Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Monday, May 19, 2008

Just Another Face in the Crowd.

My weekend was highlighted by serpentine lines, filled with sweaty folks, enjoying their right to assemble during this hot political season.

Portland Wows Obama is the headline in the Oregonian this morning, the image of Barack Obama standing in front of 60,000 people grace the cover. Another 15,000 stood outside the park, winding their way in a line that snaked through downtown, or on the Hawthorne Bridge, hearing nothing but the cheers of the crowd. That’s where we were yesterday afternoon. While we wanted to see Obama, the idea of standing in line for hours before the 12:30 opening (Obama came on around 2:45 pm) seemed a waste of a beautiful morning perfect for gardening, but we did think we could show up at 2:00 and hang on the outskirts—maybe catch the speech from the street or something. No such luck.

Andy’s folks (Mike and Phyllis) are in town and they were excited just to see the crowds and hear the cheering that greeted Obama. I commented to Phyllis that the last time I had seen so many bikes was at the main train station in Amsterdam, where they were stacked in a multi-level bike parking structure.

Friday night Viggo Mortensen was in town reading from Voices of A People’s History of the United States. I didn’t think there could be anything hotter on that steamy Portland evening than Viggo (Aragon, the King of Men) reading from Howard Zinn’s (Professor emeritus at Boston University, who is best known for putting the story of the common man/woman in the pages of history) companion piece. I was wrong. It’s Viggo singing a cappella, Bob Dylan’s Master of War. Big sigh….

Although Viggo’s appearance drew me to this—along with my adoration for Zinn’s material, he was not what I’ll remember most. Michael Ealy (star of Sleeper Cell, and also in Barbershop and Barbershop 2) positively channeled the energies of Malcolm X when he read from “A Message to the Grass Roots.” Shontina Vernon sang Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, a song I never got the full implications of until hearing Vernon sing it that night. And performance poet Staceyann Chin brought the house to it’s feet with her amazing performance of Cindy Sheehan’s “It’s Time the Antiwar Choir Started Singing.” Eddie Vedder, (of Pearl Jam fame) was a surprise guest (I thought it might have been Barack or Hillary who would surprise us) and he sang The Long Road, dedicated to Zinn’s wife who died earlier this week.

It’s great to live in a place where the people come out for something as unsexy as a primary race, or a speech first given in 1811. But that’s Portland and we are—as the Chinese curse goes—living in interesting times.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Victory for the Czech Republic Cheezits!

Maps are kind of a gateway drug for those of us addicted to travel. Nothing stirs the wanderlust like pouring over a map, tracing the rivers and borders, and imagining what life is like in Tashkent, or Taipei. So when Dylan came home announcing that her class was having the first-ever Arbor World Geography Bowl, I had to see what feats of geographical knowledge these kids could perform.

It was a tense first match. The Czech Republic Cheezits (Dylan's team) started off ahead of the Manchester Misquitoes, but soon got behind, the third question was a doozy. What was the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. (Answer 23.5 degrees). When the question--Bangkok is the capitol of what country--came up, Dylan had the answer before the question ended. The Cheezits pulled ahead and managed to win the first round by 80 points, even though they did not answer the final question, name at least two countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia. (I had Croatia and Bosnia Herzogovina, but apparantly there are quite a few out there)

The final round was between the Cheezits and the Vicious Himalayan Snow Duckies--a team that sadly had a missing player. (Each student had an area of the world they would study extensively, so this was a serious disadvantage). It was a much closer game between the Snow Duckies and the Cheezits, but the Cheezits managed to pull off a 20 point victory, even without being able to completely answer the final wager round question, actually, the Snow Duckies had a problem with that question as did this reporter. The question: For whatever you want to wager, name the thirteen original US Colonies.

Monday, May 05, 2008

An "Oscar" moment

I don't exactly love trash, but it's kind of hard to ignore if it's strewn all over the side of the road (India, China), lying on the sidewalk in wimpy plastic bags (like it is in London) or part of the soccer stadium (Seoul, Korea). Actually the Koreans not only used the site of a former dump for their stadium, but power the lights from its methane-producing refuse!

Recently we made a couple of electronic upgrades. Nothing exciting, just a cell phone for me and smart phone for Andy. But what to do with the old ones? I don't like to think too much about what we throw away, but if there is not a wormhole at the end of our garbage truck's route, our trash is still on this planet, right?

Speaking of trash, we've noticed for the past few months that we aren't filling up our 32 gallon can each week. Without pushing anything down, it ends up being half full. I called the trash service and discovered that we can go from paying $41 a month for once a week pick up, to $12 for just one pick up a month. So we're giving it a try.

Can we get by with just one garbage can full of trash a month? Portland has an awesome recyling system: paper, cardboard (paper on steriods), glass, metals and plastics with a screwtop neck are picked up for free every week. They get put out in our yellow bins--soon to be replaced by the city with fancy-wheeled blue carts. We also have a compost bin in the corner of our backyard where we can get rid of all veggie, fruit, paper towel, tea bag and egg shell waste. So come to think of it, our biggest amounts of trash are used kleenex and the dirty rat bedding.

Our friend Amy told us about a family who is trying to get by with just one can of garbage for the whole year. Wow, we Portlanders are really earnest folk! We're hoping to do our best and promise not to make any late night additions to our neighbors' garbage cans or threaten a "pack it in/pack it out" rule for visitors in order to make this work.