thinking about things

January 16, 2008

Last night I went with my friend, A., to a Colson Whitehead talk, sponsored by a really wonderful local non-profit, Literary Arts. This winter our book group read Whitehead’s latest, Apex Hides the Hurt. It was thin on plot, but there was some brilliant writing, just brilliant, and interesting commentary on race.

My thoughts in reflection of the evening:

  • After the talk, A. and I saw Whitehead in the restaurant next door. He was shorter than I thought he looked from where we sitting in the balcony.
  • Whitehead is a very entertaining speaker. His talk was accompanied by lots of laughter. He began with quoting the beginning of Steve martin’s ‘The Jerk’.
  • Looking around the audience I couldn’t help but be reminded I live in one of the whitest cities in the US (I hate this fact). Later I wondered if the ease of laughter in response to Whitehead’s race related jokes was because there were less than a handful of African American’s in the crowd and thus no reason for all us whities to feel self-conscious.
  • A. and I sat behind a group of about 7 women who’d I’d guess were in their mid to late 60’s, maybe 70’s. At least 3 of them were futzing around with their iPhones before the talk. I would love to make something a 70 year old could use without thinking about it.
  • I don’t much like riding my bike in this cold weather, but I’m rocking on my clipless shoes, even if I look like a complete dork when I’m at a restaurant, passing Colson Whitehead in the hallway and saying ‘wonderful talk’.
  • I really wish Portland were much more intellectually stimulating and/or I could meet more New York transplants who are bored by the sleepy and outdoorsy nature of the city’s populace.

5 responses to “thinking about things”

  1. ned says:

    i’m surprised to hear you say you wish Portland was more intellectually stimulating – how does it compare to your memories of Bloomington?

  2. proteanme says:

    in bloomington i had a larger group of more intellectual and/or more intellectually oriented friends and the prospects for meeting more intellectually stimulating people were high b/c it’s a college town. plus you all are so damn smart and fly your freak/nerd/geek flags high. thank god.

    portland can be a bit dull, with a big emphasis on doing things (hiking, camping, skiing, show boarding, surfing, bike riding) or making things (food, art, music, coffee, tea, clothes, bikes, etc.) i enjoy doing things and making things, but i need dig deeper than than that. i need a fair amount of abstract conversation thrown in the mix. let’s talk about ideas and meaning and value, etc. and i have to seek out those conversations here. in fact, i find that what passes for conversation is often mutual recitation and story trading which can be fun, but is not as engaging as i often want.

  3. ned says:

    gotcha. i’m all talk, very little doing and making. 🙂

  4. adele says:

    Interesting comment about Portland. I wonder if those cities that have the reputations for being active/outdoorsy are all that way. I just got back from a semester in Denver and along with lacking flavah (read as culturally hella white (non-white ethnic white too) if not as demographically white as Portland) it seemed to lack a level of intellectualism. I thought maybe it was just my ivory tower perspective. Maybe cultural homogeneity (culture in the broadest sense) breeds intellectual stagnation. College towns such as Bloomington are often the most diverse locations in a given state. So along with all that book learnin’ going on, the full range of folk, freaks/phreaks nerds, geeks and weirdos of many cultural backgrounds add to the sense of intellectual stimulation.
    Things that make you go hmm…. Thanks for the post.

  5. proteanme says:

    i cannot tell you how trilled i am that commented you commented, adele. it’s an interesting observation about a possible correlation between cultural homogeneity and intellectual stagnation. btw, anything in there you can use for an article? i’ve wondered if portland would be a different place if it had a major research university that might attract a more diverse population. reed college, the one intellectual bastion the porltand is home to, seems pretty insulated from the larger community. sometimes i can’t help thinking that maybe there’s something about the west (excluding certain large parts of california), with its vastness that can lend to isolation, the fierceness of its nature which can be intimidating, its distance from other places where folks live more densely and get more or quicker exposure to new and more challenging ideas, contributes to the lassiez fair attitude about nurturing intellectualism. That and the rabid anti-intellectualism this current administration has fomented. having said all that, i wish you would come out here and visit me and we could get all brainy together.

leave a reply