April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Going to San Francisco, sans flowers in my hair

I had plans for this week. Big plans. Interesting plans. Plans that you might even want to read about on this blog.

But then I fell off a hiking trail three weeks ago and those plans went up in flames faster than a Nazi during the last five minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Now I'm stuck taking an anti-inflammatory medication for a leg injury, which means I can't really spend a lot of time on my feet and, more importantly, I can't drink. So a trip to the Burning Man festival has been called off and a back-up plan to spend a few days with friends running around Washington DC is also out.

Instead, I'm going to drive around northern California in a Camry, which also means I can't do anything like this:


I don't think I could pull that off in a sensible four-door sedan.

I'll be back here with more of the same sometime after the holiday weekend. Until then, here's a link to freelance writer Bryan McCray's dispatches from Black Rock City, if you're in the mood to read about people covering themselves in dust and building gigantic art installations in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly, he'll be the first person in history to live blog from Burning Man as it unfolds.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Random Cell Phone Photo(s) # 38

Some random stuff from around the city:

Irony or is the owner of this bike upset over losing their license after one too many DUI convictions? Consider this: the bike was parked outside of last month's Brewers Festival at Waterfront Park.

A crowd at the downtown Voodoo Doughnut. The "magic" is still presumably located somewhere in the region of the hole. Or maybe it was relocated to a spot within their second location on NE Sandy.

At a Flicks on the Bricks screening of Ghostbusters in Pioneer Courthouse Square a few weeks ago. Slimer, Bill Murray, Gozer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, cats and dogs, mass hysteria, 1984...man, those sure were the days.

A blurry photo of a painting on a wall at the Fire on the Mountain location on North Interstate. Let's see, I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be Jerry Garcia hanging out on the edge of a volcano with Jimi Hendrix, Frida Kahlo and the "We Can Do It" lady. Yup.

Their chicken wings are excellent. I have it on good authority that their deep fried Twinkies are also excellent.


Sunday, August 24, 2008


And now for something that actually has something to do with something in this state...

I've heard some interesting stories about Oregonian columnist Steve Duin over the years but, during a dark day at the state's big daily last week, he did this.

Which I think is pretty classy.



But what would Kurt have thunk?

I recently killed part of an afternoon in Seattle's Capitol Hill district and the Pike/Pine Corridor. Supposedly the "heart of trendy Seattle," they've been dubbed everything from Seattle's equivalent of San Francisco's Castro district to the birthplace of grunge. Supposedly, Pearl Jam came up with their band name in a Capitol Hill coffeehouse and several bands from that era got their start in nearby clubs.

On Wednesday the only signs I could find of the district's grunge past were a few record stores, a head shop and a middle-aged homeless man busy screaming out the lyrics to a song from Vs. outside of a QFC. I can't say I was surprised. When I visited the Haight a few years ago I found a burnt-out junkie standing next to a Ben and Jerry's across the street from a Gap at the district's famous intersection. Apt metaphors for the dark sides of two generations worth of hopeless dreamers?


Capitol Hill and Pike/Pine seem like they're experiencing the first pangs of gentrification. Or maybe it's more like the fifth or sixth-thousandth pangs. Apartment buildings are turning into condos and I spotted a few people trotting down the street pushing baby carriages. You can practically watch real estate prices climb like time-lapse film footage of weeds growing but there's still a few rundown, graffiti-covered buildings to be found. The impression that I was left with is that the entire area is on the verge of going full-blown Pearl District at any given second.

One sign that the neighborhood is mutating into a yuppie stronghold is Bimbo's Cantina, formerly Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen. The internet tells me that this place was once a hole-in-the-wall hipster hangout with a staff known for being rude and, well, downright bitchy to customers. Its new location, sans the lucha libre stain-gassed windows and south-of-the-border brick-a-brak, could easily pass for a martini bar.

Nonetheless, my rather polite waiter was wearing a flannel shirt straight out of an early Soundgarden press photo and my Homestyle Burrito put the similar "Elmer Fudd" burrito at the Belmont Laughing Planet to shame. Weighing in at what had to be a full pound or more, this monstrosity combined the best parts of a traditional burrito with a Thanksgiving dinner. I left the place feeling like a boa constrictor that had just consumed a Disneyland employee in a Mickey Mouse costume.

I wish I could have seen the neighborhood in the early-90s but I guess I'll just have to settle for the condos, the fantastic burritos and Stumptown Coffee's first non-Portland location.

Some other stuff:

A Jimi Hendrix statue outside the Capitol Hill Everyday Music.

An old movie poster on the side of a warehouse.

Uh, yeah.

"News" being a bunch of show posters and Green Peace ads stabled to the side of a former telephone pole.

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Radiohead clips

Here's two herky-jerky clips I captured with my camera on Wednesday night:

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Radiohead @ the $%%!@ White River Ampitheatere

No one else I know was foolhardy to go with me to watch Radiohead in the rain last night. There's plenty of horror stories out there about the White River Ampitheatere. About how it's located in one of the worst spots imaginable for an outdoor venue. About the nightmarish gridlocks that back up traffic all the way from the I-5 on-ramp onto Highway 18. About how what should be a 45 minute drive to or from Seattle can turn into a tedious hell ride.

Despite all that, I decided to head south 30 minutes before the opening act on the heels of an afternoon spent running around the Emerald City. I assumed that I could avoid five o'clock traffic and any traffic snarls leading to the ampitheatere by arriving just before Radiohead was set to go on stage. Well, that didn't happen.

Once I was off the interstate I found myself in an ocean of frustrated Seattle hipsters all trying to get to the same place I was heading. At one point, it took 20-minutes to go half a mile. If I hadn't been traveling alone, I would have jumped out to smoke a cigarette in the middle of the highway like so many other people did to kill time.

Total travel time from downtown Seattle: Two. And. A. Half. Hours. The White River Ampitheatere can found down a skinny two-lane highway in the middle of the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation. Several poorly-timed stoplights along the way bog traffic down even further.

I arrived about 20 minutes into the band's set as they were playing "2 _ 2 = 5" and found a spot in the nosebleed edge of the ampitheater's lawn. Radiohead's light show, which consists of video screens and skinny florescent picture tube doodads truly is amazing. While they mostly stuck to their post-Kid A space rock stuff the atmosphere, the light show and Thom Yorke's spastic bobblehead dancing made it all worth while.

It rained on and off again the entire time and, in maybe a weird way, maybe that's the ideal conditions for a Radiohead show. Or maybe the ampitheater's amazing ability to retain what the crowd was smoking numbed me to the cold and mud.
Yeah, that's what I meant when I typed "atmosphere."

It took 90 minutes to get back to the interstate. Memo to Radiohead's management: there's two gigantic stadiums in the middle of downtown Seattle that can handle a crowd of 20,000+ much better the middle of flippin' nowhere. If they ever make it back to the Northwest you might want to look into them.

Here's a link to the Seattle PI's review of last night's show.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Bikini Coffee Co.

I know people who have worked as baristas and they'll tell you that it's a bad idea to brew coffee while wearing sneakers and outright insane to do it while dressed in a swim suit. Nonetheless, coffee shops with bikini-clad hostesses have been popping up all over the country. A Bikini Coffee Co. location recently opened in downtown Portland, drawing plenty of local headlines and a few protesters last week. But is the coffee any good?

I wish I could tell you but, honestly, when it comes to coffee I have the tastes of a 14 year-old girl. I'm the sort of person that dumps sugar on Frosted Flakes and actually likes the flavor of Red Bull. Regular coffee tastes like acid-flavored acid to me and I can only drink a cup if I dump in a few handfuls of sugar first. Still, mochas aren't half bad and I can even go so far as to say I like the Snickers-flavored stuff that Dutch Brothers sells.

Fortunately, the downtown Bikini Coffee location sells a similar drink. Unfortunately, it tastes like it's made out of a new hybrid-brand of super sweet sugar brewed in a lab by sadistic flavor scientists. It's just too damn sweet, even for me. As for the rest of the Bikini Coffee Company's menu, it's similar to what you can find at other coffee shops with a few exceptions. There's a "make your own drink" flavor list and a few other offerings named "Blond," "Redhead" and "Brunette."

The downtown location is much smaller than I was expecting and has a sort of tropical theme. I figured the bikini girls only worked the register but I was wrong. They brave the machines themselves and I'm amazed that they're willing to do this, given the possibility of, you know, permanently scarring themselves with 180-degree cups of near-boiling liquid.

In a city that still supposedly holds the record for the highest number of strip clubs in the country per capita, it's hard to get upset over a coffee shop with girls dressed in swim suit tops and shorts. There's at least two strip clubs within a few blocks of the Bikini Coffee Company and who knows how many others within a mile radius. If it makes the protesters feel any better, if this location takes off (no pun intended) it'll open up the opportunity for some local entrepreneur to open a Bikini Briefs Coffee Co. As for myself, despite the perky staff, in more ways than one (har-de-har-har), at downtown shop, I think I'll stick with Dutch Brothers and Stumptown Coffee.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


I bet he lasted longer than that guy from Vanity Fair

A colleague from high school recently subjected himself to waterboarding as part of a public art display in NYC last week. No, seriously. You can read about the whole thing here.

If given the opportunity would I volunteer to give it a shot? Nope. Based on Christopher Hitchens' description in the July issue of Vanity Fair I don't see how anyone can go around calling it anything but torture. Or, as he put it, "if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

Drowning, simulated or otherwise = the suck.



Salty dog

I'm getting to an age now where people look at me weird when I tell them that I still haven't settled down. Despite this, I get even weirder looks when I reveal I also don't own a pet. Maybe it's a Portland thing, given the local humane society's ongoing, creepy and apparently successful "END PETLESSNESS!" ad campaign.

I still have yet to come up with an appropriately snarky response for the "no marriage, no dependents" inquiries and the "where's the grandkids?" guilt trips from certain family members but I've got a good one for the pet question: I know plenty of people who'll happily lend me theirs for an afternoon, week, or even several months at a time if I let them. There's something about pet ownership, especially dog-ownership, that really brings out a sense of charity in those foolhardy enough to voluntarily share their living quarters with a furry slobber/poop monster.

Meet Zoe, my parents' German Shepard/shiba/husky/who knows what else. This pooch has enough energy coursing through her to power a nuclear submarine with enough left over for a 747. Dog parks, day trips to doggy daycare centers, long walks and chew toys are incapable of wearing her out. As such, I have an open invitation to "borrow the dog" whenever the mood strikes. Last week I had a day off with nothing better to do so I took Zoe on her first trip to the beach.

Despite her rough and tumble attitude, the dog has some odd prima donna quirks. She jumps over puddles, hates the rain and can't stand the thought of mud. I once watched Zoe elaborately circumnavigate a small trail bog in Forest Park because she didn't want to get her feet dirty. Would she be able to handle things like sand between her toes and a gigantic body of salt water?

She took to the sand on Cannon Beach like a champ and, after flashing an impish smile worthy of, well, an imp, she proceeded to get into as much trouble as possible. She interrupted a passionate kiss between two lovers, chased a flock of seagulls, tried to jump on a teenager's skim board and failed to steal a small child's sand bucket. Like a surf nazi in an surf nazi movie, she seemed determined to rule the beach with an iron fist, er, paw.

Why didn't I stop Zoe from engaging in full-scale and wanton bad dog behavior? Because she blasted off down the beach once she lost interest in fetch and managed to pull off all of these acts of doggy mischief in the space of 45-seconds flat. The mutt is quite multi-tasker.

But the ocean calmed her down a bit. Mesmerized, she observed it carefully and dipped her feet in. As a small wave approached, she decided to turn back to look at the shore. Not realizing this wouldn't magically stop the wave, she took off like a rocket once it reached her back legs. Later on, after learning the "never turn your back on the ocean" rule the hard way, she hopped back in, making a point of getting as much of herself covered in salt water as possible, probably as an act of revenge against my thwarting of her sand bucket heist.

Cannon Beach proved capable of doing what nothing else can, getting her to sit still for longer than five seconds. She slept at least 45% of the way back to Portland.


Friday, August 15, 2008


Imagine what their kids will look like

If I ever found myself as the groom in a Portland-area Star Wars-themed wedding, I don't think Admiral Ackbar would be the character I'd pick. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I think I'd rather not

Spotted downtown earlier today.


Loathing and Loating on the Portland Streetcar

A few years ago, I interned for a certain local publication of note. Among my duties at this certain local publication of note was an occasional field trip to Powell's Books, where I would sell promotional copies of novels and biographies that would occasionally arrive on the book review desk from parts unknown. One morning I had to haul a heavy box of unwanted tomes down there. On my way towards the stairs, the Editor in Chief, stuck his head out of his office and loudly suggested that I "go by streetcar!"

I can only assume that he was being sarcastic but, given his publication's still-to- this-day's support of a certain transportation commissioner/streetcar cheerleader, I couldn't be sure. I once vowed that I would never take a ride on the Portland Streetcar, mainly because the system is incredibly costly, slow, ugly, in my opinion, and completely worthless for 99% of the city's population. Instead of waiting five minutes to board the next passing streetcar and determined not to break my vow, I hauled the box of books down there on foot and managed to beat it to Powell's front door.

I'm still very proud of this accomplishment and wish someone had given me a ribbon for this impressive feat.

Today, seven years after the streetcar debuted, I finally broke the vow but I had a very valid reason, dammit. I recently made the mistake of going on a overnight backpacking trip despite a sore muscle in my right leg. This resulted in a fairly serious sprain and I've been hobbling around Portland ever since. I'm on doctor's orders to rest the leg but, being the stubborn fool that I am, I haven't been doing that at all.

I had enough common sense to sit out this year's Bridge Pedal but not enough to avoid a hike around downtown and the Pearl District this afternoon. The leg gave out on me near Powell's on a return trip back to my car. This left me with two choices: call a cab or take the streetcar.

I opted for the streetcar. During a ten minute wait for the next train, this gave me the opportunity to find out who rides the bloody thing. After all, most people can get to their destination on foot faster than the streetcar can take them there. An elderly woman with a cane wandered up to my stop, decided not to wait and kept walking, which made me feel positively fantastic about myself. I was later joined by two tourists, a guy with a Woody Woodpecker tattoo and his girlfriend. First-time riders like me, they couldn't quite make sense of a map at the stop indicating where the streetcar's "fareless square" ended.

With no idea how to pay for fare and with no ticket machines nearby, we opted to risk it. Of course, seven blocks later a fare inspector named Randall jumped on board our streetcar. He politely lectured us all on how to use a ticket machine located in the middle of the train and suggested we make use of it. As he headed down the car inspecting other riders' fares, I hobbled down to the machine.

Struggling to balance on the moving streetcar with a bum leg and a heavy messenger bag as I fumbled through my wallet, I looked up expecting to find the two tourists waiting to use the machine. Nope. Instead, they had opted to ignore Randall's spiel and steal my seat. After several minutes of frustration, I managed to buy a ticket, get it validated and find another seat...only to discover that I had missed my stop.

  • Total trip time, including the wait: 25 minutes.

  • The amount of time that it would have taken me to walk back to my car if my leg wasn't injured: 15 minutes.

  • Cost of fare: $1.75

  • Ridership on my streetcar: overweight people and tourists under the age of 30 that have Woody Woodpecker tattoos for some reason, presumably because they lost a bet with someone who can correctly identify Woody Woodpecker.

  • So now I hate the Portland Streetcar more than ever and I'm prepared to declare it my Official Arch Nemesis.

    Do you hear me shaking my fist at you, streetcar, you overpriced, traffic-clogging, bike-tripping, engineering nightmare?! Do you?!!


    Monday, August 11, 2008


    The best amusement park ride in Oregon

    Oregon isn't known for its amusement park rides so when it comes to nominating the state's best I guess it makes sense to set the bar low. With Thrill-Ville USA officially out of business as of this summer, a mere two parks remain: Oaks Park in Portland and Enchanted Forest outside of Salem.

    If it were left up to me I'd give top honors to the Big Timber Log Ride at Enchanted Forest. In a state full of bumper cars and Tilt-A-Whirls it's heads and shoulders above everything else. Plus, a name like that is a source of endless amusement for those of us that still laugh like drunk hyenas at fifth-grade level potty humor. Big Timber may not be worthy of a Disneyland "E-ticket" ride but it's at least on the level of Knott's Berry Farm. In a place like Oregon, being on the level of a southern California theme park ride ain't half bad.

    From the observation deck Big Timber looks like a simple log-flume ride. You go up a hill, you go down a hill, you get wet. Hidden at the crest of that first hill though is a saw mill filled with animatronic lumberjacks that apparently think nothing of tourists riding through the middle of their workplace in hollowed out-logs.

    Instead of one drop, there's three and that last one results in a two-story burst of water capable of destroying any number of camcorders, cameras and cell phones.

    In short, getting on the Big Timber Log Ride is like paying someone $3 to toss a garbage bag full of water at your head but at least 35% more enjoyable. The gentleman pictured above made the mistake of sitting in the front seat of a log and spent the rest of an afternoon at Enchanted Forest walking around on a pair of Birkenstocks that felt like sponges.

    Plus, the ride is apparently capable of making people with certain medical conditions go into cardiac arrest. If that isn't a good indicator of a quality amusement park attraction, what is?

    Thursday, August 07, 2008


    And I'm only a few thousand dollars short

    Those futuristic public toilets in Seattle? They're currently up for sale on eBay.

    Bonus: one of them looks like it's been damaged by gunfire. Nothing says "classy" like a bullet-riddled Port O Potty on your front lawn.

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    Monday, August 04, 2008


    Wisdom from OSU

    Spotted on a painted chair at a pizzeria near OSU over the weekend:

    without beavers
    the world has no water
    without water
    the world has no life

    Hmmmmmm....I think I'd like to get a second opinion on that.



    See that crawdad struttin' 'round?

    Somewhere off the windy curves of US-20 near the town of Toledo there lies an old logging road that will take you to the crest of a hill overlooking a valley. If you head down into the valley along a series of mud-clogged trails and bridges overrun with stinging nettle you'll find yourself at Drift Creek. Why would you ever want to head down there? Because there's crawdads in the creek. Huge ones the size of a baby's arm that grant wishes if you managed to catch one.

    Ok, so they're not as big as a baby's arm and I doubt any of them will grant you anything beyond a welt. Regardless, there sure were a lot of them in the creek when I was down there over the weekend.

    Now hiking down to the creek isn't easy if you're anything like me, i.e., out-of-shape, clumsy and not used to walking down 60-degree declines with a 40-pound bag strapped to your back. Twenty minutes in to the two hour descent I tripped over a root and fell backwards into a bed of ferns and nearly impaled myself on a sharp branch, which sucked. Sometime later I had my first encounter with stinging nettle, which causes your skin to break out in white, itchy spots that take anywhere from two to twelve hours to go away. Long story short: I was the last member in our crew that deserved to wear a Crocodile Dundee-style fedora but I did anyway.

    But at least I didn't purposefully rub stinging nettle on my arm like my sister's boyfriend, who was eager to find out if it was really as bad as the rest of us had described. His verdict: "this sucks." I washed my arm off in the creek. He decided to clean off his own rash by licking it. What probably should have led to further hilarity at his expense worked instead. The lick trick worked faster than creek water but I wasn't about to give it a shot.

    Drift Creek was chock full of crawdads on Saturday. In one spot we counted two dozen of them lounging around and, yeah, some of them were very large by crawdad standards. "BD," who took these photos (I left my own camera sitting on my coffee table), managed to catch one and go three rounds with it. This photo was taken five seconds before the crawdad grabbed that stick and used it as a spear.

    Ok, that didn't actually happen. Instead, BD took a few photos before gently tossing the crawdad back in the water. The crawdads didn't raid our camp in the middle of the night so I can only assume they much prefer posing for photos over getting tossed in crock pots. Our dinner consisted instead of pasta, a max-size Lunchable and a lovely '08 32-ounce bottle of Miller Hi-Life. Or, to be more specific, I drank the Hi-Life. Everyone else stuck with Pabst.

    The hike out of the valley the next day was about as much fun as hiking four miles uphill with a heavy backpack.....yeah, you get the picture.


    Friday, August 01, 2008


    Is that a Batarang in your pocket or are you...?

    This marquee (NSFW?) mishap just goes to show that you shouldn't break for lunch in the middle of a title change from Hancock to the The Dark Knight. Lesson learned.

    Eh, I'm willing to bet that those lovable rapscallions at Cinemagic knew what they were doin'.




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