Erin J bernard

On Poop and Double-Blessings

Erin J bernard

You know you’re in a maybe not so very great headspace, lifewise, when you grow bitingly jealous of somebody whose hands are covered in literal shit.

I learned this at the start of my daughter’s tenure here on planet earth, when so much of my life orbited around fecal matter and untold longing of one sort or another.

Two summers back, at the end of a rather trying day with a very fussy and colicky Baby G, I scooted my neglected nursing glider out from our living room and onto the front porch.

“If this baby won’t let me be out in the world,” I’d resolved bravely to nobody in particular, “I’ll bring the world to us.”

And so I plopped us down among the thirsty herb pots and the mosquito-infested rain barrels, reattached Baby G to her breasty perch, and leaned back to watch said world pass by.

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White Fragility: What it Means and Why it Matters in Portland Now

It’s been a tense few weeks here in Portland: the owners of a nascent burrito food cart were shamed and shunned into shuttering their business after the um, enterprising, women bragged about nabbing “authentic” tortilla recipes from cooks and business owners down south of the border. A known white supremacist slashed the throats of three men attempting to protect two women of color from harassment while riding public transportation, and the carnage left two men dead and an entire community gaping in horror. A band of fascists landed in the city just a week later to stage an alt-right rally in support of I don’t even know what – the ascendancy of white supremacy? the destructive executive mandates of an orange menace? – and they demanded (and got) an armed wall of protection from the police so that they might shout their hate unchecked while a sea of horrified counter-protesters looked on.

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On Not Moving to Cambodia, or: How to Stay Present through Trying Times

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Last Saturday, while out with Gabi on our afternoon neighborhood constitutional, I happened upon a garage sale. The sale was of outdoor stuff, mostly, spread out over the grassy front lawn of a classic, recently refurbished Portland home: a rack of musty, well-loved Patagonia jackets and vests; a jaunty collection of straw hats; a smattering of high-end camera bags and camping gear.

These items, surely, had a wealth of stories woven into their textiles. Curious, I got to talking with the woman sitting out front. As her cast-off items would suggest, she was sporty and laid back, and we had one of those rambling, intense conversations that inexplicably jumps camps from the mundane to the deep within a matter of seconds.

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Health care’s luck mandate: why the not-sick-and-nearly-dead should worry, too.

Last week, I visited the dentist. It was a rather mundane undertaking: a pleasant hygienist with a difficult-to-place accent cleaned my teeth, and as he did so, he entertained me by musing on a variety of topics: Portland’s increasingly untenable traffic “(The whole city is a highway!”), tips for remembering to floss (“Keep your floss in the shower!”) and praise for my good oral health (“These are very healthy teeth!”).

Not that I can take much credit for that last one — good teeth, like so many other things, are often a genetic lark. In my 20s, I didn’t have consistent access to health insurance, so I only had my teeth cleaned every few years. Also, I smoked. (Like, a lot.) Also, I didn’t floss much. (Like, ever.) Also, I drank gallons and gallons of black tea. But the compliment gave me a pleasant sense of moral right-ness, as did my conversation with the dentist after my teeth were picked and cleaned and fluoridated to a pristine and pearly white.

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Atheish: An Atlas of Spiritual Skepticism

1. “Here be dragons.”

It’s the enigmatic message of warning scrawled across the Southeast Asian coastline on one of the oldest globes in know existence. Look closely at this one-dimensional reproduction, and you’ll see it:

Lennox_Globe,_by_B.F._Da_Costa

Housed in modern times at the New York Public Library, the Hunt-Lenox Globe represents one of humanity’s first attempts at creating a spherical representation of our shared planetary home. The globe itself is tiny — a mere five inches in diameter — and it was manufactured circa 1510, just after the “discovery” of the New World.

Some 600 years later, historians still argue spiritedly over the colorfully cryptic message, and what its (unknown) author might have meant by it.

Probably, it served to remind explorers of the peril of their undertakings, of the fact that some parts of the world remained abidingly uncharted, and therefore, deeply dangerous.

What we know for sure ends here and goes no further, it seems to say. Beyond this are things we haven’t yet imagined, and they might well be beastly to behold.

The globe portrays North and South America as large scatterings of individual islands, and Southeast Asia as a still-wilder, as-yet-unconquered corner of the earth — and, yes, back then, in the minds of many, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, the earth still had actual corners.

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Hey, Trumpettes! I’ve Got a Message to Relay.

“If you want to destroy my sweater/

pull this thread as I walk away /

Watch me unravel /

I’ll soon be naked …”

-Weezer

I.

Have you ever wished, at some point over these past three weeks (yes, it’s only been three, and yes, I know that is hard to believe), that you might through some trick of transmographic teleportation be permitted to live, just for a few minutes, as an insect on the wall of the Oval Office, just watching this bizarre moment unfold?

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Resolutions and Recorrelations: On Becoming an Ex-Suicide

“The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o’clock on an ordinary morning:
The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest.
The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn’t have to.”

-Walker Percy, “Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book”

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Something Silly this Way Comes: Four Signs of the Impending Portland-Pocalypse

Photo/Text by Erin J. Bernard

Photo/Text by Erin J. Bernard

First: summer in Portland now lasts till winter. Or is trying its hardest to, at the least. We’re knee-deep in October, and though the leaves are dropping and fattened squirrels are milling about the yard and roof in a mild state of panic, temperatures are still hitting the 80s every few days or so. I’ve been sitting out on my front porch most evenings taking in the balmy air and it feels surreal to think that Halloween is a quick three weeks out.

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Fake jobs, real jobs, and the Internet of Vocations: Why it’s no longer embarrassing to earn a living playing online poker

I met this guy on a tropical island in Belize once. Steven.

He was very New Jersey, and I feel somehow qualified to describe him as such although I have never even been to New Jersey: pasty skin, caterpillar eyebrows, and costumed always in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and a pilled-up Bowler hat.

Steven sauntered around town in a pair of tacky sunglasses, chain-smoking Colonial Light cigarettes and making frequent allusions to some obscure Internet business he was running.

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The annihilation will be semi-complete: on technology, obsolescence, and living in the future

I am from the future.

This occurs to me as I sit on a couch near a window in a second-floor apartment in central San Francisco.

I am at this very moment hearing, for the second time today, the muted rinnnng-rinnnng-rinnnng of a dial-up modem issuing from the open window of a nearby apartment.

The first time I heard it, my boyfriend was sitting on the couch with me.

“Is that a dial-up modem?” he snorted.

But the way he said it made “dial-up” sound a lot more like “dumbass” or “douchebag.”

I snorted my assent.

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Moonstruck

At 2 p.m. on Valentine’s Day of this year, I am sitting in a coffeeshop in Milwaukie, Oregon. I am doing some writing. I am watching the world go by.

A tweaker stumbles in the door. He’s carrying a small, crumpled bouquet of flowers. He orders a very large cup of coffee and then he twitches his way to a table near mine. He sits down, but he can’t hold still. He’s jumping and wiggling all about and slurping at his coffee. He keeps clearing his throat, and so violently that I develop sympathetic neck pains.

The Tweaker is clearly feeling the love this holiday. He cries out “Happy Valentine’s Day!” to every person who walks past. He strikes up a conversation with the wall.

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