April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Monday, August 28, 2006


And now I will go to Florida

And I'll be making it down there in time to experience Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ernesto first hand. Will it be a hurricane or a tropical storm by the time it gets to where I'm headed?

Place your bets.

Back next week.


Passing out in the "war zone"

A true story:

NOT THAT STUPID: Getting plastered on gin before seeing Snakes on a Plane at Pioneer Place on Saturday night. After all, it's the sort of movie that goes hand in hand with inebriation.

PRETTY STUPID: Drinking more gin at Kelly's Olympian before staggering back to the car.

FAIRLY SMART BUT STILL PRETTY STUPID: Throwing the seat back and taking a nap until the effects of the alcohol wore off to the point where it was safe to drive home.

POSSIBLY STUPID: Leaving the keys in the ignition (doors were locked). Someone later told me this is illegal in the state of Oregon and may, technically, count as a DUI since an officer could interpret this as an attempt to operate the vehicle while intoxicated. I haven't been able to find anything about this in the Oregon Blue Book.

DEFINETELY STUPID: Leaving the radio on.

STUPIDER: Passing out on SW 3rd and Oak, a few blocks away from a shooting that took place the night before.

VERY STUPID: Waking up over three hours later at 3 AM to discover the radio still playing but a car battery without enough juice to get the engine going. Curse you, Chill Show!

STUPIDEST OF ALL: A group of gangbangers were lingering around the Nissan directly in front of my car. When they noticed me struggling to get the engine going, one wandered over and tapped on the windshield. I opened the door to talk to him since the power windows wouldn't work. After all, it's not like my car could be stolen in its present state. Plus, their's was nicer than mine and there were plenty of witnesses still roaming the streets at that hour to offset a possible beating.


GANGBANGER GUY: "Dawg, your battery's dead. You're gonna need a jump. Ya' got AAA?"

ME: "Yeah, I've got it covered."


I called AAA after finding my cell phone in the backseat. Twenty minutes later I was on my way. I don't think this story would have the same ending in a town like Detroit.

Morale of this true story: downtown Portland may have its problems but it ain't Detroit.

And now I would like to buy the world a Coke.


Roaming the Western States Part 1 - "No Rooms Left in the State of Montana"

In an effort to make this blog even more self-indulgent and boring, here's part one of a mutli-part series on my recent road trip through the western half of the US. My younger sibling and I tackled nine states in ten days and encountered weirdness nearly every step of the way. So if you're not interested in hearing about toxic sludge pits, a Vegas Star Trek convention, creepy Mormon girls in Salt Lake or what happens when several thousand goths invade Disneyland on a hot summer night, check back here in a few weeks. By then Welcome to Blog should fully return to its regularly scheduled slew of more localized anecdotes specially designed to send y'all fleeing back to Metroblogging Portland.


Idaho's oldest, most toxic historical site

Every town in America looks the same.

Take a strip mall from Los Angeles, trade it with one in the heartland and you'll never be able to tell the difference. I'm convinced there's not a city with a population over a thousand people in this country that doesn't have a Taco Bell. Still, I'm not quite sure this a bad thing. When you've been stuck in a compact Pontiac for four-hundred miles the last thing you want to take a chance on is Debbie's Spaghetti Shack, especially when the next rest area is two hundred miles down a windy stretch of I-90 E. In unfamiliar territory there's plenty of us that like our food quick, familiar and safe.

So we stuck with McGriddles and Crunch Wraps on this voyage and faced no gastrointestinal surprises as a result.


This is among the guidelines we found on a rusted out sign near Idaho's oldest structure: the Cataldo Mission, which sits on a golden knoll overlooking acres of toxic earth once used for mining. After conquering the dreariness of eastern Washington I had to pull over and see something on our first day on the road. We had hoped to drive nonstop from Portland to Yellowstone in a single day. By the time we hit Spokane it was obvious that wasn't going to happen. Still, a hard day's drive split into two with nothing touristy to take pictures of and only a AVI copy of The Wizard to keep us entertained? We needed relief.


The words of Fred Savage's mute, Nintendo-savant brother. One of the movie's unintentionally hilarious quotes was going to weasel its way into our lexicon but this is the one that took root. Not "I love the Power Glove, it's so bad" or "I know truckers," or "he touched my breast!" Just plan ol' "Cal-uh-fornia?"

Cal-uh-fornia/Calfornia? Sure, but first Montana, Yellowstone, Las Vegas and points between like Idaho's oldest structure/minor environmental catastrophe. Then we'll work our way into the Golden State.

The sign warned us to wipe our shoes before returning to our vehicles and, if we had plans for a picnic, to keep our food away from the ground and make use of the Cataldo's picnic tables. The soil around us was poisoned but apparently not poisoned enough to have a wall built around it with stone-faced workers in clean suits patrolling the grounds. But, as we would learn later in the week, folks in Big Sky Country like to turn toxic areas like this into historical sites. If my grandchildren come out glowing green and muttering like Napoleon Dynamite, we'll all know the reason why and it will be all Idaho's fault.

At 6 PM on a Saturday night the only people around were a family heading back to their Suburu and a group of men up by the mission that may have been robbing the place. From down below it was hard to tell what exactly they were doing with those two white vans with no windows. They kept to themselves and did little to interrupt the eerie stillness of the Cataldo's grounds. No birds or squirrels, just the hum of traffic on the distant freeway. I've never been to Chernobyl, can't think of a reason why I ever will but I wonder if this is what it would be like. The Shanghai Tunnels and the morgue at OHSU have nothing up on the tourist traps that lie within the Idaho panhandle.

The trail leading up to the mission was lined with broken speakerboxes that would have narrated the history of the place. I don't know if they would have explained what an immaculate teepee was doing halfway up the hill or why a horse was being kept behind a rickety fence a few yards past that. He sure seemed happy to see us.

When you find yourself in a situation like this, with a friendly, possibly radioactive horse trying to get your attention and shifty folks with white vans nearby, the obvious move isn't to wander into a graveyard. But that's what we did.

Because we are stupid.

After learning about a brave Native American woman that turned her fellow locals on to Christianity (she had the biggest, most well-kept marker in the cemetery), we decided it was time to flee as fast as possible for the Montana/Idaho border. The trees weren't helping. A wind kicked up and the pale limbs overhead sent down a steady trickle of white leaves as they twisted and turned, filling the area with creeks that sounded like footsteps in an old cabin. It was really quite beautiful, in a Japanese ghost story kind of way...

...but probably not the sort of thing you would want to stick in your mouth.


What it's like to sleep in a parking lot in Montana.

"You won't find a room in the state of Montana tonight."

11 PM. Far from home. Dead tired. Nowhere to retreat to but a freezing rental car. These are the words that bubbled out of the mouth of a greasy-haired teen working the desk at a Motel 6 in Missoula. He was a bit wild-eyed and was acting like a turn of the century innkeeper in a werewolf movie. All the rooms were gone and soon they would be coming for him. Stomping into his lobby. Their eyes bloodshot and the nerves even more shot. Suburban dads that had been driving since dawn. Weary backpackers from Chicago. All in desperate need of sleep, relatively clean sheets and complimentary HBO. And he would have to tell them The Truth.

"Everything from Spokane to Salt Lake is sold out. Sorry. You'll be sleeping in your car tonight."

And then they would get angry. If you don't think families and backpackers can get ugly, read on.

We didn't believe the clerk so we kept driving to every single motel within a two mile radius. Indeed, all the rooms were gone. The state fair had hit Missoula. The next town down I-90 was playing host to an Irish folk festival. I-90 sits in the shadows of both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Despite the demand for rooms, the local economy can only support so many motels during the off season.

We were completely fucked but in complete denial. So we kept driving. In one tiny town, that consisted of only a Super 8, a McDonalds and one of the world's freakiest gas stations, a pump jockey gave us an evil smile as we tossed our dinner on the counter: beef jerky, Doritos and Red Bull. Drool running down his cheek, he rang up our purchase.

Several shelves in the place were devoted to dragon figurines, biker gear and music boxes inexplicably covered in drawings of demons, the sort of leering nasties you'd see on an Iron Maiden album cover. Faded cartoon beers danced around the sign for a walk-in beer cooler dubbed "THE BEAR CAVE!" Midnight in Montana and the only person still awake was this guy, a refugee from a Rob Zombie movie. We left quickly and double-checked the protective seals on our food. I'm kicking myself right now for not taking a picture of the place, if only to confirm it wasn't an hallucinatory mirage brought on by fatigue.

We weren't alone on that lonely stretch of Big Sky freeway. We met an elderly man and his even older father in the wood-panel lobby of a hotel filled with taxiidermied beasts. Who knows why they were out there in the middle of nowhere in an old Cadillac de Ville but they were beyond the point of reason. The younger of the two was practically in tears when the pretty blonde clerk said with her most empathetic smile "sorry, guys." The dead cougar hanging over the desk? No such sympathy from him. He mutely growled down at us like an angry, furry god.

Sadness. Denial. And anger. We'd also seen that emotion played out on the door of a Day's Inn. A Xeroxed note screaming "NO ROOMS!" had been covered over with the loogies and boogers of numerous frustrated travelers.

And so we trudged onwards into the dark, just another set of headlights in a wagon train of weary travelers without enough foresight to make a !@$!@* reservation. Forty miles outside of Butte, the lighting flashed and the thunder rolled. Our little Pontiac wasn't made for this part of the United States or the storm that hit. Downpour. With our visibility at roughly 40 yards, I struggled to stay awake and hoped that a deer wouldn't be stupid enough to run out in front of the car. My sibling and I had gone from denial to anger to resignation and back to denial. Worse yet, we'd exhausted all forms of conversation and the iPod was out of juice. 20 Questions had only kept our minds occupied for twenty miles. Now the only thing left to do was pray. "There's going to be a room in Butte. There has to be. How can an entire friggin' state be sold out?"

We tried two places in Butte. Exhausted in a coffee shop, we called a half-dozen places and received the same thing: "No rooms left in Montana." My sister ate burned pancakes and I wolfed down a tiny burger. Would the staff let us curl up for a few Zs in these green booths? Doubtful.

We received permission from another hotel clerk to join a cluster of SUVs parked on the outer edge of a shopping mall. We slid quietly into a camp a stone's throw from a JC Penny's and wrapped ourselves in t-shirts and hoodies.

"It's a long way down the holiday road...."

That's the last song I wanted running through my head at that hour, especially after I hit the panic button on the Pontiac's key ring and woke up everyone around us. The theme song from National Lampoon's Vacation and Christie Brinkley circa 1983 nowhere in site.

My sister was out like a light and, despite being dead-ass tired, I couldn't sleep. The mall's cheery neon sign provided me with near constant updates on the time and temperature. Each passing minute meant less sleep and a day of hell to follow the dawn.

It was 42 degrees outside at 4:15 AM when I noticed cars pulling out of a motel across the street. Why not? Maybe I could con the night clerk into letting us slip into a used room. But as the night clerk hobbit inside told me, the cars belonged to people in the same boat as us. The two men that had just peeled out of the parking lot had threatened him with one of the lobby's chairs. After throwing around furniture they finally left after he started dialing 9-1-1.

According to him, this is pretty par for the course. Over the years people had threatened him with everything from fishing rods to stacks of travel magazines. He seemed to get a thrill out of it. Since I wasn't going to sleep that night, I shared my own war stories. I told him about a British tourist I encountered while working as a night clerk at a hotel in Yellowstone. He had supposedly driven at top speed, nearly nonstop from NYC to "see the buffalo" before he had to return home. The clerk bristled at another one of my anecdotes about the time the power went out on a night when the temperature dropped below thirty.

Maybe my status as a former hotel clerk had worked as a secret password. Treating the move like a precious possession he'd kept hidden beneath the counter in an ornate box for just the right traveler, he called a compatriot at a nearby Day's Inn. Sure enough, someone hadn't shown up to take a smoking room on the first floor. This clerk hadn't even offered the room to a father that had staggered in an hour earlier, pleading for a room, saying he might keep driving on to Glacier, the safety of his family be dammed. He'd run them off the road. There's no way his kids were going to sleep in a friggin' parking lot.

But it was too late to offer the room to that guy or his no doubt terrified offspring. The godsend at the Day's Inn saved us the room and we slept like babies wrapped in its nicotine-scented sheets. Check-out time was noon and we used nearly every last minute for unconsciousness. Best $90 I've ever spent.

NEXT TIME: Why is there a gigantic sludge pit in the middle of downtown Butte, Montana?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


A Sleater-Kinney show review two weeks too late

Before departing for Yellowstone and points south, I caught one of the band's last shows at the Crystal Ballroom on August 11th. No, it wasn't the one where Eddie Vedder showed up and compared Corin Tucker and co to The Who and Hendrix. It was the show before that on Friday night- the next to last, last show.

What surprised me the most was that everyone in a attendance didn't treat the whole thing like a funeral. Out of context, it would have seemed like an average gig. "Welcome to our party," Tucker announced at one point. Not going away party, mind you, just straight-up "party." We all danced our scrawny hipster butts off and shouted out the lyrics, waving fists and bouncing on that floating, minibrew dance floor. All the tears must have flowed on Saturday night while I was a thousand miles away.

As the rock critics might say, it was a "blistering set." Only one slow song and few stops between songs. Nothing but the classics with a heavy emphasis on tracks from The Woods. Carrie Brownstein, in full Pete Townshend mode, rolled in and out of sweat-soaked guitar solos but, I'm sad to note, kept the windmills to a minimum. She seemed to be throwing everything she had into the set but, to be honest, Tucker seemed to be going through the motions, perhaps eager to get home before she'd have to pay her babysitter overtime. At one point I even caught her rolling her eyes but she got through two hours and kicked more ass than maybe we all should have expected, given the circumstances. When the band slowed down for "Modern Girl" a few tears came to even my jaded eyes.

I haven't read anything confirming the reasons behind Sleater Kinney's break-up but a recent issue of Rolling Stone suggested it was fueled by Tucker, who's eager to spend more time being a mother. Drummer Janet Weiss already has Quasi as a successful side-project. I've heard Brownstein is involved in a band called The Spells. If not, here's hoping she gets back into music ASAP. If her playing on Friday night is any indication, she's a certifiable rock god, er, rock goddess.

And as we all know that's what made Sleater Kinney so gosh darn special. They weren't a novelty act, a real-life Josey and the Pussycats or another Bengals. While their roots were in grrrl rock they weren't all politics and posing like Bikini Kill/Le Tigre. They were a rock band worthy of their male competitors and it's a shame they called it quits and never hit it truly big, in the Billboard sense. It's been said before and it'll be said it again, it's a shame that more people will listen to Paris Hilton's album than SK's entire catalog.

But who will still be drawing praise a decade from now? Who stands a better chance of having an old concert poster make it onto the wall of a dorm room in the year 2036? The answer is obvious.

Sleater Kinney, RIP, for the time being at least. If you're anything like your male colleagues though, we should expect a reunion tour in a few years, no?


And we lived to tell the tale

Mission? Accomplished. I found my old adversary.

On Tuesday the 15th, my traveling companion and I came across him blocking traffic on the highway leading from Lake Yellowstone to the Canyon Lodge. He was all by his lonesome, much like a similarly callous brute I encountered a few years ago on this same stretch of highway. He seemed to be enjoying the mess he had just created. If you look closely at these photos you may spot a smirk on a mug so ugly only Bev Doolittle could love it.

I have no way of telling if this is the same bisson that declared war on me a few summer back but I flipped him the bird just in case. In return, he went to the bathroom in the middle of the highway, much to the delight and simultaneous disgust of a few dozen tourists. He has 2,219,799 acres to use as a toilet and he chose to hang out on the highway while dropping a load. Can you believe the nerve of this North American, oxlike ruminant?

When these tourists made a foolhardy attempt to pet him, I figured we were about to witness a brief battle to death. Park rangers advise travelers to come no closer than 25 yards from Yellowstone's bison population. As it was, they were cruising for a goring. Instead, the cruel beast made haste to the side of the road. He may be mean but he's not stupid. Around these parts, mangled tourists earn bison like him a one way ticket to a hamburger patty. There's no way he could beat a trip to the slaughterhouse with these many witnesses around.

So mission accomplished. Maybe. Until we meet again, you miserable, furry bastard.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Gone buffalo huntin', back in two weeks

A few years ago I spent a summer living in a magical place filled with boiling geysers, pretty scenery and oversized mammals that love to block traffic. And now I'm going back for a spell to hunt down one of these mammals in particular. I've got a picture of him. Take a look at this mean bastard:

While I was working as a hotel clerk in Yellowstone National Park during the summer of 2002, I became convinced that this five-legged* beast had a grudge against me. One day as I was driving south through the park I encountered a line of bison with him in the middle. As I slowly crept past, eager to avoid any trouble, he turned and tried to take out my driver's side door with his head. I swerved in time. To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure he was stomping around in traffic without insurance.

A few weeks later I was caught in a freak June snow storm. As my lightweight Toyota van and I struggled towards home, out he popped on a stretch of highway five miles past Lake Yellowstone. I took a blurry photo as I waited for him to move (see above). If I had brought any common sense with my that summer, I would have turned around and spent the night in the staff quarters of the Lake Hotel. Heading home in that storm, in a vehicle that can barely handle wet pavement let alone high-elevation battles against nature, is among the stupidest things I've ever done.

I drove slowly and hit an elevation of 6,000 feet as the storm intensified. Along a lonely stretch of poorly-maintained highway, who appeared out of nowhere? A single, solitary bison. As far as I know, these animals don't hang out at that elevation. What was he doing up there?

We had a ten minute stand-off as the road grew increasingly dangerous. There was no way I could pass without coming head to head with this furry, 2000 pound wannabe bridge troll. Certain stretches of highway in Yellowstone were built 70 or more years ago and are as narrow as a residential street. In frantic disbelief I stared into the bison’s completely indifferent eyes, it was as if I was bouncing around in the very soul of Mother Nature herself and let me tell you something: Mother Nature is a stone cold bitch.

He huffed and puffed and stamped his foot like a bull up against an arch-rival matador. Just as I was about to call his billy goat's bluff, he averted his cruel gaze and calmly strolled over to the edge of highway. I slid all the way back to the Canyon Lodge and made it to the parking lot before the storm hit full-throttle.

So how do you explain something like this? Coincidence? Or was there a magical buffalo living in the park that I somehow pissed-off enough for him to try to get me my very own page in Death in Yellowstone?

Whatever the motive or story behind all this, I'm going back to Yellowstone for, among other reasons, a chance to track this same buffalo down and tell him he's an asshole. I never got a chance to on Mount Washburn.

Yeah, the whole thing is sort of like Brad Pitt and the bear in Legends of the Fall. Someday the bison and I will probably get into a fight to the death on the edge of a cliff. It may happen in a few days or a few decades. If I make it back I'll see ya'll again in a few weeks.

Oh, not to change the subject, here's a You Tube link to the greatest commercial ever made:

* As a final note it has just now occurred to me that the bison’s fifth leg isn't a leg at all. Jeez, he could spear a whale with that thing. Screw it, I'm trading my arch rival animal for a guinea pig.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The family that fires machine guns together...

I grew up in Portland, a liberal town with a liberal heart, liberal lungs and other no-doubt liberal body parts. Before the rest of the country had even heard of recycling, I and a lot of other locals were diligently separating our plastics and smashing milk cartons. During my more impressionable years I spent more hours than I care to admit clearing English Ivy from state parks and watching Captain Planet. I was taught at a young age that bicycles are sacred, nature is even more sacred and that large American automobiles and guns are the most evil things ever created in the history of the universe. I know at least one Portlander that is so intensely afraid of firearms that she plugs her ears whenever guns start blazing in an action film. You should have seen her reaction to that scene in Kill Bill when Vivica A. Fox abruptly whips a pistol out of a cereal box. I think she still has nightmares about it.

So how does someone with my It Takes a Village/"I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" upbringing wind up in a Vegas shooting gallery in front of a paper Osama Bin Laden target? Mainly because when I hopped off a plane in Sin City last August one of the first things that greeted me was this display in baggage claim:

And just like that two decades of liberal upbringing was washed away. If I hadn't known any better, I would have assumed the sign had hypnotic powers. It should also be noted that I was traveling with my mom and dad, making me the first human being over the age of 18, ever, to set foot in the city of Las Vegas with one's parents. It was a lonely, pathetic trail to blaze but my impoverished ass was happy to blaze it. And if you think that's lame, well, keep reading.

We ended that August afternoon at the nearly empty Star Trek bar in the Vegas Hilton. The only other people in the place were three conventioneers that took great delight in annoying the hell out of an actor paid to mingle with customers while covered in latex. Also sitting at one table was an enormously obese man and his teenaged son. The teen looked thrilled to be there as his father downed glass after glass of blue-dyed "Klingon Ale" while puffing on a pipe and apparently trying to induce a heart attack to escape the place. A waitress dressed in a sci-fi flight suit brought our table a few $12 glasses of neon brown liquor filled with dry ice.

Feeling that the day wasn't already surreal enough, I decided to throw it out there: "Hey, Mom and Dad. I saw a sign in the airport about a place that rents machine guns. After we finish drinking this expensive liquor endorsed by Captain Picard, would you like to go play with M-16s?"

I knew my father, who spent a good amount of time at firing ranges while serving in the military, would be cool with the idea but my mother? Who was also raised in Portland? Who had never come with 50 yards of a BB gun in her entire life? No way she would be down with a trip to a place called "The Gun Store."

Maybe it was the space booze talking but she agreed. We trucked over to a humble, white building a ways off the strip. While the folks weren't liquored up enough to rent a high-powered weapon themselves, they agreed to head inside the firing range. We each signed a disclaimer promising not to sue if I dropped the gun. I picked out my weapon: an AK-47. Samuel L. Jackson's endorsement from another Tarantino movie was enough to sway me from an M-16 or a more pricey Tommygun rental.

"So do you want to shoot a generic target or one of these guys for an extra 3 bucks," the guy behind the counter asked, pointing to a row of posters. I had my pick of paper targets ranging from Saddam Hussein to a variety of generic burglars in black masks. The choice was obvious: an extremely cheesy, poorly-Photoshoped poster of Osama Bin Laden holding a machine gun and smiling vacantly as if he were day-dreaming while scribbling in a diary covered in pony stickers.

This wasn't the first time I'd ever held a gun in my hands. In college I spent a year living with a future Special Forces candidate who got his kicks from shooting rusted-out cars with a shotgun. While there's still a part of me that nags "guns are bad, they should be outlawed and melted down into bright pink peace symbols" I've come to terms with the fact that firing high-powered weapons can, in a controlled environment under the right circumstances (like being filled with space booze in Vegas), be a hell of a lot of fun, just like writing run-on sentences like this one.

Now you would probably assume that a place like this would be filled with Larry the Cable Guy aficionados and wiry survivalists. Instead the airport sign's siren call had lured people from all walks of life off the Vegas strip and to the Gun Store's firing range. Inside a tiny blonde sorority girl and her boyfriend were taking turns with a shotgun. A middle aged yuppie couple looked like they had been there for hours and had a pile of bullet-hole laden posters to prove it. A guy who looked like he had raided P. Diddy's walk-in closet was busy pumping holes into a poster of Ayatollah Khomeini.

One of the staff members walked me through putting the clip in the gun and advised me to aim low, pointing to a ceiling filled with the bullets of novices. I set the gun to semi-automatic and 45 seconds and $25 dollars later I was out of ammo. The gun had maybe a tenth of the recoil of a shotgun and it felt like a fake gun you could find attached to an Operation Wolf machine in an '80s video arcade.

He hit a button and reeled Bin Laden back in. "Congratulations, he's good and dead," the guy said as my always supportive parents praised my efforts. Somewhere there's a photo of me holding the AK-47 and grinning like an idiot next to the Bin Laden poster but I'm not about to put that on the internet. Here instead is proof of the damage done:

I don't think Mr. Paper Bin Laden is going to survive that bullet to the cheek.

Back out front my father fondly recalled his days as an MP. "Hey, check out this nightstick," he said cheerfully, pointing to a bucket full of them. "I had one just like it." At that point, culture shock finally got the better of my mother and she pushed us towards the door.

Oh, and there was a nifty bazooka hanging on the wall. The staff wouldn't rent it to me though. I guess there are some things that are still illegal in the state of Nevada. As we headed towards the car we spotted two rail-thin hipsters that looked like they had just stepped out of a bar on SE Belmont. Under their arms each was carrying a half dozen posters as they proudly puffed on cigars.

The moral of this story: everybody loves machine guns. For what it's worth, my mother still regrets not plucking down $40 for a round with one of the Tommyguns.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Bobby vs. Burgundy

I'm not a fan of all the recent comedies that star some combination of the following: Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Owen/Luke Wilson and Vince "Puffy Neck" Vaughn. Old School, Dodgeball, Meet the Fakers, Starsky and Hutch- for reasons I can't explain I've seen them all and they none of them can hold a candle to Animal House, the once and forever pinnacle of raunchy comedies.

And then there's Wedding Crashers, the unfunny juggernaut that made hundreds of millions of dollars last year. Several people told me it was not just hilarious but "hee-larious." Despite my high threshold for cinematic crapulence, I saw it on DVD and came close to turning it off. I'm speaking as someone who has sat through the entirety of Mac and Me, a movie with a 10-minute dancing sequence set in a McDonalds and staring a five-dollar, bootlegged ET puppet. For crimes ranging from being incredibly lame, casting Christopher Walken and then giving nothing to do and mutating from a boring frat-comedy to a schmaltzy chick flick in the last 30 minutes, Wedding Crashers is begging to be "BLACKLISTED!," as Vague over at Zemblan Grammer might put it.

But from amidst of all of these horrible comedies there arose one that lived up to the legacy of National Lampoons' early film efforts: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Unlike nearly everything else Will Ferrell has ever done (he should probably have been thrown out of the business after those cheerleader sketches on SNL), it was funny. Anchorman consisted mostly of jokes about San Diego, '70s newscasts and bears and that's all needed to become a classic.

Now along comes Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, a sort-of follow-up also staring Ferrell and directed by the same guy responsible for Anchorman. After this rambling intro I'm not going to judge one movie vs. the other- which one's funnier or has more jokes about scotch, etc. I just want to address one thing: which Ferrell character would win in a fistfight: Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy?

It's obvious that Bobby and Burgundy could easily defeat the yuppie wankers in Wedding Crashers and, even while blindfolded, Starsky, Hutch and even Zoolander. But if the two of them came to blows on a southern California overpass? Or in a jazz club? Or in an Applebees? Let's look at the facts:


Bobby: Champion NASCAR driver.

Burgundy: TV newsman.

Advantage: Burgundy


Bobby: Limited. Easily vested in a bar room fight with a race car driver from France (France!).

Burgundy: Skilled at street fighting. Occasionally rumbles with rivals from another news affiliate.

Advantage: Burgundy


Bobby: Enormous, almost superhuman. Can survive a NASCAR smash-up and emerge unscathed. Cries like a baby after stabbing himself in the leg with a steak knife though. Also endures the pitfalls of being the child of a drunken, absentee father.

Burgundy: Inconclusive.

Advantage: Bobby


Bobby: Able to subdue cougars and convince them to tag along with him on high-speed drives around the neighborhood.

Burgundy: Has to have his multi-talented mutt bail him out when he's cornered by captive bears at the San Diego Zoo.

Advantage: Bobby


Bobby: KFC, Taco Bell, numerous product endorsements and an insatiable appetite for driving at breakneck speeds.

Burgundy: Scotch.

Advantage: Burgundy.


Bobby: Baby Jesus (specifically, no other versions of Jesus will do).

Burgundy: Unknown. Compares his dog to Buddha. Professes a love for poetry, scotch and Baxter (the mutt). This could be the closest he comes to spirituality.

Advantage: Draw


Bobby: "I wanna go fast!"

Burgundy: "I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Yum, yum, yum. Here it goes down, down to my belly."

Advantage: Burgundy


Bobby: Steak knives.

Burgundy: Jokes about his hair, teleprompters.

Advantage: Bobby

ARCH NEMESIS (outcome determined by level of intimidation)

Bobby: Ali G.

Burgundy: Kelly from Married With Children.

Advantage, if you could call it that: Burgundy


Bobby: Cougar sedation.

Burgundy: Talented jazz flutist.

Advantage: Bobby

So Burgundy comes out on top in five out of nine categories. Guess that answers that question. If he could overcome various logistics including time, space and reality in general, Ron Burgundy could totally kick Ricky Bobby's ass.


Good morning, Newberg!

To save himself and his 17-year marriage, Williams entered a 30-day program at the Hazelden Springbrook alcohol rehab facility in Newberg, OR., on July 11.

"My drink of choice was vodka," he told a pal.

"I would buy two pints at a time, one for each jacket pocket. But I had to be careful. I didn't want to be seen buying liquor every day."

Williams told a souce that he hatched a plan to buy booze only at liquor stores owned by Asians, figuring he wouldn't be recognized. He was wrong.

The first time he went into an Asian-owned liquor store, the proprietor said: "Robin Williams, how are you? You buy liquor?"

More here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


And then someone threw a smoke bomb into the crowd

As part of its "Flicks on the Bricks" film series, Pioneer Courthouse Square hosted a screening of Jaws on Friday night. Because seeing movies in the outdoors is an experience that's hard to come by around these parts (with all due respect to Newberg's 99 West Drive-In), I headed down there after work. I made it in time to see the crowd applaued when the shark managed to chew off a swimmer's leg. They cheered again when Robert Shaw met his demise.

This is only the second time I've gone to a movie down there but, based on what I've seen, the annual series draws some weird fans of Speilberg-connected movies. Last time was the The Goonies in 2004 and I sat next to a guy who looked like Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He spent the whole time talking back to the screen and trying to coax weed out of fellow audience members.

Things were pretty tame in the square on Friday. Then someone in the back threw a smoke bomb into the crowd right around the time Roy Scheider and crew headed off for a showdown with the shark. Sailing over the crowd and spitting yellow smoke, it looked like a tear gas canister or something even more sinister. It landed next to a group of teenagers sitting in the middle of the square near the screen. Rather than screaming and waving their arms wildly, they calmly gathered up their things and moved. The crowd barely took notice of it. Maybe they were too enwrapped in the events on screen to take note of something that could be posioning them with deadly Joker gas.

A security guard grabbed the canister while a few alcohol monitors went looking for the culprit. All in all, everyone acted cool, rational and even indifferently to the bomb, as if this were a common, everday event. On the other hand, is the same town that told the Joint Terrorism Task Force to take a hike last year.

Kudos to you, PDX Jaws fans. You can tell the difference between harmless smoke bombs and the explosive, shark and/or human killing variety.

Also: the crowd cheered again when the shark blew up at the end. Have they no sense of loyalty? Or are they just nihilists?

More also: Nate from emoglasses filmed this guy dancing, possibly while extremely drunk, on the steps of the square before the show. Please, enjoy.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Country-fried facts part 2

There's much more to the country than just rifles, septic tanks and creepy, freeloading deer. Read on...

BOOZE HALLS: We met up with a few compatriots at Ye Olde Dingheiser Pub on the edge of US 26 outside of Manning. I figured a record skip would greet us followed by every angry drunk in the place looking up from their Budweisers. This would be followed by a severe beating, preventable only by a jukebox with "Tequila" queued up. Instead of finding the Hell's Satans on the other side of the door, the Dingheiser was all but empty. An older lady in a tie-dyed tanktop was working the bar. Two guys that looked a failed experiment to crossbreed J.R. Tolkien characters with NASCAR fans were sitting up front (sorry, just reporting the facts here). Instead of hitting us over the head with pool queues, they chatted with one member of our group about, of all subjects, the seldom used service tunnels that run underneath the University of Oregon.

The Dingheiser is one part sports bar and one part backwoods tavern. A U-shaped bar like none I've ever seen sits near the front windows allowing the bartender to basically walk down the middle or it. I don't know the advantage of this over more conventional bars but it looked cool, as did the stuffed beaver hanging over one of the pool tables. In the corner was a wood burning stove with two cardboard stand-ups of Captain Kirk and Spock. Over the bar was a sign warning drinkers they would be charged .25 cents for every f-word uttered. I guess they weren't collecting that night.

Long story short: I'd happily trade the Starbucks in my neighborhood for the Dingheiser. It's a cool little place and I'm glad to report the staff and regulars were willing to put up with out-of-towners, especially since that lady in the psychedelic tanktop could have totally kicked my ass.

STOCK CARS: We were rolling through Banks looking for a store that would sell us shotgun shells at 7:15 on a Saturday night.

Yeah, the opportunity to write a sentence like that doesn't come up every day. I assure you that these shells, had we found them, would have been used for the express purpose of blowing holes in a copy of The Pelican Brief and a few of John Grisham's other legal tomes. My host had just gotten through the Bar Exam and, really, what better way to celebrate? We tried the local Thriftway, the only business still open at that hour that wasn't a tavern. Surprisingly enough, they didn't have any up for grabs in the housewares section or the still-open liquor kiosk near the meat department. Now with time to kill we headed back to the parking lot where we heard the distant rumble of...

...STOCK CARS! The lights were up and the crowd was roaring down at the Sunset Speedway, a few blocks down Bank's main drag. We headed over, grabbed a Bud and moseyed over to the a section reserved for racing fans in motorized wheelchairs (the grandstands were full). We arrived in the middle of the pre-qualifying matches which ran four laps apiece. The organizers kept things going at a fevered pace. Immediately after the checkered flag flew on one race, another round of cars rolled out on the other end of the track and up to the starting line.

So this is what Bo and Luke headed off for once they left Hazzard County. Unlike NASCARs, funny-cars or boxcars, stockcars run on mud-lined tracks. Those sitting in the front rows are bound to get dirt in their beer as we soon learned. Many people in the audience brought eye protection while others around us happily munched on nachos in the perpetual dust haze. During intermission a water truck rolled out to rewet the track to help make the dirt stay put.

Had we come prepared we could have stayed until the final races. Instead we hung around long off to watch several cars spin out and a few come-from-behind wins. I'm sad to say Cake's "The Distance" was running through my head the whole time. I kept trying to replace it with any given song by AC/DC but it didn't work. Lousy brain.

CELESTIAL BODIES: The country has a lot more of these on hand than the city. In addition to the "Big Dipper," I was able to spot the "Small Dipper" and the rarely seen in Portland "Forgotten Wok in the Pantry" and "Seldom-Used George Foreman Grill."

THE WONDERS OF VERNONIA, OREGON: You may have seen the billboard with the cartoon character on US 26. It points motorists north towards Vernonia, a wonderland of camping, hiking and vaguely-alluded to "shops." With an afternoon to kill I drove out that way in search of Ramblin' Rod's old airstrip. Apparently, the kid's show host was an avid pilot and owned a runway. I never found the airstrip and decided to keep driving towards Verononia. It's a nice haul that leads under several old rail bridges. Once I got to Vernonia I found a pretty typical small town. The only things that stood out were a store devoted to chainsaws and an "autobody shop" more interested in selling Marilyn Monroe paraphernalia than doing tune-ups. Vernonia also has a pretty neat deer sign:

I hope you enjoyed this batch of 100% true facts about the communities that can be found 35 minutes west of Portland. If you head out that way, keep your eyes peeled for chickens. Them's mean bastards.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


And then a car hit my house

Not really but that's what it felt like. I fell asleep while watching an episode of Deadwood last night. Around a quarter to two I woken up by a loud bang that shook the place. I immediately snapped to, stupidly assuming it was something on TV. Maybe Bullock had thrown Swearengen over the balcony of the Gem again. But the episode was over and the noise had come from the side of the house near the bedroom.

"Jesus, some drunk just ran his car off the road and into the house," I thought.

I peered out a window and didn't see any cars on my lawn. The only other thing I could think of is that the fratbrats three houses down must have lobbed something at my place as a prank. This morning I got up expecting to find bits of watermelon all over the walls but I found nothing.

I finally decided it was all a dream. Then I saw this. Lousy tectonic plates, always making a racket at weird hours.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Country-fried facts part 1

There is a place not so far beyond Portland's borders. A place where you can see more than a dozen stars at night. A place where people drink well water, drive pick-ups and wear baseball caps with automotive emblems instead of team logos. A place where deer and skunks romp through backyards. A place where none of them, the skunks, the deer or their human neighbors are woken up every morning at 7 AM by construction for three months straight

This mystical place is called "the country." It's also goes by "the sticks," "the middle of nowhere," and "Hillbillopolis." This past weekend I had the good fortune to spend time in Manning, a small town 35 miles outside of Portland. In a just a day, I learned a lot about various aspects of country living. How much? Enough to drag this whole thing out over the course of two blog posts. A rundown:

GUNS: Imagine being able to sit on your porch and fire a shotgun in the air without having to later explain yourself to the police. With your neighbors living a few acres or even a few miles away, you could probably get away with firing a bazooka out in the country. Upon arrival, my host handed me a rifle and led me to a make-shift firing range with targets consisting of a mustard bottle, a few law books and a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Shooting a mustard bottle may not be as fun as firing a shotgun at a worn-out Macintosh but it's definitely in the same ballpark. We had also planned to "kill" a chocolate cake but reconsidered. A word to the wise: if you plan on using a cake for target practice, make sure it's a flavor suitable for gluttonous scavengers of the canine persuasion.

WELLS AND SEPTIC TANKS: Without a connection to city lines, the folks out in Manning get their drinking water from underground wells. The water at the home of my host was filtered and tasted much like what you would get within the urban growth boundary. But without the filter? "Like poop," he told me.

Speaking of which, without any convenient sewer lines, the doodie of country residents falls into septic tanks instead of the Willamette like PDX dwellers. After hitting the septic tank, the fate of all this cornfeed poo remains a mystery. I imagine that pixies specializing in waste management are somehow involved.

THE QUIET: After dark, it's so tranquil in the country that you can hear a pin drop or a hungry bear heading towards the front door from a mile away. Or you could if it weren't for the ringing in your ears caused by too many years spent living in a loud metropolis. It's probably for the best that I only spent one night in Manning. The chances of a grizzly or a rabid dingo sneaking up on me were probably pretty high.

CRITTERS AND OTHER ASSORTED FAUNA: They were everywhere. In the yard, on the roof and, if you count the buffalo burger patties I brought with me, in the fridge. Driving down the road and encountering a flock of deer casually munching on a neighbor's tree is a sight you don't often see in the city. These particular furry freeloaders were even willing to pose for a artsy/creepy photo (see above).

Skunks can also be a problem. My host told me a story about one that decided to take up residency under his porch. As Cletus on The Simpsons tells us, "they's still goes off when they's dead" and disposing of them can be tricky. I forgot to ask how he resolved the problem. The skunk could still be living under there.

CHICKENS: My host had been given the task of babysitting a family friend's chickens. Having never seen live poultry up close, I insisted on trucking out there to help him put them back in their coop at dusk. As I soon learned, chickens are frickin' huge. Look at these things!

Unfortunately, there's nothing in the background to give you a sense of scale. I was expecting the birds to be, maybe, six inches high. Instead the hens were at least a foot tall and their rooster mack-dadddy was even taller. I'll be honest. Being city-bred, I was nervous. I grabbed a broom to coax a few of the stragglers into the coop. After a long day of pecking around their pen, they were happy to cooperate. But if one of them had bumrushed me or had even giving me a "what are you lookin' at, jackass" glare, I would have cowered in the corner. After dark, Bus Mall panhandlers have got nothing on a future McNugget.

We returned in the morning to let them out and the gauntlet was thrown down. Who among us wanted to take up the challenge of catching one of the birds? I immediately opted out but one of colleagues went for it. The chickens easily avoided capture and, after leading him around in circles for a few minutes, escaped by running back into the coop.

Chickens: intimidating and cunning to boot. Sure, you laugh now but if you ever ran into a chicken after 10 PM in Old Town you'd probably start crying like a little girl. It wouldn't even have to be Old Town. It could even happen in your driveway. Mark my words: chickens are scar-e with a capital "E."

I guess that should be "scar-E" then. Whatever.

For more lessons about country living, check back tomorrow for part two.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


So you hail from South Carolina and you want to "step" to Oregon?

As Washington Canard pointed out in a recent post, Stephen Colbert, or at least his on-screen persona, holds a grudge against our fair state. In the past he's described Oregon as ""California's Canada," which isn't so bad, and "Washington's Mexico," which is downright despicable and as incorrect as incorrect gets.

A "wag of the finger" to you, Mr. Colbert. As everyone knows, Washington is Oregon's second lamest neighbor and a far inferior state. Aside from Seattle and lenient fireworks laws, what does the so-called Emerald State have going for it? Its coastline isn't even 1/34th as majestic as ours and Washington's puny. Oregon contains 27,123 more square miles and could easily squish its neighbor to the north if the mood ever strikes. Washington is so incredibly lame that it has to share its name with a pint-sized "district" on the east coast. One of its mountains even decided to spontaneously move a large portion of itself into the atmosphere to get away from the rest of Washington. It's a fact. Go ahead and look it up.

And Oregon's state mammal could totally kick the ass of Washington's state mammal. You don't think a beaver could take on a killer whale? Puhleaze. A flabby fishy is no match for the cunning battle skills of an amphibious rodent. A beaver could easily trick a whale into beaching itself. And if this hypothetical whale made the mistake of entering a small bay? The beaver could build an enormous dam, thus trapping the whale and ultimately causing the porky competitor to slowly starve to death. Of course, this is under the assumption that the whale hasn't seen the conclusion of Free Willy which was filmed where? In Oregon, like many of the great American children's films of the late '80s and early '90s. Where were Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 and The Goonies filmed? That's right, the Beaver State, not the Aquatic Butterball State.

As obnoxiously dunderheaded as Colbert's claims were concerning Washington vs. Oregon, he said something even more obnoxiously dunderheaded on last night's show (see the video link above) during a segment on the pitfalls of Wikipedia. That hobbit and GW lovin' schmuck called Oregon "Idaho's Portugal." Can you believe it? What nerve!

Idaho?!!! The gap-toothed, slack-jawed, drooling, no-deodorant-purchasing, red-headed step-cousin of the western states. If anything, Idaho is Oregon's Nicaragua. Or, better yet, Idaho is Oregon's, well, Idaho. Idaho doesn't even have a coastline, in fact...




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