review: Caroline Z. Hurley's block-print linen Hannah throw

Caroline Z. Hurley's block-print linen "Hannah" throw, black with gold triangles

Something I'd been wanting lately was a washable lightweight throw for my couch, a restored vintage chocolate mohair tuxedo sofa bought on a whim last fall—a true splurge. And I love it. It's long, narrow, sexy, and brown—like the best legs. The perfect couch for one person, it's too shallow for cuddling, but I don't have to worry about that since it's just me and the cat. Anna's favorite perch is on the wall end of the couch atop the left arm, where she watches me typing when not napping. But, covered in fur, she sheds bits of hair and litter and has horizontal-scratching habits upholstered furniture needs protection from.

restored vintage chocolate-brown mohair tuxedo sofa via Hawthorne Vintage, October 2013

This winter, I'd been using a large, machine-washable grey wool blanket picked up a couple years ago from Goodwill. After spring warmed things up and the wool was folded away, I shook out one of my striped cotton picnic blankets and spread it along the length of the couch, thinking that would do the trick. But Anna kept catching her claws in the loose weave, making little snags. I happen to like those two striped mystery blankets, which were only $7 each, and don't intend to destroy them. So I started researching linen throws.

If you read the blog, you know linen is my absolute favorite fabric. It's superior to cotton in more ways that I can count: longevity, sheen, texture, durability, and more. These block-printed linen blankets stood out on Etsy, handmade in Wisconsin, but the available patterns and colors were limited. I remembered a block-printed linen throw first seen somewhere else on the Web that I couldn't get out of my mind, though the price had at first given me sticker shock. See, I'm used to buying secondhand wool or cotton blankets at Goodwill for $7, but you'd have to have very lucky stars to find anything made of linen or modern-block-printed or even Turkish-striped without holes or stains at the thrift store. It's possible but, like finding a four-leaf clover, unlikely since machine-washable blankets are things people tend to keep for a long time and wear out.

The remembered blanket was Caroline Z. Hurley's strawberries-and-cream "Jules" linen throw, a hand-printed block pattern of lipstick smiles on a light background, perfect for summer. (You may already know how much I adore hot-pink sweet peas.) And then I made the connection between that throw and an artist's apartment tour highlighted in Rue Magazine issue 25. Everything clicked.

salmon rhododendrons

Hurley is one of the It-girls of the independent textile design world, spreading across the Web via profiles at fashion and decor sites like Rue, DuJour, Of A Kind, and Domino. According to one interview, there's been a New York apartment in her family since 1990, she studied at the RISD, and her sister's an architect, so she's likely not exactly poor; but the girl teaches art part-time to preschoolers, so how sweet is that? Unlike so many interiors seen on the Web, Hurley's apartment doesn't contain famous mid-century designer originals (or even their copies) or trends like chevron stripes or mounted animal heads. Her place in NYC looks more humble, bohemian artsy yet classic, with neutral basics like a school-desk-as-TV-stand and a couple round flaking-metal flea-market chairs, with small pops of color from native textiles hung on the wall and her own pretty bright pastel-y paintings and the oversized throw pillows and bedding made from her own graphic block-printed linen fabrics.

In case the $125-$200 price tag of Hurley's blankets throws you off, consider that many boutiques sell much blander linen throws for $200 and up. But if you like to sew, by all means go ahead and DIY yourself a knock-off, a truly one-of-a-kind handmade block-printed linen throw with or without contrast-stitched edges. Sewing, however, is something I personally hate, and I don't have floor space for large-scale block printing. Plus, bolts of linen fabric and paint supplies are also not exactly cheap materials in themselves. (If buying linen, I would recommend waiting for out-of-season fall/winter sales or finding a fabric discounter.) So for me, a quality purchase like this made by an actual artist is worth the occasional splurge since I couldn't thrift such a thing or make it easily myself.

black linen Caroline Z. Hurley throw

The black-and-gold block-print Hannah throw I ended up buying at the lowest end of Hurley's price range ($125 plus shipping) is an edition made exclusively for Of A Kind, an online shop promoting U.S. designers. The blanket was compactly folded into a small thin box, much smaller packaging with no wasted space compared to most things bought online (it helped that it wasn't breakable). It took over a week to get here from the East Coast, but I wasn't in any rush. (Impatience is expensive.)

black linen Caroline Z. Hurley "Hannah" throw

All of Hurley's throws and napkins are made from 100% linen, a mid-weight fabric that feels crisp and sturdy, woven to last. The fine flax and sophisticated black-gold color combination feel quite luxe, and the stitching and finishing are well done, but the black sadly does highlight cat hair. (I sort of forgot that my cat's belly hair is white. Doh.) As my friend Jeff said, if I'd really wanted something that didn't show cat hair, I'd have bought something that matched my cat. And since she's a black, white, silver, and tan tabby, that pretty much means gray. On the plus side, she loves this blanket, even crazy-batting at the gold triangles on occasion. Also, since this blanket appeared, Anna's for some reason stopped sleeping at the end of the couch and mashing down the end cushion, at least when I'm home, and instead curls on the blanket around my legs or hides under the blanket in the corner when napping. I do like this elegant black blanket a lot, even with all the wrinkles and cat hair, but I still have a mad crush on Hurley's Jules throw with its hot-pink half-moons; that's the one that makes my heart skip, so maybe it will become a summer birthday splurge.

It's okay to spend our precious free time doing the things we're best at—and the things we like doing the best. For some, that kind of craft means sewing or knitting, for others weaving or woodworking, for yet others making pottery or shoes or jewelry. These are all human trades, human skills people have been engaged in for thousands of years—hands upon hands at work, making something useful piece by piece. Let's celebrate that history and use our own hands for something other than typing e-mails or steering a car along a freeway or thumbing through our iPhones. Plus, if no one ever bought anything new, we'd have nothing like-new to thrift. Not everything must be bought secondhand, but it can at least be beautifully handmade.

What do you choose to buy new versus secondhand?


not a drop to drink in Portland?

refrigerator water storage options: plastic jug, thrifted European glass bottles

The timing of Portland's little E. coli scare in our drinking water that made national news a mere three days after a right-wing-funded ballot measure was defeated that would have created a separate, private water district, is more than a little fishy. The boil ban has just been lifted in the last hour. The tap is all clear. I only hope local reporters are digging around for more than closed restaurants, runs on grocery stores, dead birds, rat poop, and broken sewer pipes in all this mess. Coincidence is overrated. Cui bono?

Of course, the personal lesson here, as city emergency planners have long advised, is to keep a stock of potable water on hand. That way, we won't find ourselves standing in front of empty grocery shelves in the bottled-water aisle, left drinking corn-syrup flavored chemicals, as the greedier, faster citizens of Portland were outside in parking lots Friday stashing cases of bottled tap water into the backs of their SUV's. Or instead we could have chosen to just boil some water for tea or cooking, the simpler, cheaper option that few seemed to be heeding. At home, I already had cold water stored in the fridge in thrifted Italian and French glass storage containers and a mostly full plastic gallon jug of water leftover from last summer's move (which in a true emergency would not nearly be enough). And I also boiled tap water in the microwave at work and at home for tea (though I doubt it was even necessary). As long as there's an easy heat source, boiling water is not exactly hard, people. This was a whole lot of fuss and loss to local businesses over a little extra bacteria. Follow the money.

tea bags stashed in stacked Anchor Hocking jars

At school yesterday in North Portland, as adults taped signs on drinking fountains, saying "Bad Water" and "Don't Drink," making the children glug more milk at lunch, I thought about how Portland's infinitesimal extra amounts of feces-contamination would still be ranked as pristine drinking water in most parts of the world. I thought about how one of my favorite students, reared by his grandparents in Mexico till he was five years old before coming to the U.S. to be reunited with his parents and younger siblings, has been sick maybe a day in his life, having an extra-strong immune system from being exposed in tropical Mexico to far worse than contaminated Portland tap water.

Oregonians are spoiled. I've drunk rust-colored water in Belgium and the Czech Republic and Korea, and I'm still living to tell about it. Portland water is purer than anywhere else I've traveled or lived, and if people don't know that for themselves, they should get out more, read a little more. Portlanders have been drinking "polluted" tap water for days this week, anyway, before Friday's city-wide alert, and they feel fine. I haven't spotted a single case of proven tap-water-related illness reported in the news so far. The event reminds me once again of the lessons cited in Naomi Klein's classic, Shock Doctrine: catastrophes are created or used to privatize and drain public resources. Portlanders beware. The move to privatize and divert Northwest water has already begun.

Portland tap water stored in secondhand French glass jug

I've written about water issues before and will again. My own namesake, water should be a holy topic—human birthright. Life cannot exist without it. Instead we are literally pissing it away. We are using up the diminishing supply of potable water instead of greywater to water lawns in yards and golf courses, to wash cars. We are soiling it. We are looking to low-saline undersea aquifers, to waterless Mars (future escape hatch), for salvation. We are insane. We are selfish as children. We are self-destructing.

Pick up any classic text on Western water issues, from Joan Didion's White Album essays to Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, and you'll find the future, like the past, looks tumbleweed-dry. I moved up to Portland from California almost seven years ago in large part because the Northwest has its own water supply and fewer people, meaning a relatively sustainable system—for now—compared to many regions around the U.S. The entire Southwest, including Los Angeles, is dependent on the Colorado River for large-scale human habitation. (Remember the Pueblo Anasazi?) The Midwestern monoculture breadbasket is sucking up the Ogallala Aquifer, and the pretense that lush green fields of corn and soy are anything other than sand dunes with grass on top fit only for buffalo and prairie dogs will one day come to an end. Aquifers take thousands of years to form. Rivers can run dry.

water glass at windowsill, Portland, OR, May 23, 2014

While I'm no scientist, only a lowly English major, it has seemed clear from everything I was reading 10 years ago and since, such as Mark Lynas' Six Degrees, that the global warming feedback loops would spiral out of control faster than predicted. And this is coming true. Arctic ice, that natural thermostat, soon will no longer exist to reflect solar light back into space. Polar bears are mating with grizzlies. Storms in the Atlantic are stronger and more deadly than ever. And fracking in the Midwest and Appalachia will do more than cause unexpected earthquakes in regions better known for tornadoes or hurricanes.

The future of life on the planet centers on water. It always has. Signs of disruption, of lack, surround us now, visible to anyone paying attention. Texas towns in drought are running out of water, and some have begun processing waste water as drinking water, taking cues from Nevada. California, which grows half of America's produce, faces the worst drought in 100 years, and has begun enforcing water restrictions on farmers and cities alike. Food prices will continue to skyrocket, though wages aren't keeping up.
Yet humans are notoriously inept as a species at preparing for the future, for taking the long view of time, more attuned genetically to fight-or-flight street fights with large, hairy, fanged or horned creatures. Few are paying attention to something as seemingly ubiquitous, free, clear, and bland as water. It is easier to turn on the TV, pop open a can of fizzy Coke, and watch zombies attacking Atlanta than reconsider our own wasteful behavior within an industrial, fossil-fuel driven culture, facing the monsters of our own creation. They're coming. They're just outside the door. They're already here.


old shoes, new tricks

thrifted: secondhand Via Spiga animal-print peep-toe heels

With a blog named Secondhand Goods, you would think I never buy anything brand new. But I do. It's just rare and well considered, like the Rough & Tumble hobo bag, made in Maine, I've been sporting every day since March. Of course I buy underthings and socks brand new, and also leggings and yoga pants—usually from Nordstrom Rack or TJ Maxx—and the rare handbag. But other than that, I can't think of the last time I bought brand-new clothes or shoes, furniture, jewelry, or decorative objects. There's simply too much good previously owned stuff out there for that.

Last summer, I did almost buy a pair of inexpensive red espadrilles from Alder and Co., a Portland boutique a few blocks down the street. (They're no longer available on the Web site, but you can see them here—so bold tomato!) I had a white pair of espadrilles in high school that were super comfy and since it never rained in the high desert and since I wasn't exactly an outdoorsy teen, they barely got dirty. But drizzly Portland is not a town for espadrilles, which could only really be worn here for about two months of the year, so I didn't buy them, pretty as they were. (See? I don't get everything I want.)
Finding cute, comfortable shoes has always been hard for me. Because my feet blister easily, it's an awful feeling to have spent $200-plus on a pair of shoes and find your toes blistered and your heels raw and covered in dried blood, even with socks on and even after the break-in period. In years past, I've had to consign almost-new Frye boots for this reason, which is why I now feel much less guilty buying shoes at Goodwill. Because if they don't work out like the pretty blue snake shoes (Nordstrom B.P., made in China, $2.50 at GW) that always rubbed on my lone bunion (thanks to a piece of someone's cheapo furniture falling on my foot several years ago), which left me limping at the end of each day, well, at least I didn't drain my bank account finding that out.

thrifted: black Banana Republic boots, brown Cole Haan boots

But even after switching to buying almost everything secondhand, it took years before I would even consider buying used shoes. The thought of someone else's feet sweat-stink still grosses me out, and I'd never buy a pair of secondhand sneakers or sports shoes unless they'd never been worn. But then a couple years ago I spotted a sexy pair of tan pumps at Albertina Kerr and a few weeks later a beautiful peacock blue pair of vintage Bandolino pumps at Goodwill, probably from the 80's, which per the leather soles, had never even been worn (!), and they were only $5. So I snagged them both.

And once I started to actually browse the secondhand-shoe aisles at thrift stores instead of walking right past, it became obvious that older shoes are generally better made—meaning of all-leather in Italy, Spain, or Brazil rather than China. Just because shoes are older doesn't mean they're worn out, especially if we're talking about dress shoes, which quite often have been barely worn and perhaps discarded on the basis of some trend as dictated by fashion magazines but mainly because people get bored and want new things, whether we're talking shoes or wives.

And so used shoes abound at thrift stores. Most are made cheaply in China within the last several years. Avoid those altogether. Some shoes are dinged up, dirty, or otherwise not well cared for, or else they've simply been very well used. Skip those, too.

Instead, be choosy and follow your heart. Buy only well made secondhand shoes in great condition that you love, and seek out designer labels you could never afford brand-new. It'll be our little secret.

thrifted: Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy black suede pumps

To make any shoes last, do have rubber soles put on anything worn frequently in rainy climes, clean them often, and polish as needed. After the initial purchase and after each wearing when going sockless, I also wipe mine down inside with a lightly damp soapy cloth to remove any dead skin cells and bacteria that could create odor.

For the record, in the last year, along with handmade shoes, my cobbler has even started selling vintage shoes in his Nob Hill Shoe Repair store. He says they're crafted better than anything made today. What, my fellow Americans, does that say about us?


making a life from pieces

empty Barefoot wine bottle against brick wall, NW Portland

Changes loom around corners ahead, those of my own making and others I can't possibly predict or prepare for, since that's how life works. At the suggestion of a friend, I've been reading a classic self-help book, Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. I've long known what I want. It's making it happen, the how, that's the tough part. Sher's book is more practical and supportive than most change-your-life texts, filled with exercises and insight. Written by a famed therapist specializing in career counseling and motivational speaking, it's cheap therapy, especially when you can easily find a used copy of this mid-1990's bestseller in most any thrift store for just a few bucks.

Park Here: homeless person sleeping on cardboard, NW Portland

painted CHAP art truck, NW Portland

Sher's main points are logical but not always obvious. She says it's much easier to put the time in to master a skill you're interested in and have an aptitude for. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you should be doing it for a living. For example, I have an artist friend who used to sew and design clothes professionally but hates sewing, so she shouldn't sew for a living. Why make yourself miserable when you don't have to? And Sher's point is that nobody should make themselves miserable, though we can't, she admits, have everything we want at the same time or forever. Work, she also says, is only meaningful if it's personally meaningful. I've held my share of societally meaningful jobs I resented because of being underpaid, undervalued, or simply bored out of my mind. Sher says taking action is the best way to make new things happen, even before you think you're ready, because this gives serendipity something to work with. And, she says, the easiest way to start is to "follow your nose" and turn towards your interests, even in the smallest of gestures, like a plant to light. Plus, since everything is part of the journey of self-development, any job can be a skill-building opportunity and method for personal growth. Sher says to trust yourself to leave a situation when things don't feel right. And a supportive team cheering you on, she claims, makes all the difference.

Sher's "Regrouping" chapter asks you to list what you liked to do over five-year increments of your life, what you like to do right now, and what you absolutely hate doing. (I'll spare you my list of hates.) Sher says in our efforts to survive, pay bills, and fulfill obligations we tend to forget we can make up a life out of all the things we love. I made such lists years ago in therapy but hadn't put them into a timeline before, but the timeline seems to prove we are who we are. Themes persist. The past is ever present, one long stretched line of continuity, of self, the one imperfect person we're stuck with up to the tunnel-closing end.

wall stripes, NW Portland

tree shadows on gray wall, NW Portland

When I was five, I liked singing, bubble baths, playing dress up, going camping, and being read to. When I was 10 or so, I was reading alone in my room for hours a day with the door closed, riding my bike around the yard (because we weren't allowed into the street), playing badminton in P.E., foraging raspberries and peas and sour apples from my grandmother's garden, playing in a neighbor's juniper treehouse, and making and illustrating books. When I was 15, I was reading things none of my peers had ever heard of, singing in jazz choir, sunbathing on the lawn over summer vacation, and visiting the Oregon coast whenever I could, staring off at the horizon.

old brick wall with trees turned parking lot facade, NW Portland

When I was 20-ish, I was traveling abroad, reading for college classes, writing essays and bad poetry, having dinner parties with friends, and attending foreign films on campus for free. When I was 25, I had stopped the traveling but was reading again after taking a year or two off books and journaling a lot, though I can't remember what else I did for fun (it was a complicated transitional period), maybe dancing in public to loud music? By the time I hit 30, I was reading again and watching a lot of films, grocery shopping and cooking, sending off existential e-mails to friends, playing housewife. When I was 35, I liked taking long daily walks around the neighborhood while dreaming of owning a house, doing yoga, going to the farmer's market, cooking at home, and watching films while knitting. (My ex said the knitting reminded him of "the end of our days.") The things I like doing now should be fairly obvious from the blog.

vintage turquoise Peugeot Montreal Express street bike, NW Portland

red rose, Portland, Oregon, May 2014

What I learned from my divorce—which wasn't my choice but something I've since been grateful for—was how much of myself I had lost during those years of trying to merge my life with someone else's, someone with vastly different tastes and interests, bowing to his whims and constraints, trying to make him happy and never succeeding. (And if I'm honest, he probably felt the same.) The marriage was a mistake and a hard lesson. I am thankful each day to have myself back, all the little enduring pieces that make up me. It's time to start fitting those pieces again into a new configuration, still the same but different, bigger, better, more myself, like a snake shedding its too-tight skin.


thrifted: Heath Ceramics salad plates

secondhand Heath Ceramics, plate bottom imprint

This is why I shop at Goodwill (GW). Yesterday, after browsing for used books at the 6th Avenue GW, some for me and some for students, over in the housewares section I discovered two pristine Heath Ceramics Rim Line salad plates.

Heath's 9.5" salad plate is really the size of a typical dinner plate of yesteryear—if we're talking average vintage sizing. (The Heath Rim Line dinner plate is 11.25", for comparison.) Since we all know—or should know—that smaller plates make for smaller portions and thus smaller waistlines, there's no good reason to eat off platters.

Heath Ceramics salad plates & square handmade plate via Goodwill

For the record, each Heath Rim Line salad plate retails new for $31. That's what "Made in U.S.A.," specifically in California, costs these days. But at GW, the blue Moonstone plate was just two dollars and the solid black one a mere dollar—and they aren't even seconds. They were likely priced so low because they hadn't come in at the same time (different color tags), or as part of a set, and they didn't match, unless someone had snagged more Heath pieces earlier and hadn't spotted these. (GW sells not only objects but mysteries.) Though I checked and double-checked and rechecked the entire dinnerware section, these were the only Heath pieces I found. In contrast to the flashier blue one, the black one (my favorite) was likely priced lower in part because the Heath imprint is barely visible on the underside, the glazing covering both top and bottom. But we're talking the difference between one and two dollars here, no reason to quibble.

black salad plate underside with faint Heath imprint

The square patterned plate in the trio is a signed and dated ('84, obviously) handmade plate, on blue-color-tag sale for a dollar, that I'll use as a dessert plate—no need for chocolate drizzle! I like mixing my unmatched Heath pieces with one-off hand-thrown pottery. The trick is to limit the color palette, so everything feels cohesive. (This new blue one skews my own color palette but was too pretty to pass up.)

secondhand Heath & handmade plates in drying rack

So it was a good thrifting day, especially since I hadn't found a used Heath piece in over a year and needed more dinner plates for entertaining since I only had three. I'm still kicking myself for not buying up the whole amazing lot of Heath plates, bowls, and accessories found over in Beaverton in the fall of 2009. Win some, lose some. But yesterday was a win. These dishes only needed a quick soak in the sink for the price stickers to slide right off and a little scrubbing with Bon Ami to brighten them up, good as new.

And remember, you, too, can join the Small Plate Movement!


Mayday 2014

May Day event in Shemanski Park, Portland, Oregon, 2014

I forgot Thursday was May Day, despite seeing a graffiti reminder on a bridge every day for months during my evening commute: "May Day, May 1!" I didn't even remember on MAX that night when I saw out the window a standing pod of riot police heading down SW 4th in some kind of modern chariot contraption like something out of a video game. Nobody else seemed to have noticed. And I mean nobody but me seemed to have noticed a chariot-load of police headed south on 4th. WTF?

So because I've gotten bolder with age, I hopped off MAX a station early and raced across the bricks at Pioneer Square as fast as I could in my long narrow sun dress (we did break heat records that day), which meant at about the speed of a mermaid or geisha. Such clothing reminds me that despite being on the short side, I really do have long legs and a long stride and, like wild horses, hate being hobbled. So I kept pulling the dress up above my ankles just to get up some speed, until I remembered how much I dislike my peasant ankles and then I'd drop it down, but then after tiptoeing a few steps, I'd pull it up again—over and over as I scanned in vain up and down streets for the police chariot. At the Square, I'd asked a bike cop why I'd just seen a bunch of riot police a couple blocks down, and he said, "I'm not sure, but traffic's been bad." (As if heavy traffic requires riot gear.) Giving up, I headed for the South Park Blocks where I was going to sit and think and take photos of passersby unaware, maybe call a friend. And then I heard a megaphone.

2014 May Day in Shemanski Park, Portland, Oregon

2014 May Day protesters, Portland, Oregon

2014 May Day Shemanski Park crowd scene, Portland, OR

Aha! A public gathering. That's where the police were headed! I could see flashing lights. I circled around and found I'd come in at the end of a parade. Everyone was wearing red and black, including me, sort of. Someone was speaking, a man in English and then a woman in Spanish, but I wasn't really listening—corporations, ¡Si, se puede!, stuff like that—because, yet again, nobody seemed to be noticing that they were surrounded by police. The crowd had filled up maybe a block of Shemanski Park, but it seemed like there was a cop available as needed on a 1:1 basis, only they were all hanging out on benches down the block or around the corner—meaning, on all the corners—cops on foot, cops on bike, cops on motorcycle, cops in cars, even cops on horses. Thursday was the perfect day to be a cop in Portland—no protesters needing beating, overtime pay, summer-like sunshine, free entertainment.

cops on park benches, Portland, Oregon, May Day 2014

jaywalking Portland cops, May Day 2014

May Day crowd scene, Shemanski Park, May 1, 2014

I went up to one of the string of motorcycle cops standing at the north side of the art museum and asked, "Why so many cops for this?" gesturing over with my camera at the little crowd across the way. I knew why—because America hates real leftists, even in Portlandia—but I played dumb to see what he'd say. (Playing dumb is one of a woman's oldest tricks, plus I often pass for well-off because I wear rich people's castoffs and so figured I could say things other people might not get away with, plus I was wearing a strapless dress, plus I had a nice camera.)

the photographer, May Day 2014

"Traffic was bad during the parade," he said. "I live in the neighborhood," I said, "and I've never seen so many police at once." "There've been anarchists breaking windows and things in the past, so they brought in people from other districts, just in case. But there haven't been any problems." (They, dude? Really?) "Thanks," I said, meaning for the conversation and not for the massive overprotection (read: show of force) from Black Bloc types who didn't show up or presumably are waiting for a more impressive opportunity. Everybody was off watching the NBA playoffs this week, anyway.

motorcycle cops standing outside the art museum, May Day 2014

I've been reading more George Saunders lately, which is sci-fi lit, only funny—what America will be like if there is no revolution: e.g., historical-amusement-park employees paid to fake the past for wealthy debauched clients, dystopias that don't feel all that impossible or too much unlike how things are today for anyone in the service industry. Lick my boots and smile. Artists like Saunders paint for us what may come, what has already come, what repeats itself because as a species we refuse to learn from the past.

line of police motorcycles at art museum, May Day 2014, Portland, OR

cops on bikes at art museum, May Day 2014, Portland, OR

Portland horse patrol, heading off duty, May Day 2014

Chris Hedges posted a frightening report this week on TruthDig, "The Crime of Peaceful Protest," a case study of a young, educated Occupy protester from a working-class, mixed-ethnicity background whose breast was allegedly grabbed by a police officer in disguise during a protest in New York, and when she elbowed him in the face, like, Get-your-hands-off-my-titty-you-perv, she was beaten and hospitalized, then cuffed, and now is on trial for a felony charge. As Hedges says, the message is clear: Don't dare challenge the status quo, or else.

2014 May Day horse patrol, Portland, OR

And even scarier was Naomi Klein's article in the Nation last week, "The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External," which reminds us that whatever crap pool we've gotten ourselves into socioeconomically and politically, it's even deeper ecologically than we want to believe, that the problem is in us, a flaw in the species.
I learned something new the other day from the dictionary, which is of course the book I would take with me to a desert island in the rare case I ever crash-landed without fatality and with enough forethought to have packed a waterproof desert-island-emergency kit and stuffed it under my seat/flotation device. The word 'mayday' is a mispronunciation of the French phrase M'aider, Help me. May Day. Mayday. Help us all.

Edited 5/5/14 to add: Read Hedges' response to the Supreme Court's refusal to hear his, Chomsky, Ellsberg, et al.'s NDAA case. Just wait till we have soldiers patrolling the streets, stuffing anyone who objects into indefinite detention—the North American version of the disappeared.

Edited 5/6/14 to add: The Occupy protester, Cecily McMillan, has been found guilty of "felony assault" and faces up to seven years in prison.

Edited 5/19/14 to add: Read Chris Hedges' latest interview with imprisoned Occupy protester, Cecily McMillan, who's awaiting sentencing and applying principles of her education and activism to create solidarity with inmates.

Edited 5/21/14 to add: McMillan was sentenced to three months in prison and now has a felony charge from self-defense. This could happen to any of us, though I suspect as an Occupy leader, she was specifically targeted.

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