April 2011

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


One last night at the old Driftwood Room

The Driftwood Room and the Hotel Mallory were set to close their doors earlier this afternoon at noon. I'm ashamed to say I didn't make enough trips down there after I became of drinking age. Each time I did though, eavesdropping yielded a least one bit of conversation worth remembering. A while back, I listened in as an off-duty mechanic revealed a recipe for what he called "perfect bar-b-cue sauce." One of the key ingredients? Mad Dog wine.

A trip down there late Saturday night did not disappoint and the Driftwood was filled with at least a few patrons worthy of Twin Peaks. While we there, a drunk middle-aged woman left her purse at the bar after heading upstairs with a guy that looked a lot like Ron "Hellboy" Perlman.

Looking at the array of strange bottles behind the bar, my eye caught one with a plain, white label towards the back. Sloe gin? That stuff really exists? Going off Jack Black and Loretta Lynn's recommendation, I ordered my first ever sloe gin fizz.

Verdict? Both too sweet and too tart but probably a good drink for a place filled with Baby Boomers looking to score. I asked the bartender who typically orders it. Creepy old guys and young woman apparently love the stuff.

I promptly spilled a substantial amount of the fizz after hitting the "Fault Line," a large crack in the bar that has caused many a drink to fall over the years. As another bartender later explained, the fault holds the bar, its ambiance and possibly even the whole universe together. From what I understood, I hadn't just spilled a drink. This was destiny, serendipity, nirvana and "meant to be" all rolled into one- a sacrifice to the Gods of Liqeur. Or something like that. He was screwing with us and we played along.

Sloe gin fizz. Ron Perlman. Sarcastic existential musing about perfectly good booze gone to waste. While your doors willl open again this summer, Driftwood Room, I get the feeling you'll never regain that old, weird "magic. You looked just like an airport lounge that hasn't been remodled since the '50s. And you always reminded me of that hotel bar in a certain Stanley Kubrick movie.

The Driftwood Room is dead (for the most part)! Long live the Driftwood Room!


Tokyo Prayer Card Week Continues

So what are prayer cards, you ask? Commonly referred to as ema, they're small wooden plaques Shinto worshipers use to jot down prayers or wishes. At least in the case of Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, the cards are collected over the course of a year and burned during a yearly ceremony. This one was found in near the Sensoji Temple (adjacent to the huge market that all the tourists go nuts over).

So how do cartoon monkeys work into the whole thing? [UPDATE: A reader from Eugene wrote in to report the obvious. These photos were taken in 2004, the year of the monkey.]

One side of each card had an image of lovey-dovey florescent chimps, the other prayers written in Japanese. I'm by no means an expert in Shintoism or can read a single character of the language but it's pretty obvious that the building adjacent to where I found this one was a wedding chapel. Nearby a priest was leading a young couple on a tour of the grounds.

Some of the cards featured two gorillas kissing. Another had a chimpanzee cradling a baby. One even featured a boy monkey in a bed with two girl monkeys. Think that's crazy? A card nearby had a girl monkey making out with a gardener monkey while her monkey husband was getting into a car, evidentially on his way to a job at a company no doubt owned and operated by....


Ok, I made those last two up. While the prayers were all in Japanese, it's pretty obvious which each one was for: happiness, well being, pregnancy, etc. As for the one pictured above, I have no clue. That cartoon monkey couple looks, well, lobotomized. Maybe it contained a prayer for inexpensive lobotomies.

Aren't you glad you took the time to read this? Did you really think you would be spending a few minutes tonight reading about monkey prayer cards from Japan? I've spent a grand total of five minutes looking for information on why these cards featured simians instead of a wide variety of representatives from the cartoon animal kingdom. I couldn't find anything. I guess I'll never know.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for more photos like this, click here.

Tomorrow: a prayer card written by a random Portland resident. Here's a link to yesterday's card.


When the levy breaks

An interesting post on Mayor Potter's tax proposal over at Jack Bog stirred up plenty of debate yesterday. 73 responses so far and counting. If it passes, City Hall will impose a temporary, four year 0.95% income tax to help fund its school districts. The proposal may wind up on a ballot in May or could be pushed off until November.

I attended Robert Gray Middle School in SW Portland in the early '90s during the height of Measure 5 and the ensuing fall-out. At one point we were herded into the gymnasium for an "assembly." For thirty-minutes or so, various PPS administrators and our principle showed us pie charts and pounded the fear of God into us. The message being conveyed was a simple one: if we didn't run home and nag our parents before they filled out their ballots, our teachers would be laid-off, our arts program would be cut, the basketballs in PE would be under-inflated, the sky would fall, etc.

The experience has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since. Every few years when school proponents roll out "the kids" in an effort to promote a tax levy or kill a ballot measure, I raise an eyebrow.

Potter's proposal comes on the heels of a "temporary" three-year Multnomah country tax levy. It was originally intended to get the school districts through some tough times and allow the state legislature enough to enough time to work on the budget. Three years later, nothing has been accomplished and now Portland, which isn't officially responsible for funding its school districts, is looking for a quick fix. If the proposal passes, the folks down on SW 4th will be allowed to change a city charter, enabling them to put the tax into effect.

Which, of course, sounds like a slippery slope. If this latest "temporary" tax goes into effect, it could very well open a Pandora's Box that will lead to future taxes and less reform. For over a decade, fiscal responsibility has alluded Portland's mayors and city commissioners. While there never seems to be any cash for the kids, they always seem to drum up funds for PGE Park renovations, turning the armory into a theater, a convention center expansion, a failed attempt to buy PGE, tax breaks for condo developments, the OHSU tram project, a future bus mall revamp, etc.

If Portland is already thinking about altering the charter for a quick fix, maybe it should be focusing on changing other parts of it and diverting revenue from pet projects to the ailing school system. While proponents would inevitably cry that this would take years, the city/county/state have already had 14 or more years to fix this problem. I've been listening to this debate since I myself was a PPS moppet. It's time to solve this problem once and for all and stop remedying the situation with band-ads.

If Portland has money for trams, it has money for the kids. $15 million buys a hell of a lot of chalk.

That's what I love about ol' Stumptown. It's capable of turning a die-hard liberal like me into a rabid, anti-tax "tightie rightie" in the time it takes to read a single Oregonian article.

Monday, January 30, 2006


It's Tokyo Prayer Card Week!

It's Tokyo Prayer Card Week on Welcome to Blog!


So why devote a week's worth of posts to photos of prayer cards found in various shrines and temples around Tokyo?

Well, I had a few shots lying around on the ol' hard drive and figured they should go up on the internet. Simple as that. Plus, who doesn't enjoy poking into the dreams and wishes of random people that once spent time on another continent? They're not found objects or "secret postcards" but I do what I can.

So each day this week Welcome to Blog will roll out another prayer card. They're part of an all-new Flickr gallery chock full of Tokyo images. If you aren't the patient type, click here to buzz through all six prayer card photos and forty-five others.

And here's a direct link to a larger version of the photo above.


The kids win

The masses have spoken.

All 23 of them.

The results are in from last week's poll and a slim majority of voters have determined that my ill-gotten Toys 'R Us gift card should be donated to Doernbecher Children's Hospital. All $10 of it.

So if you really, really wanted to see a Quicktime video of a remote control car on fire, you can blame them and their upstanding good nature. Now dry those teary eyes. There's at least a slim chance that the poor, sick kid who receives it will trade it for a cheap remote control car, set it on fire, film it jumping over something and put the footage on the internet.

It could happen.

Ok, I'm not the sort of blogger that enjoys disapointing readers hungry for flaming remote control car videos. While Google Vcouldn't fill this nitch, it did hook me up with this footage of a dog being attached by a sadistic miniature jeep.

Meh. That video stinks. Try this instead. It's a video of toy robots dancing to that "My Humps" song, compliments of Little Lost Robot.

It is mesmerizing.

Friday, January 27, 2006


No "Bubble" for Portland?

Steven Soderbergh's experimental film "Bubble" opened in theaters around the country today but will it be playing on screens here in Portland? Apparently...


"Bubble" has had a good amount of controversy heaped on it over director Soderbergh's ("Traffic," "Ocean's 11") decision to release it almost simultaneously in theaters, on DVD and pay-per-view. Theater owners nationwide are outraged and unwilling to screen it in many cities for obvious reasons. If the film is a success, more film companies might do the same with future releases, meaning less $ for them.

While "Bubble" is earning favorable reviews, the cast consists entirely of unknowns, the budget was minimal and the plot, which concerns the dreary lives of factory workers, isn't likely to inspire any long lines at US multiplexes. Films like this are usually released on only a handful screens nationwide during their first week as their distribution company watches to see how many tickets it sells and if its worth putting on screens in other cities. "Bubble'"s simultaneous release seems like more of a publicity stunt to draw attention to one of Soderbergh's indie projects than an earnest attempt to change the movie business as we now know it.

Still, it's a shame that "Bubble" didn't land on at least one screen here in Portland, especially since it's screening in Tucson, Arizona of all places. If Regal Cinemas, which operates most of the chain theaters in town, wasn't willing to screen the film here, why didn't a locally-owned movie house like Cinema 21 or the Clinton Street Theater step up to the plate? Neither theater currently has the movie listed on their online schedules. Maybe they too aren't screening the film for the same reasons that Regal wouldn't go near it. If Portland moviegoers want to see "Bubble" on the big screen, the nearest screen showing it is at the Metro Cinemas in Seattle.

As for pay-per-view, Comcast Cable apparently has no plans to air the film on pay-per-view anywhere in its Oregon market. It also isn't scheduled to appear on the cable company's In-Demand service. "Bubble" may be available in Portland video stores when it's released on DVD this Tuesday, January 31st. The film will also available on Netflix.

A measly one out of three? C'mon Portland, you're a movie-going town. You can do better. Don't you want to be apart of film history?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


The dodgiest coloring contest scam in the history of dodgy coloring contest scams

I was flipping through last Friday's edition of the Portland Tribune when I discovered the following announcement on page A6:


Last month I lied about my age and entered the paper's "Winter Wonderland" coloring contest. A few weeks later, my efforts earned me a free subscription (for some reason) to the Lake Oswego Review.

As the announcement reveals, my entry eventually landed in the winner's circle. In addition to the subscription, I also apparently won not only a free trip for four to the Washington Park Zoo but a $10 Toys 'R Us gift certificate as well.

So there it is. I've scammed a children's coloring contest and, while I won all sorts of fabulous prizes, a number of kids came in ahead of me. I knew I was born with limited artistic skills but still...eight year olds? I paid forty grand and wasted four years of my life to earn a University of Oregon arts* degree only to be beat by eight year olds in a coloring contest?!! My entry should have come in at number one, dammit! I've got way more experience with colored pencils than these brats! AND I stayed within the lines**!

They probably bribbed the judges. Yeah, that's it. Those little $@#$! con artists.

Anyway, it was never my intention to cheat a random Portland second grader out of toys and a trip to see Packy the elephant. I merely wanted to cheat a random Portland second grader out of the opportunity to have their drawing appear in the Tribune. Instead of filling valuable ad space with children's coloring contest entries, the paper instead decided to hand out prizes.

What have I done? Yep, I'm a regular monster.

So the blood, er, red Magic Marker ink is on my hands and, quite frankly, I'm riddled with a small but substantial amount of guilt. The Toys 'R Us gift certificate arrived in my mailbox over the weekend (I still have yet to see the zoo tickets). While I could try to restore some lost karma by donating it to a local charity, I've decided to make things more interesting by setting up a poll and letting y'all decide for me.

So what should I do with this ill-gotten Toys 'R Us gift certificate?

Gifit Certificate Poll

What should I do with the Tribune's Toys 'R Us gift certificate?

Donate it to Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
Leave it on a bench near the basketball courts in the South Park Blocks at precisely midnight on Groundhog's Day.
Charity? BAH! Use it to buy yourself a copy of "The Warriors" for the Xbox. Or candy. Lots of candy.
Use it to buy a cheap remote control car. Set it on fire, jump it off a ramp, film the whole thing and stick the video on the internet for our amusement.
Set the gift certificate on fire, film the whole thing and stick the video on the internet for our amusement.
Leave it somewhere random and let the bad karma follow whoever picks it up ala "The Ring"
 Current Results

As a wise man once said, "Choose but choose wisely." My karma is in your hands.

* A liberal arts degree but an arts degree nonetheless.

** For the most part.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Bye-bye old Driftwood Room

The Oregonian ran a sad story on the final days of the Hotel Mallory and the Driftwood Room. The later isn't going anywhere and the former will remain standing under new ownership. Still, when the historic lounge undergoes remodeling it's set to receive not only new furniture but, get this, NEW CARPETING TOO!


No, seriously, bringing the lounge into the 21st century will kill a lot of the place's charm. Please, new owners, do what you want to the hotel itself but leave the Driftwood's 500 square feet or so tucked into that corner of the lobby alone.

If you dig ancient Portland night spots, you've got five or so days to see the Driftwood Room in all its old-school glory. Once the doors of the Hotel Mallory close, all the mini-lounge's classy dank will vanish forever.


The Shane Company and the worst music in the world

While stuck at a lengthy traffic light today I started mindlessly flipping through Portland's FM airwaves. I blazed past all the Shane Company ads and...

...ok, hold up. Let me swing off course and point out something that may help you down the line. If you're ever somewhere and for some strange reason you need to determine if someone is a local or a transplant, bring up the Shane Company. Anyone that has spent a few years in this city can quote the following with some degree of accuracy:

"The Shane Company. Open Monday through Friday 'till 6...."

Can you complete this sentence? If not, you. sir, clearly haven't been around these parts for long.

The diamond importer has used the same announcer at the end of all of their local radio spots since at least the '80s. Whoever this guy is, he has a voice that's as distinctive as Bill Schonley's or Tom Peterson's. If you've heard a Shane Company ad more than a few times, these few sentences have no doubt become permanently lodged in your brain. If someone walks up to you in the year 2050 and you're standing on a corner in Bali and they look you straight in the eye and say "The Shane Company. Open Monday through Friday 'till 6..."

you'll no doubt spit out "...Saturday and Sunday 'till five." It will be like a gag reflex, even if you haven't thought of Tom Shane or jewlery since sometime during GW's third term (if he's gotten away with this much and still hasn't come close to impeachment, you can bet it'll happen). You'll have no control over yourself. "Saturday and Sunday 'till five" will come pouring out of your mouth from a long forgotten but still functioning recesses in the back of your head.

Yet another reason to get a SIRIUS subscription, I guess. Anyway, back to the rambling blog post already in progress

...I landed on "The Fish," a station that plays nothing but Christian pop. On the air was a gospel cover of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." As "South Park"'s Cartman once discovered, any love song can easily be translated if you simply replace the word "baby" with "Jesus." The minds behind this song didn't change any of the words around but did manage to work in a church choir and what sounded like a few million Goodwill synths.

Music doesn't get much worse than lousy Beatles covers. I still have nightmares about the time I listened to the entirety of Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin's cover of "Come Together." It still stands as the single worst recording I've ever heard. Remember the box in "Hellraiser"? You know what would have been scarier than pale sadists in leather gear? A box that contained the Beatle's catalog and demon versions of McFerrin and Williams with megaphones hanging around their necks.

As bad as the gospel cover of "Maybe I'm Amazed" was, it didn't match what KGON had in store for me as I was heading to Uwajimaya tonight: a recording of Styx doing "I Am the Walrus."


"The horror! The horror!" doesn't cover it. The misery this song dished out can't be put into words, Conrad's or anyone else's. Instead, here it is described in a series of painful grunts.

"Bleah. Bleah. Ugh. BLeah. Allahlajelrhawlkuf. Agh! Arrrrgh! Pbbbbbbt! Blah. Ugh."

I hate you, Portland radio.

UPDATE: While driving home from work on Thursday, I heard a new Shane Company commercial on KNRK. It was for their Valentines Day pendants (only a mere $150! Get 'em while they last!) and they had a sultry woman read off their URL and location at the ad's conclusion. It's the end of an era, I guess. *sigh* BRING BACK THE OLD SHANE COMPANY GUY! A new generation of Portlanders need to be brainwashed!

This is the stupidest blog post I've ever written. Or at least the stupidest in a week or so.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Sailing down the ol' Mississip'

I got lost last night in North Portland. In the neighborhoods that gentrification has yet to touch. For about an hour.

I drove the wrong way down a few one way streets and pissed off no less than one drug dealer. A car belonging to one of his clientele was blocking a narrow street. He looked at me, shook his head and signaled to the driver to unlock the passenger-side door. After a long pause, he rounded the car, jumped in and they turned the corner.

Or maybe they were just screwing around. I don't want to make any assumptions here. They could have been going bowling.

After driving in circles I finally landed at my destination: a brewpub on North Mississippi. The street's line of bars and shops are the polar opposite of the boarded up storefronts a few blocks away on MLK. The place was filled with the sort of crowd you'd typically find on Belmont or Hawthorne. Phil Busse was even sitting at a table near the door.

Later at the Crow Bar*, I passed a table full of hipsters arguing with a disoriented man in an old wool jacket. "Get away from our table," one said with a sneer. "You're probably full of scabies."

A few minutes later, the same guy wandered over to us, threw his arm around my shoulder and started arguing with the bartender.

"We've been over this before. You're not welcome in here if you're going to hassle the customers."

"Ok, hey. I'm a customer. I wanna buy a beer. Here you go."

He tossed four quarters down on the bar with a defiant smirk on his face. The bartender gave the change a quick glance and sent him packing. White guilt may as well have come complimentary with our drinks like a bowl of peanuts. There's no telling what his backstory is. Maybe he's a retiree that's been priced out of his home by the g-word and has turned to the bottle or worse to deal with it. Or maybe he was just some old junkie that has made a living doing this sort of thing on the street for decades. Maybe we should have bought him a beer or maybe we should have done just what we did: continued to stare at our drinks and let the bartender deal with the situation. He left the quarters behind as he headed out.

As I drove people home, I was regaled with tales of guys that sit at bus stops but never actually get on a bus and prostitutes that argue with their pimps on sidewalks. About crackheads lighting up in broad daylight and tossing their pipes on lawns. The days for this brand of urban blight are no doubt numbered. Maybe Phil Stanford will one day write a book about the area's past and the new residents will look on the era with glassy-eyed nostalgia like they do Prohibition and the mafia. Maybe an entrepreneur will set up a North Portland tour and lead people down the streets with tales of drive-bys and crackhead ghosts that still linger in certain alleyways. "And this is Bishops Barbershop, folks. Out of misguided frustration over the direction their neighborhood was heading, a former local tossed rocks through this very window."

There's no way to throw out something like this and not feel like a jackass for sticking it up on the internet. Nonetheless, here it is. At least you should be able to agree with this: "Crow Bar" has to be the worst name ever for a North Portland bar.

Friday, January 20, 2006


The Giant Shoe Museum

I spent five hours today putting together a desk from IKEA.

It's the size of a tank and as rickety as a porch full of termites.


I should have spent all that money on candy and gum.

Please enjoy these photos of 1/3 of Seattle's Giant Shoe Museum.

Curse you, Ingvar Kamprad!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


At the "meh-vies" 2005

Best of 2005 movie lists. In the last few weeks they've appeared in just about every newspaper, magazine, website, blog and info-tainment show in the country. But what about the movies that shot for excellence only to tumble back to Earth in flaming balls of mediocrity? Why don't they get their own list at the end of the year?

To make up for this glaring oversight, Welcome to Blog is proud to present the movies that received the most "mehs" from audiences in 2005. You may not agree that all of these films belong here but, hey, that's what best, worst and otherwise movie lists are designed to do: piss you off.

If you're not a fan of SPOILERS, now would be a good time to stop reading this.

Broken Flowers: Bill Murray bags Sharon Stone and...what else happened in this movie? Oh, yeah, NOTHING! Murray spends 90 minutes with a blank stare on his face as his character half-heartedly tracks down five former lovers that may or may not be the mother of his long lost son. We're supposed to believe that a man who dresses entirely in track suits with absolutely no charisma or personality to speak of is a "Don Juan" capable of seducing every woman he comes into contact with? Working in the "computer business" must have earned him enough cash to buy the most powerful bottle of Spanish Fly on the planet. The endless shots of Murray sitting on his couch and an impossibly tedious first act further bog down a film that should have been another "Lost in Translation." Sometimes images and long pauses can speak a thousand words. In the case of "Broken Flowers," they don't say anything at all. Nonetheless, the ending is admittedly great, as is the sequence in the pet physic's office.

The Corpse Bride: A stop-motion film about necrophillia for kids of all ages. What could possibly go wrong? Besides the obvious, plenty. The songs were banal and unmemorable, the jokes were tepid and the film contained too many characters without enough screentime. Plus, the damn thing was twenty minutes too short. That said, it's still a stop motion film about necrophillia for kids of all ages, which automatically earns itself a bung-load of points for sheer gal. The fact that Tim Burton landed funding for "The Corpse Bride" should convince us all that his soul has a spot waiting for it on Satan's mantel.

The Aristocrats: So all the best comedians in the United States got together with Siegfried and Roy, er, executive producer Penn Jillette to obsess over...a joke with the world's lamest punchline. Each of them puts their own creative twist on the gag but, frankly, after an hour all the poop and incest stuff gets a wee bit boring. The jerky digital camera work doesn't help matters. Worst of all, the comedians' variations aren't all that different from one another. Worth the price of admission though? Watching once squeaky-clean TV dad Bob Saget throw out a million obscenities and disgust even himself as he rolls through his version of the joke.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Cut out all the scenes about Wonka's daddy issues and it's almost the exact same movie as the original (but without the trippy sequence in the tunnel). But it still had murderous squirrels and enough sense to leave "Cheer Up, Charlie" in the Gene Wilder version.

Lords of Dogtown: No one saw it and the critics all asked, "Why was this movie made given the existence of 'Dogtown and Z Boys." Since those involved created a subculture that just about every kid born after 1985 is still obsessing over, there's plenty of material here to go around. Director Catherine Hardwicke took the right approach. She involved the originals and shot them from the waist down as they did some of the stunts, used '70s film stock along with an era-appropriate soundtrack and gave Tony Hawk a cameo as an astronaut that falls on his ass after attempting to ride a skateboard in literal moon boots. Plus, Heth Ledger is great as an over-the-hill surf surf bum that watches his life fall further apart as the film's moppets ascend to greatness. But the moppets are the problem. They're portrayed as a bunch of brats and become even more unlikable once they start scoring promotional deals.

March of the Penguins: The cinematography is breathtaking and the producers managed to make the lives of birds that stubbornly insist on living in the Arctic somewhat interesting. Still, this is a nature documentary and no one should be expected to pay cash money to watch this sort of thing in a theater. All those wannabe Chilly Willys belong in middle school science classes, not in the cinemaplex. And how dare the filmmakers include shots of adorable animals slowly buckling under the weight of Mother Nature's cruel bitch-slaps! I'll admit it, "March of the Penguins" gave me nightmares. Not the bits with the dying birds but all those shots of their unbearably cute kids running around in the snow like idiots. The horror!

King Kong: An hour-long chase scene filled with scenes of a 50-foot tall simian pounding the hell out of dinosaurs- it's every full-blooded American male's dream to see this sort of thing unfold on the silver screen. But did we really need a solid hour of incredibly dull exposition to get to the goods? And was it really necessary for Peter Jackson to further indulge himself by letting Kong go ice skating in Central Park? This is a movie about a big monkey beating the crap out of everything in sight, not "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Sin City: This movie could been a comic book masterpiece. It had everything. Boobs. Benecio del Toro. Boobs. Guns. Mickey Rourke investing a hammy performance of a lifetime. Boobs. Explosions. Boobs. Severed heads with grenades wedged in the mouth. Oh, and, boobs. Unfortunately, Robert Rodriguez's short-comings as director insistent on doing everything himself dragged "Sin City" down several notches. The editing in the first half is cut too fast and many of the actors are either miscast or look like they're rushing through their lines in order to get away from the green screen and back to the catering table.

Worst of all is Clive Owen, who emotes like he took too many notes while attending the Duchovny, Ford and Costner Acting School. The use of color in the film is inconsistent and annoying. Some of the explosions are in blazing red and orange, others are black and white. Blood for some characters is red, black or white for others. Bruce Willis' character wanders into a strip club where every patron is still partially colorized for no apparent reason. While film students may already be writing essays about the hidden subtext behind the use of color in "Sin City" and what it all means, I already know the answer: jack squat. Rodriguez had an April '05 release date to make and things got sloppy. Oh, and Elijah Wood looks like he's still five years old, Josh Harnett plays the least convincing hitman in the history of cinema, the movie takes place in the '40s but everyone still uses cell phones and drives Ferraris and Jessica Alba shows up to play one of, if not the only female character that doesn't take her clothes off. Pffffft.

Walk the Line: The producers had the right idea: A film about a country legend that has his tainted soul saved by good ol' God and, as Huey Lewis might put it, the power of love. Everyone involved is perfect for their roles and, yes, Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar for his portrayal. The scene where Cash watches his dreams of stardom crumble in a Sun Records studio before he pulls himself together and belts out "Folsom Prison Blues" is a classic movie moment. Still, "Walk the Line" looks and behaves like a made-for-Vh1 biopic. At his worst moments, Phoenix's Cash is your typical bad-boy country star with an unhealthy appetite for amphetamines.

While the real Cash was never as crazy as the persona he adopted for the stage, the film still leaves some great material on the floor. For example, the time the real Cash got into a fight with an old oak tree full of bees and another when he took too many pills and drove a jeep through a minefield (source: Cash's 1975 biography "Man in Black"). It's pretty hard to make a movie about Johnny Cash and have it turn out boring. Congrats, filmmakers! "Walk the Line" should have been handed to someone like Oliver Stone. I would have preferred to a see a "Doors" treatment of Cash's life...hallucinatory drug sequences and all. Just imagine the "Ring of Fire" scene.

And the most "meh" movie of the year is...

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith: "Goddamit" is a word that perfectly sums it all up. After the first two prequels no one was expecting George Lucas to come up with anything better than a mediocre part three. 75% of this film is as bad as the first two. There's the awful rescue scene at the beginning and Obi Wan's cringe-worthy "another happy landing" line. Then Lucas brought back Chewbacca to do absolutely nothing worthwhile. Then he turned R2D2 into an invincible Swiss Army Knife. Then he gave Yoda an adorable ET-style spaceship. Then he made Ewan McGregor ride around on a giant lizard for ten minutes. Then he included that perpetually-hacking "General Grievous" alien/robot thing. And, of course Lucas' coup de gras: after the love of his life is killed and he realizes he's a pawn in a plot to bring the universe to its knees, Anakin emerges as Darth Vader and let's out a cliched "NOOOOOOOO!" instead of trying to crush the Emperor's trachea with his Force powers. How cool would that have been? He realizes he's been played for the fool and cuts loose only to have the Emperor cut him down to size? Afterwards, Darth humbly accepts his role as the lap dog of a galactic tyrant. I'm telling you, this would have been great.

But, on the other hand, there's the moment of silence between Padme and Anakin before he runs off to meet his destiny. And that scene in the opera house. And the duel between Yoda and the Emperor in the Galactic Senate chambers. And that final shot of the twin sunsets that perfectly ties the two trilogies together and brought a tear to every geek's eye. I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie since that long ago day when my father took me to see "Return of the Jedi" at the Washington Square Cinemas. I wish "Revenge of the Sith" had been fucking awful instead of what it is, twenty minutes of space opera greatness wrapped in half-hearted crapulence not worthy of a Sci-Fi Channel Original Picture.

Meh, I say! Meh! MEH!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Cy, the cyclops kitten

And the poor little guy was a local too. Born just a few hours south of Portland in Redmond.

If you haven't already caught this via the AP, click here to read the tragic story of Cy, the cyclops kitten. Apparently, this is the real-deal and not an example of Photoshop trickery run amuck. Click the photo above for a closer look, if you dare.

The cyclops kitten is dead.

Long live the cyclops kitten!

Monday, January 16, 2006


Scattered notes from the Emerald City on the night of the Seahawk's victory

  • I wound up in Seattle over the holiday weekend. I needed a cheap desk. My sister needed a cheap dinning room table. Cheap desks and dinning room tables can be obtained at the Ikea in the Seattle suburb of Renton.

  • Along the way we stopped for gas on Sleater-Kinney, the large boulevard in Olympia that once served as a muse for everyone's favorite (nearly) all-mommy band. Instead of driving off the freeway and into a village like the one in the Wizard of Oz filled with preteen punk rockers and Evergreen students, we discovered a endless concrete strip filled with fast food franchises and furniture outlets. This tanning salon next to the gas station was offering a pretty good deal though:

    My faded U of O student ID probably wouldn't have worked and I had no use for a cheap tan. So we continued onwards.

  • The Renton IKEA hasn't changed much in the last two years. It's still incredibly creepy and on Saturday it was packed to the gills with perfect yuppie families and budding yuppies intent of building perfect yuppie families. But there was at least one slight change. Near the entrance there's now what may as well be a children's holding cell with soundproof walls and windows. Outside, parents were waiting in a long line in front of a row of keyboards prompting them to enter their child's name and a password to prevent them from being stolen by child molesters and/or the Pied Piper. The cell itself was filled with generic McDonald Playland equpiment and a ball-pooll that looked about as fun as a perfectly sterilized Intel cleanroom. Here's a photo:

  • They still had the perpetually sitting robot going full thorottle. Apaprently, the "poang" I saw the last time finally broke after having a machine plop on it over a hundred-thousand times. The latest poang was only up to thirty thousand sits. Rookie.

  • I walked out of there with a desk the size of a tank that, for some reason, has a magazine rack and dry erase board I'll never use. I'll sacrifice the couch if it contains a hidden wet bar. Given the size of this thing, that's a definite possibility.

  • We headed into Seattle proper to get food and watch fish get flung around at the Pike Street Market. Unfortunately, it was after five and no fish were being flung by the workers at the stand near the pig statue. Now experiencing its twenty-seventh straight day of rainfall, Seattle was appropriately rain soaked. With its mashed-together, Bespin skyline, the city looked like something out of a Final Fantasy game as we descended in from I-5.

  • The streets around the market were clogged with roaming gangs of overweight, middle-aged guys in Seahawks jersey. They all looked like they'd just mugged. Naturally, we assumed the local football franchise's dreams of heading to the Super Bowl had been dashed earlier that afternoon. We headed down into the bowels of the market to get appropriately tipsy for the long drive back to Portland. The pub down there was filled with sulking Seahawks fans.

  • But then, back upstairs, we encountered a group of Chris Farley-sized slugs in Redskins jerseys. They too looked like they were in search of something to smash. Who had won this damn game? We could have asked but neither of us were in the mood to risk pissing off a roving gang of DC football fans. I didn't find out the score until a full 24 hours later. Go Seahawks! Woooooooooo! I can't name a single player on the team but wooooooooo!

  • Outside the world's first Starbucks, two female exchange students were taking turns having their photos taken next to the company's old nude siren logo. We were inside for a good five minutes. When we headed outside they were still at it. They must have filled the cards on their cameras to the brim with shots of the store's exterior. Perverts. Here's a photo of the logo:

  • Heading for the onramp to I-5, we passed Qwest and Safeco Fields. In the middle of an intersection a pair of drunks were staring at disbelief at their car's dead engine. At the crosswalk nearby, two others collapsed on the pavement before pulling themsleves up and trudging onward into the city's industrail district, no doubt heading in the exact opposite direction of the one they wanted to be going. Those two rain soaked Technodromes, side by side against Seattle's neo-skyline was truly a sight to behold. We're living in the future, man!

  • Football is hell. NFL playoffs are worse.

  • Friday, January 13, 2006


    Seattle is a heck of a town


    Our neighbor to the north.

    The Emerald City.

    The land of coffee, dead rock gods, killer monorails, Frasier Crane and more rain than even Portland can handle.

    It's also a place where you can find haunted bank vaults, obscene corporate logos at the world's first Starbucks, bars with booths made out of pinball machines and guitarists with live opossums on their shoulders.

    Seattle has also played host to the only known attempt by Flog to ride a skateboard down a hotel hallway.

    Anyway, photos of all of these things can be found in this Flickr gallery.

    Please, enjoy.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006


    I hear the rain a-comin'

    ...It's rollin' 'round the bend
    and I ain't seen the sunshine since December 10th (probably)
    I'm stuck in Portland, Oregon and the storms keep draggin' on
    but the sun keeps a rollin' on down to Ti-a-juan
    When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
    always be a good boy, don't ever play with...

    ...sun lamps in a pathetic attempt to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder"

    OK, enough of that.

    While Seattle is hogging the national spotlight for its twenty-five consecutive days of rain, things aren't much better down here in the City of Roses. Our rivers are also swelling, a few houses are on the verge sliding into canyons in Oregon City and falling trees are rudely interrupting viewings of "Batman Begin." It's gettin' to be a County Rain Jam-ba-roo around here.

    In fact, all this rain has driven the editors at the Oregonian to do the unthinkable. They used the "h" word on the front page of Tuesday's edition.

    That's right. They printed "heck of a lot of rain." Right there on the front page. Below the fold, sure, but that's a "heck" on the front page nonetheless.

    Now I'm all for calamities brought on by excessive rainfall. Hey, who isn't? I fondly recall heading up to SW Fairmont in 1996 when too much "liquid sunshine" caused a mudslide that blocked the street for two weeks. So many people went up there to jump around on it that the city finally errected a chain-link fence to keep the curious at bay. Everybody loves mudslides. Well, maybe not the nearby residents who had their homes condemned...

    But this latest rain blitz has recently taught me a valuble lesson. Property damage caused by inclement weather isn't so much fun when it happens to you.

    Pictured here is the root cellar of the house I'm renting.

    Yes, that's a stream running through the middle of it.

    Stream, drainage ditch, whatever. I discovered it on Saturday when I headed down there to spray for ants. The little buggers were woken up early this year. Not only has Portland seen a lot of rain in recent days, it's been unseasonable warm here as well.

    In addition to the stream, the walls have begun leaking. A large puddle of water under the dryer would have caused an electrical fire if left to its own devices. I immediately unplugged it but I didn't make it down there in time to stop another puddle from hurting something dear to me.

    The RAIN GOT MY HAMMOCK! And, of lesser importance, an old coffee table.

    Sure, the hammock will dry but that's not the point. Has this peculiar seasonal weather pattern no decency?!!!

    So I immediately called my landlord who repeated the same thing he always does when one of his properties is about to depreciate another $10K in value.

    "Oh, ______? Yeah, that's pretty typical. Happens whenever the weather gets _________ in Portland. Happens to all the houses on this block. My house has _______. Ask your neighbor. Same thing's probably happen over at his place too."

    I can now add "minor flooding" to the growing list of calamities he's ignored since I moved in here. While I should probably be more worried than I am about the growing disaster ten feet below me as I type these words, I'm not losing sleep. Yet.

    The stream may as well be a drainage pipe without the actual drain. The hot water heater and furnace are suspended off the ground on a concrete platform. Unless the water level down there engulfs the entire cellar and rises to a level of four or more inches, nothing serious is at risk. The only thing I'm concerned about, of course, is mildew. While the cellar is comprised of mostly of dirt and concrete instead of wood, spores could probably grow on those surfaces too. Mildew's probably crafty like that, I'm sure.

    If I knew anything at all about mildew and what it can do to man-made structures, I'd be quaking in my Converses right now. I can't say I look forward to coming home from work one night to discover that a horrendous smell has rendered my home uninhabitable. There's also the slight risk that this could slide down the hill it's sitting on but, to be honest, I'm more worried about the mildew.

    Still, all this beats living in an apartment. I'll happily put up with ants and basement brooks if means I don't have to listen to a neighbor's television set.

    Oh, and did I mention there's already stuff growing in the stream?

    Could be orchids. Could be a man-eating plant. I have no idea.

    Will I come down with a future health problem because of exposure to mildew spores? Stay tuned!

    C'mon, isn't this more exciting than Jack Bog?


    Poor widdle Kobe

    In recent years I've caught an average of one Blazer game a season. Last night's home game was probably the one to watch and I'm glad I taped it.

    A double digit win over the Lakers AND they stopped Kobe's run of 45+ point games? Still, it's a brief dry spell in what sure to be a continued downpour of embarrasing half-efforts and a basement slot in the rankings at the end of the season.

    Personally, I prefer the days of Damon's pot busts and Rasheed's temper tantrums. At least the team was winning back then and there was always something interesting to read on the Oregonian's sports page.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006


    What's a shucking room?

    According to BarFly Magazine, there's a lounge downtown Portland with an open well in the middle of the place. Maybe it was a temporarily left open during a remodel. It's called Dan and Louis' Shucking Room. Can any locals out there confirm or deny this? Here's the rundown from BarFly:

    Pocket-size lounge in circa 1907 oyster house is chock full of unique Portland memorabilia. For thrills and chills, take a gander down into an ancient well, recently uncovered during renovations, now used primarily for the holding of bad tippers and other malcontents, "Silence of the Lambs" style! Beware and bring your own moisturizer.

    And what's a shucking room?

    Click here for one definition compliments of the Urban Dictionary.

    Oh. Well. Hmmm. You would think a place like would turn up more than four Google links.

    Or maybe they just serve oyster shooters.


    Roaming the filthy frontier of pop culture

    A trailer for the sequel to "Clerks" is up on the internet. You know, if you're into that sort of thing. If not, it's worth watching just to see what the ravages of heroin have done to Jason Mewes.

    Let this be a lesson. Opiates = bad. Moving Dante and Randal from the Quick Stop to a burger joint? Also = bad.

    Still not interested? Then how about a play-by-play account (scroll down the page) of Howard Stern's first day on Sirius Satellite Radio? If you haven't heard already, they somehow coaxed George "Sulu" Takei into playing announcer. Pretty "wacky." I give his stint on Stern's show a grand total of two weeks.

    I spend over an hour in my car commuting Monday through Friday and would still rather listen to the radio than an iPod or CDs. My antenna snapped off about a year ago and I've debated making an investment in satellite radio since hearing a price quote for a replacement ($220 including labor). I can no longer pick up AM and most FM channels are riddled with static.

    I'm a casual Stern fan and his Sirius shows are rebroadcast in the evening. While tempting, his show and dozens of other channels of music probably isn't worth the $100+ price tag for a receiver and a $13 a month subscription fee. I guess I'll continue switching between Loveline on KNRK and the emotionless droning of the announcers on NPR.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006


    Belts on Bel(t)mont

    Since the rise of Netflix I haven't made too many trips across the river to Movie Madness, AKA every Portlander's favorite video store. While Netflix may have effectively made traditional video outlets obsolete, there are still plenty of films it doesn't have in its catalog. Take, for example, Roger Corman's never-released adaptation of "The Fantastic Four." Movie Madness still has the local market cornered when it comes to bootlegs of long forgotten superhero films and out-of-print "classics" like "Never Too Young to Die."

    The other night I went search of a copy of Corman's contribution to the ongoing onslaught of comic book adaptations but found the front entrance to Movie Madness locked. Taped on the door was a message: "Closing at 6 PM due to the death of one of our employees."


    Heading home empty handed, I stopped at the Plaid Pantry further down Belmont. Inside was a punk chick in a jean jacket with a gigantic US soldier patch on the back. She was also proudly displaying a belt made out of bullets. Maybe this is her way of supporting the troops. Beats another faded ribbon magnet, I guess.

    The bullets were huge and looked like they came from the clip of a WW2-era machine gun. Now I've never pierced my face, covered my belly to my neck in tattoos or have even worn gel in my hair. My own little minute act of fashion rebellion is limited to wearing a novelty belt. Suddenly, my own pants holder-upper, made out of an old GM seatbelt, was rendered 15 times less interesting. The bar for novelty belts has apparently been raised since I last went belt shopping.

    Now I could jump on the internet and buy myself a bullet belt off eBay for a mere $15 but they're probably already considered passe among belt aficionados. If I want to keep up with all the punks and novelty belt enthusiasts out there, I clearly need to step things up a notch.

    Maybe a live snake would make a nice belt. Or one made out of beef jerky. Or genuine dolphin intestines. Or kittens!

    Ok, the rest of this blog post has been cancelled. Once you roll out a lame kitten/belt joke, it's probably best to just call it a night. From dead video store clerks to this in just a few paragraphs. Portland, you're one hell of a muse.

    Monday, January 09, 2006


    Scandal rocks the Portland Tribune's holiday coloring contest!

    Last month the family and I drove through PIR's annual holiday light display. On the way in we were handed a goody bag filled with various promotional advertisements and food samples. Among the Capri Sun and oatmeal packets was an entry form for the Portland Tribune's holiday coloring contest.

    I was going to toss it but decided to give the contest a go. What can I say? It was an idle Sunday night and "Family Guy" was a repeat. I broke out the colored pencils and got to work adding "flare" to a black and white Santa Claus and his office. Roughly 20 seconds later I had a drawing worthy of an exceptionally gifted toddler or a completely indifferent third grader. I scribbled something obnoxious in a word bubble over Santa's head, put "11" on the age line, wrote my parent's address on the address line and sent it in.

    My goal here was merely to have my mini-masterpiece make it into the pages of the Tribune so I could proudly show a copy to everyone I'm speaking terms with while loudly declaring "IN YOUR FACES, LOCAL PRE-ADOLESCENTS! I'VE GOT MAD COLORING SKILLZ!"

    Of course, I forgot about the contest almost immediately after dropping the entry form in the mail.

    Flash forward three weeks. Copies of the Lake Oswego Review start popping up on my parent's doorstep. Irritated at having to deal with a rain-soaked and unwanted publication, my father calls the Review's circulation department and discovers that his "child" has won a free month's subscription to their paper. Oddly enough, my name isn't on the description, my mother's is.

    So this obviously raises a few questions. Like...

    - Why is the Tribune handing out free subscriptions to a newspaper as prizes in a children's coloring contest?

    - Especially when the publication's previous coloring contests have included prizes like this? Wouldn't shiny new bicycles and/or Chuck E. Cheese coupons be more age appropriate?

    - And why a subscription to a crosstown rival's newspaper? As far as I know, Bob Pamplin's local media empire is limited to the Tribune and KPAM. Was this whole contest part of some diabolical plot to...boost their competition's circulation numbers? Did every contestant "win" a month of the Review?

    - Why did they put my mother's name on the subscription? Better yet, how did they even find out her name?

    - Does all this somehow explain Phil Stanford's recent multi-week absence from the Tribune?

    - Don't I have anything better to do than halfheartedly investigate coloring contest conspiracy theories? In light of recent events, the answer should be obvious.

    - And, most importantly, did my coloring efforts make the pages of the Tribune? To be honest, I have no idea. I haven't picked up a copy of the paper since the early part of December.

    Friday, January 06, 2006


    Tokyo Vending Machines and the Death of an Banal American Dream

    When I graduated from college in 2001, I returned to my hometown of Portland in search of some sort of a job. I wasn't picky. My degree is in English Lit and I realized it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. I went looking for run of the mill office work and found...absolutely nothing. Literally a day after I began scouring monster.com, 9/11 happened and it was as if someone pulled a plug in the local economic bathtub. HR reps refused to make eye contact during interviews and I felt more like an ex-con than a recent college grad.

    I spent the next six months unemployed and completely miserable. I passed time by applying to Powell's every few weeks and sending out desperate applications to the likes of Intel and OHSU. That October I made a feeble attempt to flee to Japan and teach English through one of the country's franchised language centers. While preparing for the interview I scoured the internet for information on living abroad and developed an unhealthy fixation with sites devoted to Japanese vending machines and the bizarre array of products they sell. I vowed that once I got over there I would thwart homesickness by putting together the ultimate website on the subject.

    While it's not the equivalent of landing a position as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you've got to have goals. Before I graduated I figured I would become another Dave Eggers and have a novel on New York Times Best-Sellers List by my twenty-fifth birthday. Within four months that dream dwindled to cobbling a website devoted to foreign machines that dispense beer and the occasional live lobster.

    The interview was a bust and I rode the # 1 Tri-Met back home feeling despondent and lousy all around. After a misguided stint in Wyoming the following summer, I wound up where I am now: a universally despised mega-corporation.

    But things aren't all bad. The job financed a trip overseas with a sibling in September of 2004. In the year since I've set up a positively obnoxious amount of Flickr galleries devoted to all the cultural minutia we encountered (see left).

    And here's the latest one: a tiny gallery devoted to, ta-da, Tokyo vending machines.

    It's a far cry from what I would have put together had I wound up teaching overseas. Truth be told, we never encountered the vast array of machines I'd read about all those years ago on the internet. They all seemed to sell coffee, beer and cigarettes and, for whatever reason, I only took a few photos of them. Oh, well. The website was a lousy idea anyway. A search on "Japanese vending machines" turns up over a million hits on Google these days.

    Since it's a slow night at work and I'm feeling even more self-indulgent than usual, let me roll out another lame anecdote about that trip.

    Unwilling to travel with a huge amount of cash or fight the language barrier in order to explain travelers checks, we flew out of Portland with $20,000 yen between us (roughly $200 US). According to the internet, finding an ATM that could handle our foreign Visa debit cards wouldn't be a problem. This was the year 2004 and we were traveling to the most tech-friendly city on Earth. What could possibly go wrong?

    We flew into Narita International and paid around $3,300 each to ride a train into Tokyo Station. After a subway ride and over an hour spent trying to find our inn, the next order of business was tracking down an ATM before we dropped another Yen. We tried various bank machines and hit at least four more at various convenience stores before realizing the internet had lied to us.

    We seemed to be the only non-locals for miles around and the inn-keeper only spoke broken English. According to our Lonely Planet guide, a nearby post office (closed at this late hour) would contain a foreign ATM and, if push came to shove, we could ride a subway into the Shibuya ward and find several at a large department store.

    But what if the guide was wrong too? Now paranoid and completely exhausted, we stopped into a place called the Firehouse. Just a few blocks from one of Tokyo University's hubs, the owners seemed to be shooting for a hole-in-wall, east-coast campus tavern vibe. Leather-bound books covered the walls, the menu was bilingual and they even had a fireplace. We traveled across the world and landed in the Nihongo-equivalent of a McMenamins.

    I was so worried about cash that I stuck with water instead of beer. Since I'd been the one to arrange the trip, this was obviously my fault and my sister was on the verge of killing me. If we woke up the next day and couldn't find an ATM, we would have to sneak out of the inn without paying, spend most of our remaining cash getting back to the airport and kill an entire week sleeping on benches and eating out of vending machines. Wiring for money wasn't considered an option and contacting our banks seemed fruitless. To this day it remains one of the tensest meals I've ever sat through, mainly because I was struggling to think of a way to suggest that we immediately check out and spend the night in a public park. It wouldn't be so bad, I figured. It was a humid night.

    We didn't get any sleep on our traditional tatami mats and our pillows, filled with what felt like small stones, didn't help matters. Bored with staring at the ceiling, the two of us wandered around the inn and spent an hour discussing this shit situation in front of a row of beer and soda machines in the basement. I finally landed an opportunity to take a photo of a real-deal Japanese vending machine but was too incensed and exhausted to bother heading back upstairs for the camera.

    Dawn came and running on six hours of sleep over the course of two days, we headed down to the post office. Inside we found an ATM with a gleeful cartoon squirrel on the screen.

    If it rejected my card I had planned on driving my fist through the screen before fleeing to the American embassy. Fortunately, the machine was feeling benevolent and spat out a fat wad of Yen. At the end of the transaction, the squirrel sweetly screamed something in Japanese and bowed politely. And dammed if we didn't bow back.

    We celebrated by spending the rest of the day fighting a monsoon in Tokyo Disneyland but that's another rambling anecdote.


    A rambling post about the photo of the month for January

    January really is the worst month of the year. Whoever decided to place January and its 31 days of influenza, frigid weather and doldrums on the heels of December's all out bliss assault of holidays and social gatherings really didn't think things through. It would make more sense to cut straight from December to, say, April. Frankly, if we did away with January - March we'd be all the better for it.

    While we would lose Valentines Day, MLK Day, President's Day, the Super Bowl and Spring Break, it would be worth the trade. MLK Day could be moved to April when the weather's better, the Super Bowl is always boring, Spring Break is completely irrelevant for anyone over the age of 22 and/or annoying because all the kids are out of school, no one cares about President's day and everyone hates Valentines Day. Instead of squabbling over the federal budget, Congress should be working on deleting these three months from the calendar altogether. Other nations will presumably fall into line because they too must realize these 90 days are the pits. If they don't get with the program, well, we'll just ignore them and do our own thing.

    Now that's it the first week of January, it's officially time to take down the Christmas decor from Welcome to Blog. So out goes Tim's award-winning "Santa Net," only to be replaced with the bland gorilla balloon pic you see above. My desktop folder of local photos is running a little thin so it's the best photo of the month I could come up with.

    Does January deserve better? No, because January sucks.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006


    Fight Pub

    What's the proper decorum for when you're standing on the sidewalk outside of Kelly's Olympian in the middle of the night with two drunk friends and a nearby group of "gangstas" (sorry, my street slang dictionary is the 1991 edition) start yelling at each other?

    When this scenario came up a few weeks ago, the three of us opted to continue smoking/talking/standing instead of fleeing/ducking/screaming "get down!" When the fists started flying instead of lead, I convinced my bleary-eyed colleagues it was time to head inside. After all, Kelly's sits in the same general area where several incidents of gun violence occurred earlier in 2005. We made it across the threshold before the two combatants started throwing each other up against the front entrance.

    I head to Kelly's about once a year and the same thing happened during my previous visit. But this was no comical, fall-down- drunk slug fest. This time around neither of two brawlers opted to use a Tri-Met bus as a weapon, for example. Last year's fight was bizarre enough to draw a small crowd and afterwards one of the fighters casually headed back inside for a drink, treating the incident like a cigarette break.

    Inside we continued watching the fists of fury as we waited for others in our group to pay their tab. While these two were sticking with knuckles and knees, my lilly-white brain was caught between flashbacks to the last ten minutes of "Boyz in the Hood" and a grade school-level itch to start yelling "fight! fight!" Everyone else in the bar didn't seem to notice the altercation-in-progress. A table of cackling hipsters sitting near the window didn't consider it worth a casual glance.

    They were using the right tactic. My suburban paranoia was completely unwarranted. After a few more minutes of taunts and shoving, a girl pushed her way between the fighters and broke things up. And that was that. One fighter and friends headed up Washington, the other and the girl down it. With the peace officially increased, we headed in search of the car.

    Postscript: Sorry for the lame pun. Kelly's isn't a pub. To make up for the error, here's a link to another downtown fight anecdote.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006


    Kiefer Sutherland vs. a Christmas Tree

    I don't have anything to roll out tonight so please enjoy the following anecdote about Kiefer Sutherland fighting a Christmas tree. It comes compliments of Defamer.

    It was then that a huge Christmas tree caught his eye.

    "I hate that f***ing Christmas tree," he declared. "The tree HAS to come down."

    Kiefer warned staff: "I'm smashing it - can I pay for it?"

    A staff member replied: "I'm absolutely sure you can, sir."

    The Lost Boys star - famously ditched by Julia Roberts five days before their wedding in 1991 - then hurled himself into the Norwegian Spruce, sending baubles and lights crashing to the ground. Pulling pine needles out of his hair and t-shirt, he said to a hotel employee: "Ooh sorry about that...you're so cool. This f***ing hotel rocks."

    I plan on doing the same thing to my tree when I finally get around to taking it down around April Fool's Day. Here's a link to the rest of the story. Can't say I recommend it though. The incident is pretty depressing when put into context.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006


    Auld Ang *Sigh*

    I've got to admit, I've never been a big fan of New Years Eve. The intricacies of dancing remain a mystery, I don't like to dress up or pay for year-shapped novelty glasses and I hate cover charges. Around dusk on the December 31st I think to myself, "Oh, yeah. It's New Years. Probably should have made plans." By midnight I've usually wound up at a party uninvited or I and sometimes a few other lay-abouts fly downtown at the last minute to stand on the edges of Pioneer Courthouse Square, watch the fireworks and get yelled at by drunks. Last year I didn't make it to the square in time and spent the first few minutes of 2005 watching a tipsy war vet scream at a cop.

    This year I and small crew headed downtown at a 11:30 expecting something in the way of a celebration. We drove past a few scattered clubhoppers tripping over their high heels and to the top of a Smart Park garage. We blazed on foot down Alder and up to the square to find...a big white tent (see below) with a dozen marathon runners sitting in folding chairs sipping Gatorade. A few hundred others had gathered on the square's brick steps to stare in disbelief at the tent and mutter "WTF?" Where was the stage? The local jazz acts no ones heard of? And, more importantly, the friggin' fireworks?!!

    Around midnight random pockets of the crowd began cheering only to pipe down quickly. Some were going off the time on their watches and cell phones while others were staring up at the clock overlooking the square. None of us could agree on when to begin yelling, let alone begin a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne."

    Around 12:01 everyone cheered for roughly thirty seconds. Up on Morrison someone thoughtfully began lighting firecrackers. Eager to find out why the square had been shut down to make way for an empty marathon tent, we headed up to Broadway. Around a quarter after, the first runner rounded the corner to find us and about four other people half-heartedly cheering him on as he crossed the finish line.

    While all the bars were no doubt full, the streets of downtown Portland were unusually vacant of the usual cavalcade of bellowing drunks and blaring car horns. But around 12:30 there was still standing room only at the Virginia Cafe, probably the only place downtown that was serving booze without a cover.

    In past years, the annual marathon has been held down near the waterfront with a wrap-up party in the World Trade Center's foyer. This year, City Hall opted to shell out $3,000 for the marathon and move it to the "city's living room" instead of throwing down the usual $50,000 for a more proper celebration. While the gala of past years has proven to be admittedly lame, no gala at all is even lamer.

    No one leaned out a window to scream incoherently at us, not one mortar shell filled the night sky and we only spotted a single person puking on the sidewalks. The last time the city pulled the plug like this, a small group of irked revelers rioted and smashed in various store front windows. That was back in 2001.

    Unwilling to express our indignation by tossing a Portland Mercury box through the window of Abercrombie and Finch, we sulked on over to the east side. In search of something remotely festive, we buzzed down Peacock Lane where only two houses were still lit up. Near the one with the teddy bears in the front window, a drunk girl nearly hit our car. She was dancing in the driveway and would have crashed into the bumper if she hadn't been pulled to safety at the last second by her boyfriend. We were going roughly 3 MPH an hour but there's no telling what the damages might have been.

    Things were unusually quiet over at the Horse Brass when we got there around 1. After a few pints and a shared pastie, we headed back through an empty downtown and onwards towards home. Maybe the city's usual army of drunks in party hats decided to keep inside the bars this year or at home in front of a tape-delayed broadcast of footage from Times Square.

    Despite the vacant streets and boring evening, I did learn a valuable life lesson. Never chase gravy-covered potato chips with a Black and Tan. While 2006 may have have begun with a whimper in our neck of PDX, my gut was hollering something fierce around 3 AM, just in time for midnight in the Hawaii's time zone.

    Monday, January 02, 2006


    "Acting like she'd never seen a ten before"

    For some reason I started Tivo'ing the current season of "Saturday Night Live" despite the fact it's gone back to, well, being absolutely horrible. This sketch makes up for all those hours of background noise sucktitude.

    A rap about cupcakes, pot, "Furball Jesus: The Movie" and $10 bills.



    Oh, the Places You (Won't) Go or Why I Gave Up Two Opportunities of a Lifetime to Continue Working in a Corporate Salt Mine

    The calls came in within a day of one another. After four and a half years of dead-end work, a stressful internship and several tons of post-college ennui, I had finally been offered not one but two jobs in my field. I'd dreamed of this moment during countless dreary days wasted at my soul-crushing corporate gig. But instead of breakdancing and telling my manager to take the job and shove it, I plunged into a fortnight of sleepless nights, neurotic soul-searching and, yes, even pacing.

    The last two weeks have been pure hell, not only because of the Big Important Life Decision that was thrust in front of me in the middle of the holiday season. The number of comical and tragic hurdles that popped up could have filled any number of cheesy, coming-of-age dramas. In the days following the job offers:

  • One of my uncles died.

  • A family friend landed in the hospital.

  • My furnace broke down and I spent five days shivering in a house with on again, off again heat during the coldest week of the year.

  • A freak snow storm kept me away from my place for a day and a half.

  • A nail in one of my car's tires led to a two-hour visit to a Les Schwab waiting room.

  • Roughly 2,000 friends and family members hit town for the holidays.

  • I woke up Christmas morning to find Santa had left me a shiny new case of respiratory influenza complete with a annoying cough that's still hanging around.

  • My mother's beloved zebra finch escaped from her cage while my sister and I were at our parent's house. Their cats found the bird before we did. Ever try to coax a tubby feline from behind an entertainment center when it's landed fresh meat after being denied Christmas turkey the night before? I can't say I would recommend the experience. "Beeps III" is now nibbling seeds in Zebra Finch Heaven but I'm happy to say "Beeps IV" is enjoying her new digs in newly reinforced bird cage in my parent's living room.

  • Tragedy, illness, unreliable furnaces, dead pets and flat tires: all ingredients in one of the worst Christmases ever. Add to that an existential crisis and you've got yourself one hell of a holiday season.

    Undaunted, I chose the option that would have sent me to Washington DC and even bought a plane ticket. While it was just a three-month internship, several of my colleagues have followed this same path in recent years to success. One has had the pleasure of chatting poolside with GW Bush at his Crawford ranch AND has been sneered at by Dick Cheney. I had a place to stay, rent free, and a lose network of locals that might have helped me towards a career out there. Opportunities that require cross-country moves and leaps of faith don't come much sweeter.

    In need of money, I had planned on working through Friday and took two days off last week to move out of my rental house near Lewis and Clark. I woke up Wednesday, fully determined to spend 14 straight hours packing, cough or no cough. But after watching the season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" over breakfast, I found myself completely incapable of getting anything done. I literally spent over an hour pacing around the house as a migraine headache set in. Maybe it had been Larry David's near death experience that had instilled in me a last-minute flood of second thoughts.

    In need of fresh air, I grabbed the iPod and took a walk down to the closest thing to a park in my neighborhood: Riverview Cemetery. The week's rains had subsided and the clouds broke to reveal a snow-covered Mt. Hood as I marched up one hill to watch two grave diggers fight with a backhoe. After a good long stare at the mountain, I looked down and found I was standing next to the grave of one Dr. Richard Asbaugh. On one side was his name and the dates of his birth and death. On the other, this old chestnut compliments of the poet Robert Frost:

    "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

    Was this or was this not a swift kick in the ass from God?

    While dilemmas like this don't get any more cliched, I'm not kidding. The Frost quote, the grave diggers, the mountain, all there. If I had brought along the camera I would have taken a picture. Of all the graves in all the cemeteries in all the world, why did Mr. Asbaugh's and his extinguished passion for inspirational verses have to come butting into my darkened corner in the Cantina of Difficult Career Decisions?

    So, had this been a movie, I would have run back home and packed in a hysterical frenzy. I would have used that ticket to get on a plane at 7 AM this morning and I would have been in DC right now instead of a cubicle in Beaverton. Somewhere along the line I may have donned a trenchcoat to hold up a boombox in front of girl's window and/or taken one last cruise down to Mel's Diner.

    But this isn't a movie, it's my crappy little life. Instead I fretted and dragged my heels for another two days. I decided I wasn't going to go and changed my mind five hundred times between that afternoon in the cemetery and Saturday morning. Over the past few weeks I've talked to roughly three-dozen people. All but four of them told me to flee the city and get my ass to DC, stat. Some of these people have made moves that make my own look like a trip to Dairy Queen. One person up and moved to Warsaw a few years ago. Another has overcome a physical assault in foreign country and is now about to leave the country again to teach English in the Netherlands.

    An opportunity, a place to stay, everyone telling me I should go, regardless of the stupid hurdles that popped up but I still couldn't get on that plane. Why? I can think of several reasons. I didn't have enough money saved. The pay wasn't enough for DC. The apartment in question was a tiny studio. Two weeks in the middle of the holidays wasn't enough time to get my affairs in order here in Portland. Ye olde "etc."

    But the moment that stopped everything dead was as I was doing dishes on Saturday morning. It wasn't the bird or the furnace or the city I would be leaving behind. With half the house packed up and running incredibly behind schedule I started thinking about how I would have to buy another set of dishes. Another microwave, another television and other odds and ends. If DC worked out, I might have stayed there indefinitely. Or, like many following the same career path, I would have had to spend the next several years bouncing from city to city in search of a decent, permanent gig. Every few years I would have had to toss everything away and start over new again.

    I would have been kicked out of that lifestyle faster than Paris Hilton at a Mensa-level Scrabble tournament.

    It's a nomadic career path and I'm a complete homebody. While I enjoy an overseas jaunt or a week someplace weird, I'll probably always want to hang my hat in Portland. I love this godforsaken city and moving would have been the emotional equivalent of leaving a limb behind.

    While if I became sick of the lifestyle I could have always returned to Portland and landed another dead-end corporate job that isn't entirely true. The local job market still sucks for fools like me that made the mistake of graduating with a liberal arts degree. I think I would have lasted six months or maybe a few years but would have inevitably gravitated back here to a city with absolutely no jobs, anywhere. I would have bounced from temp job to temp job, wishing I had never left Portland in the first place.

    When I spoke with one of those four nay-sayers earlier today, I think he nailed the situation on the head. "Had you gone to DC you would have had to go in with determination. You would have needed to succeed and been able to fight against who knows how many others going up the same hill. You couldn't have gone in with any doubts or you would have sunk."

    I've wasted years in pursuit of this opportunity and when it was finally handed to me I turned it down. I'm reminded of a cheesy line from "Scrooged." "You gave up Claire for Frisbee the dog?!!" I gave up DC and a shot at the job of my dreams for a drafty old house in SW Portland and a crap job in Beaverton. Much like Dante in "Clerks," I was unwilling to risk my meager little existence for a chance at "the big money and cash prizes."

    Right now, at 4:43 PM, two of my coworkers are laughing hysterically as they make farting noises with their hands. I can't stand these people but here I am. A year down the road, I may be at this same desk listening to their inane giggling with a college bowl game on the office TV. Five years, ten years, maybe more of the same. Maybe I'll never escape this pit or maybe I will. Who knows.

    Anyone and everyone else would have jumped over this precipice o' life while screaming "carpe diem" but not me. I guess I'm not up for adventure in the great wide open.

    Here's another old line that springs to mind:

    "Ignorance is bliss."

    And they don't make 'em much more ignorant than me. Over the past few weeks every song on the radio has taken on a new meaning. Today "Loser" blasted out of my car stereo's speakers. I'm not a religious man but, given Dr. Asbaugh's grave and this song popping up on the radio three hours after I should have taken off, I'm having my doubts. If there is an intelligent designer responsible for this universe, he's convinced I'm a friggin' idiot.




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