The Pearl


Thar he blows (walrus chunks). My walrus piece (below) is an example of a writer blowing a satirical metaphor out of proportion–and realizing this halfway through the writing (realizing that while he’s struggling to write nice crafty sentences to no real purpose). Some writers could turn walruses in the Pearl into a treatise or weird novel. I’m better off leaving walruses as as a light and deftly handled metaphor to hint at cushy alien dangers in the everyday life of someone near the edge of reality than expounded on in anemic social satire.

Even though I ran away from the piece, I couldn’t bear to delete it. There’s a codependency between/within a writer and his (I’m a he, others read her) works. Whine whine bitch bitch. All crusty critiques fully deserved.

I see walruses in the Pearl. Crisp mornings I see them bristling at corners like sumos, stamping and huffing for the green light. Lunches I see them lolling and grunting at cafes, drunk on spiced fish ale. They nap in pools of sunlight outside my office, tucked against shopping carts or draped mumbling over laptops and cell phones. If you know what to look for, you’ll see them everywhere down here. From a distance, they seem awfully cuddly: you might want to give them a big hug or flop on them and take a nap, too. TV Naturalists and denizens of the Pearl know better: walruses are volatile carnivores with large dreams and appetites. It only takes one or two maimings to teach you how to recognize a walrus, unless you’re timid and bifocular from the start. (more…)

My employer recently moved our offices from a crumbling former lumber warehouse in central SE to the north Park Blocks, in the “Pearl District,” a chunk of alien world (for any long time Portlander) dropped against downtown Portland, and inhabited simultaneously on different planes by variants of “See Me’s”–from the gym or yoga rats to the fashionistas to the slimline rich to the drug dealers to the full spectrum of homeless, including the now nearly toothless lady beggar who wears a mask of terrible sweetness and sadness (which may not be a mask) and dresses in what were once very expensive and now threadbare or patched fashionable clothes (that she must know will hook the passersby in that neighborhood), standing across from Whole Foods holding out her floppy knit hat and gently asking for spare change–and how can anyone who’s just dropped a stack of bills at Whole Paycheck stroll past this grandmother without dropping something in her hat or even stopping briefly to talk. I saw her once with a tall, hairy younger man in his early 30’s, who was, I think, counting her money–made me think of Fagan or a beggar’s pimp. I’ve watched her lose teeth over the years and begin to slump, and can see that there’s nothing fake about that sinking into herself. I know all these layers of people exist in other parts of town, but the Pearly air’s so rarefied that they sail through it like panes of stained glass (some sailing on stormier courses than others, closer to the edges of their existence), everyone on display but never touching, and while we aren’t supposed to look (as some returned looks tell us), to not take them in would be like going to a gallery for the gift shop.