Last week, on whatever day it was in the nineties, I was riding home with our six foot long trailer attached to my already long cargo bike. On the trailer was another bicycle that I’d just picked up from the repair shop. It wasn’t the heaviest load, but I was cruising slowly to keep from jostling my load, enjoying the sun and my music.
As I went through the traffic circle in the center of Ladd’s Addition, I heard a roar behind me. It was a giant pickup truck, and as it passed me slowly, I saw a truly giant American flag waving in the wind behind the cab. I gave the driver a nod and a thumbs up, from one weirdo vehicle to another. He blushed bright red and almost smiled back as he continued on past, enjoying his own sunshine cruise.
On the next corner was the friendly woman who’s often there with a big red cooler, selling food to hungry passing cyclists. Instead of yelling “tamales” as usual, she was holding up her phone, filming the truck ahead of me. I saw her almost put the phone away, then spot me and keep filming, her commentary amping up a notch.
Was flag guy cruising around lefty southeast Portland to make a point meant to differentiate himself politically? Or was he like me, going home from work after picking up his flag at the flag repair shop, and making the best of the way people reacted to his rig? Either way, on our own we each looked like a different brand of freak; converging this way in the Ladd’s circle, we became something else entirely, either a set piece from Portlandia or just a couple people doing their own thing as they saw fit, and with an undeniable performative flair.