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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Another Halloween in the trenches

If you're anything like me, you're stuck at work tonight where the workload is high and access to candy is limited. Still, it hasn't been busy enough to keep me from running around the internet in search of random Halloween links.

  • If there's anything I'm bad at it's carving pumpkins. It took me close to an hour just to clean the guts out of one on Sunday night. Can I pull off an intricately designed fruit masterpiece like the ones featured on Zombie Pumpkins? Fat chance. Mine is the one in the back with the three eyes.

  • X-Entertainment was back again this year with a Halloween countdown. I recommend the write-up on "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." And if you didn't know already, the annual special is a subtle indictment of organized religion.

  • I went to an outdoor Halloween party over the weekend dressed up as "the guy from Gremlins." No one was able to figure out what I was going for. Instead, several people asked me what I had done to my right hand. Imitating the main character's injury from the movie, I wrapped it in gauze. The backpack with a Gizmo doll sticking out of a pocket didn't provide a very good clue either, I guess. If only I had gone as Marty McFly or used one of these handy-dandy Star Wars masks. Or worn one of these many misguided costumes from the '70s and '80s.

  • Your great-grandparents liked Halloween too but they apparently celebrated it with greeting cards instead of candy and vandalism.

  • This article from Newsweek is the stuff of nightmares. So is this documentary about a similar haunted house in Texas. I wonder if it's available over at Netflix...

  • I would much rather be here tonight instead of trapped in my cubicle.

  • A happy Halloween to all and to all a good night.

    Monday, October 30, 2006


    Ghostbusters: the GIF

    I think this speaks for itself.


    A Night at the White Eagle - part 2

    Click here for part 1.

    Despite all the stories, despite a ghost known to haunt the place may have died in my room, despite the creepy preminition provided by the good folks at General Mills- despite all of that, I tried to get some sleep. There was no turning back now.

    If I was going to be menaced by the hotel's resident spirits, I could always call for help...on the direct line to the Kennedy School located out in the hall. I'm sure a bored night clerk at a hotel a mile away would know exactly how to walk me through dealing with a poltergeist attack. After a trip to the bathroom down a hallway filled with portraits of geishas and macabre song lyrics, a rather callous decorating decision given the White Eagle's history, I returned to the Happy Rolling Cowboy room and turned out the light.

    In the darkness what sounded like a woman's sobs floated into my tiny room through a paper thin wall. I turned on the lights and crept over for a closer listen. Nope, it wasn't sobbing, it was snoring. The guest next door was going off like a buzz saw.

    I tossed in a pair of earplugs to keep their nocturnal snorts and the noise of passing train traffic at bay. With all this racket, would I even notice a sobbing ghost or any spirits rattling chains in the hallways? I finally fell asleep around three.

    I was on the floor an hour and a half later. Someone or something was shoving me into a corner by the window. Through the darkness I could see a figure standing by the bed staring back at me. What the hell was going on here? Completely disoriented, I debated my options as "fight or flight" kicked in. I could leap at the figure with the chair nearby or make a break for the door. Whatever it was, it didn't budge. The figure was as still as a mannequin. Standing with a bedsheet in its hands, waiting for me to make my move.

    And then I woke up.

    Ah, just a nightmare fueled by an evening spent listening to ghost stories and eating greasy fish and chips downstairs. Whew.

    But how to explain this next part? I've been unfortunate enough to experience sleep paralysis a few times in my life. I don't know if what happened in the Happy Rolling Cowboy Room at the White Eagle qualifies. I know what it feels like and I know what to expect when it happens. Traditionally, sleep paralysis means a full paralysis of all limbs. If you fall victim, you can't move a damn thing for several seconds after waking up.

    I was laying on my side on the edge of the bed when I woke up around 4:30. Fully conscious or locked in some sort of waking dream, I felt something pushing against my chest. Not hands but more like a force, like a steady and strong blast of wind, nothing quite solid. As ridiculous as it might sound, the closest approximation I can come up with is that it felt like someone was scooting across the bed backwards while attempting to shove me onto the floor with their butt.

    Yeah, their butt.

    This "boo-ty" attack lasted around five seconds, if that. I reached out to stop whatever or whoever was trying to knock me out of bed. Then it stopped.

    True story.

    Gripped with fear and feeling like a kid convinced a troll was hiding under the bed, I laid there for what felt like an hour, afraid to move. If I reached out to turn on the light would a cold hand grab my arm? Scenes from The Grudge played out in my head. "Sure, go ahead and spend a night in one of the most haunted places in Portland," I angrily thought to myself. "Now you're screwed. We're not dealing with Casper here. There's an undead prostitute or bouncer in this room and they want you out of their bed."

    It took me a while but I finally summoned up the courage to flip the light switch and confirm the obvious. No one was in the room. The guest next door was still snoring. A train passed outside. Quoth the Edgar Allen Poe, "darkness there, nothing more."

    Completely exhausted, I considered tossing on my clothes, grabbing my laptop and running out of the hotel like a frightened kitten. Then rationality kicked in: surely this was just some combination of sleep paralysis, a waking dream and/or an overactive immigration at work here. Dead tired, I went back to sleep. After all, I'd paid $40 for this room and no freeloading ghost, imagined or otherwise, was going to chase me out. "Get lost Sam," I whispered, shaking my fist in the air for good measure. "Thanks for the company but no thanks, Rose. Screw with me again and I'll dial 411 for an exorcist. You'll be haunting an underpass by tomorrow night."

    The rest of the night went by without incident.

    In the morning after a shower in one of the hotel's creepy bathrooms, I headed downstairs. The bartender politely listened to my story with a smirk that plainly said, "you're stupid and/or crazy," probably the same expression she breaks out everytime a guest tries to tell her about a spooky encounter in the hotel upstairs. I asked her if she had seen anything weird go down while tending bar at the White Eagle and she shook her head. "To be honest," she said. "I think a lot of our guests drink too much at the bar, head up there and see what they want to see."

    Wise words, no doubt, but did they explain away my experience? I'd had two pints over the course of three hours at the bar, barely enough to make my tipsy. If mere sleep paralysis was responsible, why was I able to reach out and push back against the "ghost" that had invaded my bed? I guess I can always fall back on "waking dream."

    I'm not a psychologist but, despite everything that might point to a legit encounter with the paranormal, I remain extremely skeptical. If I was I could easily explain all of this with a lengthy medical term containing no less than six syllables.

    Do I believe in ghosts after a stay at the White Eagle? No.

    But would I spend another night there by myself? Not a chance.

    For more photos of the White Eagle and the strange murals and paintings that fill its hotel, click here for a Flickr gallery.

    Friday, October 27, 2006


    A Night at the White Eagle - Part 1

    The Shanghai Tunnels, Old Town Pizza and Cathedral Park: all locations that immediately spring to mind when locals think of Portland's most haunted places. Perhaps less known is the White Eagle Cafe and Saloon over on North Russell Street.

    Bleak tales harken back to when the bar opened its doors over a century ago in 1905. Located close to the waterfront, its clientele mostly consisted of men working down in the shipyards. The White Eagle developed a nasty reputation for brawls and violence. Back in those days, the drivers on a trolley line that passed through the area often called out, "next stop, Bucket of Blood," the bar's nickname, as they rolled up Russell Street. Originally owned by Barney Soboleski and William Hryszko. two immigrants from Poland, the Eagle offered patrons a brothel upstairs and an opium den in the basement. The building was also supposedly connected to an underground network of tunnels leading to the waterfront, linking it to the local legends surrounding "Shanghaied" sailors.

    Prohibition drained the blood out of the White Eagle's bucket and it became a neighborhood soda shop. In the '30s it turned into a working class bar serving bottles of Oly and burgers. It remained that way until the '70s when the owners added a stage for live music. The Eagle was taken over by the McMenamins empire in the '90s.

    The opium den and the brothel are long gone but at least two employees from the old days are still lingering in the White Eagle's dark corners. Reportedly, a bouncer named Sam died in one of the rooms upstairs. Now his spirit likes to hang around on the main floor, tossing around tissue paper in the bathrooms when he isn't flushing toilets or slamming doors. This may have been the same spirit that supposedly pushed a waitress down a flight of stairs years ago. When two other employees ran downstairs to see what happened, "something" threw a mop and a bucket down at them.

    Rose, a prostitute that was killed in the White Eagle by a jealous lover, now lingers on the second floor and, as the stories say, can often by heard crying. One internet account claims that at least one other former prostitute wanders the hallways and likes to throw her arms around unsuspecting men.


    Earlier in October I decided I wanted to something "spooky" for Halloween. I put up a poll on the blog and asked readers whether I should go on a tour of haunted buildings around town or spend a night at the White Eagle. The later won, hands down. While I was unable to track down a Ouija board by the time I headed over there last Friday, (I went looking in four different stores around town and couldn't find one), my sister and her boypal dropped off a box of Boo Berry cereal as a joke. At least I wouldn't be checking in without something the White Eagle's spirits might dig.

    The two of them hung around for about an hour and we chatted about the place's history over a few rounds. So far, so uneventful. Eventually, they bid me adieu, preferring to spend the night somewhere that doesn't involve potential encounters with dead hookers. Even while packed, the White Eagle is creepier than your average McMemamins. The renovators played up the bar's mysterious past. There's little lighting and an archway leading to the bathrooms is lined with an eerie mural with images of palm readers and magicians. Over the door is a shelf filled with geisha dolls and creepy figurines.

    As things began winding down around the bar, I chatted with the staff about the White Eagle's "goings-on." One bartender claimed he hadn't seen anything unusual himself but was still freaked about the "bad things" that had happened on the second floor. He said that he's been told by others that the spirits aren't nearly as active as they once were. Still, he'll hear a story from a hotel patron about something they had seen after a night spent in one the thirteen rooms upstairs. A few weeks ago, one claimed they woke up in the middle of the night to find a semi-transparent dress floating through the wall in front of their bed. Others say they've experienced "cold hands" touching them as they head for their rooms. Also recently, a few people have woken up in the middle of the hallway. That might have more to do with sleepwalking and too many pints of the bar's Hammerhead ale than the hotel's spirits.

    As I paid my tab, an older employee wandered over and related an incident that had happened to him one night a few years ago. As he was washing dishes in the bar alone after hours, he caught an imposing figure standing in the doorway across the kitchen. He figured it was his imagination playing tricks but the figure appeared twice more. At that point, he decided to lock up and head for home.

    I don't believe in ghosts, or at least I didn't up until this point. Every room on the second floor is named after a lyric from a song. I headed upstairs around a quarter to two and discovered I would be sleeping in the one named for a "Happy Rolling Cowboy." The room is located directly over the stage and it would be another 45 minutes before I would able to get any shut-eye. I passed the time using the bar's wi-fi connection to catch up on a week's worth of Boing Boing and Ain't It Cool News. With trains passing by every twenty minutes with their horns blaring, it was beginning to dawn on me that I wouldn't be getting any sleep.

    Around the time the music stopped, I looked over at the Boo Berry. I hadn't noticed the cut-out poster on the back of the box:

    And that's the last thing I wanted to see while alone in a now completely quiet haunted hotel. I flashed back to something I had read on the internet earlier in the day. Either Rose or Sam had died in the last room on the left, the one I was now sitting in.


    To be continued on Monday...

    Thursday, October 26, 2006


    Another October surprise?

    Well, maybe if the World Series didn't preempt the show every year, pushing it to the first Sunday in November.

    Click here for the rest of the story.


    Tiger, tiger...

    Word out on the street is that the Hungry Tiger, East Burnside's best dumpy hipster bar, is headed for the big litter box in the sky. What's it going to be replaced with? A condominium complex, of course. The place is headed for the gallows after December 31st. Click here for Alex Williams' report over at Metroblogging Portland.

    Sheesh, and I never have tried one of the Tiger's "All Day Sippers." It's the drink with enough booze to keep you going all day long for the low, low price of $7 (on Sundays).


    The real witch castle?

    If only more houses went all out for the holiday. Spotted near Lewis and Clark:

    Poor Frankenstein. That's gotta be a rough gig.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006



    KPDX here in Portland has declared their next week's worth of programming to be worthy of the title "Shocktober." So what do you get if you tune into Shocktober, KPDX-style? Two episodes of The Simpsons annual "Treehouse of Horror" series and a nightly segment at a local haunted house attraction.

    Sure, it isn't round-the-clock Halloweeen-themed programming but that ain't half bad. This time of year seems like it's missing something if I don't get to hear Groundskeeper Willy say, "my mule wouldn't walk in the mud so I had to shoot it seventeen times."

    And that's about as random a Simpsons quote as you're liable to find on a Portland blog tonight.

    They've been running the older episodes at 6:30 and the later ones at 7:30. I just watched that weird one where the dolphins take over Springfield. What was up with that, anyway?


    Time for some You Tube links

    The characters from South Park want you to vote "no" on ballot measures 41 and 48. Or at least four politically-conscious knock-offs created especially for this ad want you to vote "no" on ballot measures 41 and 48:

    And because every post over the course of this week and the early part of next should work in something "Halloween-y", here's a video that assembles every kill from the Friday the 13th series in one convenient video vignette. A cartoon predicting that Portland might become an urban wasteland overrun with looters doesn't count. Why? No fake blood.

    You're welcome.

    I made it to number 41 before fast-forwarding to see how many characters have bitten the bullet in those movies. Don't let me spoil it for you. Kick back, hit the play button and find out for yourself. Parental discretion is advised.


    Los gatitos de la muerte

    This is a post about kittens.

    And, sticking with the Halloween theme here, it's a post about evil kittens.

    My sister adopted a kitten back in July from the Oregon Humane Society. I had jokingly suggested that she give her new pet a name like "El Diablo," "John McClaine" or "Kitty McKickass." Unwilling to consider any of my obviously brilliant ideas, she was slowly coming around to her boyfriend's suggestion of "Aspen."

    Then something happened. The kitten quickly developed a hunger for, how can I put this....ah, a hunger for evil. The name "Aspen" could no longer properly fit a kitten with a heart as black as Satan's butt crack.

    The first signs that she might very well be the feline equivalent of Damien began showing themselves almost immediately. The night before she was due to be picked up and taken to her new home in Eugene, I tried to take a photo of her with my camera phone. The kitten sprang into action and took a swing at the phone, a swing worthy of Sean Penn. I tried another and she took another swing. Check out this photo:

    Down at my sister's place in Eugene, the kitten quickly developed a habit for chewing on electrical cords despite being provided with nearly every cat toy known to man. Pet store remedies did nothing to curb her taste for insulated wiring. After the house was kitten-proofed and all wiring within her reach was safely stored behind furniture pushed up against walls, she plotted vengeance. One afternoon the kitten "fell asleep" on the keyboard of my sister's laptop, causing Windows to crash and completely obliterating 10 gigs worth of data. While it looked like a mere accident, it was obvious the kitten had planned the whole thing.

    This furry little gremlin also became nocturnal. As my sister slept the kitten did everything imaginable to keep her awake all night. Anything that could be knocked off a shelf hit the floor. If that didn't work, the kitten batted her face as she slept. If my sister closed her bedroom door, the kitten scratched and howled all night. No amount of toys or playtime could quell the beast's insatiable sociopathy.

    She also hangs around where she damn well pleases:

    The scratching...that was another problem. This kitten didn't claw furniture, oh no, those things like mere furniture could be replaced. She sneered at scratching posts. Instead, she dug her claws into the house itself, leaving marks on doorjambs and cabinets when she wasn't tearing at the carpet. One day the kitten reportedly took a flying leap at the front door, dug in her claws and slid down it like a musketeer on a tapestry.

    After that, my sister invested $30 in a set of plastic covers for her claws. The kitten's next move? Scrapping her now useless weapons on windows, creating a high-pitched squeak that could be heard clear across the house. In August, my sister's roommate, who found all of this incredibly hilarious, finally gave a title to the still nameless feline: "Drive-By Funny" - "Funnies" or "Drive-By" for short. The kitten enjoyed attacking visitors feet or staging, as he described it, "a funny, kitten-style drive-by."

    Despite causing enough mayhem to warrant a restraining order, my sister continued to put up with Drive-By's antics, figuring she would finally calm down as she grew older. Then a different solution presented itself. A few weeks ago her roommate came home with his own kitten, a kitten as diabolically evil as the first.

    This new kitten ignores organic wheatgrass, preferring to munch on every plant in the house when she's not licking raw meat left out on the counter for dethawing. Another favorite pastime: climbing into people's laps, purring contentedly for a few minutes and cutting a huge fart a split second before abruptly darting off. The victim has no idea that they've been hit by a "kitten stinkbomb" until the feline is long gone. This one has been named Qetesh, after an Egyptian goddess....possibly the goddess of flatulence (ok, it's actually fertility).

    The two kittens now take out their aggressions on each other rather than the house or their human companions and they have skills worthy of ninjas. Last Saturday, Drive-By had to be taken to the vet due a cut on her eye. Qetesch is proven herself to be quite skilled with a set of a claws.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid. As this photo proves, they're already learning to walk on their hind legs:

    And we all know what happened in Animal Farm. Sheesh, there's even a chance one of these two could wind up as an English ambassador bent on world domination.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006


    Now that's scary

    KGON, Portland's "real classic rock" station has slipped Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" and REM's "Losing My Religion" into their daily mix. Are those songs really advanced enough in age to warrant being placed beside Supertramp and Cream?

    Feeling old yet?



    The MAiZE: it seems like everyone in the city heads to Sauvie Island this time of year to get lost in it. Mud, traffic jams and long lines be dammed, we Portlanders dig the hell out of a corn maze.

    I wind up out the island every year or so. Afterwards, my cohorts and I inevitably wind up saying "never again." Still, we return like delusional moths to a holiday-themed flame. Last October I headed out there with friends. After an hour of standing in line for the MAiZE, we had moved only fifty feet. With at least a thousand people and two-thousand feet still standing between us and the entrance, we decided our weekend night would be better spent back in the city pounding pints of Henry's Private Reserve.

    I never learn. On Sunday afternoon I found myself again driving west towards Sauvie Island with my parents in tow. Traffic was backed up for a mile on Highway 30 near the bridge and it took 30 minutes just to make it over to the river. In light of the popularity of the MAiZE, several other farms have created their own corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Once over the bridge a series of confusing signs point to "the corn maze" in opposite directions.

    We made the mistake taking a left and heading west on the island. Maybe it was serendipity but we wound up passing Kruger's Farm. Much like its more popular neighbor to the north, it too had a pumpkin patch, a maze and a petting zoo. Rather than jump back into traffic, we decided to settle for it. All things considered, this was the right decision. Sure, we had settled for Knott's Berry equivalent but, when it comes to pumpkin patches, they're all pretty much the same. As Linus once pointed out, it's not the size of the patch that counts, it's the "sincerity."

    Krueger's patch is located a hundred yards from the parking lot, much closer than the half mile slog that stands between pumpkin hunters and their Hyundais at the MAize. Distance is something to consider when you're faced with the task of hauling two twenty pounds pieces of fruit back to your car. Sure, both farms offer a convenient hayride/tractor shuttle but, as we all know, hayrides are for old ladies and suckas.

    Too stubborn and impatient to wait for the tractor, we hiked back after picking out our pumpkins. Completely indifferent to this entire adventure, my father had chosen a small one, making his trek back an easy one. I wound up hauling my mother's pumpkin and my own. Of course, she picked out one that weighed at least twenty pounds. I had wisely picked out a pumpkin the same size with a stem covered in tiny spikes.

    I rolled up to the cash register with an expression reading: "Why yes, I did carry these two all the way over here from the pumpkin patch. All by myself, I did, with these scrawny things I call appendages." The lady working the cash register wasn't impressed. I soothed my ego with a Pepsi, which they were selling for a buck in old-style bottles. Who still sells soda in these? Where had the Kruger family found them? An inscription at the bottom explained everything: "bottled in Mexico." As far as I know, I haven't contracted any stomach maladies. I should have bought their entire stock. I'm convinced Pepsi and soda in general tastes better coming from a glass bottle...probably in the same way In and Out somehow tastes better than McDonalds.

    We had arrived a eighteen hours late for the hoedown so we hit the corn maze. The Kruger's maze is much smaller than the island's infamous one. Still, instead of losing interest after an hour of hitting dead ends and stomping around in the mud, we made it to the exit in twenty minutes flat. Had we brought a machete with us one year during a trip to the MAiZE, we would have carved our own exit. That second wing is pure sadism.

    Corn mazes and pumpkin patches are "fun" in the same sense that cross-country skiing and biking uphill are fun. But heading to Fred Meyer's and buying a pumpkin with a full stem and without mysterious green splotches doesn't come with the same sense of accomplishment. Getting out to Sauvie Island and returning with a pumpkin should be enough to earn someone a badge or at least a gift certificate of some sort, possibly to Applebee's. We came, we conquered a corn maze, we have pumpkins! Carpe diem! Facta, non verba! Also: fac fortia et patere!

    Hauling two heavy pumpkins a hundred yards provided my ego with a brief boost. Still, all things, considered, I think I'll opt out of the family's annual to trek to chop down a Christmas tree.

    Friday, October 20, 2006


    Witch's Castle

    I'd only heard a few of the tall tales surrounding "Witch's Castle," AKA "the stone house," in Macleay Park when I made a trip up there last February. I can't remember anything specific but while growing up in SW Portland I recall hearing tales of a mysterious stone structure near the larger Forest Park where Satanists and ghost hang out- a sort of social club for the freaky and the undead. During my trip I took a few pictures and found only joggers and hikers up there instead of ghouls and people with "666" tattooed on their foreheads.

    A little internet research turned up the real story behind Witch's Castle. The old stone structure is, or was, a restroom (link leads to a PDF) built by the Works Progress Administration during the Depression. Over the decades it was heavily vandalized. The 1962 Columbus Day Storm served the structure its death blow. The bathroom has been out of service ever since.

    The place is creepy even in the middle of the day so it's no wonder that it has been the inspiration for at least a few urban legends. Many of the ones I've read recently are fueled by the 1858 murder of Mortimer Stump, the young beau of the original landowner's daughter. One of the more popular legends suggests that Witch's Castle plays host to a "ghost battle" every night at midnight between the spirits of everyone involved in the murder. I poked around on Google and wound up at a site called Real Haunts which contains a brief, wildly incorrect history of the place and a forum full of speculation.

    One towards the bottom though includes an article written for the Northwest Paranormal Times. An excerpt:

    It is said that on certain nights- exactly at midnight, a horde of ghosts rise up and take possession of the ruin. Shortly thereafter, another group of spirits, arrive from the forest and a spectacular ghost battle ensues. Voices have been heard uttering the names of both Danford Balch and Mortimer Stump, along with a cacophony of other chatter.

    None of the witnesses to this battle stayed to watch the outcome, so we're left to speculate on the nature of the battle. Is Mortimer Stump coming back from the grave to heap vengeance upon the spirit of Danford Balch? Is Danford Balch cursed to kill Mortimer Stump over and over? Is there a third party, tugging at both their strings?


    The sign at the trailhead in Macleay Park declared the park closed after 10pm. It was 11pm and no one else was in sight. Everyone who had been offered the chance to join this adventure had joked about the Blair Witch Project, laughed for a moment, then stopped abruptly and decided to skip this one. The mission was clear: take pictures of the Witch's Castle at night- at Midnight, when the ghost wars were supposed to begin.

    So what happened? Did they see any spirits duking it out? Follow the link above for the rest of the article.


    Special guest appearences

    Fellow Wilson High alumnus Cory wrote in earlier in the week to point out:

    "Thought you should know that you were just featured on the Noah Larsen show on public access. Normally he just talks incoherently at the camera, but in today's episode he hit the town to video tape things like street posts, parked cars and photographs, all with jazzy background music. He caught you walking down the sidewalk while filming the front of the Silver Dollar Saloon up on NW 21st."

    If you're unfamiliar with Larsen, he's a Greshamite that hosts a weekly show on Multnomah County's various public access channels. Larsen's show airs at random times throughout the week and it's pretty hard to miss if you go hunting for it. If you'd like to see him in action right this very second, here's a You Tube clip of him complaining about the captions on his DVD copy of Incident at Loch Ness.

    If it was me on show and not my doppelganger, I consider this an accomplishment of sorts. Hey, it beats turning up on an old episode of the Jim Spagg (RIP) Show.


    In other news, Overheard in PDX picked up a submission I sent in yesterday. When they get drunk and loud in Portland, U of O students talk about the damndest things.


    And on Wednesday Jack bog tossed up a link to that post about Tryon State Park. Gracias, profesor.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006


    Halloween-related post # 1

    I hope you don't mind the holiday theme. I was bored this morning and whipped this together. If you spot any formatting problems or anything out of place, it would sure be swell if you pointed them out via the comments section below.

    The headers for each post look good in Safari but they're coming up as white blocks in Internet Explorer and Firefox. I've tried tweaking Blogger's code in my template but nothing seems to work. If anyone out there has any advice, I'm all ears.

    So given the Flanders pumpkin, I guess the pumpkin's tail will wag the blog's content dog. Or something like that. I'm terrible with metaphors. What I'm trying to say here is that I'm going to spend the next week tossing up Halloween-related links along with stories about haunted Portland hotels, photos from around town, pumpkin patches and that sort of thing. I'm shooting for thirteen posts connected to the holiday because, uh, thirteen is a spooky number and Halloween's all about spooky stuff, right?

    To kick things off, here's a video. If you've already seen it, eh, well, you get what you paid for.


    An open letter to the Decemberists

    Dear Mr. Meloy and crew,

    The show started well enough. Was that the guy from KNRK that read the introduction before y'all came out on stage? The British programming director? The same guy who never plays your music on the air? Aw, it doesn't matter. That bit about making everyone turn to the person next to them to introduce themselves in ten words or less? Classic. Many actually obliged. Based on the intro and all the pretty candles and pumpkin lights hanging over the stage, this was sure to be a show for the ages.

    Then you, yes, you, Mr. Meloy came riding out on the heels of a big time recording contract and...played a slow acoustic ballad. Ok, that's fine. You wanted to start things off "intimate." Let me tell you something. The two drunk girls to my left? They didn't come to the Crystal Ballroom last night to listen to quiet acoustic ballads about cannibalism, whaling and premature babies abandoned in ravines. They came here to listen to upbeat, uptempo and somewhat uplifting ballads about cannibalism, whaling and premature babies abandoned in ravines. The incredibly drunk and stoned gentleman to my left? He came here for one thing and one thing only: "Sixteen Military Wives."

    And y'all disappointed them. Sure, they probably rolled downtown from Tigard after reading a write-up about you in a copy of the Mercury they found outside of a Starbucks on Barbur Boulevard. These folks probably can't hum the chorus from one of your songs. I suspect they went down to West Burnside to get trashed and dance and they couldn't bloody well do that while you were singing a mellow 20-minute song about someone's wife turing into a crane.

    You teased them with three brief minutes of music busy enough to get their hips shaking and heads nodding but then what did you do? You delved back in the slow track about blood-crazed butchers and their penchant for sharpening knives before they terrorize their hometown. Zzzzzzzz. Could you hear everyone talking through all the tedium? Did you notice how many people walked out before you made it to the 20-minute song about the guy and his bird wife? Did you have to play every single slow song in your back catalog?

    A word to the wise: when you're going to play a concert hall with a bouncing dance floor, you'd best play a substantial amount of music appropriate for such a venue. Yes, yes, yes, all the ballads were very pretty but the Crystal Ballroom isn't the place for that sort of thing, especially since the management stopped selling beer in containers smaller than 20 ounces. You should consider yourselves lucky. All of those suburbanites in the audience could have taken a tip from all of your murder ballads and stormed the stage. Y'all could have become the subjects of a song written by history-majors-cum-demigods-in-the-eyes-of-Pitchfork's-staff a few centuries from now. It could have been called "The Night the Service Industry Populace of Beaverton Impaled the Decemberists with Broken Pieces of an Accordion." Such a thing could have begun with a line like, "I'm a chimbly, chimbly Best Buy clerk, I paid $20 to see this band and they won't stop singing boring songs about cranes..."

    On the other hand, the girl who held up the sign in Japanese and gave you a paper crane? She sure seemed to dig it all. But if 1/5 of the crowd at one of your hometown shows walks out before the encore, how is all of this going to play in a town like Los Angeles? I'm sure they like that song about how much their city makes you puke but the crane stuff? And what about Dallas? Did you think about Dallas?

    I'll give you this, you brought your A-game for the encore. "16 Military Wives" AND "The Legionnaire's Lament" AND "A Cautionary Tale." Sure, Mr. Meloy looked bored as hell playing that first one but, hey, bravo. I also thought I'd never get a chance to hear that last one live. It's the first song of yours I heard and, as nasty as it is, it's my favorite. And when you had the drummer come out into the audience and run around? Pure magic.

    The drunk and stoned gentleman to my left screamed "10 more songs" as you headed off stage a second time. You had a chance to redeem yourselves after what was, you've got to admit, a lackluster display of your talents. Y'all left us hanging with no "Leslie Anne Levine" and no "July, July!" and no "Chimbley Sweep" and no "Sporting Life" and no "Mariner's Revenge Song." Not even a trip down the "Bus Mall" for old time's sake. For shame.

    But thanks for playing "A Cautionary Tale." Even if the kids from suburbia didn't stick around long enough to see how hard you can kick an audience's pantaloons when you feel like it.



    Tuesday, October 17, 2006


    No hot dog carts either?

    Recently I went hiking in Tryon Creek State Park for only the second time since I moved into the neighborhood nearby. While tromping around on one of the trails I encountered this sign posted by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

    The fine print offered plenty of context for the doodles doing "bad things" in the margins. But, much like many of the joggers, dog-walkers and teenagers looking for a quiet place to smoke cigarettes and/or pot that frequent Tryon, I wasn't going to take the time to read a 1,000 word tome on park regulations. Instead, using only the doodles, I drew my own conclusions. For example:

    Apparently, the OPRD doesn't approve of country-western balladeers setting up shop in Tryon. Nevermind that there's no place to plug in an amp down there. Howling hound dogs? Also not kosher.

    "Closed to the public"? So we're not even supposed to set foot in the park? What are you hiding in there, OPRD agents? Could it be...Kong? It's Kong, isn't it?

    If you're going to head into the park with a box of records hanging around your neck, you'd best keep an eye out for rangers. Bears go after picnic baskets but the rangers prefer vinyl. My guess is that if you walk into Tryon with a copy of Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight, you're not going to walk out of there with it. Also: Tryon has rangers?

    This one is pretty straight-forward but check out the sign in the background. How does someone go about "mutilating" a Port-A-Pottie?

    If you're going to bring along a gun, please refrain from randomly shooting it behind any senior citizen couples trying to camp out here illegally.

    I guess the sign is working. I didn't see anyone cutting loose with handguns, stealing records or impersonating Hank Williams while I was in the park. No hound dogs either. If the OPRD wants to add another doodle to the list they might want to consider banning horses. Sure, I should have paid more attention to the sign clearly marking the equine trail but that's not going to scrap the poo off my hiking boots, now is it?

    Monday, October 16, 2006


    The Boo Berry hunt

    Anyone know of a grocery store around town that's selling Boo Berry cereal? At least one puts out a few boxes in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Last year, Fred Meyer's had the entire line of General Mill's monster-themed cereals on their shelves. I'd trade the Burlingame Freddie's entire stock of candy and Captain Jack Sparrow knock-off costumes for a single box of Boo Berry or Count Chocula. Maybe not Frankenberry though...

    Eh, it was worth a shot.


    The road warriors

    I spent some time on Interstate 5 Saturday morning and, let me tell you something: while the two don't top drinking and driving, the promise of NCAA football and driving is a bad mix. By the time I got to Woodburn, with still a full three hours until kick-off, I spotted four former fratboys climbing out of a sideways sedan on grassy knoll near an overpass. They'd just been run off the road by an SUV parked a few yards away. The throng of UO fans that filled the interstate, with their neon green Duck flags wedged in their windows, slowed briefly to take a gander and then continued riding the bumper of the vehicle in front of them.

    That's not to say that displays of vehicular bullying can't be found on any given day on I-5. A few months ago I recall reading an article in the Oregon about a man that set the all time state record for a speeding violation. He was caught going somewhere north of 130 MPH outside of Salem. You can go as fast as you want in the left lane. You'll inevitably wind up with someone pointing their bumper two feet from your rear one, practically nudging you into the center lane. If he hadn't been pulled over it would only have been a matter of time until he wound up with a tailgater.

    Despite near-gridlocked traffic moving at a snail's pace of 65 MPH, several Ducks fans pushed their way up to my back bumper, flashing their lights and demanding I move over a lane. When I obliged they stormed up to the car that had been in front of me and repeated the process. Some balked, others didn't.

    I guess this is why I need an electronic reader board in my back window. On Saturday it would have read: "I too wish I could be going 85 MPH right now. I too would rather be eating ribs in the Autzen Stadium parking lot instead of being stuck behind someone with a 'Yes on 43: Protect Teen Girls!' bumper sticker. But since no amount of pushing and shoving is going to do either of us any good, WOULD YOU PLEASE BACK OFF, ASS FACE?"

    And a Saturday when both OSU and UO are hosting game days? You don't want to go anywhere near I-5 unless you've got the steering-wheel skills of Elwood Blues or at least Mad Max.

    Friday, October 13, 2006


    Commercials from far away lands

    A few days ago, "WWB" sent me this link to a commercial for a car lot in Washington DC. I have to say that it's at least ten times better than the short-term loan and Dick Hannah ads that litter Portland's airwaves. Behold:

    [I lost the link. Video to come when "WWB" responds to the email I sent him on Friday. Until then, here's this]

    "QA," who currently resides in Nagoya, also sent me the following ad for something called "Calorie Mate." It stars Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer from 24 and it's a thrilling two-parter.

    And click here for the thrilling conclusion. Will Jack, with help from an always nutritious and delicious Calorie Mate, be able to navigate a subway train filled with Japanese schoolgirls in order to stop...another Japanese schoolgirl...from doing...something or another? I'm sure it makes sense if you actually speak the language.


    Roaming the Western States Part 6 - The South Visitors Center

    The last installment in this neverending series stopped in the middle of our trip through Temple Square. We'd seen the exterior of the grounds and the seagull monument but what was waiting inside the South Visitors Center?

    Temple Square South Visitors Center reminded me of a scene from Back to the Future part II. In the movie, Marty McFly winds up an alternative reality where his father's tormentor, Biff Tannen, has become a wealthy billionaire. Marty wanders the ruins of his once low-key small town and heads into a casino in search of answers. In the foyer is a small museum devoted Biff's legacy. A video offers a sugar-coated view of his life, painting him as a hero instead of a ruthless megalomaniac.

    I've heard a lot of negative things about the Mormon church over the years. Tales of cryptic practices, families torn apart and tithing (!) - the stuff atheists' nightmares are made of. The South Visitor's Center was devoted to explaining the church's emphasis on family values. A long oil painting near the entrance showed the key stages of every Mormon male's lifespan. Evidentially, this consists of: birth, learning to read the Book of Mormon, planting crops, getting married, cranking out kids, burying their wife, playing with their grandkids and finally kicking the bucket. Here's one segment of the painting, which had to be at least fifteen feet long:

    The center also offered a museum recollecting the years following the arrival of Mormon Settlers in Utah. They say history is told by the winners and in Salt Lake City we know who that is.

    The place was mostly empty and the missionaries wandering the halls seemed to busy to pay us any heed. Maybe Mormon missionaries are like the T-Rexes in Jurassic Park. As long as you don't move or make a lot of noise, they won't notice you. As long as we kept a low profile we could comfortably take in the sights without the threat of any uncomfortable conversations.

    Then I made the mistake of pushing a button on an interactive display. A woman popped up on a TV screen, her voice filling the corridors as she told us all about faith and family. As I always do in situations like this, I slowly walked away and tried my best to look like I hadn't done anything.

    But it was too late. They locked on to us. Mormons, everywhere! To the left! To the right! Coming out of the walls and roped-off escalators that led down to the basement and parts unknown. We fled around a corner past a waxed dummy diorama exploring the pitfalls that plagued the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. But there they were! Four hundred Mormons, each toting copies of the Book of Mormon. "Prepare to be converted," they cackled, pointing their infrared eye beams at our heads...

    ....yeah, none of that happened. As we had already learned, becoming a Mormon is a laborious task that takes way longer than getting eyeglasses at LensCrafters, ordering a pizza or getting assimiliated by the Borg. After I triggered the display, we rounded a corner and did spot two college-aged missionaries. At that point, we decided it was time to leave but we were distracted by a display telling us what all goes into getting hitched in the temple. These two girls must have jogged up the corridor because they were standing right next to us ten seconds later.

    What ensued was probably the most uncomfortable, awkward pause filled conversation in the history of the world. From here we were headed to Vegas but it wasn't like we were going to tell them that. Instead, I said we were heading on to LA but would be spending the night in Carson City, which is completely out of the way in western Nevada. As you can tell, I'm quite skilled in the art of deception.

    Undaunted by my terrible lying, the two continued to ask us questions about what we thought of Portland's temple, had we been there and would be staying to watch the Tabernacle perform that night. After they said, "that's really cool" fifteen hundred times, they wrapped things up with a "do you have any questions about the church?"

    Thousands of possible questions flooded into my head. I had an open invitation to put these two on the spot. "Why did you join the church?" "Were you born into it or did it just kinda happen?" "Are you really cool with tithing or do you do it because you have to?" "Isn't this whole missionary thing a hassle?" "If you were really, really tired and had absolutely had to drive another 100 miles, would you bite the bullet and pull up to a Starbucks for a cappuccino?" "How many kids are you going to have?" "Do you really want to have that many?" "Wouldn't you rather join a sorority, get some birth control and a degree, become a scientist and do something besides crank out babies for the next twenty years?" "When you get right down to it, don't you think the Book of Mormon is at least a little bit contrived?" "Aren't there days when you'd rather kick back with a DVD set of Ellen and a box of wine?" "Salt Lake City: boring, boring, boring. Am I right or am I right, ladies?"

    But I didn't do that because, while I'm a jerk, I'm not enough of a jerk to heckle two wide-eyed Joseph Smith fans. Plus, we were on their turf and there's no telling how they deal with smart asses around those parts. Neither of us wanted wind up in a backroom buried four stories below Temple Square.

    So we thanked them for their time, headed for the exits and grabbed a few Jesus bookmarks on the way out. Mine is currently wedged about halfway through a copy of Bonfire of the Vanities.

    Next time: 15,000 Star Trek nerds in a Vegas hotel + William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy + one Ewok doll = ?

    Thursday, October 12, 2006


    Google News Gone Wild

    I clicked over to Google News earlier today and what did I see? Check out the subhead:

    And it was up there for at least an hour.


    Follow-ups, scattered notes and a bouncing sheep

    • You're all sadistic bastards. Or at least the ten of you that voted for "ghost hotel with a Ouija Board" in last week's poll are sadistic bastards. That one came in at number one so sometime in the next few weeks I'll be spending the night at the allegedly haunted White Eagle Saloon and Hotel in NE Portland. I'll be taking a camera but the $8 board game that will enable me to communicate with the place's ghosts? Fat chance, especially after reading the "Criticism of Ouija Boards" section on Wikipedia. Plus, I'm too cheap and lazy to go down to Toys 'R Us to buy one. Sure, the boards are supposedly fueled by the involuntary movements of players' hands but I'm not taking any chances. I don't need any spirits, demons, spooks or leprechauns following me back to my place. Everyone knows they're always late with rent, never do the dishes and rarely, if ever, obey the "sock rule." Check back here in a few weeks for a write-up.

    • The administrators at My Space never responded to my email. I guess I can continue pretending to be 99 years old without fear of having my profile deleted. Or maybe I should switch it to 96 to really throw them off. Regardless, it's an empty victory. If they had taken the bait, I might have wound up on Dateline, as reader "Rip Tatermen" predicted a two weeks ago.

    • Has anyone out there been to Ken's Artisan Pizza? It's a fairly new place on the east side. I'm not really interested in artisan-style pizza but I hear its building is constructed out of century-old timber and pieces from a long-gone Jantzen Beach roller coaster. Sounds neat.

    • I caught last night's debut episode of 30 Rock, Tina Fey's answer to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. One of these shows plays like a banal episode of ER meets Saturday Night Live, the other is funny. One of these shows thinks it's incredibly daring for criticizing broadcast TV (*yawn*), the other is more interested in jokes about strippers and cats. One of these shows is actually entertaining, the other one sucks and stars Matthew Perry. I'm sticking with the comedy version of the concept with the stripper gags, Alec Baldwin and entourage members that wear Trailblazer jackets in the middle of Manhattan.

    • The Departed is a great movie until the final 30 seconds. The "shocker" ending drags the whole thing down a few pegs. If you're a Netflix subscriber I would recommend Infernal Affairs, the movie this one is based on. It does a better job of playing up the moral ambiguity. Plus, Infernal's ending is perfect.

    • Loukoumades: the Greek version of a doughnut.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006


    The Who at the Rose Garden - 10/10/06

    Despite being born well after all the bands of my parent's generation lost their cultural influence and relevance, the majority of albums in my collection have their copyrights firmly planted in the late '60s/early-to-mid '70s. Homer Simpson once said, "Everyone knows rock n' roll attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact." I've got to agree with him. In my eyes, ears and lower intestines, nothing the industry has produced in the last thirty years can hold an elevated Bic lighter to the likes of Beggars Banquet, Led Zeppelin I, Quadrophenia or any number of other records I'd rather be listening to than whatever the writers at Pitchfork are gushing over this afternoon. That's not to say I frown on everything recorded after 1979 but can anyone name me an album made in the last 25 years that tops Abbey Road? Or Axis: Bold as Love? Or Sticky Fingers?

    With that out of the way, now you know why I went to see the Who last night at the Rose Garden. Two hours of a nearly bald Pete Townsend doing windmills and a Roger Daltrey that looks more like Tom Jones than this guy.Here's the weird part: the crowd? Half Boomers, half teenagers.

    And these were unaccompanied teens that weren't dragged along by their elders. They were all over the place, in groups of three or four and I don't think they paid upwards of $60 to see the opening act. A pimply kid with long hair in an old army jacket knew the lyrics to all the Who's standards. Watching someone that young sing the words "hope I die before I get old" along with a 62-year old Daltrey? I wonder what the frontman circa 1967 would have thunk of that. Would he be amused at the thought of himself forty years down the road singing those words? Or would he have put a gun to his head after recording Who's Next?

    I've been to a lot of dinosaur rock shows in the last decade and I've never seen a crowd like this. A few rows down I spotted a circle of high school kids awkwardly dance next to guy who could easily qualify for Social Security. During an encore consisting of random tracks from Tommy, he took an enormous hit off a hidden pipe, raised his arms in a V formation and spewed out a cloud of smoke worthy of Mount St. Helens. Grandparents and sophmores that should have been at home studying for the SATS, side by side, shouting the words "MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS!" Maybe someone outside was hosting a game of "Kick the Can" ala the Spielberg segment from The Twilight Zone movie. That's the only explanation I can come up with.

    Like many shows along these lines, Daltrey and Townsend, who brought along Ringo Starr's kid to play the drums, mixed their new songs with all the tracks that have appeared on any number of car commercials over the years. They even delved into Jimi Hendrix's stuff. At one point Townsend oddly broke into the opening riff from "Foxy Lady" and sung a few verses from "All Along the Watchtower." Like a recent issue of Rolling Stone put it, his once death-defying jump is more of a bunny-hop these days but he can still play a guitar like, what' the old cliche? Nobody's business. Yeah, that's it.

    No one smashed any guitars but Daltrey broke a set of tambourines at one point and proved he can still swing around his microphone around like a whip. He huffed and puffed through "Won't Get Fooled Again" but still managed to pull off the "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" hell scream at the end.

    I wonder if reunion tours in the year 2030 are going to look like this. Will anyone pay to see a 60+ year old Eddie Vedder perform "Jeremy"? Will anyone be able to handle a Coldplay, Outkast, Strokes or *shudder* Paris Hilton reunion tour?

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006


    Everything's on notice

    You can create your very own Stephen Colbert "On Notice" board over here.

    (Via Jack Bog)


    Greeks bearing fried food

    Some people go to the annual festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for the roast lamb. Entire mammals cooked over an open flame- that's something you don't typically see at an Oktoberfest.

    Myself, I go to the Greek Festival for the signs. You probably won't see this one at the Vatican.

    Most of them feature words I can't pronounce. Like "gyros." No matter how many times I'm corrected, it will always come out of my mouth as "guy-rows." And these two?

    Mon-as...I give up. Don't take this personally, Greek speakers. Foreign language has always been my worst subject. After five years of Spanish classes in high school and college, all I can say is "puedo ir al bano?" and I'm probably getting that wrong.

    On a final note, these are loukoumades. If you've never encountered them before and can guess what they are without consulting Wikipedia or the internet at large, you deserve a...loukoumade.


    Fun with stickers

    Beck's new CD, The Information, comes packaged with a book of stickers and a blank cover. Sure, I could have downloaded the album off iTunes but that wouldn't have helped me pass the time while stuck at the office on a slow Columbus Day. I spent part of my work day (actually, more like work night) tinkering with a copy I picked up at Everyday Music. Compliments of the not-so awesome power of my cell phone's camera, here's what I came up with:

    You know what you don't see enough of anymore? CD covers that look like they've been transported through time from the face of a mid-70s prog rock album. Where's the Tolkien-seque imagery nowadays? The flying saucers and starscapes? The, in the parlance of 1970s stoner-speak, the "trippy"? You can't gobble psychedelic mushroom and stare at something like this all night.

    Fortunately, with the stickers I could turn the cover of my copy of the The Information into something worthy of Boston's S/T or at least Journey's Evolution. Who needs the title of the album or even the artist's name when you've got a chick about to take on a fortress full of unicorns and lightening bolts with a reel-to-reel tape player? Did Beck want his music to conjure up imagery that mixes one part Dark Side of the Moon with one part Jim Henson's Labyrinth? If not, he should have chosen these stickers more carefully.

    For the inside cover? The title of the disc and...a bunch of freaky monsters fighting over who has dibs on a flying monkey. Lyrics? Information on the production? A copyright date? I don't need 'em.

    So what did my copy of The Information still need? What was it lacking? Why, the names of the songs, of course.

    And partial nudity. Thanks for the semi-naked lady sticker, Beck. Obviously my version of The Information's cover is filled with more hidden subtext and riddles than the covers of Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper combined. Feel free to gorge yourself on psychedelics and stare at these blurry cell phone photos until you discover the meaning of life*.

    As for the music, I was disappointed. The Information seems like Beck's attempt to remake Radiohead's Kid A. It's his spacey, "deep" album meant to either change the world or encourage his fans to put on headphones and stare at the glow-in-the-dark stars on bedroom ceilings. There's several great tracks on the first half but the entire thing buckles and eventually breaks under the weight of its own seriousness and producer Nigel Godrich's bleeps and blurps. One five minute track with spare instrumentation and semi-spoken words vocals is one thing but three or more likely to inspire yawning than introspection. There's even a track on the album, the incredibly grating "1000BPM," that sounds like a combination of "Revolution # 9" and something off Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

    When it comes to self-indulgence, I'd rather do it myself. Now where did that sticker booklet go? I've got a hankering to remix the cover of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It could use more flying monkeys. And nipples.

    * The proprietor of Welcome to Blog does not endorse hallucinogens, not even whip-its or spinning around really, really fast. If you somehow turn yourself into an acid casualty while looking at these photos, please don't sue.




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