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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Into the belly of IKEA

On Thursday night I was volunteered to go behind enemy lines. The target: something called a Forhoja. The captors? The minions of the fairly sovereign nation of IKEA. The reason? Because my grandparents wanted one but they're too old to navigate the hostile corridors of Portland's newest franchise outlet. Also: no one else in my family was willing to do it and I'm a sucker.

My always intrepid sister agreed to tag along and, after being blown off course on I-5, we snaked through North Portland towards our destination. The area surrounding the store was a stronghold. For reasons unknown, PPD had the main road leading to the parking lot blocked off, directing traffic towards a empty field instead. As FedEx and Alaskan Airline jets bombed overhead, we rolled over lumps and dead grass towards IKEA's main entrance. Why the unnecessary detour through what they had dubbed "overflow parking"? To add a further sense of adventure, I guess.

That night IKEA was about as busy as your average Costco. There was really no need for the police presence or the detours. The crowd inside would have been tolerable if it weren't for the megastore's insane layout. Instead of the one-level sprawl found at the IKEA in Renton, this one is divided into two floors, the top one accessible by a series of small stairwells. The elevator was also broken, causing a bottleneck of strollers leading to the main showroom upstairs.

The Portland IKEA also has a substantial amount of smug signs everywhere. Take a look at this one:

Doesn't that make you want to get a lifetime subscription to Adbusters and give up consumerism for at least a few days? Equally obnoxious is a series of disclaimers in the 2nd floor restaurant, which offers cheap Swedish meatballs and .99 cent breakfasts. How can IKEA sell hearty meals for such a low price? According to signs positioned over the trash cans, it's because customers are required to bus their own tables. A further explanation outlines how this allows IKEA to hire fewer employees and pass the savings on to their customers.

Despite it all, there's no denying that IKEA furniture looks cool, at least on the showroom floor. The rickety desk I bought in Renton is liable to fall over any second now but the $14 chairs I purchased are still holding up. After a search at an internet kiosk upstairs and a conversation with a clerk that was convinced we had come in search of a spatula, we tracked down the Forhoja. It wound up being a rolling kitchen cart.

After a lengthy hike through the showroom and into the warehouse downstairs, we located the bin where the Forhojas should have been only to find it empty. The mission had proven fruitless. We went all the way out to IKEA for one thing and they were sold out of them. Based on the full bins around us, this was apparently the only item unavailable in the entire store. We'd come all the way out there for nothing.

There was only one thing left to do before heading back to base: eat $1 ice cream cones in the parking lot while watching planes take off over the glowing megastore.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007



I’ve been a fan of Matt Groening and The Simpsons, going back as far as the fourth grade when I discovered the "Life is Hell" strips in the Oregonian's weekly A&E pullout. A lot of the strips from that era were lewd and unnerving for someone so young to be looking at them but the "School is Hell" compilation was considered comedy gold by my friends and I back then.

So obviously I've been digging all of the hype surrounding The Simpsons Movie and I've made repeated stops at 7-11 for Squishee-branded Slurpees. I've got a 6 pack of Buzz Cola chilling in my fridge and I even bought a box of Krusty-O's. But as Bart could probably tell you (if he actually existed and all that), Krusty-branded products tend to be hit or miss.

Krusty-O's are definitely a miss. I opened my box expecting at least the same sort of half-hearted but still somewhat original teeth-rotting sugar glop typically found in other movie-tie in cereals. Instead, Krusty-O's are nothing more than...

...yup, generic Froot Loops. Still, generic Froot Loops are better than generic Froot Loops with a "free jagged metal Krusty-O in every box!"

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Friday, July 27, 2007


Local links

A few local stories that might be worth a click:

  • Hookah bars around town are becoming a problem. Why? Because they're not very good at checking IDs. Enjoy the cancer-causing fun while you still can, kids.

  • It may just be lip service but Matt Groening is at least willing to pretend he's upset that the premiere of The Simpsons Movie wasn't held in Oregon's Springfield.

  • If N. Interstate becomes Cesar E Chavez Boulevard, does this mean that SE Clinton stands a chance of one day turning into Jerry Garcia Ave? Another interesting bit of news and speculation via Metroblogging Portland: the Jantzen Beach mall may not be long for this world.

  • I'd enjoy the Oregon Brewers Fest a whole lot more if I didn't have to pay for a $4 mug at the door or run into any of these nine types of fest-goers.

  • The cover of Willamette Week's "Best of Portland" issue looks a lot like the cover of Portland Monthly's "Best of the City issue. Which came first? For what it's worth, WW has been doing this sort of thing a few decades longer than PM. Meanwhile, it looks like the Portland Mercury has decided to skew serious for their annual "Best of..." parody issue.
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    The Morrison Hotel on SE Morrison

    A local bar semi-based on the cover of this Doors album, complete with a similar logo?

    Sounds nifty. The Morrison Hotel (719 SE Morrison) opened for business last week and I hope to check it out soon. Read more here.

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    Thursday, July 26, 2007


    Further adventures with kava

    Last week a friend was in Portland from DC. A former native, he was well familiar with the city and all the usual places you would take an out-of-towner. Still, he hadn't been to Multnomah Falls since he was a kid or NE Alberta since its metamorphosis into an "arts district" a few years ago. After a hike to the top of the falls and a trip to the Bella Faccia Pizzeria, we wound up at the Pied Cow Coffeehouse on SE Belmont.

    He wanted to give kava a shot. The last time I headed over there, I tried the stuff on a whim after reading the menu's vague description. A few cups later, I was completely dazed, as if I had just spent no less than five minutes hotboxing in Willie Nelson's tour bus. My friend ordered a bowl and followed the tedious procedure of ladling the murky, puddle-like concoction into a tea cup with a spoon.

    "What is this stuff," he asked after a sip, pulling what appeared to be a piece of bark dust out of his mouth. "You're screwing with me, right?" Undaunted, he kept drinking. Another bowl later, he felt weird but still sober. Meanwhile, after drinking a single cup, I had a pleasant buzz going. He gave me the same sort of annoyed look humans give felines spazzing out on catnip.

    At the very least he now has a story to tell his Beltway colleagues. "Yeah, I spent a week in Oregon," I imagine he's saying as I type this. "I went hiking up a waterfall, ate organic pizza and drank two bowls of mud. That's what people do out there."

    Well, at least some of them do and only while it's still legal out here.

    Bonus anecdote: With time to kill on Monday afternoon, I wound up at Pied Cow again, this time for a cup of coffee in their outdoor seating area. Of course, it immediately started raining. I darted over to the coffeehouse's covered porch with two mothers, a hippie couple and a group of female musicians. Since their conversation was more interesting than the book I'd brought along, I started eaves dropping. They were having issues with a fourth member but none of them had the heart to deal with her one-on-one. The three of them came to the conclusion that they would have to form a "bitch squadron" to convince the member to pull her weight or leave the band altogether. I wonder how that worked out.

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    Random links

    Here's a small batch of random links:

  • Think you’re a Star Wars fan? Do you hate everything about the series except for The Empire Strikes Back? If not, then you're not a true Star Wars fan. Click here for an explanation.

  • If this feline was a band, he’d be Death Cat for Cutie.

  • Stand By Me seems like a weird movie to center a civic event around, especially when a pie eating contest is scheduled. The organizers are also planning a "find the body" scavenger hunt. Read more here. It's all going down in Brownsville this Saturday.

  • This long, rambling interview with Matt Groening that appeared in last week’s edition of LA Weekly is a good read.

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    Wednesday, July 25, 2007


    Doughnut vs. Space Needle

    Who could be behind this?

    Regardless, I think I prefer the real deal over this new brand of faux-guerrilla marketing. A similar doughnut has also "landed" in NYC. As for what appeared in England last week, that one may actually be genuine

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    IKEA rising

    I've been to the IKEA in Renton a few times so I’m having a hard time getting all Harry Potter-y over the opening of a new location near the Portland airport.

    That said, I did pull over the other night when I spotted the following parked in front of Pioneer Square:

    What is the subject of this blurry camera phone shot? Could it be Nessy? Sasquatch? A Smurf? The new hip-hop version of Alvin?

    No, it's actually a flatbed truck with three futuristic window displays in the back. It pulled away as I pulled over, allowing me only seconds to snatch a photo. My fingers were covering a good portion of the lens when I snapped it.

    Yet another reason why I'm not a member of the paparazzi. Still, the situation afforded a colleague the opportunity to shout, "FOLLOW THAT BEDROOM SET!" And we did but, after getting delayed at a red light, it was too late. The truck was gone. We invested another five minutes in the pursuit before heading off elsewhere.

    Then last night I volunteered to drive a friend to the airport. On the way back towards the I-84 onramp, I passed the new IKEA. I caught a glimpse of a parking lot full of RVs and a line of people lined up out front, all hoping to snag one of the many free chairs due to be handed out this morning.

    The hype will probably keep anyone sensible away from the store for a few weeks but then, as these things typical go, IKEA will become just another big franchise in a city full of them. Anyone remember all the people that spent hours waiting for doughnuts when Krispy Kreme arrived in town four years ago? I made a trip out there when it first opened but, to be honest, I haven't been back since.

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    No happy endings

    After several readers and two local media outlets became involved in the hunt, it turns out that the cunning ne'er do well conned Jack Bog was a homeless man named David. Not a Machiavellian con artist but just another drug addict that spends more time sleeping under bridges than over a mattress stuffed with the hard earned dollars of those he's scammed.

    It's a sad, ugly story for all involved. Being someone who has been conned out of cash while walking around downtown, like Jack and many of his readers I was eager to see the identity of this guy revealed (not that the police will do anything but still...). Now it's become clear that's not much separating David from many of the city's panhandlers. He’s just more crafty and more likely to harden the hearts of his marks.

    If I ever encounter David, will I give him money to feed his addiction? Nope. Still, what can be done to help a guy like him? They also say that the first step is that they’ve got to willing to help themselves.


    Tuesday, July 24, 2007


    The Decemberists at Edgefield - 7/22

    A colleague and I went out to Edgefield on Sunday to see the Decemberists play a sold-out set. The band recently returned to Portland after a short tour through the Midwest and was feeling feisty.

    I can't think of a more appropriate local venue to see a band that sings songs about vengeful orphans and chimney sweeps perform live than at Troutdale's century-old former poor farm. This summer, Edgefield is hosting a series of concerts on the lawn in front of the main lodge near the Little Red Shed, the property's tiny cigar bar. After a week of rainy days, the sun was out on Sunday evening. Maybe it was the weather or because this was their last show before a break but the Decemberists decided to keep the everything lively and upbeat, a sharp contrast to a cheerless gig they played at the Crystal Ballroom back in October.

    After an opening set by Menomena, the Decemberists launched into the obvious- "July, July!" There was a good amount of banter between songs, ranging from the closure of Music Millennium NW to a plot to sneak into Tom Peterson's pool to an anecdote about the happy hour sets that lead singer Colin Meloy once played at a local goth bar. The band tossed out a good mix of tracks from their past three albums, including a 10+ minute rendition of "Sixteen Military Wives" that led to guitarist Chris Funk and Meloy surrendering their guitars to the audience, setting off a noisy breakdown jam.

    Other highlights: plenty of oddball audience interactions, including Meloy convincing the audience to wiggle their fingers as if they were shredding money (see above) before launching into what he described as a "bitching guitar solo." It was actually pretty bitching, or at least as bitching as guy who looks like Harry Potter imitating every cheeseball rock guitarist of the last 30 years could be.

    For "Culling of the Fold," a song about a young couple engaged in a War of the Roses-style battle to murder each other, Meloy darted back and forth across the stage, singing directly to a teenage boy up front and a girl on the other side. After a cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" with the lead singer of Menomena, the show culminated with "The Mariner's Revenge Song." A whale (operated like a Chinese dragon) came out on the stage to "eat" the band, whom all fell onto their backs while managing to continue playing their instruments, drummer included. The song climaxed with Meloy feeding the costume to the audience. From what I could tell from my spot on the other side of the lawn, the whale didn't make it far before being torn to shreds. From what I've been told, this isn't the first time the band has done this. They ended a show at the Roseland with a whale a few years ago. That whale also didn't last long once he was cast into the crowd.

    All in all, it was a great, appropriately weird show at a great, appropriately weird venue. Here's hoping the Decemberists head back out to Troutdale ("It's the new St. Johns! Quick, buy property why it's still cheap," as Meloy put it) for another show this time next year.

    Click here for photos from the show that are far better than the ones my cell phone camera was able to capture.

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    Straight from the underground

    The History Channel's Cities of the Underworld series stopped by Portland for an episode that aired last night. Of course, the first segment covered the (alleged) history of the Shanghai Tunnels. The show's host followed Michael Jones through the area below Hobo's in Old Town, covering all the same stuff typically seen by his tour groups. The torture closet, the opium den, the holding cell with the tiny bars and the abandoned pile of shoes were all covered.

    Since the show focuses on tales of crime and debauchery instead of the supernatural, it skipped over the ghost stories and moved on to a segment on Prohibition Rose, a brothel owner who once cranked out whiskey from a distillery beneath a Eastside building that now houses a graphic design firm. The show also touched on a speakeasy in the basement of Huber's, how the water bureau deals with flammable meth makings flushed into the city's sewers and an underground fight club that once entertained visiting cattle ranchers. One notorious bare-knuckled brawler reportedly bit off the ear of an opponent decades before the idea ever crossed Mike Tyson's mind.

    Portland's installment is worth watching, if only for the cheesy, horror movie tracking shots that pan from spots like Skidmore Fountain down through the pavement into the city's subterranean. One overly-dramatic shot makes SW Natio look positively evvvvvvvviiiiiiiil. The show also offers CGI graphics of what the tunnels and Rose’s distillery would have looked like back in the day.

    Everything's amped-up to keep viewers watching. During the host's introductions, he walks at a rapid pace through Old Town, the Hawthorne Bridge and past the Santa Fe Taqueria on NW 23rd, talking at a breathless clip as if the viewing audience's VERY LIVES depend on the information he's about to reveal. The typical intro:

    "We're standing in Portland’s Old Town district near a former WILD WEST BAR where INNOCENT men were brutally DRUGGED, KIDNAPPED and SENT OUT TO SEA a century ago. When they regained consciousness, they had two options: work for low pay or GET THROWN OVERBOARD!"

    All definitely worth seeing. The episode will reair this Sunday morning at 10 AM.

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    Monday, July 23, 2007


    It Came From My Cell Phone part 22

    A foosball table at a movie theater in Salem. 50 cents buys a match and the winner takes home a superball dispensed from separate containers over the goals. Neat.

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    Saturday, July 21, 2007


    The last go round

    So I was suckered into delving into the belly of the beast last night, down to Powell's "Harry Potter Block Party." Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know…

    What does a block party for a book release look like? 3,500+ people, primarily teenage girls, many dressed as characters from the series, all standing in line for three hours while being subjected to taunts from clubgoers rolling up and down West Burnside.

    We were stuck in front of the main doors of Powell's for the bulk of the wait, prime territory for taunts and insincere encouragement. Most of the commentary shouted from passing motorists was pretty weak. One example? "Harry Potters sucks balls," compliments of a former fratboy blasting towards the bridge in a Nissan Pathfinder. Kudos goes out to the guy that blurted "Harry Potter promotes literacy! ALL RIGHT!" while pounding on the passenger-side door of a friend's Honda.

    This isn't the first time I've done this (I know, I know...). In 2005 for the last Harry Potter brouhaha, three passing hipsters yelled the ending as we snaked towards the entrance. It happened again last night, compliments of a shaggy-haired brat on a bike who made the bold decision to ride down the line shouting out a key plot point. Much like last time, those around us simply rolled their eyes and kept chatting.

    Around 12:15, a group of yuppies drove by to taunt the crowd with copies of the book. They'd just come from the Safeway by PSU and paid $15 off the cover price without standing in line for hours. Eager to head home ASAP, especially since I had to be at work this morning and I was already running on little sleep from the night before, I decided to make the 25-block round-trip. The last copy was sold as I headed towards a cashier at Safeway and what was the customer wearing when he bought it? A Powell's t-shirt. So much for supporting local businesses.

    But let me tell you something. The whole "keep Portland weird" thing doesn’t fly when you're stuck out in the rain waiting for something you a have limited emotional investment in when you’re supposed to be at a desk in a little over 6 hours. I called Borders, the only other place downtown that would have still been open at that hour. They were about to close for the night and, with the exception of pre-orders, every copy they had was gone.

    So I marched back to Powell's. After three hours of waiting, the people I chaperoned merrily trotted back to the car with their Dumbledore-autographed copies. Did I buy one? Sure. Who am I say to no to a literary phenomenon the likes of which will never be seen again, especially while suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation?


    Friday, July 20, 2007


    Vicarious Funcycle

    Now you too can enjoy all the joy and excitement of riding
    a Funcycle along the shores of Cannon Beach on a crowded
    holiday weekend. Just click on the You Tube video above and
    prepare to be whisked past tourists, dogs and lumps of
    seaweed. Just think of the calories you, well, won't be


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    Thursday, July 19, 2007


    The Portland Mercury and the Smug Spoiler Spree

    In an apparent effort to anger as many people as possible, make small children cry and add another layer of black tar to their foul, cooler-than-thou hearts, this week the Portland Mercury decided to post a huge plot spoiler from the final Harry Potter book on their blog.

    Now I'm just a casual fan of the series. I've read two of the books and, while I haven't been impressed, I must admit that the movies ain't half bad. That said, I'm related to people who take all of this as seriously as the Mercury folks take whatever flash-in-the-pan band is hot this second, the newest bit of fashion tedium or the latest network teen yawnfest. If any of them had come across that blog post, they'd be howling for blood right now.

    The post was published with little warning of its contents and the spoiler was even in bold letters, making it impossible to miss. The spoiler is the same one that's been making the rounds since Wednesday and they even linked to a photo of what's alleged to be page 726 from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a page which includes two other massive spoilers. Based on what I've seen on other spoiler sites, this isn't a practical joke. Predictably, at least one Potter fan has left the staff a disturbing rant in their voicemail box.

    Like it or not, at the stroke of midnight tomorrow night we're all going to see the biggest literary event of our lifetimes come to pass. No one lines up around the block for the latest Don DeLillo tome, no matter how many prestigious awards he's won. Given how important this goofy series of kids books is to who knows how many fans out there, the Mercury could have at least had the common decency to link to the spoiler instead.

    Mysteriously enough, the Mercury's site is currently offline. Could this be the work of a Potter fanatic bent on revenge? If so, this just goes to show you should never piss off a massive group of people with too much time on their hands.

    UPDATE: The excerpt the Mercury published in their print edition and linked to from that blog post are fake but, from what I've heard, the spoilers contained within aren't. Long story short, they're still big meanies for publishing it.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2007


    Back to the underground

    Every once in a while, a post on this blog garners an email. Usually, it's someone looking for information on the Shanghai tunnels. I wasn't able to help out the author of this latest inquiry but I decided to post it here in case anyone else can. If the advice offered involves trespassing and/or breaking el law, I'm pretty sure I can't be held responsible. Right, Dan (or Dave, if he's out there reading this)?

    Here's the email. Feel free to pass along any info to the author in the comments section at the bottom of this post:

    Hope this reaches Laura~

    I have been doing some hunting on line for the past few weeks, trying to find out if anyone knows a way into the tunnels without having to do the stereotypical "guided tour."

    Been there-done that. I kept coming across your blogs though. There is one in particular where you mention you know of an unlocked access point. I was hoping you wouldn't mind sharing this location with me.

    My brother and I would really like to go check out the tunnels some night by ourselves and get scared to death!

    Thank you so much.

    At one point, I was convinced that the entrance outside of Hobo's in Old Town was unlocked. I never mustered up the courage to head back there in the middle of the night to check though. If it wasn't locked back then, I'm sure it is now.

    Careful down there, everybody. Thar's ghosts in them thar tunnels. On the other hand though, maybe not.

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    Seperated at birth?

    I can see why the locals would have a problem with this.

    Still, "disrespectful"? What exactly did Oliver Cromwell think of the original?

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    Another day in paradise

    Yes, that's a Phil Collins reference. Sorry.

    Jack Bog was conned while waiting for a bus downtown recently. The guy came at him with a sob story about a stolen truck and the professor handed over a few bucks. I'm sure we've all found ourselves in similar situations in similar places.

    I don't work downtown so the number of scam artists I encounter in a given year is, fortunately, limited. The first time I remember this happening, I was walking up Burnside towards Everyday Music on a summer day, must have been eight years ago. A guy wandered up with a gas can and claimed he needed to get to a job interview in Salem. I offered him a dollar and his face suddenly turned to a scowl. "Ah, c'mon, man," he said disdainfully. "You don't look like a racist. Can't you give me another dollar?" Intimidated and caught off guard by this abrupt non sequitur, I broke out another buck.

    I still remember the scornful scowl someone shot me from a nearby bus stop for giving the guy money. These days, my heart hardened, I keep walking, only offering a shake of the head when an aggressive panhandler crosses my path. The mere mention of the phrase, "Hey, man" causes me to break into a near run. I've been called names and even followed since I returned home to Portland after college. Still, my all time favorite encounter involving a street scam artist happened outside of a Vegas steakhouse.

    I've told this story on the blog a few times over the years. Sometime after graduation, I made the mistake of heading south after quitting a summer job working as a hotel clerk in Yellowstone. With nowhere to be and no desire to immediately return to Portland a failure, I foolishly headed south. Unsurprisingly, my vehicle broke down in the middle of a desert on the Arizona/Nevada border around 11 at night. After dealing with an indifferent mechanic the next day and getting kicked out of the steakhouse for asking to use their pay phone, a hustler came up to me. Supposedly, he'd lost all his cash gambling and was trying to buy a ticket back home. The man was dressed far better than me. I shot back with my own, real sob story and he quickly apologized before heading off down the street.


    Tuesday, July 17, 2007


    And we've got to get ouselves back to the garden

    Three days later, there's still dust in my hair.

    We'd come expecting hastily constructed stages and a few rows of booths surrounded by campgrounds. Instead what we found at the Oregon Country Fair was a Shangri-La/Brigadune for the unwashed masses, a temporary, utopic Disneyland for anyone who wishes the early days of the Summer of Love had infected ever facet of this country, replacing our still lingering Puritan hang-ups with endless drum circles, Thai tea and clouds of pot smoke reaching up to the skim the heavens.

    But, when you boil it all down in blue-collar, layman's terms, the Fair consists of little more than 10,000+ people walking around a sprawling, 280-acre Ewok village jammed full of people selling bird houses made out of cowboy boots and license plates. Like most things, it's a matter of perspective. One person's festival of all that is Good and Right in this world is another person's overpriced arts and crafts festival.

    My opinion falls squarely in the middle. So much love and communal spirit drenches the fairgrounds outside of Vernonia that it's impossible for even a lifelong curmudgeon to sneer at it outright. I was too unborn to watch the '60s go by. I only managed to witness the strung-out, Trustafarain echoes still lingering around Eugene during my days at the University of Oregon. Despite the high admission price, the Fair at least feels like something pure and innocent, at least as pure and innocent as a 40-year old woman covered from head-to-toe in gray body paint cavorting past candle shops and an endless, three-day long drum circle can be.

    In an afternoon I saw what may as well have been an Ent, a man rubbing sticks together to make fire, a college kid on a bed of nails getting hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer, a marching band fronted by the counter-culture equivalent of Papa Smurf and Tigger, an Elvis singing songs about global warming, people making Icees on a contraption made out of a bicycle parts, a woman reading a bizarre rant in front of a crowd of agitated children, a device that allowed me to "hear what the trees hear," art made out of rusty silverware, several oversized puppets, gongs, bongs, schlongs and enough bare breasts and naive optimism to fuel Vegas for a month. Take Burning Man, toss it in a forest with looser rules when it comes to capitalism, add more families and less Silicon Valley geeks and you've got yourself the Oregon State Fair.

    At the Fair I also ate the best potato I've ever had. It was at an Afghani booth. I have no idea what the staff did to the thing. We're talking about manna from heaven here.

    After a spell on a beach blanket next to two giggling, tripping teenagers in an ocean of people and smoke camped in front of the main stage, we went on an hour-long search for an elusive deep-fried ice cream stand. No contact highs for us, honest, no sir, uh-uh. Afterwards, metaphorical batteries recharged, we headed back to Portland, KLCC broadcasting, live, the final musical act of the night. After a spot-on cover of "Penny Lane" and "I Am the Walrus," the Beatles cover band onstage rolled into "All You Need is Love" as the late summer night sun poured over the Willamette Valley.

    Sure, just love but don't forget about the high-paying job, the 401K, the stocks, the bonds, the Lexus SUV, the discarded ethos, the condo, the pressures, etc. The '60s crowd didn't and their kids and their grandkids won't either, if they bother with the hippie game at all. Can you find me a more apt metaphor for Baby Boomers than that little Buddha up there? I'm wiling to bet the Papa Smurf equivalent, that benevolent, slightly-crazed icon of the Oregon State Fair, works as a stockbroker the other 362 days of the year. How did Hunter S. Thompson describe this sort of thing? "We're all on a survival trip now"...or something like that.

    Still, it's fun to believe and break out the old magic for 72 hours once a year. Myself, I've always preferred the sentiments behind "A Day in the Life."

    More photos from the '07 Oregon Country Fair can be found over in the ol' Flickr gallery.

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    Friday, July 13, 2007


    I think he likes turtles

    First, the original, shot down at the Rose Fest's Waterfront Village:

    Now the music video:

    And finally, the Bill O'Reilly interview:

    UPDATE: Let us not forget the "I Like Turtles" folk song video, complete with NC-17-rated turtle action towards the end. NSW, if you're an reptile.

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    And the thunder bowls

    We don't seem to get many thunderstorms around Portland. When one passes through, it's cause to head to a window to watch the show. Last night I went out on a field trip to Syun, AKA "the sushi library." On the way back, a storm hit.

    We pulled over near the Hillsboro Airport to watch lightening flash every thirty seconds. A runway allowed us enough of a vista to catch the storm's spectacle as it rolled towards Portland. We're talking about lightening worthy of a Weather Channel special, the sort that bursts into three parts and fills a chunk of the sky without seeming to reach the earth.

    I tried to get a shot with my cell phone camera. Mission? Impossible. We didn't see any nickel-sized hailstone on the way back to town though, as was predicted by at least one local weatherman. Probably for the best though.


    Thursday, July 12, 2007


    More photos from the coast

    Melancholy theme mostly unintentional.

    I don't know the story behind that destroyed beach cabin. It can be found on the south end of Cannon Beach, about a half-mile up from Hug Point. I pass by that spot at least once a year but, for some reason, I had no memory of it until this summer. I don't know if its collapse recently happened but the cabin looks like it's been sitting there, in that condition, for years.

    As for the gent in the bottom photo, he walked down to the ocean from a house overlooking the beach dressed like that on a 75 degree evening. He stared at the ocean for a bit and then turned to head down shore.

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    Music Millennium Northwest: RIP

    Buckling under the weight of rising rent and a dying industry, the Music Millennium location in NW, a local institution in and of itself, will soon close its doors. It will no doubt be replaced by some combination of the following: a $$$ restaurant, a boutique or a Pottery Barn.

    Still, the ogre here isn't just the changing face of Portland so much as the fact that what Music Millennium sells is quickly becoming obsolete. No one seems to buy tangible music these days, if they pay for it at all. How could a local music store ever hope to compete against BitTorrent, iTunes, etc.?

    It'll be sad to see it go. Back when I was a wee lad of 20, I remember driving from Eugene to Portland to see the Smashing Pumpkins (cut me a break, it was a different time and era, dammit) play an in-store set. The crowd that turned out drove the organizers to move the show down to Berbati's Pan. In addition to supporting Billy Corgan's ego on that faithful night, the store also hosted plenty of in-store gigs for innumerable smaller acts over the years.

    The flagship location on E. Burnside is still alive and hopefully it'll evolve in way that will allow it to keep running for years, if not a millennium, to come.

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    Wednesday, July 11, 2007


    Come, hear, Uncle John's band

    I've lived in this state for most of my life but I've never made a trip to the Oregon Country Fair. My plans for the weekend fell through and now I'm thinking about making my way south. For those who have gone and aren't of the, er, "hippie persuasion," is it worth the trip, if only for people watching?

    I could use some advice. For example, will I find myself surrounded by people yelling "Narc!" if I dare mix a non-branded Gap t-shirt with Birkenstocks?

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    The name's Dr. Butts and he's running a little behind

    Oregon's new smoking ban won't go into effect until July of 2009, leaving me enough time to ponder this: if spending an hour in the Horse Brass on a busy night is the equivalent of chain smoking 10 unfiltered cigarettes (my own guesstimate), what's it going to be like after July '09? Regardless of the upcoming ban, it's going to take years for that place to air out.

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    I (don't) want a new drug

    If what last week's cover story in the Mercury claims is true, something called the betel leaf offers effects that make kava seem like a half glass of Dr. Pepper. Sure, for most people kava packs the same punch as a glass of warm milk but, as I pointed out elsewhere, I'm not most people.


    Tuesday, July 10, 2007


    Vermont wins!

    This is an outrage. It's an insult. A slap in the face. Do the Simpsons really look the sort of family that would be living in Vermont? Among the gentle, Ben and Jerry's producing, maple syrup sucking denizens of a "state" that should have wound up as an extension of New Hampshire? Of course not.

    The Simpson's Springfield is based on a city that (once had, at least) a nuclear power plant, still has a nearby mountain and is a short hop away from the ocean. Springfield, Oregon, before the demolition of the Trojan Nuclear Plant, was, at least, within driving distance of all of these things AND creator Matt Groening's hometown. Can Springfield, Vermont boast the same? Huh? Huh?

    Sure, Vermont's Springfield is more picturesque and their video was slightly, slightly better but Oregon was robbed, I tells ya'. Robbed.

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    Sunday, July 08, 2007


    Random photos from Cannon Beach's Fourth of July parade

    That one in the middle could be taken as an apt photographic metaphor for the country's foreign policy during the Bush administration. Or maybe a kid asleep in a cardboard bomb is just a kid asleep in a cardboard bomb. I'll let you decide.



    A Transformers review from SE Asia

    Pete, a colleague currently living and working in Bangkok, communicates with me mostly in movie reviews these days. Every month or so, he sends me his thoughts on the latest American blockbuster to land on the shores of Thailand. Here's what he had to say about Transformers:

    Heads Up!

    Transformers opened a week early in Asia, and I obviously caught it over the weekend. The first half is so unbelievably good they should issue Wet Wipes at the door so you can clean yourself after you climax. The second half is a mess. But the first half... fucking awesome. It's like some hack studio writer found an early treatment of the script first he penned in the mid-eighties when he still believed in Hollywood magic, did some blow to catch the nostalgia vibe, inserted some post-9/11, Iraq, war on terror quips that actually work, and called 'er good. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the guy who wrote "The Last Starfighter" did the initial treatment. The whole thing is 80s influenced without being 80s referential. You'll see what I mean. Or maybe you'll hate it. Who knows. But I hope you'll agree that even with the wasted second half, this movie is ten times better than the animated movie from 198-whatever. I tried to watch that a few years ago and turned it off after twenty minutes. (A similar thing happend a few weeks ago when I walked out of "Pirates of the Carribean--Whatever the Fuck It Was Called" with about twenty minutes left. I really don't care what happened at the end. I'm not even sure what was happening when I left.)

    Highly Recommended!

    I tried to see the movie last night at the 99 West, still my favorite movie venue within 30 square miles of Portland. We showed up over 90 minutes before the first feature but it was already sold out. I guess everybody living out in "the country" really loves giant robots hellbent on beating the crap out of one another.

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    Saturday, July 07, 2007


    Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

    I missed the big news while I was out of town. No, not that GW let Scooter Libby off the hook, the even bigger news. 7-11 didn't grant any of its Portland locations a Kwik-E-Mart makeover to help promote the upcoming Simpsons Movie. Here's a list of cities less deserving than Portland that still received the honor:

    Bladensburg, MD
    Coquitlam, BC
    Mountain View, CA
    Henderson, NV
    Seattle, WA.

    Seattle? Are you kidding me?!! What connection does the Emerald City have to Matt Groening or The Simpsons? Have any of the characters been named after its streets? Did Groening grow up there? No and, nope, a stint at nearby Evergreen College doesn't count. So it's a bigger market with more potential exposure? Sure, but how does that justify Coquitlam making the cut but not Portland?

    Perhaps as a concession, Pioneer Courthouse Square will host this event tomorrow. Plus, there's still a chance Springfield, OR. will host the premiere.

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    I typically spend the days leading up to 4th of July with family down at Cannon Beach. It's become an annual tradition. July 3rd was like any other before it. I woke up, spent some time on a Funcycle and killed part of the afternoon wave jumping in the Pacific. The weather was perfect and the ocean actually felt warm for a change. A flock of pelicans fishing out past the breakers further added to an idyllic scene worthy of the overpriced seaside portraits found in the town's galleries. All in all, none of us could have hoped for a better day at the coast.

    I was in our hotel room later in the evening when we all heard the whirring. A Coast Guard helicopter was circling over a spot in the water directly across the beach from our deck. My first inclination was to grab a camera. Next door, a father had a video camera. Something terrible had just gone down but here we both were, eager to get the situation stored forever on our memory cards. Silhouetted against the sunset, the copter looked like it belonged in a Michael Bay movie. I spotted more cameras down on the beach. I didn’t see a news van in the parking lot until the following morning.

    A later search on Oregon Live turned up an explanation. A local teenager made the mistake of going out too far in the surf. His two friends came back and he didn't. The search continued into the night. I woke up around 2:30 and headed outside to find an eerie scene. The copter was still circling down towards Haystack Rock, its light bouncing off the "Needles." A truck was pacing up and down the shoreline with a spotlight shinning out across the waves. It's a memory that will stay me for a long time.

    People deal with things like this in different ways. Most shrug and go on with their day. I've since deleted the pictures and I would hope the guy next door has erased whatever footage he took. The authorities gave up the search on the morning of the 4th.

    And I was back out in the ocean that afternoon with dozens of others up and down the beach, all of us bouncing around in the waves and the undertow but maybe not out quite as far. How many of us had heard the news before jumping in?

    And on the way out on Sunday night, along US 26 I passed by this.

    Sunday, July 01, 2007


    Happy Fourth of July three days early

    I'll be out of town and far from the internet for the next five days. Until I'm back around these parts, here's a few iPhone photos (my sister bought one last night) of fireworks currently available at various stands across the Columbia River in Vancouver. This first one supposedly contains $1200 worth of pyrotechnics but retails for $599 at a stand near Blackjack's. For demolition experts operating on a budget, "Big Man" sells for a mere $149.99.

    Not that I can afford any of them, even the third one down, which is supposed to be an airport. It's probably for the best that none of these places would let me start a tab.





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