Amboy II

This is my second installment of the Amboy Chronicles. As I wrote in a previous (Amboy I) post, Amboy, WA is where my parents have retired, effectively removing themselves from any semblence of the city life they left behind in California. It is here that they've immersed themselves in country culture. Whether that may be going to get your mail on a tractor, building creeks ("crick" in country vernacular) on your property, or searching for bigfoot in the neighboring forest, it's all part of the daily life in Amboy.

Another part of daily life, at least for my folks and some of their friends, is to spend countless hours during the week hob-nobbing with the locals at Amboy Espresso, affectionately known as Tim's. As I mentioned in Amboy I, the town (more of a village), despite it's quaint and sleepy facade, is home to a disproportionate amount of odd characters. So it is here, at Tim's, sitting at the crossroads of "downtown" Amboy, that one can witness these various characters.

On a recent drive to Amboy, I made a stop at Tim's, as I saw my mom and Mike were already there. As I stepped inside the shop, Mike quickly greets me, "Brainstump, how the flock are you?" We then proceed to connect fists (think high five) a la Ali G and mutter "respect" to each other. Mike's friend Gary, a.k.a. Land of the Hawk, repeats the fist pounding with me, also muttering "respect" while doing so. I am then welcomed with a hug by my mom, and one from Susan Black Hawk (of no relation to the aforementioned Hawk). Tim promptly gets a mocha started for me and we all shoot the shit for a while.

As a few minutes pass by, one of us notices someone walking along the street donning a Santa hat. As the figure approaches the parking lot (dirt and gravel surface with potholes), someone recognizes the person as Rex, another local. Rex is in his mid-30's, but because of head trauma sustained in an accident as a teenager, as well as numerous acid trips, he managed to remain 17 and stop time still in it's tracks circa 1987. In his mind, Van Halen, Guns and Roses, and Judas Priest still top the charts. In fact, every time we run into Rex, he, in his raspy Don Corleone voice, generously invites Mike to go see Van Halen live in concert with him. And, for some odd reason, he always states that the concert will be on May 5th. Not that a concert can't take place on May 5th, but he's been referring to the same date for 3 years now. Mike always obliges and agrees to accompany Rex. Rex then, in a sign of excitement, gives Mike the "rock on" sign...you know, the one where you hold all your fingers down except the pinky and index finger. As soon as Tim pours Rex his frozen, blended mocha, he says his goodbyes and wishes everybody a "Merry frickin' Christmas and a happy frickin' new year." As he leaves, he once again gives Mike the "rock on sign," and tells everyone to "have a good one, bro."

Just as Rex leaves, in comes the local scam artist. Well, he's not a scam artist per se, as he is verifiably employed and runs a legit operation. However, his job entails visiting all the local businesses and selling discounted (stolen?) goods. He usually makes his rounds once a month, and actually does pretty good. His stock typically includes leather jackets, art sets, and kids' toys. He's always willing to bargain and rarely is an imposition. He is now quite a regular, and his routine has become somewhat of a scripted show with some entertainment value.

Before Pork, Mike, and I decide to leave, we can't do so without first running into another local. I won't name names, so as not to offend or stigmatize, but he was once the local drunk and part time stand up comic. He is in his 70s, but appears to be more of tough bulldog in his 50s. Now sober, he is the town fix-it man and knower of all, as well as resident Santa during the holidays. As we meet him in the doorway, we say our hello's and quickly catch up before taking off.

See, it is not an exciting way of life, but it is far from normal and monotonous. And despite the lurking oddballs that make up the town of Amboy, everyone knows everyone and treats each other with respect and kindness. The cast of characters may deter some, but the community they've created is quite comforting.


You know you're in Portland...

...when the security baggage screener at the airport reminds people, while in the middle of her spiel about what can and cannot be brought onto the airplane, that hummus, certainly a delicious treat at home, is indeed a banned liquid in quantities above 3.5 ounces on all domestic flights. Yes...hummus. God save us.

<-- apparently equates to -->


SantaCon '06

I promised Jeff I'd get to this today, but man do I feel like shit...in the hopes that it's just a little bug, I'm filling up on DayQuil and Gypsy Cold Care (just had to throw in "gypsy" somewhere). Worst case scenario is that it's not a common cold, but a potentially nasty case of Hepatitis A that I picked up from this year's SantaCon. The most common reaction so far when I mention that Jeff and I went to SantaCon is "Huh?" or some such neanderathal grunt. SantaCon is an experience that is not to be missed if you happen to have one in your city, and most major cities do; the event was initiated by the Cacophony Society in San Francisco back in '94 I believe, quickly spread to Portland the next year, and then basically went global. In a nutshell, hundreds of kindred souls dress up as Santa, then rampage around town drinking obscene amounts of alcohol and generally spreading holiday cheer. There are a few rules to this here Santa thing...I won't go into details, so just check out the Four Fucks of Santarchy here: https://home.comcast.net/~hhinman/Ettiquette.htm
A few other pages of interest:

The event kicked off innocently enough, with everyone gathering at the Skidmore Fountain, smack dab in the middle of Portland's Saturday Market.
Jeff and I arrived by the MAX (basically a giant steel sleigh) suited up as Santa, and were greeted by several hundred fellow Santas belting out "Hi Santa!"...whenever talking to another Santa, their name, as well as yours, is simply "Santa." This moniker was also our stock reply to all questions from non-Santas...why are you guys doing this? "Santa." Who organized this? "Santa." Why is there vomit in your beard? "Santa." So anyway, Santa Jeff and Santa Old hung out at the Fountain for a good hour waiting for all the rest of the Santas to arrive, chatting it up, handing out gifts to random passerbys (nice toys for the kids, naughty stuff for the adults), and taking photos of the more creative Santas (Apocalypse Santa, Rasta Santa, Pirate Santa, various Slut Santas, and Santa Jeff's favorite, the Urban Scout Santa, hipster moccassins included).

Well, by this time we were all getting more than a bit antsy for a stiff drink (don't worry Mom, I'm not an alcoholic, I just get the shakes when I first wake up), so the group headed off to McFadden's, an Irish pub a few blocks away. The barkeeps there were certainly not expecting us, and we soon found it impossible to order a drink or food from the lone two working the bar...the place was packed wall to wall with red-suited creeps, smoking and drinking from their private stashes (a SantaCon tradition is to empty out Windex bottles and fill them up with something hard, then walk around spraying each other in the mouths)...it felt like a Hunter S. Thompson hallucination, you wierd fucker. Luckily for us, the Santas closest to us were well-enough prepared to have lugged around a few extra beverlies, and were kind enough to cure what was ailing us. Pounding the beer down quickly, we noticed the Red Tide was on the move...pouring out into the streets we walked back towards the Skidmore Fountain under the Burnside Bridge and waited around for a MAX train. One finally arrived and we swarmed inside, filling that fucker to the gills (and leaving a full 3/4 of the Santas behind for the next round of trains)...felt like a tin of red herrings.

Finally we were released at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland's official living room, where most of the family-friendly city-sponsored events take place (and the site of the pillow fight we participated in a few months back). I'm not sure why we stopped here, except to mill about handing out candy canes and disturbing toys (Barbies with their limbs sawed off and replaced with Wookie arms, etc.) to the hundreds of families here for some tuba band playing Christmas carols.

That's when the chanting started. It felt like a war protest gone mad, with drunken Santas marching towards the riverfront yelling "HO, HO, HO...WE WON'T GO!" and "WHO DO WE WANT? HO! WHAT DO WE WANT? HO! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? HO!"...I can only imagine the type of trauma this causes for children suseptible to the whims of fantastical reality. Thankfully, the parents down here are fairly well-off and should be able to fund the therapy little Johnny is going to need in the years to come.

Our next stop was McCormick & Shmicks (the chain originated here in Portland) at the new Waterfront development...this is one of those fancy restaurants that serve shit food and attract the "movers and shakers". Well, we stormed this fucking place, finally got some beer (Santa Jeff and I strategically raced here ahead of the tide following us to beat the crowd), and then walked over to a little asian market to pick up a six-pack of Old Milwaukie and a bag of Munchies (which quickly turned into a communal Santa snack pack), skipping the generically labeled hamburgers that were sitting out at room temperature next to the cash register...we inquired about where the store owner had gotten the burgers, and he replied "burger." Great.
Now fully stocked on beer, we proceeded to get down, and so did the other Santas. We cheerfully watched a Santa walking down the docks harrassing old ladies, a Santa attempting to catch 3-eyed fish out the Willamette River, a newly married couple taking a joyride on the Urban Scout's sleigh, an improptu game of Santa Tug-O-War, and heard a sermon from the Devil (disguised as a Santa taking wippet hits). Jeff and I began to stub out bogues on each other's Santa costumes at this point for inexplicable reasons.

We all headed down to the docks when Jeff and I were somehow split up, and we boarded separate boats bound for the east side of the river...the Santas I was riding with passed around a bottle of vodka to ward off the chilly winds, and a girl said I looked like Ali G (must be my new glasses).

Disembarking, I took a much needed piss off the dock, and stumbled up the stairs to the Burnside Bridge and followed the thin red line of santas down to the world famous Skatepark of the same name...here we were greeted by Voodoo Doughnuts (their face-sized apple fritter is a personal favorite of mine), and Jeff and I, once again reunited, finished off our remaining beers. It felt a little strange to be drinking and cavorting in costume in the shadow of my office building just up the hill...

At this point, the night began to wind down as we headed to the ironic hipster/country bar, Outlaws. Mostly Santa sat around drinking, savaging the pizza buffet, and watching the sad, sad strippers. Santa Jeff had a fun schizophrenia-inducing encounter. A random female Santa began stripping down to her moose knuckles in front of him, then kindly asked him for his pizza crust. Immediately afterwards some fruity-two shoes Santa dude walked by and blew Santa Jeff a kiss and pointed at him like "Come get your ahnoos broken in the little boy's room." We had a good laugh at that one. After a few hours, we all filed out into the streets, played some dodgeball, then walked back across the bridge downtown to the shittiest nightclub in town, Bliss. The techno music was a complete buzz-killer, and rather than stick it out we headed home, weary and only slightly drunk. It was a good time, but we also learned a few important lessons for next year, namely drink beforehand, and bring plenty of food and alcohol to keep the fires burning. Oh, and get that Japanese exchange student ASAP, 'cause he'd love this shit.

Until next year...Santa Old, signing off.


Oh joyous fun

Oldie and I have been quite adept at finding and/or creating adventures in Stumptown. I've now lived in the Stump for a year, Oldie and his wife, Kesia, for two. In that time, we've been to roller derbies, had drunken screaming matches with trains on the Steel Bridge, come close to fighting random Bilbo Baggins look-a-likes (Rusty, you got lucky), had pillow fights downtown, come close to being arrested (damn Taco Bell manager), and impersonated Santa Clause with hundreds of other revelers.

It's been joyous, indeed, but we've grown bit bored with our recent adventure-seeking ways. We've decided it's time to spice things up a scoash (that's for you, Kes). To add flare to our now mundane adventures, Oldie and I, after much deliberation, have decided to make a change. After viewing the files of US culture-seeking foreign exchange students from Japan, we will carefully select one lucky "participant" to join us in our adventures. The goal here, aside from our pure enjoyment, is to educate and mold. Yes, we will turn a young, repressed, and innocent Japanese boy into a thrill-seeking, heckling, and hipster-hating goonie.

As sick as it may sound, think about this. Will this child, in his homeland, be able to drink 40s, pillow fight in the streets, and harrass people while dressed as Santa Clause? The answer, you'll quickly discover, is NO. You see, while we'll get entertainment from our new sidekick, we'll also be waging a war of liberation. This poor young soul will soon be able to express himself freely while also declaring his full individuality. It's a win-win situation.

To get the ball rolling, we're now accepting donations so we can fully subsidize this foreign exchange student's education. Please leave a comment with contact information if you're interested.


Gypsy, gypsy, 1, 2, 3...

Fart. Drunk. Gypsy. Poop.

Stream of consciousness, it's a beautiful thing. So, too, is celebrating your 25th, er, um 27th, uh, 26th birthday while drinking and listening to gypsy music. Yes, Gorky Bucheck puts it down with the sounds of Khazakstan, while getting the gypsy spirit roaring to the max. After a night of drinking, I can think of no better way (in my current state) to cap it off than to dance to the sound of gypsies. So, as the night unraveled, and I dreaded the thought of growing a year older, I danced under a full moon to the smooth melodies of gypsy calypso.

Here's how it went down. As the bartender declared last call, a sudden urge hit me to toe-tap and knee-slap to gypsy music. So, as we left, I invited a few people to follow me to Stacey's (designated driver) car for a surprise. Fortunately, Oldie had just given me the Borat soundtrack for my birthday, and gypsy music was soon blaring from Stacey's speakers. Not long after, I was rhythmically bouncing in the street to the sounds of Gorky Bucheck. Due to the magnetism of gypsy tunes, Casey soon joined me in making an awkward, artistic mark on the world. As laughs were cast at our expense, horns honked as warning, and we lost our breath, our jigs subsided and the night came to an end.

It was a great way to end the night, as odd as it was. As I sit here, contemplating laying down in front of a toilet, the sounds of Gorky Bucheck still reverberate through my mind. In the end, I must say, I heart gypsies.

To get a sample of my birthday soundtrack, go here: http://www.boratsoundboard.net/boratsoundboard2.php


Not sure what Rip City even means...

Having been in Portland a month shy of two years, I guess it's still a bit of a stretch to claim to be a Trailblazers fan. You're probably questioning why would I even consider such a thing in the first place. Well, I can't really explain it, but this team has captured my heart since we first began to lay down roots in the Stumples. It's not just a factor of location, as I wasn't too far from the Golden State Warriors when I lived in Northern Cali and I never attended a single game. No, the major contributing factor is that this team makes me laugh...they're awkward, accident prone, inexperienced, foul-happy (at all the wrong times), defenseless, and seem to be sleeping a good deal of the time. But they have Sergio Rodriguez, nicknamed Spanish Chocolate for reasons that escape me (he's from Spain, but is a white dude)...he isn't particularly good, but hustles like he's running from a hungry Danny Devito in a wig holding two giant forks. This kid is Cah-razy. He seriously plays like he's the only one on the court, passing outrageously to invisible amigos, shooting (and missing) like the devil is breathing down his neck, and dribbling like a red breasted-squirrel on nine sheets of acid. He's seriously funny as shit...and tonight he actually did okay, hooking the team up with a handfull of points and 11 assists. Aside from Zach Randolph (affectionately nicknamed Z-Bo, which to me conjures images of a hillbilly rapist from the Ozarks) scoring over 30 points, the team never really woke up from their little group nap in the locker room before the game...Martell Webster did better than he has all season, but I expect him to play like that...he's got the skills, just doesn't have the confidence to use them on any consistent basis. Anyway, the team lost for the their thirtieth time (at least it feels like it) in a row, and Kes and I left the Rose Garden more than a little saddened. For fuck's sake guys, score 100 points next time if you're planning on losing the game, so the fans can walk away with a goddamn Chalupa (an actual promotion paid for by Taco Bell), if not an actual win. Oh well, they're going through obvious growing/learning pains...but mark my words, this team will be hot in another three years, if not before. It's just going to be a reeeaaall long season...at least I'll get a few chuckles from Sergio for the admission price.