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Thursday, January 31, 2008
KGW in Pioneer Square
Regardless of whether or not this is a good idea it's sure to make for some great local television. The Today show seems to draw nothing but tourists in NYC. Who's going to turn out to stand in the background of news broadcasts in Pioneer Courthouse Square? Readers over at OMI are speculating that the crowds will consist of street kids, protesters and crazies. Whatever the scene, it's sure to be more entertaining than the still backdrops of Mt. Hood and the Portland skyline.
A Roadside Attraction
For too long Portland has been in dire need of a bar that looks like an Arizona tourist trap crossbred with a PF Chang's and a tiki bar. Thankfully, a while back the owners of A Roadside Attraction (1000 SE 12th Ave) came along to fill this gap. Plopped on the edge of SE's industrial district, the bar is one of the weirder drinking establishments in town.
From the sidewalk A Roadside Attraction looks like a warehouse that's been converted into some sort of clubhouse. An outdoor seating area behind a large, wooden fence is littered with knicknacks and cubby-hole booths. Inside, different types of East meet different types of West. A sign swiped from the Pendleton Round-Up advises patrons to keep their clothes on at all times. The bar itself may as well have been stolen from a beach house. A large, red pool table sits in the middle of a room filled with booths and decor possibly rescued from a long-forgotten Chinese restaurant. Street signs lead to the bathrooms. If I ever become a rich eccentric, Roadside Attraction is what my living room will no doubt like.
It's non-smoking and the small menu offers entrees like crab cakes and kabobs. When the weather finally clears up I hope to add the place to my growing list of places around town to kill time on a sunny day.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Timber Jim is calling it quits
Last week Jim Serrill, AKA Timber Jim, announced he was laying down his chainsaw and retiring after decades of serving as what may as well have been the country's greatest sports mascot. Say what you will about the San Diego Chicken but I've never seen him do a backflip, swing from rafters over a crowd, spend half a game on top of a utility pole or lead a crowd of drunk, obscenity-spewing soccer fans through a rendition of "You are My Sunshine."
I had the honor of interviewing Timber Jim at PGE Park a few years ago. A lot of our conversation sadly wound up on the cutting room floor due to space limitations. Still, I consider it the most enjoyable interview I conducted during my short stint as a "professional, mostly unpaid alt-weekly journalist." He'll make one last appearance at a home match on April 17th. God help the poor sap that's hired as his replacement.
Another Virginia Cafe update
The owners are looking to transfer into the new location sometime in late February. More info, including some great historical tidbits, can be found in this story from today's Oregonian.
Photos from an uneventful snow-clogged commute
Under normal circumstances an inch of snow on the ground would be grounds to stay home from work. Unfortunately, my company's uptight attendance policy turns what would typically qualify as a snow day into a crap shoot. Would this amount of snowfall count or earn me a dreaded "occurrence"? My attendance record as of late hasn't been so hot so it was a chance I couldn't afford to take. Calling in sick from London last September may have allowed me to scratch a line off my bucket list but it isn't doing jack squat for me in the bleak midwinter of 2008.
So I bit the bullet and set out 30 minutes earlier than usual this morning, expecting to run into pandemonium and chaos and this. Any amount of snowfall in Portland can lead to a nightmarish commute. The tracks of what may or may not have been a lone coyote in my front yard somehow served as an foreboding sign of what was to come.
Except that everything went smoothly. Few motorists were running the not-so icy gauntlet of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway at 7 AM so I made it to work a full 25-minutes early. With the exception of a poorly-executed right turn that caused me to skid a bit, it was completely uneventful. I didn't see any cars abandoned on the side of the road or any jack-knifed Tri-Met buses. Instead, I spotted several joggers darting down snow-covered sidewalks. Even the MAX seemed to be running without a problem and Portland Public Schools, which almost always closes for any measurable amount of snowfall, settled for a two-hour late opening. That said, I'm glad I didn't have to pull down the driveway pictured above onto SW Terwilliger this morning.
So this begs the question: how many inches of snow does it take to shut down Portland for a full day? A storm last year dumped, I want to say, four inches on the ground, effectively bringing the city to its knees for roughly 24 hours. If I had to guess I'd set the bar at two inches. Today's measly inch or so may as well have been gone and forgotten by 10 AM.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The Decemberists at the Crystal Ballroom - 1/23/07
You know how people gush over Bruce Springsteen now? Regardless or whether or not they've been into him since his early days in Jersey or just discovered him after realizing he's recorded songs other than "Born in the USA"? Well, I'm about to slather Colin Meloy with that same brand of devout acclaim.
The man is goddamn American treasure and I hope one day he'll receive the same sort of accolades Bruce has received for decades now. After a mysterious illness led to the cancellation of the Decemberists' "Long and Short of It" tour, the band played two dates in Portland this week.
I went to the second show. During which, Meloy jumped into the crowd, ran across the Crystal Ballroom, danced a jig on a table and crowd surfed his way back to the stage. He also led the audience in an over-21 vs under-21 sing-along, hosted an impromptu reenactment of the Shanghai Tunnel legends and recruited twenty audience members on stage to sing the chorus of "Sons and Daughters."
This could all be written off as gimmickry if these theatrics weren't accompanied by nearly two hours of solid music making. I can think of no band I've seen live in my entire life that plays with the same sort of enthusiasm and unbridled passion that Meloy and the Decemberists do. I can't tell you the number of shows I've been to where it's all the band on stage can do to mutter a few "thank you"s into the mic and get through a 90-minute set. The Decemberists actually seem to enjoy going up on stage and playing music for their fans.
So, yes, the Decemberists more than made up for going MIA last fall. Offering no explanation for their absence other than a quick apology, the band was in top form with nary a bit of rust holding them back after months of inactivity. After a 15-minute "Mariner's Revenge Song" that closed the initial set, they returned to the stage for an extended "A Cautionary Tale." About halfway through, guitarist Chris Funk jumped into the crowd to reenact a Shanghai Tunnel kidnapping with volunteers from the crowd.
Before the final chorus of "Sons and Daughters," the band stopped playing so Meloy could tell the crowd to carry its words "through the debates and primaries in the months to come." He invited some of the teenagers up front on stage to sing the song's fading chorus, "here all the bombs fade away." Despite being an incredibly cheesy "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" move, it was heartfelt and sincere enough to make it worthwhile.
Then, for me at least, that magical little concert moment was undermined five minutes later when I overheard one of those teens loudly brag "I so stole the fucking set list" at the crosswalk on Burnside.
Where does the band go from here? Their last album, The Crane Wife was their first release on a major album. It received a substantial amount of good press from critics but others knocked the band for regurgitating more of the same "Victorian schtick." How much longer can Meloy keep writing songs about peasants and long-forgotten ghosts before the charm of it all fades away? Well, the Boss has been coughing-up the same songs about modern era hard luck cases for thirty years now and he doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Here's hoping the Decemberists are still landing themselves 5-star reviews in 2035.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Further proof that learning is fun
In a comment on a previous post, Lelo of Lelo in Nopo pointed out that chi-chi means something in Spanish that has little to do with one of the cocktails on the menu at Thatch. I punched the word into the Urban Dictionary and Webster's and, apparently, it means something different depending on where you're standing on the planet:
And now we all know.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Oh, asbinthe where art thou?
I've been looking to buy a bottle of absinthe since I heard that federal restrictions surrounding the liquor had been lifted here in the states. While I could probably track down a bottle online and have it shipped to me, I'm determined to buy one in a Portland liquor store.
Following a rumor I read online, I headed down to Pearl Specialty Market & Spirits in search of one. Sadly, the only thing they had on their shelves was "absente," a bastardized version of the real-deal that's been available in the US for years now. I spoke with a clerk and he said they're still at least a few months away from carrying absinthe on their shelves. He also mentioned that two local distilleries are in the early stages of producing their own brands.
I sent an email to one, House Spirits, the makers of Medoyeff Vodka and Aviation Gin, and received a reply about a day later. I guess they're working on it but the legalities surrounding absinthe production in the states is still murky. It could be a while before it hits the streets.
All things considered, I'm thinking it could be summer before I find even an imported bottle on a local liquor store shelf.
Matador vs. matador
Is there room in this town for more than one matador-themed night spot? That's what this article in this week's WW seeks to find out. I make it down to the original about once a year. At one point, the Matador on West Burnside had a mens room that was one of the creepiest in the city, like something out of a Silent Hill game. I guess its reputation hasn't changed since my last visit. The article describes the restroom as "the kind of place where bad things happen."
I remember heading in there a few years ago to discover one stall boarded-up and the door off the second ripped off entirely. A piece of plywood covered the spot where a toilet had once been. I wouldn't have walked across the floor barefoot for $100,000. And the smell....oh, God. If Satan ever decided to come out with his own brand of air freshener, that's would it would probably smell like.
Despite all that, I think I'll stick with the Matador on Burnside. The newcomer, Casa del Matador, seems a little Pearl District-y for my tastes.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Awkward conversations with strangers # 2
Most Friday nights I head out to a movie or hit the bars. Last Friday I found myself in Sherwood with my sister, her sick cat, a group of Ron Paul supporters and two fratboy baristas.
Ok, let me clarify.
My sister's cat has a fairly severe medical condition that requires (thankfully rare) trips to a vet hospital in Sherwood. On Friday night she had to rush the poor thing down there after work and I decided to go along to provide emotional support. Plus, we had previously-arranged plans to go out for dinner and later meet up with people for tiki drinks.
As if an abrupt trip to a vet hospital wasn't strange enough, we discovered a group of Ron Paul supporters standing on a patch of grass alongside the off-ramp to Sherwood. It was a surreal sight. There was around six of them madly shaking American flags, tooting on horns and waving at traffic on Interstate 5 beside large "RON PAUL '08" signs. I guess that's one way to promote a lost cause. Frankly, if I was hellbent on promoting a doomed-to-fail political campaign I'd do it someplace warmer. Like the Internet.
Once we arrived at the hospital I was assigned the task of heading across the street to a Dutch Bros to pick up coffee. I guess it's mandated protocol for baristas at the chain to ask every customer what their plans are for the evening. Every time I go to a Dutch Bros I'm inevitably asked the question, "So, what are you up to?" I decided to answer the question honestly for a change:
ME: "Uh, I came down from Portland with my sister. Her cat needs a blood transfusion at the vet hospital across the street. She sent me over here to pick up a mocha while she fills out paperwork."
FRATBOY BARISTA # 1: (not expecting this) "Woah, really?"
Upon hearing the word "cat" and "blood transfusion," a second skeptical fratboy barista walked over to inquire further.
FRATOBY BARISTA # 2: "Wait, a blood transfusion? For a cat? Where do they get the blood?"
ME: "I guess they have donor cats that live at pet hospitals like this" (as far as I know, this is true).
FRATBOY BARISTA # 1: So the donor cats live at the hospital and every once in a while the nurses tap their veins and steal their blood?"
ME: "Something like that, I guess. I'm not sure how it all works."
FRATBOY BARISTA # 2: "Poor kitties."
ME: "Yeah, there's a lot I'm learning about the feline health care industry tonight. Take care."
I felt like I ruined their night with this bleak tale of feline inequality. Before I came along they had no idea that cats across the street from their workplace were being kept for the express purpose of having their bodily fluids hijacked by the owners of more fortunate cats. As I headed back across the street I looked over my shoulder. One of the baristas had wandered out the back door and was watching me, possibly verifying that I was indeed returning to the hospital and hadn't made up this bizarre anecdote on the spot for the express purpose of screwing with them.
Thankfully, my sister's cat is going to be fine the rest of the evening wasn't nearly as awkward as that trip to Dutch Bros. It did, however, involve the consumption of Middle Eastern-style pizza at Arabian Breeze. Three days later I can still taste it every time I burp.
As for the hard-working cats that bravely donate their blood to keep the feline health care industry a-rollin', I salute them and their efforts. If you have a cat you would like to volunteer as a blood donor to help take the burden off donor cats across the country, here's a helpful link. As for this blog post, I think it may be the weirdest one I've ever written. Hooray!
Labels: awkward conversations
Awkward conversations with strangers # 1
The first in what may or may not become an ongoing series!
At a sold-out screening of There Will Be Blood at Cinema 21 I found myself sitting next to three possibly drunk and/or stoned women in their early 60s. After tossing down their coats, two of them ran off to buy sodas, leaving me to kill time with their chatty friend.
HER: Wow, there's a lot of people here.
ME: Yeah, a big turnout. I think Cinema 21 is the only theater in town showing this movie right now.
HER: [standing up] This a real happening. Wow! Look at them all.
ME: Yeah, it's, um, a....happening all right.
Over a week later I still don't know what a "happening" is. So I decided to look it up. According to dictionary.com...
Happening: an unconventional dramatic or artistically orchestrated performance, often a series of discontinuous events involving audience participation.
I don't know if I would describe director Paul Thomas Anderson's "cinematic trip into the darkest corners of the human soul" (I read that in a review somewhere) a "happening" but it's definitely something. I think "bleak tour de force" might be a better way to describe the movie. Or "really flippin' good, y'all" works too.
The lady and her friends spent a good portion of the movie giggling at random moments, especially during the "WTF?" climax. I think they liked it more than I did and I'm sure gin played a part in that. If I see the movie again I'm totally getting wasted beforehand.
Labels: awkward conversations
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The switch has been flipped
Another Portland Blog is alive, kinda like Johnny Five. If anyone out there notices any broken links or other problems please don't hesitate to drop me a line via the comments link below. Thanks.
And now here's a link to something Portland-y.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Goodbye laurabush.info, hello anotherportlandblog.com
Here's a conversation I find myself in the middle of all too often:
When I first purchased the URL laurabush.info way back in 2003 I was looking for a way to kill time at work. The address was originally meant to serve as the home of a satirical blog "penned" by the First Lady. It was too late to get my money back by the time I came to my senses and decided to whip together a lame-brained blog about Portland instead. I've been meaning to change the URL for what seems like forever. With the Bush-era slooooowly drawing to a close now is as good a time as any.
So the collections of blurry cell phone photos and posts about movies, tofurkeys and whatever else I've been writing about for going on five years (oh, how I've wasted the bulk of my 20s...) will continue but at a different address. I'm hoping the transition will be smooth but there's at least a 76% chance I'll screw everything up and loose at least 36 months worth of archives during the transition. Figuring out how to change the photo links on 1700 posts is what I'm looking forward to the most. And by "looking forward" I mean "dreading with the sort of fear typically experienced by first-time cliff divers."
Sometime in the next few days, possibly tonight, laurabush.info will be put out to pasture. This is the last post that will appear under its flagship. Typing in that URL will soon redirect you over to anotherportlandblog.com. Welcome to Blog is about to become Another Portland Blog, a name that I think sums up this blog pretty well and better reflects my continued efforts to explore both the city I adore with unrequited love and the nether regions of self-effacement.
Or something like that. It's all apart of an attempt to "normalize" this blog and, with any luck, encourage me to keep future posts more Portland-centric instead of all over the place. That said, I'm currently working on a post about a sex museum in Amsterdam.
Oh well, at least I tried. You can't teach an old blog new tricks.
2002 - 2008
2008 - ?
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Cloverfield, the mysterious new monster movie from J.J. Abrams with a title that sounds like a brand of cigarettes that might have been popular in the '20s, is set to open with midnight screenings around Portland tomorrow night. I'm sure I'll see it over the weekend but I'm not going to head in with super-high expectations. I've made a point of avoiding early reviews and spoilers because I'd like to see a movie knowing as little about it as possible for a change. While the viral marketing surrounding Cloverfield has shrouded the movie in secrecy I'm not expecting anything more than 90-minutes of Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project.
Here's hoping there's more to it than that. Something like a twist ending or a last-second revelation that the entire movie is a practical joke would be nice. Maybe it will tie into Lost or perfectly sync-up with a random Neil Diamond album. Or maybe in the last 30-seconds a character will shout out "that isn't a monster the size of a skyscraper, it's a blood-thirsty clone of Max Weinberg the size of a skyscraper!"
Regardless, here's hoping this is the beginning of a trend. I've never understood why this time of year is used as a dumping ground for low-budget horror movies and quick n' cheap romantic comedies. The weather is lousy and the holidays are over. There's not much going on between New Year's and the Super Bowl. What better time of year to pack audiences into movie theaters?
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Everyone's favorite critical darlings Radiohead are embarking on a US tour in a few months. Where will they be playing their unique blend of Britpop and ambient electronica? Tampa, among other places. Where will they not be playing their unique blend of Britpop and ambient electronica? Portland. Why? Possibly because one certain local resident wrote what could be the only negative words in existence regarding their new album.
Yeah, I blame myself. Ok, not really but this a slap in the face, especially since the band opted to play in Auburn, Washington on their 2003 tour instead of Portland. Auburn now Tampa. That hurts. What's next? A date on a future tour in Kelso instead of the Keller Auditorium?
94.7 FM's "Alternative Mornings" host Greg Glover is trying to rectify this presumed oversight by petitioning the band's guitarist. It may do some good, it may not but here's the link. I sent off an email myself. It's the least I could do but I still think In Rainbows is incredibly overrated.
Like pictures of a sunny day
One of the drawbacks of spending your winters in Portland: it's easy to forget the last time your skin came into contact with rays of the sun. The big ball of hydrogen and helium made a rare January appearance on Sunday and, like the kids in "All Summer in a Day," I headed outside to make the most of it.
Instead of sadistically locking a classmate in a closet and running off to pick wildflowers I settled instead for pumpkin bread french toast at Beaterville and an afternoon of running around town in search of comic books and a desk calendar. Random blurry cell phone photos? Of course...
I'm not sure what that guy's head is doing in the middle of a toilet seat but I'm sure there's a good reason for it. This can be found on a wall near the mens room.
Parked outside: a car with bunny-related side panels.
Crow Bar. Crowbar? Crow. Bar. Crow Bar. Oooooooooooooooh, now I get it.
I spotted this spotless Ferrari unattended in the middle of the Pearl District. If I owned this machine I don't know if I'd be so cocky, what with all the bicyclist activists around town and the harboring of resentments and the anger towards motor vehicles and the good glaven! This isn't a sports car, it's a $100K+ target for a half-empty cup of coffee. I'm just saying...
Saturday, January 12, 2008
At the Meh-vies 2007
Towards the end of December it seemed like every blog and print publication in the country ran a Best Movies of 2007 list. Some of them even tossed in a Worst Movies of 2007 list but what about the films that fell in the middle? The ones that received mediocre reviews and earned themselves "meh"s from audiences and critics alike?
Someone had to come up with a Most Mediocre Movies of 2007 list and I've decided to accept this challenge. Here are the top ten most run-of-the-mill films I saw last year:
1. Southland Tales - A frantic, coked-up mishmash of politics, War on Terror paranoia, science fiction, drama, satire, Saturday Night Live skits, the Strokes and random '80 sitcoms. The movie is incredibly ambitious and its reach is so far beyond its grasp that the two may as well be sitting on different continents. Southland Tales should be studied in film schools around the world as an example of how a writer-director can get so many things right in a movie and so much else completely wrong. Southland Tales was written off by critics and audiences that didn't have any patience for it but I think it's too damn weird and ballsy to be ignored forever. Here's hoping it becomes some sort of cult classic.
Friday, January 11, 2008
What exactly is a "zot"?
I wish I could tell you.
I've seen a lot of social networking communities in my time. I'm currently a member of no less than a dozen ranging from MySpace to LinkedIn to Flickr. I thought Twitter was the oddest I'd seen (updating the entire world on what you're doing at given second? Why?) until I came across something called "MyZots."
I'm now a registered member of the still-stuck-in-beta myzots.com and after spending fifteen minutes roaming around the site I still can't quite explain it. A good portion of that time was spent getting through the registration process. Apparently, my zots don't like Firefox. After numerous attempts to convince the site to accept the password I came up with I gave it a shot in Internet Explorer where I successfully managed to register on the first try. Lousy Bill Gates-lovin' zots. They obviously didn't get that trait from my side of the family.
Now that I'm in I guess the idea is that I'm supposed to state my opinion on any number of topics, er, "zots" or create my own. I can also rate my attitude, or as the site would have it "temperature," towards each one and compare it to that of other users. Ultimately, the site's function seems to be to serve as a thermometer for the community's collective interest in current political controversies. One zot currently up for discussion: "should Hilary's cleavage be an issue in the presidential campaign?" My temperature on that one: indifferent. The temperature of the entire MyZots community on Senator Clinton's boobs: cool.
It's as if someone got the idea to merge the color-scheme and dubious medicinal benefits of Dr. Mario with a web poll. Ultimately, I can't see this one becoming the next Facebook.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Random thought time
So this is my last Monday off before I revert back to a normal M - F work schedule. Instead of doing anything remotely productive I've blown a good portion of my afternoon playing the Apple II version of Oregon Trail on an emulator. I named every person in my party after members of the Bush administration and sent them off on the trail late in the season with limited supplies.
Despite all that, everybody made it to the Willamette but Dick Cheney. He suffered an unfortunate accident as the party attempted to ford a river in Kansas. Sorry Dick. For Round 2 I'll give my hearty pioneers the same names I did back in third grade. Good, wholesome, all-American and less likely to land me in a secret prison names like "Poopy Butt" and "Diarrhea."
So all this nostalgia has got me thinking that this old elementary school classic would make great fodder for a Decemberists' song. It's got all the elements: oddball 19th century historical tidbits, violence and assorted grimness. Text from the game like "_______ has died of dysentery" and "you have shot 965 pounds of bear meat but can only carry 100 back to the wagon" would make great lyrics.
Or not. Nonetheless, here's hoping a song with a title like "A Thief Has Stolen a Wagon Wheel and Two Sets of Clothing" gets unveiled when the band plays the Crystal Ballroom later this month.
It's 2008 and we don't have flying cars yet...
..but we do have pancakes in a can.
Just squirt, cook and eat. It's that easy. While humankind has yet solve the whole war/poverty/celebrity worship thing, at least we can slouch towards the apocalypse with cans of Batter Blaster held high.
It took me a few tries to get the hang of it. After three thin, burnt pancakes wound up in the trash I decided to read the instructions. My next attempt turned up as light and fluffy as anything I could make with Bisquick, water and ninety additional seconds of effort.
Here's to you, Batter Blaster. While you may not be absinthe you certainly made my weekend 10 - 12% more enjoyable.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Tonight was a good night
A big win for the Blazers, a big win for Obama in Iowa and (hopefully) a big win for local absinthe fans.
Labels: winning is fun
The absinthe hunt continues...
Someday my dream will come true. A dream to consume absinthe, legally, within the United States, preferably in a bar where people can roll their eyes at me when I order it. I received no less than six eye rolls and one insult when I made the mistake of ordering a glass in a London pub last fall.
According to this excellent Salon article I saw linked on Blogtown this morning, the stuff has never been very popular in Britain. I guess that's why someone behind me muttered something to the effect of, "Stupid Yank. Probably spent all day waiting to get on the London Eye." Whether or not it's considered kosher 3,000 miles from here, I'm still determined to make a semi-regular habit of absinthe consumption. I'm already looking into taking out an insurance policy on my ears.
The Salon article was also linked by "Food Dude" over on Portland Food and Drink. One of his readers mentioned that a liquor store down in the Pearl District may now carry absinthe on its shelves. Woo hoo! With any luck I'll have a brand new personal vice to enjoy this weekend.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
All the house cats I know couldn't pull this off
Lessons learned in the last 24 hours
Another New Year's Eve/Day, another round of valuable life lessons learned the hard way. This year's batch includes...