April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Another year bites the dust and I still don't know what to call this decade. The '00s? The Zips?

What's a word or phrase that best describes 2008? Rotten? Unpleasantly unpleasant? Turbulent? I guess I'll go with that last one.

But things are looking up, right? Portland is running again after enduring the seemingly endless onslaught of SNOWPOCALYPSE. Sure, complete and utter economic collapse may be imminent but at least we're only a few short weeks away from getting a president in the White House that journalists will hold off on throwing shoes at for at least a little while. Oh, and then there's the Blazers. Wasn't last night glorious? I think every fan in town will happily bury forever that old "beat LA" chant in favor LaMarcus' 20-point triumph over Kevin Garnett. A good replacement? "Kobe bites!" Simple. Direct. And straight to the point, no?

What are bloggers supposed to write about this time of year? Oh, right. Things that "aren't invited back" to next year. Here's my list:

1. Snowfall exceeding six inches that sticks around for two weeks.

2. City snowplows that shove two feet of snow into my driveway after I spend hours clearing it.

3. Snow chains that snap and wrap around car axles. I can't count on my fingers and toes how many people I saw desperately fighting with weak chains while hunched over in greasy, sand-sprinkled slush last week.


Sled dogs on NW 23rd.

5. The horrible grinding sound the underside of my car makes when I drive over ice-covered snow rivets.

6. Holiday plans and activities that are rescheduled, rescheduled again and then rescheduled again before being finally canceled due to inclement weather.

7. Coworkers that proudly boast that they didn't miss a single day of work during the entirety of SNOWPOCALPYSE (because they live three blocks from my office and/or own a tank-sized truck capable of both scaling the Himalayas and not only surviving a Yeti attack but beating several contenders to become King of All Yetis).


Fred Meyers' Dr. Suess knock-off "Holiday-Whats" ads. Were they worse than watching Jim Carrey run around in a Grinch outfit? Yes.

So that's all I've got for now. I'll be back next week with more of the same. A few blog-related resolutions for 2009? To get everything moved over to a new server and finally fix the URL redirect problem. Also: less incoherent holiday videos staring robotic novelty chickens.

Until then, happy new year everyone and to all a....drunken good night?


Where am I writing this blog post? In a local coffee shop, of course

"But as the owner of Ladybug Organic Coffee Company, a coffee shop that serves pastry and other light fare, Angel O'Brien, 31, has managed to break new ground in Portland's hypercompetitive, hypercaffeinated coffee community — with a five-page job application form that includes 10 essay questions intended to weed out all but the most devoted and cheerful baristas and bakers.

'What is the most important thing that you have ever learned, and how has it changed your life?' one question reads. 'What is something that you do on a regular basis to make the world a better place?' And, 'What is one thing that you think would make Portland a better city?'

Since she opened Ladybug in May 2007, Ms. O'Brien said, more than 2,000 people have downloaded the application from her Web site. More than 150 people have completed it. But only about 25 applicants have been offered jobs."

Applications that make the Obama administration's look tiny by comparison? Lengthy training periods? If coffee gets treated anymore seriously in Portland local shops may actually have to start paying their baristas more than $8.00 an hour. Egads!

The rest of Beth Slovic's rundown on the Ladybug for the NYT can be found here.



Things in need of further context...

I spotted this car while walking along SE Belmont today. There's a great story here. I wonder what it is.


Thursday, December 25, 2008


The Chicken Incident Part 2

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008


So it's come to this

KGW has been showing clips of sled dogs running up and down NW 23rd all day.

I think it may be time for me to trade in my car for a few Huskies and a used sled.



Well, this is crass

It's a Wonderful Life taught us all what happens every time a bell rings and A Colbert Christmas revealed what occurs when a bell drops. But what happens every time a Scratch-It addict buys one of these $2.00 Wonderful Life tickets and doesn't win jack squat? My best guess is that an angel rolls his eyes disdainfully.

If the mere existence of these Scratch-Its don't permanently tarnish a beloved holiday classic this NYT editorial from last week should do the trick. An excerpt:

Take the extended sequence in which George Bailey (James Stewart), having repeatedly tried and failed to escape Bedford Falls, N.Y., sees what it would be like had he never been born. The bucolic small town is replaced by a smoky, nightclub-filled, boogie-woogie-driven haven for showgirls and gamblers, who spill raucously out into the crowded sidewalks on Christmas Eve. It’s been renamed Pottersville, after the villainous Mr. Potter, Lionel Barrymore’s scheming financier.

Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking.

And what about that banking issue? When he returns to the "real" Bedford Falls, George is saved by his friends, who open their wallets to cover an $8,000 shortfall at his savings and loan brought about when the evil Mr. Potter snatched a deposit mislaid by George's idiot uncle, Billy (Thomas Mitchell).

But isn’t George still liable for the missing funds, even if he has made restitution? I mean, if someone robs a bank, and then gives the money back, that person still robbed the bank, right?

I checked my theory with Frank J. Clark, the district attorney for Erie County upstate, where, as far as I can tell, the fictional Bedford Falls is set. He thought it over, and then agreed: George would still face prosecution and possible prison time.

"In terms of the theft, sure, you take the money and put it back, you still committed the larceny," he said. "By giving the money back, you have mitigated in large measure what the sentence might be, but you are still technically guilty of the offense."

He took this a bit further: "If you steal over $3,000, it's a D felony; 2 ½ to 7 years is the maximum term for that. The least you can get is probation. You know Jimmy Stewart, though, he had that hangdog face. He'd be a tough guy to send to jail."


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The Chicken Incident Part 1

One of the worst Christmas presents ever?

Yeah, you could say that.


Monday, December 22, 2008


The snow fortress

I'm supposed to be at work on Friday morning and it doesn't look like this snow is going anywhere between now and then. So earlier today I was looking down the barrel of a deadline to dig my car out of a large snowdrift, learn how to put on snow chains and then finally figure out how to drive in a fairly extreme winter weather conditions. Here's what the car looked like at 4 this afternoon:

Here's what it looked like around an hour later:

My car now has its very own psuedo-Bat Cave/ice fortress. And what psuedo-Bat Cave/ice fortress is complete without its very own army of miniature snowmen?

A guy passing by on skis gave me a thumbs-up and praised my "wonderful art display." The neighbors down the street though? I don't think they liked the idea of their 20-something neighbor taking photos of snowmen wielding plastic lightsabers and toy guns. They slowed down and stopped as I was taking this photo. After starring at it for a few seconds without saying anything, they quickly zoomed over to their driveway. Maybe it's for the best that I didn't add beer bottles to the display after all.

I'm not sure if these snowmen are going to make it through the night without a group of neighborhood teens dropping by to knock them over but I hope they keep the car safe.



A Snowpacolypse survival tip

Who knew that a snow drift could double as an excellent beer cooler? Ok, well, I didn't. The drift kept these "stubbies" of Session Lager ice cold without actually freezing them despite the fact that the temperature dropped into the low 20s last night.

One drawback. I left two bottles out there and four inches of new powder has fallen since. I know they're out there somewhere....

In other news, when, dear God, will the snow stop falling? It. Just. Keeps. Coming.

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Miracle Fruit and the Damage Done

If you need some addtional context for this video, click here.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008


Fat City: refuge from the cold

Here's what the Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village looked like this afternoon. The place was packed, the staff was frazzled and a fan in the kitchen filled the dining area with smoke because snow kept clogging an air vent on the roof. Meanwhile outside, the surrounding neighborhood looked downright pastoral.

My first job was as a busboy at the cafe in the '90s when it was owned by a former NFL player and his wife. Two things I didn't know about the place until I found its webpage a few minutes ago:

  • A man shot his would-be lover in the cafe's basement and there's bullet holes in the walls to prove it. From what I remember, it's creepy enough down there as it is.

  • One of the current co-owners used to sing in a punk band that toured with Black Flag.

  • I've been going to Fat City since I was a kid and the staff still doesn't raise an eyebrow when someone like me orders a chocolate milkshake to with an omelet. It's that kinda place.

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    My company doesn't do snow days

    Right now my car is covered in a one inch layer of ice and snow and the thermometer says it's 22 degrees out there. My street has nine inches of snow topped with ice and a few 18-inch tall snowdrifts. I'm literally snowbound and trapped but my employer still expected me to come to work this morning.


    Maybe if I had access to a flame thrower, a snow plow, two teams of sled dogs, Toyota-sized ice skates and a box of smoke bombs to ward off those armor-plated polar bears from The Golden Compass.

    Ok, so this cell phone photo doesn't quite capture how nasty it is out there but, trust me, you'd be quacking, quaking and shaking in your moon boots if you had been facing an 11-mile commute this morning. Especially with only an aging Camry and a cup of Swiss Miss at your disposal.

    Sadly, it looks like the winter wonderland is quickly giving way to a....FREEZING RAIN/SNOWPOCALYPSE! Eeeep! I was hoping for a legitimate snow day but it's not looking good right now.

    Meanwhile, KGW claims there are skiers trying to make their way up to Mt. Hood right now. 60 MPH winds and blizzard conditions await them at Timberline. The Banfield is completely frozen over, the Steel Bridge is a Popsicle, I-5 is a mess, I-84 is closed and nobody's out there. My neighborhood is completely silent.

    When did Portland change it's name to Wasilla, Alaska? I haven't seen a winter like this in Portland in at least five years, maybe even ten. I'm going back to bed. See you again come springtime.

    "This hasn't happened in a century," says KGW's Brenda Braxton. Ok, it's bad but I'm at least 82 - 90% that's a complete overstatement.


    Friday, December 19, 2008


    Baby's First Arctic Blast

    Who doesn't enjoy You Tube videos of baby elephants romping in the snow?

    Ok, maybe not the tigers that kick-off this video of various animals at the Oregon Zoo contending with Portland's never-ending snow and ice apocalypse. It looks like those big kitties are having some domestic troubles. Maybe the cheetahs can provide couples counseling when they move in next year?

    The elephants show up at the 2:30 mark in the video. Samudra breaks out a can of uber-cuteness around 3 minutes in.

    Photos and further adorable anecdotes can be found over on KATU's website.



    52 points!

    Highlights from last night's Blazer victory over the Suns, and Brandon Roy's endless 3-pointer spree, can be found here.


    Thursday, December 18, 2008


    An answer to the question I've been wondering about for nearly a year now...

    How will the Horse Brass Pub (AKA "Portland's haziest drinking establishment") handle the smoking ban that's set to go into effect on January 1st?

    This week's cover story in The Mercury has the answer to this and other pressing ban-related FAQs.

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    Miraculin, miraculin, the miracle fruit, the more you eat, the more...your life becomes decadent and depraved

    By now you've heard about miraculin, AKA "Miracle Fruit." It was profiled in the New York Times last summer and thousands of journalists and bloggers have written articles and posts about it since. If all of this is news to you, here's a quick rundown. There's a berry native to West Africa that makes sour and bitter foods taste sweet and sweeter foods unbearably sweet. It's a food-additive that, while perfectly legal in the US, has yet to be officially approved for sale by the FDA.

    Miracle Fruit has no known negative side-effects other than the potential for an upset stomach and it remains a big hit among dieters in Japan. All in all, it's a relatively harmless novelty worthy of Willy Wonka.

    And taking it can ultimately lead to you licking a seriously annoyed house cat.

    Meet my sister Shanna and her boyfriend Kyle. They're two earnest, God-fearing, all-American 20-somethings and, prior to eating Miracle Fruit, would have never considered sticking their tongues on a filthy, disgusting feline. Have a look at this picture. Don't they just radiate all-Ameican-ness? Please ignore the fact that the orange cat looks like he's about to punch Kyle in the face. His name is Turbo. He likes to do that sort of thing.

    I bought a few boxes of Miracle Fruit, in tablet form, off the internet that made their way to Portland from, strangely and disconcertingly enough, Slovakia. Obviously, I wasn't going to stick any of this stuff in my mouth without first testing it on two suckers people I respect and care about.

    Last week, Shanna, Kyle and I rounded up several things to try with these tablets and chopped a few of them in two. According to the instructions, a half tablet would be enough to alter our tastebuds for anywhere between fifteen minutes and two hours. After Shanna and Kyle stuck their tablets in their mouths and didn't immediately keel over and die, I grabbed mine. The first step was to let them slowly dissolve on our tongues. This took forever.

    But it was well worth it. The first thing we dug into were lemons wedges, which, amazingly, now tasted like lemon Starbusts. From there we moved on to spoonfuls of vinegar that seemed more like brown sugar. A glass of Guinness tasted like a watered-down chocolate milkshake. Once bitter wine tasted like Kool-Aid. The stinging effects of wasabi were almost entirely muted. Shots of rotgut mescal that a friend brought back from a trip to Mexico tasted like top-shelf liquor. Bitter beer? Not bitter anymore. Hot sauce had magically metamorphosed into mild salsa.

    Simply put, Miracle Fruit lived up to its name and completely exceeded our expectations. We thought we could handle this. Unlike others we'd heard about, we assumed we had the willpower to not let all of this go too far and that we could learn from the mistakes of those who had come before us.

    Fat chance.

    Within twenty minutes we were going through the cupboards looking for anything consumable to stick in our mouths. Coffee beans, ginger and peanut butter tasted pretty much the same but we discovered that oatmeal worked as a great pallet cleanser for everything we could get our hands on. Spoonfuls of sugar just tasted more sugary and a bottle of Mexi-Coke tasted like Pepsi. The sweetness of an old package of Batman fruit snacks tasted incredibly sweet.

    Then we got into the Robitussin. If you ever find yourself "flavor-tripping" at a Miracle Fruit Party, I strongly recommend bringing a bottle to freak everyone out once they start getting bored. With a miracluin-covered tongue, Robitussin tastes like the most amazingly screwed-up substance on the planet. It's not entirely unpleasant but incredibly overpowering. I can't quite capture the experience with words. Try it sometime. You won't be disappointed.

    I don't know who's idea it was to grab one of the cats but suddenly we were all taking turns.

    It took a grand total of, maybe, forty minutes for us to go from relatively sane people just like yourself to depraved feline-lickers. If Lou Reed had access to Miracle Fruit in the '60s I'm sure he would have written a thousand songs about it instead of heroin. I've got a video of Kyle tasting the cat but I guess I'll save that for another day.

    You can wipe those foul jokes and metaphors right out of your head. That's my sister up there, dammit. Anyway, how did the cat taste? Not surprisingly, like hair.

    Still, the cat wasn't the worst thing I stuck in my mouth that night. I found a lemon Starburst and it was unbearable. The sweetness tore through my tongue like an inferno in a Pixie Sticks factory and I had to spit it out within seconds. It was the sweet-equivalent of eating a super-hot jalapeno and it took several glasses of water to get the taste out of my mouth.

    As time went on, we each kept a wedge of lemon handy to see if the effects had worn off yet. Kyle's tablet sputtered out first at the 30-minute mark. The effects vary from person to person. Shanna made it to an hour. I finally started tasting the sourness of my lemon wedge at around 85 minutes. By this time, Kyle was clutching his stomach and Shanna was feeling "pukey." She went into full "Evil Monkey from Family Guy" mode right before kicking me out of her apartment.

    Curse you, Miracle Fruit! How many once normal relationships with siblings have you tarnished? How many homes have you wrecked? How many lives have you destroyed? How many millions of dollars have you cost this country in ineffective recovery prog...

    ...ok, enough of that. If you ever decide to give the stuff a try, heed this advice: remember, while vinegar may taste like brown sugar it ain't brown sugar and lemon juice is hard on the walls of the average stomach. Mix these things with hot sauce, candy, random condiments, alcohol, wasabi, cough syrup and cat dander and you're bound to get an upset tummy.

    Moderation is key. You've got to control yourself but avoiding the inevitable queasiness that follows "flavor-tripping" is hard when pretty-much everything tastes fantastic.

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    Wednesday, December 17, 2008


    This happened to me yesterday (somewhere else though)

    Here's a video that was filmed down in the South Waterfront on Monday. Snow and ice? They'll forever be this city's Achilles' heel. I took this same hill without a problem yesterday afternoon. What a difference a day, and snow tires, make. Nonetheless, I wasn't so lucky up on Council Crest about a half hour later.

    A hat tip goes out to Jack Bog's Blog, where "Buck a Hit" day is currently in full effect. Merely clicking on that link will result in a two dollar donation being made to local charities.

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    Darth Me Vs. the Indifferent Jedi Cats

    The economy is in the tank and we'll all be living in Hoovervilles like wannabe Slumdog Millionaires by April Fools Day. Naturally, now seemed like the perfect time to run down to the Apple Store at Bridgeport Village and buy an iPhone.

    I'll spare you the internet's 50 billionth blog post scribbled by a recent adopter hypnotized by the devices' applications, games, visual voicemail, GPS system and..zzzzz... Instead, here's a video of me chasing two cats around an apartment with the "Force Unleashed Lightsaber App."


    Tuesday, December 16, 2008


    Welcome to Hoth

    I've been living in Portland for most of my life and I can't recall a week of winter weather as nasty as this one. Ok, sure, there was an ice storm one year when I was in high school that knocked out power in my neighborhood for a week. Still, there seems to be no end in sight to the horrible onslaught of snow and ice (or what people in Denver might call "average December weather") that will keep the city frozen solid through at least Christmas, supposedly.

    Anyway, here's some random anecdotes from what I've seen around town since the snow arrived on Sunday.

  • The cliche lives on. Oregonians can't drive in snow or ice to save their lives. I spent ten minutes stuck on an on-ramp to I-5 tonight and there was barely anything on the freeway to warrant all this overly cautious hysteria. Nonetheless, everyone insisted on driving 15 MPH. I used to believe all the storm-hype spoon fed by local news stations and refused to drive anywhere once snow was in the forecast. Then I finally got my hands on a set of snow tires. What a difference proper traction devices make.

  • I was drunk on enough snow tire-fueled hubris to head up to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland, this afternoon. I ran into problems when I attempted to scale an ice-covered, 45 -degree street. I made it halfway, spun my wheels and decided to head back down backwards. The PGE crew working along SW Fairmont didn't find this too amusing, especially when I came within five feet of plowing into one of their work trucks. Whoops.

  • I made it up to the park to find a group of teenagers with snowboards. They were taking turns hitting a ramp leading up to a picnic table. While I was standing there, one landed on his back, the other nearly cleared it and...then landed on his back. I wanted to get a photo of all of this reckless adolescent self-destruction but I've reached an age where I'm afraid of teenagers and live in perpetual fear of them ever setting foot on my lawn.

  • Also: check out this makeshift sled ramp. As you might have noticed, that's a large tree sitting ten feet in front of it. Brilliant!

  • What's with all of these guys that are walking around with ski poles? You can find them on nearly every sidewalk in Portland right now. Does that really help them maintain their balance on icy pavement? Or does it substantially increase the potential for injury? The likelihood of them impaling themselves after slipping? Much higher with ski poles than without.

  • Local schools will no doubt be shut down all week, thousands are refusing to go to work because the streets aren't safe but, despite everything, 20,000 people managed to make it down to the Rose Garden tonight for the Blazers' 32-point conquest over the Sacramento Kings. Could this mean that locals are finally getting the hang of driving in winter weather and might even stop using it as an excuse convenient excuse to call in sick and drive around town like terrified toddlers? Only time will tell.

  • Finally, here's a photo of Zoe the dog after a round of snowball fetch.

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    Car-free night on Peacock Lane

    My mother and I braved the "Storm of the Century/Arctic Blast/Winter That Will Forever Destroy Portland as We Once Knew It" to get over to Peacock Lane on Sunday for its first car-free night. We met up with a family friend and took her dog Jack along. This wasn't the best of ideas. Jack, a sheltie, was wearing a doggy jacket so he was prepared for the wind chill factor. What he wasn't prepared for were all of the sledders that were taking advantage of the ice-covered street.

    You see, Jack has a problem with skaters. Maybe Tony Hawk owes him money or something. The sound of plastic wheels or anything else scrapping across pavement sends him into an uncontrolled frenzy. Every time a sled passed us, he ran around in circles in full "YIPE! YIPE! YIPE!" mode.

    Fortunately, things were dying down as we made our way back up the lane. I didn't manage to get a shot of Jack flipping out but here instead is a photo of one house's Peanuts yard display. It serves as a good example of what walking around over there on Sunday was like.



    Random Cell Phone Photo # 40

    I'd be exaggerating if I said that this gallery along NW 21st is devoted exclusively to portraits of Obama. In fact, only half of its retail floor is filled with them.

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    Saturday, December 13, 2008


    The Ghosts of Blazers' past

    This? 'Tis brilliant.

    "Am I crazy or did that ghost just tell us to get a whole mess of ice cream sandwiches and play Rock Band all night?!"


    Thursday, December 11, 2008


    It's a (natural) gas, gas, gas

    I opened my NW Natural bill for the month of November earlier this week and you won't believe what I saw. Ok, so maybe you can believe it or at least make an educated guess. It was high. Much too high. To use a pot analogy, it was well north of Eric and his stoner pals on That '70s Show and just a tad below James Franco's character in Pineapple Express.

    I live in a 400-square foot rental house built in the 1920s. Granted, it's not the most perfectly insulated 90-year old ramshackle. There's a drafty root cellar, the windows are single-paned and I have a sneaking suspicion that the walls are insulated with newspaper articles about the 1929 stock market crash. Nevertheless, I still don't think this place warrants a huge monthly heating bill. Since my "Lucky Bamboo" plant doesn't seem to mind, I keep the thermostat off while I'm at work and the temperature at 60 when I go to bed. I've weather-proofed the windows and doors but I'm not about to drop a mint on insulation for a rental.

    Why the dramatic increase? NW Natural Gas hiked their rates up by 14% this season.

    But what has happened in the past few months? The price of gas has, pardon the pun, completely tanked. I went to NW Natural's website in search of answers and found some clearly dated information. Choice quote: "Natural gas prices can track with oil. At a time of high oil prices, gas costs can also be high." The site's FAQs section further addresses the issue and says that the company decided to raise rates despite falling prices because, at the time, they were higher than they were in 2007. Plus, they purchase gas throughout the year and, presumably, the projected drop wasn't enough to offset the inflated prices NW Natural was paying during the bulk of 2008.

    Here in Portland and across the country, the average price of a gallon of gas is now less than half of what it was in August. Natural gas has followed a similar pattern. According to this article, natural gas prices that ran $13.06 per thousand cubic feet in June fell to $5.74 in trading this week. So does this mean that my gas bill will reflect these changes next month? Unlikely.

    Knowing next to nothing about fuel trading and economics I used my mediocre journalism skills to track down further information. By "track down," of course, I mean I called NW Natural and put one of their phone representatives on the spot, figuring they must have fielded a thousand calls about this in the past few weeks. Nope. Instead, I was put on hold for five minutes while the rep went in search of a response. She apologized for the wait and said that the company sets its annual rates in late summer. Even if the price of natural gas drops to a nickle a barrel by Christmas, I and my fellow natural gas users in the Portland area will still be paying inflated prices this winter.

    If I take NW Natural's website on its word, presumably, customers will be paying higher bills to offset their jacked-up fuel costs from earlier in 2008. Here's another quote from the site. Get ready to roll your eyes.

    "We do everything we can to keep gas costs low because higher gas costs don't benefit our customers or our company.

    NW Natural's financial future depends on our ability to satisfy our existing customers and attract new ones. Higher rates make it harder for us to do that. In addition, regulators oversee our purchasing strategies to ensure we are making prudent decisions."

    Naive statement time: based on this, if the "regulated utility company" manages to quickly offset their loses, given the abrupt and dramatic drop in the value of natural gas in recent months, shouldn't they pass those savings on to a customer base suffering through an economic downturn and/or poor widdle renters like me? It's not like I can tear the furnace out of the basement and replace it with wood stove. I don't think my landlord would be too cool with that.


    Tuesday, December 09, 2008


    Rod Blagojevich vs. Tony Soprano

    I scored a measly six out of ten on this test over at The Daily Beast.

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    Repeal Day?

    Repeal Day celebrations seem like they suddenly sprung out of nowhere a few years ago. That's probably because they kinda, sorta did, at least around Portland. Last year was the first time I'd heard of it. This year seems like it was coming into its own as a proper drinking holiday, most likely aided by the fact that it fell on a Friday.

    The Baghdad Theater hosted an event with musicians and people in '20s-era duds handing out appropriate attire at the door. Black fedoras for the guys, red boas for the ladies. At 11 PM they rolled out a screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The significance? No idea. Maybe there's some bootlegger subtext in the film that's completely lost on me?

    Here's hoping Repeal Day goes on to become an annual tradition worthy of St. Patrick's Day. You can never have enough drinking-themed holidays, even if they do pack on the pounds. Speaking of which, here's a handy tool that calculates the food-equivalent of how much booze you consumed the night prior.



    My first pickpocket?

    I never thought it would happen to me. That a guy such as myself, with my mediocre talents, limited vocabulary, "quality" used car and less than stellar grooming habits could ever find it. They say you can't force it. That it just sort of happens. That, much like one of Cupid's arrows, it'll hit you when you least expect it.

    That's right. While I was in Seattle last week I encountered my first pickpocket. Eeeeeeeh! Oh my God! Oh my God! OMFG! Couldn't you just die? It's so exciting! So this is what's everybody's been telling me about all of these years.

    I was walking back from the Elliot Bay Book Company when I wandered into Pike Street Market in search of a copy of The Stranger and a bag of doughnuts from the Daily Dozen. I bent down to pick up a paper and, out of nowhere, a guy bumped into me. I felt a hand reaching for a pocket (?), he hastily apologized and wished me a "good night" and then he quickly darted for the nearest exit. My messenger bag was zipped up tight and my wallet was in my front pocket so he didn't get away with anything.

    Ok, so maybe he wasn't a pickpocket and maybe it was just an accident. Or maybe he was just a pervert that enjoys spending his Monday evenings groping random men dressed in Columbia Sportswear. So I ask you, dear blog reader: what was this dude up to? Opinions are welcome in the comment section below.



    Random notes and photos from the Great Grey North

    I spent part of last week in Seattle, thus the lack of blogging around here. But I've returned to Portland with photos and anecdotes that are sure to delight you and yours this holiday season. Er, something.

    Seattle has a lot of things that Portland lacks. Skyscrapers. Sounds. An amazing farmers market/underground retail labyrinth. A (granted, now defunct) music scene that was important enough to land itself an actual name. A Game Works.

    Nevertheless, there's at least one thing this town has up on the Emerald City (besides better livability, better weather and better coffee). We've got a proper town square that makes the one in front of Westlake Center look exactly like what it is: a half-hearted addition to the front of a shopping mall. Because of its dainty size, Seattle's square could never handle a proper Christmas tree like the one that's currently sitting in Portland's "Living Room." Here's a photo of Westlake's pipsqueak. The snowflakes are a nice touch though.

    Sure, Portland has Burgerville but I'd happily trade its overpriced, homegrown milkshakes for a Dick's Drive-In. Dick's is basically a small Seattle chain similar to In-N-Out but without the hokey t-shirts and pretense. The locals supposedly have a love/hate relationship with the chain. From what I hear, Seattle PD routinely has to show up on weekend nights to turn away crowds of drunken cluphoppers at the Capitol Hill location at closing time. Some swear by their burgers' magical ability to cure hangovers.

    I hiked up there around lunchtime one afternoon and found a large, diverse crowd waiting in line. This location lacks indoor seating, providing only stainless-steel outdoor counters. I ate my burger while standing between a businessman and a hipster, across the counter from two street kids. The burgers are on par with In-N-Out, the fries are superior but the chocolate shakes could use some work.

    City Market is apparently popular among discouraged Republicans. Not pictured here: the signs encouraging nude bicyclists and Santa Claus to stop on in for their quality convenience store goods.

    The Space Needle was all lit-up for, no, not Christmas. The top was illuminated with eerie blood-red lights for World AIDS Day. Here's what it looked like from the ground. Please ignore the super happy festive tree up front and focus instead on the somberness of a deadly disease that continues to impact millions worldwide. Thanks.

    The staff wouldn't let me take photos of Captain Kirk's chair in the science fiction wing of the EMP. Here instead is a shot of a creepy Donald Duck ride in the amusement park section of Seattle Center.

    One evening the fire alarm went off in my hotel. A voice came on the PA system and said, "We are currently investigating a fire alarm." That's it. No further details. A woman down the hall stuck her head out of her room long enough to ask," Are we supposed to leave? I'm not going down 15 flights of stairs in these heels unless I have to." I decided not to worry about it until, two minutes later, I saw two firetrucks blasting down 3rd Avenue towards the hotel. I grabbed my laptop, my camera and ran downstairs to...

    ...find a smoke-filled lobby and a small crowd watching two fireman investigate an elevator. A motor had sputtered out, filling the first few floors with smoke. I hung around long enough to take this photo. I didn't see the lady in heels down there.


    Monday, December 01, 2008


    An old-fashioned, country Thanksgiving

    I spent Thanksgiving on a farm in the outskirts of the little town of Marcola, Oregon. My sister's boyfriend's parents raise reindeer and Guinea hens on their farm. It's an odd combination. The hens are incredibly neurotic and flip out whenever anyway comes within 30 yards of the house whereas the reindeer will only acknowledge your existence if they suspect you've brought them food. They like apples in particular but only certain kinds and they can't be mushy.

    I spent a good portion of the afternoon asking his mother a million stupid questions about reindeer. What does their main diet consist of? Purina Reindeer Chow. Apparently there is such a thing (or, more likely, she was just messing with me). Why reindeer? There's a market for their antlers when they fall off in the spring, provided they don't break them by plowing into one another. These reindeer also spend every November and December touring the Willamette Valley. They're slated to make an appearance at Beaverton Town Square on December 6th. Further information can be found here.

    They stick with female reindeer because they aren't as aggressive and territorial as their male counterparts. A few years ago, a member of their pack named Jingle Bells grew an impressive "rack" and landed herself on the cover of a magazine devoted to reindeer. Yes, there is such a thing. Sadly, that reindeer has since passed away but two new babies have been brought into the fold. Pictured above is Sugar Plum, who accidentally broke a horn earlier this season.

    Here's a few photos of Frosty, the cranky, self-professed leader. Another reindeer, Dasher, has a problem with traveling and tends to faint the second a lead rope is attached to her harness. Maybe it's stage-fright or perhaps she's just a huge prima madonna. Reindeer can be tough to read.

    Of course, as you're probably wondering yourself, I asked what they taste like. While they don't harvest their pack for anything beyond antlers, they have eaten reindeer meat at an annual reindeer convention. Do such things apparently exist? Apparently, you betcha.

    So what does reindeer meat taste like? Roast beef. And now you know. Merry Christmas!





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