PDX Diary April 15: Raggedy Androgyne

Portland’s downtown library is open to the public again, no mask requirement. There are no padded chairs or sofas, too inviting to homeless, just high backed wood chairs lining long narrow wood tables. They’re not too bad though; you can lean back and work in them in surprising comfort and there are plenty.

Across from me a young homeless man is telling his story to a young female librarian. Occasionally one of the librarians sweeps through wearing an N95 mask, grim and wraithlike. A homeless guy, obliviously voluminous, has convinced them to lend him the phone at the librarian’s desk in the high-ceilinged room–rose colored with great high arching wood vaulted windows flashing bands of cloud-traversed sky–and he’s well into a meandering conversation. Two librarians have joined one behind the counter to stand by miserably waiting for the right point to intervene.

I decide to browse the books and find social sciences well stocked with progressive tomes; a whole bank of black grievance kitsch beckons, obliviously condescending, histrionic, hectoring and humorless, an obtuse obelisk. At one of the tables nearby is a person; he’s wearing dolphin shorts and a tight girl-cut tee shirt with some sort of harness or belt around his fat middle. His pixie-cut hair is a pastel sea foam color. His enormous, girlish thighs are covered in a fine hair that doesn’t look right; my God, are they dyed? I refuse to look directly at him. I see him fidgeting about conspicuously in my peripheral vision, as if trying to get my, or anybody’s, attention. I move on, resisting the seductive leer of the latest Michael Eric Dyson.

In the lobby on the way out a frail masked librarian is solemnly shadowing the loud-talking phone-borrower; it seems she’s made progress in coaxing him toward the exit. This is the low-key method I’ve seen them use–from my few days haunting the place–to deal with the low-key harassment of the homeless. Low-key harassment and passive aggression have become trademarks of our parasitic class, taking advantage of our increasingly permissive stance.

I pass out the foyer and off to my right someone appears to be receiving counseling sitting at a sort of low ticket-window; he’s animated about something. The weather is as ugly as the city for a change I think as I take in the scene in the little bleak corner where the library is. It’s offensively cold and little hard drops of rain half-frozen pelt me as I squeeze past a construction crew fixing a section of sidewalk and the crazy black woman engaging them with low-key harassment.

Later I’m on the other side of town and I see him: he’s running with his arms crossed tightly in front of him–it’s the gender-strange guy with the sea foam hair–and, my God, what is it he’s got under one elbow? Is that a small dog? I wonder with alarm, because whatever it is, its head is slapping back and forth violently–obscenely–as he skip-runs along in exaggerated female fashion. He’s running at an angle across the empty intersection, and the few other people on the street take no notice of this giant–that’s it, I realize, that’s the aesthetic he’s going for!–Raggedy Ann skipping across a downtown street in the middle of the day, barely dressed in forty degrees.

Then I noticed what it was he held, tightly between his arms crossed in front of him–deliberately mimicking the way of a young girl: a Raggedy Ann doll.

Well that’s a relief. At least no animals were hurt in the making of this madness.

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