Cricket and Chaos and their Allegro Bay R.V. Photo by Katherine Kimball.

Out today: A new long-form story about a group of people living in vehicles on the edge of the Portland airport. Here’s how Narratively summarizes it:

“At this lawless encampment of rickety RVs, residents face eviction, addiction and machete battles, but their self-made community is the only thing they have.”

The moment Cricket’s life flips upside down begins with a spark, and a gasoline generator. She is lying on her bed, playing with her cell phone in the 1991 Allegro Bay mobile home she shares with her boyfriend, Chaos. The lights go on. Then she hears him scream, “No! No…


Tim McCormick, left, and Andrew Heben at Emerald Village in Eugene, Oregon. Photo by Thacher Schmid.

By Thacher Schmid

In recent years, American homelessness has been on the rise again. In 2015, West Coast cities declared homeless “emergencies.” Since 2017, “Point in Time” counts have risen; some measures see unhoused populations at all-time highs.

Now, due to Covid-19, the numbers could spike higher: as many as 28 million could face eviction in the wake of 40 million layoffs, and one analyst projects a new 43 percent rise.

What to do?

The tiny house village is a solution that has been embraced as low-cost, human-centric, flexible and creative. If Andrew Heben and Tim McCormick are right, it’s…


We watch the pretty colors, the blue and the red, the dizzying backdrops and pretty graphics.

The dance of numbers and data, the ticker tape, a constantly-refreshing menagerie of digits crunched by 3,141 United States counties.

We listen to the authoritative words, the tough tone from guys and gals alike, as the smart, well-dressed “talking heads” work beautiful jaws beneath carefully tweezed brows and ever-heavier makeup, recalling the past, speculating on the future, keeping the ball dancing past exhaustion.

It’s addictive. It’s galvanizing. It can be better than any video game or movie. …


Once in awhile the chorus of an Arlo Guthrie tune my dad used to sing when I was a kid hops, uninvited, into my head.

“Good morning, America, how are you?”

It’s a tough question, these days. We face unprecedented climate change destruction—are wildfires and hurricanes year-round now?—a once-in-a-century pandemic, the worst president in U.S. history.

Our nation’s institutional and cultural dysfunction, though, is hardly limited to plutocratic, red-dyed-in-the-wool Washington, D.C., and it won’t end with a Biden-Harris victory. It’s alive and well in “progressive” places like Portland, my home. …


A protest leader and Chicago 7 trial codefendant has a new book, ‘Conspiracy to Riot’

By Thacher Schmid

Chicago 7/Conspiracy 8 activist, protester and codefendant Lee Weiner’s memoir Conspiracy to Riot came out last week. It barely made a splash in U.S. media, who seem more intent on building hype for movies such as the Aaron Sorkin and Sacha Baron Cohen drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” due next month, and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” due in 2021.

While I talked to him in February, before the pandemic and huge protests in the streets, Weiner’s book, and his take on the late 1960s protest movements, are highly relevant to a protest-heavy 2020.

The…


Johnson cosponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, to make 9–8–8 a national crisis hotline. Amidst a pandemic and historic job losses, could it mitigate a deepening crisis?

We are the stories we tell. But, because ignoring something doesn’t make it go away, we are also the stories we don’t tell.

There’s no story Americans don’t tell, in proportion to lives taken, more than suicide. It’s the tenth leading killer of Americans, the tenth leading cause of death worldwide.

I lost my brother Kyle to suicide in 2008, one of an extraordinary increase of about 10,000 suicides linked to the Great Recession of 2007–2009. I think we need to talk much more openly about suicides.

Sadly, if history’s any guide, the United States may soon be seeing a…


An immigrant story of trauma and love

Melody Lumbang-Stevens holding her newborn son Denzel Mendoza. Photo courtesy Mendoza.

Denzel Mendoza loved his student model King 606 trombone so much he would shower and sleep with it as a sixth grader, his mother, Melody Lumbang-Stevens recalls.

“He’d come back from school and take a shower and clean the trombone, and he’d sleep beside the trombone,” she laughs, still marveling. “The trombone was always in his bed.”

The instrument would become a part of his highest highs—including winning a GRAMMY with John Daversa—and lowest lows.

The day Denzel Mendoza found out his father Eduardo was gone for good—leaving the country to be with a girlfriend—came hours before his first big…


A deeper dive into Portland’s leading antifascist group, a major 2019 demonstration, and related questions and controversies

PopMob organizers say opposing fascism can be fun as well as serious.

“One way that PopMob has influenced my life is seeing the joy in resistance,” said Elizabeth, a member of this leading antifascist organization here in Portland, who declined to give a last name. (The name PopMob is short for “Popular Mobilization.”)

“You can resist, and it can be fun. It can be joyous. You can resist and love. You can make friends doing this. It’s transformative.”

Two unnamed participants at the Pop Mob-organized antifascist protest in Portland, August 17, 2019. Photo by Thacher Schmid.

The approach was very much on display at the PopMob-organized action August 17, 2019. Extreme right-wing groups and much larger counterprotests led…


It was February 10, with temperatures around freezing, under the Hawthorne bridge in downtown Portland. A few dozen homeless people shivered and shuffled, grabbing a plate of hot food from a church “feed,” or a paperback from Street Books, a nonprofit that put out a selection on several folding tables.

“I just look for a simple read,” said Cora, whose learning disability didn’t stop her from grabbing a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “If I don’t have anything to do, at least I have a book to read.”

Cora with her prizes, No Cats Allowed and To Kill A Mockingbird, next to Laura Moulton and a table full of Street Books offerings, on a day so cold Moulton might almost be dancing. Photo by Thacher Schmid

Nothing about the situation was OK, really. Then again, everything was…


In Bridge City, our music community seeks to overcome immigration politics and connect global communities by building bridges, not boundaries.

Illustration by Maria Rodriguez for Vortex Music Magazine (Portland)

Fingering accurate patterns of notes anchored to complex chord changes at 300 beats per minute is something only a few musicians can do. That’s up to three times the speed of the average runner’s heartbeat, or more than twice as fast as the tempo of Lady Gaga’s hit “Bad Romance.”

Count Portland musicians Sebastian Silva and Denzel Mendoza among them.

Silva rips death metal riffs at pulse-pounding speeds on his Jackson Dinky electric guitar. He recently completed two European tours with rising goth rockers Idle Hands.

Mendoza blasts jazz trombone at light speed on his Best American Craftsman Elliot Mason…

Poor for a Minute

We are all poor due to the broken social safety net in the United States, the world’s richest nation. Portfolio, bio, contact: ThacherSchmid.com

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