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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The Sasquatch Music Festival: three days of peace, love and $8 cans of Coors
I'd never been to an outdoor rock festival prior to Memorial Day Weekend '06. I've always been too young, too broke, too not born yet or too far away from festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Woodstock and the like. Although I do know many people who have made long treks to fests, only to return with epic tales of sunburns, all-out live music binges and people watching a- plenty. A friend of mine attended Ozzfest a few years ago and survived to tell tales of rampaging Black Sabbath fans and steel cage wrestling that mixed one part bikini babes with three parts raw meat.
So I finally decide to pop my rock-a-thon cherry by buying tickets to the Sasquatch Music Fest '06 at the Gorge Amphitheater. While I'd like to think I have a good impression of what the average rock fest is like, the line-up consisted of, for the most part, indie bands. This meant the crowd would be chock full of hipsters, hispters and more hipsters instead of meth'd out metalheads and Girls Gone Heat Stroke. I looked into my crystal ball and the only thing that turned up was a throng of hoodies, sarcastic t-shirts and Converse tennis shoes from the back row to the stage.
Before heading north with a colleague, I found myself asking questions like "will there be any morbidly obese guys in bandanas double-fisting beer and screaming 'woooo' the whole time"? Would we be subjected to overflowing Honey Buckets? And, most importantly, just how much public nudity were we talking about here? Given the mopey and intellectual crowd sure to turn out in full force, would we be treated to all the cliches associated with an outdoor rock fest?
Answer to the first question: no. Answer to the second: yes. Answer to the third: jack squat. Answer to the forth: nope.
After making it through a five hour quest including stops in the Dalles and the pre-apocalyptic wasteland that is Yakima, AKA "the Palm Springs of Washington," we set up camp in a field full of cow pies. Surrounding us were 7,000+ hipsters all proudly flying their colors (in this case, Arches of Loaf, Built to Spill and various "ironic" t-shirts tweaking the state slogan of Wyoming). There was a 30% chance of rain and, of course, it kicked in at the worst possible moment as we trekked from the campground to the amphitheater. We reached the halfway point when God decided to matriculate on Neko Case's set and the 20,000 concert goers watching it. I guess He isn't a big fan of alt-country.
Before we could make it shelter, a furious hail downpour kicked in that felt like our heads were being attacked by rabid starlings. Clad in soaking clothing beneath rain gear, we tromped up to the main entrance where a few thousand spectators were staring at the storm. I spoke with a security guard, all of 19, who looked terrified. He seemed convinced that the rest of the show would be cancelled and a riot worthy of Woodstock '99 was about to begin. I asked him if he was planning to ditch his jacket emblazoned with the word "security" if the thousands of lingering hipster suddenly turned feral. Committed to defending the amphitheater, he shook his head. The guard later told us he was from a rural community just over the horizon. This could have been the moment he had been waiting for all his life- finally an opportunity to put his small town foot in some scrawny, tofu-chomping, big city ass.
You would have heard about a riot if one had broken out. Instead of all that, the clouds parted and the show went on. I've long wondered why the owners decided to build a venue out in the middle of the Washington outback. The Gorge Amphitheater is surrounded by bleak, rolling hills filled with farms and vineyards. As we headed inside and over a hill, it suddenly all made sense. The amphitheater sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking a huge vista worthy of the Grand Canyon or at least the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Here's a rundown of the rest of Saturday's acts:
BEN HARPER AND THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS: Due to "inclement weather," Ben Harper switched places on the lineup with the Flaming Lips. Since I'm not a fan of Harper's "Carlos Santana meets Phish"-style jams, I subjected all those within earshot to a five-minutes of sighing and muttered obscenities. Harper's set dragged on for nearly two hours. Endless, guitar solos and songs about peace, love and more love until my eyes glazed over. By this time, the sun had set and the temperature in my still wet soaks had dropped into the high 40s. Despite my chattering teeth, I stayed put while my colleague jumped ship in search of dry clothing. I can only assume the thousands of people in general admissions were flicking their lighters in a vain effort to make a sprinkler system kick in, thus forcing Harper to flee the stage for good. But the fan next to me, who spent Harper's entire set running around in circles while spitting all over the place gave it a one word review, which he repeated endlessly. "Wooo! Wooo! Wooo! Wooo! Woo...."
THE FLAMING LIPS: It's passe to praise Wayne Coyne's passion for theatrics but, good God, does his band know how to put on a friggin' show. A long day of hale, "woo"s, soggy conditions and the freezing cold were all worth it to hear an announcer say "Mr. Coyne, your fantastic ball is ready and waiting" at 12:10 AM. The lead singer strutted out, jumped in his human hamster ball and rolled around atop the crowd as a dozen fans in Santa Claus costumes took to the stage. They were joined shortly later by a dozen others dressed up as space aliens. Lasers! "Bohemian Rhapsody" sing-alongs! Nun puppets! Footage of game shows involving beef glued to people's head and kimono dragons! Flashlight battles between the Santas and the aliens! A encore cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"! A ridiculous, self-indulgent, prog-rock spectacle worthy of Pink Floyd's 1979 tour for The Wall or at least their mid-70s tour for Animals! An hour and ten minutes of pure, untapped joy launched from the stage to the skulls of everybody that endured Ben Harper's set. Maybe it was the fatigue or hypothermia setting in, but watching the Flaming Lips perform "Do You Realize?" was a quasi-religious experience. By the end of it all I was the one running around in circles shouting "wooo!"
Coyne promised the band would keep playing until local curfew laws made them stop. The show ground to a halt at 1:20 AM. We slogged back to camp where the hipsters next to us were in the middle of an argument over which Weezer album is the best. This went on for something lik, two hours as everyone else in the camp either beat on drums, argued about music or shot off fireworks. Then, as the clock struck 4, birds began chirping and the first rays of dawn began creeping over the farmland adjacent to the grounds. In a vampiric panic, most of the crowd fled to their sleeping bags. The group next to us though? They were too busy bitching about Make Believe to contend with fatigue.
Until then, please enjoy this blurry video of the Flaming Lips' performing "Bohemian Rhapsody." Please ignore the terrible audio quality and that jackass singing along in the background.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
A brief brush with greatness
I just got off the phone with Rick Adelman. I could have asked him any number of awkward questions about his orchestration of the Blazers' glory days or "what a duck is worth" but I was too timid to even wish him luck after what went down in Sacramento a few weeks ago. He sounded tired.
So my list of over-the-phone important people encounters now grows to three, overlooking a recent internship in a field that needs not be mentioned here. The other two on the list? Chris Dudley and former PPD chief Mark Kroeker.
Is that photo in poor taste? Well, I could have gone with this one.
Sorry for the lack of posts. In recent days I've been sidetracked by a power outage, a spontaneous trip to Salem and a three day road trip to eastern Washington that has left me with both a sunburn and a head cold. I'm currently recovering in my cubicle.
To make up for the prolonged absence, here's a link to something that will completely blow your skull.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The ultimate smackdown?
Last week I posted a poll urging readers to vote on how I should dispose of my worn-out 1984 Toyota van. One idea, ditching it on SE Hawthorne with a "free to loving home" sign, came out on top with 30% of the vote. "Drive it onto the steps of City Hall and let them deal with it" was the runner-up with 11%.
But both of these impractical proposals, along with most of the others on the list, would inevitably result in legal headaches along with hundreds of dollars in fines. Cup o' Noodles wrote in to suggest that I instead donate the van to a local demolition derby or feed it to Truckasaurus. I ran a Google search for derbies in Oregon. The only lead I have is an annual crash n' smash fest at the Oregon State Fair. Unfortunately, their website doesn't offer any information for vehicle donations or would-be drivers (I do own a crash helmet with racing stripes on the side). If anyone out there can offer any information on local derbies, I'd be much obliged.
Reader "Rip Tatermen" also passed along a link to the website of Robosaurus, "the world's largest Transformer." Apparently, Robosaurus can be hired to munch on unwanted vehicles at sporting events and monster truck rallies. While his metallic arms are capable of lifting 4,000 pounds and his fireballs could easily make molten mincemeat out of the van, I imagine Robosaurus' fee for personal appearances runs upwards of $10K. The big lug would be perfect for a BBQ two friends of mine are planning out in the country a few weekends from now. Although, I'm sure Robosaurus is a busy Transformer and could never make it out there in time. Plus, I don't have that kind of scratch.
Undaunted, I sent an email to Robosaurus' show director earlier today and I've already received a response. There's a slim possibility they may accept the van for destruction at an event, should he make it out to the Northwest in the future. You'll be the first to know if this all works out.
It starting to look like I'll be donating the van to Goodwill in order to land a tax write-off. Practicality, as it usual does, is beginning to rear its sensible head. There's no telling when I'll get around to that though. The van could become a permanent landmark on my street, or at least until the neighbors start complaining.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Root, root, root for another town's team
I've been staring at "bring major league baseball to Portland" bumperstickers at stoplights around town for years. Over the weekend I headed up to Seattle to see if the whole thing is worth the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to bring an MLB franchise to the Rose City.
This wasn't the first time I've set foot in a big time ballpark. I visited Yankee Stadium on a blustery September day back in 2003. The seventh inning stretch isn't that much fun when you're stone cold sober in off and on again drizzle on a chilly afternoon. I haven't been a baseball fan since I was pegged in the head by a pitch in Little League. I think the game could be greatly improved by subtracting innings, adding a time limit between pitches and a hoop in the middle of the outfield. If a slugger can land a ball through the hoop? Automatic grand slam.
To be honest, I went into Safeco Field not to watch Ichiro Suzuki get a base hit but rather to gawk at the crowd and suck down Micro Dots in between gulps of Budweiser in a stadium that looks like the Technodrome. Looking over the field towards Seahawks Stadium and the Seattle skyline inspires thoughts like, "Holy moly! It's the year 2006 and this place looks like something out of The Fifth Element. We're living in the future, man!"
After dark, with the spires of the stadium next door glowing purple and the occasional Amtrak blasting past with its horn blaring, the whole setup really is a sight to behold. The past (beloved national pastime, trains) and the future (super sonic stadium, "ice cream of the future") merge to form something that can only described as "sport-i-rific." I guess "bitchin'" could also work.
The place was mostly packed with families but, after we found our seats taken by a guy with three tots, we found ourselves ten rows closer to the field behind a row of teens that looked like they'd just stepped out of an episode of The OC. Completely oblivious to the game and the kids around them, they kept things interesting by launching into a six inning discussion of their sex lives. An excerpt (no I'm not making this up):
Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "I'm a lesbian and my girlfriend is just so, oh my gawd!"
Other Girl: "Tell them what you told me."
Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "She could totally turn any straight woman into a raging dyke. The things she can do with her tongue!"
Guy Who Looked Sort of Like Damon Albarn: "I could turn her into a raging straight chick."
Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "She only likes lez-be-ans."
Guy Who Looked Sort of Like Damon Albarn: "I *am* a lez-be-an. I love vaginas! A lesbaterian trapped in the body of me, that's, uh, me."
I guess he never saw Chasing Amy. Not to be outdone, we attempted to keep our chatter filled with as many obscenities as possible while covering as much of the ground around us in peanut shells as possible. I never did find out what a "lesbaterian" is. Lousy brats.
Sometime during the 8th inning, the Mariners' mascot, a moose, popped up in the 300 level. On a monitor over the field, the crowd was ordered to start bouncing up and down to excerpts from House of Pain's "Jump Around." Half the stadium obliged. I wonder what a time-traveling Ben Franklin, a caveman or Marie Antoinette would make of thousands of full grown adults in sports jerseys jumping in synchronicity during twilight, all of them in a staidum that would blow Jules Verne's mind, most of them drunk, all of them controlled by the whims of a man in a cartoon moose uniform. Out of context, this sort of thing is pretty frickin' weird.
After the game, we wandered around watching the traffic die down outside and noting the surprising amount of Japanese food the concessions sell. Fans can buy ramen, saki and "Ichi-roll" sushi rolls along with traditional peanuts and domestic brews. A large family in the stands waived a banner covered in Kanji every time Ichiro stepped up to bat. No telling if they had flown in from overseas for the express purpose of cheering him on or if they were locals that do this sort of thing all the time.
Near a bathroom on the first deck I spotted a sign mounted to the wall with a list of rules. We took note of all the ones we broke.
Using foul language? Check.
Heckling the players? Check.
Disrupting the family atmosphere? Check.
Sitting in seats other than our own? Check.
I'm sad to report that our tepid misbehavior paled in comparison to the teens sitting behind us. I guess I could have bought them beer in order to add to the list of our transgressions but I didn't need that on my conscious or the $500 fine that comes with getting caught contributing to the delinquency of minor. As we checked them off, a security guard snuck up and told us to leave. Sorry to gloat about our pathetic attempts to tarnish/enjoy this fancy-pants ballpark you've got here, sir. I'll take my business back to PGE Park, where they don't mind it so much when the crowd chants things like "fuck you, asshole" or tosses around smoke bombs.
Oh, yeah, the Mariners won over the Padres 6 - 3, I think. Kenji Johjima hit a homerun, that much I can confirm. The Mariners Moose also celebrated the win by declaring home plate his own sovereign nation (see above).
If proponents of bringing baseball to Portland are serious, I hope they plan on building the stadium with a view of downtown Portland. Some lazer lights, a few thousand fog machines and dozen people in animal outfits would also be greatly appreciated. And rules that expressly allow smoke bombs. It's not like anyone goes to these things to watch the actual game, right?
Monday, May 22, 2006
Trojan falls down, reportedly "goes boom, boom"
I was up in Seattle on Saturday night. My colleague and I briefly considered staying up all night to see the big event. We had planned to stay in the Emerald City until the bars closed at 2:30 before heading south to catch the implosion. Common sense kicked in about five minutes later. Instead, we headed home and watched the whole thing on "tape delay" at the more reasonable hour of noon.
If you still haven't seen footage of the implosion, click here to watch some of the more "unique" footage from yesterday. If that doesn't do the trick, You Tube has at least a dozen other videos up for grabs.
Kudos to KATU for their excellent coverage. At 6 AM, an hour before the implosion, they had a helicopter in the sky and reporters posted up and down the banks of the Columbia. When the clock struck 7, their cameras, including an "implosion cam" posted a few hundred yards from the tower, caught the whole thing from multiple angles.
Meanwhile, KOIN cut from a informercial to a live feed right at 7. About halfway through a silent broadcast of the explosion, someone at the station spliced in unintentionally hilarious classical music. Shortly after the tower hit the ground, they cut back to the informercial with a few replays tucked into a PIP in the corner of the screen. No onsite audio, no commentators in the newsroom, just a few minutes of footage and that's it. Definitely not one of Portland media's finest moments.
I, for one, am going to miss the tower. Frankly, I would have preferred to see PGE remove the radioactive fuel rods still buried at Trojan instead of what has become, for better or worse, a landmark. Many thought it was an eyesore and a reminder of the bad old days of nuclear power. I enjoyed it as a kitschy icon that broke up the monotony of a drive from Portland to Astoria or Seattle.
The tower made Trojan Park an eerie photo spot. Who knows how many bands rolled out there to have their images captured in front of it for various album covers, music videos and liner notes. I stopped there several times over the years, It was always strange to find families having picnics, kayakers and ducks puttering around in a nearby lake and even fisherman on the banks, all in the shadow of a power plant once known for its poor safety record.
According to an article I recently read (sorry, no link), Trojan wasn't the inspiration for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Regardless, I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't a few "Blinkies" residing in that lake. Click here to see an actual photo of the water. No, seriously. Pirate aside, that's what it really looks like.
Here's to you, Trojan and goodnight sweet cooling tower. Until we all meet again, that is.
Friday, May 19, 2006
My money is on the actual cat. I know him personally. He's tough as nails. To watch this epic battle unfold, click the play button.
That '70s Show no more
I watched the debut episode of That '70s Show in a crowded dorm room way back in 1998. It came on after The Simpsons and, by the first commercial break, the room cleared out. Landmark pot jokes aside, who needed another tired sitcom or an updated version of Happy Days?
I sat through the first few episodes but found myself coming back to it over the years, usually while killing time somewhere. I saw the Star Wars episode on a Thanksgiving in the Seattle Warwick and episode where Eric starts flinging panties everywhere on some random weeknight. The show is syndicated here locally on Portland's WB affiliate and it's hard to avoid when you've got nothing better to do.
Nothing on That '70s Show ever seemed to change. Despite their advancing ages, all the characters continued to hang around their friend's basement, even after he himself departed for college. I never watched the show enough to figure out what they all did for a living or, during the early seasons, if any of them actually attended high school. That 70s Show seemed like it was trapped in limbo. Any given episode had the same repetitious sex and drugs gags and Red's ubiquitous "foot in your ass" catchphrase. I'll probably never figure out how the writers worked around Tommy Chong's recent incarceration.
Still, when I heard That '70s Show was going off the air I decided to catch the final episodes, if only to find out of if they would ever finally reveal Fez's country of origin (they didn't). With Topher Grace and Asthon Kutcher having moved on to bigger and better things, the show had completely run out of steam. A recent installment where two members of the Brady Bunch cast played gay housemates was tired and, with one-dimensional Fez now moved to top billing, it was even boring.
Still, I'm somehow sad to see it go. Last night's series finale brought back Grace and Kutcher for a New Years episode (spoilers ahead). The cast completed one last "round" scene, Eric and Donna predictably got back together at the last second and the parents decided to stick around Wisconsin rather than relocate to Florida. The cast ascended the stairs one last time as everyone in the living room counted down to 1980. At the stroke of midnight, the show abruptly cut to a shot of the production company's logo.
All in all, a perfect ending to a mediocre but always reliable sitcom. I imagine that a future reunion show set in the year 1991 will find the cast all well into their thirties and still smoking pot in Eric's basement with Red upstairs, now senile, muttering endlessly about WW2 and sticking his foot in his grandkid's derrieres.
That '70s Show may be among the last of a dying breed. The traditional, laugh-track sitcom seems to be going the way of the dodo. I don't watch much network TV so I'm at a complete loss as to whether or not there's still any popular sitcoms on the air. The Office doesn't count and Will and Grace is also in its final season. Are they still out there?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Choose this van's fate
When I inherited a worn-out Toyota van (pictured here at Stonehenge) in the fall of 1995 I had no idea I would still be driving it in the summer of 2006. Most of my friends and colleagues destroyed, sold or donated their high school vehicles by the time they graduated or sometime during college. Some might say that the van's longevity is the result of it being a well- made import. But the real reason I drove it for over a decade? I couldn't afford car payments and was stubborn enough to keep sinking money into it.
Now well into its third decade on the road, the vehicle's numerous problems have become too much to deal with. The transmission is slipping, the fuel pump I've replaced twice in the past four years is acting up again, the air conditioning hasn't worked since the late '90s, the radio antenna disappeared in 2003, the side door is broken, an unstoppable colony of mold has overtaken the windows, the engine still leaks anti freeze despite being fixed last year, the only thing stopping the roof from caving in has been an occasional Rustoleum paint job, nearly every inch of the van rattles or squeaks, parts of it are being held together with electrical tape and a colony of mice may be living in the muffler.
If ever there was an argument for vehicular euthanasia, this van is it. If I were a wealthy eccentric, I would fix it up and drive it around Portland on summer days like some do with vintage Corvettes. I would even paint racing stripes on the side and take it to auto shows. But since I'm not a wealthy eccentric, the time has finally come to put the old girl out to pasture. But how to do it?
I've joked with friends over the years that, once the time came, I would drive the van down to Arch Cape and give it a Viking's funeral. This is the vehicle that carried me on an ill-fated sojourn into Yellowstone where it bested not one but two angry bison. Over the years, the van has conquered the icy slopes of Mount Washburn and the Cascades, the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, the hippies infested hills of San Francisco, the freeways of Los Angeles County and the wastelands of the Mojave Desert. It's been involved in at least three traffic accidents. Despite a top speed of only 85 MPH, it was once described by a traffic cop as "the fastest thing on the road" and has earned numerous speeding tickets. It's been stolen twice and still somehow returned home each time.
The van has gotten me into and out of numerous scrapes. It's been as loyal as the Lone Ranger's horse, Han Solo's space freighter or the Dude's old beater. I can't just donate it to Goodwill or send it to a wrecking yard.
Despite my attempts to romanticize this old hunk of junk, one of the two is where it will inevitably wind up. Nevertheless, here's a list of alternative options. Feel free to vote for your favorite in the poll below. We here at Welcome to Blog value your opinion.
Option # 1: Go with the Viking funeral idea. This van deserves to go out just like Johnny Depp at the end of Dead Man.
Option # 2: Sneak the van onto Ken Kesey's old Pleasant Hill farm and bury in the swamp ala "Further."
Option # 3: Take it out into the country and blow it up.
Option # 4: Take it out into the country and pump it full of shotgun shells.
Option # 5: Take it out into the country and leave it. If the van returns home, it's mine forever. If it doesn't, the van was never mine to begin with.
Option # 6: Attempt to sell it to Craig's List for $500. If no one responds, keep marking down the price down until someone buys it, even if the final price is $3.50.
Option # 7: Somehow donate it to a local film production for a car chase scene.
Option # 8: Drive it onto the steps of City Hall and let them deal with it.
Option # 9: Ditch it some chump's bushes.
Option # 10: Leave it on SE Hawthorne with the key in the ignition, a DMV transfer title form on the front seat and a "free to loving home" sign in the window. What could possibly go wrong?
Or you could always leave your own suggestion in the comments area below.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Double double, Boyles and trouble
Fire burn and...elections bubble?
Ok, I got nuthin'.
I thought about voting for Emilie Boyles in the primaries for Portland City Council. You know, for kicks, especially since Erik Sten and Ginny Burdick were certain to land in the two top spots. After everything that's happened, I expected she would be lucky to snag a dozen votes.
Figures are still coming in but Boyles is so far in at number four ahead or several other candidates that didn't hand $16 grand in public funds to their daughters. At this hour she's received 3,938 votes.
I guess this just goes to show that there's a segment of voters out there that pick at random. Shucks, I'm one of them when it comes to all those races for local judges. Seriously, does anyone beyond the legal community make an educated decision when it comes to those things?
A trip to wine country
I don't like wine and wine doesn't like me.
I don't like the taste. I don't like the culture surrounding it. I don't like sniffing corks, I don't care about bouquets, palettes or rot, noble or otherwise, I think the makers of Sideways each deserve a swift kick in the crotch for drawing so much attention to the snobbery surrounding this befouled grape juice. Some people think wine is divine and they build little altars in their basements (wine cellars they call them) devoted to the stuff. When you get down to it though, wine tastes like vinegar and vinegar tastes like ass.
But wine openers? Those are great. They look like robots and they're fun to play with. I've got nothing against them.
Part of my animosity dates back to 1998, when I participated in a wine tasting for an article that appeared in the Oregon Commentator. But this wasn't just any foo-foo wine tasting. The author purchased a bungload of bottom-shelf wine at a local supermarket and convinced a colleague and I to help him rate each one. By the time we got around to the bottle of Night Train, the room was spinning and I was muttering and scribbling cartoons on my notepad when I should have been noting the brand's "bouquet." I excused myself, hopped on my bike and struggled to make it back to my dorm room. By the time I passed Autzen Stadium, the world around me had become like a silent movie. Everything was choppy and moving at five frames a second.
It took everything I had to make to safety and avoid spending a night being nibbled on by nutrias. Once I landed back in my room, I promptly collapsed on the floor and woke up the next morning in a pool of pink vomit. A turned-over trash can nearby suggested that I had attempted, but failed, to deposit my pastel puke in a proper receptacle.
My vino-phobia has landed me in all sorts of awkward situations since then. While friends and family pour over wine lists, I find myself humbly ordering a Coke or a beer, leaving them to snicker and waiters to roll their eyes. More recently, I've forced myself to drink the stuff, picking glasses in restaurants at random based on whether or not their names sound neat. Lousy social norms. The faces I pull when I mistakingly order a dry wine make the "Bitter Beer Face" guy on those old Keystone ads look like Macho Man Randy Savage.
So along comes Mother's Day last weekend and what does my sister decide to do? She convinces the whole family to make a trip out to wine country for a "tasting." Unbeknownst to me, McMinnville and the surrounding communities have become the Portland Metro equivalent of Napa Valley in recent years. A scattering of farms out there is now broken by a winery every half mile. Places like the Stone Wolf Winery, Wineworks and our destination, a tasting room outside of Amity.
The interior looked like an English tavern as designed by Eddie Bauer and was filled from floor to ceiling with rickety iron racks filled with $50+ bottles. A misstep would inevitably result in disaster. Even more bizarre for a complete novice like myself? The owners actually give samples of the wares away for free. This tasting room sits on the edge of a highway leading to Lincoln City and a hop, skip and jump away from two casinos. The place is one stumbling, liquored-up senior citizen away from financial ruin.
The kindly owner led us and another group over to a stone bar covered in bottles. He lined up a row of glasses and started on his selection of white wines. The deal? Each glass would cost us a buck each unless we bought something. He poured liberally. Around the time I began to feel the effects of the alcohol and realize that I was well on my way to getting rip roaring drunk with my parents and a group of yuppies on a Sunday afternoon, it dawned on me: I was supposed to take only a tiny taste of each selection and dump the rest into a large vat on the bar.
Risking embarrassment, I spent the next hour struggling to suppress my wine face while making an effort to discuss each's flavor. As others nearby broke out terms like "acidity" and "nose," I found myself saying things to my mother like "this one is, uh, quite nice." I was out of my element and a long ways from the Pabst-clogged bars of Portland proper.
Thankfully, everyone else but me fielded the small talk while the owner continued down the line. Would this never end? By the time the tasting finished, we racked up somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 glasses each of gratis spirits. I naturally assumed that we were imposing and taking advantage of the situation but all signs pointed to "this is how they do things at tastings." The owner, my family and the yuppies acted as if this was par for the course so I played along, feeling like a stranger in a strange land filled with icky tasting intoxicants and cheesy Celtic music (compliments of a boom box behind the bar).
I was hoping a Paul Giamatti clone would storm in and start ranting about merlot, anything to break up the monotony and the droning acoustic guitars. The closet thing to a curmudgeonly wine connoisseur we encountered was a guy that impatiently tapped his foot while the owner rang up his purchase. By the end of the tasting, we had consumed or poured out around $60 worth of wine. My sister bought a $25 bottle and my father selected a $30 vintage. I could have purchased one out of guilt but what would I have done with it? For the record, the yuppies that had joined us walked out empty handed.
Maybe the whole place is a front for the mafia.
From there we headed to the Hotel Oregon and ate lunch at the UFO Bar on the roof. While the McMenamins brothers have played a part in the snob-ifying of beer, it's hard to argue with sunny skies, Hammerhead, the White Stripes drifting in from the bar and happy hour corn dogs, especially on the heels of 90 minutes in a wine shop.
As I headed downstairs, I found myself stuck behind a couple that stopped to contemplate a painting of two angelic babies floating in a field. The husband turned to the wife and said "I'm going to have nightmares about this one tonight." While Edgefield may hold the record for the McMenamins with the creepiest murals (see above), I think the Hotel Oregon comes in a close second. Those upper floors must be kick to walk around in after dark.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Hey, man, there's beverage[s] here! Please buy some.
I don't have much time for blogging this evening because I've been busy moonlighting at my lemonade stand. Over the course of the past 30 days I've pullled in a net profit of...
So I suck at selling lemonade, especially since ants keep getting in my sugar and all these flippin' lemons keep rotting. All those 57 degree days also keep profits low. Maybe your skills as a lemonade tycoon can surpass mine. To try your hand at slinging the stuff, click here.
Or if you'd rather watch Gene Siskel admonish Roger Ebert for being an asshole and sucking down too much fast food, click here.
Friday, May 12, 2006
In search of Sasquatch
A few summers ago I went camping near Mount Bachelor with a few friends. While they were there to relax and play Frisbee with their dogs, I had other things on my mind. I had come in search of Sasquatch. I was determined to find him, corner him and ask him what his friggin' problem is. I mean, really, does he have Social Anxiety Disorder? What's with all the hiding and the mystery and the leaving of footprints all over the place?
Ok, not really but I did take a bungload of pictures. I decided to connect them all together with a ridiculous, threadbare story about hunting for Bigfoot. As you can probably tell, it's been slow at work tonight.
If you're in the mood to read a lot of captions and look at photos of Detroit, click here.
No, really. There is a town in this state called Detroit. It exists and I find that hilarious for some reason.
But not as hilarious as the word "Sasquatch."
Thursday, May 11, 2006
You got to have a [car] in this land of milk and honey
I recently got a raise.
A whopping 35 extra cents an hour.
This is right around the time that gas prices around Portland shot up an additional 75 cents per gallon.
And a few weeks before my insurance rates went up.
My employer giveth and my mobile taketh away.
It's high time I pursue other means of transportation. Since Tri-Met can't get me to work and back, I'm thinking of buying a unicycle.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Or at least until your employer decides to start outsourcing.
If your workplace is anything like mine, there's motivational posters like these hanging all over the place. Through sites like this, the internet has made strides to put them in their place. I guess I'm not the only corporate drone out there that feels anything but inspired after coming across one of these half-hearted attempts to boost morale. Instead of becoming immediately motivated to work harder and increase productivity in order to improve my company's quarterly earnings and further enable it to hire fewer employees, I'm usually hit by a wave of nausea followed by a mild anxiety attack and finally sweet, sweet lethargy.
To try your own hand at invigorating (or depressing) the masses, click here for a motivational poster maker.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Big Lebowski at the Baghdad
For some strange reason, KUFO hosted a midnight screening of The Big Lebowski at the Baghdad on Cinco de Mayo. I headed over there with "Cuponoodles" and, after getting a bite to eat at what could be McMenamins' weirdest tavern yet, The Back Stage, we walked to the back of a line stretching down Hawthorne.
A surprisingly large turnout and some members of the crowd came in costume. One couple donned bathrobes, a girl arrived in a golden viking outfit complete with a trident and a guy with a beard, who was later spotted passing out on a bench near the bathroom, came dressed as Walter. Another guy claming he was dressed as Smokey stormed the stage during the DJs' intro.
The Big Lebowski is a flim best enjoyed in a room full or drunks and goes down even better while in a historic theater full of drunks. The tavern next door was ill-prepared for a rush on White Russians and ran out of cream 15 minutes into the movie. I was hoping to buy a double but had to make due with a regular-sized "beverage."
I've seen The Big LebowskI a few dozen times now and it's become one of those movies I can almost quote verbatim. I've only had the pleasure of seeing it once before in a theater and that was back during its original release. Maybe it was due to the Baghdad's enormous screen but I noticed these random bits for the first time:
As good as The Big Lebowski is, I wish the ending could have been "bigger." The final confrontation between the Dude, his team and the nihilists is too brief. I would have preferred a full-on battle royale that extended into the bowling alley itself. Bullets bouncing off of pins and a Good, the Bad and the Ugly stand-off between the Dude's crew, Jesus and the Nihilists. Just as Donnie keels over, Sam Elliot's character could have abandoned his sarsaparilla at the bar, hog tied Jesus and bowled him down one of the lanes. That would have flippin' glorious.
Or incredibly stupid and lame. Fine, the movie is great as it is. Here's an incredibly blurry cell phone photo of the girl in the viking outfit:
Monday, May 08, 2006
This is what democracy looks like
This is either the best or the worst yard sign for a political campaign I've ever seen.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Random questions and links on this Cinco de Mayo
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Last Action Heroine
Like many who grew up in the '80s, I spent roughly 30% of my childhood parked in front of a Nintendo. Sure, I could have been out catching fireflies, setting up lemonade stands or collecting baseball cards but, when you get right down to it, none of that is nearly as fun as running your own sports franchise in Baseball Stars.
I started losing interest in Nintendo around the time Mario went 3-D in Super Mario 64. What can I say, I prefer to guide pixelized Italian plumbers through two-dimensional imaginary worlds filled with anthropomorphic mushrooms. Ever since I was a middle school brat completely incapable of dribbling a basketball, I've pined for a follow-up to the Super Mario World games. Old-fashioned, side-scrolling Mario. the way he was meant to be.
And now it's here, kind of, in the form Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS. The game's playing field is as flat as a pancake and, aside from a few new features, it plays like a long lost classic from the Super Nintendo era.
So here's the "plot." This time around Bowser decides to cut right to the chase and kidnap the Mario Brothers instead of bothering with Princess Peach. It took him twenty years and a few dozen games to finally come up with the ultimate invasion tactic. With the Marios out of the picture, the Mushroom Kingdom is completely SOL. Oh, who will save this enchanted land from Bowser's tyranny and his legion of turtles that mindlessly pace back and forth?
That's right, for the first time since Super Mario 2 Princess Peach steps up to the plate and decides to go all Samus Aran on the forces of G-rated darkness. With only a talking umbrella, a pair of pink pumps and a collection of all powerful "vibes," the former damsel in distress sets off to rescue her male counterparts.
Yes, "vibes," or, more specifically, rampant mood swings. The Mario franchise can now officially add "sexism" to its growing stack of insensitive stereotyping. Peach's emotions, which range from calm to ecstatic to depressed to incredibly pissed off, all play a part in the game. A budding bean stalk invites the player to trigger her depressed mode, causing her to drip buckets of tears, encouraging the plant to grow and serve as a ladder. Peach's incredibly pisssed off mode sets her aflame and allows her the ability to set things on fire and stamp her foot so powerfully that she can cause minor earthquakes.
Super Princess Peach covers familiar ground found in al ofl the Mario games post-World. There's a Boo House level, Bow-Wows, Koopas but, sadly, no Yoshi. The umbrella takes his place and can be used as anything from a flame thrower to a canoe. Another neat feature: the coins Peach collects can be used to purchase upgrades.
Like many other DS titles, the game requires the player to use the system's microphone feature. Peach wips a submarine out of nowhere for an underwater level. The vehicle's bubble gun only works when the player blow air on the mike. A mini-game requires players to yell "JUMP!" over any over again to move Toad through a series of hurdles. Actually, yelling anything in both cases works just as well. I spent an hour last night acting like I suffer from Tourette's in front of a video game meant for children living during Bush Sr's administration. What did you do?
For an average gamer, the title would be archaic and simplistic but, as someone who grew up with these games, it makes me feel like it's 1989 all over again. Now where's Super Mario 4, you jackals?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Just another day in Portland
I rolled out of bed on Sunday not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Within a few hours I was trapped in a vortex of ordinary-ness unparalleled. It was as if I had drifted into a travel show profile on the City of Roses. While I did what I could, there was nothing I could do to escape. I had to see it through to the end.
4:15 PM: Take this photo in Chinatown. While fumbling with the live view function, a scary, no-good-nik wanders up. "Say, that's a nice photo." Not camera, photo. He peeks over my shoulder and continues up Burnside. Guess my camera isn't worth a shakedown.
4:25 PM: Ground Kontrol is in the middle of a full-fledge hipster infestation. Ironic t-shirts and gel galore. A girl with a green mohawk attempts to film a band on stage (at this hour on a Sunday?) but her hair keeps banging into the archway in the pinball lounge. Back downstairs, Zangief rips apart Ryu in 30 seconds flat. I can never beat that commie bastard with Ryu. Blanka though? No prob. Break out the electric force field and Zangief's got nothin'. But Ryu?
4:45 PM: Wander up to Rich's Cigar Store. Flip through the latest issue of Portland Monthly. The cover story is on Oregon road trips. $300 hotel rooms in central Oregon and wineries?!! Does anyone else remember when Bend was urban cowboy country, not yuppie vacation home country?
4:50 PM: Walk past Pioneer Courthouse Square. A church field trip is waiting for the Max. One girl loudly proclaims "DOWNTOWN SMELLS LIKE STUFFED ANIMALS!" What could that possibly mean?
4:52 PM: Pause at the old Meier and Frank's. Shed a tear, spill malt liquor on the sidewalk and continue on towards Waterfront Park.
5:00 PM: A few dozen punks in leather, metal belts and black t-shirts are gathered outside the Paris Theater. Asking for trouble, I attempt to circumnavigate the crowd in Birkenstocks. One guy won't get out of my way and another falls off his skateboard after I hold up traffic. Despite his Misfits shirt, he apologizes to me. My karma bank has dropped to zero. I'd better buy a copy of Street Roots before the day is over.
5:10 PM: Waterfront Park is littered with carnival rides and trailers for Cinco de Mayo. A trailer with a really creepy clown is parked north of the US Merchant Marine Memorial. Should have taken a picture...
5:15 PM: Now I'm in Saturday market. Do I need any paintings of wolves? Anything weaved or made of clay? Any dried flowers? Nope, nope, nope and nope. If only they sold video games, beer or some other vital item I can't live without. "Elvis" is sadly nowhere in sight.
5:25 PM: Back at Powell's. I use the bathroom. I'm pretty sure it's the closest thing to a public restroom in the Pearl District.
5:30 PM: One last walk past the Street Roots guy. So much for karma.
5:35 PM: Homeward bound up Broadway. The Portland sign at the Schnitz! Sex and City wannabes with Nordstrom sacks! The promise of a brand, new Abercrombie and Fitch that I don't care about within a block of the old Abercormbie and Fitch that opened a few years ago! That really ugly PSU walkway over Broadway! 7-11! Billboards! Portland! Yeaaaaah!
7:15 PM: Ah, the Old Spaghetti Factory. I've been coming here since before I was born. A Portland institution that started a worldwide franchise and what gets all the press? MCMENAMINS! A travesty, I say. Sure, the beer and hippie art are neat but what locally-based franchise started the "let's take over an old, weird building and turn it into a magical dining experience for the whole family"?
THE OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY! Can you get a plate of pasta, bread, minestrone soup, iced tea AND spumoni ice cream all included in the price of your entree at a McMenamins? While sitting at a table in an old streetcar on fake antique furniture?
No, sir, you cannot. ALL HEIL THE OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY!
If you've never been, now is as good a time as any. Portland's location can be found at 0715 SW Bancroft St, within meatball-lobbing distance of Ross Island and the South Waterfront district.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Los Duques de los Estados Unidos
During a recent press conference, President Bush condemmed the release of "Nuestro Himno," a Spanish-language version of the "Star Spangled Banner" performed by Latino artists and...Wyclef Jean for some reason.
No, really, why is he on there? Anyone know? I'm in the dark here.
Anyway, the track has received serious flack from the anti- side of the immigration debate and just about every news outlet in the nation has covered the controversy over the past week.
But should boomboxes wielded during May Day protests here in Portland and around the country have been playing an espanol version of that song? While I'm in favor of just about any form of pop culture that gets on the president's nerves, I'm thinking that the minds behind "Nuestro Himno" should have picked a different song that brings a tear to the eye of every American, illegal or otherwise.
That's right, they should have gone with an all-Spanish version of The Dukes of Hazzard theme song.
Now before you dismiss this idea as the outlandish hogwash that it is, have a look at the original lyrics:
Just like many illegals, the Duke boys provided a service that few others are/were willing to for substandard wages. Many immigrants sludge through low-paying, menial work in order to build a better life for themselves and their families while ignoring federal law. The Dukes basically did the same thing. Did they want to spend the rest of their lives running from Sheriff Rosco with moonshine in the trunk of the General Lee? Hell no. They were trying to save up cash to take their car onto the racing circuit and, by season 3, their dream became a reality, thus paving the way for another pair of Dukes to haphazardly pursue their own version of the American Dream.
So without further ado, I present to you Waylon Jenning's classic theme song, remixed into Spanish with a few tweaks (ok, several tweaks) to make it more relevant to the cause. Since I'm a product of the American educational system, obviously my mastery of a second language like Spanish is shaky at best. I took five years of a foreign language in both high school and college and I can still barely manage to ask for directions to a bathroom. Nevertheless, here it is...
A few days ago I got into an email argument with "WWB," the scribe behind Washington Canard, over United 93 (here's a link to his review). Just about everyone who has seen the film has praised it. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it's the best reviewed major release of 2006.
But it made me sick. Literally.
The combination of United 93 's shaky, handheld camerawork, some bad sushi and the big screen over at Lloyd Cinemas forced me to take a break in the lobby before the plane even got off the ground. After calming my gut with 64 ounces of all-American Coca Cola, I went back inside and watched the rest of the movie. Like everyone else in the audience, I got wrapped up in the film's almost unbearably intense final moments. This is the sort of movie where, once the credits roll, everyone walks out the theater looking like they've just watched a cherished childhood pet get hit by a bus.
The spell didn't last. Before I hit the parking lot I felt like I had been duped. What exactly is the point of United 93? Is it to give us all the most realistic look possible at went down on elsewhere and on the flight itself? That's the only thing that springs to mind. The filmmakers make absolutely no attempt to provide context for either the terrorists' actions or any background on the passengers onboard. Everyone on the flight is given, at most, ten lines of dialog. They may as well be extras in a film that should have focused exclusively on them.
instead, United 93 spends most of its first 80 minutes on the ground as various control tower drones and officials try to make sense of what's going on. Gripping material, sure, but I didn't pay to see a movie about them scratching their heads, I paid to see a movie about the passengers on the plane. This film is titled United 93, not Officials Staring at Computer Monitors. For the most part, the film may as well be Return of the Jedi as told from the perspective of Admiral Ackbar.
When the film finally gets around to the actual hostage crisis it rushes through the material. Even the immortal rallying cry "let's roll" gets wedged into a throwaway line. For its final 20 minutes or so, United 93 unrelenting beats its audience with footage of passengers saying good-bye to loved ones and fighting back like feral animals against their captors. The film's last moments are a lot like another agonizing film that springs to mind. One that received a good amount of flack for pulling the same trick...
That's right, United 93 is a lot like The Passion of the Christ. Just like Mel Gibson's vapid flog-a-thon, United 93 is more interested in emotionally battering its audience senseless instead of telling you anything worthwhile about its subject matter. Who are the passengers on this flight? Why did all this happen? What drives a person to hijack a plane and attempt to ram into a building? United 93 doesn't feel the need to address any of these questions or any others for that matter. Its final act is as empty and brutal as security camera footage of a prison riot.
If the filmmakers didn't have anything to say about those events on September 11th, 2001, maybe they shouldn't have said anything at all.
The film opened in second place behind RV at the box office over the weekend. There's no telling if strong word-of-mouth will make others feel obligated to see it or Tom Cruise this coming weekend. United 93 could eventuallly pull in major bucks or, if US audiences aren't quite ready to relive a recent national tragedy, it'll quietly fade away into the back corners of Blockbuster.
Where it belongs. Or that's just my opinion, I could be wrong...