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Road Which?!

Day 8 of Pedalpalooza brought a nice selection of events oriented towards the past, present, and future.

There was the "Little Beirut" tour of famous Portland "riot" scenes, inspired by George HW Bush's comment once-upon-a-time after his motorcade was egged, "Gee, that was a little like Beirut back there!" There was the Platinum Bike Master Plan hearings, to talk about the future of cycling accommodations in Portland. And there was the one I chose to go on, Road Witch.
Day 8 of Pedalpalooza brought a nice selection of events oriented towards the past, present, and future.

There was the "Little Beirut" tour of famous Portland "riot" scenes, inspired by George HW Bush's comment once-upon-a-time after his motorcade was egged, "Gee, that was a little like Beirut back there!" There was the Platinum Bike Master Plan hearings, to talk about the future of cycling accommodations in Portland. And there was the one I chose to go on, Road Witch.

What's that? It's an idea that originated in England, and exists at the intersection between public, temporary urban art installation, traditional street fairs, and more overtly political events such as Reclaim the Streets!

Occasionally referred to as "folk traffic calming," the idea is to gather a bunch of people and a bunch of found and/or random disused domestic and everyday objects and decorative elements, especially furniture: couches, chairs, rugs, tables, and find some parking spots to "park" one's party, in a comfortable and inviting arrangement.

The "witch" part is a reference to the practice of deploying disused road cones as "hats" for a sort of scarecrow, to demarcate the resulting "living room" and hopefully exorcise evil automotive spirits that could intrude on the homey space thus created ( http://www.wormworks.com/roadwitch/pages/whatis.htm).

A group of about twenty of us gathered yesterday early evening in the corner of Colonel Summers Park to gather the accouterments for our mobile roadside Living Room attraction. Some people had earlier found rugs and a length of astroturf and some other items, and in the course of just a few minutes we quickly assembled a bunch of chairs, a table, and other freebie items suitable for our use, sitting on the sidewalk in nearby neighborhoods.

We headed over to Belmont initiallly. First, we set up two areas with our furnishings, one an "inside" living room (on the carpetting we brought) and the other an astroturf "patio") in the onstreet parking outside the Tao of Tea on Belmont, to enjoy a couple kettles of lovely jasmine tea.

I for one thoroughly enjoyed this arrangement, because I've attempted on various occasions to get into the Tao of Tea, and its tiny little indoor seating area seems always to be packed and I've never had the patience to wait nor ability to overcome my claustrophobia in there. This was a perfect alternative!

After enjoying some chocolates and grapes someone brought with our tea, and chatting with a few curious passersby, we soon packed up and headed to Hawthorne, where we found excellent digs right outside the Bagdad Theater!

Once again, we set up our "indoor" area and our "patio," complete with one or two potted plants, and ordered a pizza to share. This time, we were joined by several people on the street! (Some of them were curious passersby, others were friends of Road Witchers who had heard about the event beforehand.)

We sat and talked about the great potential of Road Witchcraft for enlivening our community. I dream of a Road Witch "Festival" in which several hundred of us, with a bunch of big ass bike trailers, set up digs all up and down the street in a dozen little parties such as ours. The different groups could have different themes: There could be an art "salon", a pizza party, an animated short film "theater", etc. Perhaps one with a complete complement of pagan and "witch" themes, for Halloween.

Road Witchcraft is an example of one great thing about Pedalpalooza: It provides a laboratory for new ideas, which could later get taken up and flourish on their own.

Road Witchcraft is also a good example of a very practical approach to tackle a variety of social problems at once. There is the imperative to reduce the intrusion of the automobile into human living space, by reclaiming, albeit temporarily, a piece of urban space for human beings not encased in steel. There is the imperative to beautify with DIY public art and add a sense of frivolity to the otherwise austere and forbidding aspects of contemporary US hypercapitalism. There is the imperative to reclaim a public space for all, in a city that is seeing greater and greater impacts from exclusionary gentrification. Whereas anyone can join us in our Road Witch living rooms, without having to open their wallets or checkbooks at any time.

Road Witchcraft is a spark to inspire our imagination with new possibilities of urban living: a city for all.