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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Portland TV, the way they used to brew it
This page has been making the rounds around town. It first popped up on Oregon Media Insiders and on Jack Bog's Blog this afternoon. If you grew up or lived in Portland in the '80s and '90s, prepare to lose at least an hour of your time.
The page, apart of site called Platypus Comix, contains a treasure trove of commercials and promos from Portland's past. We're talking about ancient advertisements for late-great restaurants like the Organ Grinder and Farrell's. A Meier and Frank commercial for the Atari 2600 and an ad or two for Smith's Home Furnishings. There's dozen of obscure clips in here and the only thing it seems to be missing is something from the old Ramblin' Rod Show.
Here are a few direct links to some of the ones that I think are super terrific:
The hard knock life
I like to gripe about the house I'm renting. While the rent is cheap, there's barely any insulation in the place. It also costs a fortune to heat, it's invaded by ants every February, the foundation is crumbling and my indifferent landlord continues to ignore my pleas to fix several small things like the hall light. Still, at least I don't have to deal with all of this:
Yes indeed -- we spent 13 hours on Saturday, Craig, Dean [not their real names] and myself, moving stuff out of my (old) place and Craig's into here, our new place. Among the events from that day: First visit to IKEA (awesome)! I lost my phone (less so)! I caused cosmetic damage to Craig's new bed (he was pissed, but I would've been, too)!
This email arrived in my inbox last night from a colleague living in Washington DC. Over the past few months he's passed along tales of his friend Dean's apartment. Before the police raided the place, a roommate of his made a habit of hanging around with a group of low-level DC gangstas. One, a local dealer with a PCP habit who traveled under the alias of "Kermit" (not his real alias) didn't care too much for Dean but liked his stuff. One night Kermit made off with his work laptop. When Dean confronted him about the theft, the dealer told him to "watch his back" because he was going to kill him when the time was right.
The colleague that passed along this email has also had his fair share of run-ins with Kermit. One night he instantaneously wound up on Kermit's shit list when he made the mistake of not shaking his hand correctly. And now Kermit and company are back out on the streets and Dean has had to go into hiding on the couch of an apartment with heating problems in the middle of January.
All things considered, I think I'd rather deal with the ants.
Monday, January 29, 2007
If a tree falls in the woods and everybody's around to hear it...
...will it make a sound? Probably. Will it hit anybody? Nope, because local authorities have it roped it off.
During last month's wind storm the United State's Largest Sitka spruce, located near Seaside on US 26, had a portion of its trunk torn away exposing its rotting innards. The "Klootchy Creek Giant" could fall any day now and loggers are already lining up to perform a mercy kiling, should this prove prophetic.
I stopped by on my way to the coast this weekend to pay my respects. From afar, the tree looked much same as when I stopped by a few years ago, much like Treebeard from The Two Towers but without the guilt-tripping or rock throwing. I've heard talk of efforts to save the ailing behemoth- that cement, epoxy or stuffing the rotting trunk full of wood could save it. Might I suggest duct tape or bungie cords? Any of you out there have any ideas?
Most of those hanging around had come to gawk but at least one person at Klootchy Creek was shedding tears. A hippie girl had to be consoled by her boyfriend as they stared up at the spruce. But who knows how many future generations of hippie girls will cry over the spruce's roots the next time it has a health scare like this? I've got five bucks on the tree. I think it'll pull through, one way or another. Break out the duct tape! This ol' bastard has plenty of life left in it.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Rip City, if only for one night
I never attended a live Blazers game as a kid. While I had those old Oregonian cut-out posters hanging in my bedroom and even a copy of "Rip City Rhapsody," I never made it down to the Memorial Coliseum. While I watched plenty of barn-burner home games on television, I never saw one live. In later years during the Rasheed Wallace-era I caught a few games but they were always tedious, mid-season blow-outs against sub-mediocre teams.
I went to the Rose Garden for a late-season loss to the Utah Jazz last year and it was probably the most unpleasant few hours I'd spent at the Rose Garden since a painful Van Morrison/Bob Dylan team-up concert in the late '90s. The Jazz whipped the Blazers and most of the crowd was gone by the start of the 4th quarter.
But Wednesday night was a different story. A colleague and I were sitting up in the 200-level. This game against the "Timberpuppies" was tight all the way through and the crowd, which had honestly managed to fill a mere 2/3s of the stadium, was completely into it. We had high school kids dancing in the aisles and blimps shaped like SUVs dropping gift certificates* from the rafters. It felt like the old games I had enjoyed vicariously on KGW but with thumping baselines coming out of the overhead speakers instead of Queen (although the Rose Garden did break out Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll part 2" during a time-out).
With a minute left and the Blazers down by three, a few people in attendance started heading for the exits. Throughout the game, movie clips aired on the stadium's JumboTron over the court, re-edited to include the team's mascot. They had one great one left, a clip of John Belushi's rally speech from Animal House. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" No, sir, it sure wasn't and "Blaze" the Blazer mountain lion seemed to agree as he ran out of the room with the rest of the Deltas.
A pair of last minute free-throws from Zach Randolph sent the game to overtime. Our attempts to start a "spay and neuter your pets" chant failed miserably though, as did the shorter, simplified, more accessible "neuter those Timber-puppies!" Kevin Garnett's 31-points weren't enough to take the game, the Blazers won and my voice was shot by the end of it all. I'm still hoarse two days later.
It was nice to have "Rip City" back, if only for a little while, and before Paul Allen inevitably moves the Blazers to Seattle. I'm thinking this will happen by the 2009 season, unless a miracle keeps the Sonics up there or another franchise moves in.
* Sorry for the pitiful cell phone photo of the SUV blimp. This is probably the worst one I've ever run on this blog. Hooray! A new low!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Dr. Strangecivicimprovement or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Millions That Went Into Building It and Learned to Love the OHSU Tram, Part 1
The amount of words devoted to the OHSU tram that are floating around the Portland blogosphere probably match the amount of dollars that went into making it a reality. Should the city have dumped millions into constructing an absolutely ridiculous method of moving people back and forth between Pill Hill and the South Waterfront? Probably not but the tram is here now and there's nothing you, I or thousands of naysayers can do about it.
And it sure looks pretty. Have you driven down Barbur as its cars soar overhead? It's a sight sure to muster a "wow, look at 'em go" out of the most hardhearted local that would have sooner seen those millions spent on public safety, sanitizing the Benson Bubblers or any number of more practical civic concerns. I was passing under the tram's lines on a recent Saturday afternoon, had some time to kill and decided right then and there to try to sneak on for a round trip.
Now this was going to be a challenge because the tram still hadn't opened to the public and I long ago tossed out my ID card from a summer spent working at the hospital. Still, I assumed the rules for engagement on this mini-mission would be the same used for sneaking into a movie theater. Provided I acted as bored as possible, avoided eye contact and pretended that I belonged on the tram, there was no way I was going to blow this.
The station down on the South Waterfront was vacant after I wandered over after making use of "the facilities" in the lobby of the shiny, new OHSU building. Ignoring the many signs telling me I had to be an employee to ride, I had the station to myself as one of the tram's gray cars descended, looking like something out of the 1939 New York World's Fair. I don't know if the designers were shooting for a retro-future look but this thing belongs in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Once the car pulled up to the station, the doors slid open. The interior was smaller than I was expecting and the operator sits at a round console. Right as I was about to make my move, a family wandered up. Without skipping a beat, the driver hopped out and held up her hands like a crossing guard to block our path. "I'm sorry, the tram isn't open to the public yet." As she ran down a spiel she had probably gone over a thousand times that day alone, a guy in a tattered OSU hoodie walked right past her and into the cabin. Did he really work at OHSU? Did she know him? Had he spent the last few years building this thing? Who knows.
I should have done the same but she was looking right at me. The driver had immediately sniffed me out as a member of "the public" and there was no way I was going to make it past her. If I had stuck by my plan, hung back and darted in like the guy in the sweatshirt, I'd probably be telling you how smooth the tram rides. Instead, the family threw off my mojo. I blame them for my failure. It's all their fault.
I didn't get a ticket for the tram's grand opening this weekend and it will probably be a while before I roll down to the South Waterfront for a second attempt. Until you see a post titled "Dr. Strangecivicimprovement or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Millions That Went Into Building It and Learned to Love the OHSU Tram – Part II," here's a blurry cell phone picture of the tram descending into the station.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Tiki vs. tiki
Local tiki bar fans lamented the loss of downtown's Jasmine Tree when it closed forever last year. At the time, it was one of the last two full-fledged bars of its kind in Portland. Fortunately, the mighty Alibi Restaurant and Lounge was and is still going strong.
Now there's a new tiki bar in town. Thatch over on NE Broadway opened its doors recently with decor salvaged from the late-great downtown bar. With the spirit of the Jasmine Tree firmly in check, can this young upstart hold a candle to its perennial forefather over on N. Interstate? On Friday night a colleague and I visited both Thatch and the Alibi. I took detailed notes, carefully analyzing the strong and weak points of both tiki bars.
Actually, I scribbled a few things down on a napkin and now, four days later, I can't read my own handwriting. Nevertheless, I'm committed to slapping together a side-by-side comparison. Here goes....
Thatch: Thatch looks like the product of someone finally getting to fulfill a live-long dream. The entrance gives way to a small path over a murky lagoon, watched over by a "perky" tiki god. While the room is narrow, it may as well be the interior of a beach-side bar on Kaui. Three tikis and a large canoe lifted from the Jasmine Tree sit behind the bar beside a velvet painting of a nude decked out in Polynesian paraphernalia. Florescent blow fish hang over patrons sitting up front. An epic-sized painting of a tropical paradise can be found in a party area overlooking the rest of the place. If Disneyland's Tiki Room served booze, this is what it would look like.
Alibi: The exterior looks like something that crawled out of a nearly-forgotten corner of America's past, something that couldn't have possibly have survived past the '80s. Blinking neon lights and illuminated tiki Gods stretch towards the sky. Walk in through the main doors, look back and you'll discover that you've just passed through a glowing coconut. The front room is like a mash-up of a David Lynch dreamscape and a 19th-century whorehouse. Within mere feet of one another is a tropical fish tank, numerous tikis, red velvet curtains, a fountain, plush booths with mirrors and a black-lit hula girl mural. The less said about the karaoke room, the better. It looks a 50s-era rec room that's never been dusted. Thatch, as good looking as it is, can't possibly compete with the bulk of the Alibi but what tiki bar could? It's a big, lei-covered, possibly tropical fish in a tiny pond.
Winner: The Alibi
Alibi: Worthy of a poorly maintained bus station. A colleague had to wait for ten minutes in the tiny women's bathroom while a drunk chick sorted herself out in its only stall.
Winner: That tiki is pretty creepy but I'm going to have to go with Thatch on this one.
Thatch: A group that looked like pals of the owner and seemed genuinely happy to be working in a tiki bar.
Alibi: Bored cocktail waitresses struggling to get through another night spent listening to karaoke covers and a fry cook reportedly pissed that we ordered a plate of fries ten minutes before the kitchen closed.
While the strip mall location cramps its style, Thatch is tiki through and through. It's a full-blown tiki bar that doesn't compromise with '80s dance hits and a karaoke machine. On the other hand, it's been open for less than a month. Will straight-up tiki culture be enough to keep Thatch going or will it have to make several changes to build a returning clientele? The Alibi, despite the crowd it draws on weekends and the background music, is like an old grizzly bear (sorry, I couldn't think up an appropriate Polynesian animal metaphor. A old toucan maybe?). Sure, it's cranky and it's a bit rough around the edges but, after years of devoting itself to a fad decades past its heyday, it has every right to be.
And the bar that deserves to reign supreme over Portland tiki culture...remains undecided. Thatch is great but will it be able to roll with the punches like the Alibi has?
Friday, January 19, 2007
Not the Virginia Cafe!
Virginia Cafe to dust, prepare to be bit.
It looks like one of Portland's most iconic bars has a date with a wrecking ball. The block that houses the Virginia Cafe, one of my favorite local booze holes, is scheduled to be replaced with a "410-foot mixed use tower" with three stories of retail on the bottom levels. I think it's safe to assume the Virginia won't be making the transition but here's hoping the owners will be able to relocate elsewhere.
Much of the Virginia's charm is that it's been a bar for over 80 years. As I wrote in a blog post a few weeks ago, the place practically sweats history from the walls. It was a known hangout for Neil Goldschmidt's mistress once she became of drinking age and who knows what else the place has seen over the years. The Virginia is one of the few locales in central downtown where you can slip in for a drink without contending with a cover charge, high prices or feel like you're under-dressed. It has an unusual mystique that's hard to pin down and classify with a few words. Maybe "bohemian saloon"? Or "classy dive bar"? All I know is that it's the only place downtown where I can order a bottle of Miller Hi-Life.
The local blogosphere is already abuzz with outrage and nostalgia, with local drinkers of all ages coughing up dusty and not-so dusty memories. There are also those that will be happy to see the Virginia go and hope the space will go on to house a national clothing outlet. Bleah, I say. There are plenty of other places around town for cheap office duds.
Here's hoping that the Virginia will beat the odds and survive somehow. I like b!x's idea*, which he posted on his blog Furious Nads earlier today. If the developers are hunting for a good PR move, they should reserve a spot on the block for a new version of the bar. A Virginia Cafe 2.0 wouldn't be the same and it wouldn't have the same dingy charm but a few years of laughs and heavy cigarette smoke might do wonders.
If you think such a proposal is outlandish, consider the Hungry Tiger on East Burnside. Last I heard, its space is/was scheduled to be torn down this month and cleared for a condo development but the developer was already making plans to leave a spot for that ol' bar to make a comeback. We'll see, I guess.
* To clarify, b!x's idea was for the developer to actually build around the existing Virginia Cafe, not just leave a spot open for them in the new tower.
Random Links: Storm of the Century Edition
And here's this week's round-up of local news stories and other assorted randomness:
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The super-exciting haircut adventure
I hate getting my hair cut. I hate being penned down in a barber's chair. I hate making small talk and I hate being asked where I work. I hate the fact that I always answer this question honestly, immediately resulting in a barrage of questions and criticisms about how the company I work for is the antithesis of all that is good and holy in this world (I know, I know. I need a new job). And I hate that I pay $20+ for something that makes me look like a 3rd grader on picture day.
So for several years after I moved back to Portland I found myself on a quest, a quest for a barber shop where I didn't have to steer the conversation away from work. A place where I didn't have to pay someone $20 or more for a job that took them 15 minutes or less. I went all over this city. I tried many different barbers and hairstylists. Such as an alleged "barber shop" in Multnomah Village that seemed to only cater to women over 50. A Bishops branch where a girl with green hair tried to convince me I was going to go bald by the age of 25 because I didn't use a certain brand of shampoo. A place down by PSU that was swarmed by the university's basketball team while I was sitting in the chair. Another Bishops where a girl with orange hair scorned me like a schoolmarm for not using product. My list of awkward moments in Portland barber shops goes on and on.
And then last spring I took a chance on a small, easy-to-miss shop buried in a forgotten strip mall underneath Tobacco Town on SW Barbur. Inside I found Rosie, a sweet gal that didn't ask me where I work. Instead, we talked about the weather. The walls were and still are lined with salon ads from the 80s and paintings her daughter creates (sorry for the blurry camera phone photo). That afternoon Rosie gave me a haircut that put the Bishops clerks to shame and was even willing to give me a break because I was a buck short. I've been going there ever since.
And now I pass Rosie's Barbershop on to you. The walls aren't covered with clippings from British music magazines, no one will offer you a Pabst and you won't feel like a rockstar for going there but if you're looking for a no-frills place to get a haircut, Rosie's got you covered.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
How I spent my Tuesday
The last time a serious amount of snow fell in Portland, it was 2004 and no one was ready for it. The city came to a screeching halt and I found myself trapped for two days in the depths of Beaverton. This random winter phenomenon makes absolutely no sense to anyone living on the east coast or anywhere else that receives regular annual snowfall. The fact of the matter is, if you've lived in Multnomah County for more than five years, you don't know how to drive in snow, deal with snow or do anything in the snow but play in it or hide indoors. It doesn't matter if you were born and raised in Barrow, Alaska. Five years in PDX and you will lose your ability to deal rationally with slick streets and snowflakes. Winter weather in Portland is like a monsoon anywhere else.
Yes, we are as meek and defenseless as little, baby hamsters when snow hits. Doubt it? Click here for further evidence.
So it should come as no surprise that Portland completely fell apart yesterday after a winter storm rolled through in the middle of many resident's morning commutes. PPS didn't officially close down until 7:45 AM, well after the time many parents and kids were already en route. Tri-Met buses headed out on their routes without chains and crash landed in the middle of downtown. Abandoned cars littered the streets and the $50 million+ OHSU tram....amazingly kept running.
Because I work a swing shift, I slept through all of this. I woke up around 10 and discovered a winter wonderland outside my front door. After I discovered that my car was frozen over and my street hadn't been salted, I decided to avoid the mistakes of the past, skip work and stick close to home. And by "close to home," I mean hiking two miles to my parent's place so I could spend the rest of the day playing in the snow with a sibling, who also went AWOL from work.
Along the way I watched a semi nearly jack-knife itself under the Burlingame Bridge. A pair of SUVs slammed into one another outside of a Fred Meyer. Near Wilson High School, I stood on a sidewalk while two over-confident businessmen in a mini-van attempted to ascend a hill worthy of the Matterhorn. They made it five feet before their van began sliding backwards and into the path of an ambulance. Fortunately, they managed to steer the vehicle into a curb.
I made it past the Hoot Owl Market on Capitol Hwy without falling on my ass. There I encountered a gang of five adolescents who had decided to blow their "Get Out of School Free" card by launching snowballs at passing cars. After a driver in a Suburban pulled a near 360, they pelted his windows with a barrage of not-so friendly fire. "One day your car will get stuck in the snow," he yelled. His pleas fell on deaf ears.
Assuming these kids were well-versed in the ethics of 18th century naval warfare or at least the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I requested "parley." Their leader obliged but I remained unconvinced of his sincerity. Eager to get off their turf, I began a pathetic jog and...immediately fell on my spine. They held their fire, perhaps out of sympathy or more likely disgust but laughed like rabid hyenas. With only my dignity damaged, I trudged onwards as they barraged a passing Volkswagen.
Later, while in search of lunch in Multnomah Village, we watched a Subaru come within inches of backing over a child on a sled. The parents, completely oblivious, were waiting to cross the street as the sports utility wagon's bumper slid steadily towards the also oblivious kid's head. Onlookers screamed and an unknown force (or more likely elementary physics) intervened and magically stopped the car from sliding over the kid and through the front doors of Acapulco Gold. Eager to celebrate a still fatality free day, we headed inside for burritos as a snowboarder regaled the sidewalk crowd by being dragged through the streets water ski-style.
After burritos, we hit the slopes with two saucer sleds and "Lil' Champion," an ancient, rickety sled currently in its sixth decade of operation. Against all odds, this thing has endured the rear-ends of three generations worth of thrill-seeking German Americans. While the saucers were perfect for sailing over snow jumps thoughtfully constructed by those who had come before us, Lil' Champion was built for pure, unobstructed speed. After my sibling slammed backwards into a bench near the volleyball courts, we relocated to a steep hill near the playground and away from the crowds.
We had the place to ourselves and a good hundred yards of hill, pavement and grass- ideal conditions for a series of proper speed trials. I was determined to sail over the basketball courts and all the way to the bathrooms but could never pick up enough velocity to make it all the way. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing. Every time Lil' Champion hit the bottom of the hill, I briefly caught air. Considering that the sled wasn't designed for anything "xtreme" or anyone over 80 pounds, it's amazing that it didn't shatter like glass and impale my "child at heart" heart on a ruptured runner.
And a good portion of the evening was spent camped in front of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
It was a good day. Maybe not in the Ice Cube sense but a good day nonetheless. This only goes to show that a strong work ethic will get you nowhere or, worse yet, a nearly abandoned, overpriced motel in Beaverton.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Another round of snow photos
Monday, January 15, 2007
Borat at the Golden Globes
An excerpt from Sacha Baron Cohen's acceptance speech at tonight's Golden Globe Awards:
"Kenneth, if it was not for that rancid bubble, I would not be here today."
If you didn't see it, I'm it'll be making the rounds on the internet tomorrow (UPDATE: Click here for a video). If only Meryl Streep's speech had been more like that.
Also: that new Orville Redenbacher commercial is the stuff of nightmares.
Happy MLK Day?
Is it appropriate to wish someone a happy MLK Day? What's the widely accepted decorum on this? I've always figured it's on the same level as wishing someone a happy Memorial Day - potentially treacherous social waters, best avoided.
I did not wish anyone a happy MLK Day today.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Now that's what I call an allegorical science fiction film!
Children of Men is...
...one of the best reviewed films of 2006.
...possibly the finest science fiction movie ever made (ok, probably not but it's up there).
...a strange, beautiful, nightmarish amalgamation of The Pianst and Brazil.
...a film filled with so many little details and vivid moments it probably requires five viewings to take them all in.
...a flippin' masterpiece of modern filmmaking.
...so incredibly, unbelievably good that when I got home tonight I felt the need to geek out and publish a pretentious post that doesn't do the movie justice.
Go see this thing and prepare to have your ass handed to you.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Random links: the Eve of the Eve of MLK Day Eve Edition
And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & overweight cats stuck in doggy doors?
Plenty. Starting from the top, here's this week's slew of troubling local stories and random links:
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Blogger 2.0 problem
Has anyone else out there experimented with the new version of Blogger? I can't seem to get labels working correctly for posts. To get anything more than a single word, I have to insert underscores. Blogger will only publish something like "the weather" if I type it as "the_weather."
What gives? Any ideas?
Beaverton: "the next site of political, racial, and cultural revolution"
This guy has apparently never set foot in Beaverton. Also: he's smoking something. Whatever it is, I think I'll pass and stick with the snus.
Beaverton is Bed, Bath and Beyond. It's an endless expanse of car lots and strip malls that stretch all the way from West Slope to Aloha. It's Chilli's and Red Robin. It's four-lane highways that drag on forever without a single twist or turn and too many stoplights. It's finding yourself with nowhere but a Chipotle to eat on an hour-long dinner break because the only decent, nearby restaurant (Noodlin') closed back in August. It's every chain store, fast food franchise and example of suburban banality imaginable all rolled up into one sloppy, sprawling package with a funny name that 4th graders love to laugh at.
Beaverton sucks. I know this because I spend 40 hours or more a week out there. Beaverton is Tigard with a 24-hour Starbucks instead of a Banning's Restaurant and Pie Shop. It's Gresham without....the...the...the Gresham. If it were a frozen yogurt flavor, Beaverton would be vanilla. Not French vanilla, just regular, plain old vanilla. The type of vanilla that comes out of a frozen yogurt machine at an all-you-can-eat, strip mall buffet- the same type of all-you-can-eat strip mall buffet that can be found in...
...BEAVERTON! Sure, they've got the Nike campus out there but it's still sitting on unicorporated land so the Beavertonians can't even lay claim to that.
I guess Matthew Stadler, who had a hand in designing the Seattle Central Library, is still trying to push his concept of the "Zwischenstadt" on the Portland suburb. I first wrote about this dream for Beaverton back in April and, yeah, I broke out a can of witless snark back then too.
On second thought, I wish him luck. If there's anywhere around town that could use a dash of creativity or a civic center that looks like a hairball coughed-up by a Transformer it's Beaverton.
(Thanks, Marie for passing along the article linked above, which appeared in last week's...Seattle Stranger? Wha...?)
Another perquisite post about the weather
Because every other blog in Oregon is posting about the big snow storm that wasn't, here's the view from my front door this morning:
PPS cancelled school today for this? The streets were clear and the sun was shining by 10 AM.
Regardless, outside the temprature is dropping towards 20 degrees. Still a far cry from the 0 wind chill factor that hit right around New Years a few years back but that's about as low as the thermometer dips in PDX. Global warming? Not around here, pal. At least not yet.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Cool as Ice
Portland didn't wake up with much snow on the ground this morning but it's sure to discover plenty of ice tomorrow. Take a look at this camera phone photo of my car, taken right around 9:30 tonight:
Sure, that might look like snow but it's actually ice, snow's ugly stepsister twice removed.
It's times like this that make me glad to be stuck on a swing shift. An icy night commute with few cars on the road beats a frantic, winter wonderland morning commute. Hopefully, the temperature will rise above freezing by the time I have to head in tomorrow.
UPDATE: Or maybe not. Tomorrow's high is going to be a measly 35 degrees, according to the Weather Channel. Curse you, climate, curse you!
When life gives you a rotten Apple...
Here's the scenario: Santa brought me a shiny, new iPod for Christmas. Right out of the box, it started giving me problems. After I filled it with 30 gigs worth of music tediously transfered from an older model with a dying battery, it crashed and refused to reboot. I finally had to wipe the hard drive and start over again. Then it developed a nasty habit of locking up every time I connected it to iTunes.
I spent a few hours talking with Apple's technical support on Saturday. They finally threw up their hands and decided to send me a new one. The next day, a family member who fixes Apples for living spent some time with my laptop and eventually figured out the cause. So I should send the replacement back, right?
Well, there's another problem. I just discovered that the iPod has a dead pixel in the center of the screen.
So what would you do? Put up with the dead pixel? Or go through the hassle of transferring over all that music again onto the replacement iPod? I've done this now twice and each time it's taken somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours.
Yeah, I have no luck with doodads, cars or anything that operates on electricity or fossil fuels. If you don't believe it, ask me about my TV sometime or try clicking on one of those archive links on the sidebar. It may be time for me to forsake all technology created after the dawn of the 20th century. Writing blog posts about my growing collection of lemons is getting tedious.
While I'm on the subject, I've got to be honest. I'd rather have a 100 gig widescreen iPod than an 8 gig iPhone.
Sure, the interface looks impressive but what is this thing but a spruced-up Blackberry with a touchscreen?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I figure that when most people read an article like this they think to themselves, "What will those evil tobacco executives think of next?" And then there are people like myself that think, "Mmmm....mmmmm....I've gotta get me some of that stuff!"
Here's the deal: Camel is test marketing a form of spitless tobacco called "snus" here in Portland and Austin, Texas. Snus has been banned all over Europe for its cancer causing attributes. Still, the company seems to think it could be a perfect alternative, or eventual replacement, for its number one product here stateside. With smoking bans going into effect seemingly everywhere, I can see why they're worried. After all, even tobacco execs have kids to feed, right? Or do they reproduce like vampires? Strike that last bit. Maybe they have undead hellspawn to feed.
Now critics are worried that snus could create a new generation of nicotine junkies but I remain skeptical. After all, don't teens start smoking cigarettes to rebel against their teachers, parents, uncool peers and...everyone else who doesn't smoke? If no one can take note of the tiny snus pouch in their mouths, then what would be the point? You can't act like a poseur without an easily noticeable accessory.
Color me curious. The next time I pass Rich's Cigar Store, I'm sure I'll stop in for a can of snus. Maybe I'll get addicted and I'll have to have my jaw replaced someday. Or, more likely, I'll give it shot, realize the product is disgusting and wish I had my $4 back.
Not to brag but I guess I'm one of, maybe, ten Americans that manages to enjoy the occasional cigarette without becoming hopelessly addicted. If cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, bidis, cloves and mysterious Russian cigs (thanks again, Cory) haven't managed to get their claws in me, I doubt snus will.
Knock on wood. Look me up in the jaw cancer ward at OHSU sometime around 2040. If this snus thing takes off, I'm sure it will be crowded up there.
Monday, January 08, 2007
The Chapel Pub
When I first heard that McMenamins was planning to convert a north Portland mortuary into both a brewpub and their company headquarters, my first thought was "neat." The "neat" was followed by "woah, it will probably be haunted" and, finally, "maybe this is a bad idea." After all, isn't it a little bit crass to turn a place of mourning into a place of getting liquored up? What would be the next step in McMenamins ongoing quest to convert every Portland building over 50 years old into pub? A mausoleum? An abortion clinic?
While the Chapel Pub may seem like a cold hearted idea on paper, the concept makes sense once you actually set foot inside. The new owners have remodeled the building with loving care. Much like other links in the empire's chain, the pub is littered with tributes to its past. Instead of ignoring the place's history, McMenamins has embraced it.
While they've hardly stuck the bar in the old embalming room, murals of former owners, luminaries and events cover the walls. The restaurant itself is housed in the main chapel with the stained glass windows still in place. I figured the pub would be cold and creepy but it's actually warm and inviting. Against all the odds and, much like the Bijou Art Cinemas, a former mortuary turned movie theater in Eugene, it all somehow works.
And the menu isn't half bad either. There are a few dishes at the Chapel Pub that I haven't seen at other McMenamins hubs. In addition to the usual array of burgers and sandwiches, there's several Cajun dishes. During a recent visit, I gave the spicy mac n' cheese with chicken a shot. It was pretty hearty and a step up from yet another Captain Neon Burger.
While McMenamins pulled off a small miracle with the Chapel Pub, despite its history, they should probably hold off on buying any real estate up at Riverview Cemetery.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Random Links: Lack of Content Edition
Hmmm....things are quiet around here and I don't have anything to post about. I guess I'll have to break out another can of random links to keep this blog updated. Let's get started...
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
And the "E" stands for "Entertainment"
This video might be of interest to anyone who grew up near a Chuck E. Cheese franchise in the '80s. I was born and raised in west Portland during that era and, if memory serves, the nearest location to my parents' house was somewhere over on the eastside. Birthday parties and end-of-soccer-season celebrations were always held at a nearby Round Table, the Farrell's at Washington Square or, for a real treat, the late, great Organ Grinder Pizzeria on SE 82nd.
But none of them had a ballpit, the creme de la creme of pizzeria attractions. I was taken to the eastside location, maybe, twice during my childhood so Chuck E. Cheese always had a weird mistique about it. The chain's mascot was a creepy rat and I remember the freaky, robotic sideshow in the dining area to be particularly nightmarish. It was the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of pizzerias but...it had a ball pit. And Skee-Ball.
The chain still has some locations around town but I think I'll pass. Bad pizza and worn-out arcade machines don't hold the same appeal they did back when I was in grade school. Still, it's a kick to browse through the staggering amount of information out there on Chuck E. Cheese. Ol' Chuck definetely has his fanbase but I wonder if today's kids will ever create websites in honor of the new "Xtreme," skateboard riding version of the spokesrat.
Also: if you've ever wondered what goes into making their notoriously bad pizza taste so terrible, these two instructional videos should give you an idea.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Potheads, tummy aches, horny yuppies and cold-blooded murder- another New Years Eve in downtown Portland
I wasn't feeling too hot on New Year's Eve. I'd already turned down one invite because of my grumbling gut. Around 11, I had a choice to make: stay home and watch Dick Clark or risk the chance of "soiling myself" in a crowded bar. Considering how crappy 2006 had been up until that point, I decided to take a chance. If the worst case scenario presented itself, it would have served as the perfect end to the previous 12 months.
I'm proud to say my bowels decided to behave themselves on Sunday night. A New Years Eve miracle! A colleague and I started out our abbreviated evening in Pioneer Square, where, once again, City Hall had failed to whip up some cash for a proper municipal celebration. Just like last year, there were plenty of people hanging around anyway, effectively proving that New Years isn't something you can buy in a store...or with taxpayers' dollars. Perhaps, it's something more. Regardless, i don't think anyone's hearts grew three sizes in the square that night. Maybe their lungs did though, if they were lighting up cigarettes. Pioneer Square's shiny, new smoking ban went into effect at the stroke of midnight.
We didn't stick around until midnight to see if the two cops guarding the Christmas tree were going to start pulling Marlboros out of revelers' mouths. Instead, we began a foolhardy quest to find a bar without a cover charge. At the Benson, the entrance was covered over with what appeared to be black garbage bags. Classy. At the London Grill next door, a bouncer explained that the hotel was having a "private function" as women in bright red wigs staggered around in the background. From there we pointed ourselves towards 2nd Avenue, where a line of people were waiting to pay $20 to get into Kell's Irish Pub. We balked and headed towards Burnside when a pair of dueling bagpipers began playing. Bagpipes? Hmmm...maybe Kell's celebration was worth $20 after all.
We turned back but found the bagpipers regulated to the alley around the corner. Had the staff kicked them out? Did they have anything to do with Kell's shindig? We didn't stick around to find out. With only minutes to spare until midnight, we wound up at the doorstep of the Shanghai Tunnel, where a doorman seemed determined to drag us down to his level.
"This is where I spent New Years Eve last year and the year before that and the year before that," he told us, shaking his head and blocking the door.
With two minutes left and lines blocking the entrances to every bar on the block, we gave up. Because the place was filled to capacity, he couldn't let us in. While everyone inside argued over what time it was and began competing countdowns, we watched another frustrated would-be patron pack his pipe. The staff of the Shanghai decided not to cut away from a kung-fu movie on the bar's televisions so no one could really tell when midnight hit. Next door, someone sputtered "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" into a microphone. It was good enough for the guy with the pipe. He lit up a bowl to ring in the new year as the doorman shrugged. We headed from the entrance to the tunnels all the way up to the Portland City Grill.
Up on the thirtieth floor, we found no less than six huge bouncers in tuxes filling the hallway. Neither of us was dressed to the nines but they didn't seem to care. They checked our IDs and suddenly we were thrust into a room filled with "beautiful people," most in suits or cocktail dresses, all of them drunk. Someone handed us party hats and I ordered a gin & tonic to silence my aching stomach. Dozens of mini-soap operas unfolded all around us. To the left of us: a guy hanging onto his girlfriend for dear life as the room spun all around him. To the right of us: a desperate housewife eager to get her husband back home and into the bedroom for some sloppy lovemaking before he passed out. Hurrying him along by downing his Corona herself, she all put shoved him towards the elevators. Across the bar: a gorgeous girl angrily spent an hour typing text messages into a BlackBerry. So this is how the other half lives.
We stayed up there until closing, just long enough to listen to the spotless bartenders rant about their tips, as they counted up a silver pot full of bills. "I worked my ass off for those people," one spat, looking over a debit receipt. "And no tip! No tip! You don't come into a bar like this and pull that kinda crap."
We tipped 20%. Sorry it couldn't have been more, guys, and sorry the tab wasn't higher. The two of us have bills to pay. We rounded out the evening with a pit stop at the Virginia Cafe. While some may balk at its surly staff, I think it's downtown's best bar because of its reasonable prices and mixed crowd. It's a high class dive that still serves Miller Hi-Life and you can feel the history oozing out of the 80+ year old woodwork. I don't know much of that history but the Virginia was a known hangout of the once underaged mistress that turned Neil Goldschmidt's name into a four-letter word. It's a place that has seen things. Some of them I'm probably better off not knowing, no doubt.
We finally went back to the Smart Park around 2:30. Looking down 4th Avenue, we spotted a row of squad cars and caution tape blocking all the lanes. I figured a crash was to blame.
The news today told a different story. A 20-something had been shot dead in a drive-by outside one of the clubs down the street. Had we coughed up the cover charge at Kells or gotten into the Shanghai, we might have been wandering past at the time of that ugly, unfortunate tragedy.
Maybe I should have listened to my gut and stayed home on Sunday. Or maybe, by behaving itself, it somehow kept us out of trouble. I guess my stomach works in mysterious ways. Happy New Year, lower intestine!
Monday, January 01, 2007
Random Links: Year's End Edition
2006: it mostly sucked. Or at least it mostly sucked for me. While there were plenty of low points, that's not to say the year didn't have its moments. Here's a look back...
Here's hoping that 2007 is filled with an equal or greater amount of stupid fun along these lines and less of the hassles and setbacks that made 2006 such a drag.
Eat your heart out, Dick Clark and/or Ryan Seacrest
Happy New Years 2006 and...