August 13th, 2006

Whale fluke

I am perverse.

I am awake again after four hours of sleep. I am following up a nearly four-hour rock show (which has currently left my hearing in a rather compressed state; yes, Sleater-Kinney is loud) with preparing for a five-mile walk.

Wish me luck, after you mumble to yourself, "Geez, man, true rockers wake up at the crack of noon, whadduya doin' to yourself?"
Whale fluke

Great success!

I made it. I woke up in time to get to the Providence Bridge Stride, and I walked the five miles across the Steel and Fremont bridges in two hours. Now I'm at the Fireside Coffee Lodge, waiting for a sandwich, salad and Italian soda with cream, and then I'll go home, and then I'll NAP.

More later.
Whale fluke

Sleater-Kinney Is Love

First, this is interesting (to me at least): I just had a packed weekend. I had a similarly packed weekend exactly one year ago: my cousin Amy Thompson “Maxim”/“Maximy” Walsh’s annual barbecue in Seattle, and my trip to Mt. St. Helens the next day. Good times. This was a weekend of “good times,” too, for different reasons:

After spending midday Saturday darting and jumping across East Portland for errands – getting quarters-for-laundry at the bank, replacing camera batteries, registering for Sunday’s Bridge Stride, getting my hair seriously shortened – I attempted a nap, then gave up and started preparing for the concert. Out the door about 7:20, I drove to downtown and found parking about three blocks from the Crystal Ballroom. The line to enter wrapped three-quarters of the way around the block, and the crowd was convivial. And right after 8 p.m., the line started to move.

The Crystal Ballroom is a restored vintage dance hall, with its main stage in one corner, so the performers’ shadows can play on the walls, and a wood dance floor that more than gives, it bounces. It’s called a “floating dance floor”; I’d love to hear how the designers made that work without warping or breaking the wood. The space is enormous (the fire marshal sign says “1,500 person maximum”), with a balcony off to one side and various food and drink stations scattered along two walls. We filled up the place until it was half packed tightly near the stage, with scattered people in the back half, and then soon after 9 p.m. the music started. The opening act was The Thermals. I bounced to the music until I started to feel that the Thermals were playing very similar songs one after the other, so, sorry, not my best introduction to a band. (Feel free, any Thermals fans, to say how the band works for you.) Still, is there anything hotter than a woman on guitar? She was left-handed, too. Yes, I notice my fellow southpaws.

I had a hunch there’d be another special guest, but no idea who or what. But after the Thermals had cleared their equipment and the stage was prepared for the next performer, a shaggy-haired man entered to huge applause and cheers, while a guy near me said, “Is that Eddie Vedder?” Yes, as it turns out, Eddie Vedder’s not only the lead signer of one of the biggest bands to hit big in the 1990s to still be hitting big, he’s friends with the members of Sleater-Kinney. S-K’s opened for Pearl Jam before, including a mere month ago at a benefit concert here in Portland. This was totally unexpected and a pleasure. He played two songs, one a political protest song, then a gentler song on ukulele with S-K drummer Janet Weiss duetting with him. And oh, she was grinning.

And then finally the three members of Sleater-Kinney – Weiss, Corin Tucker, and Carrie Brownstein – began their show. And exploded: yes, with the help of amps, three people can make that much noise. There’s a lot of punk influence to their music; Tucker’s vocals often are real caterwauls, and Brownstein makes the guitar solos happen and makes them crunchy (I’m not sure how else to describe them!), and Weiss is a drummer to inspire awe. I’m increasingly inarticulate trying to explain why S-K’s music hits me the way it does, but then, one of the top rock critics around is Greil Marcus and he’s talked about what makes S-K so great.

Let me just say that I danced and flailed and pogo-danced and, very often, grinned, especially when all three members sang the “whuh, uh, ohs” on their song “Entertain.” And as the show reached its climax (two encores and all), I saw more grinning from the stage. The thank-yous were plentiful; the hugs were tight; the emotion was peaking, even after nearly three hours of Sleater-Kinney onstage. They gave it their all; they wanted to end on a high note, and oh wow, they did.

Thank you, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss (who reminds me more and more of my sister-in-law, in good ways) and Carrie Brownstein, for doing what you do and ending on a high note, not ending with death or drug-rehab or just playing themselves out into irrelevancey and oblivion.

Oh, by the way: I wrote this while listening to a radio program repeated from May 2005, when 94.7 KNRK-FM’s Greg Glover interviewed Weiss about her band’s work and played several S-K songs. And I was grinning often then, too.
Whale fluke

“Bridge Stridin’, across the freeway lanes/ Now I have to heal myself from my chafing pains!” ;-)

Up until I actually returned to my apartment at exactly noon today, I had to keep telling myself that it was morning and NOT to say “Good afternoon!” to people yet. Going to bed at 1:30 this a.m. followed by waking up at 5:30 a.m. (after the alarm clock had, ahem, been playing the radio for half an hour) followed by getting out the door at 7:05 and proceeding to stay moving for four hours can, um, mess with your time tracking. Or at least mess with mine. Anyway.

I gave myself an incentive for getting to the Bridge Stride. When I registered Saturday, I passed up the chance to buy the 2006 Bridge Pedal/Bridge Stride T-shirt then because I didn’t yet know for sure if I’d be up for a five-mile walk after a rock show. I’d feel weird getting a commemorative shirt for an event I didn’t attend, so don’t get it until I attend, right? Exactly! And it worked!

In an arrangement I don’t yet understand, the bus that would’ve been best for me to take to the Stride’s starting line, Rt. 70 from Milwaukie to the Rose Quarter Transit Center, runs its first few weekend-morning buses only as far north as Milwaukie and Powell, less than ten blocks north of my place. So, no point, and I took the 17 into downtown instead. The Bridge Pedal, which is the BIG part of this event – last year’s event saw 10,000 bicyclists, yes that’s four zeros – had begun around 6:30 a.m., and riders had reached the Ross Island Bridge. Which was still partially open to traffic; the bus driver had to go at about 25 mph with bikes all around him. Eye-opening. We finally reached Pioneer Courthouse Square, where I boarded a Max train to the Rose Quarter and reached the start line in time. And got my shirt. I already was wearing one, you understand – my Guam Olympic Committee T-shirt for Athens 2004 (which I didn’t attend, but which family members of mine did!) – but I was about to earn my Bridge Pedal/Bridge Stride commemorative T-shirt, damnit.

And then I walked.

And walked.

And walked.

Across the upper deck of the Steel Bridge, past Union Station, through the Pearl District, up the ramp to I-405 (closed southbound so that both freeway bridges’ upper decks could accommodate bicyclists and walkers) and onto the Fremont Bridge, my longtime major symbol of Portland, to the extent that it would appear in my dreams when I was living elsewhere. And it’s a treat to be on it without fear of car traffic. The first time I did the Bridge Stride, in August 2001, I had someone take my picture as I stretched myself flat on my back in the middle of a lane, because I could without being suicidally stupid and/or roadkill.

Reaching the rest stop, at the end of the Fremont Bridge-to-Vancouver Ave. off-ramp, I partook of a banana, a bagel and a Port-A-John, in that order. (I already had my own water.) I also became a bit of a barker, yelling to walkers to swing over here to get refreshments. A volunteer nearby let us know that we were past the halfway mark on the walk, and after the refreshment I headed south, deader and deader in the legs but glad to be moving on a gorgeous day. The end was almost anticlimactic: there was no “FINISH” line, so I instead sat down on a curb briefly, then headed back to Rose Quarter Transit Center to head to lunch and home. (I overheard a volunteer say there had been a sign, “but it blew away.”)

Now, sleep. No walking involved there. Thank goodness I don’t sleepwalk.