News from July 2005

Portland Blues Festival

Occurred July 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Apparently, every summer there's been a blues festival on the waterfront in Portland. This year, Dave said that he wanted to see Buddy Guy's performance on Friday night, so Lara and I figured that we could meet there and hang out for a while. I hadn't seen Dave in quite a while (probably since the No Furniture party at the beginning of June), so we decided that we'd meet for pizza beforehand and bike downtown.

Unbeknownst to me, Lara, Ana and Dave went hiking on Thursday, so Lara dropped out of our Friday plans. Thus, I went to Dave's, borrowed one of his roommates' bikes, and we went off for pizza at the Oasis Cafe at 37th and Hawthorne. They have broccoli slices--how strange! Yet good. After that, we cycled on a crazy path of roads up to the Esplanade, across the Hawthorne bridge and into the thicket of people known as Tom McCall waterfront. This was the site of this year's blues festival.

Apparently Portland is one of those places that's fairly bike friendly. The Portland Biker's Association was running a free bike parking corral, so we dropped the bicycles there and went on into the festival. The deal was supposed to be that five bucks and two cans of food got you in; by that late in the day the volunteer food collectors were so worn out that they sort of grunted at us, took the cans, and forgot to collect the money. Score! I bet I could have been mean and brought dog food and they'd never have noticed.

Dave and I carve out a chunk of grass and plunk ourselves down upon it. Buddy Guy isn't scheduled to come out until 21:00 and it's still only 20:15. We sit, chat about random stuff, and listen to the other bands playing sets on the other stages. Pretty good, we think. At some point I get up, announce that I'm going to make a run for it to get some beer/lemonade/water, and shuffle my way up to the refreshment vendors. Why is it that Americans in large crowds always do this really strange shuffling? Why take 60% of a normal footstep? Just walk! Beer is expensive and latency-laden, so I end up with Snapple and water instead.

21:00. The band cranks up, and Buddy Guy comes out to play his blues. As odd as this sounds, he didn't seem to be terribly energetic while playing the blues. Granted, the form of music came about by a bunch of people who had terrible lives and needed a way to expurgate their negative feelings in a better manner than the Series 3000 Mechanoid, but still--his vocals were a bit hard to hear at times and as a whole the performance wasn't terrifically stimulating. He didn't have to pull out some swinging dance music, but still... without good complainy lyrics, blues suck.

Midway through the concert, Cheryl shows up out of the blue! That was totally unexpected, since I hadn't heard anything from her in nearly a week. Unfortunately, a concert is a concert, so I didn't really get much of a chance to interact with her. I was hoping that she'd join Dave and I for a nightcap, but apparently she bade us good night (which I misheard as something much different) and promptly disappeared into the night. Oh well.

Following that, Dave and I fished our bikes out of the corral and headed south into a twisty maze of darkened roads and railroad tracks until we were heading east on Clinton St. We two gentlemen ended up at Night Life for a drink or two before heading home. First time I'd had any beer since the allergy-induced alcohol ban three weeks ago, as I wasn't suffering any severe symptoms.

MAX; Buying a Bike; CDs; Washing Machines

Occurred July 02, 2005 (Permalink)

I have for you threefour brief glimpses of todaythe past few days:

0: Thursday, I was riding the MAX home from work. The train stopped in Pioneer Courthouse Square for a longish period of time. Just as the other people on the train were beginning to give each other the "What's going on?" look of bewilderment, I glanced out of the window. A goth guy, resplendent in chrome-plated metallic jewelry, dark shirt, black pants and shaved head, cocked his head towards the train car, jumped up from the brick upon which he was sitting, formed the squat of a linebacker...and charged the side of the train. He bounced off the car with a loud "thump" and collapsed to the ground, writhing in agony, while his friends pointed and laughed. Dumbass.

1: Today I went bicycle shopping. I have a serious need to cut down on my commute time; a bike would be a useful tool in doing that. Furthermore, it has been suggested (by Lara) that my social life will be seriously stunted if I have to be the idiot who can only go by car. This has been mildly corroborated by Cheryl. Sadly, while I did find a bike that rode quite well, the people at CityBike insisted that I come back next weekend after they have the chance to build me a bike that (supposedly) fits someone of my tall stature. I also went to the Community Bike Collective on NE Alberta. Found something that was a decent bike for $50 less, but it was in somewhat worse shape. Do bikes really cost $400? I found a place up on Alberta that serves good fish and chips. Somewhere around NE 25th.

2: Instead of buying a bike, I went to Music Millenium (SE 32nd and Burnside) and bought a 4-pack of Ella Fitzgerald. I am such a music whore. Oh well. Not that I can find much fault with Ella.... Though I did just get two Sinatra CDs yesterday. Now I have seven new CDs of music: Sinatra/Basie at the Sands, Sinatra/Basie on their own, George Shearing, and four of Ella.

3: Apparently, if I forget to turn the water on, the washing machine figures this out and refuses to start. After making this decision, it sits there smirking with "nF" on the panel. I can't tell if "nF" means "non Functional" or "No, <censored>!"

Fourth of July

Occurred July 04, 2005 (Permalink)

Lara, Rick and I bicycled to Lloyd Center to see War of the Worlds today. To the uninitiated: this means that I went careening around the streets of SE Portland, from 39th and Powell all the way to NE 11th and Holladay. We took some strange bike path northward through the 30s up to Stark, west to 28th, north on 28th to Multnomah, and finally west to the movie theater. This was quite eye-opening, as I'd never have thought it _that_ simple to get from one part of town to another. As an idiot car driver, I'd probably have gone straight up 39th to I-84 and west to the mall lot, completely ignoring the ease with which one can worm through town. Clearly, I need to spend more time studying the area bordered by 20th, 35th, Burnside and Belmont. Not to mention the blocks between 60th, 72nd, Burnside and Glisan. Perhaps just all of SE.

Despite my notion that Tom Cruise has gone off the deep end, he did a decent job of acting in WotW. The film follows the 1938 Mercury Theater adaptation of H. G. Wells' play pretty closely and, amazingly, it's still a pretty thrilling and scary movie. There are a few bits that don't make quite enough sense, but I haven't figured out if it's simply because I'm clueless. It is, however, refreshing to see that the movie makers also adhered to the design of the Martian machines in the original play. All in all a creepy movie. Why oh why did anyone ever green-light Independence Day?

Following that, the three of us tried to find an open restaurant to feed us some grub before heading back downtown. Quite a few places were, understandably, closed; luckily, the little Mexican shop at SE 38th and Hawthorne was prominently demonstrating its American capitalist underpinnings: they were open! I had a "Surfo Turfo Burrito" which includes pretty much every kind of meat that they put into their food, rice, and beans in a tortilla. Fortunately, this place *also* serves horchata, thus enabling me to eat very well. I quite enjoyed the place, and indeed even went back there on Thursday for more! El Cotixan still has them beat, but I can't order out to San Diego, now can I? Rick talked about the virtues of Firefox (no need to preach to the choir :)) and all the plugins he'd found for it.

Shortly after my gorging session was over, we got back on the bikes and rode down to the Esplanade. We watched the huge fireworks gala in Lake Oswego from a bench south of OMSI, and all the while Lara teased Rick about his inability to predict the grand finale of the fireworks. At last, the Portland fireworks began, and we rushed off towards the pyrotechnics barge. Turns out that parking oneself 200 feet from the barge is a pretty darn good way to experience them. Certainly they're bigger and far more dramatic than they would have been from Mt. Tabor as Dave, Eliza and I did for the Rose Festival. This year's fireworks spread was most impressive. As I recall, last year I saw Santa Clara County's fireworks from above. That was an... interesting experience, to see the dull flame of the rocket coming towards you, followed by the traditional cloudburst that sort of explodes upwards at you like some sort of antiaircraft weapons fire.

Afterwards, we and several dozen other bicyclists careened through the streets of SE Portland like a bunch of mad folks in a race; we stopped to see several neighborhood displays of illegal fireworks and made sure to avoid the police whenever we caught sight of them. Quite a lot of fun to go roaring around in dark on a bike... <grin>

Ruckel Ridge

Occurred July 09, 2005 (Permalink)

Today, Cheryl got to pick the weekend hike. She chose Ruckel Ridge, a hike that I'd rejected for a backpacking trip some months ago on the grounds that it would likely be too heinous to be done with 30lbs of crud strapped to our backs. This trail, found in the Columbia River gorge, follows a series of ridges up the side of the gorge and way far back into the Cascade ranges. It calls for a 3,700' elevation gain in approximately four miles, and is pretty darn relentless and steep all the way.

Ruckel Ridge, unfortunately, does not lend itself well to much description. For the most part it's a technical trek, as most of the trail remains well hidden deep within trees, and the speed with which it heads southward eliminates most good chances of seeing vistas. Geographically, it is literally one exit east of the Bonneville dam; the only good view that we had all day was about 1,500' up on the side of the ridge, looking back towards the river and the fish ladders.

I do, however, have a few things to say about the technical aspects of the hike, as I dislike the use of this journal for complaints. About halfway up the ridge, the path became extremely narrow and treacherous. As usual, I got stuck at the head of the group and engaged my death-defying monkey-climbing skills to get myself over the rocks without falling off. To my right there was a twenty foot drop; to the left, a fifty foot drop into some spiky-looking trees; and between the two a rock ledge about ten inches wide. What fun!

There wasn't much time to stop to enjoy the outdoors--those in better health than myself (I had suffered from a cold all week) roared up the hill at awesome speed, leaving Lara and myself to huff our way up slowly. We reached the intersection of the Ruckel Ridge and Ruckel Creek trails, stopped for a bit of a breather and food break, and proceeded down the hill on the latter trail. On the way back I spotted a fish hatchery and stopped for a minute to take a few pictures. Relaxed at some place with the initials "HH" next to Pix Patisserie.

Springwater Corridor

Occurred July 15, 2005 (Permalink)

For the first time ever, I rode my bike to work, and even on the train. That's not a big accomplishment, snce I didn't buy the bike until Thursday. After work on Friday, however, I had a few hours before the sun would go down and I decided that I might as well spend it exploring the bike paths in Portland. Getting off the MAX in downtown, I rode out to OMSI and decided to follow the newly finished Springwater Willamette Corridor as far as it went. The river portion of the corridor follows some train tracks upriver from Portland past Ross Island, the Oak Park amusement park, under Sellwood Bridge and finally into Sellwood itself. The distance from OMSI to Sellwood, interestingly enough, is only about four miles. Having driven out that way some months ago, I'd thought that it was much much farther.

Unfortunately, West Sellwood is where the Springwater Corridor appears to end. From there, one must pedal up a slightly steep hill onto the streets of the town itself. Sellwood has the mark and feel of a town that grew up with the much larger Portland to the north--though much of the architectural style on the houses and buildings resemble that of the town's larger neighbor to the north, there is a distinctly more rural (read: redneckish) feeling in Sellwood. Just walking around and poking my head in a bar or two, I got a whiff of the familiar almost nationalistic vibe of "Sellwood is Sellwood, and Sellwood isn't Portland". There are also a great deal more trees along the streets. Were this town a bit closer to downtown (and thus work), I might have considered living here. As a side note, I also ran into Video Lair, Eliza's video store.

Heading due east on Tacoma Ave, I crossed over a railroad bridge, wandered in some thick trees for a while, and finally spotted the East-West Springwater Corridor! This part of the corridor was built in a steep narrow canyon that once played host to the railroad that went from Portland to Boring; when the rails went defunct a number of years ago, the city paved the tracks under and turned the area into an arena for bikers and joggers. Apparently it starts in the west at the railroad tracks (about SE 29th Ave) and heads eastward through East Portland, I-205, Gresham, and finally on to Boring. The signposts indicated that one could easily ride 40 miles just going from one end to the other.

However, there was a minor problem--there's no way into the canyon! Some day, the hope is to connect the two Springwater Corridors into one gigantic fifty mile loop trail; until then, the westernmost entrance is either 45th Ave or sneaking in via the railroad tracks. In any case, the sun was starting to set; having no working front light, I decided that it would be an excellent idea to hop back on the bike and pedal hard towards Portland. I roared up SE 52nd Ave all the way to Belmont before jumping off the official bike routes and curving a crazy path back to my garage. Not a moment too soon either, as five minutes later it was too dark to see without illumination.

Scottish Highland Games

Occurred July 16, 2005 (Permalink)

On the third Saturday in July, a whole lot of Scottish people gather at Mt. Hood Community College for Portland's rendition of the Scottish Highland Games. The games, which originated as a tournament through which the King of Scots might find the strongest and ablest men to be his bodyguard, has morphed into a trinity of aims: competitions, a celebration of Scottish culture, and a way to sell most anything Scottish. And, surprisingly, even British goods.

So why was I there, you ask? Why, Scottish country dancing, of course! I showed up (late) to the morning dancing demonstration, decked out in a new kilt and my funny yellow polo shirt, and added the hose and sock-tassles later. There were four couples (including myself) who volunteered to dance the Cranberry Tart and Deal Among the Tailors. For the price of forty minutes' of dancing, I had free range to run about and explore the games all day!

Obviously, there was quite a bit more going on than just us dancing. The Daughters of the British Empire had a tent going with tea, biscuits and crumpets; various Scottish supply stores were presenting their wares; the piper from the Saturday Market wandered around playing for anybody who would listen; there were dance competitions going on all around, and various tents put up by the various Scottish clans for long-lost family members to wander by, meet distant strains of the family, and drift away.

Further out on the main field, there were (bag)pipe bands from various parts of the Northwest--local high schools, Simon Fraser Univ., other miscellaneous bands of pipers, etc. Standing out there during practice hours was amazing--it was if there were roving bagpipers coming at me from all directions, playing different tunes, and all at once! At any given time I could pick out four or five different melodies. I've never been in a situation like that, where I was totally enveloped in music, with tunes coming at me from all directions.

Meanwhile, there were athletic events going on all around the site. In one event, there are these strong men who are given a big heavy ball. The object of the competition is throw the ball as far up as humanly possible and run far away before the ball comes crashing back to the earth. They also go for lob distance. There's also a cabor toss, wherein each man is given a large tree trunk; each contestant picks up the cabor, runs with it for about thirty feet, and heaves one end up as far as he can possibly throw it. The object of this contest, then, is to flip the cabor along the Z axis. If the cabor even flips over, the contestant is judged on how close the cabor lands to the 12 o'clock position. The guy that won only managed to get it to land at the 9 o'clock position, though the most spectacular toss of the afternoon went to the guy who actually split the cabor in two! After it broke, he ran over to the small fragment, grabbed it, and threw it, flipping it several times to raucous laughter.

As one might imagine, there was a "Mass Bands" gathering at the very end of the Games. All the pipe bands that had attended the Games gathered on the field at 17:30 and proceeded to formulate an enormous 335-piece ensemble band. They collectively played one piece (whose name escapes me) while marching back and forth across the field, complete with four men completely decked out in official regalia. It was quite a spectacle to see, and a great way to end the day.

Actually, that wasn't the end. As I was walking to the parking lot after the Games were over, a car pulls up next to me and a guy sticks his head out: "Is this the way to the Games?" "Uh...yes, but they're over." "Forever?!" "Uh... no, just until next year." "Oh."

Innertubing the Clackamas River

Occurred July 17, 2005 (Permalink)

Bought a truck inner tube at Les Schwab and floated down the Clackamas River from Barton to (somewhere else) on it. Lots of root beer, lots of sunburn. Ick. Lots of fun while I was floating, however. There were rapids, water-cops handing out $94 tickets to rafters that didn't have the proper safety gear, hot and cold sections, etc. Unfortunately, the searing sunburns on my legs are still not gone, two weeks later as I write this. Dumbass. Oh well. I put on some pants and spent much of the time going to MiPL events and cycling after that.

Brew Festival

Occurred July 30, 2005 (Permalink)

Every year, several dozen brewers from around the country (though mostly the Northwest) gather in Portland on the last full weekend in July for the Brew Fest. Hanna thought it would be great fun to head down to the waterfront as a sort of birthday celebration, so I met her and a few others she knows for an afternoon of strolling around the park, drinking, eating and telling stories. There were seventy-two brewers in total this year; I got myself tokens for six 4oz samples and went imbibing beer from lightest to darkest. Turns out that my suspicions are indeed true--dark inky stouts still knock me over. It really is a pain not to have any appreciable alcohol tolerances; though it makes me a cheap drinking buddy, it does make the process of familiarizing myself with the local beers and wines much more difficult than it need be. In any case, we wandered around the festival for hours, but had a darn good time.

Going home, something interesting happened on the MAX. A man sitting a few rows behind me began singing a song. I'd never heard of the song before, so I half tuned him out, assuming that he was simply another drunken reveler. Until he got to the words "...will you marry me?" and came to a dead halt. This seemed like a strange way to end a song, so I cocked my head to have a look at this guy and realized that a very shocked young woman was sitting in the seat next to him. Apparently this was a marriage proposal! She screamed "Yes!" and the two of them ran off the train into the dusk at the next exit.

Innertubing, Again

Occurred July 31, 2005 (Permalink)

I like to engage in much foolishness. This is no more evident than in the fact that I went innertubing again, despite the horrid sunburn that I acquired during the last innertubing trip. For this trip, we drove even further upriver to some state park and floated down the river to Barton. I decided that I distinctly did not want to injure myself as badly as I'd done the first time, so I avoided bear-wrestling, falling in the river, and covered myself up with more articles of clothing. Ironic, though, that with the huge brown tan that I now have, I probably wouldn't have burned at all! This particular float had many more rapids, several areas where the water simply wasn't deep enough even for inner tubes, no cops, and required a fair amount of intelligence to navigate. All in all I think this one went far more smoothly than the first. Now on to Timberline!

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