From Stencil Bombing to Zoo Bombing

Sunday flew by today. Woke up this morning to coffee, cereal, and serious conversation in Eugene at our hostess Sue’s house. She has been an activist/radical since 1963 and was sorely missing the 1968 revolutionary feelings and sentiments in today’s world. But Sue has a good heart and a green thumb. Her garden looked amazing, and was full of great edible food. Her fig tree reminded me of my great grandmother’s fig tree in SC.

Saturday ended up being a full day. Chris got up early to call the mechanic to fix the Nissan in Yreka. They were open and on top of things from the beginning. They ran tests on the starter systems of the car and it was the starter itself that needed replacing. They had the part in town so we were on the road around noon.

Rolled into Eugene in time for Chris’s talk at Tsunami Books. Grabbed pizza beforehand across the street (a gourmet pizza place right beside a Domino’s???) and then I went to hear Chris’s talk. About ten people showed up, all middle aged white men except for a young male teacher and a woman. The woman spoke the most at the discussion part of the talk and she was an amazing activist working in many interesting projects.

DIVA Eugene OR

Stencil Nation presents at Eugene’s DIVA center

I ran across the street to use a cafe’s wifi and call Peat to buy tickets to Melbourne for July. We went online in our respective towns (Peat’s in St. Louis) and bought tickets for the same flight from LAX to MEL. “I’m afraid,” Peat said when we started talking about logistics. “That’s a good sign,” I told him. Just got an email from him stating that prices have gone up $250 since our Saturday purchase. Glad a travel agent tipped us off to this price hike!

Meanwhile, Chris had met Kathy, the talkative reading attendee, and she had coupons for free soup at a local chain called Yumm! She insisted on having us for a bowl, so we once again fell into the kindness of a stranger. When Chris mentioned our needed to get a motel room, Kathy made a call to Sue, who wasn’t sure if she could host us at first. She had a change of heart on the second call, so we all drove to Sue’s house to drop off our car gear, meet her, and then go get soup.

Kathy was a character. Talked a mile a minute as they say in SC. Sue actually had a grounding ceremony to make us feel “our feet grow roots into the earth” and calm Kathy down a bit. They both have advanced degrees, kind hearts, and critical thinking processes. Though Kathy did admit that “she only reads conspiracy books” and Sue did all her reading when she got her two advanced degrees, we all fell into an easy rapport.

We finally made it to Yumm! (Chis and I biked) which had just closed. So we went to a Thai place instead and had a decent meal while amazing Asian fusion rock played over the house PA. Sue expressed her discouragement early on in the evening and that vein of discussion continued, mostly directed towards Chris, through dinner. She asked us how we continued to think positively about the way the world was going. “I tell myself every day what an amazing time I’m living in,” I told her. “Here I am in my life, with a choice to make about saving the planet of going off the edge with the rest of the lot.”

I also told her that Chris’s epistemological shift, which he mentions in his talk with regards to the book, is real and I’m an example of it. “When I was a child, I recycled bottles and turned off lights. I conserved water. And I didn’t know anyone else that did it. Here on the West Coast, today, I know many people like you and Chris, and we have amazing conversations like this.” Yes, 1968 isn’t really on the radar for today’s youth, but it did shift things. And I felt that shift in a tiny town in SC.

Sue walked us to a nearby co-housing community, named Maitrea, Sunday morning. Gardens grew everywhere, chickens were cooped up, and many cob structures were on the property. There was a dome village consisting of small domes formerly made from cardboard. They were reused plastic sign material now. Back at Sue’s house, she interviewed Chris while I spoke to my parents.

Then Chris and I said our goodbyes, just as a nearby Baptist church ended service. A bag dropped out of a back door and a bottle of Chris’s good wine broke. Cleaned up the mess and finally drove to DIVA (Downtown Initiative for Visual Arts) with plenty of time to set up my first slide presentation. Eric was there to set us up, so it was good to finally meet him after talking with him over the past few months. DIVA’s gallery space had just been redone and looked great. The projector and screen were top notch.

About 16 people showed up for the presentation. Several came early and several were artists who worked with stencils. The presentation went well. Chris gave me great notes and advice. Less words and more photos he said. Don’t read when there isn’t a photo on the screen to look at. Highlighting something form a larger quote on screen worked. You did a good job! Sold three books, which Chris also said was a good percentage. Didn’t sell any art.

Eugene Free Wall
Several people told us to check out the graffiti wall near the train station, so Chris and I biked out there. We hung out while Genuis painted four three-color stencils of their State Rep. Peter DeFazio (looked like Frank Oz to me). Pochoir Fille was hanging out too and bummed that her huge Megatron stencil wasn’t ready to paint while I was in town. The buff is on in Eugene due to the Olympic Trials for Team USA in a week or so. DIVA’s art show was about the Olympics. I noticed buffed walls the night before and Genuis said it was all because of the trials.

Genuis getting up

Genuis shows his repetitive stenciling skillz on Eugene’s free wall

Biking in Eugene

After the stencil goodness, Chris and I biked over to the river park and rode a big loop via bike trails and bridges. We ended up back at the same Yumm! to use the coupons we still had from the night before (thanks Cathy). Then we biked back to the car and hit the freeway for Portland. Did great time and arrived to our Portland hostess Katie’s house. Klutch came over to welcome us to the city and Chris and Katie quickly whipped up a dinner of grilled sausage, salad, and mozzarella.

Then Chris and I hit the road to go to Oak and 10th for a night of Zoo Bombing. We left Katie’s at 9 pm and slowly made it to the meet up spot (the Pyle). At the river, Chris led us down some amazing hills which curved through hardcore industrial landscapes of mills and warehouses, through the freeway, to the Broadway Bridge. At Oak and 10th, Chris walked up to some kids and asked them if they were Zoo Bombing. “Hell yeah!” some of them said. “We don’t know what to do,” Chris admitted. “We’ll take you up there and tell you all about it!” this three guys emphatically replied.

We got the complete download from them. They Zoo Bomb all the time. Weekdays, daytime, whenever they feel like it. Other people do too. There are many different Zoo Bomb routes down the hills of Portland. 48 I think one of them told us. You don’t have to pay to hop on the train to get up there, but it is $2 if you want to pay. “You’ll get a warning the first time since you’re from out of town.” Some people Zoo Bomb all night. “You’ll see them at 11 am getting on the trains to go up the hill to Bomb down again. All night of doing it.” You don’t need to do it on a tiny kid’s bike “but you get respect if you do.” One of the guys had a kid’s bike. You can do it safely, but it is dangerous.

One of the kids was proud to be a pot dealer. “It’s the only drug I do. Well, except for mushrooms, and acid. And alcohol.” But he respected the herb he told us. The other informed us that Portland cops have other things to worry about so don’t bust people for pot. “I know a few cops who have told me this,” he said. We got off at a stop, took an elevator up (with a car full of bikes and one skateboarder) and hopped on our bikes to ride up hill a bit. Then the guys started walking. I rode a bit further and then it got too steep to ride. I got off to walk.

“This is where you ride,” one told us and they all hopped on their bikes and rode a bit. “This is where you go up the steps,” one then said. I ran my bike up the side of the steps and got a good work out humping that steep incline. There were many bikers doing the same schlep. Then we hopped back on the bikes, just in time to mass at the top of the hill with about 100 other riders. A countdown started and then everyone yelled “Zoo Bomb!” and the ride began.

Free wheeling down major hills, with riders of all types, and a few bad-ass skaters thrown in the mix, I went with the flow of the group. Curves wound around and down, and I was soon leaning into the turns. We slowed when we rode into dark patches of the road, but the almost-full moon kept the street lit when lights couldn’t. I quit riding my brakes at certain points and pedaled to go faster downhill. True Zoo Bombing. People on tiny bikes zoomed by of slowed behind. The skater from the elevator was taking every turn with wild abandon but keeping it together and having a major ride. Chris was a bit tweaked by the skater’s riding. “But he hit every turn” I reminded him.

People corked cars along the route, communication was done well when someone ahead yelled “Car!” and then the call was sent back through the ride. The ride suddenly stopped, so we stopped too. Chris and I had no idea where we were, and had lost our pals, so we kept close to the mass of riders. We left when one said he was doing the Yamhill route and it was their “last chance” to go with him. A small bit down the hill and we grouped up again at the top of Yamhill. “Who hasn’t done this route,” he asked? At least a dozen people raised their hands or made verbal no’s. So the guy explained the route to us, noting a light to make and two sharp turns to watch out for. When the light below turned red, there was a 4-count-down and then we yelled “Zoo Bomb!” and hit the hill.

Fast and straight, we hit the light just when it turned green. Zoomed down some more and took the sharp right. Zoomed through the light where a biker stood and yelled “clear!” at us as we hit the intersection. And then it abruptly ended at a train stop that would take the Bombers back up the hill for another go. Chris and I were done with the exhilarating ride and headed out. We saw our pals at the train stop, with about 100 other bikers, so said our goodbyes and thank yous and headed down the bike trail towards the Broadway Bridge.

About ten minutes later, On a bike path with a strange curve in it’s lay out, Chris missed the little ramp entrance going into the curve and took a curb head on and at full speed. I saw a local rider hit the ramp before Chris, and my brain took a few beats to see that Chris wasn’t doing what the other biker had done. I managed to yell stop once before I yelled stop a second time just as Chris hit the curb head on.

He went down, and from my perspective behind him he had gone into the concrete face first. I didn’t know what to think when I rode up to check on him. In a matter of seconds, Chris was up on his knees and was then standing. He wasn’t dizzy, in too much pain, or badly bleeding. He skinned his elbows and cut a finger, but was fine for the most part! Amazing how that works out sometimes. His bike faired OK too. We think that Chris’s front tire took the impact of the curb, popped the tube, and slowed things down a bit for the fall. Chris’s handlebars protected his body from the concrete, and he didn’t skid much at all (so no pizza burns).

With the busted tire, Chris had to walk the bike back to Katie’s place far far away on NE 25th Ave. We weren’t even over the bridge yet and had a good walk to even get to the bridge. I chose to walk with Chris, because that’s what friends do, and that was the safe thing to do. We’d have to brave the long walk together, so the suffering wouldn’t be as bad. And walk we did. A long way. Many blocks. At the bridge, we tried to call for a taxi, but the wait was too long for a van that could fit two bikes. So we kept walking.

I’m usually in a car in Portland, so have never had a good sense of the city’s layout. It is also spread out a good bit, and the bridges have always kept me confused about where I am. But walking slowed things down. So much vegetation here in Portland. We saw gardens, edible lawns, wild things on the curbside. Many many roses in bloom. All types of houses with Victorian flair and porches. And I got a better sense of distance and direction here in Portland. We’re staying a ways out from downtown, where I need to be for the Powell’s gig tomorrow.

But we finally got back here, after about two hours of walking. Must sleep now because things move early here (Katie is an art teacher). Katie doesn’t have wifi so I hope to find a connection nearby so that I can plug in, post this, and stay connected with the world. Got to start working on the Australia trip. November gigs in the Bay Area. Fun times….