October 6th, 2011


The focus of deadlines

Work's been busy. One of our "books" -- the proposals a construction company sends out to companies and agencies who want to hire a construction contractor, saying Here's why you should hire us to build it! -- got completed relatively quickly; we did the bulk of the work compiling it in just over a week. Trust me, that's fairly fast. It's usually more like two-and-a-half to four weeks, round numbers, though that's with other books in the pipeline at staggered deadlines. Once it was written (thanks to recent addition Joseph), proofed (thanks to several of us in Marketing, including me and my proofreading skills), and compiled, I delivered the books to the potential client. This meant an hour-and-a-half, one way, on the road. Again, I can't say which direction; all I'll say was that the drive was dry until I got back to Portland late in the 1:00 hour, and that was my big concern. (That and not falling asleep, which I did just fine at, thank everything.)

A small pleasure: I made sure to take a company car that has a tape deck. Thus, I brought tapes: the scores to The Rocketeer (1991, James Horner) and Last Action Hero (1993, Michael Kamen). First time this music has ever been played in that car!

Before and after the driving, I worked on a story-related project. Typed up someone's hand-written notes about details of their life. Twenty pages of handwritten notes on small looseleaf paper and I only had to flag one word I wasn't sure about. Very glad I could read it. And the stories? Neat ones. I also started an editing job related to what I typed up (can I be even more vague? "I did something, then that thing..."), and I'll re-tackle that tomorrow morning, probably finishing it.

And all of this happened quickly. Fast proofing, fast typing, (legally) fast driving. I wonder if I was sweating while typing. Certain stuff has to get done by certain times, and I've handled plenty of deadlines before. And today, I handled them well. I'm allowed to feel good about that.

"This is what happened."

I saw the Occupy Portland protest march through downtown.

Except for three hours on the road in the middle of the day, I was at my office in the Fox Tower, kitty-corner from Pioneer Courthouse Square, the protest's second major gathering place. At times I left my desk and watched from a few different windows. At one point I took care of bathroom needs, and could hear the chants and drums even when I was in a room situated in the center of the 21st floor, several walls away from and some 250 feet above where the chanting and drumming were coming from.

Maybe I'll have things to say about this. Later. For now, I'm doing what I realized I wanted to do: see, and not rush to get my opinions sorted out about what's going on.

More often than not, I'm a quiet observer. Been true since childhood. Lots of people I know aren't. And of course what's happening is news, and is newsworthy: people will talk about it. I heard many of my co-workers doing that, as they took breaks to watch the crowd. I'm trying not to add to that, beyond reporting what I've heard. Like this: a supervisor of mine saw that the crowd in the Square had thinned out and wondered where the marchers had gone (he imagined them saying "We occupied downtown for 10 minutes!") and I told him that the march had continued to another part of downtown, back towards the waterfront. I'd seen the announced march route; they were following it. That supervisor of mine thanked me for the update.

My goal in this: give myself time to think. Because there's the chance -- maybe slight, maybe strong -- that what you say now will effect what you think, in the believe sense of the word, later. What you say now may be the nugget of the idea around which your opinion of what happened starts to accrete. And on this particular day, when a lot of us Portlanders were watching this event through the filter of Will this effect how I get home from work tonight?, maybe your statements and opinions will build around that. Not necessarily around why the protests are happening in the first place, and your -- mine -- our -- thoughts on that, and on the merits/demerits of the protests as a reaction to this.

Am I committing a cop-out? Am I forming an opinion by not forming an opinion? There's a factoid (I wonder how accurate) that popped into my head today about the American Revolution: how during the war, maybe a third of the colonists were either strongly or vaguely backing the nascent United State government. Another third (again, round numbers) remained loyal to the British Empire. The other third: mainly getting on with life, not aligned with or particularly sympathetic to either side, not involved unless battles happened near them. I wonder if that's an accurate breakdown of the United States, circa 1778. And I wonder what, during the American Civil War, the breakdown was of "aligned with or sympathetic to the North/ aligned with or sympathetic to the South/ getting on with life without getting involved." Probably fewer bystanders, so to speak, but then I'm coming from the bias of someone who lived near where major battles of that war were fought. Virginia: contested ground, even if some of that formerly-contested ground is where a shopping mall now is. Events keep on happening whether I form opinions of them or not, and obviously that's true for events huge and small.

Maybe I'm a bystander. Maybe I'm Forrest Gump, just being around while stuff happens and not fully "getting" its impact.

So far, people here have been safe -- no arrests, and the marchers will be allowed to stay overnight in a park near City Hall and the Multnomah County Courthouse. I want this event to be safe; that's the one big concern that I've let myself articulate.

What else will I articulate? I'll quote a key moment from The Stand: "I don't know."