I would like to explain what is confidential about this series. First and foremost, it is my name. I have an unusual first and last name combination, and I have had stalkers. For the purposes of this blog, I go by “Rose C.” That’s short for Rose City, of course.
Here is my avatar:
If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. It was a public domain vector illustration that I adapted. Public domain is great for some things, but not for others. For instance, I have a friend who recently decided to share her experience of trauma andher advice to parents about how their children can avoid rapeunder the purview of the Creative Commons License. She chose this license very specifically, because she did not want her words twisted and changed — into, for instance, an “abstinence only” message to young people. If it had been possible, she would have chosen a license that specified no alterations to the text but did not require attribution. At the time that she chose her license (which is irrevocable) no such option was available on the Creative Commons website. However, if other friends or interested persons wish to paraphrase her words without attribution, they are welcome to do so. The important thing is that the message gets out. Her name can be left out of it.
The second reason I am using a pseudonym is that I may occasionally piss people off or cause strong reactions. I know we had over 600 unique visits on this site in the last week. Some of those may be ‘bots. Regardless, it appears that even though we do not advertise and rarely post on social media, real people do from time to visit our site. As a writer and creator, this makes me happy, I’d like to encourage it!
But you can’t be an honest journalist and never report anything negative.
For instance, right now I am typing this blog entry at Old Town Pizza in downtown Portland. So far, the experience has been only positive: good beer, a good slice, a comfortable corner booth to write at. It’s really nice, honestly, to find a space that’s not a strip club or a cabaret and still has affordable food and beverage in this neighborhood on a Sunday evening. Portland’s downtown isn’t what it used to be. It needs all our help to come back and thrive once more.
But perhaps something will go horribly wrong at this restaurant before I sign for the check! I cannot imagine what that might be, but I reserve the right to write a critical restaurant review if circumstances demand. That is another reason I choose to remain Rose C.
Something else you should know about PDX Local, if you have not visited before:
We have a number of different writers, and we welcome volunteers. We are not advertiser-supported. We accept donations, but to be honest there are a lot of other local organizations that can probably benefit more from your hard-earned cash. I will try to profile some of these in the weeks and months to come. Suggestions welcome.
We are free and independent media. We are here by choice.
Yours truly (that is to say Rose C.) has a contract job at a large and well-known corporation, but I would not call myself rich. Not by a long shot. I have a lot of credit card debt to pay off. Some of that is medical debt. Some comes from taking my ex-partner and his child along with me to South Korea on a business trip. Some comes from travel back to the East Coast to see friends and family. A lot comes from simply using credit to pay for all of life’s daily necessities (including groceries, utilities, and transportation) for approximately ten years, while I was toiling away as a startup founder, with enough money to pay my employees (including the aforementioned ex-partner) but not myself.
Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing here?
It’s been the ride of a lifetime, and it’s not over yet.
If my job vanished tomorrow (and I hope it doesn’t) I would go back to doing deliveries—driving for DoorDash and UberEats.
Restaurants are so important to our local economy. If they go away, I don’t know what Portland will become.
Your outfits are great. What gave you the inspiration?
Our spacesuits are just average clothes on our planet, Issia.
I felt that by sharing our customs, I could further inspire our listeners. Silver is transcendent!
And we’ve been heavily influenced by David Bowie, Bjork, T-Rex, Prince and Devo. Hence, outifts.??
How long have you been making music, and how would you describe your creative evolution?
I grew up going to a German Polka Club every week. So I was dancing to waltzes and polkas for most of my adolescence. I didn’t start to work fanatically with music until my thirties.
Jo, however, has been singing since the crib. Legend has it she learned how to escape her cradle so she could re-load the stack of records.
Our creative process usually starts with a pad or synth progression just to get things rolling. I send that to Jo and she creates a melodic and lyrical story based on the mood. We work together to shape it into a song often with at least 15 iterations until we get it right.
I noticed you list both a Priestess and Scientist on your website. Do you believe it is possible to harmonize spirituality and rational knowledge in our current era of information overload? Can music play a role?
Yes! Music is a perfect example. There is a concept that science and spirituality are separate but in fact, they are the same. Look at Kirk and Spock! ? Whether the technology is Bach or today’s software, music inherently blends math and spirituality. To be more accurate, music IS the math of spirituality. On our planet, we’re able to heal disease with music. It’s a wondrous place!
What is the hardest thing about making music in quarantine?
There were so many challenges this year! Where to start…It was hard being separated from each other. I went from having weekly rehearsals to having to work remotely with The Priestess. We did lots of Zoom meetings. I think the limitations pushed us to grow our online fanbase and of course, we had to grow emotionally.
Your new single is called “I Won’t Dance for You.” Do you think music venues and dance clubs will be able to recover in Portland over the next year, or will it take longer for the scene to recover?
I love going to see live music and I so hope it recovers. Live music is so magical! Transformational. So I hope so and soooooon. I love to watch the people dance! It’s sad to see some of favorite venues closed. I’m still sad that La Luna and Satiricon closed. Some places are holding on like the Alberta Rose—and we can support them now. Here is the link: https://shopalbertarose.square.site
If you had to choose, would you rather share a rocket ship with Ziggy Stardust, Barbarella, or Sun Ra?
So hard to choose! All great options. But Barbarella because there might be a hot tub and shag carpet!
It’s a shame that everybody in America assumes that if you’re talking about class you are Marxist. It’s a shame that in these United States populism became a dirty word — shades of racism, authoritarianism, and Pat Buchanan. I wrote an essay a while back trying to unpack the ways that class dynamics entrench and deepen divides around race and gender.
It was based on my own personal, lived experience. And oh yeah, there was a song that went with it.
The personal is political. That’s an ethos underlying hip hop and also feminism. I remember the day I took my friend for a walk in Forest Park. I don’t know if he’d ever been out that way before, even though he grew up in Portland. We were recording video for a crowdfunding campaign we had planned. Don’t know whatever happened to that footage. It’s probably lost until the end of time.
I don’t know what your street name is by now. You went through at least three in the time that I knew you.
We’re already socially distant. The pandemic is reaction to the systemic distortion of academics. 5G is radioactive pollution while the body succumbs to inner confusion designed and spread by mass media controlled execution. Mistrust is a must in a world built on ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The meek won’t inherit the earth as stock markets crash and cryptocurrency gains its worth. All in all as hysteria rises the unseen government builds firewalls to prevent a scenario that ends in total recall and catastrophic downfall. The love frequency has been corrupted by mental meltdown and deviant delinquency. Stay aware and resilient, maintain your militant stance, we’ve been infiltrated by reptilians. Tomorrow never knows but today the heat signature in the atmosphere grows causing an unprecedented increase in the force of tidal flows. We must dwell and excel together as we have crossed the threshold into the new forever.
Illustrator and puppeteer Geahk Burchill is homeless. That hasn’t stopped him from telling his story. A Portland resident for 18 years, and local to the St. John’s neighborhood since 2005, he spoke with us about his experiences and shared his newest project, a webcomic called Trucked Up.
How long have you been in Portland, Oregon?
I first moved to Portland, from Oakland, California, in May 2001 because of a sun allergy. I made the decision after getting a bad sunburn that February and felt like I could choose a place less difficult for me. I loved Portland instantly but didn’t have much savings. A minor fender-bender drained what saving I had and I spent a few months living in my VW van. Fortunately, I got work as a carpenter, and an apartment, relatively quickly. I had no idea it wouldn’t be the last time I was homeless.
Dr. Hadrian in his Library. (Photo: David Emmite)
I moved to St. Johns in 2005 after starting a marionette company. I worked days for Michael Curry Design, and nights on my own puppets, building up a small theater company. In 2010 I left Curry to start my own design/build business and did reasonably well until about 2013 when I received less and less work. By 2014 I had a personal unraveling after working very long hours and losing money on multiple jobs. I let go of my house, first, and lived in my studio; in late 2017 I lost the studio as well. I converted the old puppet-truck into a live/work space and put everything in storage.
Describe your current living situation.
Oakland, where Burchill grew up.
I live in a decommissioned bread truck in which I built a bed, a kitchen, and work space. I took all the tools which used to make up my studio and made a condensed wood shop to try and continue getting work. For a long time I was parking on the street, moving the truck constantly, from spot to spot, to avoid cops. It made jobs difficult and I delivered projects late. That made it harder to get further work. It was also deeply demoralizing.The body of the truck is aluminum. In the summer it’s an oven inside, and a freezer now that it’s winter. In October the truck broke down and I had to have it towed. It’s now parked in the side yard of a friend, whom I pay to use utilities. Even at the amount he’s charging, I’m often late paying. It’s still a very unstable situation. I’m looking forward to repairing the truck, if I can, and having a bit more control over my life again.
Would you describe yourself as homeless?
I’m not sleeping rough. I’ve made my space as comfortable as I can. I have my cat, who sleeps on a heating pad, and my art desk, which I built to perfectly suit me. I have a microwave, and toaster oven, to make hot meals; an electric kettle for coffee. It’s about as cozy as homelessness can get but there’s a lot of room for improvement. It leaks in places. It was unsafe at times. Someone cut my gas line and stole fuel in the middle of one night while I was inside. It’s old and unreliable. At the same time, it represents a certain amount of freedom. I like the space despite its problems. I can see myself driving to jobs in the future and working out of the back.
Your artistic style for the panels of “Trucked Up” is amazing. What is your process, and what tools do you use?
I started with traditional materials. I grew up poor and my medium was usually pen on copy paper. Five simple supplies. Paper, a good pen, a blue pencil, an eraser and a ruler. Later I began drawing with nib-pen on translucent vellum with India ink. That allowed me to sketch on cheap paper and then trace onto the expensive vellum with the nice dip pen for really crisp results.
I currently can’t do anything very messy in the truck, but I did an ad project a few months ago which earned me enough money to buy an iPad with Apple Pencil. I then recreated the way the vellum and dip-pen work in an app called Procreate. It allows me to be very portable and draw in cafes, where I can get wifi access.
Unfortunately, I bought the iPad just before the truck broke down. For a while I was kicking myself. It was a lot of money, but as I’ve kept drawing, I feel it was the only choice to keep me motivated and focused on the future. It’s become the tool I use for everything, including this comic I’ve started. I’m learning to animate and make videos for YouTube. It’s my connection to future work. A little bit of a security blanket too.
How has living in a truck impacted your artistic journey (thematically, pragmatically, etc.)?
Though I started drawing comics when I was fairly young, most of my career has been spent with sculpture and engineering. I’ve made puppets for nearly twenty years, including sewing the costumes, and painting the sets. In the truck I’ve been forced to narrow my focus to what I could accomplish in the space. Drawing and writing, mostly.
Even traditional drawing is hard to do in the truck. Ink gets too thick to use in the cold. My career has been built upon getting new work out often. It has to be in the internet age. Returning to comics is something I can accomplish with limited space, wifi, and access to power. It’s also a way to process the frustration and panic I frequently feel about my situation.
I’ve always talked about poverty, to one extent or another, in my work, but now it’s in sharp focus. I find so many situations that are darkly funny about the basic things I struggle with.
I have far more comic ideas than I’ll ever have time to draw. I’ve also wanted to do a video game which utilizes real scenarios I’ve found myself in as puzzle elements. So much of this is MacGuyvering my way through problems that come up. The comics are accomplishable though. Each one takes about five hours, which I can find time for. It’s a resource I have.
What’s next for “Trucked Up?”
I’ll keep drawing and posting to Instagram and Webtoons. I see there are some people who make decent money, once they get noticed, and build a following. I’m currently working on a mural for a client and that’s my main source of income, but it would be great if I could have something more stable and reliable. My income has been feast-or-famine for ten years, with almost constant stress. It would be nice to have some consistent money that I could plan for the future with.
I feel like I have a lot of ideas which extend beyond the scope of just living in the truck. I have a lot of life stories. Just the autobiographical content is enough for hundreds, or thousands of future comics, not to mention all the fictional stories I’d like to tell. Plus there are educational and instructional ideas I have. I’ve been teaching puppets over the years, and I can fold that into didactic drawings, maybe into a book.
Lennie & George from Of Mice and Men (Performed in 2012)