April 2011

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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 7: The Cow Encounter

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Monday, August 30, 2010


What it's like to help build a fire chapel in a wasteland


There's a lot to loath about Black Rock City and much of it is incapsulated in this short essay "Why I Will Never Go to Burning Man." I vowed to never return after last year. I told friends that "once is more than enough." Still, I felt like I hadn't really experienced the dang thing. Plus, I've always wanted to work on a festival but I've never had the time until this summer. I was intrigued by the idea of watching Black Rock City rise up out of the dust of the playa and to see if Burning Man's high-falooting ideals of "leaving the real world behind," and "building a better world" were true from a behind-the-scenes perspective.

As mentioned in a prior post, I've been here in Nevada since Monday night. I rode out with a writer from Portland who I'll refer to as "Brenda" and traded a ride in exchange for her extra Early Entry Pass. Brenda, who I doubt will ever read these words, embodies a lot of the negative aspects and stereotypes that I associate with the festival. She's flighty, condescending, pretentious and acts like she's 22 but she's actually 42. Brenda's a Burner who breaks out phrases like "you can't understand Burning Man if you've never been there."

I call BS on that. Do you want to know what this festival is all about? I'll wrap it up in a nutshell right now: "it allows people from all walks of life to roll out into the middle of a wasteland in Nevada to dress up in funny costumes, feel spiritual, boost their pride at being able to live in a rugged environment for a week, look at modern art, see naked people and/or do drugs (mushrooms, ecstasy or pot)."

While Brenda was chatty and pleasant on the drive out, she turned into an entirely different person as we drove down the final stretch of highway to Burning Man. On the desert floor Brenda uses a code name, like many Burners do, typically referred to as "playnyms" or "playa names."

The good-natured, intelligent but daffy gal I had spent the prior nine hours with turned into a gregarious, childish weirdo as we pulled up to the Black Rock City gates. She put on a pair of rabbit ears and began bouncing around the car like a pre-schooler. Brenda, now in full bunny mode, hopped out of the car while it was still moving to hug a guy at the front gates. I ceased to exist and she treated me like a cab driver from there on out. I dropped Brenda off at her camp and that was that.


Offers to help me out with a few meal vouchers and a volunteer gig were instantly forgotten. I wandered into the Info Tent on Wednesday and found her sitting on a couch with a group of her colleagues. I said, "hello" and she couldn't be bothered to acknowledge my existence, sort of like a prom queen ignoring a nerd in a high school cafeteria. Everybody around her was equally cool and bristled when I dared to ask for a piece of duct tape.

But no matter. A colleague from Portland put me in touch with an artist named Capra J'neva and her crew, all of them from town, who are in the process of building a "fire chapel." They began work on what they're calling "The Aeolian Pyrophonic Hall and Whispering Wall" back in March and started constructing its parts in May with a crew of local volunteers. For a full rundown on the installation, check out the YouTube video below.

I rolled out to their project site on the desert floor on Tuesday night and they welcomed me into their flock. Their attitude was totally different than the "too cool for school" cold shoulders I had received from Brenda and her Info Tent pals. My preconceptions about the arrogance of Burners quickly melted as I chatted with a fellow named Matthew, a Portland architect who designed the 2008 temple and has been commissioned to construct the 2012 edition. With next to no construction work experience to offer, there was little I could do that first night but help hoist arches and hold ladders. Nevertheless, Capra's crew found little things for me to do and helped me feel welcome.


Matthew insisted on shutting things down to allow everyone to watch the sunset and the moon rise over the hills in the distance. Despite the heat, the vibe and general atmosphere out there was, I'll be honest, downright magical and oozed with the positive aura and community involvement I had been told about by veterans of the festival. It was amazing to watch, first hand, a group of volunteers work on a difficult project in the blazing heat of August in Nevada while staying upbeat and not complaining. At sunset, someone rolled out a pair of speakers and began playing Bollywood soundtrack that meshed perfectly with the mood.

I returned on Wednesday morning and painted portions of the exterior walls before soaring temperatures forced the crew to shut down shop for an afternoon siesta. I returned in the evening and did my best to stay out of the way as more experienced members of the crew used a diesel-powered lift to install portions of the exterior. An artist named Mike, who is out here for his 16th straight year, allowed me to assist him with putting together the large "fire organ" that will serve as the chapel's centerpiece. Along with another greenhorn from Phillidelphia, we spent the evening tightening bolts and screwing pipes into this monster.

I had intended to return on Thursday but high winds and heat convinced me not to truck back out to the project site. Capra and her collaborator/partner Mark had been talking about shutting things down due to weather in order to make a run to Empire for supplies. With a dust storm coming in and visibility dwindling to a mere five feet from my nose, I decided to flee to Reno for the day.

Cheers to Capra, Mark, Matthew, Buffalo, Mike, Matty, Hot Stuff, Trisha, Tink, Christopher and everybody else involved with the project. Also: thanks for the spaghetti, guys! If you're heading out to Black Rock City this year, the Hall can be found about 500 yards from the Temple on the city side. You can't miss it.

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Friday, August 27, 2010


Off at Burning Man....


I've been out in Black Rock City since Monday enduring heat, windstorms and several members of the "Too Cool for School" crowd. I arrived early to help out with an art display that's been put together by a group from the Portland area and I'll be working as a cub reporter for the Black Rock Beacon beginning this weekend.


As friendly and welcoming as some of the Burners have been, there's a somewhat nasty social hierarchy out here that places artists at the bottom of the pecking order. "Crew members," as they're called, are given special bracelets and are allowed to eat free meals in a large mess tent. Artists, meanwhile, are mostly left to fend for themselves. This is hard to fathom since the 40K+ people that attend Burning Man are all here to take in weird art displays ranging from the "fire chapel" I'm helping out with to the tower pictured below. Although, a new group has come together to help "feed the artists."

Anyway, here's a Flickr gallery of shots from out here in Black Rock City.


Updates here on the blog might become sporadic in the coming days once the festival officially starts on Sunday night at 12 AM and once Center Camp's limited wifi service becomes overloaded with users. Cheers...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010


Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 6: Hat Tip and 2,000 Feet Straight Down Into Hells Canyon

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Letter to the blogger

"M," an occasional commenter on the blog from way back, back when this blog had a comment system that actually #@!$!@#! worked, sent me an email about last week's New Times Post post. Here's what she had to say and my response follows....


I just read your post about modern 20 (and 30?) somethings. I can't comment there, so I'm sending this... I have a few issues with points you make(and which I guess the NYT makes). I guess it boils down to: why do things have to happen like they used to? Was it better that way? The only thing I would argue that is needed now is job security and to not have the feeling that a college degree is useless. The rest should be up to the individual to desire. People opt out of marriage and kids for many, many more reasons than "I don't want to make a commitment" and
"they're expensive". It's more of a problem if you want a house and kids but feel you can't afford them, but I think people who really want those things will go ahead and manage somehow.

I am so happy I live in a time where I can be a single independent woman and not be a pariah, where I can pretty much make of my life what I want. It is a freedom. But while you acknowledge it, you don't seem comfortable with it. You say you're happier now, but from things you've said, you seem to still feel insecure with how things have turned out.

I don't think that not being married and not having kids means you are immature and stuck in a perpetual adolescence. Supporting yourself is pretty grown up. So people like me might use their disposable income on concerts and travel rather than a mortgage or raising kids, but I value
those things more anyway. Seeing the world is the way I try to get something out of my little life. And that's my choice, which I feel is great to have. If I did, say, value a career more, I think that would be open to me as well.

Reading what you wrote, and a bit of the NYT article, I wonder if the values and mindset here [FYI: M lives in Holland. -Ed] are just way removed from those in the US and it's become what I'm used to. I am used to women working and thinking about kids post-30 and then going back to work and not necessarily being married to the father. But people are free to do what they want and I think you are judged less here for not having those things. And also careers aren't such a big thing, unlike the US where a lot of who you are is bundled up in what you do and how successful you are. Fortunately, job security is less of an issue here, but people still change jobs often.

Why stay in one place your whole life? It sounds horrible, and this is coming from someone who really shouldn't talk when I've been at one job long enough to seem like a dinosaur in the company. Everywhere has issues with retirement funds though. In the NL they keep talking
about raising the retirement age. Ok, maybe I'm a bit immature there, I'm in a bit of a "it's far in the future, I'm not gonna worry about it" bubble and maybe I should be worried, but really, so much will change between now and then, that even if we fought for things now, it could all be (and likely will be) overturned by the time we actually retire. All the more reason to live now and not dream of doing all that stuff

Anyway, apologies for vomiting this at you, but.... yeah.




I think you're right about American values vs. European values. Despite my love of a "cosmopolitan lifestyle," there's still a nagging sense that I should be travelling down a more cliched path. Maybe it's the subtle messages from media or advertising or the occasional snarky jokes from my more conservative relatives. I consider myself fortunate to live in "America's Most European City," where we all have the option to linger around coffee shops and act snooty just like they do in Paris. Regardless, I'm sure that there's societal pressures that pester Europeans in the same age group as ours when it comes to settling down and raising a family.

Like you said though, things are changing, and for the better. It's becoming increasingly common, as the NYT article points out as well, for Americans to raise kids at a later age or forgo that whole thing entirely. You're not singled out entirely for not doing these things, like an indvidual might have been a generation or two prior. Women are no longer labeled "spinsters" for not getting hitched by the age of 22. We all have more options these days when it comes to these matters.

And, yeah, we have bigger fish to fry. Social security, job security, retirement security....uhhhhh, other securities that are slipping my mind right now. Every generation faces a crisis or two and I still prefer ours to, say, the Civil War or the Great Depression.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


A chat with the Watson Twins

I had the opportunity to chat with the Watson Twins before their show at Lola's Room back on August 5th and recorded the conversation for what should have been Another Portland Blog's first ever podcast.

Then, fate intervened and decided to make my iPhone crash. I lost the 25-minute interview with the twins, on top of seven other podcasts. I'm still livid.

The Watsons were friendly and charming. We talked about everything from the '80s punk scene in Louisville, Kentucky (yeah, Louisville apparently had a punk scene at one point) to collaborating with Jenny Lewis on Rabbit Fur Coat to how they deal with audience chatter. I can't remember their favorite type of whiskey but they said that Maker's Mark is a reasonable substitute. They cite their parent's cool LP collection as a major influence on their music and mentioned that Portland reminded them of home, because both places maintain a small-town vibe despite their girth.

They were also kind enough to step away from their dinner table to pose for a photo in front of the Crystal Ballroom's beer vats. The brewery was serving as their green room since Matisyahu's crew, who were playing a gig upstairs, were hogging all the proper ones.

It's a dang shame that the recording has been lost to the ages. There's a slim possibility I might be able to recover it from somewhere deep in the recesses of my laptop's hardrive. If that happens, I'll be sure to post it here.


Monday, August 23, 2010


Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 5: The Hair-Raising Road to Hat Tip Point

Would you take a car down this road?

Ok, better question, would you take *your* car down this road?

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Friday, August 20, 2010


In Defense of Lady Gaga (Not That She Really Needs to be Defended...)

I thought this was a shameful secret. I remember seeing Lady Gaga on the cover of a Rolling Stone over a year ago in her bubble costume. I remember thinking, "Oh, look, Yet another forgettable blonde pop star." Then, a few months later, Cartman performed "Poker Face" on South Park, which convinced me give her album The Fame Monster a shot. I can't deny the impeccable taste of that animated, prepubescent jerk.

Is Lady Gaga's music revolutionary? Not really. Are the lyrics anything special? Nope. But are the tracks incredibly catchy? Yup. "Poker Face." "Paparazzi." "Alejandro." "Telephone." "Bad Romance." These are all great pop songs. Sure, that's like saying they're a slightly more healthy form of Frosted Flakes than regular Frosted Flakes but still....

Like plenty of other pop stars, Gaga comes from a rough and tumble background. Her beloved father is an alcoholic with heart problems. She stands a serious chance of developing hereditary lupus. She paid her dues in a roach-infested Manhattan apartment and owes her career to a disastrous personal relationship that has since led to a $30 million dollar lawsuit. So she's got the whole "tough-girl, survivor" thing going for her.

What sets her aside from Britney Spears and a million others who have come before her, however, is the level of creativity that goes into her act and persona. I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said but, still, I feel compelled to prattle on. Consider the weird costumes made out of everything from nun habits to police caution tape to lit cigarettes. The ear-worm songs that practically force you to get up out of your seat and shake your ass. Her sociopathic, "take-no-prisoners" demeanor and "Mona Lisa on coke" smile. Her deer-caught-in-headlights interview with Barbara Walters. Her tireless campaign to promote gay marriage and encourage everyone, especially teen girls, homosexuals and the transgendered to be themselves. At the end of her show at the Rose Garden last night, she introduced two of her back-up dancers who are in a committed relationship and want to get hitched but legally can't. The crowd of nearly 20,000 shouted their approval.

And, yeah, there's also the video for "Telephone" where she terrorizes the state of Arizona in the "Pussy Wagon" from Kill Bill with Beyonce as her accomplice. As Stephen Humphrey put it in this week's edition of The Portland Mercury, "say what you will about Gaga (perhaps that she's a shameless, faux-artsy Madonna knock-off?), but spectacle-wise, she's still the best thing we've got going these days."

On Sunday, I decided I'd make a half-hearted attempt to get a last minute ticket to her show in Portland. I jumped on Craigslist got a call from "Charlotte" in Vancouver. She was a gal "of a certain age" and needed to sell her ticket, ASAP. She had fallen for someone in California and had decided to run off to be with them. After another buyer fell through, I drove up I-5 to snag it. Charlotte was a somewhat apologetic Lady Gaga fan. "Can you imagine me being there, at my age, with all those kids," she said. "Still, I love her. She's accomplished so much in just a little over a year."

That said, there were plenty of women well over the age of 50 in the Rose Garden last night. All in all, I'd say the audience was comprised of 85% females, 10% "men of a certain persuasion," 5.9999999% boyfriends/husbands that got dragged to the show and .0000001 me. I was completely out of place, wedged up on the 300-level between a blonde lady and her husband and three teenage girls who arrived in leather and ballerina outfits. It seemed like everyone in the building was dressed in a cocktail dress, an elaborate sci-fi outfit or a colored wig. My vote for Best Costume of the Night: the chick who came in a prom dress while wearing not only a bondage mask but a Hannibal Lecter mask too.

Lady Gaga sure knows her way around an arena. She hosted an elaborate stage show worthy of Madonna in her prime. There was a loose plot about Gaga and her crew trying to find their way across Manhattan in search of the "Monster Ball," the premiere party of the year. They get sidetracked after their car breaks down, forcing them to take the subway while dressed as nuns for some reason. They get knocked further off course by a hurricane/chandelier attack and find themselves trapped in Central Park.

Gaga gets attacked by vampires and jumps into a Fountain of Youth adorned with a flaming angel statue during "Alejandro" and cures her wounds. She spends the rest of the show covered in stage blood as the band tears through her best known songs, culminating in a showdown between her and the "Fame Monster," a giant puppet that looks like a cross between an octopus and a unicorn. Click the YouTube video below to watch this bit. Gaga slays the beastie while wearing a bra-powered by fireworks and with the power of the crowd's flashbulbs. For the encore? She rolls out on stage in a sphere and tears through "Bad Romance."

At this point, the entire crowd was in rapture and she had them in the palm of her hand. The girls next to me were acting like it was 1964 and the Beatles were on stage, screaming themselves horse and singing along to every number. During the show, Gaga referred to the crowd affectionately as "motherfuckers," "assholes," and "monsters." Before "Telephone," she called an audience member with a cell phone and chatted with her on the video screens over the stage. She offered to tongue kiss her after the show. No idea if the girl took her up on the offer.

The show also has its more intimate moments. Gaga rolled up to a piano lit ablaze for a few torch songs as a tribute to her father and "the sexiest bastard on the planet." Oh, and I should note the creepy, between-song videos that feature her getting a tattoo and eating a heart.

The argument could be made that Gaga is just another manufactured fake or merely resurrecting Madonna's shtick, right down to the Catholic League-baiting antics. Open up the summer double-issue of Rolling Stone and you'll see a high school photo of Gaga dressed up like a cheerleader. A far cry from the "ugly girl that used to get made fun of by the popular bitches" as she described them last night. Still, she's a hell of a lot more interesting than anything in pop music in nearly two decades. I'd say she has immense potential to transcend her genre and create an album that one need not apologize for if caught listening to it. I guess we'll see....

Click here to see more footage from the show, including "Bad Romance," and "Show Me Your Teeth." Also: a hat tip goes out to Natchiya Hunt for the photo above. She caught the performance from just a few rows back in general admission and brought her camera along.



What Is It About Portland Hipste.....Er, 20-Somethings?

This New York Times article about the ennui and challenges that face America's current crop of 20-somethings is a fascinating read. Why can't they get married by 25, get a career going and have kids by 27 like their parents and grandparents? The author delves into a multitude of reasons, including changing cultural norms, the economy and various other physiological and psychological reasons.

What I think it doesn't delve far enough into, however, is that there is, simply put, no incentive to "grow up" anymore. I'll offer my own biography as an example. A year ago, I was living in a house I was hoping to buy from my landlord and I had a career at a certain cable television behemoth who's name need not be mentioned here. Out of the clear blue, my colleagues and I were rounded up one morning and told we were soon to be the victims of "corporate restructuring."

Upper management assured us that they would do everything in their power to find us other positions in the company. Of course, once this meeting was over they did nothing of the sort. Out of sixteen well-experienced, smart employees in my department, four of us were picked for other slots. Myself and two others attempted to take demotions but were refused, presumably because the company didn't want to pay us salaries inflated by several years of seniority, preferring to pick desperate applicants fresh off the street that they could pay at a starting wage.

Am I still bitter? Sure, but I'm not the first American, nor will I be the last, to go through this. People my age can't bet on anything anymore. What incentive is there to go chasing off after the American dream? Last time I checked, the divorce rate in this country was hovering at the 60% mark and the average citizen works at no less than four companies during their adulthood, as opposed to the one or two of our parents' generation.

So many of us are living on shaky ground. All of the country's rock solid union jobs are a thing of the past. The economy has been bouncing in and out of the gutter since at least 2000. The propagation of everything from internet hook-ups to women's lib to the heightened expectations of "me culture" have made getting hitched a dicey proposition. Why get married and buy a house when the relationship could fall apart or you could get laid off at any second or when there's fifty million apps to play with on your iPhone? Why fight to keep a marriage going when  you can bootleg a million hours worth of music and snag Starcraft 2 for free off the internet?

So, for many of us, we're stuck in a state of prolonged adolescence with no end in sight. I'm 31 and I'm currently living like I did in my early 20s. I'm currentlly a college student who just finished an AmeriCorps internship. I'll be running off to bum around Europe for several weeks in September before fall term starts. I'm doing this because, well, I don't what else to do. If I wasn't in school I'd be working part time in a coffee shop or a temp agency for peanuts or sitting around the house playing Red Dead Redemption. I can't foresee a day when I'll ever be a father because, simply put, I don't think I'll ever be able afford parenthood, let alone set up a college fund for the little brat.


I'll offer you a different example. Someone I know, I'll call her "Nikki," is 28-years old. She's been in a stable relationship for going on three years. Her boyfriend is making a comfortable salary as an engineer, she's content with her job at a local company and they live together in a rental house on the east side of Portland. A generation ago, they'd be married with at least one kid living in their spare bedroom. Instead, they've vowed to "never get married," let alone have children for the reason above.

A few years ago, Nikki was on a plane and got into a terse discussion with the elderly woman sitting next to her. The woman felt that she was betraying "her obligations as a woman and an American" by not getting married and pregnant. As Nikki has admitted on several occasions, "I'm way too self-centered and immature to ever have kids. My boyfriend is too. We'd rather travel, go out to dinner and play video games with our free time and disposal income. Why would anyone ever want to have kids?"

The situation many people in my boat face is, for the most part, a nasty one but it's not all bad. A lack of opportunities and expectations have given, at least myself, a bizarre sort of freedom. I feel no obligation to be married with kids at this point in my life. No one looks at me funny when I say that I don't have a wife, whereas, a generation or so ago I'd be an odd-ball. I have more single friends than married ones. I've grown accustomed to sitting around coffee shops with my laptop and school books on a Wednesday afternoon than an office. I'm happier and more content now than I was a year ago when I had to spend 40 hours a week in a cubicle in a dreary budling in Beaverton listening to my downtrodden coworkers complain about everything from our workload to the selection of M&Ms in the vending machine.

It's also instilled in many of us, especially here in Portland, a sense of thriftiness. Free movies in the park, brewpub theaters, Torrents, coffee shops and cheap music shows for entertainment. Craigslist

I'm sure if Nikki's fellow passenger were sitting across from me right now at the Belmont Stumptown, I'd get an earful. She'd look at me as if I were a homeless meth-head with no inclination to work hard or get my shit together. That said, I'm working harder now than I was a year ago. My course load at Portland State during spring term kept me busy, on average, 50 - 60 years a week. I've spent the summer months juggling the hassles of getting this blog going again (believe it or not, this thing takes a lot of time to run) with a full-time internship and various other "young creative" projects.

I'd like to stay optimistic but, with Boomers being forced to work well into their golden years because their 401Ks have been raided or they simply can't swing it financially, I dread where it's going to leave my generation. Will we ever be able to retire? Will I still be fledgling and struggling to find work a few years down the road? Will Portland's unemployment rate ever drop below 9%? Something's gotta give. That could mean a complete collapse of the cliches of the American dream (i.e., graduate from college, get a job, get married, have kids, retire at 55) or worse. We're in the middle of a very strange period in history where nothing seems to make any sense at all. Morality, work-ethics, religion, you name it.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we'll pull out of this weird ennui rut this country has been stuck in for over a decade and get back all those "good, old fashioned American values" my grandfather in Georgia likes to talk about.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


Still messing with the layout...

I just added a series of blog "gadgets" beneath the posts since there's no longer a sidebar on the left. If you get a chance, please have a look and drop me a line if you see anything out of place and/or not working quite right.

Thanks, mon!



Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 4: A Trip to Imnaha

Can I pronounce "Imnaha"? As these videos prove, no, I sure can't!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My torrid love affair with a 2011 Mustang GT: Day 1

Back in June I received a mysterious email from someone claiming to work in the public relations department of the Ford Motor Company. She was looking for bloggers in the Portland area to write about the company's 2011 line. I shot her back a message that said, more or less, "what's the catch?" After all, I hadn't updated my blog in months. There was no catch. In exchange for blogging/twittering/YouTube'ing about one of their vehicles, I'd get to use it for a week, free of charge.

She gave me three options: a Fiesta, an unnamed luxury car or a fully-loaded Mustang GT with a V8 engine. I made the obvious choice but there was just one little problem I hadn't worked out...

Prior to last Friday, when the Mustang showed up in my driveway, I hadn't driven a car with a manual transmission in nearly a decade. Eeeep!

I was terrified of the car. Petrified. I mean, look at the photo below. This monster may as well be KITT from that update of Knight Rider that aired briefly on NBC a few years ago (see above). While the Mustang didn't speak to me in the voice of Val Kilmer, I can communicate with it by pushing a button on the steering wheel. It was stuck in foreign language mode and a robotic woman's voice kept telling me to "S'il vous plaƮt parler d'une commande."

It took no less than 30 minutes to get the car to switch back over to English. It didn't come with an owners manual so figuring out how to throw it into reverse was also a chore. It requires the driver to press *down* on the stick, otherwise it'll stay in 1st. In exchange for finding the solution to this riddle, the Mustang rewarded me with a video screen that popped up on the rearview mirror feeding a live view of the driveway via a camera located above the trunk. The video even featured helpful lines to prevent me from crashing into the trash cans.

My dad, who also lives in Portland, decided to tag along with my on this maiden voyage on Friday evening after I finished a volunteer stint at the Tualatin Crawdad Festival. He boasted of his exploits back in the early '80s in his old manual Volkswagen and told me that teaching me how to drive this beast "wouldn't be a problem."

We made it a grand total of four blocks before the engine stalled.

By this point, it was 9:45 PM. I tried to get the Mustang going again but failed miserably. The engine roared and the back wheels spun, causing a small plume of burnt rubber smoke to fill the air. Within two minutes, an hysterical old lady was making phone calls in her kitchen. We could hear her entire, incredibly loud conversation through an open window.


I gave up and let my dad take the wheel. I trotted over to the sidewalk to explain the situation to the lady but she was either ignoring me or so caught up in her delusion that we were going to pillage the neighborhood that she couldn't hear me. After fighting with the ignition for another few minutes, my dad started muttering under his breath and finally admitted that he hadn't driven a stick in over 25 years. So there we were, stuck in a residential neighborhood with a bricked, super-charged $40,000 automobile. After hanging up on her neighbor, the old lady was now calling the police.


I pleaded with her to explain to the 911 dispatcher that we were merely having engine trouble and finally, finally, it dawned on her what was going on. "Oh, I guess they're just having problems with their car. They don't know how to drive it. Tee-hee!" Then she started joking with dispatcher about how incredibly stupid I was.


Off in the distance, I could hear a siren approaching. My dad chuckled, jumped out of the car and decided to walk back to the house. "Have fun dealing with this one, kid," he said, heading off into the night.

The old lady had woken up her sister and now they were both on their porch, dressed in nightgowns, calmly watching the Mustang as if it was a float in the Rose Parade. I made another attempt to get the car moving but finally gave up. I broke out my AAA card and meekly called for a tow.

Emasculating? Humiliating? You betcha'. A tow truck showed up 20-minutes later and the driver started geeking out over the car. "IT HAS LEATHER INTERIOR? AND A SUPER-CHARGED V8 ENGINE WITH A 5 CYLINDER...." I couldn't really understand the rest of what he said in his weird, "car-talk" language. I was much more interested in playing with the Sirus Satellite Radio and finding BBC 1.

"I, uh, think, uh, I should drive this car back to your place," he sputtered. "Because, uh, hooking up to the tow truck would damage it....yeah, yeah. You know how to drive automatic, right?"

This was the evening that just kept on giving. He handed me his keys and I drove his tow truck back to my house so he could buzz around the block and gun the engine, further terrorizing the old ladies. In my driveway, he pleaded with me. "I'm off in thirty minutes. I will drive back here, we'll go out to Banks and I will teach you how to drive this puppy. I know just the spot where there are no cops that will screw with us."

Maybe it was the fact that it was now approaching midnight or that I didn't quite trust a random tow truck driver I had just met but I turned him down on his offer.

True story. All of it.

So I stormed inside and vowed to never even look at the Mustang again. I made a solemn vow to not go anywhere near it. The vehicle would be a decoration in the driveway until its pick-up date.

Worst. Volunteer. Writing. Assignment. Ever.

Now did I stick with this plan? Stay tuned for part two of this exciting saga!

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Missing Return of the Jedi footage

Like many dorks of a certain age, I'm an unapologetic fan of the original Star Wars trilogy. One of my first memories is of my father taking me to see The Return of the Jedi at the Washington Square Cinemas and pestering him to read Jabba the Hutt's subtitles aloud. Along with everyone else, I lament everything George Lucas has done with the franchise post 1983. After years of watching him completely botch the new films and add distracting CGI additions to the originals, he's finally done something right. For an upcoming release of the films on Blueray, he'll be adding a long lost scene to Jedi.

It's a brief, 50-second bit that begins at the 2:00 mark of the video above. A fan at an annual Star Wars festival in Disney World filmed it during a presentation. In it, Darth Vader shoots Luke a message via The Force as he tinkers with a lightsaber. It's not much but it has me geeking out like those fans of Metropolis who go nuts every time someone finds an old print with additional footage tucked away somewhere in Argentina.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010


That Wall Street Journal article about Pre's ghost

Here's a follow-up on that post I wrote on Friday about Portland journalist Susan Hauser and her encounter with a psychic and the spirit of U of O track star Prefontaine in 1997. Susan was kind enough to send over a PDF copy, which I converted and posted on the blog's Flickr account. Just click on the image below to see a larger copy. Give it a once-over, won't you? It's a pretty crazy tale....


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Monday, August 16, 2010


Big dog, little car

Spotted in the parking garage at the West Burnside Fred Meyer:




Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 3: Lars Larson and Family Counseling With Deer

In part 3, I argue with Lars Larson (on the radio) while cruising to Hells Canyon in the middle of a thunder storm. Along the way, I encounter a family of deer, break them up and then attempt to reconcile the situation.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010


Roller derby gals on the other side of the planet

The whole roller derby thing seems like it's becoming a bigger deal in Portland with each passing day. During a walk from the Crystal Ballroom to Powell's last week, I saw a poster for the Rose City Rollers, three pairs of roller skates in the window of Buffalo Exchange and a copy of Down and Derby: The Insiders Guide to Roller Derby on a shelf in the Green Room (with a quote from Carrie Brownstein on the cover, no less). Then I opened up a copy of Portland Monthly and there was a spread devoted to the RCR.

Also, I'll throw this out here, the Portland club's "Hometown Throwdown" is this weekend and will continue through tomorrow at the Hanger at Oaks Park. For further info, click here.

My pal "M," who's an Oregon expat from Beaver Creek and who also pens the blog Bubbly Red Stuff, is currently involved with the Amsterdam Derby Dames, a club that's helping to bring roller derby to The Netherlands. They held a showcase demonstration last night at an Amsterdam club and screened Whip It afterwards.

En hier is een video van de demonstratie met de meisjes en hun rolschaatsen. Alsjeblieft, geniet!


Friday, August 13, 2010


Dinner with Susan and the ghost of Prefontaine

I met up with Susan Hauser last night and we went to the Deschutes Brewery Street Fair. She's a local freelancer who lives here in Portland and has successfully navigated the choppy waters of American journalism for decades. After heading over to Garden State's booth for meatball sandwiches, we "talked shop" on a bench next to Portland Center Stage for a bit.

Susan had plenty of fantastic stories to tell about her travels across the globe and her experiences with The Oregonian and The Wall Street Journal. She also offered her perspective on an incident that happened back in 1997 with her son, and my old high school pal, Cory. Cory was expelled from our high school for penning an underground newspaper that didn't go over so well with the administration and many of our classmates. The whole thing became enough of a, well, shit storm to land on the front cover of The Oregonian's Metro Section.

Some of Susan's recent projects have included an article in Mix Magazine about Portland restaurateurs who make pickles and an article for CNN about locals who "chicken sit" for urban farmers. She also pens a blog about Hawaiian culture called Hula In Aloha.

One of her most interesting assignments to date came up in the late '90s. She was given the task of interviewing the former girlfriend of University of Oregon legend Steve "Pre" Prefontaine, who was convinced that his spirit was speaking to her from beyond the grave. The girlfriend tracked down a physic and Susan "interviewed" Pre through her. One question that was asked: "What was going through your head, Pre, when your car started rolling down that hill?" The physic/Pre offered a one word response:


At some point, I'm going to track down that article in the Journal's archives.
Susan's definitely a hero of mine and an all around cool gal.

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Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 2: The Dumpster-Diving Deer

I don't think this video needs any further context. The picture quality isn't the best but I think the audio makes this one worth posting.

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Continuing to tinker...

I'm going to continue messing with the layout here on the blog over the next few days. If there's any changes that you don't like or any input you'd like to offer, feel free to drop me a line in the comments area below or via email at anotherportlandblog@gmail.com


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Look at me! Look what I did!

photo (5)

Here's an iPhone snapshot of my little corner at "Nuts, Bolts and Slabs of Steel," a gallery show devoted to all things bridge-related. It continues through September in the lobby of the Olympic Mills Conference center down at 107 SE Washington St. If you go, please, be gentle. This is my first time (at having any of my photos displayed on a wall in a public venue that isn't right next to my high school's dark room in the year 1997). My three photos are tucked over by the bathrooms.

Also: here's a photo someone took of a gal ignoring my photos at the grand opening back in July. It should go without saying that this image currently serves as the background on my laptop.



Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 1: Joseph, Oregon

Did you know that there's actually stuff in Oregon beyond the Cascade Range and east of the Willamette Valley? It's a fact!

I know, I was just as surprised as you are now when I first learned this after 22 years of living in this state. While studying at the University of Oregon, my friend "Dangermoose" and I ventured out to the Alvord Desert and the little town of Fields, which sits in the bottom, right-hand corner of the state. At the time, Fields boasted a population of eight people and eleven dogs.

I regret to inform y'all that, despite having lived in Oregon for almost all of my 31 years on this planet, I had never set foot anywhere near Hells Canyon until a few weeks ago. I had a long weekend to kill so I decided it was time to mosey out that way. I tossed a tent in the trunk and aimed my car in the vague direction of the canyon and Joseph, OR.

A bit of a digression here. Have you heard of these places called "Walled Mart"? I think that's what they're called. I stopped at one in Pendleton and...It. Had. Everything. Tacos. Every cereal ever created in history of man. Denim shorts. Mud-flaps. Davenports. Wide aisles too. And super-happy elderly people that greeted me at the front entrance. Yes sir, good ol' Walled Mart where I doubt anything bad ever happens, everyone is always happy and the staff are well-groomed, well-treated and enjoy reasonable hours, high pay and quality benefits.

So this is the first installment of a series of short videos I put together about Wallowa County and "the wilds" of Oregon. Over the course of the trip I encountered dumpster-diving deer, irritated cows, thunderstorms, strange towns, fire service employees and more. In this video, I explore the front entrance to Joseph, a town that likes to brag that it's "heaven on earth" and that it sits at the edge of the "Swiss Alps of Oregon."

In addition to numerous art galleries and a corner filled with Swiss chalet-style shops and an "Arcade of the Dammed" (I'm still angry that I couldn't get "TMNT: Turtles in Time" to work and that the "Addams Family Pinball Machine" locked-up), several shops sell "What Happens in Joseph, Stays in Joseph" bumper stickers. I know, right? But do the residents know? They have to be on this gag.

Also: my father now has one of these sitting in the back window of his Camry and he has yet to notice it. Anyway, on to the video...

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Back in saddle (oh, and I went to Cleveland)

Hey there....

So where I have been since the last time this blog was updated? Well, Cleveland for one.

I don't think I'll ever go back to Cleveland. A lady there chased me out of her hot dog restaurant for taking a photo of the interior. Oh, and a group of gang-bangers gave me some trouble on a street near The Christmas Story House. I did visit an excellent vintage toy shop though.

Anyway, here's a Flickr gallery filled with images of all the things that tried to kill me.

Getting the blog up and running again has been, more a less, a complete nightmare that plunged me no less than five levels down into the blog equivalent of Inception. Of course, instead of floating through a five-star hotel while fighting spies I was muttering under my breath while hunched over my laptop. I threw away something like 12 hours dinking around with Wordpress and Tumblr only to realize that, after all that effort, biting the bullet and setting up a redirect on Blogger would be the simplest, quickest solution. It took all of ten minutes.

So, slowly but surely, this blog will be up and running again by the end of the week. I'm considering a layout revamp. Nothing too crazy. It may be time to ditch the sidebar and create a new, separate page for it. Also: I may stretch out the paragraphs a bit. Podcasts are something I've wanted to start recording for years now and I've already got eight of them ready to go. I just need to get everything set up with iTunes.

But, before that, I should probably get some sleep. I've been sitting in this chair since 8 tonight and it's going on 2 in the morning. Uggggggh....

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