Oh Hi, Mark

Last Friday Coral, Jordan, Atlas, and I went to see one of the worst movies ever made.

On purpose.

In the process, we got to experience one of Portland’s (arguably) coolest local offerings: Cinema 21. The movie theater, located on 21st street, always offers more small-screen, carefully curated fare than other large blockbuster theaters. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to see a few amazing films there that I couldn’t catch anywhere else; The Red ShoesThe Illusionist, and Tarkovsky’s Stalker to name a few. That night, we went to see The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 drama—a movie many film critics have called “the worst film of all time.” The theater was offering an interactive viewing, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Not only was I pumped to go to an interactive viewing of one of the most terrible movies ever, I had actually already gone to see an interactive viewing for The Room at Cinema 21 a few years previous. To be fair, Tommy himself was at this viewing, and his strange behavior during the Q&A proceeding the film will definitely go down as one of my most cherished high school memories. Safe to say that I’d enjoyed myself at this viewing so much that as soon as tickets were available for last Friday, I was already asking my MISC classmates if they wanted to come.

Even without Tommy, The Room didn’t disappoint during a second public viewing. As the four of us queued up at the front of a line that wrapped all the way around the block, we started seeing people dressed in khaki pants, blazers, and dark sunglasses. Some even wore dark curly-haired wigs; their transformation into Johnny, the main character of The Room, was uncanny. Portlanders were going all out for this movie. I knew this was gonna be good.

I was also nervous, and excited, to bring along Atlas and Jordan, neither of whom had seen the film before; interactive viewings are intense. In the lobby of theater used to stand a giant, poster board sized sign that delineated when and how audiences of The Room are ‘suggested’ to interact with the masterpiece. In practice, things are a little less organized: over the course of the film, lines are screamed, sound effects are enthusiastically improvised, and there are intermittent cries of “SPOONS!” followed by hail storms of—you guessed it-- plastic spoons, prompted by onscreen setpieces.

However, despite the barrage of utensils, we all got through the movie intact and I think I speak for all of us when I say I had a fantastic time. Normally, I’m one for keeping quiet in the movie theater and letting the film wash over you, drawing you into its narrative. With that in mind, I can safely say that the interactive viewing of The Room is possibly the best way to enjoy the film—there’s something about watching adults scream “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!!” in a crowded theater, complete with hand gestures, that smacks of community, or even something uniquely Portland.

But who knows; maybe it’s the nonsensical cuts, the random football tossing, or Wiseau’s brilliant line delivery that just makes for a plain fantastic time. 

–Lucy Stevens

Sticking to a Deadline: One Man’s Search For Sticker Stardom

I grasped the plastic coated in pressure sensitive adhesive, admiring the multitude of colors and neat design emblazoned on it. A sticker from KBOO a gleaming radio tower with a red, Sovietesque star perched on top of the broadcast tower. The teal green sticker sits on my laptop now—a reminder of the independent radio station where it came from.

Over the past few weeks I’ve realized that Portland is a literal treasure trove for stickers. Erin Yanke of KBOO even said that she was giving us one sticker for our laptops and one for our bikes. I think the proliferation of stickers has something to do with the obscene number of people who enjoy biking way too much here. Nevertheless, the sticker that I received at KBOO hasn’t been the only sticker that I’ve proudly affixed to my clear MacBook Speck Case.

Looking at my laptop and my burgeoning collection of stickers I had an epiphanic moment: the stickers all tell a story. Whether it’s the sticker from KBOO that speaks of the rushed vox pop projects we attempted to complete there, or the Powell’s Books sticker that ushers in memories of a scavenger hunt gone horribly wrong, the little pieces of plastic aren’t just decoration. Here are some of the moments that stuck with me in Portland.

The Powell’s Books sticker that I meticulously cut to size with scissors to maintain room on my laptop is a reminder of the scavenger hunt where my wayward sense of direction didn’t help us in the slightest. We made it to Powell’s with no trouble. The sign is huge and the clue was obvious, but after that our group got horribly lost and behind. And it was irrevocably All. My. Fault. My sense of direction has never been good. The advent of Google Maps doesn’t help it either. I can hardly get around the city of Richmond where I lived for twenty years and still sometimes use GPS to get home. So, no surprise that in an entirely new city, Portland, my hopeless bravado and directionally challenged brain took us the complete opposite direction on multiple occasions. We ended up catching a TriMet bus to gain ground on the other groups scavenging. Luckily, my sense of direction didn’t put us on the wrong bus. I did venture back to Powell’s later that night though and have the fond memory of Roxane Gay signing a copy of her new book Hunger for me.

Another sticker highlight happened this past weekend when I went to the Mississippi Street Fair. I biked over to the fair and was wandering around in bearable heat when I came across a local artist’s booth. The artist was offering free stickers for an Instagram follow. Me, being the sticker aficionado that I am, recognized his artistic talent and followed him almost immediately. In return, he gave me a skillfully drawn sticker of a bird being held by a pair of creepy looking hands. So, not the happiest vibe for a street fair, but I wasn’t going to turn down a sticker that cool.

I remember the best parts of the Street Fair were the aroma of smoked barbecue from the BBQ ribs competition wafting around, a kindly man with a bubble machine making his way around the festival, and discovering an array of inventive graphic tees. One t-shirt had a picture of bike and the words “Put the Fun Between Your Legs” printed on it. It was a great experience to see droves of people gathering to buy community art, support local vendors, and eat local food.

Most recently I acquired a new sticker on Monday for X Ray FM Radio. We were meeting with Jefferson Smith and talking about the democratization of radio. X Ray FM is based in the basement of the Falcon Art Community at 5415 Albina Ave and the hallways are filled with grandiose paintings. We were informed on multiple occasions by both Phil and Jeff that many of the paintings were the work of Saddam Hussein’s portrait artist who was smuggled into the country.

Monday wasn’t the first time I saw X Ray FM’s digs because during the scavenger hunt we had made a foray into the space and taken pictures of the outlandish paintings. That Monday though, after Jeff’s lecture, I left with a tiny souvenir of the day and it wasn’t the notes I’d taken on the talk or the talk itself, but it was the X Ray FM sticker that was given out afterward.

Thinking back on the stickers I’ve picked up thus far this trip has helped me catalogue a lot of the memories that I’ve made so far, but not all of them.

The stickers don’t tell the tale of rushing on a bus on Fourth of July to catch the Hawthorne Bridge fireworks with Theo and Lucy. Or, that same day abandoning a Reed party where people entertained themselves by flipping hammers and hammering nails while getting hammered themselves (but not by actual hammers).

They also wouldn’t tell you about the David Lynch retrospective I went to on Friday night where I met Theo and Jessica to see Eraserhead. They definitely don’t tell you about the surprise fire alarms that were set off in the midst of the film or about David Lynch’s early work. The struggle catching the last bus home later that night in an effort to get groceries from Safeway is definitely not commemorated by stickers.

I think the most significant part of this summer that stickers don’t cover is my personal struggle to stick to a deadline. With so many things going on in Portland and so many worthwhile organizations to make a radio or documentary piece on the toughest part of the whole thing is distilling it down and quickly. The program is flying by and, as I discussed with Atlas on Sunday, after this week we’ll only have four weeks left of Portland and four weeks left to see our fellow MISCies. There’s still plenty of time to try to stick to deadlines though. I hope there’s still time to get more stickers. I’m cautiously optimistic about all of it, but hey, at least I’m optimistic.

—Jordan Joseph

Two Brief Moments in Portland


The first day back in Portland, I'm almost late for class.

I'm on the eastbound MAX refreshing Google Maps every other minute. The bus schedule says 1:40.

The MAX arrives on time; I rush to the bus station 300 feet away. The bus is supposed to be there in two minutes, but as my 2pm class approaches, I see no sign of the bus.

I'm getting worried. On Google maps, “delayed 2 mins” “delayed 4 mins” “delayed 8 mins”—the number keeps going up. I finally get on the bus at 1:53, and when I rush into to Citizen, class is just getting started.

I have a lot to say about the Portland public transportation system. The same thing happens again over the next couple of days—either late or early, the bus almost never arrives on time.

A couple days later, when I am on my way home, the bus takes a long stop next to Citizen. The ramp comes down, and two people sitting across from me move from their seats. Our driver steps down, lifts the handicapped seats, and helps a woman in a wheelchair move into the bus. The whole process takes about 4 minutes. That’s why buses are never on time—because people's needs must be taken care of. 

My best friend from high school who studied in France told me that while he was there, he always complained how French people have a habit of procrastination and inefficiency. Yet before he had to leave, he thought back and suddenly realized France might have been one of the countries that respond best to its citizens’ needs.

I started to appreciate Portland a little bit more.


On the 4th of July I don't go out to one of the big parties nor to see the fireworks—I go to Madi’s host home, where they are having a low-key potluck BBQ in their backyard.

It's a beautiful backyard, with the fragrance of lavender, shade from tall trees, and wind chimes tinkling overhead. Madi tells me her host, Birgit, is a photographer from Germany. She’s a tall woman, both arms tattooed, and I noticed a newly tattooed German verse on her right arm.

“Were you there when the Berlin Wall came down?” I ask her.

“Oh, I was doing it!” she says with pride. “I just flew back to Germany, dropped my bags at my parents house and I was like, ‘Bye! Off to Berlin!’”

Fireworks start to boom throughout the neighborhood. I imagine Birgit's figure within the monochromic footage I've seen on TV—I have a hard time registering that a real person, having gone through a major moment in world history, is sitting right in front of me. She witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, but she is also one of us, lives in Portland, and likes biking and art. She is one of the many interesting people Portland has brought to me so far.

-Coral Yang

Dispatch from a Scavenger Hunt Champion

I haven’t been on a hunt since I was ten. I vividly remember listening to "Another One Bites the Dust" as the cold air dug its claws into me. I dug through the spring snow to find the last treasure. Every handful of snow I dug, I was an inch closer to glory: a plastic oblong sphere. I couldn’t stop looking, no matter how cold I was. I had forgotten that feeling until today. As we were let loose on the western bridge city, I felt a rush of energy flow into my caffeine-lacking, just-awoken body. We were going to win.

I never lost hope, whether Emily was toughing it up the Burnside bridge or Lucy was bandaging her injured toe. Sure, we may not have been the underdogs, as two of the three of us were familiar with the territory, but that didn’t mean we were lacking heart. From our lack of forethought on meal planning to our garb, we gave ourselves roadblocks. But we were eager to overcome.

Halfway through, we had the lead. We couldn’t lose. But sure enough, as we returned our steeds to their stables, a group of four emerged from the heat-distorted horizon. Beat by beat, neck and neck, our two groups battled through the environment. As we realized we would be stuck together for the next few stops, the tension subsided. We could rest. But only for a moment, as out of the corner of my eye, three figures loomed large behind us. How could this be happening. It was them. The last three. It was down to the wire.

The final minutes of the hunt were a blur. I remember responding to Jordan’s “it’s not a competition, bro” with a sharp “life’s a competition.” I remember Emily seeking any water she could find, throat parched, stomach screaming for sustenance. I remember Lucy yelling “go, go, go!” as the final stop came into view.

Against all odds, we prevailed. Sure, Molly and Phil reiterated how this hunt was not a competition, but we knew deep down they were proud we had won. We were unsure as to how our peers would react to finding out they hadn’t conquered the 2017 MISC scavenger hunt, but our sweat-drenched clothes warded off any who dared oppose us. Sometimes people say I take things too seriously. Take this seriously: we were the champions.

–Atlas Finch