The subject of screens returns to this blog entry, as I had a strange sighting on one recently, while visiting my hometown, Portland, Oregon, for a Rotary peace conference. Television in the USA may well be the one thing that gives me culture shock in my own country. While in the US one evening, I ended up one at a gathering in a house with the CBS TV show Dogs in the City playing in the background. TV is a curiosity for me, and one which helps me understand (and at times fear) my own culture. This viewing induced the latter reaction, when I noticed that behind the head of the show’s perky host was a small framed photograph of what clearly depicted a bloody woman with her face wrapped in plastic. As the host advised a woman on training her blind dog, we were provided close ups of the disturbing image hanging by his head. At a certain point in the show, the image changed to that of a dog, more akin to the other photos in the room. If you have on demand, or some other way of watching reruns, check it out for yourself: 6/13/12 episode of Dogs in the City, blind dog episode. Weird weird weird.
Among other cultural surprises, I was shocked to return home and discover that my childhood soccer field had been Astroturfed. Over the past thirty years, my parents’ neighborhood has become increasingly affluent, enabling the local community to easily raise funds for a new plastic field. Some neighbors complain that implanting an expensive soccer field is a slap in the face to other schools in Portland, which are downsizing and even shutting their doors. My complaints about the field are more personal. First, the obvious: a natural grass field has been replaced with plastic and rubber. Those who know me need no explanation as to why I oppose this. Apparently, a plastic field is preferable to a natural one because parents don’t want their kids getting dirty in the rainy fall season. I grew up playing soccer on that field and I recall getting dirty as one of the best parts about playing soccer. The kids in my neighborhood don't play in the forest or the dirt the way my friends and I used to. They are living in an increasingly sterile and convenient world, exacerbated by plastic green spaces. If we can't get our hands, and feet, dirty playing soccer, we won’t be willing to get our hands dirty composting, digging in the garden or appreciating the natural world that produced us. Furthermore, visit the field and you will see red signs prohibiting pets or food on the field. What was once a community space for people to picnic and watch one of the world’s largest annual migrations of vaux swifts (which roost in the chimney visible in the background of my photo below), is now a sports arena that leaves the entire area stinking of rubber.
I will end my complaints here as the field was implanted in dedication of a teacher who recently passed away. I mean no disrespect to him or the people who helped pay for the field. This entry is not really one of complaint but, rather, to express my sadness over the loss of a natural space that I have enjoyed over the past 30 years. In my remorse, I did what any impassioned artist would, I made something. I created weeds from plastic and rubber and planted them next to the field. While I suspect that my esoteric prank will merely confound rather than enlighten the general public, it was the least negative, most cathartic response I could think of during my short trip home. I hope that it will at least spurn people to give a little more thought to the act of astroturf.
My trip home was not merely one of shock and strange encounters. Rather, I spent two weeks in the company of Rotarians and peace fellows exploring the idea of peace at a Peace is Possible conference. It was one of the more valuable experiences I have had since joining the ranks of Rotary Peace Fellows, and I am grateful to have been able to participate. Many thanks to Rotary district 5100 for holding the event. In a few days I will say ‘sayonara’ to Japan, and ‘oai’ to Southern Bhutan.
Happy trails, Taylor