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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

REVILED BEAUTY: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 2006-2009

Back a few weeks when snow paralyzed a significant portion of Portland, a spare contingent of Portland Art Museum staff managed to open the facility’s doors on time and kept it running until reinforcements managed to straggle in. Their heroic efforts afforded me an opportunity to take in the WILD BEAUTY photo exhibition in relative solitude.

I’d been working at establishing a relationship with the gorge over the past couple of years… oh screw it.

…maybe it would be more accurate to say that, like some shallow, materialistic paparazzi, I’d been stalking the gorge with my camera, hoping to capture an intimate or private moment (say maybe a nipple slip) so it was an unexpected bonanza to find myself peeking into the equivalent of a childhood photo album.

The thing is, the pictures were really beautiful, and seemed to become more beautiful as it became evident how difficult the early art of photography was to practice, but the unspoken commentary that I began to hear was the proud whispering of entrepreneurial immigrants boasting of their remarkable feats of exploitation.

It was an odd feeling. I felt proud to be a member of a species so clever as to be able to bury Celilo Falls under a captive river, so clever as to be able to skim power from descending water, so clever as to be able to create infrastructure that doubles as art, but also, I felt like a dick – like wanting nothing so much as to ‘do it’ only to find myself later (and counter intuitively) mourning the loss of innocence.

The Columbia River gorge is still beautiful. We have a ways to go before we start sucking so much water out of it that it starts to flow backwards like some forsaken California river. But we should be mindful that come the next ice age, the tables will turn and any of our kind that are left (how’s that for optimism?) will be scoured out by glacier spawned floods that would impress even Noah.

Anyway, maybe someday, if Wild Beauty the Sequel comes out, I hope its editors might see fit to include a portrait of the gorge as I have come to know it.

Columbia River from I-84 – close to the Corbett exit - 01-11-2009

Oneonta Gorge - 02-18-2007

Vista House Lights from I-84 viewpoint – 01-11-2009

Vista House looking suspiciously like a Cylon – 09-16-2006
I suppose if you were tasked with crowning the Columbia River Gorge with a giant toilet facility, you could do a lot worse than this.

Beacon Rock – 08-04-2007

Bonneville Dam from Table Mt. – 04-01-2007

Columbia River in bondage – 01-13-2008

Beacon Rock from Bonneville Dam – 01-13-2008

Eagle Creek Trail – 01-01-2006

Columbia River – Looking West from under the Bridge of the Gods – 03-11-2007

Construction site near The Dalles Dam – 07-19-2008

Basalt cliffs – Washington Shore – Close to railroad tunnel #12 – 10-11-2008

From railroad tracks looking west – Washington shore – 10-11-2008

Fishing Platform – Washington shore – 10-11-2008

Near Hells Gate channel – 10-11-2008

Sunday, January 4, 2009


The other day at work, a colleague described me as a pessimist (I remember thinking, “No good can come from this!)

Turns out, there’s some people who see the glass as half full, some who see it as half empty, and then evidently there’s my case where not only is the glass completely empty…the faucet isn’t working either.

But my immediate response was to deny it. I tried to argue that I’m among the first to look for the humor in particular situations. It was then I learned that gallows humor, “…finding irony or comedy in serious matters such as death,” is kind of an acquired taste.

But – but – I stuttered, what about my constant search for and appreciation of creation’s beauty as documented in these blog entries? Doesn’t that reflect some small measure of optimism?

Even as I said it, I completely expected that it wouldn’t save me from a futile life as a cynical pathetic wallflower. So I thought I’d take another stab at inspirational, perhaps even optimistic ‘free verse’ to exercise my atrophied optimism gland.

Detail - View from Mt. Tabor looking West - 12-06-08

god’s finger
traces a golden lining
round advancing arctic clouds
that, come to think of it,
look like a giant scar across a vulnerable sky
a scar just like the ones I scraped
across my bursting heart
ten crimson scars gouged deeply with my long dirty fingernails
tearing ventricles asunder
instead of giving it to her
so she could do it

View from Mt. Tabor looking West - 12-06-08
How about that one? Did you read the part about the golden lining? That’s got to be way better than a silver lining.

Lumber yard - S.E. Portland - 12-20-08
searching, searching
stinging ice pellets
driven by hostile winds
redden my cheeks – the only parts exposed
from the shelter of my new high tech jacket
a loving gift from my sister
who worries about my safety during hikes…
cold frozen paw sticking out of the drift
i hope that’s not her cat I lost yesterday

Residential light display - E. Portland - 12-21-08

trudging through snow drifts
suddenly transported to the happiest place on earth
winter Disney wonder world!
days of creative labor
a prefect gird of light bespeaks painstaking attention to detail
a free gift to the neighborhood…
or maybe not so free.
wheels in the electric meter spin insanely
old people down the block in an ice cold house
slowly freeze because of the blackout
salmon perish in the shadow of multiple hydro-electric dams
Merry Christmas

Neighborhood tavern - E. Portland - 12-21-08

the Neighborhood tavern – a warm oasis in the storm
where alcohol fosters a rich sense of community
and everybody knows your name
where you can drink until you can’t remember your problems
and boy does that feel good
i think I’ll have another
but outside, every minute passing,
the drifting snow is piling higher
no! It didn’t stop snowing
no! The landlord didn’t stop asking for his rent
no! You’re not getting any younger
that’s right.
you’re not getting any younger

Mt. Tabor Park - 12-22-08

we walked through a wardrobe
and found this beautiful mystical place behind a rack of coats.
we’ll meet at this lamp-post later
we’ve heard tell of a magnificent Christ-like lion
he’s supposed to be friendly I guess
maybe that’s Him roaring somewhere behind us
and the sound of lips smacking
wet enthusiastic licking
sudden quiet
hey, where’s Lucy?

Mt. Tabor Park - 12-22-08

maybe my future lies around this peaceful corner
some serial killer dressed like a white nose clown

Detail -View West from the top of Mt. Tabor - 12-22-08

there must be
over a hundred thousand people down there
starting lives
laughing and loving
beginning careers
really Living
reaching goals
making memories
entering History
…but not me.

View West from the top of Mt. Tabor - 12-22-08

my beloved Portland
digs out of its snowy blanket
the snow covered ground reflects the city lights
back into the air and illuminates the clouds
unusually bright night
i suppose in effect
much like distinctive mushroom clouds
from detonating hydrogen bombs
it just takes one suitcase nuke

Top of Mt. Tabor - 12-25-07

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