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Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A tour of a Dutch playground
I was wandering around Leiden last week when I came across a playground in a neighborhood filled with Soviet-style apartment buildings. The expanse of gray and concrete was shattered by a series of Disney murals surrounding the place.
One of these days I'll learn to tilt my iPhone horizontally so I don't wind up with vertical videos.
Portland at Dawn, Part 2
Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 9: The Finale, Finally...
And so ends this thrilling (well...), enthralling (not really) and engaging (pfffft!) video tour through Eastern Oregon.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
"Monkey poop beer"
My friend "M" carted a bottle of Kopi Luwak Beer to Oregon from the Netherlands during her visit back in June. If you've never heard of the tasty but unusual Kopi coffee bean, you're not alone. It's become a pricey delicacy in cafes throughout Europe but, as far as I've been able to discern, it can only be found in metropolises like Los Angeles and New York in the states.
The beans are made from berries that have passed through the digestive systems of Asian Palm Civets, which are cat-sized mammals that hail from the Philippines and Indonesia. Click here to have a look at one of these little critters.
If you can get over the fact that Kopi Luwak is, essentially, crap that can cost $50+ a cup, you're in for a treat. The beans are pretty dang divine. I broke out the bottle during a graduation party in SE Portland earlier this summer and passed out samples in Dixie cups. The attendees were fascinated by this "monkey poop beer." We did a toast to the graduates in a attendance and downed the stuff.
All in all, it was a pretty solid coffee stout, probably the best I've ever tasted. It was rich and frothy qne I'd recommend it. Oddly enough, the bottle contained enough beer to provide 14 people with a taste test. It was magic. Just like Jesus!
This past Saturday, I visited the bottle shop in Leiden where M picked it up. Unfortunately, they were all sold out of Kopi Luwak beer, which was released by a small Dutch brewery in a limited edition of 750 bottles. It's not the first of its kind though. A brewery in California came out with a Kopi Luwak "Speedway Stout" a year or two ago. Here's hoping that "monkey poop beer" will spread across the land and that its exquisite, brown goodness will flow through the streets like rainwater.
Portland at Dawn, Part 1
A few weeks ago, I was called upon to drive some folks to PDX at 4 AM. On my way back, I realized that I hadn't seen a Portland sunrise in years. I headed towards Mount Tabor and captured some iPhone snapshots along the way. It was eerie and serene to see normally jam-packed streets empty. The typically packed tables at the Belmont Stumptown were entirely empty. The calmness was equal parts awesome and unsettling and, yeah, this sentence is pretty pretentious. On to the photos!
Monday, September 13, 2010
Roaming the Wilds of Oregon Part 8: Hells Canyon and the Snake River
My Torrid Love Affair With a 2011 Mustang GT: Part 2
After a disastrous test drive that spread terror across my neighborhood, I decided to call up someone who, unlike my father, had actually driven a car with a manual transmission more recently than the Reagan administration. My friend "Dangermoose" was willing to train me in the art of taming this bucking V8 broncho. He's a 31-year old attorney from Silverton with a undefeated 2 - 0 win strike in the Oregon legal system and a squeaky clean driving record (if you overlook the slew of moving violations he racked up his 18 birthday).
Dangermoose drove up to my place in Portland and, with him behind the wheel, we pointed the Mustang's maw towards Gaston. He took to the wheel like a Duke Boy to a Dodge Charger, wiping through the turns along Bull Mountain like he was prepping for Vin Diesel's part in the inevitable fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious series. Like its namesake, the car yearned for the country and some room to romp like a wild horse chock full of hay and testosterone. The Mustang squeezed every curve as if it were the world's greatest “Free Hugs” gadfly. This bastard was built for speed and Dangermoose utilized every available opportunity to blast the odometer past the 90 MPH mark on a half-dozen vacant country roads.
Did I fear for my life? Was my right hand permanently affixed to the Mustang’s passenger-side “bitch handle”? You betcha. Not only was Dangermoose lost in the moment, the car seemed equally drunk on the opportunity to achieve the promises offered by decades of car commercials.
Now according to the agreement I signed with the good folks at the Ford Motor Company, I was only allowed to let editors of Another Portland Blog behind the wheel. So, for the record, “Dangermoose” was a volunteer Assistant Editor on the Saturday that we took car out. Oh, and so was his wife and his brother-in-law. Yep, editors. All three of them.
We pulled into the parking lot at Valley Catholic High School around 3 PM. Off in the distance, a group of teenagers was wandering the grounds and considering whether or not they could handle four years in the presence of nuns. I took the wheel, stalled the engine a few dozen times but managed to make a few spins around the parking lot. I wish I could say that I immediately got the hang of driving the Mustang ala an inexperienced dancer in a cheesy ‘40s musical learning a number in a matter of seconds--- that I maneuvered this beast around the grounds, spun wheelies and exhibited excellent Tokyo Drift-style theatrics while Dangermoose surfed on the roof and that everyone within 500 yards fled across the street to Beaverton Toyota, the hearts filled with fear and dread of the Mustang's mighty roar.
But none of that happened. Too daunted to buzz out into the heavy traffic along Canyon Highway, Dangermoose drove me back home. Then, at dusk, I managed to get the Mustang over to Hayhurst Elementary where I spent an hour in self-imposed training exile while listening to a replay of a Howard Stern Show on Sirius. I made it around the neighborhood and stalled the car three times on the way back to the house, the final time as I was parking it. I let the Mustang sit there at the tail end of the driveway and collapsed on the couch, feeling like I had just finished a marathon.
Dangermoose had learned how to drive a stick on a Subaru. Another friend figured it out behind the wheel of an ’83 Honda Hatchback. As Dangermoose put it, “you’re the first person in the history of the world to learn how to drive a stick on a $40,000 automobile.” Thanks, Ford!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Writing uit Nederland...
Or, more specifically, a canal-side cafe in Leiden, about 50 KM south of Amsterdam. I've been here since Wednesday visiting my friend "M." What have we been up to? She convinced me to try raw herring, which is practically the national dish and, reportedly, a great hangover cure. It doesn't taste all that different than the sushi-equivalent but there's something about holding a long fish by the tail and biting into it that I couldn't quite stomach, especially in the middle of a crowded marketplace.
On Saturday evening, we went on a bike ride up to the town of Katwijk, which sits along the North Sea. The coastline here looks a lot like the beach at Manzanita. There's rolling dunes, gray skies and guys surfing in wet suits but, in the place of Nehakhanie Mountain, there's a shipping lane lined with cargo barges and a centuries-old church that looms over the town like a wise, old owl. I grabbed some schnitzel for dinner since, as far as I could tell, no one in this country knows what clam chowder is. M stuck with the fish and chips.
Yesterday, we went to a little shop in Amsterdam to have my first tattoo done. Part of my decision was, oddly enough, to find out what it feels like to get a tattoo. If you've never had the pleasure, imagine having someone cut into your skin with a thin needle as if they were slicing up a loaf of bread. The oddest part of the process is that, when the artist lifts the needle, the pain instantly stops. This will no doubt be my first, and last, tattoo. What did I get? Not telling but it's on my left leg just above the ankle.
During the first few weeks, at least, having a tattoo is like adopting a pet Mogwai. I'm not supposed to get it wet, expose it to sunset but, as far as I can tell, I could technically feed it after midnight.
I plan to continue blogging during my stay. There's a lot to cover...