As we see every year here in Portland, a severe weather pattern swipes into the region and causes the city to shut down. As we've seen the last few years in a row, even the slightest bit of freezing, and an accompanying snow, will send Portland residents into a frenzy, somehow losing all their ability to drive, go to work and school, and function in general. To non-natives, say, from the East Coast or Midwest, it is a laugh...but, hey, at least they know they'll get time off at work at least once during the winter.
Frantically written by Oldie circa 11/27/2007 02:04:00 PM
Frantically written by luckygreen circa 11/25/2007 11:53:00 PM
Either I'm really getting into the holiday spirit, or I'm at a loss for more important stuff to write about. Whatever the case, I thought I'd share my Thanksgiving.
As is becoming tradition now, my mom, Mike and I spent Thanksgiving with some old friends from California. Wheels, a good friend and former coworker of Mike's, retired at the same time as my folks. Wheels and his wife, Vicki, along with their son, Michael, moved to Vancouver, WA shortly after. Continuing the friendship up here in the Northwest, we all get together from time to time, often for a barbecue and to catch up.
Most recently, on Thanksgiving, we went to their place, where the Cooks family put together yet another great meal. Yes, there was the customary turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, but what made this a signature meal were Vicki's famous greens, wonderfully marinated in vinegar with little pork shreds mixed in, and, of course, her sweet potato pie. Wheels also filled in as a more than serviceable bartender, offering to fill any empty glass with an alcoholic concoction.
I didn't bring a camera, but I have pictures of last year's feast, which was nearly identical (I think Wheels even wore the same shirt), with the exception of Old and Kes not being present (so pretend they're not pictured).
While Old and Kes were missed (they were with family in Cali), we all had a good time visiting with each other. Although Michael hid away in his room for most of the night, he did sneak up for some food and to give me a burned copy of The Federation's (had to drop the Bay love) newest album. Wheels spent much of the night bragging about how cushy his job in Portland is. See, he drives a school bus in Portland, but because the job is contracted out by an independent company, he is not technically employed throughout the school year. So, while on school breaks (Thanksgiving week, Christmas, summer, etc.), he gets to collect unemployment. And, when he is working, his 7 hour shift consists of only a few brief pickups in the morning and a few more in the afternoon. It's a great gig for someone who is, for all intents and purposes, retired and just looking for some extra income.
In addition to the Cooks family and the three of us, a couple of their friends joined us, as well as Mike's brother, Bruce. As the evening went on, we did the belly-stuff and liver-poison, capping it all off with Pork's famous pumpkin pie and homemade whipped cream (stored in some funky spray contraption that Kesia introduced to her). While I'm having a difficult time convincing myself that this event was blog-worthy, I can say with certainty that the food was great and it was good to catch up with old friends. Go Blazers!
Frantically written by luckygreen circa 11/23/2007 10:53:00 PM
Your monthly fix of Oldie's nuggets:
-Think the Bush administration's latest funding request for the war in Iraq is unreasonable? Well, combine it with the (publicly-acknowledged) total cost of the war so far, and we're looking at a meager $611.5 billion. Wanna know what we could have gotten with that money instead of a world that hates us (among other things)? Check out the story, here, that investigates just that. A few that stood out for me...if oil is the reason we're over there, it may strike some as ironic that we could have provided every U.S. gas-guzzling citizen with 18 months of fuel...or sent 3.5 million folks to Harvard with a full-ride scholarship...or better yet, we could have fed and educated the world's poor for seven years. We salute you for your patriotism, Congress.
-I know I shouldn't speak for my fellow Portlanders, but man, does this city seem excited to host the numerous presidential candidates planning on campaigning in our fair city over the next year. Especially when we think about the $600,000 check they'll stiff us with (nothing new for Hillary Clinton there) to protect their primadonna asses with security details, motorcades, and police overtime. Apparently this is common practice around the country...rich, mostly white, men (and now a woman!) stop into town to dip into the pockets of the public for campaign donations, then leave without forking over a dime to the very same public for the required security. When is enough really going to be enough?
-On a lighter note, the two most important musical acts in known history have both come out with new albums. Yes, I'm talking about Seal and Duran Duran (featuring production from Timbaland...oh how the mighty have fallen).
-If you haven't seen Eastern Promises, and can't still catch it at a local $3 theater like we can in Portland (suckas), make a note to rent it when it comes to DVD. A serious contender for this year's best film (if you don't count Hot Fuzz, which I do). Cronenburg kills it, scene after scene, line after line...and if you don't laugh at the Borat-like bathhouse violence, your soul is dead.
-Volunteered at this year's celebration of literature, the Wordstock festival, and was honored with the chance to chat (briefly), while manning the writers workshop rooms, with Christy George, Eve Epstein, Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond, Tom Spanbauer, Tom Larson, and Poe Ballantine. I've never read any of their work, but they all seemed like swell people. Did sit in on a few readings, including Lance Williams & Mark Fainaru-Wada (the guys who inexplicably hate Barry Bonds' rampant steroid usage), and Harry Shearer, who is best known as the voice actor for many of The Simpson's characters (Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner and 492.1 others...if you're a fan of the show, you know what a wet dream this was. Skeet skeet.), as well as a frequent participant in the all-improv films of Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, etc. Also a fan.)...he was very, very funny, and read from his also funny new book on "Indian" gaming. He also dropped that he was mentored by Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny and a Portlander), and that the reason for the success of The Simpson's is that the writers have never accepted any creative input from the FOX network. It was a great festival, but I've been losing sleep at night for passing up attending Rosco Orman's reading, the man better known as "Gordon" from Sesame Street. I'll bet it was life changing.
Frantically written by Oldie circa 11/21/2007 09:35:00 PM
A lot of what makes Portland funky and unique are the subtle things. For example, I wrote a blog a while back about a movie theater that played "Suppressed Vicious War Cartoons" (see The "weird Portland" myth). Now, the Clinton Street Theater, which played the cartoons, is a quaint little movie house. When passing by the theater, as well as the charming neighborhood around it, one wouldn't think twice about the obscure, or flat out weird, movies and performances (they also do a weekly, interactive performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show) that take place there. A closer look, though, would reveal something far from normal and mainstream. That's why I say subtle.
Another example might be that random unicycler who passes you on his way to work in the morning. I mean seriously, a unicycler? It happens, though...and it's weird. However, because it isn't out of character for Portland, and not so radical and shocking, it is just accepted as one of those subtle quirks of our social fabric in the Stump.
To expand on the subtlety of "Weird Portland," I wanted to share something I just discovered: the stencil people in the city's bike lanes. You know what they are, stenciled markings of a two-dimensional figure on a bike, indicating where the bike lane is. However, Portland's "bike people" are, naturally, a little different. Apparently they've been around for almost 10 years, when Todd Roberts, an employee of the Office of Transportation, took the liberty of expressing his creativity while on the job. While marking Portland's bike lanes with the customary stenciled bike rider, Roberts began making minor adjustments to the figures. The first of his "bike people" was created when, with extra reflective tape, Todd added a hat to one of the figures. This created a whole new phenomenon of street art. And, as I said earlier, it is so subtle that I hadn't noticed them until recently (with the aid of an article in PDX Magazine).
Although brilliant, I don't know how they get away with these, as they are in officially designated bike lanes, and I would assume are viewed, technically, as street signs. Whatever the case, it's fucking great that they exist and are accepted by the city and Office of Transportation. Maybe it just speaks to Portland's bike culture and artistic breeding ground, but it definitely adds to what makes the city unique.
Frantically written by luckygreen circa 11/19/2007 11:26:00 AM
For instance, we attended The Portland Mercury’s annual “talent” event called “Pizzazz!” It was a sordid mixture of the talented and the talent challenged. You haven’t lived till you have seen a unicorn rip its heart out of its chest and squeeze blood all over the stage and the audience, nor till you have seen a middle-aged fat guy sing badly while wearing nothing but a sock over his dong. Put it away sweet cheeks. On the more talented side there were some dancers and tumblers. What impressed me the most though was that the Portlanders in the audience genuinely enjoyed the show! It was cheesy; it was trashy, and certainly campy but it was great fun. There was no jeering though it would have been well deserved a few times.
The night before Halloween we decided to go on the Portland Underground ghosting tour... We met downtown at the Skidmore Fountain at ten pm. Our well meaning and educated host who did look an awful lot like the porn star Jeremy what’s his name did his best to conjure up ghostly images for us while parading us around for an hour or so on the freezing streets of the Portland above ground. Strangely, I was comforted in my misery and old age by a lovely twenty something woman who appeared without explanation, became attached to my arm and in the ethereal mist accompanied me down the steps into the darkness of the underground, to do the unspeakable in my mind, only to disappear abruptly later on in the tour leaving me standing fully clothed and again in my right mind (though into the night I continued to hear the voice of the siren beckoning me to imbibe with her). We explored the maze of corridors interconnecting the basements of many of the buildings; saw the remnants of an opium den, and the cells used to break the will of women to force them into prostitution. We heard the tales of the poor dumb drunk bastards who were drugged, clubbed or otherwise shanghaied by the white slavers. Hmmm, being sold into slavery and loaded onto ships to do forced labor to earn profit for the rich white guys sounded oddly familiar. Oh that’s right Halliburton, yeah the U.S Army… boy things haven’t changed at all.
We decided to go see Jeff, my newly adopted son! We drove to Amboy, Washington about an hour and a half northeast of Portland on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens. After picking up Jeff we drove on to the Ape Cave. Actually there are neither apes nor any cave. What we found was North America’s longest lava tube. A Lava tube is formed by the extrusion of molten lava through itself as it cools on the outside while flowing down an incline. Picture an old fashioned car radio antenna that telescopes out upon itself. Climbing down the stairs from the surface we proceeded to the left down a large open tube approximately 20 feet in diameter and surprisingly flat on the bottom. A very easy walk approximately one half mile downhill to the end then a return trip to the stairway. But now we had a choice. Either go up and out into the warm sunlight or continue to explore the more challenging upper two miles of lava tube. You know that Jeff, Oldie, Kesia and Don Dada chose darkness over light. We proceeded on into the much less-traveled upper tube. No longer was the floor open and passable but rather strewn with huge boulders that had collapsed from the unstable tube roof over our heads. Hand over hand climbing and jumping from one boulder to the next we climbed up into the heart of the mountain itself. At one point scaling an ancient waterfall within the tube we were exposed to the gaseous vapors emanating from the very depths of Mordor itself [That would be my Dad’s anus leakage –Ed.]. As a party we began to despair, considering even the embrace of a perilous escape upward through a vent hole, with the certainty of falling to our deaths if we tried such a foolish venture. We encountered strange beings moving in our direction from the other end of the tube, from our destination. They were unable to speak with any meaning or intelligence and their words were a mere whine in our ears. We suspected their minds had been taken captive by the ever present and croaking rock picas. Having no guidance, no hope, no 40 oz beers, we pressed on agreeing to end our lives together if we didn’t reach the golden ladder in 30 more time units, this latter destiny being avoided when on the 28th unit of time we beheld the spectacle of light, and proceeded up the ladder and into the fresh air, the grip of the rock picas on our minds lessening with every rung. We found ourselves fully clothed and in our right minds, over a 1000 feet higher in elevation than where we had started.
Olde trying hard to find new amusements for his demented father, and being too hung over to consider doing anything else that involved alcohol for at least 8 hours suggested a trip to (Scrabble)Bagby Hot Springs about 65 miles southeast of Portland. Amazingly easy to locate given its relative remoteness, I promised the caretaker of this treasure that we would never tell our friends of its beauty and serenity; that we would never describe the unique single hot spring cone that feeds the 136 degree crystal clear odorless water into hand-hewn troughs that distribute the water between five private tubs (for the modest) and into the original four hand-hewn log tubs out in the open air for the naturists among us. The natives reportedly would travel over 100 miles to enjoy this holy, healing spring. We were fortunate to visit here on a quiet, cool, misty morning. It was a delight to lay out in the log tubs watching the billowing steam waft around us, letting our minds recall the simplicity and integrity of nature, the benefits of focusing on friendships, family and forbearance, the hope of a future based on cooperation rather than exploitation…..Then as if we were in Gorillas in the Mist a hoard of tourists descended on the hot springs, suddenly, noisily, devoid of introspection or reverence. Soon we found ourselves fully clothed and in our right minds hiking on the trail back to the parking lot, expressing our gratitude for the experience by relieving the forest of discarded beer cans [Pabst Blue Ribbon. Thanks, hipsters, I bet you found it ironic to enjoy nature, and then trash it. –Ed.], burned underwear and other signs of the blight called mankind.
On one of my evenings with my boys, after biking around downtown and drinking in Kells’ basement, after over-indulging (make that gorging) on nearly every appetizer on the happy hour menu at the lounge [Portland City Grill –Ed.] on the 30th floor of Big Pink, and after generally having a great time, my soul was still not satisfied. Leaving Olde and Kesia at their apartment, I set out on foot at 1:45 am. I believe you can only see the soul of a city at night, only by experiencing its reality after 2 am: when the only bar open in the neighborhood was Holman’s (a friendly, dark spot); when you can no longer get back from downtown on the Max; when the loudest noises heard are not gang bangers but rather the occasional crash of a dumpster being emptied into a garbage truck. Though I am completely at ease, I must appear to be a threat as the lone pedestrian crosses the street before passing me on the opposite side. Looping up along Sandy Blvd., I discover additional signs of life: Men (only men) coming and going from Steam Portland [Probably had something to do with it being a gay bathhouse. –Ed.]; Men and women entering, but not leaving the Fantasy for Adults Store. No visible police presence. No violence, just people seeking meaning during a too short lifespan. I continue on up Sandy, and then cross back over the highway and head west into the Hollywood district, no longer snobbish, the decent folks having retired hours earlier, the boutiques dark save an occasional window display. I stop for a moment to visit with a man who rides his bicycle by me, rather intoxicated but quite lucid and amicable. On his way to work… I thank god I am not. I pass the Travel Café [Costello’s –Ed.], wishing they were open for a traveler now, but to no end. I console myself by pilfering a hot off the press, still in the bundle copy of the Mercury. At the next shop over, an interior decorator, I am suddenly brought back to reality by the fourth chime of a grandfather’s clock. Finding myself again fully clothed and in my right mind I wander the few blocks back to Olde’s place. I am tired, at peace and impressed by the serenity of Portland at night.
Frantically written by Oldie circa 11/16/2007 01:26:00 PM
To all of our three readers, we want you to know you don't go unnoticed. This blog is dedicated to you, our oh so faithful viewers. For without you, there would be no "us."
Frantically written by luckygreen circa 11/14/2007 01:15:00 PM
-Talk about a good reason for forced-extinction. Sea urchins recently developed a highly intelligent brain (it's been all over the news), and the best use they can put it to is discovering how to eat rubber bands, something the human race mastered millenia ago.
Frantically written by Oldie circa 11/13/2007 03:06:00 PM
Ahh, the wonderul process of saponification. Much like turning powder cocain into crack rocks, or cooking up some meth, making soap requires some basic preparation similar to the aforementioned home-chemist pursuits.
Frantically written by luckygreen circa 11/09/2007 02:40:00 PM