April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


KNRK strikes back

Myself and others have criticized KNRK for years over the station's "its different here" modus operandi. As we all know, playing the Police every hour on the hour doesn't make a station different from the numerous other '80s pop and soft rock strongholds that dominate FM radio.

Recently KNRK has made strides to live up to its mantra though. The station's website now hosts "94/7 Too," a separate feed that plays only local bands ranging from Bikini Kill to Blitzen Trapper (also available via HD radio). KNRK's evening programming now includes a new-to-me show on Tuesday and Thursday nights co-hosted by Dave Allen that draws attention to up and coming artists. Other shows like "The Bottom 40" and a DJ who goes by the moniker "Squid" are keeping things interesting.

Still, programming during the daylight hours is still mostly crammed full of songs we've all heard a million times AND they're still playing Bob Marley. Worse yet, I swear I heard a Beatles song on their morning show a few weeks ago. Yes, everybody loves the Beatles but they have no place on an "alternative" radio station.



All I know is that it came with a roll and it was damn tasty

Some lessons learned from last weekend's Polish Festival:

1. I can't pronounce the names of several popular Polish dishes.

2. The "Chicken Dance" is a tradition in more than just one European culture but the Polish-version is apparently more sadistic. In addition to dancers flapping their arms like wings, they're expected to crouch on the ground and stand in place for several seconds while the musicians wipe their brows. The rendition I watched on Saturday night went on for at least ten minutes.

3. %75 of Portland's 20-something hipster population now apparently resides within four blocks of the Alibi. They're all over the place over there.

4. My aging RAZR's camera gets worse by the minute.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Summer's gone

I gave up and turned my furnace back on last night, earlier in the fall than usual. This photo was taken on Cannon Beach last week and, believe it or not, it isn't in black and white.

No place does majestic gloom quite like the northern Oregon coastline during the off season.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


And he still has that haircut

The Oregonian ran a great article on the twilight years of Tom Peterson's empire last week. It's bittersweet but a great bit of local lore. I didn't know Kurt Cobain wore one of Tom's free wristwatches...


Free Levi!

Someone has got to save that poor redneck kid and Lindsay Lohan may just be the right person for the job.


Monday, September 22, 2008


And now a rambling, over-dramatic, late night post about pirates, St Johns and this crumbling nation of ours

One thing I find myself compelled to do this time of year is to hit all of the cultural festivals around Portland. Every weekend from August into October there always seems to be one going on. Last weekend was the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. In the coming weeks there'll be the Polish and Greek festivals on the east side of town.

This past weekend there was the pirate festival at Cathedral Park and, despite not being able to convince anyone to go with me, I headed across the river on Saturday night anyway. Maybe it was out of a sense of duty. After all, I've got to enjoy as much of Portland's quirky hipster hangouts and passe internet memes turned weekend-long events as possible before gentrification drives all of Portland's creative-types up north to Vancouver.

Or do I?

That's the big fear I've been living with since I gave up an opportunity to move out of state a few years ago: that the city I gave up a proper career path for is going to turn into a boring and overpriced hellhole before my very eyes. But now with the current downturn on Wall Street, the mortgage mess and a national economy on the brink of collapse, what does it all mean for this microcosmic corner of the country?

Let's say the nightmares come true and the US falls headlong into a Depression: what does that mean for everything those in my socio-economic range in this city have been bitching about for the last five years? The high rents, the ever increasing cost of living and the fact that you can't get a microbrew for under $4 in a Portland tavern anymore?

My uneducated guess: the price of a pint at the Green Dragon will soar to $250, a bar of gold and Mad Max's Interceptor while the value of a Victorian two blocks off Hawthorne will drop to somewhere around Detroit levels. Not that it will matter. No one will be able to afford to heat a place like that in the middle of December 2011 but, at the very least, we'll all have a lot of time to run around in the cultural garb of our choice, be it Polish, German, Greek, pirate or otherwise.

Can you imagine what under 30 year-olds, myself included, would do if presented with a full-blown Dust Bowl, bread lines, Cinderella Man, sell the furniture or burn it to keep warm, John Steinbeck, gotta flee to California for a job that pays a quarter a day, Depression? We're talking about a generation of over-indulged consumers that can't live without text messaging and Xbox Live, let alone with the possibility that not even a New Deal 2.0 could save us all.

Still, maybe I'm a reckless optimistic-yet-simultaneous pessimist about all of this. There's the ever increasing feeling that time for the Portland I grew up with is quickly running out and I should have thrown in the towel three years ago. I should have learned a lesson from the elves and their decision to ditch Middle Earth. I'm just now realizing this: The Lord of the Rings was all about gentrification, wasn't it? Those prissy elves were priced out their homes by those damn hobbits and humans! Aaragon, you yuppie bastard!

But enough about all of that. Let's talk about full-grown adults that dress up like 17th century rape-crazed and rum-soaked criminals.

So I got all the way down there and marched down the stone steps underneath the bridge's archways. I took a look at a backstage area where a guy in pantaloons was practicing his sword moves with a stick and I decided the $15 entrance fee wasn't worth it. The crowd had died down and the sun was starting to set but people in Jack Sparrow costumes were still trickling in.

I eaves-dropped on pirate couples debating whether or not to head back to their cars for their 21st-century coats. One girl was dressed in an elaborate outfit straight out of a box of Padmé Amidala's cast-offs. As she passed me, her face was covered in green paint and she was wearing a ball gown. What I think might have been sticks of incense were jutting out of her hair.

It might have been for the best that I headed to the St. Johns Pub for a reuban instead. There were a few pooped-out pirates hanging around so I think I met my annual quota for buccaneer-related social gatherings. Have you ever had a look at the theater there? It's small but the dome and the couches are a nice touch.

Around that time I got a call to meet up at Roadside Attraction, where the patio was packed with people sucking down cigarettes, gin and the last, cooling waves of the summer of 2008. The mood was light but a doom and fear stew was slapping itself together in the back of my skull. A disquieting calm before a storm with a Pixies record playing in the background....God I hope not.

I tell you what Saturday night felt like: after a week like last week it felt like the last ten pages of The Great Gatsby but with hipsters and pirate costumes instead of highballs, mansions and a reckless bootlegger master of ceremonies. We were all a long way from Long Island but, to me, it looked like the grubby Portland-equivalent of ol' Jay Gatsby's long dead dream.

For the love of God people, vote Democratic in November. Otherwise, Skeletor and Caribou Barbie will throw the rock that finally smashes this country's little green dock light. Yeah, it's a reference to the book and I'm feeling both cheesy and blubbery enough to break out a quote here:

" He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms father...And one fine morning--- So we beat on..." etc, etc, boat against the past and the currents and all that stuff you were forced to read in high school English class.

Smoke 'em while you got 'em. If I'm quoting Fitzgerald then it means I should probably get to bed.

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Pics-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat

Please enjoy this Flickr gallery of snapshots I took in and around San Francisco and Monterey a few weeks ago. They include photos of things like creepy modern art, Mission District murals, annoying alarm clocks that roll off nightstands, a post-modern pirate-shop/after-school writing center, a dog in a coffee shop, bars of Alcatraz-brand soap, a Golden Gate Bridge-themed GEICO ad, a cigar chomping, talking-cat fortune teller machine and a painting in the bathroom at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant (see above).

If you ever find yourself at one I recommend the fish and chips. Also included: photos of that gigantic, garish mansion where, if I remember correctly from the tour, Citizen Kane hung out with Charlie Chaplin and Bob Hope (that's the one up top there).

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Monday, September 15, 2008


A stupid eulogy for a brilliant writer

I could never make any sense out of the words that came out of his fingers.

The superfluous footnotes, the run-on sentences, that passage in Infinite Jest about the guy addicted to MASH and when I bought a copy during my junior year of high school from a B.Dalton Booksellers at the other end of the food court where I worked at a frozen yogurt stand there was a snooty coworker who went to a better school than mine and he mocked the title, the same guy who would later get busted for stealing money from the safe and so there I sat, trying to make sense of those dense passages about addiction and tennis on the sticky floor of my teenage workplace, wearing a cow-colored apron, often hiding from customers as I fumbled back and forth between the text and all those footnotes and I gave up around page 750 but tried again in college one summer, fighting again through 800 pages before hurling it at a wall one night, leaving a mark below a roommate's Salvador Dali poster and now, some odd years later, that same copy is staring down at me from the tail end of my bookshelf as I type this, a yellowing batch of brilliance or pure, uncut literary wanking.

I'll never decide for myself which one because I don't think I have the balls to give a book that intimidating a third chance.

David Foster Wallace, 1962 - 2008



Oktoberfest '08

Mt. Angel is an odd town. Maybe not as odd as Leavenworth, Washington but I'm sure it ranks high among the country's communities with peculiar Bavarian fixations. Frankly, the whole place looks like the queue for the Matterhorn Bobsled ride at Disneyland. Many of the buildings downtown, including the US Bank, have an Alpine theme and the locals treat Oktoberfest like Christmas, the Fourth of July and George Clooney's birthday all rolled into one.

Going back three generations, my family has attended nearly every Mt. Angel Oktoberfest going back to its first one in the mid-60s. Being a jaded metropolitan cynic, I should probably find myself scoffing at an enormously cheesy regional festival where grown, allegedly sane adults run around dressed in lederhosen on 90-degree days but this something I actually look forward to every year. I dig the food booths that put a Germanic spin on non-Germanic foods like "fish tacos," the always overcrowded Weingarten, the glockenspiel and the beer stein contests. I draw the line at suiting up in traditional Bavarian garb but one year I did find myself drunk enough to buy a pair of wooden clogs that have been sitting at the bottom of my closet ever since.

Another embarrassing confession: I've seen a family band that plays the Weingarten every year more times than any other live act. I've sat through at least a dozen of Z Musikmakers' annual gigs over the years and, while I can't name a single member, I can tell you that one daughter played her last gig in '06 in order to attend college, another daughter seems to hate the whole thing but shows up every year anyway and the youngest one is an amazing violinist. While it seemed to be causing her actual, physical pain to get through the whole thing, she managed to absolutely kill a fiddle song on Sunday....ah, you know the one. The song on those "Beef, It's What for Dinner" commercials that everyone knows but no one can name.

Here she is, on the verge of her arms falling off in front of a crowd of a thousand people. I know, based on this photo it looks like she's playing in a church basement but there really is a large building filled with people outside of the camera frame. In addition to Bavarian standards like the chicken dance song, Z Musikmakers close their shows with a very weird German-fried version of Kool & the Gang's "Celebration."

I've never spent time in Mt. Angel other than during Oktoberfest weekend but I get the feeling that it's pretty much all Bavaria, all the time 365 days out of the year. In addition to a few German restaurants, there's a bar called Frank N' Steins on the main drag.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


A new Night Cabbie?

Willamette Week's most recent "Night Cabbie" quit two weeks ago, making him the third or fourth cab driver to leave for greener pastures since the column debuted. Until the editors find a replacement, here's a link to another local column (subject matter NSFW) over at Our PDX Network that explores the seedy, late-night corners of Portland.


Wannabe "flavor tripper"

I've tried kava and I've tried absinthe. I drank the later "non-Czech style" at the Green Dragon on Monday night. Let me tell you something about absinthe: it's much better to down it with a tiny bit of water and sugar. Don't let anyone tell you that it's preferable to mix the stuff with a full eight ounces of h2O. That just dilutes the icky taste and makes the whole process of getting drunk and/or "hallucinating" take longer.

Anyway, I still haven't managed to track down "miracle fruit," which just received a local recommendation over here. It's the latest perfectly legal pseudo-vice I'm bent on trying out but I'd like to buy some locally as opposed to ordering online. If anyone out there has any tips, I'd be much obliged.



I swear this is not an endorsement for the GOP

I'm divided on the whole "zoo thing." Majestic wild animals, sometimes kept in cramped, psychologically-damaging conditions, don't quite trump my desire to look at them up close. It might have something to do with a week-long protest I witnessed back in college where an undergrad locked herself inside a cage on a lawn across from the administration building to draw attention to the plight of the country's "incarcerated tiger population."

Ok, I'm lying. I thought that was hilarious. Zoos make me nervous because all the cages remind me of where I have to spend forty or more hours a week.

But the one/two combo of real, live beasts from faraway lands and unbridled cuteness outweighed my reservations during a day-off from work yesterday. I went to see the new addition to the Asian elephant exhibit at the Oregon Zoo.

(shut-up nagging, uber-liberal conscience)


The dim lighting inside the viewing area really messed with my camera, thus the decision to go with black and white.

For those who haven't witnessed the constant local news coverage, this little guy, who will be officially named tomorrow, was born three weeks ago.

A few factoids about elephant calves I didn't know until 3 PM yesterday:

  • They're supposedly born without eyelids, thus explaining why the calf has a constant dazed expression usually reserved for hungover, insomniac air traffic controllers.

  • Three week-old baby elephants weigh 325 pounds. Or at least this one did as of yesterday. He's put on 39 pounds since his birthday.

  • The enclosure where mother and calf are being viewed by the public had to be "baby-proofed."

  • The fourteen year-old Rose-Tu is the calf's mother, making her in human years a teenage mother. Sarah Palin would no doubt approve before jumping into a plane to shoot at both mother and son. See, I told you this wasn't a GOP endorsement.

  • While I was in there Rose-Tu yanked on the bars a bit and her calf soon followed suit after she lost interest. I can only assume that they're plotting their escape. Once the baby is old enough, I bet they're going to make a break for it and write a tell-all about their time in that cell. After all, if you lived in an enclosure with several dozen ton roommates who poop all over the place, wouldn't you hit the road?

    And here's a color photo of a sleeping tiger who was probably glad all the zoo's visitors were hanging around the elephant exhibit.

    Tiger: "That undergrad can cram it. This soooo beats hustling in the backwoods of Thailand. Zzzzzzz."

    Until they show up on the Today Show to promote that book, here's a sideways You Tube video of the little guy bein' all adorable and workin' his mojo for the crowd. Not having a video editor on my laptop really messes with my ability to post right-side-up clips.


    Tuesday, September 09, 2008


    Shakespeare after dark

    I'm still paying off student loans from the years I thought it was great idea to spend thousands of dollars studying the works of Shakespeare (thanks for nothing, my inspirational high school teacher that was less like Admiral Adama in Stand and Deliver and more like the Pied Piper o' Lifelong Regret). Now several years removed from the English-lit program at U of O, I can safely say that I prefer Shakespearean productions that pander and patronize the hell out of their audiences.

    Give me Patrick Stewart running around a military mental hospital with a machine gun in a recent blood-soaked stage production of Macbeth. Give me exploding gas stations and Claire Danes sluting around Venice Beach. Give me that production of King Lear I saw during a high school field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the '90s, the one where the elaborate stage grew and shrunk and the actors ran around the theater waving swords and screaming.

    When you're working with beautifully composed but nearly impentrable dialogue and against the short attention spans of anyone living in an era where they can watch fifty fast-cut You Tube clips of skateboarding cats injuring themselves in twenty seconds flat, it just makes sense to cater to the lowest common denominator. Give your audiences sex and blood. Give them violence and gimmicks. Give them special effects and KISS-level arena rock bombast.

    I didn't get any of those things when I spent an evening in the Elizabethean Theater in Ashland a few weeks ago. The OSF's current production of Othello is well-acted, crafted and true to the vision of the Bard of Avon. It's also more boring than a symphonic Celine Dion show. People walked out. People fell asleep. People watched other people falling asleep. I'm cheap and the people I was with are also cheap so I was sitting in the very back row of the balcony. I could smell pot smoke drifting down from the rafters where the lighting crew was no doubt struggling to pass the time.

    To be honest, sitting through the entire thing felt more like homework than a great way to kill a late summer evening. In the final act, I was sitting there thinking "would you Venetians please hurry up and get pissed off enough to kill one another?" and this is coming from someone who is supposed to like the works of Shakespeare. The only audience members sitting near me who seemed to be enjoying themselves was one middle-aged couple.

    They couldn't stop laughing out loud at every little nuance of every one of Billy Shake's 400 year-old gags, making sure that everyone in the place knew that they and they alone were brilliant enough to decipher iambic pentameter while the rest of us were struggling to come up with a reason not to head back to that English pub on Ashland's main drag, the one that serves champagne mixed with Guinness.

    I spotted the two of them chugging wine during intermission. I'm pretty sure one of them was my old high school teacher.



    And now for several oversized photos of various places and things in San Francisco

    Someday I'll get back to blogging about things that are related to Portland. Tonight is not that day. I spent part of my vacation in the city where hippies supposedly come from. Oddly enough, I only spotted a single hippie. He had no teeth, was sitting at the corner of Haight and Ashbury near where the Gap once stood and was holding a sign that read "need a dollar for weed." If the homeless always lie about what they're going to spend their hard-earned panhandling dollars on, I don't want to think about where the dollar a German tourist passed along while having his picture taken with him is going to wind up.

    Here are a few of the other things and/or stuff I saw:

    SFMOMA is currently hosting a contemporary Chinese art exhibit. Among the highlights: a large statue of a sleeping Mao surrounded by hundreds of plastic dinosaurs, an anatomically-correct mannequin having her hair yanked off by an angry frog and these gleefully smiling guys that will forever haunt my field of vision every time I close my eyes for the next several months. Probably more creepy: a video-art display in a dark room featuring featureless figures killing themselves over and over again. The room was filled with families and people of all ages. I really, really wish I could have taken a photo of their expressions.

    Here's a photo taken at the Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium. I rented a bike from a shop to get from Fisherman's Wharf to the Presidio and across the bay. I never did find the Yoda fountain at Industrial Light and Magic but I did have the honor of getting yelled at by several bike-speed junkies for going too slow across the Golden Gate Bridge. The New Pornographers and Gnarls Barkley played an outdoor show near there that Saturday but I was off being a tourist elsewhere.

    The last time I was in San Francisco's Chinatown I was shocked to find seahorses for sale, presumably because people actually eat them. This time it was adorable live pheasants in small wooden crates. Two for seven bucks. I was traveling with my parents and my mother and I had a PETA moment where we briefly considered buying them and setting them free. Then I realized what I'd eaten for lunch an hour earlier because I thought it sounded neat: pheasant flambe at a nearby restaurant. The "omnivore's dilemma," it makes hypocrites of us all. Or at least me.

    Ah, here's something related to this blog's m.o. I never did figure out why this bar in North Beach has "Portland, Oregon" written over the doorway. Given the parent situation and the leg injury, I wasn't able to explore the bar scene beyond the crazy/weird/cool Tonga Room. With its lagoon, a floating island bandstand and a dance floor made out of an old schooner, I'm convinced it's the world's most elaborate tiki bar.

    Likely the most interesting drinking establishment I didn't drink in: Slide, a spot with a secret slide entrance from its days as a Prohibition-era speak easy. I also missed out on the Black Horse Pub, which comes highly recommended by the most knowledgeable-of-all-things-related-to-bars English expat math professor I know, coincidentally the only....

    One of the many murals in the Mission District. I purchased running socks from a nearby market. They were made in Pakistan and did not fit me but they cost three bucks. Only three bucks!

    Here's a photo from one of the many hipster enclaves quickly gentrifying the Mission District: the pirate store at 826 Valenica, the first of Dave Eggers' growing empire of after-school creative writing centers for kids and/or cheeky gift shops. At the very least, the place is a lot more interesting and honorable than what's going down in several neighborhoods in east Portland right now (what am I saying? I thought this place was awesome). The pirate meme was tired years ago but I give the creators of the shop credit for all the displays, products and quirks that are too numerous to all be mentioned here. My favorites: the various planks for sale and a sign extolling the many uses of lard.

    One afternoon I climbed out of a BART station and found a group of anti-Scientology protesters, all wearing those V for Vendetta masks. I'm sure the "Anonymous" protests have become commonplace in just about every major city in the country but I think it was still somehow disconcerting enough to warrant a photo. Plus, those masks? Creepy!





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