April 2011

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A southern-fried blog post

My father recently returned from a trip to his hometown of Columbus, Georgia. He landed at PDX last night with presents in tow. He gave my mother a teddy bear dressed in a baby-doll t-shirt that plays "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." My sister and I received various strange food items, including....

Regional pronunciation: "baaah-uld pee-nuuuhts." They're soaked in brine, still shelled and, from what I've been told, have the texture of slugs. I haven't broken out a can opener on this southern delicacy just yet. I think I'll save the peanuts for a situation when I can freak out as many Northwesterners as possible.

Coincidentally, a colleague spent a few days touring North Carolina. He put together a Flickr gallery of his travels, which include a trip to the birthplace of Dizzy Gillespie and a military base complete with a faux-Iraqi village. Should you have a look? Yes, yes you should. Especially if you're killing time on your company's dime.

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Monday, February 26, 2007


Dancing on a grave

A scene from Saturday night:

From the second floor of the Smart Park garage on SW 10th it sounded like a belated Mardi Gras party. Woo-hoos, shouting, party favors and laughter. Down at street level I discovered the source: ten or so protesters, some of them dressed up like cheerleaders, celebrating the demise of Schumacher Furs. Last week the owners announced that they were closing up shop for good after failing to find a new location. As I headed down the street they were busy ridiculing someone inside who looked desperate to lock up and get out of there for the night.

Admittedly, the protests made me uneasy from day one but gleefully celebrating the closure of a 112-year old, locally owned, family-run business makes my stomach churn. Am I a proud supporter of the fur industry? Hardly. Do I think that the owners, who made a point of fighting back against the protesters with confrontational signs and taunting, act like petulant toddlers in response? Yeah. But do I recognize their right to run a perfectly legal operation in this city? Yes, yes I do.

So what's next? MADD setting up shop outside of the Doug Fir Lounge in the hopes of driving them out of business? Christian conservatives forming a line at the front door of Mary's Club? Vegans taunting the McMenamins brothers at the Chapel Pub for selling hamburgers? Demonstrators of all kinds coming out the woodwork to stop Powell's from putting controversial books on their shelves?

What was the goal of the protesters that made a weekly habit of hanging around SW Morrison St? To make their voices heard? To express their concerns for the animals that went into making those coats? To encourage the owners to purchase their wares from more humane organizations? Or to bully them out of business completely? Based on what I saw over the weekend, it seems to be the later. I wonder how long that storefront will be empty once the Schumachers are gone.

Every time I feel like I'm getting too liberal for my own good, something like this happens. Portland has a way of making even someone like me feel like an arch conservative. Thanks, PDX!

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Oscar results

I went 9 for 11 this year.

This is either a testament to my amazing powers of intuition when it comes to dippy Hollywood awards ceremonies or the utter predictability of Oscars '07.

Will they ever give Lucas one of those for director? Nope.


Friday, February 23, 2007


It Came From My Cell Phone Part 4

Kibbah be sayneya.

That's the name of this dish. It consists of a hunk of ground lamb mixed with bulger wheat, stuffed with more ground lamb, pine nuts and onions. If I had to guess, we're talking about a solid pound of meat here. That's a Lebanese beer in the background.

I only made it halfway through the kibbah after gorging myself on an appetizer. I remember spending the rest of the night laying around like a boa constrictor that had just swallowed a wild boar. Think you can handle the whole thing? Then check out Arabian Breeze over on NE Broadway. I recommend the upstairs smoking garden, which features a fountain, occasional belly dancing and hookahs galore.

Click here for a longer review of Arabian Breeze.

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Oscar predictions

I went 6 for 11 the last time I took a crack at this. I'm hoping for better numbers this year. Here are my predictions. I'm not pulling for all of these films and actors but they're the ones my gut is telling me will take home Oscars on Sunday night.

Original screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine

Adapted screenplay: The Departed

Best foreign language film: Pan's Labyrinth

Best documentary: An Inconvenient Truth

Best animated film: Cars

Best supporting actress: Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)

Best actress: Helen Mirren (The Queen)

Best supporting actor: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Best actor: It's either going to be Peter O' Toole (Venus) or Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland). I'm going with Whitaker.

Best director: Martin Scorsese (The Departed). I think they're finally going to cut him a break.

Best picture: The Departed



Random Links: "Does Anyone Actually Read These Things?" Edition

The "Random Links" feature has become a Friday tradition here on Welcome to Blog. No one reads these things but they're fun to put together. So here's another batch of lonesome links in search of loving homes. Won't you make their dreams come true by clicking on each one?

  • First up, an overdue thanks to Stumptown Confidential (link) and Humu Kon Tiki (link) for linking to this match-up review of the Alibi and Thatch, a new tiki bar in town. The Portland Mercury's recent review of Thatch can be found by clicking here.

  • Click here to view time-lapse images of arcade games from the '80s. I do believe they qualify as being "trippy."

  • The owners of Schumacher Furs called it quits this week. Hmmm...what controversial/irritating business should be run out of Portland next? Is there any way we could sick those protesters on Alaska Airlines? Their smug "Lewis and Clark" radio ads have been getting on my nerves for a while now.

  • Does Portland need its own city-themed condom? Sure, why not?

  • Click here for David Koenig's rant about changes that are in store for Disneyland's Tom Sawyer's Island. This spring "Imagineers" will ditch the Mark Twain theme for a Pirates of the Caribbean overhaul.

  • I've never said any of these eight things to a bartender but I've caught plenty of bartenders performing these faux pas (thanks, Sho).

  • Here's a handy chart comparing the heights of downtown Portland's skyscrapers. I always thought the "Big Pink" was the city's tallest but the Wells Fargo Center has nine feet up on it. At # 3, KOIN Center.

  • The Blazers win a few games, make a trade for Fred(dy) Jones and everybody's talking about them, maybe, landing the # 8 slot in the playoffs. It's their best season in years and, so far, no one on the team has been caught with ganja or mc'ing dog fights. Somewhere, Phil Jackson is quietly sobbing into a monogrammed towel.

  • Two links carelessly lifted from Blogtown: click here for a parody ad for those space-aged Nikes from Back to the Future Part 2 and click here for photos of "hot chicks with douchebags." "Power Laces not included"?! Lame.

  • Click here to read Bubbly Red Stuff's review of a recent Decemberists' show in Berlin and here for videos.

  • Does the world need a remake of Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach? No, no it does not. AND the new version doesn't have a guy that runs around making funny noises with his mouth?! Lame.

  • Finally, yet another reason why undergrads shouldn't be allowed to carry lightsabers:

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    Thursday, February 22, 2007


    The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace

    If you're a US president, you get a presidential library. Even if you're Nixon. Despite everything, this same rule will most likely apply to the man currently holding the title.

    I visited the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace on a sunny summer afternoon in August of 2005. With a day to kill under the warm California sun, I could have cruised down the 101, hit Sunset Boulevard or tracked down an In & Out. Instead, I somehow wound up in Yorba Linda where I slapped down a few bucks to gawk at Nixon's grave and assorted memorabilia from his administration. My favorite moment from the visit: watching an argument between a father and two staff members. He was furious that they wouldn't let his 17-year old daughter peruse Watergate-era documents in the off-limits basement archives. She was writing a report to send off to Ivy League admission offices.

    Also neat: the black marble section of the museum devoted to the scandal and a gigantic White House replica with working lights.

    Before meeting up with family in Anaheim, I took photos of knicknacks in the gift shop and the gun Elvis gave Nixon during their chat in the Oval Office. That and more can be found in this Flickr gallery or by clicking on the photos above.

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    The Flor[gy]ida Room

    If you head over to NE Killingsworth and up to the main entrance of the Florida Room, the first thing that will greet you is a window display. A window display filled with toys engaged in an oceanside orgy. Prior to my first visit, the idea of a Cerberus action figure performing a sex act on an Ken doll had never crossed my mind.

    To the staff and management of The Florida Room, I offer a hesitant "thanks" in return.

    This North Portland bar opened last summer across the street from what was to become the Chapel Pub. It clearly draws a different clientele than its McMenamins neighbor. While the Chapel Pub is aiming for a family-friendly crowd willing to overlook its somber past, the Florida Room is all about hipsters. If you were to stick a knife in the side of the Florida Room, it would probably bleed hipsters. And Voodoo Doughnuts, which are available on Saturdays.

    The decor is cheeky, the booths look like they were lifted from an old Denny's and the place is covered in beach house kitsch. Old brew paraphernalia is scattered throughout, an Olympia Beer clock tells the time on a four hour delay (is it broken or just showing bar time in the South Pacific?) and the ashtrays look like they were stolen from a grandmother's living room.

    A chalkboard behind the bar covered in doodles of naughty bits lists the beer menu, which consists mostly of 16 ounce cans of corporate suds. The Florida Room is probably one of the last remaining bars in town where you can order Schlitz. It's also known for its Bloody Marys. On the weekends the staff whips up eight different varieties of the hangover helper during daylight hours. We ordered a few Rainer pounders, ignoring a set of neglected taps in the corner. Why? Because that's what everyone else seemed to be drinking and because Bloody Marys are the worst cocktail in the history of the world. Sorry, if you want gazpacho, have gazpacho and drink a vodka tonic on the side. Vegetables and booze don't belong in the same container.

    More chalkboards and X-rated drawings can be found in the bathrooms. I added a wide-eyed Garfield to the growing mural. Within minutes, someone went in and added an "eat me" word bubble over the cartoon cat's head. Bloody Mary fetishizing aside, it's hard to argue with a bar like this. Last Friday won't be my last trip over there.

    With a funeral home McMenamins across the street, this section of Killingsworth has the potential to become Portland's weirdest bar row. The Portland Community College a block away would probably make a great boozepub hotel if it ever shuts down.

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    Wednesday, February 21, 2007


    Not Joel Pryzbilla

    Here's a note that arrived in the comments section this morning:

    I went to see 'Ghost Rider' with a friend at Pioneer Place (10:15 show) on Saturday night. We waited in line at Broadway to try and see the Korean flick 'The Host', but that show was sold out, so Ghost Rider was are only alternative. I'm thinking you meant me since I'm 6'9 don't fit in the theater seats and I thought the film was fairly absurd. I generally like comic book films that are done well, but Ghost was not one of them.

    So that tall guy in the auditorium on Saturday was *not* a Blazer. This just goes to show that not everyone over 6'5 in this town plays for an NBA franchise. I was a schmuck for assuming otherwise. Thanks for setting the record straight, Jim.

    Still, one mystery remains: has the real Joel Pryzbilla seen Ghost Rider? If so, did he laugh through half of it?

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    Tuesday, February 20, 2007


    Sasquatch lineup

    The lineup for the 2007 Sasquatch Music Festival was released this morning.

    Are Bjork and The Arcade Fire worth the five hour drive and a night or two in a cow pasture? Maybe, but it has been a long time since the Icelandic pixies' "Army of Me" heyday.


    Monday, February 19, 2007


    The Year of the Pig

    Here's a collection of photos from yesterday's festivities at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden. These were taken by my sister, colleague in arms and occasional proofreader, Shanna.

    Thanks, Stinky.

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    Spring into February

    This time of year Portland weather can be weird. In 2005, the temperature mysteriously hovered in the 70s for over a week. We've been known to get hit with weather ranging from friggin' cold to friggin' frigid to friggin' warm with a light breeze. The thermometer hit 62 in PDX on Saturday while Jet Blue's staff were still trying to trying claw their way out of an icy tundra at JFK.

    When warm weather hits in February, locals start acting like they've just escaped from a snowbound cabin. Clothing is shed, flowers immediately bloom the second the temperature rises above 50, the streets downtown are filled and weirdness typically ensues. Since the weather warmed up last week (albeit temporarily) this year has been no exception. Here are a few odd moments and signs of spring I've encountered around downtown Portland over the past week:

  • A sure sign that spring has sprung or is at least trying to spring: on Friday night I caught the aftermath of a street fight near the Hotel Lucia. PPD had one guy handcuffed, while the other was being tended to in an ambulance blocking traffic.

  • The crowd waiting for seats at Sushi Takahashi was no less than three hipsters deep on Friday night. 24 hours later, the line at the bar at Old Town Pizza was no less than six yuppies deep.

  • I'm pretty sure I watched Ghost Rider with Joel Pryzbilla on Saturday night. Or maybe it was his 7-foot tall clone. The alleged Pryzbilla sat in the row in front of us but his height was no match for Pioneer Place Cinemas' stadium seating. His response to the Nicholas Cage/flaming skull biker/tour-de-force? He laughed his ass off during the first half and looked like he was going to fall asleep during the final hour. That was the general reaction around the theater. That's one way to kill an All-Star Weekend when you're not an All Star.

  • People I talked to on the way to Powell's from Old Town on Friday: a crackhead (wanted change), a very-stoned hippie guy (wanted directions to the Roxy) and a guy from Montana (it was his first time in Portland, he was looking for the Crystal Ballroom and he described West Burnside as "a lot like Mars").

  • Spotted on NE Sandy: the Gypsy Jokers. I've heard about this once-notorious motorcycle club and, supposedly, they were the local equivalent of the Hell's Angels during the late '60s and '70s. According to Willamette Week, they're still raising hell. A recent investigation turned up allegations of home invasions, gun hoarding and methamphetamine possession.

  • I went out to eat with my parents at a Chinese restaurant last week. On the way into a parking garage, a disoriented female clubhopper tried to flag down their car and open a passenger-side door. Later, as we headed for a table, her and a friend were pushed outside by a flustered manager. One spun around and pulled off one final "WOOO!" before they headed outside to dance on the sidewalk. The two of them spent the next twenty minutes performing a sort of dinner theater for bemused diners. They kept everyone entertained by posing for each other's cell phone cameras, getting kicked out of a cab across the street and shouting at passers-by when they weren't busy trying to re-enter the restaurant to hug the manager. Before PPD could get around to hauling them to a drunk tank, they wandered off down 1st Avenue while pestering a bald gentleman in his 50s. Seeing that it was only 7:30, it was pretty early for that level of drunkeness. My guess: they were first time ecstasy users.

  • Now, a few days later, the temperature is back in the 40s. The wind is blowing and the rain is coming down. Come back, spring, come back.

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    Friday, February 16, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone # 3

    Attention Lloyd Maris Advertising Inc:

    This is no way to treat your numerous Tele Awards.

    That is all.

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    Random Links: Presidents Day Weekend Edition

    And so begins a three day weekend but not for me. I'll be spending Monday at work while many of you will...do whatever it is that people with Presidents Day off do. Er...uh...what is that exactly? Sit around discussing the legacy of Washington and Lincoln? Hit up all the sales at Mattress World? According to Wikipedia, kids back east get the entire week off from school for something called "Mid-Winter Recess." Sounds sweet but, then again, kids out here in Portland can still celebrate the shortest school year of any district in the country (PPS is still a national punchline, right?).

    Anyway, on to the random links:

  • First up, a prerequisite Presidents Day link. Click here for a collection of "freaky secrets of the presidency." One I'd never heard: Abraham Lincoln's son Robert was present at or near two additional presidential assassinations aside from his father's AND an attempted hit on a New York mayor. To learn more about Robert, the only Lincoln kid to reach adulthood, click here.

  • The Hot Dog on a Stick in Pioneer Place has turned off its deep fat fryer forever, leaving only one location left in Oregon. Soon local teenagers will have no where to turn if they long to be ridiculed by their peers for selling corndogs while dressed in skimpy, dayglo uniforms. A damn shame.

  • Shawn Levy reported earlier this week that the owners of the Clinton Street Theater have purchased a large amount of equipment from an old California drive-in. Not just the projectors or the screens but the snack bar too. They're looking to set everything up at a permanent site somewhere in the metro area. It sounds like a daunting task but, if they can pull it off, the whole thing is sure to be a success in a town still hellbent on "keep[ing] weird." As it stands now, the only still operating drive-in around here, the 99 West, is clear out in Newberg.

  • Click here to read about Donald Trump's WWE appearance at the Rose Garden.

  • Click here to read about the taming of Starbucks' siren logo. Click here to read about a string of vandalism that hit ten downtown Starbucks locations earlier this morning.

  • This will suck. Why? Because conservatives can no do the funny. It's a trade-off. They get all the power, corporate alliances and $ while the liberals get all the poontang and creative prowess. That's how it works or such is my understanding.

  • Looking to get depressed before you head off on your holiday weekend? Click here to read about what global warming might do to Portland over the course of the next century. Those Houston-like summers are going to be a bitch.

  • Someone once told me that a great movie can be made about anything. Case in point: Children of Men. When you get right down to it, what was it really about? One man's search for a pair of comfortable shoes. Strangely enough, Die Hard had the same plot. What does this have to do with the just announced Milli Vanilli movie? Think about it.

  • Click here to read an excellent rant about recent changes made to classic attractions at Disney's US theme parks.

  • Finally, click here for a mash-up video with a song that will never leave your head for the rest of your life. "I've got a jar of dirt! I've got a jar of dirt and guess what's inside it!" Arrrgh...make...it...stop...
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    Thursday, February 15, 2007


    Few will enter, few will win

    This email about a contest MetroFi is hosting turned up in my inbox this morning:

    Dear MetroFi User:

    Thank you for those who have submitted your success story to MetroFi. This is a reminder to send in an interesting story about your use of MetroFi's Wi-Fi service before February 19th, 2007! We are looking for the most unique stories so tell us yours!

    MetroFi will be giving away 5 Ruckus MetroFlex™ Modems (a $149 value) to the persons with the best stories. The Ruckus will improve signal strength and your overall experience when connected to MetroFi. Please e-mail your story, your name, contact information and what city you are in to success@metrofi.com. Reminder! The deadline is February 19th 2007 to be eligible.

    I'm sure a good number of users will enter but I wonder how many of their anecdotes will be grounded in reality. Back in December I took my laptop downtown to take a spin on the city's free wireless network. I parked my car on 4th Avenue, a block away from one of MetroFi's access points. The laptop tracked down a weak signal, I tried to connect a few times but couldn't pick up anything. After moving the car to a spot roughly ten yards from an access point outside of the Lotus, Google finally loaded.

    The signal was strong and pages loaded fairly quickly. Still, as users have complained about for months, the service is still unreliable and impractical unless they're packing a high-powered wireless modem (or willing to camp out under one of MetroFi's stoplight-mounted antennas). Even then, only a certain number of users can log on at one time. If MetroFi's signal range improved in recent weeks, I haven't heard a peep about it.

    So am I currently trying to come up with a fake success story so I can score one of those $149 modems? Nope. Why? Because I don't want to become an involuntary spokesman for MetroFi's lackluster service. Check out this easy-to-miss disclaimer in the contest rules:

    4. By claiming the prize, the winner authorizes the use, without additional compensation of his or her name and/or likeness and/or voice/photograph and municipality of residence for promotion and/or advertising purposes in any manner and in any medium (including without limitation, radio broadcasts, newspapers and other publications and television), which MetroFi may deem appropriate.

    But would a modem AND a free cookie be enough to entice me into becoming a potential shill? Maybe...

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    Wednesday, February 14, 2007


    The St. Valentine's Day massacre

    Sorry for the recent lack of posts filled with blurry cell phone photos and talk of pizza chains. On Sunday night I came down with a nasty stomach virus. For the most part, I've been living in my bathroom ever since. Two things the past few days have taught me:

  • Spending an evening vomiting every 30 minutes loses its luster right around the five hour mark.

  • Patrick Swayze's Road House, while it does little to curb the symptoms of such a virus, is the perfect movie to watch while puking your brains out. Monster trucks, endless bar brawls, gratuitous T & A, Sam Elliot AND a scene where Swayze takes out a henchman with a stuffed polar bear- this thing has it all.

  • This morning....oh, God...this morning. If you didn't wind up at St. Vincent's Hospital at 3 AM clutching your stomach, there's a good chance you're having a better Valentine's Day than me. Three hours. a battle with a hospital gown, an offer a saltwater drip and a $75 copay later, I was released. The diagnosis? Dehydration brought on by excessive vomiting and, yeah, I'll throw it out here: nine straight hours of diarrhea ( a personal record!). The suggested treatment: sleep, Gatorade and slowly administered dry toast.

    This afternoon I'm proud to report that I may finally be on the road to recovery. In the past few hours I've managed to hold down two pieces of toast and 12 ounces of lemon Gatorade, the most food my stomach has been able to handle in nearly three days. While I'm busy recuperating in front of TV Land reruns of Star Trek (that "Enemy Within" episode where Captain Kirk splits into two is killer) and New Super Mario Brothers, here's a few links related to every year's worst holiday:

  • As reported here last week, a couple did get hitched on the Portland Aerial Tram this morning. The short ceremony was presided over by Z100 DJ "Buckethead." If I'm ever married up there, I think I'd rather have Daria or Bob Miller conduct it. I'm sure they're card-carrying members of the Universal Life Church.

  • A few years ago, I wrote this "tribute" to a what is, hopefully, a long dead elementary school tradition. Remember being forced to hand out paper valentines to your classmates back in the day? If you don't, you're lucky.

  • Did the Portland Mercury print my valentine in this week's issue? They sure did (hint, it's the one that professes love for St. Patrick and his annual holiday while poo-pooing that jackass St. Valentine).

  • Click here for a gallery of vintage Return of the Jedi valentines and click here for more along those lines.

  • Oh, boy! Time for more dry toast.

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    Friday, February 09, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone # 2

    Believe it or not, this singing robot was creepier in person. Click here for further reading.

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    Random Links: Dead of Winter Edition

    February: Portland's cruelest month. Nothing but bad weather, the always humdrum PIFF, abandoned cars in the front bushes and the looming threat of St. Valentine's Day, a holiday despised by just about everyone. But worry naught because St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner and there's always random links to get us through these dreary winter days that, while warmer than usual, are a far cry from 85 F with nary a cloud in the sky.

  • Is Portland really for lovers? Check out this month's cover story in PDX Magazine for further speculation. More recently and specifically, I thought this city was for condo developers and the rich divorcees who love them.

  • So the biotech company (?) behind the DHARMA Initiative may have its home office in...Portland? This bit of info came up during this week's midseason return of Lost. Or is it all a front? Maybe the conspiracy actually originated in a dog food warehouse in Paris. Or maybe the polar bears and the weird statue with the four toes are behind the whole thing. Only this much is certain: the minds behind Lost have obviously been making up this up as they go along from day one.

  • These are going to get old fast but the raver kids are going to love them. Wait, does anyone still go to raves?

  • Supposedly Donald Trump will be making an appearance at the Rose Garden on Monday night during a WWE event. I'm assuming it will be via satellite. I don't think his hair could handle the weather up here.

  • If you've ever wanted to blend your own Slurpee the 7-11 way or make Krispy Kreme-style donuts in your living room, look no further.

  • Remember: "Show mercy to the green lives under your foot." Wise words from a random street sign in Guangzhou.

  • Portland celebrated its 156th birthday yesterday. It doesn't look a day over 140.

  • Hamlet's most famous soliloquy from a cat's perspective? Click here.

  • Safe, clean public restrooms downtown that don't require sneaking into a bar or setting foot in Pioneer Place? Yes, please.

  • Finally, compliments of my mother and a reader named Kim, here are two videos featuring dancing, dancing and more dancing. The first is mesmerizing, the second is terrifying.


  • Thursday, February 08, 2007


    It's PAT

    So I finally took a trip on the Portland Aerial Tram.

    Like a lot of locals, I was never keen on the idea. I too figured that the millions the city contributed to the project could have been better spent on schools, cops or even a free microbrew for everyone living in Multnomah County. Regardless of the controversy, the tram is here to stay and I was too weak-willed to ignore its siren's call. I mustered up a colleague and we headed down there on Monday, making us probably the last two people in Portland to ride the bloody thing.

    The wind was picking up as we walked up to the empty station down in the South Waterfront. We paid our $4 and within a few minutes one of the cabins pulled up. Was it "Jean" or "Walt"? I forgot to ask. A doctor and the two of us climbed aboard, where an operator was nursing a sore throat after a day spent answering newbie rider's lame questions. He was happy to tackle a few more. One I threw out there: "Did any of the owners of the houses down there actually paint F-U-C-K O-H-S-U on their roofs?" His answer: "Woah, they were gonna do that? I had no idea! If they did, I haven't seen it." That got a laugh out of the doctor. For what's it's worth, it's actually possible to peer through any number of frustrated homeowners' windows from the tram.

    The doors slid shut and we were off, quickly ascending to the tram's first tower. As expected, the cabin hit a small bump, making it surge forward slightly as we headed towards Pill Hill. The view through the cart's large, bubble windows is astounding but pretty much the same thing you could see if you're willing to sneak onto the roof of OHSU's north hospital (not that I did that while I worked up there one summer or anything). With no heating system and on a winter night, it was noticeably cold in there but the wind did little to sway the cabin.

    Three minutes later, we were high atop the West Hills. In the upper station, an HDTV ran an endless loop of tram propaganda. The passageway into the hospital wasn't quite finished but there was already art up on the walls. I'm still trying to figure the significance of this self-portrait near the entrance to the south hospital:

    Kevin Holtzman, the tram operator interviewed in last week's issue of Willamette Week, was running the second cabin that night. On the way back down he offered up a few tram-related factoids:

  • Last week there was a brief security situation involving a would-be passenger and a set of bolt cutters.

  • Someone has already made a marriage proposal on the tram. The happy couple hopes to tie the note up there on Valentines Day. I didn't catch whether or not they're shooting for next week. It sounds like OHSU's upper brass is going to allow it, provided they can get hitched in less time than it takes for a cabin to travel between stations. But as a reader over on Jack Bog's Blog quipped earlier today, "Do you think they can consummate their marriage during the three minutes coming back down?"

  • I don't know if the tram will ever become a tourist attraction worthy of OMSI or the Rose Garden or if it will ever pop up on postcards around town. At least it's more practical than the Oregon City Municipal Elevator.

    Finally, here's a You Tube video I shot of the tram heading back to the South Waterfront:

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    Tuesday, February 06, 2007


    The Chuck E. Cheese experience

    Maybe it was the toothless grandfather in the cowboy hat standing by the main door, a cigarette dangling beneath his grey mustache. "Chuck E's in there waitin' for ya'," he cackled. Or maybe it was the bottleneck crowd of children and bored parents that stood between us and a teenage bouncer blocking the entrance with a velvet rope. Or maybe it was the hand stamps. Yeah, it was probably the hand stamps that filled me with a sense of dread as we marched inside and up to the pizza counter at the Chuck E. Cheese on SE Powell.

    It'd been at least 15 years since either myself or a colleague I had convinced to come along had set foot in a Chuck E. Cheese. Back when we were kids, the place was a Shangri-La of video games, bad pizza and swimming pools filled with plastic balls. In Portland, it could only be rivaled by the Organ Grinder or, maybe, the Avalon Theater. A trip to one of these places was a like a mini-vacation typically reserved for birthday parties or the end of West Hills Soccer Club seasons.

    But times have changed. Management has since implemented a security system to deter pedophiles or would-be Pied Pipers from treating the place like a one-stop shopping center. If you arrive with children in tow, you'll each receive a matching hand stamp that will be checked as you leave. Those like us that arrived without tots in tow received a "Z" stamp.

    We weren't the only "Z people" in attendance. Shortly after we grabbed our drinks and headed for "The Showroom," a dozen 30-something hipsters took over a few booths in the corner. They too had come to gorge themselves on childhood nostalgia. The nerve-wracked staff seemed happy to have us there- anything not to have to go over to the long table lined with two dozen screaming birthday brats and their parents. They joked with the hipsters and brought us out a second pizza after the kitchen botched the toppings on the first one.

    Along with the new security system, a lot has changed in the last decade, the only improvement being the pizza. The Chuck E. Cheese brand has never been synonymous with quality eats. The pizza was once the worst in the nation but an advertisement on a wall cheerfully reported that the franchise now uses "real cheese!" The new stuff was no better or worse than what you might order from a Pizza Hut but a definite step up. And has Chuck E. Cheese always served beer? I guess that makes sense, given the number of weary parents slumped in their chairs.

    If you're not under 10 or on a nostalgia trip, Chuck E. Cheese may as well be hell on earth. On the busy weekend night we were there, the place was filled to capacity with screaming members of the elementary school set- all drunk on Mountain Dew and Costco birthday cake. Picture Pleasure Island from the Disney version of Pinocchio relocated in a strip mall. The only thing keeping these kids from going completely feral while their parents downed corporate suds in the other room seemed to be the promise of winnable tickets for an assortment of prizes stacked behind a counter near the main entrance.

    The place is also much brighter and shinier after a recent remodel. Back in the '80s when I was a kid, this particular Chuck E. Cheese was lit worse than a Old Town lounge. It was stuck in a late '70s vortex of wooden paneling and dark yellow paint. At least it had a ball pit though, quite possibly the coolest thing in the world from a 6-year old's mindset. But this newly refined Chuck E. Cheese has replaced the pit with the same series of florescent tube slides found in a typical McDonald's Playland. While the location is the same, it also seems smaller with fewer games. While the sign on our table confirmed the spokesrat's commitment to "making magic," I remained skeptical.

    As for the Showroom, it's much the same. Movie poster mock parodies starring Chuck E. and the gang still hang over the booths and the robot band is still as stiff and creepy as the old days (take note of the blurry cell phone photos above and below). Beyond a wardrobe update, I'm sure these are the same animatronic critters that scared the crap out of me in the mid-'80s. A new addition: two HDTVs flanking the stage cranking out music videos of Chuck E. and the gang parodying the Beatles and the Spice Girls.

    We eventually made our way to the arcade, where the hipsters were busy taking pictures of themselves on the mini-Merry Go Round. I made a beeline for the skee ball machines, where an updated points system makes it almost impossible to win tickets. Dropping a quarter in insures players at least one ticket but to win a second requires 170,000+ points, a task too daunting for anyone raised on video games instead of the carnival variety. I gave up and headed over to "The Rubber Duckie Game," an updated version of Wack-A-Mole. Consisting of little more than a boxing glove on a mechanical arm and an endless conveyor belt filled with ducks. I managed to knock over three of them. I'm thinking of putting this accomplishment on my resume.

    Chuck E. Cheese (ie, a teenage employee in a rat suit) eventually showed himself, much to the indifference of everyone except, maybe, the hipsters. They took turns having their picture taken with him while the occasional kid wandered up, stared for a few seconds and headed back to an arcade machine. Chuck did his best to work the crowd but his pre-teen clientele either had better things to do or preferred to run away from him. On his way backstage, a drunk mother decided to make a game of tapping him on the shoulder. He tried to flee but tripped over a booster chair left on the floor. Poor Chuck E. Cheese. Try as he might to appeal to kids these days, the baseball hat and baggy t-shirt just aren't cutting it. He may as well be an over-the-hill yuppie trying to woo an undergrad with a Lexus.

    Is there a place for pizza-pitching rat MCs in the 21st century? Can Mr. Cheese possibly compete with Xboxes and iPods? If the packed to the walls crowd at the SE Powell location was any indication, yep. As long as kids still love bad pizza and pumping their parent's cash into arcade machines to win a .30 cent Whoop-E-Cushion, there will always be a place for Chuck E. Cheese.


  • A brawl broke out at a Chuck E. Cheese in Toledo over the weekend. Hmmm...who do we know who's living in Toledo these days?

  • To read the history of the Chuck E. Cheese empire, click here or click here.

  • Click here to watch an instructional video on how to properly wear the Chuck suit or click here to watch a group of teenagers get kicked out of one location.

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    Like a pinch on the neck of Mr. Spock

    I found an old bottle of blue-colored "Romulan Ale" in the back of my fridge on Super Bowl Sunday. I was pulling for the Bears and, given their navy blue jerseys, it seemed appropriate that I should drink something that looked like Windex.

    I originally bought the bottle in a gift shop at Star Trek: The Experience at the Vegas Hilton a while back. According to Wikipedia, the "real" Romulan Ale featured on the series has been banned throughout the universe due to its strength and after an incident that landed Captain Kirk in hot water during a diplomatic banquet.

    I don't know if beer, of alien origin or otherwise, has a "best by" date but I didn't see an expiration date on the label. I was expecting something unusual, that the intergalactic brew might provide a whole new taste sensation that couldn't put into words while getting me drunk enough to pick a fight with a Klingon. Unfortunately, it tasted like a water-downed Budweiser and the alcoholic content wasn't enough to get me even slightly buzzed. It did turn my tongue blue though.

    Also: check out where it was brewed:

    It may not be another galaxy but at least I can now boast that I've consumed a beer brewed in Guatamala. You don't typically see that in the cooler at your local Safeway. If you're interested in trying Romulan Ale for yourself, that gift shop in Vegas may be the only place you can purchase it in person. There's always eBay though.

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    Friday, February 02, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone # 1

    Here's an exciting new Welcome to Blog weekly series that's sure to put a swing in your step and a song in your heart. This is a little something I'm calling "It Came From My Cell Phone" and it's pretty self explanatory. Every week around this time I'll dig through my cell phone's archives to dig out a random photo. I don't remember taking many of these, for one reason or another, but not necessarily due to public drunkenness.

    This week's photo is around a year old and was taken in a Thai restaurant in the Lloyd District...I think. Notice anything unintentionally funny about these folded napkins?

    OK, so this one sucks but the series can only go up (yeah, pun intended) from here. I'll post (was that a pun?) # 2 next week.

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    Random Links - Groundhog Day Edition

    Like a furry rodent reluctantly yanked out of its comfy hole and into a freezing cold February morne in front of 15,000 screaming fans, here's this week's round-up of random links:

  • Back east, Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this morning. Meanwhile, the West Coast still doesn't have a weather-predicting animal holiday to call its own. I stand by argument from last year. Phil's predictions can't possibly cover the entire country so we need one of these critters out here. We could hold our own Groundhog Day here in Portland, if Seattle or San Francisco won't bite. We wouldn't even need a groundhog. The "host" could be anything- animal, vegetable or mineral. Why not a Beaver Day? That would look great on t-shirts, the Hooter crowd would love it and it would tie into the state's ideology. Everybody wins.

  • I think I'd rather watch the Puppy Bowl instead of the lame Cirque du Soleil halftime show the NFL has cooked up this year.

  • KISN AM is officially dead and gone. Earlier this week, the owners pulled the plug on its website and sold it off to a company in Salem. It's been replaced by yet another conservative talk station. No more "great times, great oldies." Bleech.

  • Here's a story from the Portland Tribune about those Mooninite signs here in Portland and a link to yesterday's news conference with the culprits in Boston. These guys are my new favorite hippies, replacing Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg.

  • Also from the Tribune, a great feature on the sale of the block that houses the Virginia Cafe. It's chock full of tidbits about the bar's past, including one about a former owner that would go on to start the Spaghetti Factory empire. I also recommend this interview covering Portland's street "kids" from last week.

  • This may very well blow your skull.

  • I don't think Kevin McAllister belongs on this list but Anakin Skywalker and Scrappy Doo, uh, do.

  • Click here to read the sad tale of what happened to the 24 Hour Church of Elvis lady after she closed up shop.

  • If I had $150,000, this is what I would probably do with it.

  • Click here to learn more about the late-great Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor chain than you will ever need.

  • And, finally, if you didn't already know, we're completely screwed.

    Also: go Bears!

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    Thursday, February 01, 2007


    When Mooninites attack

    $750,000 or more.

    That's how much a guerilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force cost the city of Boston yesterday.

    So while the rest of the country was busy laughing at Beantown, myself and at least a few other locals went in search of the Mooninite signs that have been popping up around Portland. Someone over on the "Damn Portlanders" board managed to snap a photo of one over on NW 23rd and Burnside (see below. Thanks, "thenakedspace."). There were also reports of a Mooninite further down near Buffalo Exchange and over on the eastside. Of course, by the time I headed down there after work tonight, they were long gone. One Mooninite is up on eBay and the bidding is already up to $1,000 with, as of right now, two days left in the auction.

    Sure, South Park has courted controversy, pissed off Tom Cruise and earned itself a Peabody but has it ever shut down an entire city? Nope. Congratulations, Time Warner. This is sure to boost box office returns when the movie version is released in theaters on March 23rd. "THE CARTOON THAT SHUT DOWN THE CITY OF BOSTON IS NOW A MOVIE!" That's sure to get some butts in the seats.

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    The Adventures of Flat Tyler

    You may get a call or it may arrive in the mail. There's no telling when it will happen but it probably will. From a niece or a cousin or a grandkid. The Flat Stanley Project is growing and you're due to be guilt-tripped into participating whether you want to or not. Be afraid.

    Like, you I had no idea who or what Flat Stanley was until my parents broke out a manilla envelope that had arrived on their doorstep during a recent Sunday dinner. One of my cousins, who has a kindergarden-aged son named Tyler, had a favor to ask of them. His homeroom teacher had assigned the project after reading the class the series of childrens' books about Flat Stanley, a kid that travels the world via the postal service after being squished by a bulletin board. As part of the project, Tyler drew and cut out a Crayola drawing of himself and mailed it off to his aunt and uncle in the faraway land of Portland, Oregon.

    As part of the project, my parents were assigned to take Tyler around town and take pictures of him in front of iconic places while jotting down factoids about them in a journal. Eager to pawn off the project on their kids, they suckered my sister and I into putting everything together.

    My first inclination was to take my 5-year old cousin's doppleganger out for a night on the town. My instincts told me that his private Christian school classmates would have loved photos of Flat Tyler downing shots at the Space Room, stumbling drunk through the clubs in Old Town and/or enjoying an evening at Mary's Club. I could have even returned him with a still wet pint glass-ring across his torso. The boy would have obviously become an instantaneous hero and the envy of his peers but more sensible heads prevailed. The family laid down the law. This project would *not* be celebrating Portland's bar culture or high per capita strip club rate. Instead, we went through the motions and took photos of Flat Tyler in front of MAX, Mt. Hood, the umbrella guy in Pioneer Square, Powell's Bookstore and outside of the Schnitz. Last weekend, he tagged along with me on a trip to the coast.

    I was afraid of what my friends might think when I brought out Flat Tyler for a photo during a hike on Neahkanie Mountain. How was I going to explain this? "Yeah, I'm doing homework for my cousin. He's in kindergarten" But they immediately knew what I was talking about. One's mother had recently spent a week trucking a "flat" nephew around Portland.

    On Monday night, my sister and I sat down to put everything together. We could have half-assed this thing but we were determined to outdo the relatives of Tyler's classmates. We had assembled a color Kodak printer, several Portland nicknacks, seashells and dozens of photos. Still, it wasn't enough. We were going to have to fictionalize Tyler's trip. I took over the Photoshop duties while she scribbled down a tale about Tyler getting lost in Powell's and later being blown out of Cannon Beach's namesake before being rescued by a friendly seagull. Around midnight, my parent's photo printer ran out of ink. Exhausted, I was prepared to toss Flat Tyler down the garbage disposal and the printer into the microwave. Fortunately, she intervened. The printer was just out of ink. We gave up for the night.

    We finally wrapped things up on Tuesday. Total time investment: around 10 hours, more time than I dumped into entire four-credit courses in college. Flat Tyler and the journal were packed off back to Georgia yesterday. Our efforts were most likely for naught. According to Wikipedia, the Flat Stanley project has sent paper kindergarten clones into the White House and all over the world. You Tube is littered with video journals of adventures. Arnold Schwarzenegger took his kid's out on the campaign trail and to a taping of Late Night With Jay Leno. I'm sure one of Tyler's classmates took their relative's project up Everest or on a flight to the International Space Station.

    I knew we should have gone with the Mary's Club plan. A shot of Flat Tyler in front of the chick that can jiggle her boobs while sliding backwards down the pole would have earned him an A+ for sure.

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