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Another Portland Blog

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.


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