Weird Portland, Meet New Orleans, Queen of Weirdness

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April 29, 2011 by David Gillaspie

If You Can Read This, Wave Your Hand

Twice I’ve come to Portland and found the Gay Pride Parade in full swing.  My two boys shared the coincidence.

They still think it was planned.

A good planner always includes community events.

We remember it fondly, the costumes, the events, the float of a huge topless woman waving from the bed of a small truck.

What do you do if you’re that dad?  Block the children’s view and run, or treat it like any other parade?

Treat it like any other parade.  You’re not a runner, so why start?

Of all the strands in the tapestry of Keep Portland Weird, you can’t pick one over others.  That’s the big picture.

An even bigger picture is the context of weirdness, or where Portland fits on the weird scale.

Mummers in Philadelphia lead the Weird Hall of Fame with 10,000 feathered up dudes playing banjos and marching down Broad Street like a Nuremberg rally, going on and on and on…  

St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York gets weird enough. 

Isn’t that enough?

You have your national weirdness and your local strain of weirdness, and if you doubled them over and twisted them together it’s still not as weird as Bourbon Street, New Orleans on a slow night.

True weirdness needs an event to be weird about.  Portland won an NBA title and filled up a mile of Broadway with sports fan weirdness.  That might be medium weird in the French Quarter.

Think of World Cup celebrations.  Those are the weirdest individual events with dazed soccer hooligans wandering around at the end of their riot shift.

Even with that, they’re nothing close to Bourbon St. 

The weirdness accelerator in New Orleans is called Napoleonic Law, which forces all tourists to walk around drinking liquor from long-neck WWII hand grenades.  The shuffling, drunk, audience, and barricaded traffic, brings out the true weirdness every night of the week.

A young guy, maybe twenty-five, walked to a barricade and set his violin case on the pavement.  He got arranged and pulled his bow across his strings and it was on.

A draped table beside the fiddle player held a baby’s bassinet.  The baby’s silver painted face belonged to the guy under the table, the baby’s body a puppet that danced to Cajun music. 

Things got weirder after that.

A man jumped out to the middle of the street.

“Hey, I know where you got your shoes.  Twenty dollars says I know right where you got your shoes.  Twenty.  We on?  I saw you nod.  Okay, you got your shoes on the ground right here in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Don’t walk away from me, man.  Give me my money.”

A policeman held his hand up.

“Excuse me, sir, ma’am, I’m going to have to cite you.  I see you carrying drinks.  It looks like you’re from out of town.  Napoleonic Law says you’d better down those drinks and party harder.  Take these hats from the Party Police for a ten dollar donation and you’ll be on your way.  Wait a minute, give me my money.”

A homeless man walked up.

“I see you’ve got a full drink, you can see I don’t.  Would you like to make an alcohol donation to my cup?”

A nervous man appeared.

“Saw you walking last night, brother, know what I mean?  See that two nights, one after the other, I know what.  I know what’s up.  Cocaine?”

Those were the lyrics of the screaming guitar bands pouring out of every bar window.  It’s weirdness on a whole ‘nother level.  Don’t try to make sense of it, just remember what it feels like.

You may want to ask yourself, “Who shows up at the Keep It Weird reunion?”  If you see a silver man’s face in a baby bassinet, you’re getting there. 

By David Gillaspie

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