Day 23

Today I witness something out of the ordinary.  A friend of mine came to say hello to me.  While we were texting back and forth, a young man that looked as if he has fallen on hard times came up to my friend and started talking to him. My friend went to his car and got some money to give to him. They continued talking, then the man became emotional and my friend tried to console him.  At first, my friend touched him on the shoulder to as to provide support and then they hugged. They continued to talk and then they eventually parted ways.

I watched all of this from behind the glass without hearing a word, but as I watched I felt like I was seeing something powerful unfold it brought tears to my eyes.  It was one of those moments where you feel peace in knowing that complete strangers can find compassion for one another.  It is amazing to me how that man’s demeanor changed after they hugged. At least for a few moments he felt better.  After my friend left, he still wanted to help this man.  He went home and got a sleeping bag and jacket to give to him, but when he returned he couldn’t find him.  I kept a lookout and made a note to show him if he came back, but he didn’t.  We hope he went to the homeless shelter not far from here.

It was one of the few times I have watched what happens outside of these windows.  Most of the time I try to ignore what’s going on out there so that I don’t notice that I am being watch.  I think I will change that behavior the rest of the time I am in here.

After I posted the blog, my friend text messaged these comments to me in regards to meeting the man:

“I was standing there trying to have a real human interaction with you (through a glass wall) via txt. This guy, this human being fighting for his life, is right next to me (almost in my personal space) trying to have a human interaction, and he’s competing with my iPhone.”

“Can’t tell you how many times that same competition for my attention happens on a daily basis (even now, I should be on my way to work.)”

“Erika & Owen are always asking me to come away from my work and to unplug.  Makes me sad.”

“Does it take someone being that fucked-up and in of help to get me to unplug?”

“And I wouldn’t even have been there on that corner if it weren’t for your project and the point you are trying to make.”

“I think the reality of our condition is that our biology evolves MUCH slower then our ability to manipulate it (technology.)”

14 Responses to “Day 23”

  1. Adam Graves Says:

    That’s what it’s all about.

  2. Theresa Says:

    Great insight. Wouldn’t it be nice of we all changed that behavior for the rest of our lives…

  3. Patrick Says:

    Your project is beautiful, Cristin. I’m convinced that the effects will be far reaching, and beyond perhaps your intentions… ripples into waves. I feel that it ironically illustrates an indomitable aspect of humanity that is rooted not in fulfillment, rather in need.

    Thanks for the ideas and thoughts inspired by your work.

  4. Nicole Says:

    Hope you enjoy this video then :'(

  5. brad Says:

    That last text sums it up nicely related to your project. Our biology has needs that our technology cannot fulfill. Yet?

  6. Alex Says:


    I think this day’s blog post is mostly about fulfillment rather than need.
    Look at what happened again (as far as we can tell from the reporting).
    Ms. Corine’s friend had a homeless man come up into his personal space. First reaction—he felt bad, so he listened to the guy. To FEEL BETTER, he engaged in some altruism. This altruism was recognized and rewarded by his companion in isolation when the act was reported. Now he feels better—claiming to still hold onto a shred of “humanity” since he put down his social media distractions in this moment— and hence can go back to his routines.
    Altruism is self-serving. Always. You wouldn’t ever do it if you weren’t rewarded by “feeling better about yourself”, and usually you still need motivation in the form of public accolades and/or tax write-offs.
    And with altruism, you will only go so far… Somehow I doubt that the homeless guy would be offered a place in the home of anyone he encountered, no matter how awful his story went, unless the homeless guy offered a very compelling credible value proposition in exchange for shelter. Consider “why” this is the case.

    What does the homeless guy need? Sure, he needs someone to listen and he probably needs to feel accepted by someone. But that is only the beginning. He needs to believe in his own power to change his circumstances. He needs open doors—to food and shelter, to employment, to medical and mental care, to potential friends, to motivational people who will push him to breakthroughs (inside and outside). I know this, as I have been homeless a few times myself.
    Listening and giving a hug is nice, but at the end of the day, does this homeless man have any more hope to change his terrible circumstances?
    Or does he become convinced that it was really just a nice way to get him out of somebody’s hair?

    Last point about homelessness: Many many men and women are returning or have returned from wars in the Middle East. These wars are widely seen as “without just cause”. Many military personnel and civilians can’t even put their finger on what it was really all about. When these vetereans return, they look at our country with new eyes. Sure, those who don;t think about “why” and matters of conscience—those with a mindless mercenary perspective—may seamlessly fit back into “America’. But the rest of us vets fall out of love and intor esentment with the people we risked our lives for. We trusted the people and the leaders to send us to fight for a just noble cause. They didn’t—the people were apparently too busy distracting themselves from what was happening ‘”over there”, and the leaders were too busy covering it up while pretending it was some heroic D-Day invasion of sorts. Notice anytime the ubiquitous war propagnda resembles the Allied anti-German WWII propaganda, American sheeple are about to get taken once again (Saddam or similar figure compared to a “Hitler” bent on world domination, invasion regularly compared to romanticized D-Day battle of “good vs. evil” by media pundits on the Left AND Right, moviehouses play flicks glorifying overseas military interventions against Muslims, ec etc).

    Then the reality of war doesn’t fit the propganda sewn for audiences back “home”, and more and more of the troops notice. Meanwhile, the situation back home is radically altered under “emergency” justifications from the leaders. Evereything that once was good about our country gets scrapped, and everything that was wrong with our country becomes more acute–until “America” is unrecognizable, until it is as if Lady Liberty siultaneously had a sex-change and was possessed by a demon.
    The vets come home from the wars they were sent to and they finally see what the rest of the world has been seeing in us all these years. Demoralization isn’t strong enough a word to describe it. Your family and friends are repeating stupid bumper sticker war propaganda when you ask “why’…or implying that something is wrong with YOU for daring to inquire into the cause of the whole bloody thing. Evereyone is offering some pathetic excuse not to face the reality that we have no higher moral standing as a country than those ‘Nazis’ we so love to hate in our movies and schoolhouses. Nobody want to accept responsibility. Nobody wants to correct what has been done or what caused us to allow it to happen.
    Nope, you get back from the war, you get out of the military as soon as you have a chance (or else you’ll be deployed umpteen times to kill, die or be maimed for something you don’t believe in again), then it’s time to pretend that nothing has changed. Go get a job…ooops, what jobs! Go to college…so they can guilt-trip you and teach you not to hate (unless given permission by society’s leaders, such as against Muslims or Whites). Go out to meet new friends and lovers…but hey, where did everyone go? Oh they’re all on facebook or ear-plugged in ipods or constantly texting on their phones or have their faces glued to a TV screen. In other words, everyone is hiding from reality and distracting themselves into a feel-good virtual-fantasy “new normal”.
    As a vet, I have felt like a man without a homeland, without countrymen, without any real connection to anything “American” since I returned. And I hear much the same from other recent vets. Some turn to booze and drugs, some commit suicide, some try their hardest to rejoin the sheeple and pretend it is all okay, but this just messes with their minds even more.
    I “dropped out” in disgust. At first, I entertained fantasies about a political resolution. The problem is that both Left and Right are throughly full of youknowwhat, and resolution is impossible under this system with an electorate that will do anything to avoid facing up to reality, responsibility and REAL fundamnetal change. Give them their shopping malls, ball games, “reality TV” shows, junk food, funny money, new “fashionable” trends to chase every week, smiling dirtbag polticians, celebrity gossip, and a feel-good narrative about themselves as “the good guys” in a phony made-for-TV struggle between “good and evil” …and the sheeple will let you get away with anything without a thought of hesitation. Even the churches sold out for the bottom line and got in on the action with the rest of the leaders, justifying it the whole way with cherry-picked verses from their (re-defined) ancient book.

    The country became one big disgusting multi-CULT, collaborating out of self-interest in maintaining each other’s delusions and escape from reality. It ain’t “home”. It’s hell for anyone who can see it with open knowing eyes.
    I only hope that I will find a place somewhere else to live on this planet, where I can actually belong and where I will find the people much less zombified, lobotomized, sedated, deluded, easily shorn like sheep, and much less threatened when someone tells them hard cold yet liberating truth.

    There are many millions in “America” who live in apartments and houses, but they do not really have a home (many don’t even really have a ‘family’) and they definitely don’t have what was once known as a homeland in any meaningful sense. But at least they have their bread and circuses, right?

  7. George Says:

    Great story today in your blog. Am so glad that you could see it unfold and observe it, and also feel a part of it.

  8. Tessa Says:

    This brought tears to my eyes as well. Today I dropped Ezra and Isaac off with their father and it just happens the spot was where the 22 year old Mike Eliis froze to death the other night at Salmon Springs on Front Ave. While I kneeled and prayed for him and his family after the boys had left, I felt intense gratitude for my little brother while his sister sat in a nearby car crying for her loss. I don’t know why he had to pass at such a young age but I do know that any opportunity offered us to interact with another in hard times, must not be ignored. But you, you are sacrificing, and at a huge cost, the importnace of human interaction. A touch, the warm breath on our neck during an imbrace, the influction in a voice, is ALL what keeps us grounded. Its what our bodies and souls need to survive. Thank you again, Cristine for what you are doing and your impact on my children.

  9. Anne Says:


    Very glad to hear you’ve started using your unique vantage point to observe the Lower Burnside environment in all its ethical complexity. It’s my neighborhood, too, and every day I encounter scenarios that challenge my personal boundaries and my compassion. I’ll admit that I’ve wondered how the homeless population feels when they see you making use of your residence–living a life just as public as theirs, but a lot warmer and more protected.

    Since our interview last week, I’m delighted that your project is becoming more compelling via these new discussions.

  10. Ian Williams Says:

    Hello Cristin,

    I heard about your blog a few days ago on CNN, and I read every post last night, this project is really interesting. I feel more attached to it because of the location, I go to Portland at least once a year, and I end up walking past that part of Burnside every time. I wish I was able to travel there and visit you. The project seems like something I’d like to do myself, testing how I would react in this living standard.

    Today’s post was inspirational, the world needs more openly caring people such as your friend. I am a freshman in college at Central Washington University, and I noticed a severe change in how open people can be to strangers as compared to high school, it’s really nice to see. I hope that most of the people at my college, including myself, will end up acting just like your friend did in situations like that.

  11. Anne Says:


    Thank you for using your unique vantage point to observe the ethical complexities of the Lower Burnside neighborhood. It’s my neighborhood, too, and I’ll admit that I’ve wondered how the homeless population feels when they see you making use of your residence, living just as publicly as they do every day, but a lot warmer and more protected.

    With this post, you’re opening up a new angle of philosophical exploration for your project, and I applaud that.

  12. Patrick Says:

    @Alex: I do not claim to know all of the motives that were at play, only to point-out the humanity of need.

    The lives of those three people were playing-out in the exact fashion they were intended to at that moment.

    As for the rest of your post, I hear your pain and believe that your anger/frustration/delusionment is quite justified. Unfortunately, there is little more I can say other than I hope you are able to find purpose in the life you have now. Life is definitely fleeting (like I need to tell you), but it is precious, all the same.

  13. brad Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your friends and family come visit outside and share time with you.

  14. scott reuter Says:

    Hello Cristin,

    So glad that a friend of mine posted a link to your story. Very interesting project.

    I actually saw one of your tweets yesterday, so we sort of crossed paths already – trying to draw attention to @ugmpdx needs. (I’m in Astoria but helped organize getting blankets to them through a volunteer org that I work with called ORVOAD.)

    So just wanted to say hi, and congratulations on this interesting project; can’t wait to read more. And hang in there – you’re almost done!

    Thanksgiving day seems like a difficult day to be isolated, so I hope that you have lots of site visits, twitter friend posts and friends at your window to support you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Cristin Norine and Joshua Jay Elliott