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Thursday, September 28, 2006
Back on Monday
I'm taking a day off from work tomorrow for a trip to the optometrist. The eye drops they use to, uh, check patient's retinas or whatever it is they do? It always takes me several hours to recover from them. My vision becomes so incredibly sensitive to sunlight that I can barely keep my eyes open without a pair of dark sunglasses. If you see anyone bumping into random objects around Portland in a pair of aviator shades tomorrow afternoon, there's at least a .0075% chance it'll be me. You now know my Kryptonite. Tell no one.
I'll be back on Monday night with a fairly random post about downtown Salt Lake City. Until then, here's a link to a blog much better than this one.
Portland on the Tonight Show
This is the only time I can recall regretting having missed an installment of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (sorry Mr. McDonald, it's not my cup of late night tea but his monologues aren't half bad). Many have forgotten that David Letterman got jacked out of that gig, maybe even Letterman himself, but not me. Hrumph!
Short story shorter: Tom Green came to Portland a while back in search of Oregon's "most interesting person." I guess it's part of a series of segments where he travels to each state doing the same. Among those he interviewed: "the naked janitor" at Voodoo Doughnut and the woman who owns the self-cleaning house out in Newberg.
I'm not going to hold my breath in hopes of anyone posting the segment on You Tube but The Oregonian's A&E Now blog has a brief rundown. Someone also captured this brief video clip of Green interviewing one of the Rose City Rollers.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Attack of the Show: Tokyo Edition
If you get the G4 Network I would recommend tuning in to Attack of the Show over the next few days. While the program has gone downhill over the past year they've been broadcasting from Tokyo and will be focusing on all things Japanese through the end of the week. Today's installment featured a segment on high-priced toilets. Some of them can be upgraded to include bidets, seat warmers, MP3 players, remote controls, etc. I didn't see anything too elaborate while I was in Tokyo but I still wish I had this one at home. More photos of Tokyo potties? Click here.
The episode also covered Harajuku and cosplay bars. And their parody of Lost in Translation? 'Twas spot on. I'm sure they'll be delving into 17th century art and the history of Tokyo's municipal government (1860 - 1890) tomorrow.
Me vs. My Space
I signed up for a MySpace account a few years ago because everyone else seemed to be doing it. I've got to be honest though, given the existence of blogger.com, I don't see the point, unless you're afraid a stalker might be interested in photos of your drunk friends or a video of your sibling embarrassing herself at Oktoberfest. Everyone knows about MySpace at this point, teachers, coworkers, employers, stalkers...even dogs, cats and some species of hamsters. Run to whatever semi-anonymous social-networking site you want, "they" will find your profile eventually.
That said, this message hit my account the other day:
From: MySpace.com Contact
Now what's amusing about this is that my profile has me listed as being 99 years old and I included a shot of this hardworking street performer and friend to all members of the wild kingdom as my cover photo. Why did I do that? Probably because I'm an idiot with no knowledge of how to put together a proper MySpace page (unlike this guy, who obviously has the best one EVER). Nevertheless, as far as the monitors at MySpace should be concerned, I am that old or I'm a 60-something war vet that is lying about his age to get, maybe, on the Today Show's birthday rundown.
So since I'm the sort of person that loves to cause trouble when A:) there's little to nothing at stake and B:) someone is trying to enforce a petty regulation that causes me a minor inconvenience, I've decided to screw with them. Here's the message I'm prepared to send back to MySpace's minions:
To Whom It May Concern,
Think they'll go for it? Maybe the FDR bit was too much?
A victory for bug bite victims everywhere
This is good news, especially on the heels of this. No telling if I could get on board a plane with a bottle of Cortizone now though. Those bottles probably contain more than three ounces of potentially explosive anti-bug bite cream.
Four photos from the beach that don't necessarily feature the actual beach
I didn't have anything to do on Saturday so I drove down to the coast to suck down the last fleeting whiffs of summertime. The ocean was-a sparklin', the surfers were out and the sky was clear all the way to the horizon.
Now here are some snapshots from the trip that have little to with the ocean, the sky or, for the most part, the beach itself.
Look! A slug! A big slug! A big, big slug! I found this guy in the middle of the path leading down to Short Sands. Exciting!
Short Sands now has a suspension bridge that serves as the beginning of a long trail to Nehakanie Mountain. Earlier in the summer I encountered an older hippie couple at the parking lot near the mountain's north trailhead. They had hiked over the bridge and down the entire stretch leading to the mountain, up to the peak and back down again. They were so exhausted by the time they reached the 101 that they were trying to hitchhike back to their car at Short Sands. Being a cynical bloke who grew up on the mean streets of SW Portland, I wasn't willing to drive them myself, especially since they could have been packing guns in their fanny packs. You can never be too careful. I gave them my Gatorade and offered to lend them my cell phone though. What would you have done?
I have no idea how long the "UFO house" has been sitting on the shores of Cannon Beach but it obviously hails back to the days when the community was known more for arts and crafts than $1.5 million beach cabins. With the exception of the mini-Xanadu at the end of the beach with 3-story curtains that never open, I think it's the most interesting place visible from the shoreline.
Wait, not even the starfish? But they're the most fun to step on! Aww, phooie! You nature conservationists are l-a-m-e with a capital "L" that won't emphasize here because I don't roll like that. The next thing you'll tell us is that it's somehow *wrong* to feed seagulls Alka Seltzer tablets while tossing empty Milwaukie's Best cans all over the place! What nerve. Sheesh.
On a not-at-all related note, I visited a public beach in LA a few summers back. The entire stretch had trashcans every 50 yards, which no one seemed interested in using. The amount of trash I noticed on Cannon Beach after hiking from one end to Haystack Rock? Zero. Not even a single cigarette butt.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Nine down, forty-six McMenamins to go
Two colleagues of mine have made it their mission to visit each link in the McMenamin Brothers' empire. They're chronicling their adventures on a blog called McMenamensch. It won't be an easy journey. There's now over fifty of the brothers' brewpubs scattered throughout Oregon and Washington.
So far they've tackled nine locations, the latest of which was the High St. Pub in Eugene where they ran into a few problems with the staff. A direct link to their tale of triumph and sorrow can be found here.
You've got to admire their gusto, especially since they live in Eugene, where only three of the brewpubs can be found. I've lived in Portland, AKA McMenamins Central, most of my whole life and I've only managed to visit ten of them. I haven't even made it to the White Eagle Saloon, despite the stories that make it one of the more well-known locations. Ghost hookers? Freaky.
Guns, sans roses?
The latest incarnation of Guns n' Roses will be performing at the Rose Garden in December. Sure, Slash won't be there but dare I fulfill the dreams of myself circa 1991 and get a ticket when they go on sale this Saturday? The band might even do that one song from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Remember that video where Arnold Schwarzenegger walked into the stadium and thought about killing Axl but then didn't, finally approving of the band's ugly, misogynist, and violent but also funny, vulnerable, and occasionally sensitive music in the manner befitting an obsolete cyborg hailing from the not-so-distant future?
Wait, I just took another look at that video. Actually, RoboArnie didn't kill Axl because he determined it would be "a waste of ammo." Good to know.
I haven't heard Axl's singing voice since the early '90s. I imagine it sounds less like a cat in heat than it does an overweight, aging, dreadlock'ed cat in a ice hockey jersey...possibly also in heat. Anyway, here's the press release that I found on the Rose Garden's website:
They're back. Guns N' Roses have reclaimed the throne that was always theirs. From stellar reviews to audience adulation, Guns N' Roses' recent shows have proved that they are back in a big way. Guns N' Roses will make their way to the Rose Garden on Monday, December 11 at 8p.
Click here to read the rest. Tickets start at $39.50 before the inevitable $20+ in service charges.
Monday, September 25, 2006
He was "drunk"
So what happened when Keith Richards showed up to film his cameo in the next Pirates of the Caribean movie? Here's the answer, compliments of the IMDB:
Keith Richards appearance in the second Pirates Of The Caribbean sequel descended into chaos after he reportedly got so drunk on the movie set, the film's director had to prop him up. The hellraising Rolling Stones guitarist finally shot his long awaited cameo as Johnny Depp's father in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End earlier this summer, but he is unlikely to remember the occasion which concluded months of speculation. Bill Nighy, who plays Davy Jones in the film, tells Empire Online that Richards was inebriated by the time the production team retrieved him from his trailer to shoot his scene, and he required a little support from director Gore Verbinski. The 62-year-old rocker is reported to have remarked, "If you wanted straight, then you got the wrong man."
I was right.
Hooray for me.
El hombre de weatherman says the temps will be in the 70s through the weekend. Yesterday's high was 85.
Doin' the chicken
I don't think these two videos* require an introduction. They speak for themselves.
Or maybe they don't so here's a quick rundown. The locale should be obvious. The parties involved asked me to pass along these videos so they could share them with family and friends but they made the mistake of not specifying where exactly.
Now it's time to kick back and wait for the series of inevitably enraged IMs destined to hit my computer screen any second now. Mwahahahahaha!
Friday, September 22, 2006
Random video link of the moment
So I'm stuck here at work on a Friday night. Bored, bored, bored. Will I ever escape this cubicle?
Oh, what's this? A video showing what happens when three undergrads take on a cranky blender with assorted household products and a four-foot broadsword?
Thanks for helping me kill a few more minutes of this endless shift, Emoglasses.
Roaming the Western States Part 4 - People are Strange
Even if no one is reading these things I'm determined to make it to the end of what's sure to become a hundred-part series of blog posts about my summer road trip. So like a drunk, elderly relative and Led Zeppelin too, I must ramble on, sing my song, etc. Part three covered the assorted flora and fauna that run around Yellowstone trying to cause traffic accidents. But what of the people that roam this part of the country?
It's 10 o'clock on a Tuesday night. Shanna and I are sitting near a group of horny Russian teenagers at a lonely burger stand in Gardiner, Montana. As we were waiting for our elk burgers, a scrawny guy in a black skull t-shirt brought his truck to a screeching halt in front of the place. His greasy, long hair tied back in a bandana, he hoped out of the truck and stormed up to the window. He looked like a Worlds of Warcraft aficionado that had traded his PC for enough meth to get seriously addicted. He was on edge and looked like bad news all around. The fry cook, all of 19, came around and met him out front.
SKULL GUY: "Thanks for working my shift."
He handed over a roll of bills, at least $200, to the cook before jumping back in the truck. The cook headed back inside to his spot in Helen's Burger Corral ("Home of the Hateful Burger, Best in the West") and flipped our elk patties. What had just transpired?
After bringing us our order, the cook joined his friends at the picnic tables out front. They smoked cigarettes and stared at the Big Dipper while chatting among themselves. If not for the language barrier, this would have been a scene out of American Graffiti. Just a gaggle of small town kids just out of high school, killing a summer before heading off to college or whatever. But these four clearly hailed from a foreign land. What had brought them out here to the middle of nowhere? Gardiner, with its population of a mere 851, couldn't possibly crank out four unrelated Russian teens, all of whom could only speak broken English. These kids were clearly bred across the Atlantic. Was this what they had expected when they crossed the ocean with their work visas? And what of the American in the skull shirt?
The corral's namesake, Helen herself, had proven to be just as big and bad as her burgers. An enormous woman, in her 60s, with a take-no-prisoners-or-shit attitude. We watched Helen lecture the cook about how to "for the fifth damn time" use the mop bucket before heading home for the night. Did she know what was going down every night after her brake lights turned the corner?
So many stupid, petty questions and we weren't about to bug the teens for answers. Two guys and two girls, all now working on getting to second base in Big Sky Country. Maybe they had forgotten we were there or just didn't care. A biker and his all-leather-clad wife rolled up a few minutes later to break up the action, their Harley as loud as God's farts.
The burgers were excellent. It was the first time either of us had eaten elk.
From there we headed to the Blue Goose Saloon, an old refuge back when I was studying to become a hotel clerk in Yellowstone. Back in the far gone summer of 2002 the place was something straight out of a Jeff Foxworth bit. One wall was lined with the bust of a dozen buffalo and elk. Three scowling bears stood nearby. But over the past few year most of them had been replaced with video poker machines. A guy in a faded Phish t-shirt had taken the spot of an old bartender who wore a cowboy hat every time I came in. The Blue Goose now offered Red Bull vodkas. A banner over the door declared every Wednesday from here on out would be known as "$2.00 Margarita and Taco Night!"
This "DAMMIT!" had come from Skull Guy, who was now staring in disbelief at one of the poker machines. He stormed up to the bar and took a seat next to a Budweiser before starring endlessly into the mirror behind the bar. He looked like someone who had done or was about to do something terrible or stupid. Maybe a girl from Phoenix had broken his heart in WOW and he had returned the favor by slaying her lovely orc alter-ego. Or maybe that wad of cash was pay-off to the couple on the Harley for some past transgression and he hadn't the balls to face them himself. Maybe the bills were fakes and the wife was now kung-fu kicking the fry cook behind the burger stand.
Or maybe Skull Guy had simply paid the cook $200+ to work his shift for him and that was that. At one time Montana was considered the northern border of the Wild West. Seth Bullock himself supposedly had a hand in the formation of Yellowstone. In a gift shop I found a book of ghost stories.
One from the 1920s told of a 15 year-old girl that married her wealthy family's butler. Against her father's stern objections, they headed west until their money ran out in Wyoming. They rented a room at the Old Faithful Inn and fought all night, keeping their neighbors awake before finally quieting down in the wee hours before dawn. The next day the staff became concerned after they knocked on the door of their room and no one answered. Inside, they found the girl's corpse and both the husband and her head missing. The later was found after a long search. For reasons unknown, he stashed it in the "crow's nest," a large perch at the top of the inn's tall, timber lobby.
Nowadays the staff occasionally reports seeing the girl's spirit descend down the nest's long stairwell, still in her bridal gown, with her head tucked under an arm. There's no telling what was going down in Gardiner as we headed back to our motel but we didn't see any gunfights or truncated ghosts.
Yellowstone is staffed by and attracts people from all over the world. I spoke with an Australian working the desk at the Old Faithful Inn. Two French girls had turned us away from one of the restaurants when it was overbooked. A girl from Croatia brought us cornbread at the cabin cafe at the Roosevelt Lodge. If you ever get a chance to grab a drink at the Stagecoach Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana, I would recommend it. On a Sunday night we watched a crowd of service industry folk from all corners of the earth hit on one another in there. When the clock struck 2 and alcohol could no longer be legally sold in Montana, the bar owner invited everyone over to his place for an after party.
While I was working as a clerk, I remember one night when a British guy in his late 20s staggered up to the front desk at 2 AM.
"I've come to see the buffalo," he announced. "I have to return home in a week and I drove all the way here from New York City. I couldn't leave America without seeing the buffalo."
The whites around his pupils were more red than pale and he looked like he had driven straight in from his temporary gig in NYC. If I hadn't a cabin key to give him, he would have probably passed out on the floor. He was beyond the point of reason on some bizarre, spur-of-the-moment spiritual quest to spend time among wild bison.
I told him that the long drive hadn't been in vain. By noon the next day he would probably see hundreds of them down by Lake Yellowstone. He seemed disappointed as he headed off in search of his cabin. Maybe he had expected to find a single, solitary white buffalo glowing, fueled by an ancient power on the top of a hill...that it would give him the secret of life, tips on how to land a soul mate and the secret combination of buttons that would net him 30 lives in Contra (this one I could have answered myself. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start). Or maybe he had expected me to jump over the counter and roust one of the beasts out of bed.
I never saw him again. I wonder if once he found one or a dozen that they had met his expectations. A few days later I found a bison sleeping on the lawn behind the office instead of standing majestically in front of a sunset.
But everything's disappointing when you see it up close. And it's always smaller. I remember standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and thinking, "This ain't so tall." If a giant ape's arms had reached over the barrier and snatched one of the tourists next to me I probably would have yawned. But I guess this is just an inevitable drawback of living in the 21st century when for $9 you can watch Tom Cruise jump off a building in Singapore. Or for another $40 in Florida you can experience the same G-forces astronauts experience in a fake mission to Mars. It's amazing that anyone still gives a damn about geysers and slumbering bison. The Brit should have probably high-tailed to Disney World instead.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Another mystery solved
A tip of the hat goes out to Matt from The Gus Blog for responding to this post and correctly identifying the following incredibly weird insect:
Apparently, we encountered a "hummingbird hawk-moth" during our trip to Yellowstone last month. Click here to learn more about these critters and for clearer photos snapped by people with cameras far better than mine.
And now you know...if you didn't already. As of approximately three minutes ago, the hummingbird hawk-moth is officially my favorite species of moth.
Free drinks for the Decemberists
This post is for the out-of-towners since everyone living here has probably heard about this already. Staffers from the Mercury, the Oregonian and Willamette Week all tried to outdo one another by buying drinks for the Decemberists at a "secret" show last night at Acme, a club in SE. By the end of the set the band was so drunk they descended into a "woozy" 30-minute cover of Jefferson Airplane's "Wooden Ships."
Click here for the write-up on the Mercury's blog and here for WW's review.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Woah, this actually exists?
For just $19.99 Dick's Sporting Goods will hook you up with a personalized CD filled with audio clips of sports commentators congratulating you on leading the Blazers to an imaginary NBA championship. If I purchased one, the last track would probably go a little something like this....
"Welcome to Blog is at the top of the key. Seven seconds left on the clock in triple overtime. He blasts past Kobe, to the rim. HE DUNKS! BLAZERS WIN! BLAZERS WIN! WELCOME TO BLOG HAS EARNED HIS FIFTH CHAMPIONSHIP RING!"
Actually, I think I could use something like this. Might perk me up on the way to the office every day. "Eye of the Tiger" and the Karate Kid theme song just aren't cutting it any more.
I'll take a dozen of those CDs, Dick's.
A "thanks for the link" goes out to Phooeyhoo.
Another Saturday afternoon in Oregon's Bavaria
I wonder if every state in the union has a town devoted to recreating Bavaria. Washington has Leavenworth and Oregon has Mount Angel. If Nevada has one, I wonder what it would look like. A fake Alpine village with tumbleweeds running down the thoroughfare would be a sight to see.
Enough about that. It was Oktoberfest time in Mt. Angel last weekend and, as part of semi-annual tradition, I rolled down there with family. The lot of us range between 25% and 50% German and, aside from the occasional trip to the Rheinlander, this is the closest any of us get to celebrating the nation from which we sprang. Oktoberfests fall somewhere between Cat Cosey Knit-a-Thons and boat shows on the cool spectrum but you can't argue with heritage. And imported ale. And hats shaped like beer steins. Being the huge dork that I am, there was one year when I came out of there with wooden shoes on my feet and a feather cap on my head. Still, even I've never gotten drunk enough to buy lederhosen. That's probably for the best for reasons too numerous to mention here. Among them, lederhosen is incredibly expensive. We're talking upwards of $45 just for the socks.
So we stuck to the usual stuff- a spin past the hot rod show, a few hours in one of the weingartens watching bands like Der Musikmakers play the "Chicken Dance" song, etc. While "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang is probably one of the world's worst funk songs, it doesn't sound so bad when it's performed with violins and accordions. We built a little tower out of beer cups before checking out the town's new (and broken) glockenspiel, reportedly the biggest in the US. A local teenager had to come out and hand crank the thing to get it going on Saturday.
As I always do, I bought an overpriced arts and/or craft. An Old Man and the Sea-esque advertisement for fishing expeditions will soon be joining the coo coo clock, the coconut pirate and all the Star Wars paraphernalia in my living room. With enough time and effort I'm hoping I can turn it into the world's tackiest.
And there's photos. If you're interested in shots of art displays with unintentional subtexts, middle-aged people dancing in lederhosen and tanks, click here.
Finally, here's a photo of deep-friend Oreos. They tasted like what they are, doughnuts with melted Oreos in the middle.
Woody Allen and now Bob Dylan
Maybe she has a thing for men over thrice her age?
Whatever the reason, this is a great lil' music video/Super 8 (home?) movie.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Jumping the plank and then, possibly, a shark afterwards
Is it over? Has it become passe? Is it time for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" to head for Davy Jones' Locker? Click here, here , here and here to read what the naysayers have to, well, say about it.
But if this holiday has already worn out its welcome after a few short years, what of Thanksgiving? Or Halloween? Or even St. Patrick's Day? Aren't they a few dozen years past their expiration dates?
That's not to say that the whole thing wasn't already old by time I even heard about it. That would have been three or so "Talk Like a Pirate Day"s back. As many will tell you, pirates, along with their ninja rivals, are overexposed, what with the Johnny Depp movie making over a billion dollars and all.
On the other hand, what other holiday figurehead is overexposed? Santa Claus, for one.
If the holiday want to make it into the big leagues (ie, with its own annual section in Hallmark), it's going to have to loosen up a little. "Talk Like a Pirate" Day should become just "Pirate Day." It could be a holiday devoted to drinking grog, which I learned today was typically rancid water mixed with rum, while engaging in wanton acts of violence and theft. Or just pretend forms of piracy with fake swords but real parrots.
I'm not saying that I've got the perfect concept but there's sure to be a workable mainstream holiday in here somewhere, which September could use. Labor Day? That one's so played out.
And if the whole "pirate thing" has worn out its welcome, someone might want to tell these guys. They're planning a buccaneer-themed festival in Cathedral Park this weekend.
Anyway, in honor of this pseudo-holiday, here's a link to a pirate-related You Tube video.
Even God is upset over last Saturday's game
Or at least according to "Reverend Dan," a frequent caller on The Ed Schultz Show. A non-verbatim excerpt from today's show (I'm going off memory here), which I caught while on my way to work this afternoon:
"God is a Sooners fan. Oklahoma is A-OK in His book. There were demons on that Oregon football field on Saturday, demons. They won the game for the Ducks! Oh, and the world will end on December 27th at 3 PM Eastern Standard Time!"
At that point Schultz politely cut him off. No wonder that one official is fearing for the life of both him and his kids.
Morale of this story: Americans take professional sports far, far too seriously. Unlike Europeans, for example.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Bart vs. the Space Hipsters
The shire comes to Bend
Even if this place isn't entirely based on The Lord of the Rings, it's still creepy. Sure, it's pretty but that doesn't change the fact that it's still creepy.
Further context can be found here.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Go Ducks? That they did.
I just caught the fourth quarter of the Oregon/Oklahoma game on a channel 14 replay. I don't care who you are, that's some football right there. I wish I could have been in Eugene to run out on my alma mater's field yesterday but I was busy celebrating my family's heritage by drinking lager and stuffing myself full of fondue at the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. Go Ducks? Indeed, that's what they did.
For a more level-headed take on "one of the worst officiated games in NCAA history," click here.
Friday, September 15, 2006
So this is autumn?
Last week I pondered the date when summer truly ends in Oregon. I think it would have to land in mid-October, around the time the region sees its last day of temperatures over 70 before the winter rains.
It may have come early this year. On Wednesday, the high temperature in Portland had to be in the low 80s. On Thursday, it rained all day and the temp barely cracked 60. In the space of 24 hours I went from using a table fan to smelling that weird odor my furnace cranks out every autumn after being ignored for four months.
Still, I'm not convinced summer '06 isn't down for the count. It's only resting for a bit. We'll see another 80 degree day by Halloween, I know it. That pina colada mix I bought last week will not go unused.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Roaming the Western States part 3 - Where the Buffalo Groan
This is part three of a road trip retrospective. Last week's installment earned me a swell comment from a reader in Butte, Montana. Click here to read what she had to say, here for the post that upset her and over here for part 1 in the series.
Now let's see if I can offend anybody with part three.
ANIMALS WE NEARLY KILLED WITH THE CAR WHILE DRIVING AROUND YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK AFTER DARK
- 1 fox
- 12 mice (give or take)
- 1 elk
- 1 owl
The fox was unexpected but it was the owl that really threw us off. We were driving back to our inn in West Yellowstone, Montana well after dark. The owl zoomed right past our headlights. A quick flash and off into the bushes it bombed. My sister Shanna was behind the wheel at the time and let out an audible yelp. This was followed by, "I think...I think...I almost killed an owl."
Dive bombing birds of prey and fearless foxes- nature's extreme sports enthusiasts. They're not the sort of thing I run into on the streets of my Portland neighborhood. Yellowstone, being a national park littered with sights straight out of Middle Earth, is a stranger place. I wouldn't have been surprised if we had happened upon an animal conference in one of the park's meadows. Omnivores and carnivores with nametags, all exchanging tactics- discussing how much time a field mouse would have to cross from one end of the Canyon to Norris highway in front of an SUV without getting squished and whether or not tiny helmets made of twigs would be a help or a hindrance.
There's a reason why the posted speed limit here doesn't exceed 45 MPH even on long straight-aways. After dark, it's best to drop the odometer down to 25 MPH. You never know what could be waiting on the edge of the pavement, eager to go down in Yellowstone history as the critter to get the closest to a speeding car's bumper without getting squished. While I was working as a desk clerk at a park hotel in the summer of '02, I was nearly run off the road by an entire family of elk that considered the middle of a highway a great place to convene at 11 PM on a foggy Tuesday.
While we went out of our way to avoid any vehicular homicides, our animal friends didn't extend us the same courtesy. Popping out of nowhere in the middle of the night? What were they trying to do? Kill us, themselves or just get an enormous rush that beats even escaping from the clutches of their natural predators?
On the long drive down from Butte we'd kept ourselves occupied with Death in Yellowstone, the only piece of literature on the park I had thought to bring along on the trip. The book contains blood-soaked tales of nearly every recorded death that occurred in the park between its establishment in 1872 and 1994 or so. A great read for a warm, sunny day in southern Montana.
The most notorious of the deaths compiled would have to be an incident from 1981 when a 20-something named David Allen Kirwan made the fatal mistake of diving headfirst into a boiling geyser in the park's "Paint Pot" area. He had been trying to rescue his pet Great Dane. I'll spare you the gory details, which were further immortalized in Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted, the author's collection of short horror stories. Another chapter in Death tells of a woman in the 1930s who trained her "pet bear" to stand on its hind legs and snatch candy out of her hand. When she ran out, the bear, meaning no harm, tried to use her shoulders to lower himself to the ground. His claws inadvertently tore into her torso. The bear left her mangeled and howling for its execution.
I'd brought the book along for some good old fashioned sibling taunting. Shanna, who had never spent a substantial amount of time in the great outdoors, let alone in bear country, listened with casual interest. But when it came time to go on a three hour hike into Yellowstone's back country, the stories kicked in and she insisted we go prepared for anything that could go wrong. We took along enough food and water to keep us going for a week. To prevent any encounters with something that could maim us, we brought along a $4 "bear whistle" so loud it would notify anything within a square mile that "man was in the forest" (to quote that old line from Bambi). If we came to blows with the local quad-peds, Shanna had thought to bring along a five-inch hunter's knife, the sort of thing that Davy Crockett probably used to kill that grizzly when he was only three. The blade along with two others had mysteriously shown up on her doorstep years prior, meant for a previous occupant that never returned to claim them. Perhaps the knife was destined to protect us from whatever lay between the parking lot at Artist's Point and Lillypad Lake.
In addition to the animals, the two of us were up against a 40% chance of thundershowers. As we hiked through a meadow lined with the husk of trees destroyed in a forest fire decades prior, we felt like we were in the opening scene from a Discovery Channel show. Something like I Can't Believe I'm Still Alive. The trees creaked in strong winds as Shanna nervously broke out the bear whistle every twenty yards. I'd been on the trail before but the ominous trees and the darkening sky was even creeping me out. Just two schmucks from the city wandering through the wilderness. Would the whistle protect us from a falling trunk or a lightening bolt?
YOU ARE ENTERING BEAR COUNTRY! BE PREPARED! HIKERS HAVE BEEN ATTACKED ON THIS TRAIL!
-The top line on a warning sign near the trail head.
We made it 1/5 of a mile from the parking lot before Shanna had her fill of nature. The sign, which basically told us our chances of survival in the back country were 1 in 3, hadn't boosted her courage. I agreed to turn back and we made it halfway through the meadow when we encountered a guy in his 60s, happily munching on granola as he marched past with a hiking stick. "G'day," he said, ignoring the trees that looked too much like the ones in The Wizard of Oz. Hiking solo in the back country is considered insane by park rangers.
Now Shanna's ego was bruised. If this guy, who was old enough to be collecting Social Security and possibly have 15 years worth of AARP Newsletters back home in Sydney, could risk the minimal chance of a grizzly attack, why not her? We turned around, Shanna reduced her whistle-blowing to every fifty yards and we made it to the lake without incident. The sun had even come out. Down on the shore two kids and their parents were enjoying a day in the outdoors. Another lone father with his two tykes walked past us in flip-flops. Flip-flops. Not Columbia Sportswear hiking boots like us. Had they brought along two canteens of water? A hefty bag of beef jerky? Or a shiny new bear whistle? Nope.
We kept going. We had to get further into the wilderness, if only to outdo Flip Flop Guy and his bored brats, who were lagging behind him at a dozen paces. Around a bend we stepped out onto a bed of clay over what was, essentially, a boiling lake of mud. Ah, finally a real threat to our personal safety!
Geyser areas like this are about as common in Yellowstone as cabs in New York. But, if this one was sitting 100 yards from the Lake Hotel, it would be surrounded by warning signs, wooden walkways (see above) and barriers. In the back country, anything goes. "Feel free to walk across the thin bed of clay over the boiling mud through known grizzly territory. Pretend you're in Lord of the Rings!" Or so goes the unspoken mantra of Yellowstone National Park once you get a few miles away from Old Faithful and into the woods proper. Out here, trails lead right over places like this.
Shanna, who had been terrified at the incredibly slim possibility of encountering a grizzly, thought nothing of tromping across the clay bed. We wandered right up to a portion that have given way, exposing the lake of bubbling mud below. We could even see the cracks caused by us and other hikers. Fun!
We continued on to Lilly Pad Lake and back again. We spotted not a single bit of wildlife but I did walk away with four bug bites that would later cause problems at LAX. As for the bears, we finally found one on the other side of a river running down into Gardiner, Montana on the northern end of the park. We had come around a bend on the highway where a French teenager staring with his jaw dropped at small black bear climbing a hill. A "bear jam" of cars and gawking tourists quickly swarmed to the scene. The bear, noticing that he had drawn a crowd, decided to head back down and flee for cover.
Of course, there were also bison, which any park ranger will tell you cause more human injuries per year than the bears these days. They can found all over the place once you get within a few miles of Lake Yellowstone. They travel in herds, the park is their oyster and they go where they damn well please. The middle of the roads, regardless of the weather.
And everybody digs the lovable brutes. On a stretch of road near the lake we watched a family of tourists attempt to pet one of them- a two-thousand pound critter with, if the warning signs around the park are to be believed, a quick-trigger temper worse than a Klingon crossbred with Animal from The Muppets and Seth Bullock from Deadwood. I'd never seen one flip out until we reached the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Out front, an entire heard had taken over a small hill leading up to the main entrance. The herd was there to munch on grass but then two of them started butting heads. It was neat to watch, especially against the backdrop of a hotel with a live violin concerto going on in the lobby.
And what is this thing? We thought it was a hummingbird until it slowed down long enough to reveal its antennas.
I have no way to draw this post to an end. I guess this will do the trick:
The busload of elderly tourists that pulled up just behind us at Mammoth Hot Springs absolutely loved this thing.
NEXT TIME IN PART 4: What happens when you take service industry workers from all corners of the globe and pack them into a honky-tonk saloon?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Bare-chested disposable cups, you make the coffee world go 'round
I haven't seen any of these floating around town but kudos to the higher-ups at Starbucks. Now if only they had the guts to make the switch permanent and stick with the original logo.
Click here for a closer look at the logo, which remains unchanged on the sign outside of the coffee giant's flagship location in Seattle.
Soapbox Derby '06
This year there weren't any soapbox racers shaped like what a 3rd grader might refer to as a "pee pee," but I think the entries topped '06 in terms of creativity. The brave racers that ascended the slopes of Mt. Tabor Park last Saturday brought with them mobiles that boggled the mind and tickled the imagination (not necessarily in that order). Myself, Cup O' Noodles, his pal Sam and the awesome power of my 3.2 megapixel Canon camera were on hand for the later half of the 2006 Portland Adult Soapbox Derby.
My favorite would have to be this one, a cubicle racer that was somehow driven by two racers as they pretended to do office work. Another racer with two turkeys and their human jockey counterparts was also pretty gosh darn impressive even if this photo isn't.
Sure, they didn't stand a chance against the sleek, high-performance mobiles that looked like they were designed by German engineers but who cares? When you're riding a turkey made out of construction paper and who knows what else down a steep, windy road, your primary concern should probably be survival.
There were also a couple of guys running around in Ghostbuster uniforms. We never did figure out if they were there to race or decided to attend dressed like Bill Murray for reasons known only to them.
Oh, and this guy wound up going backwards into a curve. If he made it all the way to the finish line like that he's a true American hero. It should also be noted that the following one was made out of a kiddie pool:
Ahhh, the whole thing brings a tear to my eye. Good ol' reliably weird Portland. Where else can you spend a day on an extinct volcano chugging tall boys while watching area residents fling themselves down the slopes in cubicles? Maybe somewhere in Iceland or possibly the Bay Area. If human beings in Berkley are buzzing around in soapbox racers that make these machines look like the work of trained hamsters, I don't want to hear about it. Let me continue to cling to the illusion that this is the quirkiest place on the planet, Twin Peaks, Duckberg and Black Rock City notwithstanding.
This was the 10th annual derby and, based on what I've read, it had to be toned down this time around. The organizers were sued by one racer that crashed in 2005, forcing them to create a limited liability company to handle any potential disasters. They also had to make the hard decision to at least suggest that racers remain sober prior to launch. The grand final of the event, which pitted all of the still operational mobiles against one another at the same time, was also sadly cut but not without good reason. To learn more, click here for the Mercury's coverage from last week. The article's title? "Speed! Death! Beer!"
To get a closer look at these amazing photos in all their 3.2 megapixel glory, along with shots of a racer shaped like a stegosaurus, click here for a Flickr gallery.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Portland, back in the day
In the mood to watch old movie clips from Portland's past? This site has you covered with an interactive format that combines Google Maps with the magic of You Tube. There's also a series of events this week where the organizers will be screening each film at its place of origin. The fest began this evening. More information can be found via the link.
In other news, an 80 gig iPod that can play video games? Hot damn!
Monday, September 11, 2006
"How 9/11 Affects Us All" or "Why My Leg is a Threat to National Security"
So here's my obligatory 9/11 anniversary post. I think I'm going to work the pessimistic, "the world is a much different place than it was before the attacks" angle rather than shoot for schmaltz. I went the later route a few years ago after a trip to Ground Zero for the second anniversary. You may want to click on that link before reading the following.
Now let me tell you a different story.
Roughly three weeks ago I was driving to LAX for the first time ever. Things were going too smoothly. My traveling companion and I had only gotten lost once, briefly on Highway 101. Dropping our rental car off at Avis and the subsequent bus ride to the terminal were a breeze. A minor sense of impending doom hit me as we headed inside the airport. Something was sure to go wrong. We'd made it to LAX with around three hours to kill. This was all too easy.
The first SNAFU was our flight arrangements. While we'd made reservations through United our flight was actually on Alaska. No big deal. After a hike to another terminal we were in the right place with two hours left to wander around. The real hassles started at the security check point. My backpack set off an alarm in an X-ray machine. I'd forgotten about the new "no liquids" rule. A beep from the scanner kickstarted an investigation as I struggled to keep my Levi shorts from falling down. The security staff had made me take off my belt.
The guards had already pinpointed the problem: a forgotten can of Red Bull in the side pocket. I held my pants up as the can was confiscated and tossed into a crowded rubber bin with dozens of other potential security threats: Axe Body Spray, Secret deodorant, contact solution....I even spotted a bottle of Preparation H in there. That little discovery must have made the owner's day.
Once through the checkpoint I went in search of a bottle of Cortizone 10. Several days prior in the trip, a series of bright red splotches had popped up on my left leg. They weren't annoying and, up until now, didn't look too serious so I decided to ignore them. Around the time we got to the airport they began to itch like mad. The splotches had also nearly doubled in size in the prior 24 hours. A newsstand near our gate had a bottle but it was going to cost me $11. I bit the bullet, broke out my wallet but the lady working the counter reminded me: "due to heightened security, you won't be able to take this on the plane."
But would anyone search the backpack? I'd already passed through security and there was little chance it would get searched again. Even if LAX security discovered the bottle they would realize it had been purchased on site and wasn't filled with explosives or killer bees. Still, being a paranoid air-traveler living in the USA in the year 2006, I decided not to risk it, mysterious, possibly deadly rash or no mysteriously, possibly deadly rash.
I flashed back to an incident I heard about in high school. A girl in my US History class had made the mistake of trying to tease her brother on a flight bound for Hawaii. The boy was terrified at the thought of having to spend five hours over the Pacific Ocean. As he ran to the bathroom before take-off, his older sister barged in front of him and into the only vacant stall on the plane. She'd brought with her a notepad and quickly drew a comic for him before exiting.
She opened the door, expecting her brother to be waiting on the other side. Instead, the pilot was looking to take a quick leak before take-off. Her comic consisted of a series of stick figures diving out of a flaming plane. A figure representing herself was smugly coasting to land with a parachute while her stick brother was flying into the mouth of a shark doodle.
The girl was immediately escorted off the plane and grilled for, if memory serves, six hours in a tiny room down some long corridor in the bowels of PDX. The story made the Oregonian if you're curious. That was back in 1995. God knows what LAX security would do to me if I dared get caught with a bottle of anti-itch cream a week after what had gone down in Britain. Plus, we're talking about $11 whole dollars and there was no telling if the Cortizone would even stop the itch. And how would I make use of the rest of the cream while waiting for the plane? I couldn't just toss it away, not for that kind of money. $11 whole bucks! Maybe I could offer the remains to fellow travels? "Hey, there. I saw you scratching your pits. Would you like some complimentary Cortizone?" I finally decided to suffer through the pain.
So I sat at our gate, struggling to ignore the swelling mess on my leg with a copy of the Los Angeles Times, cursing those responsible for this latest infringement on my personal liberties. What were those things, I wondered. Four bright red patches on my calf. Bug bites? I again showed them to my traveling companion. I think she was the one that first suggested they might be the work of ticks.
TICKS?!! It was possible. We had gone hiking in the back country of Yellowstone a few days prior. Quick! What did we know about ticks? Were those tiny dark spots in the middle of each sore bugs gulping down my blood and excreting Lyme Disease? And wait, the NSA wouldn't let me carry Coritzone, Red Bull or even a bottle of water on the plane but they would let me board with four blood-sucking, parasitic hitchhikers of unknown origin? What if, presented with the option of munching on hundreds of other legs, the bloated bugs had jumped off me and made their way to the cockpit? Snakes on a plane? At least you can see them coming at you. But ticks? They're practically invisible.
What had this country come to? My leg was a (potential, incredibly small) national security risk but no one but us seemed to care. If I got on the plane would this make me a terrorist? Or just the ticks? Would I have to share a cell with them in Gitmo if they started trouble?
Finally, the time came to board the plane but there was a hold-up at the gate. Fifteen minutes later and two minutes before the flight was scheduled to begin speeding down the runway, we discovered the problem. Waiting past the door in the hallway leading to the plane were six National Guardsman. They were opening and searching EVERY SINGLE PASSENGER'S carry-on luggage. I was on hour two of four-plus hours of itching and worrying about the rash. I didn't need this, not with my infected leg and what I had in my bag.
Now there wasn't anything too terrible in there. No dildos or donkey porn, nothing like that, but there was plenty to earn me at least a roll of the eyes.
When it was my turn, I handed over my backpack to a young guardsman that still had pimples. He slid the zipper back all the way, opening the flap and fully exposing the contents to everyone around us. Inside he found two empty bottles of rum, a Batman comic, a copy of Rolling Stone, a toy dinosaur I'd won playing a "Knock a Witch Into a Cauldron With a Mallet" game in the Vegas Excalibur, a stuffed Ewok doll, a camera, a Nintendo DS and a Jack Sparrow action figure I'd purchased, for reasons I couldn't remember, the night before while stumbling around Downtown Disney.
Yes, this is the sort of stuff I returned to Portland with after a few weeks on the road. With the exception of the magazine and maybe the rum bottles, these were the effects of an 9-year old, not a full-grown 20-something. All things considered, I wish I had traded the toys for a string of anal beads on the Sunset Strip before pointing our rental car towards LAX. Somehow, I think it would have been less embarrassing.
The guardsman didn't say anything as he poked around in there with a metal stick. After a few seconds he snickered and caught the attention of one of his colleagues. They shared a quick "would you like at this freak's stuff?" before zipping the bag up and handing it back. "OK, you can go," he said. I wondered if my backpack would make a list of "most wacky/troubling carry-ons" on an dry-erase board back at the barracks or wherever they'd come from.
I scooped what was left of my dignity off the table and tossed it in the pouch where the Red Bull had been. Had the Guardsmen written me off as a harmless geek (correct) or something worse (wrong) that wasn't their problem? I could have tried to explain the contents of my bag or made a joke out of them but there was the warning that had aired every three minutes over the loudspeakers in the terminal:
"DUE TO HEIGHTENED SECURITY ALL BAGS MAY BE SEARCHED. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR LUGGAGE UNATTENDED. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY AND REFRAIN FROM JOKES WHILE PASSING THROUGH SECURITY CHECKPOINTS. THERE'S A WAR ON, PEOPLE AND WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT. NOTHING'S OFF LIMITS. WE CAN PROBE YOUR CHILDREN IF WE FEEL LIKE IT. THE PRESIDENT SAID SO AND CONGRESS DOESN'T CARE. DON'T YOU WISH YOU HAD TAKEN GREYHOUND NOW? MWAHAHAHAHAHAH!"
That's not even close to being verbatim but there was a bit in there about not cracking wise at checkpoints.
But the troubling leg rash I couldn't help but itch as the guardsman searched the bag? The one that was far more dangerous to the passengers on that plane than mini-Jack Sparrow or the Nintendo DS? They didn't care about that. And remember, at the time I had no idea if they were just bug bites (which they later proved to be after talking to the good folks at Keizer Premanente) or something scary and communicable.
Make no mistake about this. These Guardsman had done nothing to protect any of us from a threat on that plane. Had we been able to sneak them past the first checkpoint, any of us could have easily snuck bomb makings onto the plane in our pockets or elsewhere, which they didn't search. The only thing the National Guard accomplished was delaying the flight and embarrassing me and who knows how many other passengers. The whole thing was a complete waste of time.
Plus, unbeknownst to me, my traveling companion had managed to sneak two bottles past security: a tiny container of Abreva and a larger one filled with suntan lotion. She had forgotten they were in her bag and no one noticed.
So long story short, in a few short hours at the airport my shorts had nearly fallen down in front of dozens of people, I'd developed a troubling leg rash but couldn't do anything about it and had been (sort of) labeled a suspected pedophile by members of the National Guard.
All in the name of national security, while the person traveling with me got on board with all of her stuff.
Some leave their hearts in San Francisco. I left my self-respect in LA. Sure, I just revealed the contents of my bag and this entire story on the internet but I did so of my own volition and semi-anonymously. I don't know if that search in LAX was random, just a few days of tax-dollar funded paranoia on the heels of the UK threat, or something soon to become the norm at your local international airport. All things considered, it looks like traveling with embarrassing souvenirs bound for my cubicle is a liberty I no longer expect to enjoy.
And this is why I'm not crying on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. I'm just pissed. Not at ol' Osama or the entirety of the Middle East, just at the people that are getting tremendous kicks, profits etc. out of keeping us all as paranoid as possible.
Pot fest '06?
Over the weekend there were several tents set up at Waterfront Park near the Hawthorne Bridge. I remember seeing a sign for pipes and a tent selling marijuana leaf tapestries. Then, after that, it's all a haze.
Any idea what they were doing down there? Was there a cannibas festival in town? I thought things like this were a threat to national security or something.
UPDATE: A quick search on Google reveals the answer.
The plight of the college grad
"For a generation, blue-collar workers have suffered while their economic lifelines were shredded. First manufacturing jobs and the unions that helped make their workers middle-class disappeared, then wages dropped and corporate managers came to see benefits not as a reward for loyal work but as a cost to be cut. All through this, the country was told that a college degree or other high-level skills training would allow a worker to escape the degrading spiral down, and provide a lift up.
An excerpt from an op-ed written by Marie Cocco for the Washington Post last week. Speaking as someone with a degree that makes his living asking "how may I help you?," the article brought a tear to me eye, it did. Yarrrr. The rest can be found here, since a direct link to the Post would require a password.
Friday, September 08, 2006
They were selling used...what?!
Ashley from Absolutely Yay has an interesting anecdote about something she found for sale in the Forest Grove Goodwill. Click here to read all about it.
I've been living in a new music-free bubble since my PC died back in May. Still, even I've heard "Crazy," brought to the world by Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse's and Cee Loo Green's collaboration. The song is unavoidable. It's probably even getting airplay on country stations.
Every once and a while a single comes along with a rare brand of critical approval and insta-fame- the sort of three minutes of recorded of soul/r&b/pop/whatever that earns approval from just about everybody. Years ago I read an article written by someone who was living in Manhattan during the early '80s. When Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was released the author remembered walking down a street filled with record shops devoted to various genres. He could hear Jackson's voice coming out of every door. I'm sure "Crazy" has been played in every remaining CD shop in the country and just about every club, regardless of what kind of crowd they draw.
I'm also convinced "Crazy" is a part of a rare breed of songs that are impossible not to like. "Beat It" probably falls into that cannon. Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" belongs in there. "Dock of the Bay" and "Satisfaction"? Definitely in there. Oh, and more recently, Outkast's "Hey Ya!" In 2003 I remember walking through Lloyd Center and hearing the song coming out of five different shops during the same jaunt down the mall.
But I'm no music critic and I don't have my finger on the pulse of America. I'm talking out of my ass here. If you haven't heard "Crazy" or seen the video, here's a You Tube link. I think it's the stuff of legend and will still be getting airplay somewhere in the far off year of 2050, if anyone still listens to music then. Judge for yourself.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Chickens + guns = bad news
Just about every blog in the state has linked to this story from the Eugene Register Guard. Nevertheless, for any out-of-town readers that probably haven't seen it, click on the link. You'll be glad you did.
Or maybe not. I honestly have no idea.
The lesson to be learned here? If your wife has a pet chicken, don't even think about coming near it with a .44-caliber handgun.
Roaming the Western States Part 2: Butte, Montana, Home of America's Butthole
Click here for part 1.
Prior to crash-landing there, everything I knew about Butte, Montana I learned from a two-second joke in Beavis and Butthead Do America and a Daily Show segment from back in July. When one of Jon Stewart's laugh conjurer-uppers asked the head of the local travel bureau what sites he would recommend tourists visit, he stuttered and stammered for at least a full minute.
There are more appealing locales in Montana but I don't know of any stranger than Butte. That's saying a lot for a state that's home to the Mammoth Hot Springs and their phallic monolith.
A good portion of Butte was picturesque but, as we learned on the second day of our voyage, its city center is a ghost town filled with vacated warehouses. While they would make a Pearl District condo developer start spewing salvia like Pavlov's pooch, they were pretty creepy. Some of these places have surprisingly well-preserved murals stamped on the sides of them, the sort of post-industrial something or another that would look fantastic down on NW 7th and Flanders. Take a look at this one, for example:
If it were located anywhere in Portland this property would be worth millions. Too bad it actually sits a few blocks from one of the world's biggest sludge pits.
No, really, sludge. I'm confident that isn't the technical name for the stuff that fills the Berkley Pit. Nevertheless, the term "sludge" is even used in one of the informational displays found in the observation deck overlooking Butte's premiere tourist destination. Have a look for yourself:
Various sources label it as "water," including this website devoted to the pit. According to it, in the fall of 2002 the waterline was at 900 feet and 5,000 gallons of toxic h20 was joining the billions already in there every single minute. Since the level is still rising, by 2012 scientist predict the muck will start seeping into Butte's groundwater. If it reaches this critical level those responsible will be fined $25,000 a day until they get it right.
You've got to appreciate a community that at least tried to turn an environmentally catastrophic lemon into $-spewing lemonade. In Butte, the pit is a bonafide tourist trap worthy of Disneyland or at least Carhenge It was even posted on a map of area attractions I found at the Day's Inn. After breakfast, my sibling and I were feeling stupid enough to pay two bucks to walk through a long mineshaft for a look at the pit.
A push of a button attached to a barrier on the observation deck kickstarted a prerecorded narration. A disembodied woman's voice cheerfully recalled the history of mining in Butte and what led a local company to dig an enormous hole in the ground that eventually filled with muck once profits dropped and their pumps stopped.
And, of course, the pit is incredibly eerie. Local wildlife won't go near it. While we were there I didn't spot any birds flying overhead or so much as fly buzzing around. There was no wind and the water down below didn't so much as ripple. It was as if we were looking at a postcard for America's butthole. Hey, that has a nice ring to it. Butte, Montana: Home of America's Butthole.
The Berkley Pit truly is an awful place- like something out of JR Tolkien's nightmares or a particularly cheesy segment from a Sierra Club promotional video. Only Skeletor or one of Tolkien's orcs could feel at home here. Poor Berkley Pit, no one loves you.
Inside the gift shop there wasn't a single Berkley Pit postcard or any t-shirts. While the staff seemed to in on the absurdity of something like this being considered a destination worth rolling off the interstate to see, the products in the gift shop weren't in on the joke. There were plenty of Native American artifacts and bags of gold dust but I didn't see anything devoted to the pit. Wouldn't a t-shirt with "The Berkley Pit: America's Butthole" would sell well on the internet? I could see hipsters and fratboys across the country wearing something like that.
But maybe the Berkley Pit works better as an cautionary tale: a place better mourned than mocked with heavy doses of irony. We should learn from the mistakes of those that made this mess. In fact, I think I'm going to head straight home after work tonight and start installing solar panels on everything from my microwave to my Birkenstocks. I wonder if I can make my lava lamp operate on wind power...
Again, Butte is a pretty great little town, even if it's home to the pit and a ghost town/warehouse district that, to be honest, seemed like something out of an old Scooby Doo cartoon. FYI: I ran back to the car after seeing an dark shadow moving around on the second floor of a warehouse on an empty street. Could have been Jason or the son of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. You never can tell.
Anyway, there's a purty monument devoted to the town's mining history a few blocks from the Berkley Pit. Here's a photo:
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Storm Large out?
Looks like the hometown favorite got the axe on tonight's installment of the rockstar show. As if singing classic rock songs in front of Tommy Lee is a good indication of a singer's talent.
And who would want to front a band called "Supernova," anyway? The whole bloody thing sounds like something out of Jem, Kids Incorporated or any number of other forgotten teeny-bopper shows from the '80s.
Woooooo, a rockstar contest! This will be even better than the sock hop, the bake sale, the "very special" episode and the ice cream social combined!
When does summer end in Oregon?
Over the past few days I've heard plenty of people bemoaning the "end of summer." Many mark the end of the season right at Labor Day, which here in Oregon doesn't make a lot of sense. The weather around these parts stays warm through the end of September, often into October. I can recall plenty of 75+ degrees Columbus Days in Portland. I've even gone hiking on a 70-degree day down at the coast during the first weekend in November.
So while the brats are back in school and the road trips have screeched to a halt, summer hasn't really ended, at least as far as the temperature goes. I say the mark should be moved to around October 15th or even pushed out to Halloween. Once the 31st hits, the chances of another day above 65 is minimal until April rolls around again.
But there's always the occasional week of freaky weather in February. If memory serves, the thermometer rose into the low-80s around Valentine's Day in 2005.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Just once I'd like to read an article like this one that reports the exceutives of an "extremely profitable" company slashing their own multi-million dollar salaries when times get tough. Does that ever happen?
Monday, September 04, 2006
Tropical Storm Ernesto heads to Disney World
Last Wednesday tropical storm Ernesto hit Orlando as the 4:30 Indiana Jones stunt show began at Disney's MGM Studios. Indy had just avoided getting squished by a gigantic stone ball when the rain started. The cast awkwardly tried to entertain the crowd with improv as the staff backstage debated what to do. They finally rushed through a quick pyrotechnic stunt before sending us outside to contend with the weather.
The rain stopped as we headed out from beneath the show's covered risers but the sky! Jez, the sky! I've lived in Rainy Day Central (AKA Portland) most of my life and I've never seen a clouds like these. Dark grey, impossibly big and heading straight for the Walt Disney World Resort.
Rather than head for cover back at the hotel, the family and I decided to shoot over to the Magic Kingdom. After all, if Ernesto was a serious threat the good folks operating Disney's Florida empire would have sent us back to our rooms. Right?
I flashed back to the night before. Thunder storms were passing over northern Florida as my flight descended towards Orlando. In the distance bolts of lightening went off every single second for something like 35 minutes. I put on the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" and stared out the window, transfixed. Would Ernesto be like that metrological preamble to the main event? Would we be ducking electric bolts from Thor in Frontierland?
The following evening thousands were fleeing for their cars as we confidentally strolled through the gates and down Main Street. An hour later, the sky unleashed a strong, unending downpour. Along with about a 2,000 or so other stubborn fools that refused to let a tropical storm get between them and full evening of Disney brand fun, we walked on and off all the rides. No wait for It's a Small World? Hot damn! A "water special effect" caused by raindrops flying off the riders in front of us on Space Mountain? Sweet!
We practically had the place to ourselves and, I'll be honest, the storm was pleasant. I know, these are incredibly naive words in light of what the region went through a year ago but rain, sweet, blessed rain, on a muggy Florida night? Following a day of nearly unbearable tropical heat? It felt friggin' fantastic. Can these comments be any more insensitive to recent tragedies than these ads for Typhoon Lagoon? They can be found in many of the buses that transport visitors from park to park.
Given all the falling water and the thunder, the Dumbo ride turned into the world's greatest thrill ride, especially when I set the controls for the highest height possible. What could go wrong? Plenty but at least it would have made a great headline in the next day's edition of The Orlando Sentienel. "Stupid Oregon Tourist Dies in the Magic Kindgom." Byline: "Struck by lightening while riding on the back of a mechanical elephant."
Towards the end of the night we wound up on Splash Mountain. Why not? What could Brer Rabbit and his little water ride do to us that the storm hadn't? The mountain broke down at the first drop and, after a long wait, it looked like we might be spending the night there. But the ride jump started ten minutes later and we made it over to the Haunted Mansion by closing time on this dark and stormy night. Only one staff member seemed to working the ride and he looked and acted like Crispin Glover. When I made the mistake of taking a photo of a painting in the foyer, he poked me in the head and hissed, "the master despises flash photography!"
Taking his Tom-Waits-in-Francis-Ford-Coppola's-Dracula shtick even further, he paced around the ride's gallery/elevator like the love child of Hannibal Lecter and Elvira. He seemed convinced that he was a real butler working in a real haunted mansion for a real ghost host. If a Disney "cast member" was going to go completely bonkers, this was probably the night to do it. When the lights went out during the "there's always my way" bit, I half expected him to come at me with a sharpened Mickey Mouse hat.
But I survived the mansion and, for some reason, the Disney staff decided to go ahead with the fireworks show as the park closed for the night. The rain had finally let up and about fifty spectators stayed to watch. We all stared at the spectacle from underneath our dripping ponchos before heading for the gates (see photo above). Back at the hotel I checked out the pool but it had closed early.
Steve Irwin is dead?!!
"I'm high as a kite, mate. I'm flat out like a lizard drinking, all the time. You know I have trouble just sitting here. You know, I'm just like, got to get up."
I got back into PDX around 11 last night. A couple sitting next to me were flying in from Houston to visit their in-laws. When the husband called his father to arrange a meet up by baggage claims, he heard the news and solemnly closed his cell phone. "The crocodile hunter is dead," he announced to everyone sitting in coach.
Someone asked the cause of death and we all quietly headed off the plane. We would have probably done the same, regardless of the sad news, but I'd like to think it was in tribute to the fellow that made a living poking dangerous animals with sticks.
Goodnight, sweet prince.