Pickathon 2022

Pickathon 2022 – a Review

Earlier this Summer I wrote a short piece called Gentle Guidance about how to enjoy this summer’s offerings – as I knew they’d be different and we’d be different. Earlier this Summer I had planned to attend the last String Summit – then I got Covid and had to sell my tickets. I thought that attending Pickathon might assuage some of my remorse and sadness, but like Charlie with the football, it didn’t have quite that effect. I’ve attended Pickathon 3 times before and I thought my visit in 2017 would probably be my last – sadly, much of what I found missing/wrong that year seems to have continued to be part of the festival. But Pickathon does a lot well, too – so I’ll start there before adding the “room for improvement” section.

First of all a little bit more back story. This year there was a very welcoming and friendly Pickathon FB group this year. This was something that was missing the last time I attended, and I was grateful to find it. This group led me to the purchase of a weekend ticket for $300. I also posted that I was seeking a parking pass and a friend reached out and sold me his for $70.  That’s also where I found a Spotify playlist featuring music from all this year’s performers.

Positive: the Pickathon ticket system allows easy transfer of tickets between people – well done!

I dilly-dallied around on Friday and then saw a message that Pickathon had oversold their parking and that parking at the festival was sold out and that people should instead make their way to the Clackamas Transit Center and they’d be shuttled from there. OK, minus one point, but luckily in my case I had friends near the festival I was staying with – so headed to their house and got a personal shuttle to the festival. Once there I was able to get my wristband and parking pass in about 20 minutes of standing around in a weaving line. Great – soon after I walked into the festival and started finding my way.

In 2019 there had been a terrible accident when 2 Guildworks workers had fallen to their deaths after the festival as they were taking down the collection of white fabrics that had flown over the main stage area every year for years. I somewhat expected that that area would have had some sort of memorial, but instead, it felt very empty and simple compared to other years. I met a few friends on the way which was nice as I was traveling solo.

One of the cool things about Pickathon is that it takes place at Pendarvis Farm which is a big property with a lot of woods on a hill. So, all of the stages are on hillsides – either in the woods or in a clearing. There are pathways everywhere and you can go get lost in the woods which is where thousands of participants and volunteers make their homes for the weekend. When I first attended in 2007? or so I recall hardly anyone camping – and even then it was tough to find a place that was level. But nowadays people come early and bring shovels and brush hooks and make camp all over the place. There are also lots of hammocks.

Positive: there are some really fun art pieces that are great to look at during the day and I’m sure are even more fun at night when they’re lit up.

 

Positive: by every music stage there is a DJ stage – when there’s no live music playing a DJ steps up and plays tunes. Most of the DJs are from local stations like KMHD and XRAY.fm – some of my favorite music in 2017 and this year came from the DJs! The DJ stations also had the best fidelity – surprise surprise 🙂

I spent Friday wandering around – seeing some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and trying to avoid breathing in too much dust along the pathways. A couple of people had put together a singles and solos meetup @ 4 pm – and I went to that and had a fun time with those who attended. It reminded me a little of my time at WDS – attending Meetups for a couple of days straight.

Highlight: I got to see Yasmin Williams perform. She’s quite a talent and she also mentioned on the stage that she attended my alma mater – NYU. In all my years of attending musical events, I’d never heard a performer mention NYU before – and my heart nearly leaped out of my mouth. My NYU years were pretty special. It sounds like they might not have been as good for her – but still, it was a fun moment.  The juice/smoothie place at this stage made me ginger carrot apple juice which was delicious!

Another Highlight should have been hearing/watching Nubya Garcia on my favorite stage – The Woods Stage. And here’s where we get right back into a central problem with Pickathon (that I talked about in my 2017 write-up). It’s the same issue I have with many music festivals. I sat for an hour with a new friend leading up to this show. The DJ behind us was from KMHD and was playing some delicious cuts. Eventually, though it was time to get the band ready to play. The sound people spent about a half hour testing out the bass and drums. I think it makes sense to take the time to get it right – but it was the volume that was the problem. Why subject an audience that is there for the music to testing out drums and bass turned up to 11? And this seems to be a common occurrence at Pickathon.

Then, there’s the volume level of the music, in general. A friend send me a video from Pickathon 2010 yesterday and it was so subtle and lovely. You would probably not ever hear that anymore at Pickathon. I sure hope someone at Pickathon reads this – or, perhaps take a freaking poll?  Pickathon goers – do you want to hear all the music at such a high volume that you and your kids should probably be wearing significant ear protection all weekend? People – save your hearing! There’s also the general cacophony aspect – if you click on the fun video image above – you’ll hear DJ music playing at the same time as a nearby stage is playing – this was happening a lot.

It’s Really Simple: Turn Down the Volume

I have a couple of other minor suggestions – but the above is my main beef and probably why I’ll not return. Pickathon does a great job of picking interesting music for all of us – but then makes it challenging for (me, at least) to enjoy. Of course, that leads to people having conversations over the music – but that’s another story.

All that said – I actually had a pretty fun time on the day I attended. The next morning I woke up and thought: do I want to do the push-me pull-ya dance of being attracted to go hear some music only for it to be too loud to handle? And I decided that my one day was going to be it. An interesting part of that is that as I consider my time at Pickathon – there really is so much good going on there. The family area is lovely – and there’s so much encouragement for people to bring their kids (wear earplugs!). And there are a lot of great volunteers and the community that come together to make this big festival happen.  That’s fun to watch.

I imagine that this year’s festival was super challenging to put on. Pendarvis Farm is in a section of Happy Valley that is filling in with McMansions at a quick rate. It used to be possible to park right next to the festival – but that property is being filled in right now and was not available. So, we’ll see if Pickathon tries it again at their current location or ends up moving elsewhere.

Finally, so much would be improved if someone just got serious about the sound levels. I’d come back in a minute and probably camp for the weekend. But I won’t be back until Pickathon makes some sort of public announcement about this issue – which I doubt they will. No one likes to admit publicly they are doing anything wrong. I get that.

I’ll probably add to this review as I think of more things – and until we meet again – enjoy the music! Albert

PS – I am open to feedback – please leave a comment below or write me. Thanks. Also, if you enjoy my writing and thinking, I publish a few newsletters which you can sign up for here.

 

Getting Rid of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers – GLBs – A Variety Pack of Ideas

How to organize your community to ban gas-powered leaf blowers:

Gas-powered leaf-blowers (GLBs) are noisy and polluting tools. There are better alternatives such as electric leaf blowers. Here are some ways our local Portland group, Quiet Clean PDX has gone about trying to encourage people and companies to switch away from using GLBs so we can have a quieter and less polluted urban environment. Feel free to use any of these methods where you live.

postcard front - no logo - glb

 

It’s Time to Shut down the Powertool Orchestra

The Case Against Leaf Blowers by Singer

Cartoon by Andy Singer

Death to the Powertool Orchestra!

There’s a denial around noise and its health aspects in our world. One example of this is a neighbor of mine who insists on locking her new car with a key fob that sets off a loud beep of the horn (these can often be disconnected). Sometimes she does this with her grandchildren near the car. This is a danger to their hearing. The disconnect between the amount of noise she’s creating and the harm it’s doing to herself, her grandchildren and the calm of the neighborhood is what I want to talk about today. 

A friend and I used to joke about the powertool orchestra. We even thought it might be funny to create such a group and bring the project to Burning Man. I’m sure you have had experience with this orchestra – it features leaf blowers, weed-wackers and edgers, lawn mowers and nail guns. Just when you think the chipper will stop to make some space for quiet the pressure washer starts up. Who thinks this cavalcade of noise is a good thing. I’m pretty sure it’s terrible for our society’s hearing, but it also causes stresses in so many other ways. Especially during a time when many of us are still in lockdown at home it would be a good time to reconsider how much noise we’re all making with power tools, car horns and even our voices.

Yeah, I’m going to go there. It’s fantastic that people are getting more exercise these days by simply walking or biking in the neighborhood. It’s really a lovely sight. But do we have to do it while having conversations on the phone or with each other at the top volume of our voices? Where is the subtlety? Where is the privacy? Also, there’s usually no need to talk loudly on cellphones or zoom – people can hear you if you speak in a normal tone of voice. Now if people were wandering around singing I might have a different take on it. Lastly, the idling of vehicles. 

Not only is idling engines wasteful it’s also loud. With our quarantine there has been a vast increase in package delivery happening. I’d love to encourage everyone to speak to the drivers of these services to get them to turn off their vehicles when they are making a delivery. And that goes for all of us – if you’re going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. Ready to go somewhere? – start your engine and go! If you want to stop climate change, stopping engine idling will save us millions of barrels of oil each year + help keep carbon out of the atmosphere thus maybe giving us a chance to stave off the climate crisis by a few more years.

Thanks for listening. I’d like to share a quieter world with you. One in which we all get to hear the music for our whole lives. One in which the sound of birds and music fill the air – not the sounds of motors. Join me, won’t you? Consider your own relationship to noise. How much are you making? Can you do anything to make a little less?  Talk to your neighbors or send them a postcard if you’d like to continue staying physically distant. Let’s work together to make a quieter world. We can make a change and every move in this direction will make our lives calmer and more spacious.

Here’s the movement anthem: Live. Thank you, Asylum Street Spankers.

to join a group of people in Portland, Oregon working to stop the leaf blower madness, join us @ quietcleanpdx.org

My Nextdoor.com posts about Leaf Blowers – Feel free to borrow and re-post

Nextdoor.com posts about leaf blowers by Albert Kaufman, Portland, Oregon

Please re-post these as is, credit or not. Thank you – let’s end the noise and air pollution of leaf blowers together.

  1. Pets and Leaf Blowers don’t mix: Note from a veterinarian

    In support of local efforts to ban gas leaf blowers and improve the quality of life in Sonoma and drastically reduce unnecessary harmful particulate matter in the air we breathe, I wanted to contribute a few statements and my opinion from the vantage point of a working small animal Veterinarian in Sonoma.It is very well known that particulate matter such as dust, dirt, and debris from the environment can pose a tremendous health challenge for dog, cats, and virtually all other mammals. While the normal changes in seasons, weather, rainfall, and pollen counts can all affect animals, extra particulate matter such as the debris aerosolized by leaf blowers pose a sharply increased risk for a variety of health problems for our domestic species. Among those most notably seen by me directly are:

    1. Significant flare up of cough, wheezing, and “respiratory” issues that encompass both infectious and inflammatory types of diseases.

    2. Eye problems of unknown origin–either in one or both eyes: owners report a clear discharge from the eyes or a “pink eye” situation with no previous known injury.

    3. Nasal discomfort: rubbing and snorting, as if to remove a “foreign body” that is not there, but rather a minute irritant that was substantial enough to bother the mucous membranes and irritate the pet’s nasal passages.

    4. Skin issues, including itching and scratching. These clinical signs are usually blamed completely on atopy or “allergy.” There is well documented, long standing scientific evidence that the irritation in the skin is secondary to allergens that the pet has inhaled.

    In addition, because pets are so sound sensitive, the use of leaf blowers can startle animals and cause outdoor pets to dart away from yards and potentially scare them into more dangerous situations such as traffic or other precarious situations.

    The blasting “on and off” sounds made with leaf blowers has a definite impact on small animals “fight or flight” response, causing an immediate release of cortisol into the bloodstream. Especially with cats, this taxes the body and leads to a surge in blood glucose almost instantly. In my opinion, this is a good example of the loud noise made by leaf blowers having a negative impact on animals all around our town—it is not an obvious impact, but once you realize what is going on inside their bodies on a cellular level, you realize that maybe the impact is farther reaching than we previously realized.

    The information and examples I have stated above are only a small sample of the deleterious effects that leaf blowers have on the small animals of Sonoma. I hope that my words will help get some conversations started that emphasize the importance of considering the quality of life for our pets in Sonoma as people make an effort to decide the fate of leaf blowers in our community.

    I would be happy to answer any other questions regarding this topic as my time and schedule permit.

    Sincerely,

    Vallard Forsythe, DVM ~ Broadway Veterinary Hospital

    735 Broadway Sonoma, CA 95476

    (707) 938-4546

  2. More and more brave towns are putting a stop to the tyranny of leaf blowers – Thanks for considering!

    Lately I’ve noticed less and less gas-powered leaf blowers being used in our community. Thank you to anyone who has personally made the change or had their landscaping service adjust either to electric blowers or to rakes and brooms. Thank you thank you thank you – the Earth thanks you – your neighbors thank you – the insects thank you. Thank you! https://qz.com/1729584/more-brave-towns-are-putting-a-stop-to-the-tyranny-of-leaf-blowers/ PS – the quietcleanpdx.org group is working on something with the City. I hope to have news about this very soon.

  3. The Devil’s Workshop by Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate, 2018-2020

    The Devil’s Workshop by Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate, 2018-2020 To torture your neighbors, some devil said, I give you my multi-tool that hits so many irritants at once: it deafens workers so their ears ring, it kicks up killing dust to sicken children, it spews more poisons to taint the sky in a mere half hour than a truck driving from the Texas plains to Alaska, and all to hustle leaves from yard to bin. Have you seen one such contraption chase a single leaf to pirouette in the blue plume that’s killing us? Have you gritted your teeth and hated the neighbor you recently enjoyed? Have you missed your meditative hour with rake and rain, as you walked your way from summer into fall? My friend, the bar is low. We can do better. —– Learn more about this issue @ https://quietcleanpdx.org

  4. If you’re still not convinced about the danger of leaf-blowers, please watch this video

    https://youtu.be/sRsYRen6nVE  Join our effort to ban these in Portland @ https://quietcleanpdx.org

  5. The Case Against Leaf Blowers by Singer

Why Do We Hurt Ourselves and Each Other?

Leave the Leaves by DKG GraphicsWhy?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make my neighborhood and world a better place to live.  Sometimes I’m focused on climate change issues – big-ticket items like population growth or stopping clear-cutting. But much of the time I think about how to make change happen on the local level. After years of planting trees; talking to neighbors about planting more trees and trying to figure out how to encourage more quiet and dark (less noisy things like amped-up motorcycles; leaf blowers; car alarms and better outdoor lighting) – I’m coming up against something that’s confusing me. Knowing that some of our actions are going to harm ourselves and others why do we keep doing them?  Here are a couple of examples.

Gas-powered leaf blowers and other gas-powered lawn and garden tools. AGZA

The above graphic from AGZA (American Green Zone Alliance) really spells out the problems and solutions in this area.  Given that we’ve known for years how polluting and noisy gas-powered leaf blowers are (one example) why do we continue to allow their use? And this is often something we do to ourselves. The person using the device is probably facing the most harm. Whether it’s a worker who uses a leaf-blower repeatedly, or someone using one once a year – in either case – that person is putting themselves at a health risk that is unnecessary. Join a group working on this issue.

Here’s an example from the noise department. Using one’s car fob to lock a vehicle – setting off the horn. At first, this probably seemed convenient – but I hope that most people agree that it’s actually a nuisance and should never have been allowed to be developed by car companies. Most cars and trucks can be adjusted to stop this from happening. Hearing a car horn go off is usually a warning sound that used to be used by vehicle operators to indicate to others that there is some kind of emergency happening. Though the sound of a car horn going off is a nuisance for people in the vicinity – the person most harmed by the noise is the person closest to the sound. I’ve written about the dangers of losing one’s hearing before, here. If you love hearing music, let’s say – figure out how to dismantle this system for yourself. And, again, the question I posed at the opening – why, if we know that a system is harming our health, do we let it persist?

From the lighting department. The City of Portland is often an early adopter. We chose to switch to LED street lights a few years back but in our excitement chose lights that are too bright and glaring.  These new lamps make everything much too bright and make walking around at night less pleasurable than it used to be. They also make driving more hazardous as the lights also blind drivers. Why, when we know there’s an issue with these lamps didn’t we stop installing them once it became obvious they were too bright? And why do we keep them installed when there are better choices. This is true for residential lighting, as well.  If you walk outside of your house at night and can’t look at the lighting of your house for more than 10 seconds then please consider replacing the bulbs and/or fixtures you have to improve the experience for your neighbors. And, for yourself – because who is likely going to be seeing the lighting on your house most?  You.

Living in a quieter and darker place is good for all living creatures. Keeping all of our tree canopy standing which provides our oxygen would also be something we could do to make our lives better.  I love to think about my neighborhood and how our lives can be improved. I believe by paying attention to the ways we’re hurting ourselves and others and making changes to our behavior we’ll create a healthier and happier environment. Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to see more stars one day.

For a better world, Albert Kaufman, 3.5.19

AGZA

Opening and Closing Doors

How we open and close doors matters

There is a door at my local yoga studio, Yoga Union, which leads to the outside world. People come in and out of the building all day long. Some open the door and then let it slam shut. Others, take a little more time and close the door with a little more care, thus creating less noise. This door also abuts tables where people are often eating. When care is not taken, the sound of the door slamming ricochets through from end to end of a long room – disturbing diners and people who work in the building. It would be nice if the door didn’t make such a noise, but I think it’s also something that people who practice yoga could become more aware of – how you enter or leave a building matters. If you’re not noticing the sound you’re making when you enter or leave a building, perhaps it’s time to take a little more time to pay attention?

This is also true at a dance studio I frequent @ the Sunnyside Community House. While dances are taking place often people come into or leave the room for various reasons and the door continuously slams. What’s going on when we’re not all taking more care about how our actions impact others’ experience? I think this insensitivity or carelessness is a sign of something larger. First, maybe we should all be taking more time when we come and go – holding doors open for one another – making our transitions more flowing rather than abrupt. It’s also a sign to me of taker culture – it says to me “I’m here to come in, take this class, and then leave”. Rather than showing that a person is looking to the whole coming and leaving as part of the experience – that even the opening and closing of doors matters.

So, if you’re reading this – maybe take a little more time when you open and close a door in the future. Heck, maybe take a lot of time with it 🙂 It seems like a zen thing to me 🙂 Care, patience, attention to detail, attention to one’s environment. I know we’re all losing a bit of this because of our shrinking attention spans and constant digital distractions, but it might be a place where we come back into balance.

Closing doors so they don’t slam.. Make sense? What do you think?