Giving Thanks

Photo by Pete Shaw.

Story by Pete Shaw

Photo by Pete Shaw

Another year of Covid, and another year spent largely on the sidelines. Still, there is much to be thankful for this year, including the hope that I will sooner than later be back on the streets.

After all, for the first Summer in quite a few years, no fascists marched in Portland. The Everyday Antifascist Movement, organized by the group PopMob (Popular Mobilization) had a lot do with that. Prior to the onset of The Virus, I took part in a few of the downtown rallies and counter-protests that surrounded white supremacists who were invading this place. The Everyday Antifascist Movement encourages all people opposed to fascism to come out and oppose it.

However, some folks have a keener yen than others to get close to the action. Everyday Antifascism, by the movement’s reckoning, can take place at many levels. If you want to be at the barricades, the front line, make your way. If that is too much for your comfort, step back some to the area where a band is playing or dancers are dancing. And still further away, in a public park, but nonetheless in a space where antifascists are gathering, offer up milkshakes. The point is to get involved.

Last I heard of white supremacists downtown, they were fleeing across the Hawthorne Bridge, the police making way for them as a brass band jazzy outfit dressed as bananas took chase. The sight was ridiculous, the ridicule well deserved.

Thank you to all who have stood up against fascism in any way you could. Keep doing so, because the problem is far from solved.

I insist on keeping this website alive because I enjoy doing the work, and I am optimistic that sooner than later I’ll be able to cover more events. I often tell people that one of the great benefits of doing activism stuff is that you meet Good People. At least when not in a pandemic, I get to meet many of them.

One of them was Bill Ritchey, who passed in late 2019. I was reminded of him a couple of months ago when I received a phone call from Bill’s sister on the third anniversary of his death. Her message was one of appreciation and gratitude for our publication of Bill’s obituary. I was glad it may have brought her some measure of healing.

Bill Ritchey. Photo by Anarres Project for Alternative Futures

Another Good person is Jo Ann Hardesty. She has long been a stalwart voice for Justice, particularly when it comes to racism and police accountability, but in general, she has always been a strong advocate for the underdog. At least for the moment, she is in her last days at City Hall. As a City Commissioner, she has been the most effective commissioner in my nearly 20 years in Portland. She oversaw the successful establishment of Portland Street Response, a City program designed to provide people trained in helping people experiencing mental health crises. As per a 2011 Department of Justice investigation of the Portland Police Bureau, the city’s police had a proclivity for killing people experiencing mental crises. Or as the DoJ put it, the PPB “engaged in an unconstitutional pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.” Police are not trained to handle these situations, but the folks working for Portland Street Response are. This program has already saved lives.

Photo by Kendall.

Hardesty did much more too. And with the change to Portland’s government in 2024, she may once again be Commissioner Hardesty. Regardless, she will remain Vital. Thank you, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

After a dozen years of those seeking justice for Keaton Otis holding monthly vigils and pushing the City, the portion of street running past Northeast 6th and Halsey, the corner where Keaton Otis was murdered by Portland police in 2010, became an art memorial dedicated to Otis, and ostensibly, to all victims of police violence, and their survivors.

Photo by Kendall.

In September I went down to the site, where the first phase of the memorial, designed by artist Sharita Towne was finishing up, a few days before its dedication. People were at work making t-shirts and installing a plaque on the sidewalk. It was beautiful, and I am chomping at the bit to see what the final product looks like.

Thank you to all who have stood up for Justice for victims and survivors of police violence.

By far the most noteworthy event in my life this year was the death of my father in January. I am extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by a loving community of family and Friends. My better 99% has been there for me day in and day out, my port in a terrible storm. My brother, sister in law, and my niece have been great, which is to say they have been themselves. And of my Friends, I cannot say enough, and yet for all of these people, I don’t think there are words–or at least I certainly do not have them–to express my gratitude.

I have written often about my father in these pages, and I leave you all with the thanks of one last story.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, when I lived in upstate New York, but spent a Summer at my folks’ place in New Jersey, my dad and I went to a Yankees game. This was odd to say the least. My father was born in Brooklyn when the Dodgers were there, although for reasons not entirely clear, he was a Cubs and Giants (also in New York until the 1950s) fan. Regardless, the Yankees did not register, and when I was growing up we were a Mets household. But I guess we both mellowed as we got older, and to the Bronx and the old stadium we went.

We got into the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan a few hours early, and so we walked around. My dad had recently taken an architecture course at his local community college, and he was eager to scope out buildings and fill me in on the things he had learned. We took the A Train down to the (positively) 4th Street station, grabbed a couple of beers, had some pizza, and then walked around Greenwich Village. I am not sure how many buildings we looked at, but his reckoning of them took a pattern. He would go into what detail he could about the various facets of the buildings–their columns, facades, arches, arcades, vaults, and so on–and how these things worked together and many other things he had learned.

My dad had a science-oriented mind, as perhaps befits someone trained in chemistry. Aesthetics were generally not his focus. Sure he’d taken in the Mona Lisa…on a business trip where he had a short layover in Paris. He took the train to the city, ran to the Louvre, ran to the painting, gave it a look, ran back to the train, and soon was boarding his flight. While he enjoyed art, I do not think of him breathing it in deeply and absorbing himself in it, although he often tried.

Regardless, his description of each building on that afternoon walking around The Village lasted about ten minutes. It was very much my dad, giving the facts. Had any of my Friends been with me, I would have completely understood them heading to a bar and meeting up with us later.

But had they done that, they would have missed another aspect of my dad, a part that rounded him, that filled his totality. After each of these technical assessments of form and function, and their histories, he often finished by saying, “I like it.”

I could tell you much more about the nearly 51 years I was lucky enough to share on this earth with my dad. The details of how he rarely told me what to do, often encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, and offered guidance as needed. He came to my soccer, baseball, and basketball games. He helped me with my homework. He taught me to cast a fishing line and throw a baseball. He was always up for a walk in a park. He met many of my Friends, and he always enjoyed their company and conversation. He was generous, and he was compassionate.

Those things barely scratch the surface of a rich life with a Good person.

I liked it.

Thanks, dad. See you in my dreams.

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