, angry dogs behind fences and endless cards saying these people were always not home or didn't donate. In Hillsboro one of my high school teachers refused to come to the door even though I was one of his former students. I could hear his footsteps and his car was in the drive. In Lake Oswego a kind man took pity on me and gave me $52 but wanted me to read more about what I was selling. (52 is a psychological thing, $1 for every week in the year.)

On one trip, I blew out one of my already bad knees and hitchhiked to Portland from the West Hills so I didn't have to wait for the truck to take me home.

The strangest thing that happened that summer had nothing to do with rude people or 40 hours of walking in a week.

One evening our landline rang. (Landline! Imagine!) When I answered, it was a voice I didn't know but knew me.

 "Is this Tiffany?"
 "This is Adam."
"You work for OSPIRG?"

I was relieved, our phone numbers were on a list so the canvass director could call us if something happened. I'd only been home for a little while, so it's possible something got left. But as the conversation progressed I realized this wasn't your typical sort of "oh you forgot your wallet in the van" call.

 "I hear you're good with computers."
 "Ok I guess?"
 In 1997, that meant having your own, with a printer. Which I did. Internet forever.

 "Adam" started talking, likely too much and almost too fast. I didn't get a chance to ask a lot of questions but he had a lot of information. He told me about an oil refinery in northern California. They needed someone who could use a computer, for reasons I still don't understand. I needed black clothes and a flashlight. I needed to be able to leave the state on short notice. He'd call me again. He did.

I did eventually ask how he got my number. He said from the canvass director, Katie. He also named other people in my group that were allegedly involved in the plot. Someone with a truck. We were going to leave soon and be gone for 3 days. Enough time to drive to northern California, do the "job" (whatever that was) and get home, hopefully without being caught.

We had a cordless phone at our house and Adam heard the crackling. He asked if he was on a cordless, I said yes. He said he'd call back. He never did.

I told the canvass director and she looked at me like I was insane but I could see the orange sheet with the numbers clear as day in front of me on her desk. But I may have been crazy anyway. When I worked for OSPIRG I made around $200-250 per month in addition to $350 I had as regular income from elsewhere. I was renting a room in a pretty cheap house, so I had a little bit left over for food and utilities.

I didn't eat a lot.

I finished the summer at OSPIRG and didn't give the calls much thought, thinking they were a prank of some kind. Only much later did I realize it might have been the real deal and it would be a pretty bizarre joke or trick. But I was still confused as to who would recommend me (I was recommended) and why give someone new to this little group so much information. I still don't really know.

Much later on one of my employers called OSPIRG for employment verification.

They had no record of me working there.


IIS 7, php and fastcgi

It all started with this:
HTTP Error 500.0 - Internal Server Error
C:\Program Files (x86)\PHP\v5.3\php-cgi.exe - The FastCGI process exited unexpectedly

And Faulting application name: php-cgi.exe, version:, time stamp: 0x4e537f4b
Faulting module name: MSVCR90.dll, version: 9.0.30729.4940, time stamp: 0x4ca2ef57
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x0003aefe
Faulting process id: 0xcbc
Faulting application start time: 0x01ccba9ed76d7828
Faulting application path: C:\Program Files (x86)\PHP\v5.3\php-cgi.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\WinSxS\x86_microsoft.vc90.crt_1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b_9.0.30729.4940_none_50916076bcb9a742\MSVCR90.dll
Report Id: 158dd077-2692-11e1-9344-000c29f76d8e

1. Opened up permissions for the iusr account on web.config as recommended by MS

2. Checked Event Viewer and saw this:

3. Googled and found this:

4. Which led me to this

5. Which then got me thinking about how the hell you apply a patch:

6. And I downloaded this:

7. Except it didn't work with the --binary switch, I got "**** cannot read binary data from tty on this platform'

8. So I opened the patch file and added this code to database.inc, replacing

'/^RELEASE SAVEPOINT (.*)$/' => 'SELECT 1 /* $0 */',

9. Which led to an error in menu.inc
SELECT TOP(1) * FROM {menu_router} WHERE path IN () ORDER BY fit DESC; Array ( ) in menu_get_item() (line 445 of

10. So I went through and did it all again after deleting the db tables (the install configuration will error out if it finds the tables have already been created.)

11. And I got this message:
SQLSTATE[23000]: [Microsoft][SQL Server Native Client 10.0][SQL Server]Violation of PRIMARY KEY constraint 'registry_pkey'. Cannot insert duplicate key in object 'dbo.registry'.

12. Googled it, found people with the same problem but no fix.

13. Threw my hands up and said fuck it.

14. Looking for new Open Source CMS platform that works and allows me to skip steps during the install process :D.

Moral of the story: Jesus Christ Drupal is a pain in the ass and I'm ditching it for another CMS platform. Way too buggy and the install file is crap and won't let you skip steps (yes the db is already created.)

Windows 2008 server R2 SP1
SQL Server 2008
Commerce Guys Drupal

(Also if you plan on coming here going "HERP STOP USING IIS/MSSQL" I don't want to hear it. I'm not building another damned server because the Commerce Guys Drupal install doesn't work with a pretty typical config, thanks. I'm also starting to think Drupal is just buggy. I spent most of the day dealing with the regular Drupal package yesterday and couldn't get it to work then either. But I'll take any help. For now I'm scrapping the whole thing. At least I learned how to set up the php handlers in IIS :))

Edit: After my ranting I thought I'd give the Acquia install a go. Perfect, took 5 minutes.


The Crystal Cox verdict

Crystal sent me her briefs and legal docs a few weeks ago. I read through them and thought about what that meant in regards to my case and how mine pertained to her. Today the Oregonian reported on her verdict.

Here are my thoughts:

1. I was advised against using the retraction statute in Oregon as it hasn't been clarified to apply to bloggers. Disappointingly Judge Hernandez's ruling supports that, even though it seems like common sense. I believe the retraction statute should apply. Perhaps it's time to petition the legislature. Think about the amount of time and money that could be saved if it was clarified that the retraction statute does apply.

2. This is a double edged sword:
(3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest

It should be noted that I had to respond to questions about conflicts of interest with Dr. Darm. 100% of the journalists I spoke to asked me outright if I had any. I was honest, I don't and didn't. If I had, I wouldn't have posted it in the first place. Or I would have disclosed.

To claim bloggers don't fact-check or edit is a little off. Some journalists don't fact-check well. For example, several publications referred to Dr. Darm as a plastic surgeon.He isn't. He doesn't outright claim to be. To say traditional journalists can make mistakes because of "credentials" and bloggers can't disrupts the playing field.

And where do you draw this line? Would say Mike Benner have more protections over his personal blog than me? Just because he has a press pass through KGW? How about Lars Larson who operates in mostly opinion (and in my own opinion, fantasy?) It seems like there was a very arbitrary line drawn that hopefully a court of appeals will toss.

But then if I was obliged to uphold journalistic standards, what would that look like? My blog is obviously opinion based. While I try to adhere to ethics, I don't have the training to be a true journalist and uphold those standards all the time. I have to rely on personal protections like the First Amendment and special motions like anti-SLAPP

And how would a retraction statue apply to people with Twitter accounts? Would it just be a blanket "I'm so sorry" law?

So would we be asking for more protection than just our basic rights to free speech? Just because we can set up a blog/tumblr and hit publish post?

3. Cox didn't file an anti-SLAPP.

4. Her blogs are obviously opinion to a layman.

I'm disappointed in the ruling. I haven't really had a chance to wade through all the briefs and the suit itself. But I feel like a lot of what Judge Hernandez said puts bloggers rights back about three steps. We also need the retraction clause to apply to online media. But that would mean we'd have to step it up and be more than just citizens with Internet access.

Even with my ambivalence the whole issue with the retraction clause, I hope the decision is eventually overturned. Good luck to Ms Cox in the court of appeals!

It's worth noting the comments were more sympathetic in my case than hers. And I'm not entirely sure why. Except for the one conspiracy loon. That was weird.


English expats versus American expats

When American ex-pats meet the conversation goes something like this.

When the English meet it goes something like this:
Me (notes accent:) "Where are you from?"
English1: "England"
Me: "Yeah, where."
English1: "Manchester."
Me: "He (gestures towards husband) is from Wigan."
Husband: "Alright mate?"
English1: "They really cleaned up the Arndale."

The vet noticed my Wigan Warriors sweatshirt yesterday that I was wearing in honor of Four Nations. I don't care if it makes me look like a poser. Rugby League is the best sport ever.


The Media

(This is a part in a series about my experiences with being sued and what the process, legalese, emotions and fear are like. I hope it helps someone else who may or may not be in the same position. It’s helping me to write about it, it is terrifying. Being sued is truly an existential kind of a thing (as my attorney put it.))

I knew this was going to get media attention after a few minutes of receiving the brown envelope. The lawsuit is something I would read and talk about if I was a bystander, being the Internet junkie I am. I was apprehensive. I’ve dealt with media attention before and found it stressful and anxiety inducing. At first I guess it’s flattering, something major happens in your life and someone is interested in it.

I'm used to being noticed, or recognized. You could say a lot of what I do draws attention to myself. The bike pictured? That's mine. But that's on my terms. I bought that bike because I liked it. I bought it because it was special. I decorated the helmet to match. Most of the time I like the attention I get from it (I was once told that I looked like "an awesome alien man." My favorite.) But I don't feel I have to be aware of it all the time or that somehow I'm under scrutiny.

I also have a terrible habit of laughing when I’m nervous. Humor is how I cope with a lot of negative things in my life. And the English only contributed to my self deprecation. In the north it’s looked down on to promote yourself too much. I brought a lot of that back with me.

In this situation I knew both the amount and topic, Twitter, would get public interest. It’s current and it’s a fuck of a lot of money. People like me don’t typically get sued for a million dollars, it’s usually the Eliot Spitzers and Courtney Loves of the world. What I didn’t expect was for the attention to be so sustained.

Dealing with the press is almost as nerve wracking as dealing with legal issues. You don’t know who is going to pick it up, or how. And frankly, due to the above self deprecation I don’t like looking at myself. I also don’t really have any motivation to be on television. And Jesus, what if I laughed? Would people understand or would it seem that I didn't take it seriously?

So why did I do it? I honestly think knowledge about the anti-SLAPP special motion is important. And publicizing that aspect became important to me. Secondly I knew that Twitter defamation was new and I wanted to convey how a lawsuit like this can fill you with fear and chill your speech. But also that you have options for fighting back.

I was also surprised at how the wheels of the media grind on. What I was expecting was an initial burst and then silence. Instead I was told about stories almost every week since we filed our motion. Most of the stories were last minute, based off the journalist’s deadline. Some I didn’t know about until after they went to print, like the second Tribune article and the Oregonian.

Who didn’t run the stories was also pretty interesting. All in all the following contacted me throughout the case:

KGW - Didn’t run, though the interview with Ed Teachout was lovely and I enjoyed talking to him.
KOIN - Scheduled and then canceled
KATU - Ran the story
KOMO - Didn’t know, ran a very edited version
Willamette Week - Interviewed (really awkwardly thanks to seriously messed up reception) but didn’t run.
Mercury - Broke the story, ran two
LO Review / Tribune - Quick quote, two stories, ran story when it ended.
Oregonian - Ran the story two months after it broke in the Mercury, ran story when it ended.
OPB - Think Out Loud

The above aren’t even counting the subsequent echo chamber.

What annoyed me the most was how it all impacted my work schedule. What you watch on television for 2 minutes or read for 5-10 takes 30 minutes of filming or questions from the press. You also spend a ton of time preparing, normal people do not have press agents. You may have thoughts and feelings (a lot of mine involved the word fuck) but they’re yours and private. And some people might not understand.

Like my worry over my bike. Like laughing and randomly shouting "This is not my beautiful house! How did I get here?!" a la the Talking Heads. That's exactly what you want to see on the 5:00 news? Right?

Get the knowledge out there about anti-SLAPP at the sacrifice of my sanity and my lunch break. Work until 8:00pm the next day to make up for lost time. I was pulling tons of 10-12 hour days to make it all up and get my pretty heavy workload completed. As much as the lawsuit was a part of my life, so was my work. And frankly my work is far more important because I get a paycheck.

I also don’t know where the impression that media = payday comes from. I don’t advertise here (what’s the point? Up until recently my blog was read by my friends, some family and one very devoted reader from Australia.)

What was really encouraging were all the positive comments on the story. I was very interested in public feedback and genuinely what people thought. Some of the other comments and stories weren’t all that positive, which is ok too, that’s what the Internet is for. But there were the ones that were more out of left field, suggesting there’s a puppet master and I was put up to writing what I did and some, like the Seattle Weekly, that were dreadfully researched.

Ultimately dealing with the media is a trade off, it’s your time for a soundbite about something you feel is important. The attention is stressful and you’re setting yourself to go under a microscope like you never have before. You have to make sacrifices. You just have to decide whether it’s worth it.

I also have one confession to make. I accidentally lied to the media.

I'm 33. I just haven't updated my Blogger profile for a while. Sorry media.




I shouldn’t be so bleah. But I am. All week long I’ve been trying to fight off an annoyed voice in the back of my head going “life sucks.” But how could it? This particular week I’ve been to see Roger Daltrey, made arrangements to adopt chinchillas, had my first personal training session, made steak and ale pie, got pretty much caught up on work and a couple other awesome things.

I think I’m deflating. All the background strain and holding it together crumbled and I’m left with the boredom that prompts me to go digging around in the first place. Even the Sims Pet Expansion pack leaves me cold. By today even after riding my bike to work, I get in, receive a somewhat scolding e-mail and deflate even further.

I feel like George in Dead Like Me. Spinning around aimless in an office chair, looking at my task list with its tick boxes and inexplicable e-mails. Doing the stuff that needs to be done and going home.

Jesus Christ this is depressing.

Here’s a picture of a skeleton I took in Puerta Vallarta in January as a reward for suffering through it.

jan2011 329


My search terms are back to normal.

This is an utterly useless post.

I'm sure you can guess what search terms were the most popular during the whole recent debacle.

However, it's good to see they're getting back to normal!

kimberlee petersons eyebrow - Kimberlee Peterson is awesome, just so you know.

feminists are ugly - This comes up with alarming frequency. I don't know who you people are but you pretty much suck.

old horror movies - Yes.

cute baby lemur - More yes.

cinnamon bear portland - And more yes

Sarah palin ass - The phrase "ass covering" is really misunderstood by people clicking through to this site.

portland horse rings - Awesome.

This is an alarming new entry:
killing her with a pillow in the horror movie - Um. I hope you're not looking for advice.


Moving on!

For the record, I will no longer be discussing the original allegations.* This stems from a desire just to get on with things and my life and allow the other party to do the same. I feel like they've been hashed and re-hashed and had more attention than I ever anticipated or frankly, wanted.

There are bigger issues at stake here.

I'm not a terribly private person but being under a legal and public microscope for so long is taking its toll.

I'm pleased with the end result of the case. I feel like a 20 ton weight has been lifted off my chest. But instead of feeling entirely liberated, I feel strangely exhausted. This has been a very trying time for me and for my husband.

I was encouraged by Judge LaBarre's rulings that 1. Twitter is a public forum and 2. That medical disciplinary records are in the public interest.

I also think this case highlights the need for federal anti-SLAPP legislation. Especially since it's not like Twitter is only in Oregon. And right now it's extremely important that all voices are heard without the fear of chilling their speech.

Anyway, thank you for the debate and support. Even those who disagree with me are welcome to comment and I hear the feedback from the other side too. As I keep saying and I do mean this sincerely, the Internet is a great platform for debate on both sides. I respect all opinions.

That's it for now. The first day of not being sued is brilliant.

*In the complaint. I will discuss the case and anti-SLAPP


This matter has been settled

Where else to say it but here? I have more in my Dr. Darm diary that I'll post at a later date but I had to say it.

It's finally over.

This matter has been settled.

Simple but beautiful words.

Share it