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Concern grows for missing community member – UPDATE – FOUND!

Posted by on November 11th, 2009 at 11:21 pm

AARON HAS BEEN FOUND. He’s safe and sound. Details here.

[Please scroll down for latest updates]

Bike to Work Day

Aaron Tarfman, seen here at
a bike event in 2007.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Friends of Southeast Portland resident Aaron Tarfman are concerned tonight because he has not returned home for over 24 hours and he has written a poignant “Farewell Letter” on his personal website.

Aaron’s roommate Steven Kung says he last saw him on Tuesday. Kung has filed a police report.

Aaron is a dedicated transportation and environmental activist. In a very long and detailed “Departing Letter” on his website, Tarfman shares his depression about the health of our planet and his frustrations that more people aren’t doing something about it.
In the final paragraph he writes:

“I believe that life is precious and if a person is reasonably healthy and especially if they have the willingness to do good in the world than every reasonable effort should be made to give them the option to do so. However we have this strange culture in our society to preserve life even when it’s so painful that the continuity of life is more torture than gift… De[s]pite my youth, I am in that category and have been for many years. It’s obvious that I cannot make a positive contribution to the world and I don’t have the stomach to try and convince people to be less destructive and so I would appreciate if you let me go gently into that good night and explore what awaits in that undiscovered country….

I miss all of you in the bike community and wish for you the best of times for the future. May you have some success and keep yourselves healthy and happy. For the rest of the population which either does nothing to improve the world and/or actively contributes to it’s destruction, I simply don’t care what you think. I leave you to do what you will to the Earth, as long as I don’t have to be around to watch the catastrophe.”

Aaron as many of us know him — with his camera, a smile, and his activism in the streets.

Aaron loves bike touring and being out in nature on two wheels, so perhaps he’s just decided to take a sojourn into the wilderness. But the combination of his recent absence and his letter have many of his friends worried (as these postings to Aaron’s wall on Facebook attest).

Aaron, if you’re out there, please get in touch.

If you’ve seen Aaron, please contact us and we’ll forward you to his friends that are looking for him.

Slideshow with more photos of Aaron:


UPDATE, 11/12, 8:35am:
Aaron’s roommate and friend Steven Kung provides further details:

  • Aaron was seen Tuesday morning leaving Brooklyn House eastbound on Brooklyn Street on his Trek carrying a fully packed red/black backpack mounted flat horizontally on his rear rack. I was on top of the roof with contractors and I asked if he is going on a camping trip. He replied he was just dropping something off.
  • Aaron was seen riding away again eastbound from Brooklyn House on an inexpensive ECT loaner mountain bike, black with green decals, without his helmet and without any other baggage. He was probably wearing a gray or black long sleeve shirt with a gray fleece vest on top, black pants and black high top gym shoes.
  • We located his mother’s phone number in LA. Contacted her. She may be coming up to Pdx to organize a search for him.
  • His room is tidy and nothing seems out of place, search so far turned up no other letters.

Steven also offered his intuition on the situation:

  • Aaron wants his message to be heard, but he may not want to be found.
  • Aaron can survive on very little resources anywhere in this country.
  • Aaron is highly intelligent such that if he does not want to be found, he may be very successful at that.
  • I am very worried Aaron might hurt himself either intentionally or unintentionally. At the same time, I sense and hope he will not harm himself.

And here’s what Steven says we should do:

  • Do what you feel in your heart is right.. either help in the search for Aaron, keep him in your thoughts or prayers, or anything else you feel is constructive.
  • Send Aaron emails to encourage him. Post pictures of what you are doing to improve this world. If Aaron taps into the grid he will appreciate that.
  • Keep communicating among ourselves, support each other no matter what unfolds.

We’ll keep you posted with any further developments.

UPDATE 11/12, 4:58pm:
Here’s a flyer that friends have made and are putting up around Portland (download as PDF here):

UPDATE 11/13, 7:30am:
Search parties are being formed and heading out toward Estacada this morning. Below are latest details:

We are organizing a search party to look for Aaron on Faraday Rd near Estacada. Faraday Road is a 5-mile car free road south of highwary 224. There will be one search party from the westend of Faraday Road (Search Party one) and a second search party from the eastend of Faraday Road (Search Party two). The west end of Faraday Road is roughly 1.5 miles from the Trimet Bus Stop at SE 4th & Main in Estacada.

There will two search parties heading out.
Search Party one: will leave promptly at 9:00AM (assembly at 8:30 AM) from 4038 SE Brooklyn, Portland, OR

Search Party two: will leave at 11:00AM (assembly at or before 10:30 AM) from 4038 SE Brooklyn, Portland, OR

Each search party is planned to take roughly 5 hours long. Please plan accordingly.

Suggested items to bring:
– bike rack on car and bikes. Faraday road is closed to car traffic and bikes will help the search efforts
– food and snacks
– warm weather gear including rain gear
– flash lights the area is wooded
– GPS, handheld radios, cellphones or other communication devices
– first aid kits
– blankets, warm clothes, handwarmers for Aaron-he is 5’7″ male 140 pounds.
– backpack
– change of clothes for yourself or any outdoor gear you may need

Weather is forecast at 34/43 with 90% chance of rain.

There will be one person coordinating the search parties from the Trimet Bus Stop in Estacada

Locations:
Brooklyn House: map link

Trimet Bus Stop in Estacada:
SE 4th & Main:

Search Party one Faraday Road West:
map link

Search Party two Faraday Road East:
map link

Please call Sugata and Steve for more information.

    Please note these Phone Numbers:
    Sugata: 765-404-8457
    Steven: 503-957-6672
    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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thomas
Guest
thomas

it seems like the weight of the world is not always distributed evenly. my love goes out to Aaron

Jill
Guest
Jill

It is breaking my heart to know that something may have happened to Aaron and that he felt that bad. He doesn’t seem to realize that his contribution is in being an example. Everyone isn’t cut out to try to convince people, but Aaron is the best at living according to his convictions.

Aaron was the first person to show me real friendship when I moved here and he was very encouraging, wanting me to get involved.

I’m hoping for some good news soon.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Oh, my gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawd. Aaron, COME HOME. Whatever it is, it’s NOT that bad, my friend. COME HOME, PLEASE.

Shetha
Guest
Shetha

I didn’t sleep at all, worrying about this stranger grown friend. I am hoping for the best… I will keep an eye out but I’ve never met him personally. I hope a report has been filed?

Shetha
Guest
Shetha

strike the question about the report – I should read more closely. My fingers are crossed and my eyes are open…

thefuture
Guest
thefuture

Does anyone have some details to share so we can keep our eye out for him?

Did he leave with a bike? Is there a favorite place he likes to go? A jacket he usually wears? Etc. Etc.

Donna
Guest
Donna

According to the FB information, he did not take his own bike, he did not take a helmet. He does have a pannier. As I recall, Aaron’s usual rainy season gear includes a bright yellow cyclist rain jacket. I think it’s a J&G. (But we do not know what he was wearing when he left his house.)

noah
Guest
noah

I went on the Hood River County loop with Aaron and others in 2007. While he and I rode side-by-side in between farms, we discussed our ideas about food and sustainability. There was so much we agreed was common sense that in popular discourse is considered radical. I felt a little more sane for it. Sometimes I think I’m the only one consumed by these issues.

There’s a picture of us having that conversation that I’d like to find. I think Matt Picio would have taken it.

After the ride, I remarked glibly to Aaron about “terrible” soreness and fatigue, which were really very minor. He reacted instantly with such earnest empathetic concern. I felt guilty. It forced me to see how I covered my own inner pain with insincerity, and how his behavior was the example I should aspire to.

We did the same group ride in 2008. Aaron and I didn’t talk at all. I wondered if he remembered me.
If not, was it because the exchanges we had were less meaningful to him than they were to me? Having read this news, I’m prone to think he was depressed, that I should have reached out to him.

The failure to detach others’ pain from personal pain is a solipsism. I guess it’s a fault Aaron and I have shared. The right balance can be difficult to achieve in a naturally sensitive and empathetic person. Evidently Aaron is (was?) that.

I hope he will be able to read stories like this one and understand that he has made a positive contribution to the substance of the world in meaningful ways. They’re the only ways an individual outside of the echelon of the rich and famous can affect the world.

In the 2007 discussion, he told me about a tree in Southeast he picks fruit from. I also hope I’ll be able to eat with him under that tree some time. I’ve always wanted to.

Matt Picio
Guest

The reason why a helmet is relevant is that Aaron was really compulsive about wearing a helmet.

Just FYI, if anyone wonders why Donna is pointing it out.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I don’t mean to guilt-trip anyone, but this man did not ask for his personal life to be aired publically. Why do you all think it is OK to do this? I realize that you are concerned about him, but if he wanted to make a public spectacle of his ‘disappearance’, he, and he alone, had the right to do that.

David
Guest
David

In my experience, Aaron is practically synonymous with “favorable impact.”

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

@anon #10:

I think that if the possibility exists that someone is considering taking their life, people are naturally going to want to intervene by any means possible, which is what you’re seeing here. It’s a natural human reaction, thankfully! I’ve never met Aaron, but I certainly hope he is found alive, safe and well. My thoughts go out to him, his family and friends.

Sixty
Guest
Sixty

I only know of Aaron because of what I have read and heard about him… he seems like someone I would have very much liked to meet and talk to when I was in PDX and will hope that I still get that opportunity when I come back.

My thoughts are with you all despite being 1000 miles away.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

We really can’t afford to lose Aaron.

jacque
Guest
jacque

Aaron, I can’t say it any better that Roger…

Where are you.
I’m as inept as you claim to be and have lots of projects I
could use your help with.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I haven’t seen Aaron in at least a year, but I feel like he’s made a major impact in my life — and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hope so much this all works out, and we can have a big laugh about it one day. Come back, Aaron.

Toby
Guest
Toby

@10 actually, he posted the letter on his website, There is no spectacle, only concern for a friend.

Babs
Guest
Babs

Thinking of you Aaron. Hoping you are reading this from a place of comfort.

Lisa G
Guest
Lisa G

This is indeed concern for a friend. I hope Aaron is on a trip to find himself anew. Other cultures have various rites of passage and vision quests. Our culture is barren of such roadmarks unless you seek them out yourself. Sometimes you have to bring yourself close to death to find meaning in life. I was there once. I did have the help of a friend. I hope Aaron knows he has us if he needs us. He is smart and strong. I pray for his safe return.

Joe Blow
Guest
Joe Blow

“•Aaron can survive on very little resources anywhere in this country.”

That is such a wrong statement in every sense. The seasoned survivalist knows that there are certain things needed to sustain life. water, shelter, warmth, food, and the willingness to survive. Without the desire to survive there is no life. And with the cold wet nights we’ve been having shelter and warmth is a must, or hypothermia is huge factor.

Bill Stites
Guest

Wow, I am in shock. I know Aaron pretty well, and this is completely unexpected to me.

I call him the ‘consummate volunteer’. The man is omnipresent. And always with a kind word and a warm smile. I know of no one who has given more of himself to good causes – bicycle and otherwise – than Aaron Tarfman. Honestly.

I don’t what else to say, except PLEASE COME HOME, AARON – WE LOVE YOU.

noah
Guest
noah

@Joe Blow #20: In saying that, Steven may have had in mind a lifestyle of dumpster-diving, couch-surfing and hitchhiking.

But I get the impression that Aaron would also want to remind us of what “very [few] resources” really means. 🙂

Roger Geller
Guest
Roger Geller

Aaron,

If you’re reading these comments–and I hope you are–you’ll understand that many people are concerned about you, myself included. Understand also that change is incremental. It takes time and the many steps of those, like yourself, who are dedicated to creating a better world. While none of us can single-handedly and overnight create the world we want right now, collectively we create the conditions that will get us there.

Your approach is tremendously positive. You have no way of knowing how your vision, actions and outlook–small though they seem to you–will affect others, who in turn effect others still–and on and on. You have contributed in countless ways that you’re not even aware of through your ideas, your photos, your events and your presence.

The battle is long. Take to heart the words of Margaret Mead: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

We need you and all the thoughtful people you have and in some way will continue to inspire.

Come on back brother.

Izarra Varela
Guest
Izarra Varela

My heart goes out to you, Aaron. I can’t possibly know what you are going through, but if you need a hug, or a beer, or just a pep-talk, you know where to find me.

Come home soon, my friend.

naomi
Guest
naomi

To me, his farewell letter reads more like a farewell to the city, that he’s packing things up and going to live far away in the woods somewhere. Maybe I’m just being dense?

Plus, if he was seen leaving with a big backpack full of camping gear, that’d be my guess too – that he just wanted to get away for a while. But that’s merely a guess.

Clarence Eckerson
Guest

Aaron,

Something within me thinks you are going for a long walk to get away from things, we all get frustrated and have our moments where we wish change would happen faster than it is.

Hopefully if you are out there walking and you are walking cross country and you come all way back to NYC you can witness how fast your old city is coming around to a better way of thinking and implementing a livable city. And if you do come here there are alot of old friends in NYC that would love to see you and talk to you and give you a big hug.

Jasper Lieber
Guest
Jasper Lieber

Hey Aaron – I want to show you the awesome hand-built cargo bike I’m using to shlep the kid back & forth from daycare, you’d so love it.

Ian Stude
Guest
Ian Stude

Aaron,

Please come back to us. Your value to our community is far greater than you might realize. As is our love for you.

Know that we await your return with open arms and warmth of spirit. There is no shame in wanting to escape, to take refuge from that with which we struggle. But please, for the benefit of all those who’ve come to know and appreciate you, please come home soon.

Patty Freeman
Guest
Patty Freeman

Nicely put, Roger.

Aaron, whom I’ve never met, has captured many peoples’ hearts with his commitment to a better world and his sincere kindness. It sounds like he is unaware of how much impact he has on his community. Aaron, I heard on NPR yesterday that we’re witnessing the death of the SUV! Something worth witnessing. Progress is incremental, but lots of people are working on it. My best hopes for your return to those who love you.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

Hey Aaron,

Wanted to also let you know that not all of us think progress needs to be incremental. When you’re ready to come back I hope you’ll still be on the team for taking back the streets all at once, today. You’re not the only one who feels that way and you’ve inspired a lot of us with your big ideas and warmth and cargo trikes. That’s what you’ve always consistently brought to the table and these are necessary, appreciated skills that are all too rare in the world. I’ve always been glad to have you on the team.

It sounds like nobody realized how bad things were with you, and I wish we hadn’t let it get to this point. Now that we all know what you need, though, when you get back here you’ll find a lot of it.

Damn, man, I hope you get through this thing okay. Take however much time you need but I hope you can come around to valuing yourself as much as the folks who miss you do.

With lots of respect,
Elly

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

I don’t know this man and, from his excerpt here, he seems to imply that he is living with considerable physical pain. However, I understand how he feels about society and frustrations that seem inescapable.
I want to say that, as it relates to the people who truly care about you, running away in whatever manner you chose to do so is THE WORST POSSIBLE THING TO DO.

I hope he is safe and can return to the people here who miss him.

Kirsty
Guest
Kirsty

Aaron was the first person that said ever hello to me, on my first ever day ever in Portland back in 2005, and that has always stuck in my memory. It was a Thursday, and we were both locking up our bikes outside the BTA’s old offices downtown to attend meeting about volunteering for Safe Routes to Schools. That’s the kind of person Aaron is. Loves volunteering. He was just SO super-friendly and bubbly – asked me how I was doing, how my bikeride had been. Nodbody had ever asked me how my bikeride had been before in my life. I don’t know. It just stuck in my head.

Over the coming years, I bumped into Aaron frequently – at lots of bikey events, and on a lots of wonderful projects & rides. He was somebody you could rely on to help out, to show up. Again. He’s just that sort of person.

It was Aaron who helped us all move a huuuge ugly-ass flowery patterned couch on his bike trailer, when we all decided for CarFree Day 2007 to take over a parking space on Belmont and convert it into an outdoor grassy living room.

It as Aaron who helped me Move by Bike, twice. Without his help, and his flatbed trailer, my bed would probably still be languishing somewhere in NW Portland!

It was Aaron who hauled ridiculous amounts of firewood in his bike trailer all the way to Champoeg State Park, so that the rest of us could have a beautiful evening campfire to stay warm after our bikeride out there.

It was Aaron who spent an entire afternoon knee-deed in freezing water hauling around an inner-tube at Oxbow Park on a bike camping trip, in order to keep an awesome, squealing, delighted seven year old amused for the day.

It was Aaron who showed up at the first ever Sunday Parkways in Portland, Transformation Trike at the ready, and rode around, giving bike rides to anybody and everybody all day long, for free. Seeing the looks of pure joy on people’s faces who hadn’t been on a bike in decades was priceless.

It was Aaron who offered to post off my ballot voting for Sam Adams as Mayor, when, amidst frantic last-minute packing with friends at his house for a bike trip across Europe last year, I had forgotten to do so.

In the time it takes me to make a sandwich for lunch, and perhaps take two bites of it, Aaron has built another three bike trailers, planted a vegetable garden, helped orchestrate an intersection repair project, and assisted in about five bike moves. Or, you know, something like that.

Aaron – you give SO much to the bike community, and your efforts ARE seen, and good lord, appreciated like hell! If you are reading this, I hope you are doing okay.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

Hey Aaron,

Just want to make sure you know how much I valued your presence and kindness over the years. Many people ask me what inspired me to start BikePortland and my answer is always the same … It’s the people — like you — in this community that I was inspired by. Your activism, your creativity, your dedication to shifting the paradigm of our streets.

You have had a larger impact on the issues you care about than you realize.

With love and respect,
Jonathan

Guy Berliner
Guest
Guy Berliner

Aaron is a truly gifted person with a big heart. I love him dearly, but his perspective is not wide enough right now to see the bigger picture, even though he thinks he has. I hope and pray that he takes a step back for a moment to consider that his view of things right now is extremely partial and incomplete.

Mr DeJerk
Guest

Take your time, Aaron, and all the best for you! You have an honest view of the world, and you definitely will be missed.

adam
Guest
adam

aaron, you are so right on so many topics. you are brilliant, determined, committed and valued. If you don’t come back, I can respect that because I know how deeply you hold your convictions – but just know that if you come back, you will continue to benefit the hundreds of people in your life and countless others that see your example and try their best, however flawed and incomplete they may be, to be better because of you.

we need you to be around and to be pushing the envelopes. please send word when you can. all the best.

matt picio
Guest

Anonymous (#10) – he left a farewell letter on his personal website, one in which he stated an intention to end his life. I’m not sure how much more public you can get than that. The people who put the word out have been his closest friends for years, and most of the concerned people who are “airing his laundry” so to say, are those who’ve worked, played and lived with him over the last 3+ years. We’re all concerned about him, for reasons that are obvious in the letter he wrote.

Aaron, if you’re out there, know that your friends, companions, and associates all care about you. We want to see you safe, hearty and healthy. You’ve had such a caring nature towards everyone you’ve met – have never had an ill word for anyone who didn’t manifestly deserve it (mainly politicians), and have been involved in nearly every real issue out there. Come back so we can hear your stories, laugh (or groan) at your puns, and make use of your limitless energy.

You are NOT a screw-up. You are a valued friend, mentor, and partner in the fight against ignorance, wastefulness, and bigotry.

We miss you in our lives and in the community.

Bonnie
Guest
Bonnie

Please come back, Aaron. You are valued, loved, appreciated, and indispensable to this community.

Keithg
Guest
Keithg

Aaron – If you are reading this know that my friend Donna considers you a friend and that she does not choose her friends lightly.

You are a very special person in the hearts of many.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Aaron – I remember your smiling face at so many events – please call the crisis hotline 1-800-716-9764 and let your friends help

Maren
Guest
Maren

You have been one of the most committed, enthusiastic, supportive, and caring people I have ever met. It’s clear just from these comments here how much you have meant to countless people in the bike community, and the larger community–even to some people who have never met you. Take the time and space you need, but then please come back and continue to be the quiet, bright beacon you have always been. We all love you and will be here to support you.

Meep
Guest
Meep

Is anyone going to organize a search party?
I doubt the cops are going to do much.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I really hope that all of you who where touched by Aaron have told him so before now. Sometimes we don’t get around to telling people how much we appreciate them.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Some of the comments have been that maybe aaron has gone on walkabout and is finding some clarity out there – I really hope this is the case but his farewell letter is not I’m checking out from society for a bit of soul searching – not the way I read it- his literary references are to death – dylan thomas gently into that good night and the “undiscovered country ” are both death references.
I’m all for search party/posse but where to look? Aaron is the most devoted guy to causes I believe in – I have been the recipient of his stand up / can do help – he emailed and pedaled over the stage we used at the CRC rally in waterfront park – he’s met with me, worked behind the scenes on other projects and been a resource of encourgement and infomation. If you are reading this Aaron. don’t get stuck in a moment – walk or ride it off and come back to us. And for those who want to judge or throw stones – life breaks everyone at some point – here’s hoping that Aaron’s still around to let a community of friends help him pick up the pieces.

loaner35
Guest
loaner35

In the beginning, God put Adam in the Garden to “till it and keep it.” Aaron – we still have a lot of work to do. Don’t abandon us and leave us with all the work. We need you on the team.

noah
Guest
noah

john #41, we don’t know whether Aaron is still alive or not. Why judge him for an action he may not have taken? At least for his friends’ sake, we should not make assumptions at this early stage.

But it’s an important subject, so I’d like to remind you that a severely depressed person will not see that there’s any other “way out”. If it’s a puzzle with no apparent winning choice, then how is it possible that suicide is the coward’s choice?

It also sounds like you think suicide is a moral strict liability. But what about cases like terminal cancer? torture? political oppression? A depressed person may not be suffering in any of these ways. But the existence of these marginal cases, on which most secular people agree suicide might be justified, should show you that it’s worthwhile at least “to reflect on” exactly what Aaron and your CNO were trying to find their “way out” of.

You should ask yourself if you could survive the same hell. If you have the power of imagination to put yourself in his shoes, and you find you truly could survive it — OK, but you might remember that Aaron may not have enjoyed some of the same advantages in genetics and rearing you have. It seems he is (was?) very troubled and never had the opportunity to experience life on the other side of misery.

Toby
Guest
Toby

John #41
Not for you to say. If you bought into that, then it’s you I feel sorry for. Do you also believe that apologizing is a sign of weakness? If so, then I apologize, you’re even worse off than I thought. Please feel free to dump whatever garbage you want in your own lawn, but please don’t dump it into someone elses.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Matt, #9, Aaron did not wear a helmet when we were riding his tandem ‘bent at Sunday Parkways 2008. So, he was not that compulsive about it.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

Aaron,I marvel at your bottomless kindness, time, and energy towards making the world a better place. Perhaps the empathy that fuels your activism also makes it hard to keep going sometimes because you are so aware of the harm being done to the earth. I wish you the best and I hope you come back soon. Portland needs you.

nahbois
Guest
nahbois

wow what amazing support. I can’t see how he could have made this statement “It’s obvious that I cannot make a positive contribution to the world” after reading all your comments.

I really hope he sees them all before he does anything permanent.