My disturbing Friday commute on MAX

I commute from the Gresham TC in the evening. I always have a place to hang my bike when I get on because this stop is only the second stop on the westbound line. It is a different story going out to work in the mornings. I board at the Lloyd Center station and if I don’t catch the train that gets me to work about half an hour early then I often don’t have a place to hang my bike.

I don’t put my bike on the train for pleasure each morning and evening. I do it because i don’t have a car and I don’t have a car because I will not contribute to the pollution of our environment by driving a car. I need my bike because it makes it possible for me to perform my job without a car. I combine biking with the MAX for my commute because it would take too long to ride from my home to my job and I don’t want to arrive sweaty and worn-out. Using Trimet and my bike has been workable up to now. What happened on Friday on the train has me worried.

I commute from the Gresham TC in the evening. I always have a place to hang my bike when I get on because this stop is only the second stop on the westbound line. It is a different story going out to work in the mornings. I board at the Lloyd Center station and if I don’t catch the train that gets me to work about half an hour early then I often don’t have a place to hang my bike.

I don’t put my bike on the train for pleasure each morning and evening. I do it because i don’t have a car and I don’t have a car because I will not contribute to the pollution of our environment by driving a car. I need my bike because it makes it possible for me to perform my job without a car. I combine biking with the MAX for my commute because it would take too long to ride from my home to my job and I don’t want to arrive sweaty and worn-out. Using Trimet and my bike has been workable up to now. What happened on Friday on the train has me worried.

A young woman got on the train at about 172nd. She had a fixed gear bike with a tire too wide for the hook and instead of standing where the hook is, she stood on the other side of the door. The fare inspector on the train asked her for her fare, then her ID, called into find out if she was excluded or had citations, when she didn’t (to his surprise I am sure–did I forget to mention that she was dressed in black with face piercings?), he proceeded to lecture her about where she could be with her bike, and which doors she could use to enter the train when she has her bike. During the course of his lecture the train stopped at two stations and at each of these someone tried to board the train with a bike. Because both hooks were taken on that end of the train, the inspector would not let the bicyclists board. We all know that there is not enough time to run to the other end of the train and get on before the doors close. Since this was the front end of the first car, they were out of luck. They had to wait for the next train and hope that they could get on.

People ride Trimet for many reasons. Some out of concern for the environment, some because they don’t like driving in traffic, some because they can’t afford gas for their cars, some because they don’t have cars, some because they cannot drive, and there are probably other reasons. We want people to use mass transit. It makes our city a more livable place. Fewer cars, less congestion, less road rage, less stress, happier citizens. Less pollution, less illness, healthier citizens. Bicyclists contribute to this happier, healthier populace. We shouldn’t be punished for using both our bikes and mass transit to commute. Trimet should go to great lengths to accommodate bicyclists.

Not being allowed to get on the train because all the hooks are taken could mean that a bike commuter loses his or her job for being late to work. Especially if that someone is working a minimum wage job with no benefits because these are the jobs that desperate people have and there is always another desperate person to fill them. I know this because I work with those desperate people trying to help them find places to live after they have lost their jobs and their housing. Mr Inspector, you are not just denying someone with a bicycle the right to get on the train, you could be taking away the roof over their head.

There are no signs on the MAX stating that bicycles have to be hung from the hooks. There are no signs stating that people with bikes can enter only through the end doors. There is no reason for us to have to enter through those doors only. Here is something that happens frequently. I go to get on the train. a stroller is blocking the door, another stroller is under the bicycle hook. They move. It works out.

One morning last week I got on the airport train because i was going out to the Parkrose TC. As is to be expected there were people with lots of luggage. There were also lots of bikes. Myself and another cyclist were in the middle where the wheelchair access doors are located. I shifted back and forth depending on which door was going to open so that I did not get in anyone’s way. i did not impede any other passenger. It was perfectly workable and perfectly safe.

I suggest that Trimet take some of the seats out of some of the cars and install more hooks. I suggest that these cars run during rush hours from 6:30 am to 9:00 am and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m..

Barring a solution such as this, I think it is reprehensible for Trimet to get heavy-handed with bicycle commuters. The MAX is not comfortable when it is full. Whether there are bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs, or just lots of people it is noisy, smelly, disease infested, dirty, costs too much and the ticket machines often don’t work, and the ticket validators often don’t work, and the fare inspectors are rigid and menacing and could use some interpersonal relationship training, and commuters all have to manage this twice a day. Cut us some slack.

The Red Book — Mass Transit Journal

Entry 2

My friend Fred says that a world with fewer men would be more peaceful and he tells me that Harper’s has an article about baboons and what happens when the aggressive baboons are suddenly gone. He says that the aggressive males had all gotten poisoned eating at a human dump. The females in the group began to groom and care for the surviving non-aggressive males who had not been eating at the dump. These became the fathers of a new generation of baboons and each succeeding generation was passive and as the passive males split off and formed new family groups in these the new generations of males were also passive so that a large area of Kenya is now populated with non-aggressive baboons.

Nature or Nurture? The question is not entirely answered. Baboons do pass on culture. But what happens to the aggressive ones if any are born? Do they conform to the group culture? If aggression is genetically encoded then is it the dominant gene and so is eliminated by the deaths of the aggressors before they can pass on their genes? Do none of the females have that aggressive gene? Or are we talking culture and baboons doing what appears expedient for not just survival of self, but survival of species and the attention of the female. Sex. In the natural world it is all about sex.

My friend Anais tells me about the damselfish changing sexes when the need arises. Anais speculates about the Y chromosome, as have many of us. Y is unlike any other chromosome. It is missing something, a leg. It is aberrant among chromosomes. Is it necessarily defective? No, it is mutant, necessarily mutant. If we, if all beings, if all plant, animal, virus, whatever needed only itself to reproduce then we would be a world of clones with no motivation to move. Stationary, planted, still. All movement within. Sexual reproduction creates variation and necessitates movement. Even plants, even asexual plants, must find some method of obtaining fertilization for seed. Usually this is accomplished through the movement of birds or bees, or other insects, sometimes it is just the wind.

Imagine being dependent on the wind for your children.

But I have to come back to the argument posited by Fred. Maybe it would be a more peaceful world with fewer men. It would depend upon the nature of the remaining men and the response of the women to them. If all the men left were peaceful and the women were favored toward them then the result might be a culture which preferred pacific men and thereby a more peaceful world comes into existence.

Anyway, it is not a world in which I will take part–it is a future world.

(What about a world without children altogether? Read P.D. James novel The Children of Men. See review.)

The Red Book — Mass Transit Journal

Entry 1

(you see his image everywhere now. Ernesto “Ché” Guevara is hip. his face is on the little red journal i bought at Powell’s. i write in this book as i commute around portland on the trimet system.)

Having purchased this empty book, this potential journal, I find it isn’t blank. There is already a stain on the pages, a dictum inherent in the cover. Judge a book, even an unwritten one, by its cover. Ché demands something. Ché is a guiding spiritual force, a string plucked in a certain way sending out a note, underscoring my thoughts. There is a tune here. I won’t be able to be frivolous. I think Ché demands a certain concentration on the injustices of the world.

Think about this: the degradation of the environment contaminated with dioxins through human action is limiting the number of male births. Sometimes drastically. In Canada near Niagra there is a small reservation completely surrounded by a plastics, chemical industrial plant and the birth rate of male babies in that dioxin intoxicated place is 35%.

Male to female births are normally 106 to 100. A small percentage more males than females to make up for the life lost in hunting, fighting, machismo.

If all the women and all the men stay on this res and none of them are gay and none of them die and all of them want mates and choose to mate only with their contemporaries on the res, then only 35% of the girls will find a mate. If 10% of the boys are gay and none of the girls are then only 31.5% of the girls will find mates.

A certain number of those girls may be undifferentiated males.

Here’s a bit of irony. Niagara Falls used to be the honeymoon mecca of Northeastern United States. Marriages were consummated, babies conceived in hotels with heart-shaped beds. The roar of the falls, the “Maid of the Mist”, cheap power for Buffalo, cheap power for the petro-chemical plants–Niagara is a symbol of what is wrong, of what has gone deadly wrong with our relationship with the environment.

Love Canal is in the town of Niagara Falls, New York. It is where Hooker Chemical buried toxic chemicals beginning in 1942 and the City of Niagara Falls had been using the site since 1920 to dispose of its chemical waste. Ultimately, it is estimated that Hooker dumped 21,800 tons of toxic waste in Love Canal. In 1952, the company backfilled the dump because it had reached capacity.

Not long afterward an elementary school was built on the site and a subdivision for low-income families. The families who bought homes there were not warned that beneath their yards was a petro-chemical waste dump.

I saw the Love Canal neighborhood in the early 1980s after families had been relocated and the houses were boarded up. It was winter, cold, desolate, brown grass, leafless trees and it didn’t take much to imagine Rachel Carson’s, Silent Spring.

Love Canal is still resonating. It was a watershed moment wherein Occidental Chemical (formerly Hooker Chemical) learned that you can’t dump dioxin in potential suburban neighborhoods. If you want to contaminate you have to make sure you do it where people have no power. The poorest of neighborhoods, the least powerful of people.

But back to baby boys. Diminishing numbers of baby boys is a phenomena that occurs where PCB’s and Dioxin contaminate the environment. It occurs in animal species, as well as humans.

What would a predominately female world look like? Women are not necessarily more peaceful than men. We may appear to be so because we tend to bear the brunt of war. All the rape and torture–no glory. Such is true for those parts of the world where battles are fought. The point of rape is ownership and genocide–seed supplanting, creating children of the conqueror. Kill the men and boys, rape the women and in a generation there is no enemy. In theory, anyway.

So if most of the world were composed of women, if women made up 3/4’s of earth’s population, how would that change the world? More killing, less rape?

But women do suffer this other thing–love for their children. Not that men don’t suffer it as well, but somehow it is different in its manifestation. Men protect their children’s psyche or believe they are protecting their children’s psyche by testing them and allowing hem to be tested. Men will also physically protect their children against invasion and harm, but honor is big with men. LIfe is big with women. We’ll deal with the whole honor thing after we’ve saved our children’s lives. And for the most part we are unwilling to send those children to do battle. We want a really good reason.

Oil ain’t it for most of us. Liars ain’t it either.

But women can be very controlling. We can be harsh with each other and greedy and the evils of the world aren’t gender-based. They are greed-based. I’ve got mine, I’m getting more, and you can’t have any–greed-creed.

Bus #9

(This was written before the Indonesian earchquake toll went up to 6,000)

So, 2,700, no 4,000, people died in an earthquake in Indonesia. And besides that there’s a volcano.

Lady on the bus says she was born in 1932. Makes her 73. I wonder if she has been speaking her mind all this time.

I wonder why the tweaker keeps looking back, looking back, craning his neck all the way round to look at me.

Marines killed 24 civilians. Among them women and children because a car bomb–a ”line of sight“ bomb–was detonated and killed one of their number.

Tweaker is getting off at 39th. Goodbye. Lady says she’s been married 51 years to a wonderful man. Good for her. He must be deaf. Another tweaker sits in front of me, nodding his head. Lady says her name is Carol.

A marine, a soldier might expect to be killed, who has at least put himself in the path of danger. Gone to battle, gone to war.

These who were killed in retaliation were people put in the path of danger by an enemy force. A force which claimed to be rescuing them from the evil ruler who put his foot on their necks.

The #9 is rolling side to side. A couple of guys are talking about dope in Ryder trucks and meth labs in semi-sleeper cabs. Prison sentences.

Once upon a time in a land far away young men moved from tree to tree, eyes scanning all the jungle for sight of the enemy who would try to kill them. Sometimes children were sent with bombs. Sometimes children were killed because they might have bombs. Sometimes whole villages of people were killed because someone there might have killed someone.

A volcano in Indonesia draws fire up its throat.