April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Saturday, May 30, 2009



I have a vivid childhood memory of my parents taking me to a family restaurant built inside an old house. This was back sometime in the mid-'80s. It was a summer place, likely out on the coast or somewhere along the Columbia River Gorge. I can't remember the name and neither can my mom and dad but one thing sticks out in my mind: the bathroom.

At some point during the meal, I ran upstairs to use the facilities, completely oblivious to what was sitting in an old, claw-foot bathtub in front of the toilet. When I turned around, I found a life-sized dummy in a top hat and tails slouched in the tub, gleefully hoisting a champagne glass. It looked sort of like WC Fields.

I started screaming and ran back to the table. I've told this story to other people who have grown up around Portland. A few of them also remember the restaurant and the mannequin in the bathroom but none of us can remember where the place was or the name.

It's probably long gone by now. Thankfully, the McMenamins empire is around to inspire nightmares in a whole new generation of Oregonians. Each location has at least one creepy mural. The dark halls of the Kennedy School are lined with fuzzy, black and white photos of eerie school kids. Edgefield's corridors contain the same sort of vaguely sinister, blown-up historical photos of its inhabitants during its days as a poor farm.

This freestanding doorway in one of the gardens is pretty disconcerting. It seems to whisper, "Come, children. Pass through this door into a darkly enchanted world, most likely inhabited by the scariest puppets in the Jim Henson Workshop and/or an '80s-era David Bowie dressed in tights. Prepare to "Dance, Magic Dance" FOR ALL ETERNITY! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Is that a reference to Labyrynth? Absolutely.

But I think the award for the creepiest bit of decor in all of the McMenamins restaurants should go to a painting at the top of the stairs on the third floor of the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. The original restaurant, built inside a 19th century farmhouse, is now only used for special events and was upsurged by the newer, larger Imbrie Hall Pub out back.

Last summer, I met up with some people out there for dinner. I arrived before everyone else and, with some time to kill, I wandered into the house and started poking around. When I looked up the darkened stairs, for a good five seconds, I was convinced the painting of the girl below was real. While I didn't run out of the house screaming, the incident immediately reminded me of the bathtub dummy. And, yeah, of the twins from The Shining too.

I tried to play a prank on two colleagues during a trip to the Roadhouse a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, someone left all the lights on, thus ruining the illusion. I climbed up to see what the girl is pointing at and a chill made it at least halfway up my spine. The third floor of the roadhouse has a low ceiling and there's only one door. A tiny, old wooden door.

With a deadbolt.

What are the staff keeping in there? A terrible secret? A somewhat terrible secret? Or pot plants?

I think it's pot plants. Or old table cloths.

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Friday, May 29, 2009


Does Portland have a glow in the dark mini golf course with a zombie pirate theme?

The answer to this questions is: but of course.

Glowing Greens opened in a large subterranean spot downtown back in 2007. A stairwell surrounded by black-lit paintings of pirates and foreign shores leads visitors down into the depths of 18-holes of undead buccaneer-themed sports-type and putt putt-related entertainment.

It's all fairly surreal, especially if you shell out an extra $2.00 for 3D glasses that make the decor pop out at you at every turn. I tried a pair and, I'll be honest, having a painting of a howling, bright green skeleton clawing at the corner of my field of vision didn't improve my game. Not one iota.

The holes are all inspired. There's one with a shark, another lined with tiki gods and a hole with a "monster in a box" that jumps around as you walk past. The atmosphere is great but none of it really impacts the game. A few more elaborate hazards would have been nice. On a course like this shouldn't players be able to hit a golf ball into a zombie whale's mouth or have it pop out of a cannon?

I think Holoscene's annual Minigolf Art Invitational has turned me into some kinda putt-putt snob. Glowing Greens is easily the best and most elaborate year-round mini-golf course in the state.

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The Gorge, through an iPhone lens

Last week I had to spend a day out in Troutdale on a work-related field trip. After pulling off I-84 I immediately got lost and wound up in the parking lot of Edgefield. It's good to now know there's a 74-acre sized bar just up the street from one of my company's offices.

I detoxed underneath the manor's water tank after work with a plate of jambalaya and a pint of Rubinator. I wound up taking the incredibly long way home afterward. Here's an iPhone photo of the setting sun taken from Crown Point. The phone's lens turned the vista into some sort of eerie moonscape. Is that the Columbia River Gorge or is it the surface of some strange, alien world? I'll let you decide.

And, if you're curious, here's how Multnomah Falls is looking these days:

With the sun easing into the hills as I was driving back towards Portland, the Columbia was soaked in a sort of "fried gold" hue. I should have probably pulled over and taken a quick snapshot. Sorry, internets. I've failed you.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Pssst! You wanna bootleg or two for last Thursday's Decemberists' show at the McDonald Theatre? Here you go. Tell no one where you got these. Yeah, yeah, yeah, both files can be opened in iTunes or Quicktime.

The file for the first Hazards of Love set can be downloaded by clicking here.

And the file for the second singles/Oregon Trail reenactment/"let's go storm Spiller Hall" set can be downloaded by clicking here.

Please, enjoy these responsibly. Or not. I seriously doubt that anyone from Columbia Records is going to put forth the effort to send this wee little blog a cease and desist letter.

[Knock on wood. Wood that may or may not have been stepped on by the restless spirit of a 19th-century chimney sweep or a mythical shape-shifting womanizer.]

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Abiqua Falls

I first read about Abiqua Falls on a local blog called Go West, Young Tex. The impression I was left with was that it was a "secret waterfall," both difficult and treacherous to reach. A friend living in Silverton claimed it could only be found by bushwhacking one's way through private property. Further investigation on his part revealed that this wasn't the case.

While reaching the falls this time of year doesn't require a machete and a Sherpa Guide, it's hardly pooch, kid or Mini Cooper friendly. Getting there requires a hardy, gas-guzzling vehicle. The road leading to the trailhead is rough, rocky and, on a busy day, an oblivious dirt biker lies around every blind corner. The trail down is roughly a mile but it's both steep and slippery. It leads up to a slick, 45-degree slide down a muddy path between two fallen evergreens. If you make it past this you're in for another 1/4 mile hike along a rocky creek bed. Your reward for all of this? A gorgeous basalt bowl and a vista that's a few hobbits short of being a Tolkien fever dream.

While the climb back up definitely qualifies as a "total pain in the ass," the falls are worth both the effort and, in my opinion, being given the black and white treatment in Photoshop. While the road and trail may keep the crowds away, the secret is out. The day I was down there, several fisherman and a family had overtaken the place. This didn't stop three teenagers from attempting to recreate a few of the early passages from Lord of the Flies though.

Further information and directions? You can find them over here.

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Friday, May 22, 2009


Like an elephant ear-wielding phoenix....

...the Rose Festival has once again risen from the murky depths of the Willamette to feast upon Portland. Waterfront Village opened today. The grass down there won't be the same again until sometime in October. I took this photo while walking through the park on my way to Saturday Market last weekend.

Who am I to resist the festival's siren-like call?

%^!#!@!, what time do the fireworks start?



The Decemberists at the McDonald Theatre, 5/22

I've now seen the Decemberists in concert something like six or seven times. Much of this has to do with the fact that the band plays in and around Portland a few times a year. It's like living down the street from a bootlegger. Easy access + boredom = lots of moonshine and/or folk rock band performances.

Feel free to go back and check my math on this. Proximity notwithstanding, the Decemberists are one of the best live bands out there.

Towards the end of their show last night at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, lead singer Colin Meloy stopped "A Cautionary Tale" to stage a historical reenactment of life along the Oregon Trail with members of the band and the audience. Maybe this has become a concert standard for the Decemberists. Meloy paused a show at the Crystal Ballroom last year to educate the crowd with an impromptu production all about the Shanghai Tunnels.

With random University of Oregon fratboys volunteering to play oxen and other audience members representing the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River, "pioneers" Chris Funk and guest vocalist Shara Worden fought their way across the floor and back to the stage. I can't remember who made it up there first but, at some point, Worden jumped onto the back of one of the fratboys and started slapping him on the head. Why various members of a local fraternity turned up at a folk rock concert, I have no idea.

This is the note the Decemberists ended their show on. Prior to this, the band traded instruments with one another for an acid rock jam session in the middle of "The Chimbley Sweep." Some bands come to a show, rip through a perfect imitation of their studio recordings and call it a night. It's the Decemberists' "what the hell, why not?" crowd interaction and stage banter that keep me coming back for more. Meloy also encouraged the audience to stage a sit-in at his old dorm at the university after the show. I wonder if anyone actually showed up at Spiller Hall last night.

The Decemberists played two sets, the first a run-through of their Hazards of Love concept album, complete with dry ice and lightening effects that made the stage's Macbeth-y forest backdrop seem to pop out over their heads. Guest vocalists Becky Stark and Shara Worden played their roles well, the latter stomping around the stage like something out of Where the Wild Things Are and howling like a legitimate wicked forest queen during "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid." Stark and Worden also pounded on drums during "The Rake's Song," which involved no less than five percussion sets. 'Twas awesome.

After a break, the band returned for a second set of older tracks including "July, July," "We Both Go Down Together" and "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)."

My iPhone was busy recording the show so I didn't manage to take any photos. I'd be happy to share this bootleg with y'all here on the blog and run the risk of receiving a cease and desist letter from Capitol Records over the holiday weekend but iTunes has decided to stop syncing-up properly with my "Speak Easy Recording Application." The image above was pilfered from a review of their recent show in Oakland. Sorry about that.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


There's a story here...

....but I don't know what it is.

A few Saturdays ago, I had the opportunity to tag along on a mission to find a teeny-tiny replacement part for an '08 Subaru. We wound up at a junk yard on the outskirts of Albany. Somewhere among the hundreds of wrecked cars we came across this wine delivery van. I don't have a theory about how it wound up there but the guy standing in this photo obviously does.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The not-so simple life

I picked up a copy of My Abandonment from Annie Blooms Books a few weeks ago. It's a fictionalized take on Frank and Ruth, a father and daughter who were discovered living in an elaborate homestead in Forest Park a few years ago. They were the subject of plenty of local media scrutiny and the two later disappeared after attempts were made to usher them back into society. Frank and Ruth left behind a relief fund, plenty of unanswered questions and no one seems to know what happened to them.

Author Peter Rock's novel is devoted to theorizing what life must have been like for Ruth, dubbed here as Caroline, and the motives that fueled her father's desire to keep her almost entirely hidden from civilization. The first act of My Abandonment focuses on his attempts to educate and provide for his daughter while ducking authorities and the various miscreants that reside in the park. After they're discovered and relocated to a small town farm, Rock makes an educated guess about the family's fate as they drift through the dark corners of Portland and the rest of the state.

In tone and spirit, My Abandonment shares a few similarities with The Road, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic ode to a father's indomitable love for his offspring. Rather than fleeing cannibals and an encroaching nuclear winter, Rock's protagonists devote their lives to running from predominantly imagined threats. Like The Road, the novel is equal parts disturbing and heartbreaking. The fact that it's based on a true story makes it all the more haunting.



At the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.

I spent a rainy day-off in Seattle last month. On the way out of town I wound up at the Green Space Travel Supply Co. A description, from the store's website:

GOING UP? Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. is the finest purveyor of necessities for adventurers of all varieties, gifts both fine and amusing, objects of distraction, curios and miscellany. We carry a large selection of items from the brands you trust.

Space travel is all we do!

Greenwood is, of course, the Seattle chapter of 826 National, the nonprofit organization founded by authors Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. The after-school program/kooky gift shop chain now has seven locations around the country, each with its own unique theme. Given the Emerald City's most recognizable icon, it's only natural that its chapter has a shop devoted to outer space gear.

Greenwood isn't quite as large or as filled with irony-drenched brick-a-brack as the org's flagship pirate shop in San Francisco. There's no fish theater or booby traps involving mopheads but there is an "atomic teleporter" that whisks kids from the gift shop into the classroom. The gal working the cash register offered to let me try it out but I didn't want to explain myself to the dozen-or-so future NYT Best Seller List authors on the other side of the wall.

Among the items for sale in the gift shop: black holes, rocket fuel, dark matter, terraforming starter kits, thermographic dispenser nozzles and ocular vulnerability reduction systems (aka goggles). I bought a bumper sticker advising all would-be space travelers that "a lack of preparation is a recipe for mishaps."

I'll keep this in mind the next time I get the opportunity to spend an afternoon in zero gravity.


Saturday, May 16, 2009


Meet Henry

My friends Dan and Ashley recently made one of these things. I believe it's called a "bay-bee" or something like that. This is very exciting since they're the first members of my social group to do this. At least as far as I know. There is one guy that could very well have a kid running around in every time zone on the planet.

So this little bugger's name is Henry Charles Atkinson. He was born on Mother's Day and, at this point, I don't know much about him other than that he's a big fan of breast milk and that his doodie doesn't stink.

Now this is an interesting factoid that I didn't know about newborns until a few days ago. Supposedly, a newborn's poop doesn't give off much of a scent because their digestive system hasn't built up a significant amount of stink-causing bacteria or something like that. I remain skeptical but I'm not about to stick my nose anywhere near Henry's diaper basket to find out for sure. If you would like to know more about the bowel movements of newborns, click here.

Happy to be of service.

I can't foresee a day when I'll ever have kids so I'd just like to thank Dan and Ashley for cranking one out. According to George Benson and Whitney Houston, children are our future. After all, someone is going to have to lead the revolution against the Terminators a few decades down the road and I'll be too old to do it. Can't you picture lil' Henry here gruffly muttering "if you're listening to this, you ARE the resistance" over a short-wave radio in post-apocalyptic LA as a NIN song plays in the background?

OK, Atkinsons. The future of humanity may very well depend on your parenting skills. Don't screw this up.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The new Star Trek: not as awesome as you think it is

A 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes? Better critical reviews than The Dark Knight? For this? You can't be serious.

I saw Star Trek last Friday at the 11 PM screening at the Broadway Metroplex. I was with a group of people so drunk on absinthe that 2/3s of them had passed out before Old Spock even showed up on the screen. I left the theater feeling like either I had missed something or J.J. Abrams had missed something. I was willing to give the movie a second shot so I went to see it again on Sunday (my mom's a Trek nerd from way back and dammed if her kids weren't going to take her to see this thing on Mothers Day). This 21st century Trek was better the second time around but I was still left thinking, "is this pap really worth such universal praise?"

So here's a few of the reasons why this new, improved brand of Star Trek is only marginally more watchable than, say, Wolverine.

1. It Suffers From Bay-ifacation For worse or even worse, Michael Bay has forever left his mark on summer blockbusters. It's all but impossible to throw away $10 on a movie ticket between May 1st and Labor Day without being subjected to two hours of over-edited, shaky-cam action sequences drained of drama and actors rushing through their dialog like they're running late to meet their coke dealer. Star Trek plays like it's on fast-forward.

2. No, Really, All the Action Sequences Sucked A tepid fist fight in a bar, a boring fist fight on an intergalactic drill, a brief fist fight between Kirk and Spock, a lame tentacle fight between two ice monsters and a banal fist fight between Kirk and a few Romulans. Did I miss anything?

3. It's Not Star Trek: OK, so I've seen one episode of the original show and I haven't seen any of the movies besides Wrath of Kahn and The Undiscovered Country since I was 14. Still, even I know the vital ingredients that make up the best series in this beloved sci-fi franchise: sermonizing, a sense of awe and Captain Kirk being a cocky mofo. Instead of philosophical plot lines about the future of humanity, we're left with a pointless Spock/Uhura/Kirk love triangle and Scotty's adorable alien coworker. There's a gorgeous shot of the Enterprise blasting out of a black hole in the last ten minutes that lasts a grand total of three seconds. The old Trek movies spent no less than half of their running times just getting the ship out of the damn spaceport, whacking the audience over the head with just how marvelous the model looked. And Kirk? Instead of being a badass he spends the entire movie getting his ass kicked badly. Future subordinates, Uhura, Spock, Romulans, ice monsters...is there anyone in the movie that doesn't roundhouse punch him at some point? This is the same ballsy captain that goes on to drop kick a humpback whale at the age of 53 after time traveling? William Shatner did fight a whale in the fourth movie, right? I can't remember. It's been a long time.

4. The bad guy sucks: Eric Bana's Nero gets a grand total of five minutes of screen time and doesn't get to quote Herman Melville even once. In the new Star Trek, revenge is a dish best served lukewarm.

5. The Enterprise Looks the Inside of a Cartoon Coffee Maker: It's all sleek plastic surfaces and florescent tubes. Is this thing a starship capable of withstanding photon torpedoes in the depths of space or something that should be filled with Folgers Crystals?

6. Of All the Things That Were Changed Uhura's Go-Go Boots Weren't One of Them: Those things can't be standard-issue for Starfleet lieutenants.

7. Industrial Light and Magic Did The Special Effects: And when was the last time they had anything to do with a watchable science fiction movie? That's right, George Lucas' taint has helped ruin a second big-budget relaunch.

Bring on Night at the Museum 2! Now there's a summer blockbuster.

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Monday, May 11, 2009


Questo articolo รจ piuttosto prolisso

"Toi, toi, toi!"

According to what I learned backstage at the Keller Auditorium on Friday night, opera singers don't wish each other good luck. They use phrases like "toi, toi, toi," which, according to the internet, comes from the custom of spitting three times over someone's shoulder for good luck. Another common expression translates into "in the mouth of the wolf." If someone says these words to you before you head on stage you're supposed to respond with "break the wolf."

In Italian, of course.

Six Portland bloggers, myself included, attended Blogger Night at the Opera. We went on a backstage tour, we walked around the set, we peeked in the green room and the staff kept bringing us complimentary alcohol and chocolate chip cookies. All in all, I think I made the wise decision to head down there instead of staying home to watch the series finale of Dollhouse.

Among the things we learned: operas around the country trade sets, most American opera singers are conversational in Italian, three weeks is considered a long rehearsal period for the average opera, the Portland Opera decides which shows will go into production at least three years in advance, the singers aren't miked, the subtitles that appear over the stage are called "super titles" and they operate on Apple Keynote. A crew member manually hits a button to make each line appear as the performers on stage hit their queues.

Even in the perpetually casual city of Portland, opera attendees wear their finest. I was probably the most poorly dressed human being in the building, although wearing a shirt with any sort of collar is typically what I consider "dressing up." My hair refuses to stay combed for longer than two minutes so, by the time Joe Smith and his cameraman headed over for the Live @ 7 broadcast on KGW, I was looking like I'd just wandered in off the street wearing Homer Simpson's work duds. There's a reason why I don't go around posting photos of myself on the internet and all the free wine did not help matters. Here's the clip, compliments of KGW's website. I start babbling at Joe at the 1:10 mark.

The six of us blogged in the lobby before the performance began, during the two intermissions and after the final curtain dropped. Honestly, it's impossible to type anything semi-coherent with dozens of people dressed in tuxedos and cocktail dresses gawking at you like bored 3rd graders on a trip to the penguin exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. Or least that's how it was for me.

Those attendees that did speak with us were all polite, curious and nothing like the Veruca Salt-esque goblins I was expecting. Most wanted to know what we were typing and if we were saying nasty things about them. The highlight was a dapper older gent dressed in a tuxedo. He couldn't quite grasp the concept of blogs but was completely well versed in the world of computers and discussed at length the wiki he recently created. He ended our conversation by saying he built his first computer in the early 70s. I have no idea who this guy is or to what extent he was screwing with me. I suspect he may be a retired higher-up from Tektronix or Intel. What a character.

During the second intermission, a tenor stopped by to answer questions and shake hands. He'll be performing in a series of productions when the Portland Opera begins its next season in the fall. I had to think of questions on the spot. The first that sprang to mind was how he got into this businesses (he began acting in high school productions and went on to perform theater at Yale) and how many calories the average opera singer burns during a 3-hour show (plenty and some of them insist on going on stage with a full stomach).

There was also the opera itself, a stunning production of Rigoletto, which follows the tragedy of a cursed court jester and the perils of unrequited love in Renaissance-era Italy. Mark Rucker did a bang up job in the title role and it was surprising to learn that Sarah Coburn, who played Gilda, performed while six months pregnant. Not to give anything away, but Gilda spends much of the third act getting dragged across the stage in a burlap sack.

It was great to see Dieselboi's truly impressive sideburns up close and to meet several local bloggers who's stuff I've been reading for years but who I had never met in person. Mike Russell not only live-blogged the event, he also live-illustrated it. I hope he posts the contents of his sketchpad over at Culture Pulp sometime soon. In the meantime, several of the pages are viewable on his Twitter account.

A thanks and a tip of the hat go out to the Portland Opera and Publicity and Publications Manager Julia Sheridan for organizing the event. It truly was a wonderful evening. Thanks, everybody.

Rigoletto continues through May 16th at the Keller Auditorium. Tickets, info and more can be found here.

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Friday, May 08, 2009



Well, the squirming kid made it through the show and he only kicked me once. Just wrapping things up here at the Keller. Poor, poor Rigoletto. The curse only had enough kick to ruin his life but the nefarious duke escapes unscathed? Booooo!

One last bit of trivia: Sarah Coburn, the performer who played Gilda, is currently six months pregnant. She spends a good portion of the third act in a burlap sack. Wow. Now that's what I call dedication to one's craft.



Act two intermission

Just spoke with a tenor named Ryan will be here for a production in October. He talked about the diet of the average opera singer. I had to think of questions on the spot and the first thing that came to mind was James Brown's insane dietary needs to get through three hours of doing the splits on stage. Ryan says it depends on the singer. Some insist on going on stage with a full belly. He'll be heading to Dublin from here before returning in the fall.

Back inside for act three.



Act one intermission

So the set and singing are great. The lady sitting in front of me with the huge hair and the squirming kid sitting next to me? Not so great. His parents have dressed him in a suit and at one point he looked he was about to pass out. He's acting like opera is his Kryptonite.

Some random thoughts as we're getting gawked at by the crowd.....

  • A fellow in a suit is asking what we're writing about him. We weren't but now we are. Hi, sir. This is what I'm writing about you. Ummmmm.....nice jacket?

  • The typed-out dialog above the stage is called super script. The backstage staff uses Keynote and has to manually hit a button to make each line pop up to keep the pace with the performers.

  • Poor Rigaletto. His daughter just got nabbed by that nefarious duke. He is so nefarious. In her nightgown no less.

  • People are actually picking up the business cards I've had sitting around forever. Hooray!

  • Some plot holes: why does Rigaletto wind up blindfolded at the top of the ladder? And why did the duke have to use a mob to kidnap his daughter when he's already seduced her? The motivations....so confusing.



    Live from the Keller ....

    So far Veruca Salt hasn't showed herself but we did just get to chat with Joe from Live @ 7 on KGW. Oh noes! They don't seat us late. GOtta run inside.


    A night at the opera

    The Portland Opera recently sent out emails to local bloggers with little knowledge of their wing of the live theater community. After admitting that I hadn't been to an opera since a friend's mother played in the chorus of a Carmina Burana production in the mid-90s, I accepted their invite to live-blog tonight's performance of Rigoletto. I'm dragging my sister Shanna along and we'll be joined by all of these fine, upstanding new media-types this evening at the company's first ever Blogger Night @ The Opera. The show starts at 7:30 but we'll all be blogging in the lobby beforehand.

    I'm not sure what to expect, having never really been to an opera, let alone reported from one live. I assume that various opera aficionados will come up to us in the lobby and the ensuing conversations with the crowd will go something like this:

    OPERA AFICIONADO: [dressed in a tuxedo, a top hat and a monocle] You're all blog-errs? I do hope that you realize that if you continue to engage in such a peculiar and foul activity that hair will grow upon your palms and you will all soon become quite nearsighted.

    ME: [dressed in jeans and a t-shirt] That's OK. I've been blogging for years. These aren't problems that an electric shaver and a pair of contact lenses can't keep at bay.

    OPERA AFICIONADO'S YOUNG DAUGHTER: [tugging on her father's coattails] I want a blogger. Buy me a blogger, Father.

    OPERA AFICIONADO: Oh, all right.

    YOUNG DAUGHTER: [pointing at Shanna] I want the girl one in the Threadless t-shirt with the unicorn on it!

    OPERA AFICIONADO: [to an usher] How much for the female one that won't stop chugging lager?

    SHANNA: I'm not a blogger. I'm just here for the beer.

    USHER: I'm afraid the bloggers are not for sale.

    YOUNG DAUGHTER: [she bursts into tears before breaking into a song and dance routine from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory] I want the works! I want the whole works! Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises! Of all shapes and sizes! And now! Don't care how! I want it now!

    Opera patrons all behave like 19th century blue bloods and Veruca Salt, right?

    Well, if I'm wrong I'll soon be corrected. Willful ignorance? Naive presumptions? It's probably going to be a rough night for you two....


    Crazy Enough at Portland Center Stage

    "While all the other girls were putting Ken dolls on top of their Barbies I was having fantasies about bestiality and cannibalism."

    "After being awake for four days straight and once the shadow demons started showing up I decided it was time to go."

    Storm Large's one woman show Crazy Enough is filled with dark bon mots like these and they all sound like they were drilled out of the mouth of a Chuck Palahniuk character. Is it a coincidence that the show includes a cover of the Pixies' "Where is My Mind," a song that has become synonymous with the film version of Fight Club?

    Probably, but Large's autobiographical hell ride through heroin addiction, mental illness and subsequent redemption sure sounds like the stuff of fiction. Here is a woman who was told at a young age that she was biological predestined to spend her adult life mired in the depths of crippling clinical depression. Her childhood is filled with stories like the time she was served chicken casserole mixed with household cleansers by her schizophrenic mother. Large has been a teenage sex addict, a San Francisco junkie plagued by halluciations, a lead singer, a reality show star and a rock n' roll goddess in a city without one to call its own.

    Large's music career is filled with music industry cliches you can find in any biography in the music section of Powell's. Sex, drugs, poverty, gaining fame, losing fame but how many other lead singers, successful and otherwise, can say they once found themselves in an abortion clinic the day after 9/11? Or have a song like "Eight Miles Wide" in their catalog?

    Crazy Enough is a show that might make you wonder if it's exploiting the traumas of its star and if Large might be better off telling all of this to a psychiatrist instead of a packed theater in the basement of a renovated armory. As she reveals in the second half of Crazy Enough though, Large once tried going to a therapist. When ghosts started showing up in the corner of the room during sessions she decided to bag it.

    For those of us who have never attended a show this frank and confessional, it's fairly intense to watch someone pour their heart out like this. I was sitting a few feet from the stage and had a hard time watching the show at times, especially when Large reenacted the depths of heroin withdrawal while rolling around the stage a few feet from my seat.

    From that vantage I could look across the stage at the audience on the other side of the room. One middle-aged couple caught my eye. They looked like they had driven down from Lake Oswego on the recommendation of one of the wife's more cosmopolitan friends. Throughout the performance, she had a hard time fighting back tears and laughter while her husband spent the entire time visibly cringing at every single one of Large's f-bombs.

    The band and Large took a short break after a sing-along that sent her into the audience encouraging all the guys in the theater to join in the chorus of "Eight Miles Wide." I didn't think the couple was going to return from the intermission but they did. The theater was filled with husbands that night, some of them rolling with it, others just blushing and rolling their eyes. All the women in the theater though? They enjoyed the hell of everything, possibly even more so than that time they snuck a bottle of merlot into a showing of the Sex and the City movie.

    If this sounds like your cup of black tar tea, I can't recommend Crazy Enough, er, enough. From now on I'll think of Storm Large's dark day on a beach near San Fran instead of Fight Club every time I hear "Where is My Mind?" on KNRK. Her cover can be heard here.

    Crazy Enough plays in the Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage through June 7th. Tickets, info and more can be found here.

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    Tony's Old Time Tavern

    A review from Barfly Magazine:

    There's actually plenty of reasons to frequent Tony's - for even those not 86'd by every surrounding establishment - though, y'know, every bar has its niche. Their cigarette machine beats mini mart prices, six-packs are sold up til 2:29:59, the pool table's generally vacant, they have a real juke box (that's really good!), they open at 7 AM, and regulars have been long inured to glammier tourists. Cleaner than you'd expect (excepting the regulars), the shotgun tavern wouldn't even be considered all that divey a few miles east though a lingering reputation ensures, post-Beavers games, it's the only staggerable option with guaranteed seating.

    I think that hits the 16 ounce can of Hamm's on the head. Plus, there's a creepy rabbit statue behind the bar (see above). Tony's can be found near the corner of 19th and West Burnside.

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    Thursday, May 07, 2009


    The Un-Road Trip

    Boaz Frankel has led one of those lives that's bound to make plenty of his former high school classmates envious (full disclosure: we were both members of the drama department at Wilson). He's an NYU graduate, he's interviewed Samuel L. Jackson, he once supposedly taught Sarah Silverman how to play dreidel, he's hosted his own talk show, he's interned for The Today Show and he once set a world record for the "most high-fives in an hour" in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Now he's crisscrossing the country on what he's calling an "un-road trip" to help draw awareness to alternative modes of transportation.

    Boaz began the trip a few Sundays back with a tandem bike ride with a pre-car wreck/still zipped-up Sam Adams through Waterfront Park. Since then he's traveled on a camel in Albuquerque, a pogo stick in LA and something called a "wine bike" in Chicago.

    You can follow his adventures over here on the Un-Road Trip's blog.

    Monday, May 04, 2009


    Keep it like (the) Keizer

    I woke up on Saturday with no idea that I'd be spending the bulk of the evening in Keizer. I'd never been there before and really had no reason to pay a visit. Then along came two colleagues who are absolutely convinced that the city offers some of the best Mexican food in the state.

    The menu at La Hacienda Real is huge and has to be at least the size of the one you'll find in a Cheesecake Factory. More impressive is the decor. The Keizer location of the three restaurant chain is tucked away in an unassuming strip mall. The inside resembles a cartoon village. Cactus lamps hang from the ceiling and a "tortilla lady" cranks out shells in a kitchen built inside a facade that looks like a guest house.

    The portions are huge but the Iron Horse in Milwaukie still gets my vote for "Best Mexican Restaurant in Oregon."

    Near the front door we spotted this sign for a local high school's production of The Taming of the Shrew: The Yee Haw Version. None of us had heard of this twist on the Bard's anti-feminist screed. It was closing night and curiosity got the better of us. We'd never get another shot at something like this.

    We arrived at McNary High School with time to kill so we wandered the darkened halls. All in all, it seemed fairly normal. Trophy case by the gym, student-made posters about The Great Gatsby outside an English class...

    ...and then we found the pornographic modern art sculpture made out of bubble wrap up on the second floor.

    I broke out my iPhone if only to later prove that the sculpture wasn't the product of group hypnosis. If you think you can handle a few blurry NSFW cell phone photos, click here and here. I can only assume it was an art student's senior prank.

    Kids these days...

    We made it through the entirety of Shrew's nearly three hour running time. The girl who played Kate was great and the cast spent a good portion of the play running around with prop guns. Kate had a real whip and swung it over the heads of the audience and her cast mates. I was once a teenage drama geek in the PPS district and I was never once allowed to wield an actual weapon on stage (dammit). I guess they just do things differently in high schools further down the I-5 corridor.

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    I'm a Lebowski, you're a Lebowski

    Here's a shot of a crowd at the Bagdad Theatre and Pub bouncing around to a cover of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's immortal classic "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." On Friday night, KUFO and the old movie palace hosted their annual screening of The Big Lebowski, a movie I now have a hard time watching if I'm not surrounded by hundreds of drunk people all shouting out the lines along with the cast.

    Admission was free but the audience was required to show up a few hours before the start time at Laurelhurst Park dressed in bathrobes ala "The Dude." From there, the crowd paraded to the theater through the streets of SE Portland behind a marching band. I cheated and ran back to the Bagdad ahead of them to grab a decent seat because I am, obviously, a terrible human being.





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