After I did 30 Days 30 Strangers in NYC, I knew someday I would want to do the same thing in other cities. It was invigorating to talk to so many New Yorkers and I felt a greater connection to my city after doing it. I was so proud of how many of our “busy, pushy, rude” citizens agreed to be photographed. I had an 87% success rate of people I asked who said yes.
A few years later and here I am, Portland, Baby. I have been spending a lot of time here this year and have been missing my friends and have missed seeing the diversity of faces and people in New York City. I am super excited to start my new challenge of 30 Strangers in Portland and get to know this place that celebrates Weird.
1. 30 strangers. A stranger is someone I have never met and was not set up to meet thru someone I know.
2. I have to ask their permission. They’ll be asked to sign a model release.
3. Ask each person the same questions:
- Where are we
- Nationality / Origin
- Favorite thing about Portland
- Least favorite thing about Portland
- What does success look like?
- What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
4. Perfection is the death of completion. To this end I will shoot/blog on the same day. Additional details, edits or links may be added later. This is a project in motion.
I packed up my bike with my questions, my camera and a few bits of gear and started riding to find inspiration for day one. I wanted to start with something iconic and as the sun was rapidly setting over the hills, I pedaled over to the Burnside Bridge. I had pictured setting up the shot with the iconic White Stag Sign in the photo. I didn’t like the images I was getting and the sun was going down so I quickly reframed and waited for someone to pass by.
A moment later, friends, Rin and a shirtless Dead Letter, passed me on the sidewalk. I loved their look, and when I asked if they would let me photograph them, they were immediately game and wanted to help welcome me to Portland. They were on their way to kill time looking at art before meeting friends, so this was a great substitute.
I loved talking with them. They were a great start to this project and I could have spent hours talking to them. Strangers 1 and 2.
1. Rin at the Burnside Bridge.
Name: Lorin, “Rin” to his friends, Lorin to his clients
Profession: Marriage and Family Therapist, mainly serving the LGBT community.
Nationality / Origin: German/French/Swiss/Native American
What’s your favorite thing about Portland? It gives you lots of permission to be weird. You can be a weirdo in all these crazy ways. Like for me being queer, and being non-monogamous, and all that shit– started in Portland. Getting introduced to the burning man culture and all these other things, started in Portland for me. It gave me permission to not be normal in a lot of ways.
What does normal mean?
It means something different in Portland, but for me it meant fitting in with the people around me in Arizona, which meant a lot of financial success a lot of fitting into the norms of being married the norms of having a house and dogs and kids and all these things.
Would you say that their definition of success didn’t match your own so you felt out of place? Yeah, and I didn’t know what else is out there.
What is your least favorite thing about Portland
That you find out over time that there’s permission to be weird but it’s all the same kind of weirdness. There are Norms within the weirdness -which is kind of uncomfortable thing. So it’s like- the acceptance of being in anyway traditional is real low out here. If
that makes sense. The liberal people haven’t really learned how to help each other or support each other and there’s no helping people that are not considered to be kind of like neo-liberal and queer and you know whatever thing that people feel politically connected to it, they kind of get polarized against the opposite thing.
What does success look like?
When I was not feeling successful, success to me felt like, having a house, being financially able do to the things I wanted to do, and now that I feel more successful I think it’s more about connecting to wherever I am at the moment, being with whoever I’m with and experiencing what I’m experiencing and that feels more successful to me.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“I need to shut the fuck up because it’s not about me.”
Do you remember who said it to you?
Yeah, actually, it was my practicum supervisor and she is amazing. Basically as a therapist, especially you’re always trying to get in there and make people happy. So you’re trying to make people happy and they’re not, they’re sad, but therapy is more effective when you can be sad with the person. So it takes a long time to learn to kind of put yourself on a shelf and not try and change their mood, but just be with them and whatever they’re feeling and where they’re at. and I think that’s good advice for friendship or whatever is -that most of life is not about you and once you accept that it is easier to handle your distress over it.
When you say it’s not about you, do you think the pull to wanting to have a solution to a problem is your ego going, I’ve got the solution and I’m right?
Yes, always. And it’s not just for therapists, we’re all trying to force other people’s experience into our narrative and it doesn’t work, most of the time.
2. Dead Letter at the Burnside Bridge.
Name: Dead Letter
Profession: Building Slave for Creative Space and Industrial Arts Factory
Nationality / Origin: I’m a Jew- Descendant from the Vilna Goan.
What’s your favorite thing about Portland?
The Bridges, everybody loves the bridges. And passive aggressive-ism.
What’s your least favorite thing about Portland?
Portland is filled with amazing, caring, leftist liberals who have not yet flipped over to actually helping each other, rather than fighting against something.
What does success look like?
For every person success is moving up a quantum where you have more, time, money, and energy than you did in the quantum before.
Best Piece of Advice?
Two things. 1. Embrace all information flow. (People come at you with something; you say, yeah absolutely instead of nu, unh.) and 2. Everything takes 5 times longer than you think it will.
Do you remember who said it to you?
So that’s not really advice, is it, since it comes from yourself?
Mmmhmm. I spent years crafting it so I could have one pin within which to frame all of the rest of the stuff I was trying to say.
And was there anybody else that influenced… that contributed- I get what you’re saying, there is the zeitgeist, where suddenly everyone the kind of same…Was there anyone else that influenced that, where the advice was similar.
I’ve met a lot of other me. And they have other versions of the thing I have that I’m trying to work on in my PHD work and all, very similar. And many a times they go, “I INVENTED THIS!” and I believe, probably not. I didn’t invent it. The best one can argue is that one made a localized compression. A localized way of saying it that fit now and was crisp. And so, I do agree that everyone is saying the same thing. The phrasing is something I worked on to help me note that everyone was saying the same thing. There is an on-going embedded conversation all over the left and all over the right. Which is, How do you talk to people so they do stuff? And to answer that one has to ask, How does a group of people learn stuff? So “embrace all information flow” was the first prescriptive that says, if you want to meddle, take what’s there without resisting it.
I wanted to offer a clarification on something you were hearing. Men, specifically, have an impulse to meddle. And the sitting with and allowing, isn’t so much the way you were phrasing it as-Is it ego? It’s not so much that you think you have the right solution, it’s that you can’t just let it be without fucking with it. That everything needs to be changed!
Right, like something is wrong with it, something is inherently wrong here.
And the phrase that goes with it, is “To change the world, change oneself. Cause this is what you have access to. So in therapy, to change them, change me. Sitting here. Change my demeanor, change my behavior in the room. Cause then they’ll change. Versus, telling them to change, inhibits their own motor control, their agency.
I am on the other hand here to meddle.
I have a cantankerous old man yelling at me from the end of my life. And so if I don’t do it, then my angry old man yells at me. I live in what’s called past future perfect tense. In the future how will you feel if this happens now. How will you feel about this later.