Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hebe on the Range

Dateline, 5770

Shanah Tovah
I said to my friend Elon.

Not exactly big news (though perhaps big nose), one Jew wishing another a Happy New Year.

Except that it was happening in the VIP room at the Pendleton Round-Up.

Elon expressed some concern that I was going to get us killed, revealing our shared tribal identity.

I tried to reassure him that with any luck, our furrin jibberish would be mistaken for another tribal language entirely.

Not the kind of Princess who attended High Holiday Services at the Dix Hills Jewish Center, back on Long Island

Apparently, in Eastern Oregon, tribal dancing does not refer to the Hora.

Still and all, if you want a reason to say the Shehecheyanu (i.e., the blessing for new experiences) you really can't do better than Jew at a rodeo.

The entire weekend was very educational.

This is not a slick lick banker from the city, come to talk simple farm folk out of their land

This is the Cheez, in his homemade string tie (Recipe: buy string. tie string. good to go.), sitting with Young Joey Smallwood and not-s0-Millie Vannelli, in the lobby of the Balch Hotel in scenic Dufur, Oregon, where our party spent Erev RoundUp.

Half our party had rooms with a Mount Hood view. The other half had rooms with a private bath. Suffice it to say, Mount Hood is breathtaking, but a bit far to hike when you need to take a leak at 2 am.

Nevertheless, I do recommend the Balch Hotel. Especially over the alternative.
Alleyway "Suite," The Dalles, Oregon
No Mount Hood view, but you can pee just about anywhere,
including on the mattress. You probably wouldn't be the first.

I realize rodeo is not without controversy. I mean, just because I'm pro-seal hunt, doesn't mean I can condone a "sport" that involves animals being prodded and herded through a chute.
Oh, wait, those are the patrons.

So if you're wondering how a nice bleeding heart Jewish pescetarian like Macaronimaniac ended up Rounding Up: it was really an act of international diplomacy. Because Little Joey Smallwood had arranged for us to share the event with Hannu Penttila.

Hannu Penttila being not a pineapple-glazed Hawaiian pork dish (so not Rosh Hashana), but rather the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki.

Of course, the Finns being known for their wild and crazy ways, Hannu really taught the otherwise dour and sedate Pendletonians how to cut loose.

When Ken Isley, aka the Rodeo Clown, announced to the thousands of gathered fans that the crowd included a couple who had come all the way from Finland, someone in the stands greeted them with the welcoming shout, "At least they're not from France!"

I am not making that up.

The Finns were not the only ones having trouble crossing the cultural divide. When Cheez went off to the Little Cowpokes room, I asked him to pick me up a vegetarian snack on the way back. Alas, he spent twenty minutes waiting in the Beer Chips line.

Still, plastic beer tokens might have had more culinary appeal than some of the weekend's other offerings.
Of course, any event whose tagline is Let 'Er Buck offers fascinating gender politics as well.

I hadn't seen anything quite so manly since . . .
hmm, well . . . I guess that would have to be, since I lived in West Hollywood.

Seriously, I had no idea that when they announced which bareback rider had won the purse, they would mean it so literally.
Yes, men compete in grueling physical activity, and then the winner rides around the arena with his new handbag and new blanket. How butch is that?

Okay, not very. But I wouldn't mention that in Pendleton, any more than I'd wish them a great big L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, and a rousing Vive La France.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spotted at the Performing Arts Festival

What is the most striking element of this picture?

Answer: It's that in the three weeks since I leopardize my bicycle, no one has noticed it.

Well, no one except several homeless people, various of whom have commented positively as I rode by them.

This kind of hurt my pride.

And here I mean the vanity kind of pride, and not the pack of wildcat kind of pride. I'm pretty sure there is not yet a pride of leopard-bike riders in town. But it's Portland, you never know.

I even put in extra miles on the bike, shlepping all over to see TBA events. And by TBA events, I do not mean Traditional Birth Attendant. It's not that I don't know nothin about birthin babies. It's that I know this much about birthin babies: I have no damn desire to be doing it.

I mean Time Based Art, Portland's performing arts festival. Where you can see such inspired creativity as this:

Those are not hip artists doing performance art. It is a bunch of art lovers trying not to drop dead from the heat while sitting in Pioneer Courthouse Square on a ninety degree day, waiting for the performance art to start.

Here are the hip artists:
Or are they here?No, wait, right here! Here is art happening:Not the dude with the Free Hugs sign. He's just a random freak.  Not unlike Bovine of Arabia in the picture above.

The artists are the two short guys, who are part of a theater troupe called Back to Back Theatre (wily buggers, since they are actually pretty much belly to belly in this shot).  Back to Back features actors with disabilities, who perform plays in public spaces.

Spaces that happen to be filled with other people.  And, in this case, with tents, balloons, and free huggers (which now that I think of it are perhaps an inevitable  product of cross-pollination between Portland institution of free box and Portland infestation of tree huggers).  

The point is, none of this stuff was put there by the troupe.  They're just a handful of actors, performing without stage sets or extras.  Or performing with whatever stage sets and extras happen to turn up.

Part of the audience experience for me was watching everyone else in Pioneer Courthouse Square, to see whether they noticed the show.  Which most of them didn't.  Which is a great comment on how much human drama is going on around us all the time, and how oblivious we often are to the emotional struggles and triumphs of our fellow human beings.

Not everyone, of course.  You could see that too:  every so often, someone in the crowd would happen upon the actors and totally notice them.  Go up to them.  Maybe even try to talk to them.

There's a word for these kind of people.


That was my biggest epiphany while watching the play:  we middle class people spend a lot of the time that we are in public space trying to keep our focus as narrow as possible.  Trying not to notice anything that seems a little weird.  Definitely not stopping to soak it up or communicate with the person involved.   Anything too weird might sully us. Or sully our sense of safety.  Or our sense of entitlement.

Homeless people, by contrast, keep their eyes open for anything that might be going down. Might be a boon to them.  Might be a threat to them.  Might just be an animal print-decorated amusement to them.  That's why they're voted Mostly Likely to Notice My Bike.

My second biggest epiphany while watching the play is that their is a reason paper hats have not caught on as a long-term millinery medium.  And it's not just that it's hard to adorn them with cat ears.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Dog Ate My Cre8ivity. Well, Actually It Was a Cartoon Cat.

According to the snOregonian, my friend Bill is a heavy hitter.

And by that, I do not mean that he is drinking the same juice as Jose Canseco.

Bill is a comedy writer. Just like me!

Except Bill actually gets paid to write comedy.

(I did once try to convince Bill that I, too, could be a paid writer of the television comedies, by pitching him my idea for a new series. And by new, I mean blatantly ripped off from an extant series, which is the way of the Hollywood. My show was just like Early Edition, except that—and here is the comic genius of me at work—instead of getting the whole paper in advance, the protagonist just got the Comics section. Look out, Jon! Garfield is going to steal your sandwich! Why Mr. Heavy Hitter didn't swing at that pitch, I cannot imagine.)

Perhaps the whole selling-the-loaf-instead-of-giving-away-the-slice-for-free thing is why Bill, and not MacaroniManiac, was the one asked to speak at the Portland Cre8ive Conference. A conference so cre8ive, letters alone cannot convey its cr8tivity.

Okay, I am going to stop doing that numbers for letters thing now. It is too annoying for words. Or for numerals, for that matter.

Anyway, Bill has spent the past few weeks procrastinating on the TV scripts he should be writing, to instead write his Cre8— er, I mean Creative Conference presentation, which he gave yesterday.

And then (here is the irony, which, as comedy vocationalists and avocationalists alike all know, is one of the great comic devices) this appeared in today's paper (click on the image and it will appear large enough to read):
If only there had been an Early Edition: Comics Section, Bill could have just used the Get Fuzzy strip for his presentation. And used the squirrels for all his other writing projects.

Then he would have had time to hang with me at the TBA festival, about which I will blog anon (as the Shakespeare-typing monkeys would put it, were they writing this blog).