April 2011

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Friday, July 29, 2005


The End of the Oregon Trail

Back in May, with family visiting from out of town, I was hoping to make a trip down to Enchanted Forest. Somehow we wound up at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center instead.

Tucked away in a corner of Oregon City, the center had fallen on hard times. One of its two trademark wagon/buildings was missing its bonnet. What remained was a set of ovular steel husks that looked like rusted whale bones. Apparently, the bonnets weren't designed with damp Northwest winters in mind and the center was working on a set of refurbishments. After a prerequisite visit to the gift shop and a few minutes spent petting a friendly neighborhood cat, we headed inside.

The center's centerpiece is a two-part interactive presentation. In a small auditorium filled with pioneer relics, a teenager in dressed in period garb told us all about the trials and tribulations of the state's first European residents. Faced with harsh conditions, an array of nasty germ bugs and the occasional accidental, self-inflicted bullet wound (many city slickers had never handled firearms prior to hitching up their wagons), these pioneers were also hard-pressed to find firewood at times. So instead they used what was lying around- in many cases dried-up buffalo dung.

Most Oregon Trail interpretative centers would leave it that but that's not the case out in Oregon City. Sure enough, the teen just so happened to have a plate of dried bison poo at her disposal. A "chip" was passed around and of course I had to take a turn holding it. The chip was light and felt like a husk of dirt. Sometime later, while eating an oatmeal cookie in the gift shop, I realized I'd forgotten to wash my hands.

Anyway, this is what decade-old buffalo chips look like:

After the fun with feces segment, we were herded into a second auditorium. A life-sized video image of John McLoughlin appeared in the door of a wooden recreation of his end of the trail storefront. He narrated a short movie about the further hardships of these early settlers. In all honesty, the film was about as enjoyable as one of those banal Disney nature documentaries. On other hand, buffalo doodie is a tough act to follow.

After the film ended and its "Promised Land" theme song was firmly lodged in our brains for all eternity, we wandered out into a second building filled with museum displays. In one was this creepy stuffed snake. Check out the even creepier card next to it. What sort of sociopath put this display together?

Further down the line was a display filled with examples of pioneer humor. Most were dry 19th century prose that probably wasn't all that funny at the time. Fairly shocking though was a photograph of a Native American pretending to shoot a pioneer. Apparently, he was pals with one of the locals and the photo was a gag.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday. It's just a shame that the center doesn't sell copies of the Oregon Trail video game or "You Have Died of Dysentery" t-shirts in the gift shop. After all, why make the effort to be tasteful when your handing your visitors literal feces?

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Beans, beans, the magical fruit

I bought a box of something called ""Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans" at Powell's recent release party for the new Harry Potter book. It's been sitting in my bag for a week. What better way to pass an evening spent trapped in a cubicle then with a box of jelly beans?

Ok, there's roughly three million other things I could be doing right now, among them an extensive internet search for a better job. But this isn't your average box of jelly beans. Much like in the books/movies, the content's flavors range from "cherry" and "apple" to "bacon" and "earthworm." Recorded in real time below are my reactions to more disgusting beans as I bite into them; edited later for grammar and spelling but pure flow of conscious.

THE SARDINE BEAN: Eh, bleah....no, wait, not bad. Not bad at all. This tastes like a tuna roll dipped in sugar. Whenever scientists finally figure out the whole "Meal in a Pill" thing maybe this is what sushi capsules will taste like. Well, that's just super. I've just consumed the taste equivalent of future sushi. Didn't expect to be doing that tonight.

THE BLACK PEPPER BEAN: Oh, God. This one's awful....tastes just like pepper. The designers behind these aren't screwing around. Not a good sign, given the flavors of the rest of the beans on this list. The gelatin inside the bean...sort of like a pepper-flavored Jello. Bleah...this one's going straight in the trash.

THE BACON BEAN: Hmmm...synthetic bacon. This tastes like imitation bacon as designed by a robot. Like that conversation in the Matrix:. "Do the machines know what Tasty Wheat tastes like? Or does Tasty Wheat in the Matrix taste like something else?" Whatever. This bean sucks. Into the trash!

THE EARWAX BEAN: Like a dusty marshmallow dipped in cinnamon...not that I know what a dusty marshmallow dipped in cinnamon tastes like. If this is what they do taste like they're pretty good. But does *real* earwax have the same odd yet pleasant flavor? I don't know. I've never tried earwax. Dare I eat some of my own for the sake of this blog post? Sure, why not but what if one my coworkers catches me? Meh, that's their problem. Nothing in the Employee Code of Conduct about earwax consumption. Here goes....hmmmm...well, that's a whole new taste sensation. Not awful but by no means good. I think I'll wash my mouth out with Mountain Dew now.

THE DIRT BEAN: Yup. This one's absolutely terrible. Probably just what dirt tastes like. Why am I doing this? Curse you, J.K Rowling! I wouldn't be in this mess if weren't for your meddlesome, highly-derivative novels for children of all ages!

THE GRASS BEAN: How many more of these can I take? There's four more disgusting beans to get through. I've got to stay strong. I can get through this. If Lance Armstrong can win a million Tour de France's with just one ball and if George W. Bush can become president with just brain cell...oh, God. Now I writing banal political gags that even Randy Rhodes would turn her nose up at. The beans must be responsible. Nevertheless, I must press onwards. OK, grass bean. Do your worst. OK, you taste like lettuce. Not bad. Nowhere near good. Just kinda, sorta like lettuce.

THE EARTHWORM BEAN: Oh...ah, man...bleah. %@#$!#!#$! $@#!@! $!@!#$!!!!!! Pure sadism waiting like a hungry cheetah in a jelly bean. Tastes like what raw hamburger meat left outside on a hot day in Tiajuana must taste like. Or at least the artificially-flavored equivalent. Did someone at the bean factory actually eat a worm and mix various ingredients to create the closest flavor? If this is what worms taste like I HATE WORMS!

THE ROTTEN EGG BEAN: How much worse can these beans get? Here goes...wait. This a lemon bean. Wow, somehow I'm disappointed. I guess I'll never know what a rotten egg flavored jelly bean tastes like.

THE SOAP BEAN: Yeah, this one tastes like soap. Just like the Ivory Soap my mother once made me stick in mouth after overhearing me say the word "shit." I wonder if mothers that still employ this form of punishment look at the bottles for disclaimers and warnings. Has a child ever vomited on a parent after getting stuck with this punishment? Or become extremely ill? Wait, I think this issue was addressed in Jean Shepard's movie version of a A Christmas Story and the author's research was inconclusive. Whatever. Wow...thanks for making relive an unpleasant moment from childhood, jelly bean makers!

Well, that was fun.

No, wait. No. No it wasn't.

So I missed out on the rotten egg bean. Also missing from the box were two other nauseating flavors: "vomit" and "booger."

Maybe eating a vomit-flavored jelly bean would have been a life-altering event. The sort of incident that would inadvertently send me down a path towards winning a dozen Nobel Prizes or a NBA championship ring or eight years in the New Mexico Governor's Mansion. Now I'll never know.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005


What ever happened to Rocket Guy?

Yesterday's Columbia launch caused me to flashback to an episode of Art Bell's old "Coast to Coast" radio show. It must have aired back in 2000 or so. Bell's guest on that long-ago night was Brian Walker, a self-made entrepreneur that had made his fortune designing toys. A central Oregon resident, Walker was in the process of building a rocket on his property. His goal was to blast himself 50 miles in the sky, marking the first trip into orbit funded, built and flown by a private citizen.

The original launch date was set for Labor Day of 2001. Walker had planned to blast off from the middle of the Alvord Desert as a crowd of well-wishers looked on. After being the subject of numerous interviews and articles, Walker pushed back the launch to May of 2002. The following December he postponed the launch indefinitely, blaming distractions ranging from media demands to his desire to write a book about his experiences. In the months and years to follow Walker was interviewed by everyone from Conan O' Brien to Chuck Palahniuk.

From there, well, things get pretty strange as Walker was further sidetracked by his Russian bride, lawsuits and other problems. A summary can be found here in the last full-fledged update on his site. A short message on the main page promises a redesign originally slated for March of 2005.

So is Walker still working on his dream to fly into space? An internet search didn't turn up any answers. Are you still out there, Rocket Guy?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


These things always land on a work night

I can't go to this tonight since I'm stuck at work, dammit. Here's the obscenity-filled rundown, courtesy of the Mercury:

The Dude Goes Bowling

If I could only take one film with me to a desert island, it'd probably...not be The Big Lebowski, as much as I love it. Were I exiled to a bowling alley, however? Well, then there'd be no question: In that instance, yes, I would instantly choose The Big Lebowski.

Why? Because it 1) Is fucking hilarious, 2) Is about bowling, 3) Stars Jeff Bridges as "The Dude," possibly the coolest character/role model that cinema has ever created, and 4) Is even more fucking hilarious than noted above. So you can imagine how stoked I am about The Dude Goes Bowling, an "evening of Lebowski fun" that features bowling, music from the Dutch 200s, plenty of White Russians, other bowlers dressed up in bathrobes, and, doubtlessly, a shit-ton of quoting from the flick. ("Shut the fuck up, Donny!") In other words, it'll probably be the coolest night of bowling ever, and it'll all be themed around one of the coolest movies ever, and if that ain't a perfect combination, I don't know what is. ERIK HENRIKSEN

AMF Pro 300, 3031 SE Powell, Tues July 26, 8 pm, $8 (includes shoe rental, two hours of bowling, and music)

Monday, July 25, 2005


The magical healing power of Beck

Scientologists say that their religion allows them to heal ailments ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to mental and physical disorders. They've long criticized modern psychiatry and claim that "dianetics," Scientology's all-purpose methodology, can cure just about anything that ails ya'. After the premiere of Phenomenon, devoted believer John Travolta, claimed in an interview that he could heal people with his hands and once cured Sting's sore throat before a concert.

While Scientology devotees make no claim that music played by followers can cure ills, consider the following:

There is a sandwich. It is sold in a certain tavern in downtown Portland that shall remain nameless. A few months ago, I ate this sandwich and suffered through a nightmarish bout of indigestion. I didn't learn my lesson. I still head down there and order it every once and a while. Since that night months ago it hasn't given me any problems. But, after eating the sandwich on the night of Beck's July 16th concert at the Memorial Coliseum, a familiar rumbling in my gut returned.

I tried to keep my spirits up and my food down, at the very least not to ruin the evening for my colleagues, who had never seen Beck live before. I felt queasy as Le Tigre swapped instruments and bounced around the stage.

The majority of the band's music consists of pre-recorded samples and the irony of the opening set was lost on most of the audience. At one point, Kathleen Hanna and crew gave up their guitars and keyboards entirely to perform choreographed dance moves. A row of oblivious 30-somethings somewhere behind us shouted taunts across the Coliseum. No amount of eye rolls and glares from the crowd around them was doing anything to quell their sarcasm. If I was going to puke I wondered if I could make it up their seats in time to properly critique their criticism with a blast of regurgitated sandwich.

Le Tigre closed out their set with an "FYR" sing-along that left most of the audience scratching their heads and checking their watches. I downed a $4 Coke during intermission, hoping it might shut my gut up. No dice. If only I had paid more attention to all those cautionary bulimia videos during high school health class.

I headed back inside, unable to throw-up, unwilling to throw in the towel and completely incapable of eating the $39 + handling charges it cost to be there in the first place. If I was going to embarrass myself I figured I may as well do it within close proximity of a bathroom instead of a crowded MAX train. Plus, if I puked it might start a chain reaction ala that scene in Stand By Me. "Regurgitated Sandwich Starts Puke Riot at Beck Concert" might have been the above-the-fold headline in the July 18th edition of the Oregonian. Maybe Beck would even write a song about it.

Five minutes later the lights went down, a curtain fell and Beck strolled out in front of a projected starscape. As his band tore into the opening riff of "Black Tambourine" something amazing happened. My nausea suddenly disappeared. There's no accounting for why or how this happened. Maybe it was the soda. OK, fine, it was probably the soda. But maybe, just maybe, I was cured by...SCIENTOLOGY!

According to this article, Beck was born into the religion. He attended a Scientology-run school and took further courses as a teenager. A few years back he was "outed," drawing subsequent criticism from the press and causing two members of his band to call it quits.

I felt fine as Beck rolled through "Devil's Haircut," "Girl" and "The New Pollution." The show was much like the "Midnight Vultures" tour that landed in Portland in August of 2000. After bum-rushing through highlights from a decade worth of songs and covering Nelly's "Hot in Here," the lights lowered and Beck grabbed a harmonium for "Golden Age." It was one of those tender concert moments that people recall years later or least send them searching for their lighters.

Later, Beck broke out a guitar and began an improvised acoustic set as the band carried a dinner table out on stage. As they slurped soup, he played segments of "Truckdrivin' Neighbors Downstairs," "Debra" and a Portland-themed cover of "Purple Rain." The band provided occasional percussion with silverware and glasses.

During "Where's It At," a giant boom box dropped from the rafters and members of the crowd were ushered on stage. As Beck's set drew to a close I started feeling lousy again. After the lights came up the nausea had returned in full force. While Beck's music had apparently cured my stomach ailment it was only a temporary fix. I called it a night, headed home and spent the rest of the night moaning like a wounded animal in front of Police Academy 2.

So there's only one conclusion I can draw from the concert:

Sandwiches = evil. Scientology = not so evil.

Friday, July 22, 2005


** A Welcome to Blog Exclusive ** An Interview With Joey Berry, the Discoverer of the Sloth Popcorn Kernel

Joey Berry was a mild-mannered computer guru until fate intervened. After discovering a popcorn kernel that resembles Sloth (see below), the Baby Ruth-lovin' giant from The Goonies, he put it up for sale on eBay. Now he's popping up on Dallas radio and the kernel may earn him a three-story tall stack of dollar bills. Earlier this week Joey agreed to answer a few questions in an exclusive Welcome to Blog interview.

W2B: So how did you discover the Sloth Popcorn kernel?

JOEY: I was eating popcorn that was just made at work. When I was about to eat the last handful Sloth was staring right at me. I had to keep it.

Has it drawn Goonies worshippers to your house ala the Virgin Mary watermark in Chicago? If so, are they camped out on your lawn? Have they left candles and flowers all over the place?

Nothing like the [watermark] at all. If this happens, trust me. I will let you know and the local authorities!

What finally convinced you to part with the kernel on eBay?

I just knew a longtime Goonies fan, popcorn or art lover would enjoy this more than me.

Is this the first time you've discovered a food item that resembles a character from an '80s children’s movie?

Yes, I would have to say this is a first.

What's your response to critics that say the kernel looks more like Slimer from Ghostbusters than Sloth?

Hey, a little constructive criticism never hurt anyone. In fact, I feel it's good for everyone. I do feel the kernel looks a lot more like Sloth than the cheese toast looked like the Virgin Mary. However, I never see anything in those 3-D pictures so go figure.

Do you think you'll be able to sell the kernel for $28,000, the same price that the Virgin Mary toast eventually netted?

Only time will tell on this one.

The auction page can be found here. The current highest bid stands at $20.50.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


The high cost of living in Stumptown

For years Portland has been heralded for it's low cost of living. Supposedly, artists and bohemians flock here because real estate (*snicker*), utilities (*snort*) and transportation (ha!) are oh so cheap. Well, maybe that was still the case a decade ago but Forbes finally confirms what I've been saying for years now:

Livin' in Portland is gettin' hella' expensive.

In fact, it's #3 on the magazine's list of the ten most overpriced cities in the US. Apparently, this isn't the first time Portland has made the cut. Here's the blurb from Forbes:

Portland comes in on the northern end of the list once again. Like Seattle, it took some hard knocks during the dot-com bust. "Oregon's economy has not yet recovered from the recession of 2001," according to the state's official fact book, the Oregon Blue Book. At the end of 2004, the state's unemployment rate was lingering around 7% (it was 5% nationally in June). The quality of life is good, but real estate comes at a price. From the end of 2003 to the end of 2004, the median home-cost price increased by nearly $20,000 to $201,500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While the blurb focuses on the fledgling local employment rate and soaring cost of housing, it doesn't dip into the dramatic increase in water rates in recent years and the price of gasoline. If memory serves from all the articles the Oregonian ran on pump tabs last winter, Portland usually gets stiffed when it comes to fuel costs. For it's worth, gallons of gas have once again crossed the $2.40 mark at my neighborhood Chevron.

For friends living in tiny, overpriced apartments on the east coast this probably comes across as bellyaching. While rent on a studio on the other side of the country is no doubt pricier, I'm willing to bet utilities cost the same- inexpensive, Columbia River-fueled electricity aside. Plus, east coast cities have far more efficient mass transit systems. Portland's a town where you have to own a car if you don't live and work within the city's core. Tri-Met's service always has and always will suck for those of us that live in neighborhoods without a view of the Big Pink. If I didn't drive to work I'd face a two-hour commute home every night.

While the quality of life here in Stumptown may still be higher than that of New York (#2 on the list), quality doesn't necessarily come cheap.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Among the Potter fans

I don't "get" Harry Potter.

And I have plenty of my own geeky fixations. I paid good money to attend a Goonies convention. I can't kick my video game habit and I've seen just about every comic book movie to hit multiplexes in recent years. There's a "Darth Tater" Mr. Potato Head sitting on my bookshelf and I write a blog for God's sake.

But Potter, which rules the geek roost these days, has an appeal that remains a complete mystery. I've seen the movies and made it through the first written installment in the series. For me, the books are derivative and hackneyed, completely indistinguishable from all the other fantasy novels that clog the Yellow Room at Powell's City of Books. The half "The Worst Witch," half the Oz books and as unoriginal as unoriginal gets. The series centers around Potter's struggle with his destiny as he treads the thin line between the light and dark sides of a mystical force. Where have I heard that one before?

Despite this, as I sit here typing in my cubicle, I can see no less than three copies of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" sitting open on nearby desks. The latest installment sold 6.4 million copies in 24 hours flat last week after fans, young and old, camped out in front of bookstores. CNN ran segments all days showing shots of crowded sidewalks outside of the nation's bookstores.

So with nothing better to do on Friday night and with a sibling with a Potter fixation in town for a visit, I headed downtown to get a closer a look at this super cult. Maybe a few hours with these people would finally explain the appeal.

We arrived at the downtown Powell's around 10:15 as the line began snake alongside Burnside. Blocks away about a thousand fans further down the line were corralled into a queue next to a stage on NW Couch. The street had been closed down for the store's gala midnight debut of the book and a line of Bavarian dancers were spinning in circles with someone in a troll costume. An actor dressed as a character named Hagrid was pacing around nearby on stilts. Two employees dressed as wizards from a local coffee shop were selling something called "Butter Beer."

I tried to buy a cup but they were sold out. Apparently, it was really butterscotch soda with a 0.0% alcohol content. All around us were full-grown adults dressed as witches and teenaged wizards. A guy with a mascara stick was running around drawing lightening bolts on everyone's heads. Weirdest of all, no one here seemed to be inebriated.

I was hoping for fireworks but the highlight of Powell's event was the arrival of "Dumbledore" in a white, horse-drawn carriage. He jumped on the stage and read a speech as the clock crawled towards midnight.

Behind us, an elementary school teacher was excitedly talking about how the Harry Potter books have encouraged her students to read. I wonder if she would be as excited if her students started picking up copies of People magazine. Parents and teachers alike herald the books for their magical ability to draw kids to the written word. What difference does it make if what they're reading is as empty-headed as any given episode of Spongebob? Sure, they might improve reading skills but wouldn't a comic book or a copy of Teen Beat do the same? It's not like the series is filled with lush prose or 6-syllable words.

I didn't challenge the teacher to a debate and instead tried to hide my head behind a copy of the Mercury as my sibling, haven grown tired of my lame wisecracks about the event, headed off in search of coffee. This didn't stop a guy dressed up like the main character, with a lightening bolt drawn in fake blood on his forehead, from taping me on the shoulder.

POTTER GUY: "Pardon me, kind sir."

ME: "Huh? What?"

POTTER: "A gift from Harry Potter."

He handed me this:

Creepy, huh? Maybe he had overheard my quips and picked me out as an imposter. My first impression was that he was a fan that had taken his love for the books a few steps too far and had developed an unhealthy obsession with the dark arts. Was this some sort of hex? Was I going to start vomiting uncontrollably like the chicken on the card? Or was that arrow meant to depict a cursed dildo that was about to appear from a vortex and begin choking me to death. Wait...choke...chicken...uh oh.

Before my mind could continue to speculate, I turned it over. The card was really an advertisement for some sort of upcoming poetry reading/performance art piece.

I kept my mouth shut for the remainder of the wait, careful not to offend any real witches or warlocks that might be hanging around. As the younger Potter fans drifted off to sleep in their parents' arms, everyone else started getting antsy. Midnight came and went and the line slowly drifted towards the store's back entrance.

Somewhere down the line a hipster kid in a red t-shirt and his friends showed up. Filled with disdain for everyone around him he decided to break a cardinal sin of geek fandom. With his hands cupped around his mouth, he repeatedly shouted out the book's ending.

"__________ kills __________! __________ kills __________!"

Everyone around us shook off his taunts, figuring he had made up this spoiler. Was the hipster kid telling the truth? Maybe. Click on the talkback link below if you want to know the answer but aren't willing to slog through the 600+ page "Half-Blooded Prince."

Around 12:45 we finally entered the back door, passed a virtual mountain of "Half Blooded Prince" books and scored an autograph from Dumbledore as he signed copies next to a stuffed phoenix and a bowl filled with dry ice.

After spending a few hours with Potter fans I can't say I have a better understanding of this corner of geek culture but I got a free box of oddly-flavored jelly beans out of the evening. It supposedly contains vomit and dirt flavored beans. I guess that's fodder for a future blog post.


Miraculous Sloth popcorn pops up on eBay

A reader passed along this link to an eBay auction. Up for sale is a piece of popcorn that supposedly looks like Sloth from The Goonies. From the auction page:

"You could benefit from the buttery taste of this lovely item unlike myself (which I take no responsibility for) or keep it to add to your Goonies memorable collection!! I have enjoyed the Sloth popcorn for sometime and it has been the centerpiece of a number of conversations and brought much joy to my household, which you too can enjoy!"

Here's a pic:

I'd say it looks more like Slimer from Ghostbusters than Sloth. Nevertheless, the resemblance is closer than that of the Virgin Mary toast. An online casino supposedly bought it for $28,000 last year. With a little over nine days to go, bidding on the Sloth popcorn currently stands at one penny.

In other Goonies news, "Banjo" wrote in to say the film's characters made an apperance on "The Family Guy" last Sunday.

Monday, July 18, 2005


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free...of Wal-Mart"

A few weeks ago "Cup of Noodles" and I headed out to Milwaukie to get a look at the Statue of Liberty replica that made the news back in March. It's located smack dab in the middle of Milwaukie, just two blocks off Mcloughlin at 4255 SE Roethe Rd, the home of DP Auto Service.

Not that we knew that this at the time. Before jumping in the car I spent a good five minutes tracking down information on the statue online. Surprisingly enough, no one out there has set up a fansite. At least not yet anyway. It's as if the locals think three-story Statue of Liberty replicas are a dime a dozen in this part of the country.

Ingrats. On the other hand, they've been pretty busy fighting off Wal-Mart.

The only information we had to work with was the photos over at "Oh Dog, You Slueth." They indicated that the statue was located behind a yellow strip mall with a Pogy's Subs. Lady Liberty's arm and torch would apparently be visible over the shop's sign.

After a fruitless drive down Mcloughlin and a side trip to the Oregon City Municple Elevator, we wound up at a 7-11. And there she was a block away. Our pit stop had obviously been orchaestrated by fate. Or dumb luck. Whatever.

The statue was simultaneously shorter and and taller than I had imagined. At 31 feet she's a good deal more petite than the one sitting on that island off the coast of Manhattan. On the other hand, it's probably the tallest man-made structure located within Milwaukie city limits.

The statue's also incredibly out of place. It sits on a brick pedestal surrounded by a slender green lagoon. Surrounding that is a sea of assorted auto body shops and pavement. And surrounding that? Milwaukie proper.

At the base of the pedestial there's a short written tribute to freedom. The owner of the statue imigrated from the Middle East and is apparently a big, big fan of the United States of America. After all, what nation on Earth allows the foreign-born to enter its borders, inadvertantly set a reproduction of one of its timeless icons on fire and only run the risk of drawing a local network affiliate and fire trucks instead of the secret police?

Not a single country that I can think of. Who says the American Dream is dead?

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Thursday, July 14, 2005


This can't be real

Spotted on a bumpersticker in Beaverton:

There are very few problems in this world that cannot be solved with the suitable application of HIGH EXPLOSIVES!

Fairly Honest Don's Machine Gun Parlor. Hillsboro, OR. 640-0750.

Maybe I should give them a call. My yard is slowly being overtaken by an army of dandelions and Morning Glory. For a moderate sum maybe they'll come over and go nuts Jesse Ventura-in-Predator-style on all these %$@#@!! weeds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


What's old is new again

A review I put together for "Get Behind Me Satan," the White Stripe's latest, has jumped out of Welcome to Blog and into this month's issue of the Oregon Music Guide.

Here's the link.

Monday, July 11, 2005


One last trip to Hung Far Low (?)

A cover story from today's Oregonian delves into Hung Far Low's final days and the changing face of Portland's Chinatown. Daunted by parking problems, rising rents and the creeping menace of the Pearl District, the neighborhood's iconic businesses are all high-tailing it out to SE 82nd. Money quote:

"Yet Chinese Americans in the area have long known what they call the Chinese Chinatown has emerged on 82nd, where the newer wave of immigrants settled and opened businesses. They say the Old Town Chinatown with the Portland Classical Garden and restaurants that cater more to Western tastes is the 'tourist Chinatown.'"

An Eastside Chinatown mixed in amongst the 82nd Wal-Mart and its strip mall offspring? Sure, there's plenty of free parking but screw practicality. What about all the mysterious ambiance? The frayed-at-the-edges '50s decor in all those places in and around NW 4th Avenue? As a character on the Simpsons once put it, "where's the dank"? My "Western tastes" prefer a Chinatown sprinkled with ancient neon signs, an element of danger and the slim possibility that I might encounter a mogwai.

Can't we at least have both versions? A real-deal Chinatown on the Eastside and a kitschy, crime-ridden downtown one for adventure-seeking clubhoppers? The eclectic crowds, celebrity sightings and semi-amusing anecdotes (see below) aren't likely to follow these businesses after they all leap over the Willamette River. C'mon, won't someone please think of the children hipsters?

Anyway, I made what will probably be my last trip to Hung Far Low a few weeks ago for dinner. After diving into a booth in the lounge, a half-dozen Suicide Girl types and their male cohorts entered. It was someone's birthday and they were celebrating by going on a bar crawl through Chinatown. As I waited for my chow mein, they tossed around lewd wisecracks and sang "Happy Birthday." While divvying up the bill, one suggested that they all take off their tops and march down to the Magic Gardens. "It's totally legal," one claimed. "There's nothing the police can do to stop us."

Coincidentally (honest!), my bill arrived around the same time. I headed back to my car and as I drove down 4th Avenue, sure enough, at least a few of them were going along with the plan. The bouncer outside the Magic Gardens had stopped them at the door. One was rolling her eyes as she put back on her t-shirt. Apparently even strip clubs adhere to the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" rule.

Hung Far Low, you will be missed. Sure, you're moving about a mile away but it just won't be the same.


Missouri or Gresham?

Two accused methamphetamine traffickers apparently rigged up their car so that if cops closed in, a small rocket carrying their stash would pop up from the trunk and launch itself far from the long arm of the law.

For some reason, the rocket never achieved liftoff. [U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman] Ledford explained that a web of ropes and pulleys lifted the rocket into launch position when the trunk lid was opened. The rocket could then be ignited from inside the car using the dashboard cigarette lighter.

Cops are pretty certain the rocket was meant to be an escape pod for the drugs, but Ledford diplomatically declined to speculate.

So did this take place out in Gresham or waaaaaay out in Missouri? Give it some thought and click here for the answer compliments of Fox News. After that, have a look at these quips about the incident over at "Flex Your Rights."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


The night Hatoon met HST

Outlaw journalist Hunter S. Thompson and University of Oregon campus icon Hatoon passed away within a few weeks of one another earlier this year. Despite being radically different individuals from radically different walks of life, they actually met one another on a February night in 1991. Thompson was visiting Oregon for a lecture at the Eugene Hilton and Hatoon was in attendance. In this season's edition of Oregon Quarterly, UO alum Arik Hesseldahl breaks out the anecdote in a tribute to Thompson. And here it is:

Later Thompson received a strange visit from a local homeless woman known popularly around campus as Hatoon. Entertained, Thompson let her try to make a speech on the peril of water in campus drinking fountains, but she struggled and sputtered. Seemingly frustrated, she said, "If you could point a laser beam at my brain, you might understand." Thompson smirked, and pulled a laser sight- the kind used on rifles- from a pocket and pointed it at her as she had described. She didn't like this and fled the stage.

It's a shame those two didn't spend more time together. The fodder from their potential wacky adverntures would have made for a great Rolling Stone article

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall

Every year my family trucks down to Cannon Beach for Independence Day. In recent years this annual tradition has become a lightening rod for a series of calamities and squabbles. In 2002 I crash landed at the coast after quitting a post-undergrad summer job at a hotel in Yellowstone. The inevitable "What are you doing with your life?" argument with my folks went down amidst a crowd of celebratory families wielding hot dogs and sparklers. Last year this happened.

All things considered, 2005's trek tops the ill-fated trips of years past. I can't vouch for everyone else but I wasn't wearing a cursed tiki necklace. Maybe there was one wedged in the cushions of the hotel room's couch. Consider the following:

After getting booked into the wrong hotel room, my sister was bitten by a mysterious bug, I took a hard fall on a skimboard and a trip to the local bakery resulted in a damaged hubcap and scrapped tire on my father's new Camry (if you own one, pay extra close attention to the curb while street parking. They bruise easy).

Then, on the morning of the 3rd, I crawled out of bed and onto the deck to take a deep whiff of the salty sea air and a regal view that stretched over the Pacific all the way to the horizon. While I busy enjoying all the majesty, I felt a few drops of water hit my neck. I took a few steps back as more trickled down from overhead.

I figured it was runoff from a clogged gutter. Then I realized that it hadn't rained the night before. What looked like bird crap hit the railing next to a "Do Not Feed the Seagulls" sign as a growing collection of yellow drops slammed against the sliding glass door.

Still half-awake and disoriented, I headed outside to investigate the source of the muck. It seemed to be coming from a deck directly over ours on the third floor. Up above, a sorority girl was carrying an ice bucket filled with water.

ME: "Are you cleaning a fish up there?"


ME: "Whatever you're doing it's getting all over our deck on the first floor."

ICE BUCKET GIRL: "Ummmm...ok. I'll stop."

She headed back inside and closed the door. A better man would have run upstairs to help her clean up the mess. Or at least fire a retaliatory bottle rocket from the lawn below. Thirty minutes after a call to the front desk, two maids showed up at our door wearing disposable gloves. They were more than happy to reveal the true identity of the muck.

Yep, it was puke.

They'd just come from the third floor via the second floor where the guests had called to complain about their deck's new coat of regurgitated pina coladas. The sorority girl was caught half-heartedly trying to clean up the mess by dumping buckets of water on it.

I spent a good portion of the morning plotting revenge tactics only to realize that they would have resulted in the entire family getting kicked out of the hotel and/or arson charges. Wherever you are, Ice Bucket Girl, I hope you're still suffering from that hangover.

I can't wait for 2006.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Happy 4th two days early

"Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!" We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"

-Bill Paxton and/or Pullman

In a few minutes I'm off to spend the weekend fighting the good fight down at Cannon Beach. The locals have once again banned fireworks on a public beach. Last year their efforts were (somewhat) twarted by a few hundred "patriots" that stormed the coastline and fired them off despite their objections and a heavy police presence. Anyway, you can read about the whole mini-saga here.

Here's a few other holiday-appropriate links:

  • Coco Colado's 2003 "fire-no-works" guide.

  • Coco Colado's 2004 "fire-no-works" guide.

  • The National Council on Fireworks Safety (*yawn*)

  • The National Archives' history of the Declaration of Independence (double *yawn*)

  • About M-80s - Pyro Universe's guide to the history of the world's finest (and most finger-shreddin'-licious) fireworks.

  • X Entertainment's Fireworks Extravagozzzola - XE's guide to the world's lamest fireworks.

  • Phantom Fireworks - A site that sells fireworks 365 days out of the year. Keep it in mind if you're looking to make Thanksgiving a little more interesting.

  • A happy Independence Day to all and to all a good night!




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