Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama is Portland's Mr. Popularity

Today 72,000 people jammed Waterfront Park to hear Obama speak (The Decemberists opened but good as they are, they were not the main draw). The Oregonian has a nice and eye-boggling slideshow.

I was visiting my childhood puppet teacher, Bruce Chessé in Portland today. Bruce is definitely one of the most artistic people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. We had a wonderful day discussing his fascinating, compulsively creative father, and Bruce's adventures in teaching, puppetry, theater and film (which, geographically and in spirit, parallel many of my own, oddly enough). I especially liked his stories about performing puppet shows in Black Panther-era Oakland. A lively time for performance art in general.

He told me puppets have around since the dawn of time--probably beginning with people creating shadows on the walls of their caves. Even more interesting, puppets have always been the people's artform and puppet theater has actually been banned during many regimes and eras in history because puppetry tends to undermine authority.

Bruce took me on a beautiful tour of the city, starting with Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcano--a beautiful neighborhood with a park. Its crator is now an outdoor stage where Shakespeare plays are performed (next to the basketball courts). We saw a lot of great old theaters, antique shops, rose gardens, Oaks Amusement Park, and throughout, Bruce told me of arts schools, theaters, and outdoor activities that Jackson would love.

After we pulled back into his driveway, one of Bruce's tenants came out to say hello. "Did you know you can hear Obama right now?" He asked us. "Oh, is he on television?" asked Bruce. His tenant pointed to the back of the house. "No," he said. "You just walk towards the back yard, you can HEAR him speaking."

We followed his finger and listened. Sure enough, we heard the familiar voice floating up from the waterfront, far below and out of sight. It's very weird to be standing on a quiet, sunny Portland street, listening to Barack Obama speak. A good weird. Nice wrap-up to the day.

photo source: The Oregonian

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