What is Going on with the Protests in Portland?

In which I attempt to answer the questions: Who are the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer? And, What Does It Mean For Our Country When We Speak the Same Language But Can No Longer Understand Each Other? And Have We Forgotten How To Belong to Each Other?

September 25th 2020

            Tomorrow there is another chance for extreme violence in Portland, Oregon as the Proud Boys (a “Western Chauvinist” and far right neo-fascist group) plan to stage a demonstration in Delta Park on Saturday September 26th.[i] The location itself is an affront to anyone who supports the black community of Oregon as it is where the former historic black neighborhood of Vanport used to be located before it was demolished by a flood. These Proud Boys are demonstrating for “Love for American and Western values” and protesting the death of a member of Patriot Prayer who was shot last month in downtown Portland. They also want to free Kyle Rittenhouse (the teenager who murdered two protestors in Kenosha last month, who then walked towards the cop with his hands up and was politely cuffed).

Meanwhile, counter anti-fascist protestors are holding a community solidarity event against fascism in Peninsula Park, so while the groups should be separated by a few miles, there is also talk of a smaller counter protest against the Proud Boys that is going to take place in Delta Park, and it’s also possible that the Proud Boys will drive over to the counter protestors site. Who knows what’s going to happen (I plan on going to the event at Peninsula Park and will let you know!)

It is important to note that many of these Proud Boys and members of Patriot Prayer (more on them in a sec) are not even from Oregon—though some of them hail from Vancouver just over the Columbia. Some of them are literally traveling to Portland looking for a fight. And while the City of Portland has denied them a permit to gather, they are coming anyways. Whenever these types of events happen, violence is sure to follow.

The violence and guns brought to the streets of Oregon since early August have only increased. Last month, after over 90 days of protests, a caravan of over a thousand Trump supporters in big lifted black trucks with blue flags came to downtown Portland from Clackamas to instigate violence, (shooting BLM and anti-fascist protestors with paintball guns and spraying them with gas) when someone finally ended up dead. The man who was killed was a member of Patriot Prayer. His killer, a self-described Antifa member, was later shot and killed by police when they came to arrest him a couple days later.

These same Trump supporters, Proud Boys, and Patriot Prayer members showed up the weekend before to pick a fight and the Portland Police Bureau were nowhere in sight, only showing up to arrest those on the left later in the evening (PPB claimed they were “understaffed”).

Unfortunately, these street brawls between Antifascist groups and alt-right groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are nothing new in Portland, they’ve been going on since Trump was elected. But last month ended in the first death of a member of Patriot Prayer. Patriot Prayer is an alt-right “Christian” group, mostly from Vancouver, WA, who have ties to white nationalist ideology. As a Christian myself, as someone who truly does his best to try to follow the way of love and of Jesus, the group makes my blood boil (I haven’t even been able to write about them before this because of how angry and depressed I know I will become just thinking about the group’s existence.)

The leader of Patriot Prayer is Joey Gibson, a controversial figure to say the least. A man whose failed bid for public office seemed to lead him to a darker place of political organizing. The group claims to be about “freedom,” and some other fairly generic, conservative talking points, including, of course, the second amendment, but for some reason wherever they go, violence follows (though they say the same thing about “Antifa”). Patriot Prayer rallies were once attended by Jeremy Christian, a man who later slashed the throats of two men on the Max train who stood up to defend the two Muslim women he was harassing (though Patriot Prayer distanced themselves from Jeremy Christian and claims he was not a member, still, there had to be some sort of rhetoric that drew Christian to Patriot Prayer in the first place). Many of these people wear cross patches stitched onto their bulletproof vests while holding AR-15s, literally claiming allegiance to God, Guns, and Country.  

            If I can take a step back and look at it objectively (and not see Patriot Prayer’s own twisted nationalist version of faith as a personal affront to the God and Jesus I know and the entire message of the Gospel), I find the group objectively fascinating. Sergio Olmos, an incredibly brave reporter who has covered the Portland protests nearly every day for Oregon Public Radio since the spring, spent some time getting to know Patriot Prayer and “freedom fighter Joey Gibson,” last year finding that “those in Gibson’s orbit find a sense of purpose, camaraderie in violent right-wing nationalism.” In an article for The Columbian Olmos interviews Brad Galloway, who for 13 years led the Canadian chapter of Volksfront, a violent neo-nazi gang founded in Portland:

“They’re seeking belonging, identity,” Galloway says. “there’s this sense of loneliness, especially in this age of the internet, sitting around hour upon hour, in echo chambers online. And they find (their identity) in the collective identity of the group.[ii]

In Olmos’s article, Gibson talks about how he used to be a football coach and misses that comradery and team effort. Now he gets the same solidarity by bleeding in the street with his Patriot prayer brothers battling Antifa: “So, at a rally, you show up, right, and you yeah, when you bleed together over and over again, you build that camaraderie.”

I can only think that something is sincerely wrong with our society, (and men in particular) when the only way for us to find belonging and community is by street fighting other groups of people. Yet in other ways, this is nothing new. Perhaps Portland’s return to a Gangs of New York-style-street-brawls are the greatest indicator that modern society is not as “progressive” as we would like to think, or that the United States of America has been built on a myth all along, one that is finally crumbling.

In my opinion, many people join groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer because they are seeking this type of belonging. I mean, if the pull of belonging wasn’t so strong, I can think of no other reason why someone else would join a violent radical group like the Proud Boys. Belonging is so powerful it not only makes you commit yourself to sex cults, but to groups that shun masturbation entirely!

Yet, as polarization grows, it seems as if we have forgotten how to belong to each other in this country. And if we don’t consider ourselves as belonging to each other, than how are we to change our society?

As the activist Grace Lee Boggs says: “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and taking responsibility for it.”

I am not very hopeful however.

In a New Yorker article titled “The Myth of America,” writer and contributor Robin Wright says that after the Civil war:

“The cultural divide and cleavages are still deep. Three hundred and thirty million people may identify as Americans, but they define what that means—and what rights and responsibilities are involved—in vastly different ways. The American promise has not delivered for many Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asian-Americans, myriad immigrant groups, and even some whites as well. Hate crimes—acts of violence against people or property based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity—are a growing problem. A bipartisan group in the House warned in August that, “as uncertainty rises, we have seen hatred unleashed.”

When Athens and Sparta went to war, in the fifth century B.C., the Greek general and historian Thucydides observed, “The Greeks did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke the same language.”

If we can no longer speak the same language, if we live in our own echo chambers and consume different types of media and news (due to social media algorithms), if we can no longer agree on what is truth, i.e., facts, if we disagree with science and can’t even agree to wear masks because we are so stubbornly independent, than what future do we have?

 Ironically, the same ideals of rugged American individualism and freedoms we hold to so dearly, are now the same ones making us incapable of adapting to the modern world. Yet the way in which we have approached politics and the various conservative/liberal ideological issues over the past decade shows our lack of willingness to belong to each other. As Sebastian Junger says in his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

“The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs—and more broadly, over liberal and conservative though—will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past. So how do you unify a secure, wealthy country that has sunk into a zero-sum political game with itself? How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place? I put that question to Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Yehuda has seen, up close, the effect of such antisocial divisions on traumatized vets. ‘If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different—you underscore your shared humanity,’ she told me. ‘I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us.” The United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself, which means that the ultimate terrorist strategy would be to just leave the country alone … The ultimate betrayal of tribe isn’t acting competitively—that should be encouraged—but predicating your power on the excommunication of others from the group.” (Tribe 128)

I for one, am indifferent to the notion of the “United” states. I say we break it up. Let Texas and California and Alaska go. All hail Cascadia! Let’s make the U.S. into some sort of Amerizone. That way people can move to whatever part of the country they find ideologically drawn to and we can quit fighting with each other. I mean, at this point, I don’t think a Civil War is that far away, seriously.

I still find it tremendously sad though, that we have forgotten how to belong to each other in this country. I mean, what has happenend? It’s like a portion of the population is under some type of demonic force or dark, magical spell. Maybe that’s the spell of nationalism. Or just plain stupidity. For as anti-Nazi theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote about Hitler’s rise to power:

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.[iii]

I can think of no better words that sum up those who have fallen under the spell of nationalistic fervor and Trump devotion.

What do we do then? I struggle daily to not give in to despair and defeatism, yet while there might be violence tomorrow, I can only hope and pray that we can create a society in the future where everyone belongs.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to the protests in person to protest fascists, one thing you can make sure to do is vote this November, and I would encourage you to look at your vote this year as not for Trump or Biden, but as one for either autocracy or democracy.

[i] https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/proud-boys-rally-on-saturday-raises-concerns-of-more-violence-in-portland/

[ii] Olmos, Sergio, Idealistic ‘Freedom Fighter’ Joey Gibson Offers Inner Circle a Kind of Kinship” The Columbian. September 19th 2019.

[iii] Holmquist, Annie. “Bonhoeffer on the ‘Stupidity’ That Led to Hitler’s Rise. https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/bonhoeffer-stupidity-led-hitlers-rise/

Please follow and like us:

Portland BLM Protests at the Justice Center

July 24th 2020

I didn’t want to go to the protest. As an introvert, and someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I dislike large crowds and festivals in general, (I don’t even really like going to shows anymore) not to mention that there was a whole pandemic going around. It’s just hard to get up the energy to go get tear gassed you know? Not to mention, why did I want to go? Just to say that I went and post some pics and assuage my white guilt for a night. Maybe. I would have much preferred to sip a drink in the comfort of my home and read a book on inequality and racism, maybe write, or watch Dark. But I felt compelled to go. For once I needed to get out my head, put my books and words and restless thoughts down, and hit the streets.

Cat and Evangeline and I had gone to smaller, local neighborhood BLM protests but I had yet to make it downtown after some fifty + nights of protesting that was happening at the Justice Center on SW 3rd in downtown Portland.

As I biked with my black mask and yellow helmet through the streets and neighborhoods of downtown Portland I was struck by how many people were outside, all eating and drinking on patios. It was like any other summer night—as if there were no protests or pandemic. The sun was setting as I biked across the Burnside bridge, and I am still, always, in awe of how beautiful Portland is with its bridges and river.

I locked my bike up by Voodoo doughnuts, hung snowboard goggles around my neck in case of tear gas that was sure to hit the streets as the night wore on, and walked a few blocks down third avenue.

The first thing you notice when you get to the Justice center is that it is not just any protest. It feels like a street festival. The smell of charcoal and ribs float through the air. Small tables are set up selling shirts, masks, and gear. It’s like some strange mix of Saturday Market and a protest. My favorite part is Riot Ribs. There are multiple gazebos that make up Riot Ribs, a large food tent made up of entirely free food donations and staffed by volunteers who hand out free water, hot dogs, and ribs cooked on some bad ass Traeger grills. The whole atmosphere was like a street fair, only one that ends in tear gas. I grabbed a water and walked around. I would have felt safe bringing my daughter with me for the first couple hours.

Chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “Say His Name” “Whose Streets, Our Streets!” “Donald Trump Go Home!” “This is what democracy looks like!” filled the air. The energy was electric. Something special was definitely happening in Portland. You knew that just by being there you were a part of something special in history, and the speakers reminded us of as much.

Now, there are two main buildings where the action happens—the courthouse and the justice center. Literally, everything is contained to two square blocks (and Portland blocks are tiny). The graffiti is even limited to these two blocks. You could walk three blocks down third and go to a bustling pod of food carts if you wanted and not even be bothered by the protest. Anyone who claims the protests are hurting local businesses (which is what most of our local and even national news says) is getting these protests twisted with covid-19, which is why many stores were already boarded up in the first place. Downtown has been a ghost town since April. But on Friday night those two blocks were PACKED. I would say two-three thousand people easily. Most everyone wore masks. Some had gas masks and plastic shields.

Riot Ribs sits in a park in front of the courthouse where a large black fence was recently set up by the Feds and where the federal agents employed by DHS are holed up until protestors start provoking them later on in the evening.

I walked to the next block of the Justice Center to hear black speakers give speeches and lead chants. The rapper Amine (I’m pretty sure?) spoke along with Portland’s first black city council woman Jo Ann Hardesty. One man spoke about connecting the dots between the police, the military-industrial complex, patriarchy, and capitalism.

The wall of moms soon showed up, donned all in yellow and the crowd cheered. There was also a street preacher who kept trying to steal the spotlight (literally) and the crowd booed him multiple times. One thing I noticed was that within minutes of being down there I started sneezing and coughing. Not a lot, just as if my allergies were acting up. No tear gas had been set off yet but it felt like the whole two blocks of this city were still poisoned with cs gas from previous nights. What is the long term effects of that going to be?

Around 11 protestors started lighting off fireworks and shaking the fence. I flinched when the fireworks went off. They were very loud. A small burst of tear gas filled the air and some flash bangs soon followed, tossed out by the feds. The flash bangs were also loud.

I was pretty far back in the crowd by this point but I got a strong whiff of spicy air. I pulled the googles over my face. More tear gas and several members of the crowd began to retreat and after a few more minutes of watching protestors throw some random things over the fence, I joined them. As I walked away with the first wave, there was already a second wave of protestors who were walking towards the justice center, all donned with gas masks and plastic shields, and dressed in black, as I was, and yes, most of them were white. If this night is like most other nights, a familiar pattern and cycle will occur. The feds will eventually emerge. A riot will be declared. Some protestors will battle them with umbrellas and leaf blowers.

What if, for once, those in power did not escalate the situation? What if they just stayed put? Why not try it? Just once? The head of DHS says that protestors would burn the building to the ground if they didn’t “defend” it. What I saw instead was a community in action, engaged, and unwilling to back down or be intimidated. I didn’t agree with everything I saw. But you can’t deny the movement that’s happening. This will not be ending anytime soon. 

Could the whole thing devolve or has it? into a spectacle or performative activism that detracts from black voices, yes, that is a possibility. But I don’t think that’s happening, not yet.

What I saw was a largely peaceful protest. Yes, some shit goes down later at night into the early hours. But the present conflict we inhabit is always messier than the past we often sanitize and present in our future textbooks and analysis of history.

I love Portland. I love that if the Feds, or the Proud Boys, DHS, the President, or any other alt-right political stunters want to come into our city to stir shit up, Portland is going to show up and hold it down.

Please follow and like us:

Life in the Time of Coronavirus: A Diary to a Daughter

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Hello sweetie. Today is March 18th, 2020. You are five days short of becoming twenty-two months old. I am writing to you now because something has happened. Something which we will likely tell you stories about in the future. It will likely alter our future in ways you will not notice. They will be normal to you, strange to us.

I’m sure you will hear us tell stories about this one day, as my parent’s heard stories about World War II, or your grandparent’s heard stories from their parents about what it was like to live through The Great Depression.

You see: At first we thought it was no big deal.

“The flu kills way more people” we said. Which was true initially, if you just looked at the numbers. But not true percentagewise, or contagious-wise, we’d soon come to learn. Even NPR ran an early story about how many people the Flu killed each year (multiple thousands, millions infected) as if it was supposed to soothe our fears.

Yet for some reason, I don’t know why, I thought it this virus might be a bigger deal than many thought. For once, I was the paranoid and cautious one, your mom the skeptic. I tried not to freak out. Others fled to the grocery stores and stockpiled toilet paper, and flour, and ground beef.

This could be a big deal, I thought, but it would not really affect us that much. I mean, sure, it might spread a little bit, but the media and everyone was overhyping it. Of course. What could happen to us? We were the United States of America!

Yet we in the U.S. had also grown arrogant lately, thinking we were immune from the natural disasters and viruses that strike others across the globe. So, at first we did not take it so seriously.

Your mom’s best friend, Laura, has had to cancel her wedding in Utah at the end of March—a wedding in which your mom was supposed to be a bridesmaid and you were supposed to be the flower girl. I was going to walk you down the aisle. Your mom is still very sad about it.

I still go into work downtown everyday, but pretty much everyone else except me and another are guy are walking from home (I have to roast coffee and can’t really take a coffee roaster home).

 May 23rd:

Downtown Portland is deserted. Schools are shutdown. Masks are in short supply. We practice “social distancing” as we go out for a bike-ride or make a trip to the grocery store for essentials. Yet, there is no traffic, so that’s good I guess? Falling carbon emissions and all.

There’s a very good chance that my business, the coffee roasting company I helped co-found eight years ago in Salt Lake City—La Barba Coffee—will go out of business. The only thing keeping as afloat is our grocery and online sales. This will likely be the end of small businesses as we know it, which is just, crazy.

Right now, Governors in many states are forcing cafes and restaurants to close their doors or pivot to a “take-out” only option. This will force many businesses to close. Business is all about maintaining good cash flow and there’s no way most businesses have the proper cash flow to float them for two to three months with no revenue coming in. If the government doesn’t seriously step up and offer loans or some type of bailout many small businesses (and even large) will go out of business.

While at first I took the threat of the virus and the need to quarantine very seriously, now I wonder about the economic costs of forcing businesses to close. It’s basically a choice we have to make at this point, one between going into an economic recession or saving lives. Yet recessions also lower the quality of life for all. I don’t know. There are no easy answers or calls to make right now.

We’ve started going on lots of bike rides. We have this new rear bike seat that you ride in and you love it. You try to say the words “helmet” and “bike.” We take lots of walks. Amelie, our dog, is very happy.

April 1st

On Wednesday your Mom went into work. I tried to watch you at home AND get some work done. HA. That was a good one. I was optimistic at first. You could just watch Daniel Tiger all day! But no, you’re too young to be occupied by anything (including T.V.) for more than 15 minutes. We survived, but barely. You dumped your food and toys out all over the floor. You screamed to go outside. You didn’t take a nap. Tigertastic!

April 3rd 2020

Today was tough for me. All you wanted to do was two things:

1. Go play in the snow and

2. Go on the swings.

We could do neither, but I let you put on your snowsuit and we walked to the park.

You can barely talk but you kept saying the same things “esnow” and “swing” and “pease?” Asking all nice and being all cute. But I kept having to say no to you.

“No sweetie, we can’t go on the swings, we can’t play in the snow or the park or go visit your cousins because there’s this thing called COVID-19 and we could hurt people like great grandpa or even your aunt Alyssa, and I know you don’t understand any of this and I swear I’m not trying to be bad or mean dad, we just can’t, and I’m sorry for drinking and smoking too much cause I want to live as long as your alive but I’m also stressed out and thank you for understanding in whatever way you can and not screaming at me even though I feel like I deserve it. I promise, sweetie, one day this will all be over…”

Rather than feeling frustrated and anxious and mildly perturbed by this whole thing, now I just feel sad.

Saturday April 4th

Saturday we went up to the snow to get you your snow. We drove up to Mt. Hood and parked outside Ski Bowl and just played in the snow in the parking lot for twenty minutes. All the trails and ski resorts and sledding hills closed. You laughed and giggled and smiled. The hour and a half drive totally worth it.

Sunday April 5th

You wake up early. Man, I am so exhausted of trying to take care of you and keep the house clean and take care of the animals and try to get some work and/or writing done that at times I feel just this utter frustration coupled with anxiety tied with exhaustion. I am so so so tired. I try to write but I can’t focus. I want to go for a run but I just end up eating too much.

Luckily your mom takes second watch and lets me take a nap and I watch some Netflix. Alas, if only I was childless and could binge the third season of Ozark and lay on the couch all day! But, no. There is still all of life to do and get done during this quarantine—laundry, cooking, dishes, childrearing, work—only now it takes place within a designated space. This is not vacation.

Monday April 6th

I bounced back on Monday. Monday I watched you again while Mom went off to work (really not that unusual as I often watch you on Fridays and Saturdays). In some ways, as an introverted homebody, my life has not changed much. Only now I am forced to stay inside and not go to parties or bars or trails and there are no parks or story times or indoor play centers to take you to.

I kept the coffee and exercise flowing throughout the day. We painted. We gardened and dug in the dirt. I mowed the lawn. Took the weed-eater out for a spin. Stained the railing on the front porch while you danced around the front yard in your diaper. Went on a bike ride along the Springwater trail with your mom once she was done with work.

I began the rising process on my first ever Sourdough starter loaf, (which I am eating now as I write this, two days later). Delicious, airy, tangy. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The butter slowly melting through the cavernous fermented insides. God this sourdough bread is better than any cigarettes or alcohol or sex I’ve ever had! I plan on entering it into the Great White American Bake Fest that is apparently taking place all over the Internet.

April 7th  2020

Well sweetie, it is now Day fifteen since the Governor of Oregon issued a stay-at-home order for all Oregonians. Thirty days since my office issued social distancing practices barring all but two workers in the office at a time. Two weeks since your daycare closed. Restaurants are closed. Parks and playgrounds are closed. Trails are closed. The Forest! Nature itself! Closed.  Everything is closed.

As of today, there have been 374,320 cases and 12,064 deaths in the U.S. And we have not yet reached the peak, so it makes sense that we are doing all this, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m only going into work on Tuesdays and Thursday now. To cup and roast and ship some packages out. Keep the samples flowing.

Saturday April 11th

The U.S. is now officially the country with the highest death toll in the world, surpassing Italy, at over 18,000 deaths. Wait, I wrote that sentence late Saturday night, now it’s 20,000 by the next day. Wait, now it’s, 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand and April is the cruelest month and somehow over so soon.

Friday May 1st

Somehow March lasted forever and April just flew by. March we waited for what was to come. April meant that quarantines and stay-at-home orders came and we adjusted as well as we could, on the fly. I guess we are getting used to a new normal? Keeping busy? I don’t know.

You are staying at grandma and grandpa’s (or as you call them, nana and papa) this weekend while your Mom and I get a much needed break as we’ve spent the last six weeks with you with no break. Grandma has been seeing your cousins every week but now is she going to watch you for the weekend and then self-quarantine for two weeks and then go back to watching your cousins. Such is life. It seems as if we have hit the plateau though. Cases and deaths are dropping. Restaurants are opening back up for take-out. But one thing is for sure, things will not be returning to normal anytime soon. In fact, they might not ever return.

When will this end? I have no idea. Now people are protesting stay-at-home orders. Some of them bring guns to state capitols as a form of, well, I really have no idea. They just like their guns and protesting the federal government I guess.

I am all fine with social distancing and quarantining for the foreseeable future, but please, open the outdoors, just a little bit. I get National Parks being closed. But trailheads with no bathroom and it’s literally just a parking lot and a wide trail and the woods? Why do we have to close those?

It feels like there has to be some middle ground between total state lockdowns and letting the virus roam free. Make county-by-county or state-by-state decisions or something, which I guess is kinda what’s happening as no one in the White House has the skills or temperament to lead us through this.

Unfortunately, this whole pandemic has become yet another politically divisive issue. People point fingers and blame each other.

Still, there have been some inspiring stories. The good of humanity continues to endure.

I’m sure you will hear us tell stories about this one day, as my parent’s heard stories about World War II, or your grandparent’s heard stories from their parents about what it was like to live through The Great Depression.

What a time to be alive! 

Oh, great, now I see from my news feed that giant murderous hornet have recently invaded Washington! *deep breath*

Now I must return to the kitchen to feed my sourdough starter and check on the kombucha fermenting on the counter.

May 3rd 2020

We broke quarantine and headed to Hood River to pick you up and stay the night. We went to see your Great Grandpa at his senior care facility as well. I feel so bad for him. He’s all alone in his senior living center. The old folks there cannot eat together. They cannot walk together. Bingo is out. As are all other games and activities. They are basically forced to sit in their rooms and await the meals placed outside their door.

We said hello to Great-Grandpa Rogers on the back patio, keeping appropriate distance and making sure you did not touch anything. As bad as I feel for your Great Grandpa, the last thing I want to do is to be an asymptomatic carrier for COVID-19 that then unleashes it at an old folks home unknowingly.

Afterwards we took a long walk on the Indian Creek trail. Then I helped your my dad hang some plywood in his wood shop. Then we got take out from The Hood River Taqueria and are it alongside Columbia.

“Moon,” you said and pointed to the moon, a pale-white, downward facing Pac Man, barely noticeable in the blue sky.

“Tree” you said and pointed to the green fauna around us.

“Choo choo” you said, as a train sped alongside the Columbia on the Washington side.

“Boat,” you said as a white and red-rusted tug boat fought the current East.

“Blue,” you said and pointed to the water.

While this whole thing has really stretched my patience and mental health, things could be much, much worse. They are for many others. We are doing fine, all things considered.

So, now I say to you others reading this: Stay safe out there friends. We will get through this.



Please follow and like us:

The Best Pizza Joints in Portland-A Guide by Levi Rogers

If you’ve seen my stomach, you know that I consume a lot of pizza—and bagels, and booze, and A LOT of salad actually (heavy on the croutons), but mostly, pizza! Pizza’s been my favorite food since like, forever, and while I used to consume a fair amount of frozen pizzas and Pizza Hut (remember those Pizza Hut Reading Rewards you would get for reading and then eating at Pizza Hut? Weren’t those just the best!) now my taste for pizza has elevated (as has my standard for coffee, beer, wine, and other food). So here lies a guide to my favorite pizza joints in Portland—the pizza capitol of the West Coast. I used to live in Salt Lake City and they had virtually no good pizza until a couple years ago (From Scratch, Fireside, Este, and Pizza Nono notwithstanding, The Pie is just plain gross) so I was very excited to move back here.

And, with this whole Coronavirus-Covid-19 thing, pizza is one thing you can definitely still get as take-out from many places and local businesses. Thank God! Support your local pizza restaurant!

            A few things first. Lists are kind dumb, I know. Every place on here is great. They’re just different and it really comes down to what kind of pizza you prefer—Deep dish, Detroit-style, New Haven, Neapolitan? (Will explain each of these below).

Also, I really don’t get the hate for Hawaiian pizza. I have excellent culinary taste (in wine, coffee, and pizza I’ll have you know) and one of my favorite pizzas is Hawaiian, (if it’s done right). One of my current favorite pies comes from Pizza Jerk on NE 42nd called “It’s Always Sunny in Cully,” and it has pepperoni, pineapple, basil, Bunk hot peppers, and honey. It’s slightly spicy and sweet and just the best.

So without further ado, here is my totally subjective list of the best pizza places in Portland.

The Best:

  • Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty (N Mississippi)

Seasonal farm-to-table creative toppings make this an elevated technique on the pizza genre. Vibe is warm and cozy and they also have the best ice cream in town. I’ve only been here once which should tell you how much it stood out in my mind. You’ll probably have to wait (make it a nice date night) but take a stroll up Mississippi to Paxton Gate and check out all the strange but fascinating taxonomic gift store.

  • Apizza Scholl’s (SE Hawthorne)

The #1 spot for pizza for most Portland people and critics. I pretty much agree. New haven-style pizza (thin crust, charred) with an arcade room. Nothing on the menu is particularly inventive but everything is just done better than everywhere else. As good old racist Papa John’s once said, “Better toppings, better ingredients, better pizza,” except that it’s actually freaking true in this case. You can only have 2-3 toppings per pie and there’s no substitutions cause the customer is not always right. You have to wait in line for a while unless you’re like me and have kids in which case go as soon as they open their doors at 5 on a Tuesday.

  • Red Sauce (NE Fremont and 47th)

Charred crust, great combinations and balance, and solid consistency time after time. A “pretty good” place that is now one of my favorites. Also New-Haven style it mixes the seasonal ingredients of Lovely’s with the charred crust and traditional toppings of Apizza.

  • Pizza Jerk (NE 42nd)

New haven style pizza with some of the most creative menu options.

  • Dove Vive (NE Glisan and 28th)

The word for this place begins and ends with their crust. It’s a cornmeal crust that’s unlike any other pizza place in town and seasonally creative toppings make it one-of-a-kind.

Handsome Pizza
  • Handsome Pizza (Ne Killingsworth and 18th

Handsome Pizza is really good, It’s wood-fired pizza with excellent and creative toppings. However, I am just not a fam of whole-wheat crust and have never been able to find a pie of theirs that really did it for me. But it’s good enough to stay on the list for sure!

  • Pizzeria Otto (NE Sandy and 67th)

This place is proudly Neapolitan in their approach to pizza (special Italian tomatoes and only mozzarella cheese) and refuses to char their crust or make it “crunchy” focusing instead on having a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth type crust. I admire the approach of Neapolitan style pizza and it’s emphasis on tradition, and I also appreciate that Pizzeria Otto is the closest pizza joint to my house, but I really just prefer charred crust New-Haven style Pizza.

  • Sizzle Pie (W Burnside and others)

Sizzle Pie has classic street pizza and great vegan options. It’s greasy. They play loud music, and you can’t go wrong.

  • Ranch Pizza (NE Dekum)

This is Detroit-style pizza (think thick cut of squares) and it is delicious and my favorite takeout. But it’s also greasy and really bready and kinda sticks in your stomach for a while as if you’ve just eaten a whole loaf of bread (which you kinda have) like but I love it even more for this reason. This what you want to eat when you’re ready to lie on the couch Sunday afternoon and watch T.V. the rest of the day.

  • Life of Pie (N Williams and NW 23rd)

Really solid, wood-fired pizza with a good deal on

Honorable Mentions:

Double Mountain and Rogue: Really good pies for a brewery! Seriously, but you can also tell it’s not their main event.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza (SE 28th)

I have not had this pizza and so I can’t evaluate it but I hear it’s great and is next on my list!

Scottie’s Pizza Parlor (SE 28th and Division)

I had a slice from here once and it was amazing. Note to self: NEED to go back soon!

Also Haven’t Had but REALLY Want to Try: Secret Pizza Society Blackbird, East Glisan Pizza, Oven and Shaker.

Not quite:

SweetHeart (SW Waterfront and Lloyd District) Good, but inconsistent. It totally depends on who’s making your pizza. When I worked at this coffee shop called Con Leche in the South Waterfront, we would trade coffee for pizza with a SweetHeart location across the street (we got the better end of the deal by far). Whenever this one girl was working the pizzas were bomb, freaking amazing. And whenever these two bros were making the same thing they seemed kinda, I don’t bland, especially as they cooled. SweetHeart does have a pretty salty crust though, which I like.

Breakfast pizza from SweetHeart

Pizzicato (Multiple Locations) It’s fine. I consider it like Chipotle in that it’s informal, good slices, and fast.

21st Century Pizza and Escape from New York: Solid NY slices, but nothing worth writing about.

Hogan’s Goat Pizza (NE Sacremento and 52nd) This pizza is really good. At first I though it was Goat Cheese only pizza but it’s all regular and good stuff. They also have brunch and a pastry chef on hand.

Bella Pizza: Great spot for slices on Alberta and 18th.

Via Chicago (Alberta and 18th): Excellent deep dish pizza named after a Wilco song, what more could you want? This Chicago deep dish style isn’t really my personal preference for pizza but it’s still really good.

Baby Doll: I hear it’s good!

Definitely not:

Hot Lips: I ate too much Hot Lips in college (sometimes even dumpstered Hot Lips) and so now I just can’t stomach it. Sorry Hot Lips! It’s probably not you, it’s me.

Pizza Schmizza: I don’t get it. There was too much cheese and it all felt kinda thrown together and not balanced.

Best Frozen Pizza:

Screamin Sicilian, Digiorno (of course), and sometimes you just really need a Tony’s or Red Baron pizza. The CPK pizzas are overpriced and terrible and Freschetta is just like the poor cousin to Digiorno and there many fancy frozen pizzas out there at Whole Food but for the price you might as well just order a large pie for $20 from somewhere local.

Also, I won’t even bother with those national chains because if you live in Portland there’s absolutely no excuse to go there!

What did I miss? Tell me!

Also, I like to make pizza. The biggest problem with making pizza is not having a pizza oven. Whenever I’m rich and famous the first thing I’m going to buy is a pizza oven (or make one) and then I’m going to buy a legit-one group espresso machine.

Here’s all you need to make your own pizza dough. The only annoying thing is that for best results you need to let sit overnight in the fridge:

4 ½ cups of flour

2 tbsps. of yeast

2 tbsp. of olive oil

2 teaspoons of salt

1 and ¾ cup warm water

Dissolve yeast into warm water in a bowl and let sit for two minutes. Mix in rest of ingredients. Mix and knead for 4-5 minutes on a floured surface until solid ball takes shape. Cut into 4 different slices and roll these into balls. Put two in the refrigerator for tomorrow night and two in the freezer for next week.

Please follow and like us:

You Can’t Afford to Be This Quiet

You Can’t Afford to be This Quiet

Honey and lemon
flow across my tongue
a hot toddy with a thick body
thicker, at least, than the rain
that swept into my mouth

earlier this evening
under the metal
doorway of an apartment building
whose walls you could eat off of.

This, when the sky was lighter
(And the violence too, at least I like to think)

Everything lighter with tea
and whiskey,
silence and space.

You can’t afford to be this quiet.

No really, you can’t afford it.
The rent is ridiculous.

Please follow and like us:

Subscribe To Levi’s Writing!

Do you want to get more writing from Levi Rogers? Subscribe! (Everybody’s Subscribing These Days) You’ll receive monthly email updates on my literary projects and writing-in-the-works as well as special discount codes for coffee and other goodies. You’ll be able to hear personal, everyday details about my life you never knew you needed on topics from mental health, faith, coffee to toddlers pooping in bathtubs.

Please follow and like us:

Where To Find Levi Rogers On The Internet in The Year 2019

Hello Friend!

While this is still, technically, my very poorly updated and designed website, I do most of my writing and art over at Memoirsofabarista.com and on my two Instagram Accounts: @Thebaristamemoirs and @levijustinrogers. Please like and follow me there if you like!

I don’t do much writing on this website anymore, but I keep it up to make sure it’s easy for any and all literary agents to find me in case they are trying to sign me for a million dollar book deal.

Here are a couple selections I’ve published this past year I’m very proud of:


Unraveling the Mystery of Coffee Prices: One Roaster’s Journey

Please follow and like us:

Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.


We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.



For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.


However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.


Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!


My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.


I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)


Please follow and like us:

Thoughts, re Church


I’ve had a couple conversations with folks in the last two weeks that have made me think of something I haven’t thought about in some time. So here goes a couple things I’ve been thinking about re Church. This does not have to do with one specific church or denomination but with many American churches as a whole. For those who don’t I grew up conservative Evangelical and have had a tenuous and messy relationship with it for some time. It becomes exacerbated at times by nationalist politics and a bunch of other crap, but it’s still there, and as much as I’d like to toss it, I can’t.

I probably won’t respond to all your comments so feel free to make a voodoo doll out of me and stick pins it. Or just ignore this post and watch it drift away into the annals of Facebook algorithms.

1. The Veneer of Openness
While most churches claim to be open, accepting, and loving, there comes a time when you’ve been in it long enough that you realize this acceptance is superficial. Sure, many of those in power claim that you belong regardless of one’s doubts, sexual orientation, questions, interpretation of theology, etc., but when it comes to really belonging, participating in leadership, etc., many churches expect these people to have it dialed and lined up with church hierarchy/leadership. And while I believe many of those who claim openness exist are doing so honestly, it seems the funnel of belief always trends towards a certain dogma and black and white theology I cannot get behind anymore. I think churches have the right to define their own theology and set up whatever lines and boundaries they want. Just don’t claim to also be accepting of everyone. Often this acceptance is a veneer, acceptance in principle only, but if you believe that person’s lifestyle is wrong or that person’s theology is wrong then how much can you really accept them? One often finds that this openness is a closed system in which things are relegated to binaries–male/female/good/evil/conservative/liberal/pro-life/pro/choice/protestant/catholic.The world I interact with is too complex for such simple reductions (just my phenomenological experience though). This black and white theology or all-or-nothing thinking can also become a cognitive distortion leading to extremist beliefs.

2. Grace Covers All, (Except Your Theology)
This was recently pointed out to me by a friend who I’ve had numerous conversations with over the years who has also left church for the time being but who I think has the precise intellectual ability to put things in terms I’ve never thought about. So, while many evangelical/protestant Christian profess a theology of grace, this grace will cover one’s actions but not one’s doubts and/or “errors” in theology by those in power who claim to have a corner on the capital T truth. So, if you’re a married man who cheats on his wife but you’re also a neo-calvinist who is a an otherwise good guy and one who repents–grace covers you. But if you’re married man who doesn’t cheat on his wife but has a slightly more liberal view of scripture, well, then you’re an apostate. Grace does not cover you. I speak in reductionary terms merely to prove a point (and use neo-calvinist for a reason, because often these are the types of churches that seem “edgy” and cool with a bunch of tattoed dudes getting microbrews after church) but is really nothing more than some patriarchal conservatism. I already see your point coming about how churches have to have some structure and theology to function–whether it’s the Nicene Creed or some other catechism–so point taken, and I agree. But my questions is does grace cover errors in belief as much as errors in action? Because it seems, from a certain vantage point that one is more important than the other. Am I going to hell because I don’t have the “right” beliefs? It sure seems that way when you start bringing things like this up.

Anyways, I don’t read much Christian lit anymore but I guess you could say some of these ideas are inspired by Richard Rohr, Peter Rollins, and other contemporary (primarily women) authors who have existed outside the primarily male zeitgeist for many years. To say nothing of the racial disparity.

I feel dialogues on the internet never go well but if you have any thoughts lmk. As much as I hate the internet/social media if other avenues and venues remain closed to certain POV’s then people are going to take the dialogue elsewhere.

Please follow and like us: