Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

December 2004

TravelWednesday, December 22nd, 2004, (10:42 am)

Last night two female friends took me out to sample something that sets Oregon apart from 48 other states across the U.S and something that the two girls seemed very proud and eager to share with the visiting Englishman. Strippers that get all the way naked!

It made a change from the usual ‘come and visit my Church’ invitations I get while visiting America, and In the interest of continued good relations between our two countries I felt that to refuse such an offer would be seen as rude. So I graciously accepted the invitation to go to the Safari Lounge which apart from naked women, boasts a host of tropical fish tanks and drinks that are served on fire!

Melisa and Alison’s attitude to long legged naked ladies doing gymnastically interesting things to a pole in a dimly lit room is surprisingly common here in Oregon. In fact a visit to such an establishment, of which there are many, doesn’t even raise a blip on anyones shockometer here in this most liberal of States. The girls reveal to me that they often go to strip clubs for a drink with friends, many times on ‘girls nights out.’ (God bless these girls!)

It may surprise some people to learn that I have only ever been to a strip club on two other occasions, both of which have been with friends here in Oregon. It’s not that I don’t like ladies losing their clothes, it’s a cultural thing. In the UK strip clubs are largely places hidden down back alleys where you may ordinarily fear for your life. They’re advertised as ‘Gentleman’s clubs’ though to go to one may be viewed as not very gentlemanly at all. I did get invited to one as part of a friends Stag night, but in the end the idea was abandoned because of the lack of interest. Instead we stayed in the pub, eventually leaving only to tape the heavily intoxicated husband-to-be to a nearby telephone kiosk.

As we arrived at the Safari Lounge we were greeted by a young lady who checked our ID and welcomed us. We then found some seats and waited for a heavily breasted waitress to come and take our order. The place was full of men and women in what looked like equal number to us. The DJ gave an announcement about ‘Danny’ who evidently had just returned from Iraq (pronounced iRack if you’re an American). The announcement gave up the location of ‘Danny’s’ crowd who noisily raised their glasses in acknowledgment. On a nearby table a group of girls appeared to be having some kind of drinking race much to their amusement, and on three stages girls were getting slowly naked in time with the music. As seedy as that might sound, it was anything but. It felt just like any other bar I’ve visited.

My friends began to chat, talking about Piers Brosnan in some movie and Kate Winslet from another. I tried to be cool, but for an Englishman who isn’t used to strip joints, the nearby nakedness was somewhat distracting. However, in that typically English manner, I didn’t want to be rude so I paid attention to the conversation stopping only to take the coolest of glances at the dancers, after all it would be rude to stare would it not?

As the girls chatted one stripper caught my eye, or maybe I caught hers, I’m not quite sure. She gave me a magazine cover smile between head sways as she lashed the stage with her long hair on her hands and knees in the kind of way you’d imagine only a stripper would do. Then she looked back at me and did a move that got her to her feet in a style that wouldn’t have looked out of place in something like The Matrix. A few more slinky moves and she was topless then moments later she was wearing nothing but the kind of shoes you never see in anything other than a DVD you’d insist was planted on you as part of an elaborate prank.

Melisa and Alison paid little attention to the stripper, their discussion of which I was trying to seem involved in, was of more interest to them. Planning New Years Eve, which it seems will involve at least one strip club among a few other bars. They would take brief looks at the strippers and often engage them after a dance to ask them where they got an item of recently removed clothing.

I glanced back at the girl on the stage next to me and she was spiraling down the pole at a dizzying speed, I sat back not to leer at her naked body, but in amazement as to how the heck she was able to do that. Then, as she continued to dance, I had an enormous amount of respect not only for the fact she was able to do all these amazing gymnastic maneuvers, but the fact she was able to do them in the most impractical shoes known to man (or woman). I commented to my friends that I wouldn’t be able to do that, and without hesitation they assured me that no one would want to pay money to see me cavort naked on a stage in shoes like that either.

I love Television
Look but don’t touch
Steak and Shake
Cover yourself!
Justices peek at strippers

General and TravelTuesday, December 21st, 2004, (4:27 pm)

So I’m sitting here in the Portland Coffee House on Adler and Broadway in downtown Portland. Just enjoying a Almond Mocha something and a cream cheese bagel. This place will be my office for the next couple of weeks. Free WiFi access and a central location with big windows make it the perfect impromptu office. Just a stones throw away is Pioneer Square, one of the most interesting people watching places I know. But it’s cold out and I prefer to stay in the warm.

Shannon plays her guitar on Broadway in Portland, Oregon

As the evening draws in a girl with a metal leg has taken her place by a telephone kiosk, setting her stage for another gig to the passers by, most of whom won’t pay her the slightest bit of attention. Her guitar is strewn with stickers and is arguably in better shape than she is. She tunes up, then starts to sing, and boy does she sing.

A few minutes pass and no one has yet placed even a dime in her scraggy red hat she placed in-front of her. Passers by glance at her, trying to look distracted by something else in order that they can pass by without paying her for her song. It’s not especially cold outside, but it’s not so warm that I’d want to be playing guitar.

A man steps into the phone booth and places a call. He’s an artsy looking man, the kind of person I would expect could easily afford a mobile phone, but has taken the decision not to have one so as not to support the corporations that rule the digital airwaves. He looks serious and he makes his call, but at no point does he notice the girl as she continues to play to her passing audience.

A homeless man is the first to place money in her hat. He stops to listen for a moment, she glances at him and acknowledges his contribution. He nods his head to, it might have been to the rhythm if only he were sober enough to keep the beat. He steps back clumsily into a wooden sign for Chu’s Chinese Restaurant where the ‘Sinner menu’ is served all day according to the sign. He steadies himself on the sign, then turns and wanders off in the direction of Pioneer Square.

It’s getting darker, the passing cars have their headlights on. A few more people stop to give the busker a little appreciation and spare change. I buy her a coffee, add some milk then take it out to her with some sugar and a plastic spoon.

“It’s cold and you look like you could do with a coffee.” I say
“Hey thanks dude.” Her eyes look at me and she smiles broadly. Two paths that might not ordinarily cross meet in the briefest of moments with a coffee and a smile.
“It’s not much but it’ll keep you warm for a while I think.” I place the coffee beside her with the spoon and sugar then walk back into the warmth of the coffee house and take my seat by the window once more while she adds sugar and stirs her coffee. She takes a sip then puts it back down and carrys on with her show.

Her songs barely break through the noise of the Mocha’s in making and the quiet jazz that mingles in the warm air with the aroma of fresh coffee. A few more people pass by and place money into her scraggly red hat. I wish I could hear her as she reaches for high notes, passionately strangling the neck of her six string guitar for the chords that will pay for her dinner. It’s a performance worth watching, worth every last cent of the coffee beside her.

Three black guys with dreadlocks in their hair take the seats in-front of the coffee house, box seats for this particular show. One of them comes into the coffee house to buy the drink that will buy them all the right to sit there for a while. He’s followed in by a chill, as if accompanied by an unseen ghost. Outside his friends exchange banter with this afternoons performer.

She begins to sing again and her new audience clap and whoop in appreciation, raising two beer cans and a coffee in a toast to her music. She closes her eyes and cranes her neck back as she sways to the notes of her song. The lyrics of her song are swallowed up by the surrounding streets, they disappear between the crowds of people, passing cars, and the standing buildings, like commuters getting off a bus and dissolving into the city. She’s singing for money right now, but I have a feeling she’d be singing no matter what. Her metal leg and scraggly red hat, that is slowly collecting a few dollars, look like they have seen a few stories and songs unfold.

Eventually it’s dark outside. She stops singing and smiles at her new found temporary fans sitting on the chairs in-front of the coffee house. She takes a few moments and slowly lights a cigarette taking a long slow drag of smoke deep into her lungs. Then she picks up the scraggly red cap putting the money into her pocket before slowly packing away her guitar, standing awkwardly to her feet collecting herself before walking off into the darkness of the evening.

Their is no after show party for this performer. The show is simply over. But if you missed it then don’t worry, there will probably be another show later on this evening some place not to far from here.

Political and TravelMonday, December 20th, 2004, (5:58 am)

So I am once again in America. I landed in Seattle on Friday. The usual red tape applied with customs, immigration and all, but a new addition was President Bush’s latest advance in T.W.A.T (The War Against Terror), the new ‘treat everyone who isn’t American like a criminal and piss them off so as to seal their dislike for the US authorities’.

Basically I, a British citizen and an ally of the (not very) United States, now have to be finger printed, iris printed and photographed like a criminal when I enter this country. My own government isn’t even allowed to do this, but President Bush somehow thinks he has the right to treat me like a criminal, and not tell me what will happen to that data that he forced me to hand over.

I feel utterly violated by the Bush dictatorship on this, enraged at how he imposes his stupid rule of fear onto a visitor from a friendly ally nation. But if I want to see my friends her in the (not very) United States then I have to allow myself to be violated in this way, and allow the unknown authorities to take this data and add my information to their new world order. It is a disgrace and seriously pisses me off.

Americans – wake the fuck up will you!!!! If you allow your ‘leader’ to continue to upset everyone in the world, seemingly with your blessing, then don’t be surprised when more and more people in more and more countries start to hate you all with a passion as unreasonable as your fear of them!

I wish that Blair had the balls to levy American visitors to the UK with a immigration fee of $100, plus a fingerprint, iris scan and photograph. That would please me no end. Start hitting Mr Average Joe American where it hurts because then maybe he’d start taking an interest in affairs outside of the world CNN spoon feed him between commercials!

I saw a great big bill board near Sea-Tac airport that was advertising READY.GOV. It said something like ‘Don’t be scared, be ready.’ But that in itself is just another way to inject more fear into the dumbed down masses in an effort to convince them that if someone isn’t a republican flag waving ‘God Bless America’ American, then they are a possible terrorist. It makes me want to start a website called!

Grrr!!! It makes me so mad!!!!

Still, God bless Bush for so badly screwing up Americas economy that my money is now worth LOADS more than ever before. I went out today and spent over a thousand dollars on computer stuff I needed for work. Stuff that thanks to Americas ailing economy, effectively cost me half as much as it would have in the United Kingdom.

However, after watching American television for a little while this evening I don’t suppose I can blame the nation for becoming insular and ignorant. CNN world news covered lots of America, a bit of ‘God bless our boys in Iraq’ and almost bugger all news from anywhere outside the world that is America.

I love this country, I really do, but sometimes it feels more like lusting after a dumb blonde pinup than love. As Josh Ritter says “I’m trying hard to love you, but you don’t make it easy babe.”

What visitors have to endure propeganda
Department of Homeland security
BBC : Christian ideals and Republican policies

PhotographyTuesday, December 14th, 2004, (3:57 pm)

Okay, so I finished the Calandar that I was having made for gifts. The pictures were a tough choice. After I went through my collection of photographs I’ve shot in the last 2 or three years I realized that i could do many themed calendars. so much so that I may actually look into this for next year with a view to getting some printed for sale.

In case you are interested the pictures above are the twelve final pictures for the months, starting at the top left with Jan and ending on the bottom right with December, obviously.

For those interested in locations of those pictures they are…
January : Vermont
February : Wales
March : Wales
April : Wales
May : Thurstaston, England (near where I live)
June : Thurstaston, England
July : Chicago
August : Tilamook, Oregon
September : Wales
October : England
November : Caldy, England
December, Boston, Mass

The pictures below are the rejected pictures. It turned out that the Calendar I made followed a kind of nature theme and warmed and cooled with the seasons. What would have been fun would have been to just had a calendar that featured pictures that I just enjoy, just for the hell of it, and not really following a theme.

My time in New York City could easily become a calendar all on it’s own. I could do other themes like architechture, reflections, sunsets and sunrises etc etc. I can’t be bothered to tell you about the pictures below, but if you are especially interested in one, just ask.

PhotographyFriday, December 10th, 2004, (3:52 pm)

This afternoon I was choosing pictures from my vast collection of photographs for a few Calendars I am having printed to give away as gifts this Christmas. It’s so hard to figure out what to give people like your Mom & Dad and Grandparents for Christmas, when I fell upon the idea of creating a Calendar from my photographs. I know they would really appreciate that, I just hope it gets delivered in time because I have, as ever, left the good idea a little late.

Anyway, while looking for a suitable Christmas picture for the month of December I was going through my pictures from the last four Christmases that I spent in America. Lots of them made me smile, including a few that features people that I know a few of you here will recognize. I decided I’d share this little montage with you.

Order of Pictures from the right:
Boston :: Vermont :: Boston
Boston :: Texas :: Texas
Texas :: Boston :: Boston
New Hampshire :: New Hampshire :: Gloucester (Mass)
Texas :: Boston :: Dallas (TEX)

An American Christmas -Short movie by me
Meanwhile : Going home for Christmas
Meanwhile : 4000 miles to Christmas

Found on the webWednesday, December 8th, 2004, (5:23 pm)

While hunting around the Google website for something the other day I happened upon a link to the Google Dog Policy. The company say their respect and affection for dogs is an integral facet of their corporate culture. Continuing “We have nothing against cats, per se, but we’re a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our campus would be fairly stressed out.”

Their policy states:

Aggressive behavior, such as growling, barking, chasing, or biting, is unacceptable and the pet will have to be taken home on the first complaint. Pets with evidence of fleas will be asked to go home until the problem has been alleviated. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after pets at all times. If a pet has more than one indoor “accident” they will be asked to go home.

Great stuff! But then Google are a fairly good humored company. Earlier this year they advertised a job on their soon to opening lunar hosting and research center. The ad read:

This unique opportunity is available only to highly-qualified individuals who are willing to relocate for an extended period of time, are in top physical condition and are capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen.

Californians, where would we be without them.

Google’s Dog Policy
Google’s job on the moon
Dumbo George’s Dog

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