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Monday, April 30, 2007
Bad tennis my way
For the most part, I'm a considerate guy. I mind my manners. I don't talk during movies. When I parallel park, I make sure to leave enough space behind and in front of my car to let other drivers out with minimal hassle. I even recycle. Sometimes. You're welcome, Mother Earth.
But when it comes to tennis, I'm a super-obnoxious terror and the scourge of any court I set my Nikes upon. I've been playing since I was 13. While my backhand hasn't improved in the slightest since the first day I held a racket, my ability to trash talk has. Have you ever seen that old Disney short starring Goofy as a mild mannered businessman that turns into a reckless sociopath the second he gets behind the wheel of an automobile? Tennis and I? We're a lot like that.
Much of it has to do with the history of the game and those who play it. Along with golf, tennis is the stuffiest sport you can play without a horse. It's an uptight game typically played by uptight people with a scoring system that makes absolutely no sense (0 points is considered "love," 1 point is 15...what's up with that?). Tennis is worthy of ridicule. Shucks, it practically demands it. Despite all this, I love a match but my semi-hipster persona requires that I only love it ironically. For others who sincerely enjoy the sport, it's for the best that I only get a chance to play once or twice a year.
The only person foolhardy enough to play against me is my younger sister, who responds to my endless on-court profanity and one-liners with a slew of her own instead of the disdain I deserve. Talking on a tennis court is considered bad form. Loudly making references to Battlestar Galactica and quoting Fast Times at Ridgemont High may as well be against tennis law. Knowing that, despite my best efforts, I'll be cracking wise by the time the first ball is served, we make an effort to play as far away from others as possible.
The public courts at Gabriel Park are a good venue for this brand of tennis. Weeknights are typically low key and other players tend to begrudgingly put up with rude behavior rather than storming across the courts to ask in a tense whisper, "Don't you think you're causing a scene?" We usually get a late start and, maybe because of the hour or our behavior, the courts tend to clear out halfway through our first match.
This was the case when we headed over there last Thursday. Aside from a group on the lower courts, we had the place to ourselves. Even better, the Wilson High team, who occasionally uses the park's courts for practice, left behind a dozen balls. When you're as bad at tennis as I am, plenty of ammo is essential. There's nothing that ruins an obnoxious tennis match like having to chase down balls every ten seconds.
As usual, I lost. Badly. The first match, 2-4. The second match was a shut-out. Maybe if I had spent more time working on my cross-court dive than exaggerated grunts worthy of Wimbledon, I might have done better.
Over the years I've seen plenty of players on those courts at Gabriel Park. I'd say 97% are well behaved. Then there's the rest of us: rude, obnoxious and/or overly competitive. If only there were a tennis club for people like us.
Or maybe I should take up bowling.
Friday, April 27, 2007
It Came From My Cell Phone Part 14
These urinals are distinct and can only be found in one building, that I know of, in the state of Oregon. The first person to write in and correctly guess where they're located wins all the pride and joy that comes with successfully identifying a random potty.
On your marks. Get set. Guess away!
Check out that foot peddle. Fancy!
UPDATE: Welcome to Blog reader "Danimal" has correctly identified the location of these urinals. They can be found on the first floor of the Oregon Capitol Building in Salem. Congratulations, Danimal. We here at W2B salute you.
Random Links - Trustafarian Riot Edition
This may be Welcome to Blog's last edition of "Random Links," a weekly post that appears here every Friday and assembles local news stories and, well, random links. A few readers have told me that it always "runs too long." Others have suggested that I break the post up into a series of smaller posts throughout the week rather than dumping them all together on Fridays. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below or fire off an email to me at email@example.com. Thanks.
Now, random links...
Thursday, April 26, 2007
You know what we don't have enough of here in the 21st century? Soda fountains and soda shops. When was the last time you met a soda jerk? Are they still around or did they all die off back in the mid-'60s? Maybe there's a small collective of them living somewhere in Arizona, like the Amish. Plying their trade, making hot fudge sundaes and grilled cheese sandwiches, waiting for their craft to come back into style again. I don't know about you but I'd rather see a soda fountain on every block than a Starbucks.
I've heard rumors of a few old pharmacies around town that still have soda fountains but I don't know where any of them are located. Fortunately for those of us in search of oversized milkshakes and comfort food downtown, there's Blueplate on SW Washington. The staff down there don't say "swell" and their arms are more likely to sport tattoos than leather straps to hold up their shirt sleeves but they've successfully managed to update the soda fountains of yore.
One shining example of their efforts:
The Cowboy Coffee Milkshake made with beans from Stumptown Coffee (a local chain of coffee shops that are quickly becoming a symbol of Portland pride bigger than both the rose garden AND the Rose Garden). In one glass it combines the best of both the coffee and the milkshake worlds. It also has a pretty solid caffeine kick. Definitely not the sort of thing you would want to hand over to a hyperactive kid. They'd be up for days.
In addition to sodas with flavors like "ginger spice" and "vanilla honey," Blueplate covers the typical soda fountain bases. There's traditional banana splits, hot fudge sundaes, root beer floats and milkshakes on the menu next to updated house specialty sodas like the "Chai Bomb," which combines a weird selection of spices into its mix.
On the food front, the menu changes daily. The only item that can be found down there every day is the grilled cheese and tomato soup combo. During a recent visit, they were serving meat loaf. The diner's website tells me that the daily "blue plate" specials range from sploppy joes to reubens to turkey and fixings. It's a quirky business move but not one that I can really get behind. I like going into a restaurant with a good idea of what I'm going to get. I usually stick with the grilled cheese and the soup.
Another drawback is Blueplate's hours, 11 AM - 5 PM, Monday - Friday. They're strictly a weekday lunch joint but, if they expanded their menu and added in a few regular dishes, I could see the place drawing crowds well into the wee hours. Aside from a few late-night happy hours, I don't think there are enough places to get a cheap meal after dark downtown.
Blueplate could be big if they stayed opened late to cater to bar hoppers, scenesters, etc looking for a bite to eat before they head home for the night. Why go over to that Taco Bell on Burnside for crap to soak up all that booze when you can walk to a place like Blueplate with better atmosphere and a big, kitschy soda fountain that looks like it was lifted out an Archie comic?
Maybe it's just me, but I think Blueplate could become another Voodoo Doughnut, one of those ubiquitous Portland places that everyone takes out-of-towners to. Both take something old and turn them into something new and great.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Cornelius at the Wonder Ballroom - (4/23/07)
Yesterday, I came across this post over on Blogtown. Unbeknownst to me, Cornelius was in town to play a show at the Wonder Ballroom. Hot damn. Instead of another marathon session of Paper Mario, I headed across the river for a few hours of Japanese "pop noise collages."
Cornelius has been around for over a decade. Nicknamed after the character from the Planet of the Apes movies, he began his career as a teen pop star in Japan but has since become a sort of Beck for eastern Asia. Like his American counterpart, Cornelius' influences cover just about every genre out there. Both have a penchant for cheeky live shows. Cornelius' centers his around synchronized video displays.
Last night around 10, a large white curtain shrouded the stage as Cornelius and his band picked up their instruments and began their intro. Taking turns, each member pounded on their instrument, resulting in a blast of color and a silhouette on the curtain before it was pulled away to reveal the band, all dressed like members of the Raëlian Church. Behind a row of stage-length laser lights, a large movie screen ran through a montage of videos and animations. During their second song, on the screen a flock of geese flew over a countryside and through Tokyo. In time with the music, the lead singer banged out a power cord, sending one of geese crashing to the ground. A tribute to Duck Hunt? Maybe, but in the old Nintendo game the birds didn't respond by fleeing into outer space.
During another song, a series of small boxes with lips sang along to the music. As the band played "Free Fall," a track off Fantasma, clips of '80s-era WWF wrestlers power-slammed one another in time to the music. Half-century old footage of dancers at a leaui, one with a head replaced by an animated squid, danced along to a song later in the evening. Occasionally, members of the band would glimpse over their shoulders to see if the videos were keeping pace but, aside from a few mistakes, the screen and music matched up perfectly. I'm sure it was a lot harder than they made it look.
Also: Cornelius played no less than two theremin solos.
As the show progressed, Cornelius and the band drifted into space rock jams, leaving a lot of the audience to lapse into a pleasant daze or head for the exits. The band returned for an encore, after jumping in the audience to have cell phone photos taken with everyone standing near the stage. They ended the show with a lullaby while a video of a baby floating through space played in the background.
So, yeah, the whole thing was pretty "quirky" and along the lines of what you would see at a Flaming Lips show. I'd say about half the crowd was on the level and enjoyed Cornelius' unique brand of musical weirdness while the other half stared blankly at the stage between trips to the bar. A critic in last week's Portland Mercury wrote that Cornelius is the best live performer he's ever seen. I wouldn't go that far but I'd say he's up there in the top ranks, if only for the Duck Hunt bit.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Spiderman, bigger than God
The Portland metro area is finally getting a proper IMAX theater. The Regal Cinemas over at Bridgeport will roll out its new mega movie screen in a few weeks, just in time for Spiderman 3.
This is great news for those of us eager to catch blockbusters on a screen bigger than God. I've always wondered why higher-ups down at OMSI decided to go with a domed "OMNIIMAX" theater when the museum relocated to the eastside in the early '90s. While OMSI's IMAX typically shows only educational films, management has been known to allow in the occasional big-budget Hollywood movie. Not that I've ever taken them up on the offer. Watching a movie in the OMNIMAX dome is a painful experience. Spend two hours in there and you'll walk out with either motion sickness or a strained neck.
According to the Tribune article linked above, the cinemas will be showing Spiderman 3 "around the clock." Finally, a reason to go to Tigard at 2 AM. Woo ho?
Friday, April 20, 2007
It Came From My Cell Phone Part 13
Random Links: 4:20 on 4/20 Edition
Bleah. Another sunny Friday on the heels of a week of miserable weather and I'm stuck in a cubicle instead of running around outdoors. To those of you celebrating or fortunate to be outside right now, have yourself a merry little holiday centered around heavy marijuana consumption.
Where I'd rather be
A few months ago, a colleague asked me what I'd rather be doing with my life than what I'm, well, currently doing with it. Playing music in a Parisian freight elevator, at least in this context, might not make the top 10 but I think it would make the top 100.
Using ripped pages from a magazine for percussion- I would have never thought of that. If you make it past the elevator scene, you'll be further rewarded with a concert footage of the Arcade Fire playing in the middle of a crowd. As I watched it, I figured they were performing in the middle for a small audience in a venue the size of, maybe, the Crystal Ballroom. Then the camera pans up about halfway through to reveal they're in a much larger concert hall. Cool.
The Arcade Fire will play a sold-out date at the Schnitz on May 27th and will be up at the Gorge for this year Sasquatch Festival over Memorial Day weekend.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Living the AmeriCone Dream
The Colbert Report: Funny. One of the best things on television. In many cases, above reproach. There are some things that are too good to last and, honestly, I think this may be one of them. The show has been firing on all cylinders for too long and it's burned through a thousand great ideas. I figured the dual, same day, interviews on The Colbert Report and The O'Reilly Factor were going to prove to be the "departure point." Now the producers have somehow coaxed Sean Penn to face the host in a "Metaphor Off" during tonight's installment. How long can a show keep topping itself and keep up the pace of being flippin' hilarious four nights a week? I figure it will all come crashing down by the end of the year when either the staff reaches burnout or Colbert is offered a lucrative network or movie deal.
Or not. Here's hoping the show has a lot of life left in it. Anyway, that's a long preamble for a post about ice cream. Sorry about that.
A few weeks ago, I went in search of the show's official ice cream. When Ben and Jerry showed up on the Colbert Report last month to debut a flavor inspired by Colbert himself, I figured it was a gag. It dawned on me a few days later when I saw something about it on the internet.
Two Fred Meyers and one New Seasons later, I found a single pint left at my neighborhood Albertsons. "Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream" did indeed exist and it's popular around here. During a show a few weeks ago, Colbert proudly announced it was now the company's best selling flavor. A quick search on the Ben and Jerry's site, however, says the top flavor is still "Cherry Garcia." I couldn't find anything else on the internet besides Colbert's words to back up the claim.
(Possibly) empty boasts aside, the stuff is pretty good. You might assume that patriotic ice cream should consist of raspberry (red), vanilla (white) and blueberry (der, blue) flavors but what about ironically patriotic ice cream? Instead of all that, "AmeriCone Dream" is made up of vanilla ice cream, caramel and chunks of chocolate-covered waffle cone bits. If you were to take a Drumstick, scrape off the peanuts and toss it into a blender, this is what it probably taste like. What's more all-American than a Drumstick, at least as far as prepackaged, ice-cream based desserts go?
At the very least, it's 40 - 60% more patriotic than Willie Nelson's new flavor. Yeah, that's after figuring in the recall. Apparently, it was all part of a FBI conspiracy to harass ol' Willie, doncha know.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Further attempts at mixology
A few years ago I created a drink called the "Mickican." Despite the semi-offensive name, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It's a Black and Tan made with Guinness and Corona, a beverage perfect for fielding the gap between St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo. The Mickican could use a new name and I still think it could catch on with the right kind of promotion. Anyone know an influential bartender?
Now I've had a hand in the birth of another drink. While waiting for late night happy hour to being at Dragonfish last week, I noticed a Bloody Mary on the menu with wasabi listed as one of the key ingredients. Wasabi? And booze? And tomato juice? All in the same glass? It sounded like a dare but not one I was willing to take. I can't stand Bloody Marys. As far as I'm concerned, they're cocktail kryptonite.
Still, wasabi....in a drink. The concept beckoned. I don't which one of us at the table came up with it but, suddenly, ordering a martini with wasabi in place of the olive's pimento suddenly seemed like a brilliant idea. But how to explain something like this to our waitress?
"Yes, madam, I'm in need of strong drink. You see, a straight-up gin martini doesn't have enough bite. I need something with a little more kick, something practically guaranteed to burn a hole straight through my liver. What I'm looking for is the cocktail equivalent of that nasty little bastard in the first Alien movie, eight ounces of pure fire water that's liable to burst out of my gut and run around the bar. Just bring the drink to the table, along with a lot of napkins, and run for cover. Tip well? Of course we do. Plus, my friend is willing to clean up all the blood and burnt intestines from our booth while I hunt the beast down with these here chopsticks. The other customers? Don't worry about them. They'll get out of the way. They look spry."
I spared the waitress the specifics of our experiment. A friend and I ordered two martinis with a golf ball-sized chunk of wasabi on the side. We replaced the pimentos and promptly dumped a pair of olive IEDs into our drinks. The first sip offered a bit of the kick I was looking for but it wasn't enough. Already unimpressed and eager to cut straight to the stomach pains, my colleague dumped another chunk of wasabi into his martini. I held off. If everything went as planned, the olive would slowly "time release" the wasabi, making each sip spicier than the last. I figured this is a drink that should be eased into. No sense jumping into the deep end of the booze/spice pool. That would only lead to trouble.
Within moments, my friend's martini was as green as the ooze that created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mine looked more like stagnant pond scum. Still, the olive did it's thing and slowly sneaked more and more wasabi into a decreasing amount of gin. Each sip kicked harder than the last and, by the time I got down to the last one, it tasted somewhere between Everclear and a four-alarm fire in a bottle rocket factory.
Yeah, I'm exaggerating but the wasabi definitely amplified the gin and sharpened its bite. Seeing that my gut was already clogged with questionable amounts of lukewarm sushi from the Todai at Pioneer Place, I quit after one martini and cut back to a Kirin. My friend ordered another with a side of spicy tuna rolls. Maybe I'm too much of a lightweight for this sort of thing.
I think it's a drink worthy of a name. I've come up with a few suggestions. Feel free to vote for your favorite in the poll below and pat yourself on the back afterwards (or come up with a name of your own and suggest it via the "comments" link below).
Congratulations, you've just played a roll in the creation of a drink capable of killing a man.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Advenutres in Smart Parkin'
Early on Saturday morning, right around 1-ish, I found myself trapped in a Smart Park downtown. The first problem: the attendant working the gate had fallen asleep. The second problem: despite being tired and eager to get home, I didn't have the gall the wake him.
Plus, I didn't know what was kosher for a situation like this. Should I have honked the horn, sending an ear-piercing echo through the chambers of the garage? Should I have jumped out of the car and knocked on the window? He was older gentleman and I'm sure there was at least a small chance that a rude awakening might have resulted in a mild to moderate coronary.
Another car pulled up at the open but vacant booth to my right. He too didn't know how to handle the situation. For a full minute we sat there, both of us unwilling to wake the attendant. I fiddled with my radio, he stared at his steering wheel. Parking garage ennui, I guess you could call it.
Another minute later, a woman popped out of a back office. She dealt with the other car and I threw mine into reverse to swing over to her booth. She only charged me $2.00 for six hours of parking. As I eased out onto Fourth, waiting for traffic to pass, I looked back over my shoulder. The attendant was still fast asleep.
Friday, April 13, 2007
It Came From My Cell Phone Part 12
The dragon/demon/monster/thing that hangs over the bar at Amnesia Brewing.
After a trip over there last spring, I headed back to my car and discovered that someone had tried to pry open the hood with a screwdriver. It still has a small, arched dent. An attempt to shove it back down didn't accomplish much and I'm not about to try any other home remedies. I guess I could pay to get it fixed but any mechanic would charge me a few hundred bucks.
Plus, it's become a conversation piece. What was the thief after? Random parts from an old import? Even if they had managed to hotwire the car, they wouldn't have gotten far with "The Club" on the steering wheel. Plus, there wasn't anything inside worth stealing.
Random Links: Friday the 13th Edition
Why the superstitions surrounding Fridays that fall on the 13th? As Garfield the cat once pointed out, Monday the 13th seems much more worthy of fear and disdain. Wikipeida, always the go-to for this sort of thing, offers a few theories.
With that out of the way, here's another round of random links:
Thursday, April 12, 2007
A trip to traffic school
A colleague, who asked to remain anonymous, recently received her first moving violation while driving through downtown Portland. Her crime? Cutting across two lanes of traffic while making a left turn onto SW 10th. Her punishment? A trip to the Portland Police Department's new "Share the Road Safety Class." In exchange for two hours of her time, she received a large deduction on her fine AND a certificate of completion AND a few stickers. In a post written by this blog's first guest blogger, she covers what went down in the class and the chaos that ensued in the parking lot afterwards as 150 "bad drivers" headed for home.
The guest speakers kept things moving at a fast pace with video clips and slides showing humorous ways that people break the rules. One clip showed a girl getting caught on a speed camera leaning over into her passenger seat to give her dog a smooch. In another clip, a guy ran across an intersection against the light with a coffee cup in hand. Another had a dude on a bike ride through a stop sign doing the nonchalant "no hands" pedal.
That's not to say there weren't any sad pics – the speakers were more than happy to show injured children. In general, they kept it on the happier "look at how nice it is when we all place nice" approach. Then they ran one last clip of a car turning right into someone with a grocery cart and breaking their arm. The final photo of the night: three adorable little boys holding a sign that read: "we share our toys so please share the road!"
It was painfully obvious that everyone was only there because they had to be. Still, by the end people were yelling out comments, laughing, and bouncing around because we were given a certificate and free stickers at the end.
Then horror struck. I had to drive home. There is no question who these people were around me – I saw them leave the parking lot. I saw them get on their bikes. And I saw WHY THE HELL THEY WERE IN THE CLASS IN THE FIRST PLACE. One hipster went by munching on an apple and riding his bike in and out of my lane. Another zipped by trying to catch him. Neither were wearing a helmet. A PT Cruiser tried to ram me off the road when she realized the lane I was moving into was the one that went onto I-5 South. In the space of four blocks I was nearly hit 3 times – a number that I usually only attain by daily driving in the downtown core over a period of weeks. These hipsters...these people...THEY DIDN'T LEARN A DAMN THING!
So to all you gents and gentesses who put on the safety course, thank you. Thanks for doing it, saving me some money and saving my driving record. One little things though – you might want to suggest your students leave in waves rather than all at once.
Just a thought.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."
I made the mistake of signing up for a "normal level" English class during my freshman year in high school, which basically amounted to "remedial." We spent the year with books best forgotten while higher-level classes down the hall tackled Shakespeare. Frustrated and bored, I asked my teacher to recommend some outside reading. She directed me towards two titles: Animal Farm and Slaughterhouse Five. These served as a gateway to the likes of Catcher in the Rye, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Great Gatsby, 1984, The Monkey Wrench Gang and who knows what other bits of 20th century literature bent on "taking the piss" on the American Dream.
By the end of the year I was calling myself an anarchist and had begun what is sure to become a life-long love affair with cynicism. Vonnegut played a heavy part in that. Three years later I would go on to write a 10-page essay on Breakfast of Champions. The grade I earned for my efforts? A B-. Seven years later? A liberal arts degree. If she had passed along a copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream instead, maybe I'd be a doctor now or at least a semi-successful criminal.
Thanks, Ms. Wood. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut, you misanthropic, old prick, you.
Click here for an obit.
Ok, what is this thing?
A question for any marine biologists or lovers of strange, aquatic lifeforms: what is this thing?
This slimy jelly (?) was spotted at low tide during a recent trip to Cannon Beach. It was about the size of a marble and looked like either: a) a mystical, long lost totem of an ancient civilization, b) candy of the future or c) something not safe to poke with my finger.
Any clue? Anybody?
With the OHSU tram up and running, local bloggers, worry-worts, the Portland Planning Commission and even the editorial page of the Oregonian have all turned their attention to another proposed civic "improvement." The West Burnside "couplet," which would turn one of Portland's most iconic and well-traveled streets into a one-way with a streetcar line running down the center, seems like a mess in the making. According to the editorial linked above, City Council was set to make a decision on the proposal earlier today.
I'm against it, mostly because, much like the tram to Pill Hill, it's likely to cost double or more what City Hall surmises at this stage in the process, all money better spent on much needed infrastructural improvements elsewhere. Plus, I can't imagine what the already cramped and partially residential NW Couch is going to look like with 5 o'clock gridlock.
Still, this doesn't change the fact that the stretch of Burnside from the river up to NW 21st needs some serious work. The street, littered with weird dips and uneven patches of pavement, makes for a bumpy ride. It could use a major repaving along the lines of the project that did wonders to the once pothole-clogged Natio Parkway. Worse yet, crossing the Burnside Bridge and trying to turn into downtown is a nightmare. Making a left turn, while not impossible, is definetely illegal. Turning onto SW 3rd, which should be as simple as waiting at a turn signal, requires a trip through Chinatown, a real pain on weekend nights when the streets are clogged with clubhoppers.
Is there a serious need to extend the streetcar line down Burnside and across the river? I don't know, you tell me. From my perspective, the street's problems can be solved with simple solutions. Repave Burnside. Put in a turn lane on 3rd and another one up on Broadway. Use the rest of those millions to fill all the potholes around town and maybe, just maybe, fix the Sellwood Bridge before it falls into the Willamette.
Also: a little advice. If you ever get an itch to use the "bus only" turn lane at the corner of 3rd and Burnside on a Friday night, don't. Trust me on this.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
And the winner is...
A question posed yesterday: which of these two chocolate bunnies is truly the tallest? Braggart "Too Tall" or "Bunny Big Ears," who, all things considered, possesses ears that aren't so much big as they are long?
And the winner is...
Bunny Big Ears.
Coming in at a staggering 13-inches, he towers over the 8-inch Too "Actually, Not Very" Tall. Another fun fact: BBE contains 1440 calories. Why, that's nearly 3/4 of my daily calorie needs. Tomorrow, I guess I'll eat his ears for breakfast, his head for lunch and his body for dinner, along with a spinach salad and, possibly, a bottle of Heineken.
Uhhhh, yeah. Please don't use that last sentence out of context.
In fact, consider this the advent of the Chocolate Bunny + Spinach Diet + Possibly a Bottle of Heineken diet. Watch out, Atkins.
One last note before I close the book on Easter '07: this rabbit, found on the front of a box of egg dye at Albertsons, looks like he's up to something. In fact, I'd have to say this is the most sinister-looking, Photoshoped Easter Bunny I've ever seen. Is this a face you can trust? Would you eat any of his Cadbury Eggs? I'm thinking whatever's in that pink egg of his is ticking and/or explosive.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Thanks, Monsieur Bunny
Those 22 ounces of hop-y goodness are sure to go well with...
The Easter Bunny really came through for me this year. He brought over enough candy to rot out every tooth in my head, two chocolate bunnies, a semi-microbrew and...a Care Bear. Sunshine Bear, if I'm not mistaken.
Now one question remains: who's truly the taller of these two chocolate bunnies? "Bunny Big Ears" or "Too Tall," a bunny so tall he reputedly can't fit in his box? Place your bets. The winner will be determined tomorrow.
The family that watches Grindhouse together...
A review of Grindhouse, overheard outside of the St. Johns Cinema and Pub on Friday night:
GRANDFATHER: That was one wild movie!
GRANDDAUGHTER: I liked the zombie movie but all the girls talking about sex in the car movie...
YOUNGER GRANDDAUGHTER: That was boring.
GRANDDAUGHTER: But the chase was really, really cool.
Yeah, I trucked all the way out to the St. Johns for Grindhouse. Seeing that it was the only theater in town showing both the movie and willing to serve beer, I think I made the right choice. The (nearly) sold-out crowd was "totally into it" and spent most of the 3+ hour running time hooting and hollering, appropriate behavior for a double-feature featuring both Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer with machine gun/ grenade launcher prosthesis AND a 25-minute-long car chase scene.
As for the grandfather and his two granddaughters, your guess is as good as mine. The man had to be in his early 60s and the girls ranged between 14 and 18. The kids were dressed in Hot Topic outfits and he looked like he had just wandered into the 21st century off the cover of a Saturday Evening Post circa 1952. He was even wearing a Father Knows Best sweater jacket. I'm going to go with a "simplest explanation is the one most likely to be true" hypothesis and assume they tricked the old man into taking them to this incredibly violent R-rated mayhemfest.
Three hours of explosions, mutants, car chases, weird cameos, throwback mayhem, fake trailers and Kurt Russell? I loved it. The crowd loved it. Given the good reviews from critics and the response at the St. Johns, I figured Grindhouse was a shoe-in for a $20+ million haul at the box office over the weekend. Alas, it looks like middle-America didn't "get it" and decided to spend their Easter weekend watching Will Ferrell (take note of which movie took the # 1 slot again this weekend) or eating chocolate bunnies. I just read a post in one movie forum written by a teenager somewhere in the Midwest. He works as an usher and spent the weekend listening to customers complain about Grindhouse's "scratched print" and the "missing reel" gags. Management showed these angry customers signs posted in the theaters explaining the movie's theme and even an Entertainment Weekly article explaining the entire thing. Undaunted, they still demanded their money back. Ugh.
Meanwhile, here in Portland, the owner of the Clinton St. Theater seems to think the low haul can be blamed on the distributor's unwillingness to book Grindhouse into small, artsy theaters like his. His argument was quickly shot down when it was revealed that the nearby Cinemagic theater was showing the film. Further finger pointing and Monday morning quarterbacking can be found here.
My theory: Americans won't pay too see 3 hours of blood and guts on an Easter weekend unless it's contained in a movie directed by Mel Gibson and starring the son of God. Meh, their loss.
Friday, April 06, 2007
It Came From My Cell Phone Part 10
Easter Bunny graffiti? Maybe, maybe not. Spotted somewhere in NW last year around this time.
Random Links: More Chocolate Bunnies, Please Edition
It's Good Friday and Easter is but two days away. That means it's time to celebrate the resurrection of (some people's) Lord and Savior with colored eggs and chocolate shaped like shiny, happy, anthropomorphic rabbits. Why? Well, didn't you catch this week's episode of South Park? It explains it all for you.
Anyway, since it's Friday, here's another round of random links:
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Grindhouse in a town without a grindhouse
Grindhouse, a movie tailor-made to be seen at a drive-in (OK, a grindhouse too), opens tomorrow. Most likely due to unseasonably warm temperatures, the Portland metro area's only drive-in, the 99 West, is already open for the season. What will it be showing this weekend?
Wild Hogs and Premonition.
As far as I know, Portland doesn't have a down-on-its-luck movie palace (AKA a grindhouse) that will be showing it either.
Damn. Looks like I'll be catching Grindhouse at Pioneer Place, which means the experience will be the emotional equivalent of watching the Super Bowl on a 12-inch tv with rabbit ears. Lame!
I think I could handle this gig...
From this morning's post on WWire:
For the Rose Festival Centennial, the Grand Marshal(s) will be selected by a community-wide nomination process. Using a short story format, community members can nominate a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker or themselves by submitting a 100-word (or less) essay on why that individual should be Grand Marshal. Rose Festival parade committee representatives will judge essays on individual's personal and historical connection to the festival.
I'd obviously be perfect for the gig. Here's my first draft:
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Portland music clubs in the '90s
Every month or so I receive an email from someone writing an article or an essay about various corners of Portland's past that aren't well covered in history books or on the internet. Typically, they're hunting for information about the Shanghai Tunnels and, because I wrote a series of blog posts about them last summer, they think I might be an expert.
The latest inquiry came from someone trying to collect dates and info on local rock clubs from the late '80s - late '90s, La Luna in particular. Here's what they're looking for. If any of you know anything and can help shine a light, feel free to drop a comment via the link at the bottom of this post.
Fun with kava
The afternoon began with a boring trip to the DMV. Two hours later, I was a stoned mess, dropping phrases like "harshing my mellow" without irony while trapped in a hazy bubble. Moments later, I was on a spontaneous trip to Tad's Chicken and Dumplings, babbling in a passenger side seat and suddenly very eager to catch Meet the Robinsons in 3-D before this strange, wonderful high wore off.
How did this happen? When it comes to substance abuse, I'm remarkably uptight and boring for someone totting around a BA from the University of Oregon. What had led me down this path? One word...
A few more words...
Pied Cow Coffeehouse (3244 SE Belmont St.).
I'd driven past Pied Cow on a million different occasions, figuring it was just another locally owned bean shop in a town full of them. But what always intrigued me was the location: an old Victorian homestead that looks like it might be the last known residence of Wednesday Addams. With some time to kill, I swung up Belmont.
I was out of my element. The interior of Pied Cow looks like the sort of place that would be a hit among, with all due respect, stoner-lesbian backpackers. There's a Buddhist shrine with a creepy, nude doll thrust in the center. The front room is filled with Turkish furnishings and oil paintings of annoyed women (see above). The most impressive bit of decor: a painting of two pirate ships in the bathroom with electric lights built in the hulls.
The Twin Peaks soundtrack was trickling down from the ceiling as a waitress brought over a menu. Beyond assorted snack plates and traditional coffee drinks, a few things stood out: a full selection of flavored tobacco and hookahs and something I'd never heard of: kava. Half a page was devoted to a description, part of which went a little something like this...
"Kava ($2.50): This drink, a daily ritual for many people in Fiji, tastes like dirt (but in a good way!). Known for its tendency to numb the mouth while loosening the tongue, it has become a favored drink for the euphoric sensation reported by drinkers. Give it a try!"
I asked for a single serving and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. I'd seen grandiose descriptions of tea before. I figured all $2.50 would get me was the same buzz typically brought on by a cup of Earl Gray.
The waitress returned with a teacup, a spoon and a large bowl. The kava tasted exactly like what it resembled: water sucked up from a mud puddle. The numbing effect kicked in within a few minutes but where was the euphoria? I kept at it, alternating between bites of the cookies with sips of the sludge, expecting nothing.
Two cups later, I was talking at a mile-a-minute about David Lynch movies (note the background music). A conversation between a group sitting nearby about a reality show had suddenly become hilarious. Numbed mouth? Check. Loosened tongue? Check. Euphoria? On the way...
30 minutes later, I was behind the wheel (a bad idea) and headed towards my parents' house for dinner (a worse idea). A song on KMHD, a remix of an old jazz standard about the legend of Jesse James, was now, officially, the "best song in the history of the world." The neighborhood nearby, with a chalk drawing of a sun in the middle of an intersection and a few houses littered with sculptures, was deemed "fucking beautiful."
I made it across town without incident and promptly dived into Wikipedia to find out what I should expect next. Things were getting weirder. I found myself unable to focus on the text on the screen but discerned enough to find out that, when consumed in high quantities on an empty stomach (like I had done), a kava high is similar to that of a few massive bong rips. The next phase would be drowsiness and, whenever I decided to pass out, "vivid dreams." In the middle of reading about the first DUI arrest for kava use in Utah, I lost interest and cut over to the trailer for GTA IV.
I was getting paranoid and my ability to speak had been mostly reduced to a pathetic series of "ummm"s and "yeaaaaah"s. My sister agreed to play detox doc. It's all a blur now but somehow we decided chicken and dumplings would work as an antidote. A trip out to Tad's was in order. My parents accepted a muttered, distorted explanation. On the car ride to Troutdale I found myself dropping the aforementioned "mellow" bomb. The rest of that conversation is probably best forgotten. This much I remember: the restaurant's ancient jukebox, with a playlist unchanged since the '50s, sounded fantastic.
The internet warned me to expect another hour or more of this. My inability to keep my voice at a acceptable volume was grating on my sibling's nerves and Tad's family-friendly clientele. Sensing something was "off," the waitress quickly brought out a plate of vegetables and a basket of rolls. The food cut through the high like a knife through margarine. A cup of clam chowder later and I was back on terra firma. This, of course, buzzkill'ed plans to see Meet the Robinsons but we went anyway. The kava was well out of my system by the time I hit the hay. I missed out on the dreams but, all things considered, for $2.50 I got my money's worth.
Something this fun should probably be illegal and I'm surprised the Feds haven't already banned kava nationwide. Regardless, I have a feeling that the typical kava drinker doesn't experience the same thing I did. A combination of my nonexistent tolerance along with the large quantity I consumed on an empty stomach no doubt contributed to the intensity.
Wikipedia tells me people in Pacific have been drinking kava for thousands of years while other locals reject it as a vice. Western tourists still love it though. An article dating back to 2005 from USA Today says the FDA, at one time at least, was looking into reports of liver damage caused by the use of kava dietary supplements. Several countries in Europe and Asia have already banned or reduced its sales.
Meanwhile, kava bars are supposedly popping up around the states and exports out of Fiji are up 50% over last year. A key quote from one herbal products guru: ""There's nothing else we know of that acts as an anti-anxiety agent that doesn't make you stupid." That's all fine and dandy but it doesn't explain that "mellow" bomb I dropped. Kava definitely made me stupid...or at least more stupid than usual. How many patrons are really hitting these bars to take the edge off serious anxiety disorders? Three?
A Google search on "kava bars" and "Portland" didn't turn up anything so, if this is a full-fledged fad, it hasn't hit out here yet. Regardless, kava smacks of something that's sure to be banned if it catches on.
Long story short: enjoy while it lasts, everybody. Pied Cow stays open late.