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DID YOU READ

Tales of Portland Public Transit

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In Portland, public transportation is a culture unto itself. I suppose that’s true of all major cities, but it’s especially valid here, in a city considered to have one of the best transit systems in the country. Combine the ease of getting around with the other things that make Portland so Portlandian, and that makes every ride on the bus, MAX or Slothcar—sorry, streetcar—an illuminating adventure for the armchair sociologist.

Luckily, someone thought to start cataloging those experiences. At TriMet Diaries, frequent participants in the culture of Portland public transportation are welcomed to contribute stories, observations and important life lessons learned while traveling across town. We asked site editor David Strom for some of his favorite essays and anecdotes. These are the abridged versions; click the links for the full entries.

The Bus Was Smokin’ by Samantha

After running an errand at my credit union, I got on my usual 9:45 bus at a different stop. I got to avoid waiting with the white trash lady who likes to smoke right next to me under the shelter.

However, when I sat down, it only took a few blocks of travel for me to notice the distinct smell of burning…something. I honestly thought it was burning toast from one of the various cafes we were passing by. Then the white trash lady notices the smell too and says, “Hey, dude, you’re on fire.”

Actually, it was just the dude’s pant leg. But still, that is definitely a new experience in public transportation for me.



My Nemesis Revealed
by Bill Reagan

The guy sports a van dyke, which should tell you everything you need to know. If you’re not familiar, the van dyke is part soul patch, part handlebar mustache – think three musketeers, or the painted beard on the V-for-Vendetta mask. He’s a good looking twenty-something, well-dressed, and it’s easy to picture him in his natural habitat, drinking canned beer at this month’s trendy dive bar, quietly besting every earnestly mutton-chopped man with his black-belt-level hipster facial adornment.

We’ve both ridden the #35 for years, though not always together. My schedule is static, his seems flexible, so it’s only a few shared rides a month, but I always notice him when he gets on, wanting to take his picture and send it to LookAtThatFuckingHipster.com. He’s always aloof, not talking to his fellow riders, and considering I’ve seen most of my fellow 35-ers at King Burrito and other neighborhood cheap-eats spots, but never him, I imagined him traveling to Farm or Rontoms for dinner so that he could eat with his own kind. Fine by me.

Last week, I had a two-seater to myself when he got on and sat down beside me. … He started getting out a book, which I imagined would be David Foster Wallace or perhaps Catcher in the Rye, but it turned out to be a children’s chapter book. … He was audibly struggling to read the large-type text, sounding it out slowly, clearly focused on the words more than the sentences. As he read, his finger inched along the page to accompany the labored soundtrack of syllables, and I began hurriedly deconstructing the damning picture of him that I had assembled using years’ worth of insignificant and inaccurate so-called clues.

He wasn’t aloof, but shy, and avoiding conversation meant avoiding the struggle to communicate. He probably didn’t eat at King Burrito because the massive billboard of a menu over the cash register – all words, no pictures – was a flagrant taunt of his capabilities.
When my stop arrived, I wished my seat-mate a good day, and hoped it was the first time he had ever noticed me. I hate to think he had spent the last few years dismissing me as a judgmental bastard who stupidly assesses people based on superficial information. And if he had, I hoped he would never know how right he had been.


Public Transit Doppelganger Bingo by Dr. Jeff Guardalabene

If you spend any time at all on public transit, you can’t avoid the doppelgangers. They add a little low-grade celebrity spice to the trip. Hey, there’s Justin Bieber as a woman! Look, that guy looks like Alec Baldwin as a homeless dude! It’s a rolling Entertainment Weekly out there. TMZ on wheels. After you’ve been riding a while, though, spotting the lookalikes just isn’t enough. After a while, it’s time to up your game and step into the big leagues.

I’ve moved on from simple solo celebrity spotting. I’m into groups now. For example, all I need is a Justine Bateman to fill out my Family Ties card. Michael J. Fox is everywhere in Portland. Tina Yothers was tough. If I really want a challenge, I work on the cast of Lost, or some buddy cop movies.

If you really get into this game, you’ll need to take a few days off so you can ride lines that you wouldn’t normally ride in the course of your workday. For example, say you wanted to fill out the cast of Entourage. You might start with the Green Line MAX, and keep an eye peeled as you roll through downtown toward PSU. But you’ll most likely need to disembark and hit the streetcar up through the Pearl. And someone with a Portlandia bent is going to want to work the low bus numbers – 4/9/14/15, Division/Powell/Hawthorne/Belmont will probably do the trick.

You get the idea. Start easy, maybe “Friends” on the Green Line, and work your way up the ladder to something really difficult, like “True Blood” solely on even-numbered bus lines. Soon, you’ll have toured Portland and made some new buddies along the way. And, on weekends, you can turn this into the only drinking game you can safely play on city streets.



Fun Game on the Streetcar
by Heather

I live in a city with a half million other people. With such a high a concentration of people in a small space, you will likely run into all kinds of folks. And as a veteran of city living, I’ve become adept at identifying stinky people. It’s a skill you learn quickly. “Oh, he looks ripe. Hold breath. Okay, danger averted.”

However, sometimes people are “stealth stinkers.” It’s not obvious from how they look that a person has created a cloud of odoriferousness for everyone to enjoy. And riding public transportation, this can become a problem.

But it can also be a fun game! Sometimes on the streetcar, I play a game of “Guess the Stinker!” when it’s not completely obvious. Sometimes I guess correctly, as evidenced by the sweet wind of fresh air as the offender departs.

I can’t say that I win anything by guessing the stinker correctly. But I like to start my days with a sense of accomplishment.


Public Service Announcement for Randall by Bill Reagan

Dear Randall,

Just wanted to send you a quick note to say, dude, what’s up with the way you’ve been behaving? Getting caught visiting that little psycho girl while Angela was out of town, then claiming you just wanted to make it clear to her that you have a new girlfriend? Telling Angela you were sick and had to go home at 8:00, then going over to that little psycho girl’s house at 10:00 because you “felt better”? C’mon, Randy, you aren’t fooling any of us with your bullshit.

The trouble is, you might not be as sly as you think. Believe me, Angela sees through your bullshit. Don’t laugh it off, clever man – Angela has a shotgun at home, and she made it clear she’s got no problem with shooting that little psycho you’ve been sneaking around with, especially since that little psycho wrote something on Angela’s Facebook wall. (Awkward!) Add the gun to the medical documentation that proves Angela’s mental capacity is “borderline retarded” (her words) and she might be right about having a viable courtroom defense.

I’m writing because I’m concerned for you, Randall. I know you don’t know me, but Angela is clearly pissed about all this, considering how loudly she told the person on the phone and the entire population of the 5:45pm #6 yesterday. I’m not passing judgment – I’ll leave that to Angela, as she seems primed for it – but from what I’ve heard, it’s time you step up and be the man you said you were when you first started dating Angela. You remember, right? Back when you had a job, paid attention to her, and didn’t constantly spew all that bullshit that you do now. That’s all Angela wants. (And rest of us concur.)

Best wishes,

Bill

(Photo by Chris Phan)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.