Tuesday, September 23, 2003

BS Heard Here: Bradlee Simmons Speaks 

Bradlee Simmons has been spreading his special brand of public outreach throughout the city for the last year, and PICA was lucky enough to showcase him for the TBA festival. In a double billing with Amos Latteier on September 12, Simmons shared his message of hope and urgency to a largely receptive audience at Body Vox. Stunned by his testimony and vision, TBA Press Corps member, Cielo Lutino, caught up with Simmons last weekend at his favorite Portland coffee shop, Common Grounds, to rap about the issues that are important.

CIELO LUTINO: Do you live off Hawthorne, or are you still at the hostel?

BRADLEE SIMMONS: You know, I don’t actually feel comfortable revealing that because the seminars I’m doing right now are so much about the different places in town that people live. I sort of feel like, if I were to tell people where I live, it would really qualify people’s responses and change the dynamic in the room in a way that I’m not comfortable doing.

CL: Okay, okay, I can respect that.

BS: But it’s not a bad question.

CL: No.

BS: It’s not an offensive question.

CL: Okay, well, I--

BS: It’s just me.

CL: I’m curious about your move to the Bay Area in the 1990s. It seems like a lot of people moved there around that time. What’s different about the experiences you had there from when you moved here?

BS: It was a really, really crazy time there. I mean, it was super cool, but it was also too much, ultimately, for me. It was like getting on a roller coaster, and I had to get off after eight months. Moving here to Portland has been more like getting on a ferris wheel. It’s been a lot more gentle, and I feel like I’ve had enough time to look down and see the sights and to talk to the person next to me, as opposed to just screaming at them.

CL: Well, but it seems like…you didn’t start CAGE (Council Against Geographic Entitlement) there, you started it here, so in terms of gentleness…

BS: That’s…that obviously was the big…I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. For the most part, Portland people have mirrored Portlandia in the sense of a real spirit of welcoming arms, but there, you know, there is, there have been exceptions. And I don’t want to unfairly characterize the reception I got in Portland, but it’s like, you know, when you have, when you buy a bushel of apples, you don’t think about the ones that were tasty and juicy. You think about the one that was rotten.

CL: Uh huh. Hm. So what is next for CAGE?

BS: Well, we’re looking at opening a permanent office, and one of the, one of the, as far as the organization growing, there’s so many young people moving here. I think that everyone who moves here is a potential recruit. As I am becoming more comfortable here and having my own life and personal and professional life blossom, I’m really hoping to hand over the reins. I’m hoping that Frances will rise to the occasion, but I’m not sure if she’s open to that.

CL: Oh, okay, I see. Uh, who is she?

BS: She’s just a really special person who moved here from Texas. And um…she can tell you about it, but she had a…there was an incident at a party that she went to where she heard some people denigrating the state of Texas, where she’s from, and she defended it. Push came to shove, and she came to CAGE to sort of try to heal some of the wounds.

CL: You know, you talk about CAGE having recruits down the road, but it seems—

BS: Well, we’re recruiting people now.

CL: Okay, but don’t you think that CAGE is fundamentally a really hopeful organization and therefore…you know, I can sort of see, if it works out the way that you would want, there wouldn’t be a need for cages and CAGE.

BS: Yeah! Yeah, that’s the idea! We wanna get the animals back out of the cages and into the jungle, out of the zoo. Yeah, yeah. No, I think CAGE is all about taking anger and starting from this place, this place where you’re on the defense, and, and you know... CAGE is a lot like what I do. I’m an IT systems manager, and when I’m doing a good job, nobody notices. It’s only when I screw up that I get noticed and yelled at, but if everything’s going fine, nobody notices. I sort of feel like, if CAGE exists, it’s because something’s a problem, but once CAGE disappears, you know, we wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.

CL: It seems like you fit in really well in Portland. You talk about meditation and really liking Hawthorne. So for someone who talks about being an outsider, it seems like the city has really taken you into its fold. You’re in the TBA—

BS: Yeah.

CL: Yeah. So, in some ways, it seems like you’re not in a cage anymore.

BS: I feel like I’ve got most of my body out of the cage, but there’s still one foot. And I think it’s more of a psychological foot than it is a physical foot.

CL: So you’ve been out and about, I imagine, enjoying the TBA. Have you been going to Machineworks?

BS: Oh, yes, I have. And it’s been a lot of fun.

CL: And what have you really enjoyed at TBA?

BS: Oh, they’ve got a different cocktail every night, and so that’s been a lot of fun. When I walk over there, I play a game where I try to guess what the cocktail’s going to be, so that’s been really fun… and so, this is a little embarrassing, but I’ve been sort of having conversations with the ram. Just kind of communing with the ram between the different wonderful acts that have been happening onstage.

CL: What kinds of conversations have you been having with the ram?

BS: Just trying to tap into his alternate life and the kind of adventures he’s had, other animals he’s had to do battle with, his mating rituals, that kind of thing.

CL: You know, I think all the girls out there want to know. Are you seeing Frances?

BS: I might like to be seeing Frances, just like I might like Crystal182 to e-mail me back, but that’s for me to know and for you to find out, I guess.

CL: Yeah, no. I don’t mean to pry. I just know that there were a lot of ladies asking, I think, after the show.

BS: Like who?

CL: Maybe some of the dancers, some of the dancers…uh…yeah.

BS: I’m actually a pretty physical person. I was gonna try to do a little dancing in the show. Just cause I wanted to try to incorporate all the different elements of the festival, sort of to pay homage.

CL: I noticed. You had a video, and then there was the talking. Are there other ways you think you might express your message, some other media?

BS: Don’t forget I had the triangle, so I was trying to use music. Dance is something I want to integrate. And the healing arts, sort a hybrid of yoga and poekoelan that we’re working on.

CL: I know that the performance ended rather quickly, but it seemed like people were really enjoying it and wanting to stay there instead of moving onto possibly the next TBA performance. Is there a summation you want to give to the end of the piece?

BS: I just want to say thank you. What happened that night was a pretty important epoch in the Saturn return I’m going through right now, and I feel like the rebirth that I initiated by moving here has come to fruition with that experience. I’d just say thank you, Portland, for welcoming me and showing me the rest of the bushel of apples and not just the rotten ones.*

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