I was standing outside the J.Crew near Pioneer Square when I saw him walking toward me. This is Portland, and college is out, so I knew exactly what was going to happen. I tried to look busy – checking my cell phone, looking at my watch, rifling through my briefcase – but it didn’t matter. He had marked me from half a block away. My body clenched with dread as he approached.
Hey, I wanted to talk to you for a minute about something that’s really important to me and you, and that’s how we’re destroying the earth with our consumerism and wastefulness. Are you familiar with Greenpeace?
I shift uncomfortably back and forth, knowing that I just missed the last train, and the next one will be at least ten more minutes. Yes, I’m familiar with Greenpeace.
Oh, that’s great. You know, it’s just such a crime that schools today don’t teach us about our rights. They only teach us about a few of the amendments. I mean, they don’t teach us all of them. The government only wants you to hear…
I look at him – tall, skinny, long straight hair and unblinking dark eyes. He can’t be more than 22. He’s clutching his clipboard and gesturing wildy as he tells me about the crimes against our environment. It’s clear (to me) that I’m not interested, but it’s equally clear that he’s not going anywhere.
I mean, it almost hurts me to be standing next to this sweat shop, there’s such negative energy flowing from the building where they force children in third world countries…
I ask him if he wants to move a few steps away. A nearly imperceptible smile sneaks across his face, then quickly disappears.
Yeah, actually I do. Let’s get away from all these bad vibes.
We take three steps toward the street.
So aren’t you worried about the rape of the forests and the pollution of our oceans and lakes? Aren’t you worried about what’s going to be left for your children?
Sure I am. That’s terrible, but…
But what? All it takes is a minimum donation of $10 a month to help. Don’t you ever wonder why there’s no love in the world anymore? Don’t you wonder that? You know why? Because we’re all pumping our bodies full of chemicals from the big corporations who want to destroy all our forests. You know what they don’t tell you? They don’t tell you that we can go into the forests and pick spearmint and make toothpaste and kill the bacteria on our teeth. We don’t need big factories like Colgate to make toothpaste for us. But they don’t want you to…
I look at his teeth and see that his bottom ones are chipped. I think he could be attractive if he didn’t have crazy fixed eyes. And he’s far too skinny. I look back over my shoulder as I hear a train coming. It’s the red line. I need the blue.
And why do we have so much violence in schools? Because we aren’t teaching kids the right things. We’re just teaching them to grow up and buy shit… excuse my language, I’m just really passionate about this. And it’s because we shove our kids in front of the TV for 12 hours a day and feed them Froot Loops and let them…
I tell him that actually, I kind of like Froot Loops. Again, the tiniest hint of a smile crosses his lips.
But that’s just it! We can make healthy Froot Loops… I mean, do you eat organic?
No, not really. I can’t stand the way organic peanut butter separates into oil and peanuts.
Oh, man. Are you serious? You don’t eat organic?
He actually looks hurt, and I almost feel bad for not liking the peanut butter. Dude, I’m from Chicago. We eat hot dogs for breakfast there.
Oh, I’m from Michigan, man! I totally get it! Where I grew up, it was all rednecks and football and cars… huntin’ and fishin’ and shit. They didn’t care about the earth. They didn’t care about Native Americans.
Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t really fit in there, huh?
No, not at all. That’s why I had to leave. I didn’t have anything when I left, man – I came out here alone. Nothing from my mom or my dad. Well, sometimes my mom will send me $50.
But that probably doesn’t go very far.
I ask him what brought him to Portland, and he tells me the music. So you’re a musician, I ask, and he tells me that yes, he is. What do you play, you play the guitar, don’t you? And his eyes get big and he smiles for real this time and says totally. And he sings and plays the congas and the bass, too. How’s the music scene here? Are you in a band?
I’m trying to, but it’s hard. It’s all indie music and punk music and negative energy here. But I’m trying. I used to be negative, too, but then I found Buddha and Jesus. That’s why I just care so much about the environment.
I’ll bet you’re really good, because I can tell you’ve got a musician’s soul. You’ve got a lot of positive energy – you could probably reach a lot of people with your music.
Yeah? Thanks!
I hear my train arriving, so I tell him I have to go. I reach out to shake his hand and he pauses, then grabs my hand.
God bless!
I flash him a smile and wave as I step on the train.

19 Responses to “Peace”

  1. teahouseblossom Says:

    How lovely! I feel like I just got a snapshot of a moment in your life. Beautiful writing.

  2. asia Says:

    that is so totally portland

  3. RW Says:

    I think I met him in 1972! Cripes, he’s in Portland now?

  4. Strode Says:

    That kid is an anachronism. Annoying to those in the mainstream. Let’s see if he still has the idealism after the world has beat him down a bit. Next time someone approaches you, say this:
    “I used to be a member of Greenpeace, and then I got bit by a mountain lion. That changed everything boy. Now I know that nature is evil.”
    Yup, that should do it.

  5. jenny Says:

    thb: well, thanks! i always did have a soft spot for little hippie boys. :)
    asia: tewtelly!
    RW: and he hasn’t aged a day! maybe there really is something to those healthy froot loops…
    strode: surprisingly, kids like that are almost the norm in portland. and since i once fancied myself a hippie (but mostly just made beaded necklaces and went to poetry slams), i had to cut him some slack.

  6. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    You appear to be an expert at finding wiggle room in conversations involving donations and forest rape. You made it look easy. Kudos.
    The ironic thing about “eating organic” is that it generally costs twice as much and often sucks (your peanut butter reference was perfect). You’d think it would at least be a little cheaper.

  7. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    You appear to be an expert at finding wiggle room in conversations involving donations and forest rape. You made it look easy. Kudos.
    The ironic thing about “eating organic” is that it generally costs twice as much and often sucks (your peanut butter reference was perfect). You’d think it would at least be a little cheaper.

  8. heather anne Says:

    But seriously, that separated peanut and oil thing is just gross. Give me Jiffy or give me…well, don’t give me peanut butter.

  9. Miss Britt Says:

    AWWWWW, you made so nice with the hippy! Like, genuinely, seriously nice.
    You’re really a hippy, aren’t you?

  10. jenny Says:

    sir: well, i discovered that if i suddenly interviewed him, he stopped talking about the rape of the forests. i think greenpeace might be a bit of a cult – these kids just get roped in… :)
    heather anne: no kidding – is there anything worse than organic peanut butter? oh yeah – salt-free organic peanut butter! blech!
    miss britt: i’m totally a hippie, except i like to bathe, refuse to sleep outside, work in corporate america, eat processed foods, and don’t go on vision quests. i guess what i’m saying is that sometimes i like to burn incense and listen to white rabbit.

  11. Cheryl Says:

    I agree with Hippie Boy that we should buy less stuff from sweatshops, and less stuff in general, and stop raping the land. That said, I never met a soybean that didn’t taste better partially hydrogenated.

  12. Dave2 Says:

    Ah yes… Jenny’s got her game on, flirting with the hippies and breaking hearts from coast to coast! I am completely horrified by organic foods. They always taste like they’ve been rolled in dirt or coated with glue or something terrible. :-P

  13. shari Says:

    You’re no hippie… you’re just a journalist at heart, capable of turning an “interview” into an “inquisition.” Hey!… are you sure you’re not a lawyer?

  14. Churlita Says:

    I think that guy was in Iowa City last summer hassling me. I wasn’t as nice as you, though. I just told him I gave at the office.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    That boy makes me happy and I am going to try to brush my teeth with mint leaves. Cheers to loving the land and our fellow human beings and the animals too. I didn’t know about hotdogs for breakfast. That’s horrifying!

  16. margaret Says:

    What knd of world would it be if we all turned our noses at hotdogs and ate only organic product? What woud we do wth the extra stuff? ?SAUSAGES? oRGANIC CHTTERLNGS?

  17. jenny Says:

    cheryl: see – i agree, it’s all about moderation. if i can give up my sweatshops, than they can give up their tofurkey.
    dave2: i think they all taste like cardboard.
    shari: a lawyer? bite your tongue! god, anything but that, i mean… oh wait. uh… yeah. lawyers are cool and sh*t.
    churlita: does that still work? i’ll have to bring that one out of retirement. :)
    vivian: cool – i’m glad to hear it, because i did tell him i have friends who eat organic, and i gave him your number. at work.
    margaret: i shudder to think what that world would be like.

  18. Abigail Says:

    I totally thought of this on Saturday when I ran into some petition types in Pasadena.
    “Do you have a minute for the environment?” they called out as I passed by quickly.
    “No,” I responded, with a little more attitude than I intended. “I mean, I have a minute for the environment, it’s just not right now. I love the environment! Look! I’m drinking water!”
    I embarrass my friends a lot.

  19. Pants Says:

    My dad threw a fit in Whole Foods one day because technically everything we eat is “organic matter”. Which is all fine and dandy, it’s just that I don’t think the produce stockers in Whole Foods have all that much control.

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