Culture Fail

keep-portland-weird-jpgAnnual Naked Bike Ride Keeps Portland Weird
By Patrick Fancher

Let me start off by saying I love to visit Portland, whether it’s to take in a Blazer game, check out the unique restaurants/bars and shops, or just simply people watch. The sight of the Rose City in all of its glorious weirdness is well worth the price of gas or a bus ticket.

However, there’s one yearly attraction some Portlanders hold near and dear in their hearts that I have no desire to see: thousands of people riding bikes naked throughout the city. Last Saturday marked the 11th annual World Naked Bike Ride, which reportedly presented many full-on, partially (someone’s being bashful), and painted nude folks peddling the streets in not just Portland but in more than 75 other cities around the country.

The purpose of this event is actually an admirable one, not just an excuse to show off the ol’ birthday suit. The bike ride is a protest of our dependence on foreign oil, as well as a sign of cyclists’ vulnerability on roadways. It’s quite the symbol of unity—I get that.

But why naked?

Nude cycling is an activity Jerry Seinfeld would likely deem “bad naked.” In all honesty it makes me feel sorry for the bike seat more than the onlookers. And apparently this event has even sparked a little debate among Oregonians as to whether it’s no big deal or flat-out gross. I’m no prude, but there are more appropriate opportunities to expose your junk and support a good cause, meaning not at the same time and place. Is there no compromise that would be easier on the eyes and still get the message across?

Like it or not, the naked bike ride is another famous tradition dedicated to keeping Portland as weird as ever.

Keep Corvallis Not Weird
By Sidney Reilly

How do I put this without sounding like a contrarian crank…? Let’s keep Corvallis un-weird.

Just doesn’t have the same pop…

Here’s the thing about being weird: it’s only really cool if you can set it off against something. Which is to say, “counterculture” needs a culture to be counter to. If every Tom, Dick, and Johnny Come-Lately in the 70s had a mohawk, cut up their jeans, and started huffing glue, the Ramones wouldn’t be cool. They’d be Nickelback. Everything in life exists as a reaction to something else, to some extent. Just ask Justin Bieber… or Isaac Newton.

I’ve lived in places where the dominant ideology is as buttoned-up as a temperance league, as well as places where you need to keep an app on your phone to let you know which words are currently acceptable and which have become politically incorrect. The one constant is that the coolest people in either place are the ones going against the grain.

But the key is the going against the grain, not the level of ideological purity. Even when you more or less agree with the core message, there’s something distinctly uncool, un-weird, about being “weird.” At least if everyone else is, too.

All of this is to recommend that Corvallis’ counterculture scene—its alternative newspaper, punk bands, activists, hackers, and dissidents—are all better served sticking out against a backdrop of rural conservatism than by blending in, disappearing, in a camouflage of dreadlocks, old-timey mustaches, and pink spiked hair.

Let’s not keep Corvallis “weird,” let’s keep it idiosyncratic, textured, and full of different people, so everyone can be cool, rebelling against something else.

Either that or let’s all just get Johnny Ramone haircuts and look awesome.