7.20.2009

Inspired

In case you haven't noticed, Old and I haven't been around these parts in a while. I come with no excuses, though. Instead, I want to offer a somewhat inspiring tale; one that I experienced while riding the bus home from work one day. I offer it to you, the readers of 'Tales From the Stump,' as a unique Portland tale; a tale that could easily have happened in any other large city, but makes perfect sense to have taken place in our little City of Bridges, Portland, OR.

As I waited at 39th and SE Powell Blvd for the 75, I lost myself in the blistering heat and anonymity of an urban street corner. Only when my bus came did I come to, responding quickly to the race to find standing room at the peak of rush hour. As those boarding shoved their way on, making it nearly impossible for the ones exiting to escape, the bus driver began yelling at people on the bus to move to the back. In hopes of accommodating everyone trying to board, he instructed everyone to cram together and continue pushing their way toward the rear of the bus. Clearly exceeding capacity, the bus driver continued to yell, only amplifying what misery the riders already felt inside the hot, muggy, sardine can of a bus. When the bus driver's voice reached its peak, just after I made my way on, a passenger, clearly fed up with being yelled at, and in sheer defense of his fellow riders, voiced up, "Quit yelling at us, we can't move back any further." Given the circumstances, and various factors at play, I did not foresee this situation playing out well. I couldn't help but add up all the variables: extreme heat, cramped environment, rush hour, disgruntled bus riders, and fascist bus driver. Oy vey!

Unfortunately the dialogue did not end there. The bus driver responded, "You're gonna have to keep moving. This is my bus." To this, the passenger again voiced, "We're trying, but you don't have to yell. You're being an asshole." Immediately, other riders nodded their heads and agreed with their own chiming of, "yeah" and "that's right."

And that's when I thought it was going to happen, an all out revolt. Right then, at 4:00 pm, on the 75 heading North, Portland bus riders stage a mutiny and overthrow Nazi bus driver. Something happened, though, and another force turned the tide.

In addition to it occurring to our rush-hour tour guide that he had gone over the edge, another scenario was beginning to play out, which forced the good in our driver, as well as the majority of the passengers, to manifest itself, as we were all about to become good samaritans.

Before the dust even settled from the exchange between the fascist bus driver and the peoples' champ rider, another series of events began to unfold, in which our 'collective good' was to be challenged. Here's what happened....

Nearly cutting off the aforementioned dialogue, a middle aged woman, too, raised her voice. This time, however, the raised voice had nothing to do with space on the bus. Actually, she was alerting everyone on the bus that she believed a man just stole something from her purse. In fact, she stated, "Hey, that guys just took my DVD!" With the various raised voices, most riders looked a little confused, but the familiar peoples' champ wasted no time in asking who she was referring to. When she points to a man on the other end of the bus, she says, "The guy in the hat." For a minute, everybody looked at a young man wearing his hat backwards. Again, the people's champ chimes in, while looking at the teen, "Who, him?" while pointing menacingly. Realizing he was possibly being falsely accused, and nearing a public lynching, the teen sheepishly said, "Me?" The lady who was robbed shook her head and said, "No, the guy behind him." Now everybody was staring at a middle-aged Hispanic man. Clearly understanding where all the commotion was going, the accused man pretended as if he didn't know what was going on. The more people stared, though, and began grumbling about the possibility he was a thief, the man shrugged his shoulders and acted as if he didn't understand English. His act only gave credibility to the accusation. This is when the other passengers stepped up and began to assist the lady even more. The bus driver, too, decided to help out, as he stopped the bus and said he'd call the cops if necessary.

One passenger looked in the bag the man was carrying, noticing he had a DVD in it. He loudly said, "He's got a movie in his bag." Now the accused man was seriously showing he understood what was going on, as he shook his head and put his hands up like he was innocent. At this time, I asked the lady what the name of the DVD was. This sealed the deal, as I asked the guy standing next to the accused what movie he saw in the bag. When the titles matched up, we told the man he needed to return the DVD to the lady. At this, the man pushed open the back door and hopped off the bus. At least 6 people shouted simultaneously, "Stop him!"

Without hesitation, the guy closest to the back door jumped off, along with his friend, and chased after the thief. With the bus stopped at the busy intersection, all the passengers turned into onlookers, as they peered out the windows to watch what would happen next. It wasn't long before the man who ran off with the DVD turned around and tossed the stolen good to the two guys chasing him. Pleased with their securing off the DVD, and not interested in further becoming vigilantes, they came back to the bus as the other guy kept running down Powell. Within seconds, the two "heroes" were back on the bus and returning the lady's DVD to her. Once on board, the entire bus erupted in applause. The clapping seemed to last forever, as time seemed to stop, as it usually does in those rare and unusual moments. The applauding passengers, as well as those who played a vital role in helping the lady get her DVD back, bus driver included, seemed to exude an excitement for witnessing such an act of rare goodness. It was inspiring to say the least. While I took from this experience a hope for our collective good, it wasn't long before the bus was rolling along 39th Avenue, and everybody had their heads down while they continued on with the monotony of their daily commute, almost as if nothing had happened. To me, it wasn't a regular occurrence, yet it seemingly came and went in the minds of everybody else. Whatever the impact was on everybody else was, it left me feeling inspired, as I realized that people will come together in each others' aide. This was, to me, very reassuring.

12.16.2008

Soap Moguls, back up in this mutha

Yep, not only is the blog up and running, but Old and I are inching closer to having a complete corner on the market. Which market, you ask? The soap market, suckas! Yep, Old came over yesterday and we concocted a sweet Christmas-time soap recipe: Cinnamon Solstice. This is just the latest batch under the umbrella of Stumptown Suds Corp (aka, The Honestly, We're Not Gay Soap Company). Unfortunately, for all you eager consumers, this batch is purely for gift-giving purposes. This will come as good news for close friends and family in the Northwest, but, I'm sure, a disappointment for those ready to throw money at us for our cleansing and hygiene needs. Fear not, loyal customers, our next batch will be our most innovative and marketable yet. Be on the lookout for some Stumptown Suds after the New Year.

Booyakasha!

11.27.2008

Dwarf Ride The Whip

Once again, the rains have come and settled into the Stump for at least the next 11 months. With this damp chill comes a deep desire to hibernate and absorb the world of the moving picture from the comfort of a soft sofa, warm blanket and enormous mug of coffee on hand. Around this time of year, I tend to max out my hold allowance at the library, amassing an amazing list of classic films to last me through the dank depths of drudgery that is the Portland Winter.

It was during a recent screening of one such film, Werner Herzog's first full-length picture, Even Dwarfs Started Small, that I stumbled across what is likely the original inspiration, if not the first actual occurrence, of the phenomenon known as "ghost riding the whip."

Observe:
video

8.15.2008

From Old to Young

Fear not, Tales from the Stump lives on, it's just that I'm going to be taking an indefinite hiatus to work on my latest project, From Old to Young, a daily journal detailing my wifey's last days of pregnancy, the impending birth of our soon-to-be son, and the next year or so of my adventure as a stay-at-home dad. A sort of love letter from me (Old) to my son (Young Old) to reflect on later in his life, when one begins to care about these sorts of things. I'll still be pooping out an article or two here every few weeks, since the fun just don't stop here in Stumptown.

If you've got the time, please check out the new site:

http://fromoldtoyoung.blogspot.com

Stay up, folks.

7.31.2008

Guest Editorial: Oldie's Obsession

[The following guest editorial was written by my dear wife, Kes, who, upon being asked to write an article, immediately struck upon this tribute to an embarrassingly obsessive tic of mine. Enjoy. -Old]

Jeff once eluded to the note taking master in a past blog…well that, folks, is my husband. Now you will say to yourself, "Well sure, I write lists and take notes to help myself remember things" …but I think that the note taking abilities of my husband, better known as Old on this blog and to friends, is quite an incredible skill of his. It is rare to be hanging out with Old and not have him break into a search for a bit of scrap to jot something down on…in fact it has become an integral part of his way of being.

I would like to share some of these amazing notes/lists that I have managed to collect.

Who knows what these refer to! But Old apparently knows, as I recently watched him jot them down into his little black book of notes…yes folks, he keeps a little black book full of notes that are organized and neatly printed, unlike the scrappies (my fond name for his notes) he takes on the daily. Mind you, this transfer of scrappies usually takes a full evening, since he takes so many notes in a week's time…it could be a full time job.

Now many of you know that we are having a baby soon---3.5 weeks to be exact (if baby Jasper comes on time) and this was a list of things that Old wrote recently. I think he partly feels as though we are dying when the baby comes…the list is titled “Do Before I Die.” One thing I want you to notice is the line that says “finish road trip journal”...that is because we took a 6-month roadtrip after graduating from college (over 5 years ago), and he took diligent notes which he then had to transfer into our journal…tedious and, well, unfinished, of course…but the notes live on!

To exemplify Old's ability to save his scribbles for future writing projects, here is an example of notes from December of 2007 that were taken during one of his great PDX adventures: SantaCon. They still have yet to grace the pages of Tales From The Stump. So my question to Old is, why spend such time on notes that may never be published?

Old leaves notes on everything...newspaper corners, receipts, empty or full sugar packets, plant leafs, basically any flat surface…making my life of discarding scraps of paper a dangerous one such as this reciept that if I had not closely inspected would have been recycled. The other side of this obsession is that Old has a thing for pens. We have an entire drawer in our desk chock-full of pens, 10'' deep, no exageration...and if Old can't find his pen that he keeps in his pocket at every waking second of the day, he becomes quite distraught.

One good thing I can say, is that he's responsible about taking notes. If he's driving, I'm frequently asked to take notes for him, rather than him texting or note taking while driving, like many of our friends do. [She's refering to you Jeff, I'm sure. -Old]

One day Old called me and told me about his great new sleeping plan as a way to save time on his life (again, I think this stems from our baby coming soon and his unconcious "we are going to die" mentality)…here are the notes that he presented to further his description of this new sleep plan (mind you this plan lasted about 2 days)….

For a year we lived with opposite work schedules and notes were our lifeline…but to this day
he still takes diligent notes on what he does on the daily when I'm away.

More recently, I realized how vital a part of our life his notes are when he presented our 3 year plan to me on this note below...and, my friends, that is how we ended up pregnant…

But best of all are his notes that he takes/keeps for this blog, which sit in the untouchable cubby next to the computer, piled about 3 inches thick. Some day, if you are lucky, you may get to read about all these scrappies…that is if he ever gets around to it.

Long live the master note taker/list maker!!!! For without him, life would be a day of bland minutes simply passing by…

7.22.2008

Kennedy School

For those unfamiliar with Portland, we love our movies. More specifically, we love our movie theaters. And to go further, we love our funky, second-run and independent film playing theaters. The McMenmin brothers capitalized off of this when they combined their success in the brewpub industry with that of local love for cinema. In addition to their numerous pubs, they started opening movie houses by the dozens (maybe not that quickly, but they probably outnumber Starbucks...although that's not hard to do in Portland). These pub/theaters show independent and second-run movies at a much discounted price: $3.00. What's more, they serve up locally crafted beers to be sipped (or chugged) while sitting in front of the big screen.

One of the more popular brewpub/movie houses is the Kennedy School. Originally an elementary school, dating back to its opening in 1915, the building at 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave closed in the 1970s due to declining enrollment. In the late 90's, the McMenamin brothers snatched up the property and decided to sell beer and movie tickets at the location. What a novel idea. During the renovation of the property, they added space for a couple bars (one is in the old detention hall), a restaurant, an area for private parties, a dozen hotel rooms, a soaking pool, and a movie theater (in the old cafeteria).

A few weeks ago, Syd and I went to see a movie there. While walking around, giving ourselves a tour, we stumbled across one of the employees who was just finishing the cleanup of an empty room. As he walked out of the room, we tried to get a peek inside. He noticed our interest and let us in, while also informing us that they had one room left for the night (hint hint). Syd and I, in the interest of spontaneity, decided to snatch it up and stay the night. Who cares that we didn't have our toothbrushes or a change of clothes?

The rooms look like old classrooms, with chalkboards and all (you can imagine some of the naughty things we wrote with the provided chalk...think immature hangman). The hallways resemble how they would have 50 years ago, giving it an eerie feel of little school kid ghosts running up and down the corridor. The restaurant and bars have a lot of character, too. We ate in the restaurant before seeing a movie (which we enjoyed with a pitcher of beer), and afterwards took shots in the bar. While stumbling back to our room, we managed to grope the statues in the hallway, climb the fire steps leading to the roof, and convince an employee (who took our picture) that we've been pen pals for five years and just met for the first time that night. It wasn't long before we crashed and had to vacate the room the next morning. Although the hangover wasn't pleasant, the stay was well worth the money.

7.16.2008

Glacier

While we're on the topic of road trips and national parks, I thought I'd share the highlights of a recent trip Syd and I took to Glacier National Park. Located in the northern part of Montana, just south of the Canadian border, Glacier boasts some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen. The park is full of mountain goats, grizzly bears, little merganzers, and, yes, glaciers too (only 28 remain, though, from 150 a century ago).
Syd and I hit the road for Montana on a Wednesday night, just after ending our work week. Thinking it would take just 9 hours, we (I) thought a 10pm departure time would get us to the park at 8am, just in time to get the primo camping spots. What I forgot to take into account, though, is that, one, I drove like an old lady and, two, I like to sleep when it's late and dark. So, after a couple hours of driving, and not even making it outside of Oregon, I had to rest. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to relinquish the car keys to Syd, so my need to rest turned into "our" need to rest. We pulled over at a trucker stop and slept for about an hour and a half.
After hitting the road again, we only made it another hour and half before I had to sleep again. After finding another truck stop, we pulled over and slept for a couple hours until the sun rose. Upon waking, as if being blessed by the grace of god, we found ourselves beside Templin's Way-In, a trucker stop paradise, where you can stock up on all your junk food needs, get a greasy breakfast, load up on gas, and get your fill of caffeine. If the sarcasm wasn't obvious, let me tell you how terrible this place was. First of all, it is the same truck stop that you find on some desolate, dusty road in Texas, as well as the one you find while lost on a rural highway in Arkansas. Yeah, that one. Now, with only two needs to satisfy (to potty and get caffeine), we figured even Templin's could not fail. Upon filling our first need, using the bathroom, I found racist writing and other various redneck propaganda sprawled all over the walls. When leaving the bathroom, and meeting Syd in the market, we attempted to fill our second need: caffeine. Even this became tough, as the coffee was served out of an automated machine, marketed as cappuccinos. We got our cups, placed them under the dispenser spigots, picked the flavor of cappuccino, and hit play (or serve, or start now...whatever). As if being witness to the early wonders of the industrial revolution, this cappuccino machine started squirting boiling water into our cups, and then without warning, spewing a snowy blizzard of cappuccino dust all over the place (some made it in the cup). When the dust cleared, and we realized we were no longer interested in a cappuccino, we asked the clerk if they just had regular coffee and real creamer (they only had non-dairy, powdered creamer on display). She made it clear that if we didn't pay for the cappuccino, and pile of brown snow that came with it, she'd call Vern, the longtime, bitter sheriff who would most certainly hunt us down on the desolate highway and let us know what the locals think of city folk driving through their little stretch of town (squeal like a pig, boy). So, mostly out of fear of aforementioned (fictionalized) Vern, we reluctantly bought the cappuccinos and split.
From Templin's, we drove straight to Glacier, filling our time with the alphabet game, talking into our tape recorder, and making fun of my slow driving. During this time, I was impressed with Syd's ability to tell me when to pull over so she could pee on the side of the road (how could you not love a girl who uses a car door as cover while she pisses on the side of the highway?). We finally made it to Glacier at about 3 in the afternoon (only 7 hours off our mark). Upon our arrival, we learned from a ranger that most of the campgrounds were closed due to snow (did I mention this was in May/June that we went?), as well as many of the hiking trails and the main road (the Going to the Sun Road is one of the most scenic drives in the country) cutting through the park. I almost cried. It was all made better, though, as the ranger gave Syd a junior ranger pin, stating that it would give her the power to scare grizzly bears away.
Anyway, we drove up the road a little bit to the Sprague Creek campground. Because of the weather conditions, tourist season hadn't yet started, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We found a great site situated just off of Lake McDonald. We set up camp (actually a village, fully intact with a hanging tarp for rain protection, a tent, and a little kitchen/dining room setup) and began to plan our stay. Before too long, though, I felt the need to freshen up after the long, sweaty drive. Without much thought, but definitely against Syd's motherly advice not to, I hopped in the glacier-fed lake. It didn't matter that it was about to rain and wasn't that hot out. What did matter, though, was that I nearly got hypothermia and was so delirious from the cold that Syd had to instruct me how to dress myself after drying off. Scary.
After they hypothermia scare, Syd and I got firewood and began to get dinner and a fire together. Because of the wet weather, much of the wood was damp and not very flammable. This required us to burn more crossword puzzles than we would have liked. While the fire burned and we munched on chips and salsa, Syd and I played rummy and cherished the high of knowing we were away from work and civilization for 5 days. After getting my butt kicked, as is usually the case, we decided to cook up some kielbasas over the fire. First, though, we had to find some rurey sticks to wield (widdle) as skewers. With pocket knives in hand, we widdled like mad and got our cooking utensil ready. The kielbasas didn't take much time to cook, and before long we were on to desert, making s'mores with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. The cleanup that night was pretty intense, as Syd was certain that the local grizzlies would all be attracted to any scent coming from our campground. So we made sure everything but our tent and sleeping bags was in the car, as well as every bit of food crumbs or spilled cooking juice cleaned up. Her diligence to keep the bears away was equally cute and hilarious (more of this to come later).
On our first morning waking up in Glacier, we took the opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some sleep. By the time we woke up, it wasn't really morning and, in fact, we were the only one's left in the campground because everyone else had packed up and moved on with their day. While I got our supplies ready for the days hike, Syd made us sandwiches. We eventually set out for a drive to the Avalanche Lake trail head, where the Going to the Sun Road closed due to weather conditions. Along the way we stopped to take pictures of a river and waterfall, while also waiting for thunder and lightening to rumble our way. It didn't really happen, but we got a couple good pictures (albeit with some degree of difficulty, as a couple tourists had a hard time relinquishing their vantage point, and took offense to us requesting to take a picture). Anyway, we continued along and eventually hit the trail to Avalanche Lake. By this time, it had started to rain, so Syd and I put on our rain gear and marched on. We hiked along the trail through thick forest, alongside a creek, and amidst deer, mountain goats and grizzly bear. The fact that grizzly bear were in the area can not be substantiated, but Syd's ability to scare them away with yells and clapping noises at 2-minute intervals certainly kept us safe from what dangers did exist by their presumed presence. We got a little wet, but the hike was nice and oddly unique in the sense that we encountered a few strange folk. First, we briefly walked alongside a couple who were in the area for a computer convention. Actually, only the guy was there for the convention; she flew out to meet him for the weekend. The man, overweight and ill prepared for a back country hike, sported expensive sandles that had already allowed the rainy mud to soak into his socks. His girlfriend, equally as odd, and eerily resembling an alien, looked like she had endured 17 plastic surgeries. In addition, her blush looked more like she lost control of her lipstick and drew circles on her cheeks. At least they made it to the lake, for without them we would not have had our picture taken.
While taking in the view of glaciel fields, rugged peaks, and crazy mountain goats, we munched on some rurey snacks and sipped on some wine. It was a perfect location for a picnic, but unfortunately the rain kept our stay to a minimum. We hiked our way back to the car and headed back to camp, where we made dinner, played some cards, and poked at the fire with our rurey sticks.
The next morning we drove out to East Glacier, where, upon the advice of our camp hosts (who were really fucking awesome, by the way), we camped at the Rising Sun campground alongside St. Mary's Lake. The view from our tent was unbelievable. We had an unobstructed view of the mountains that sat above the lake (which was only a hundred yards away from us). This was our base camp for the night. During the day, we hiked to St. Mary Falls. This was a beautiful hike that led us around the lake, through creeks that fed it, and to a waterfall that rumbled through the rocks with amazing force. When we reached the waterfall, we sat for a bit, snacked, and talked about how fortunate we were to be able to take off on a moment's notice and go to Glacier. We truly were blessed.
After spending the night at Rising Sun, we headed back to Sprague Creek for our last night. Because of how friendly our camp hosts had been our first couple days there, we decided to spend our last night back at Sprague, where we could visit some with them and tell them about our trip to East Glacier. We set up another village, as it was raining and we needed cover. When the village was complete, we played some cards and enjoyed the sound of the rain hitting the tarp, while also overlooking Lake McDonald as the rain created thousands of little ripples in the water. Before it got dark, our camp hosts came by for a quick visit. With them they had cupcakes that they had made. Knowing that we were in the mood for some fresh baked desserts, they gave us a couple and wished us a good night. Syd and I finished the night with some rurey making, some good conversation around the fire, and a sad farewell to Glacier. On our way out the next morning, we caught up with the camp hosts, exchanged emails, and told them we'd see them again next year.
The drive home was a sad one...and very long. The good news is, we accidentally stopped at Templin's Way-In, for we were low on gas, starving, and had no other options. This time we stayed long enough to get a meal, which was cooked by the waitress who was pissed that her cook had not yet shown up. After filling up, we were back on the road and, before too long, returning to Portland.

7.11.2008

Arches/Zion/Bryce/Grand Canyon Flicks No.2

Here continues my selection of photos from Kes and I's trip earlier this year to the Southwest. See the previous post for more details.

The Navajo Loop Trail in Zion. Simply awe-inspiring.


Chilly evening in Bryce.

Hoover Dam.

The Grand Canyon.

Yuma Prison. Run Russell Crow, run.

Pure Americana. Stare long enough and you can almost hear the heavy metal.

7.08.2008

Arches/Zion/Bryce/Grand Canyon Flicks No.1

Earlier this year, Kes and I decided to head out on one last big road trip, knowing that gas prices were about to skyrocket and that the little one Kes was carrying in her rapidly expanding marsupial pouch would soon keep us housebound for at least the next year or two. We began by heading east on Interstate 84 towards Utah, our ultimate destination being the central Southwest and it's plethora of natural wonders, an area that we hadn't been able to squeeze into our epic six-month road trip back in 2003 due to empty bank accounts and our then-looming wedding. This time around we were only gone for ten days, but managed to visit several National Parks that had been tempting us for many years...Arches, Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, along with a few that I had previously never heard of like Canyonlands, Great Basin, and Cedar Breaks. We stayed in hostels most nights, something neither of us had really done before, and fell in love with this more communal, less commercial, form of temporary residence. Here are a few pictures from the first half of our trip, with the second batch coming up in another post later this week.
[As always, click on the images to enlarge to their full beauty.]