Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Gloomy Afternoon in Portland: New Year's Eve Lunch at Saraveza

New Year's Eve afternoon found us looking for something to eat and maybe a brew to wash it down. Dolly-girl had eyed a new joint over on Killingsworth in the Lake States Section. We headed over there after sending off a couple quick wires over at the Western Union--you know, Happy New Year messages and such.

The place was jane from the outside, know what I mean? Just your standard restored, upscale brick building in a rough part of town that has its eye on better days ahead. We went in.

First thing catches your eye is the coolers full of beer, and I mean beer from all over the place. Obviously this Saraveza guy's connected. Twelve eyes walked us past the coolers, watched us read the handles, and put us in a booth near the back. I patted my heater for security and put my blower on vibrate. On the wall above us, the Beavers were eking out a victory over Pitt. Seemed like what we were looking for--a joint where you could get a cold one, and something warm for it to wash down.

"Haven't seen you in here before--new to this part of the city?" The waiter was strangely familiar, like he might have been an entertainer--maybe like the Host in Drag over at the Rainbow Room.
"First time here," Dolly-girl purred. I felt an urge to fire a Lucky, but being that the Portland smoking ban is just hours away, I resisted. Besides, I quit almost 31 years ago and I didn't have any with me.

A betty came out of the backroom, checked the bar out through the convex mirror hanging in the corner, flashed a smile and stopped to chat with a couple arty numbers at a table. They were splitting a Polish porter. Boots and Bee's Knees socks covered her gams. She had a bottle in her hand, a bottle of Elmer's Glue, and some masking tape. Maybe some glitter. What was that about?
The room got quiet. Our waiter jerked his thumb and mouthed. "Sara Veza." So, Veza is a chiquita banana. Explains the joint's ability to pack the coolers. Obviously, that 8-bit smile opens doors around Stumptown.

I went for the half a pasty and a taste of yesterday's soup. Dolly-girl had a head of buttercrunch lettuce covered in fromage bleu and the house pasty, hold the meat. We ordered beer--Caldera in a can for her and an Anderson Valley IPA for me. The eats were good and the beer was cold. So that's Veza's angle.

So what's not to like about a place with tables made from arrangements of bottlecaps, a hundred beers, and some stick-to-the-ribs food like pasties? Not much in me and Dolly-girl's book. The taps were getting cleaned--I guess that would be my complaint, and they were out of the Erie Brewing Company Railbender Ale that I've been wanting to try. Other than that, the joint's a keeper. We walked out to a gray and chilly Stumptown day, the last one of the year. I took Dolly-girl's arm, put her in the ride, and headed home.

A Momentous Sunday in Portland, Oregon II: Melted Snow and Rumpspankers for Breakfast!

Here, by popular demand, is another guest post from Nancy with a review of the delicious breakfast at Rumpspankers:

The Rumpspanker's breakfast menu is eclectic. Lots of sausages made in-house from salmon, lamb, and pork as well as assorted funky vegan offerings with names like Tempeh of Doom and Kung Fu Fighter. International influences from cuisines of the globe include Hungary, India, and Mexico. A whole new bevy of lunch and dinner offerings are...beyond broth.

For our Sunday breakfast feast, Karen chose Rosemary's Taters, a giant platter of grilled potato cakes seasoned with fresh rosemary and sage served with eggs and feta on a bed of spinach. Our server was quick to point out that the tater leftovers make a great cold potato salad. John opted for the Texas Brushfire under the "Skillet Row" category: chorizo and assorted vegies cooked and topped with pico scrambled eggs and cheese and served in the skillet at the table. Nancy went multi-grain healthy with Uncle Buck's Griddle-buckwheat waffles topped with pan-seared apples, honey nut granola and assorted dried fruit (dates, figs, and papaya)-yum! We shared a giant pot of organic French Press Coffee-talk about high octane caffeine-and parts of the Sunday paper.

Next time? One of us is definitely going to try the Triple Spanker. It's a Rumpspanker's original: ham, house sausage, two fried eggs, and muenster cheese stacked high with three crispy waffles.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Momentous Sunday in Portland, Oregon: Melted Snow and Rumpspankers for Breakfast!

Dateline The Former Woodlawn, Oregon
Special Guest Blog by Nancy

We woke late on Sunday to a ringing phone. John loaded the heater while I answered the blower. It was Karen. Friend, former landlady, down the street. Dead-battery in her Prius. Wondering if we'd help her with a jump-start. But first, we needed a blue plate. She suggested Rumpspankers on Dekum. Sure. We were looking at week-old scones.

For the past year, Rumpspankers has been on our list of MUST VISIT restaurants. OK, it's mostly been because of..the name. But let's not forget the joint's tag line "Beyond Broth"--who doesn't want to eat at a place whose claim to fame is being beyond something that most people in the United States rarely eat? So, finally, after months of wondering and salivating mystery, we walked and settled into a front window table.

The décor is beyond broth. Scarves, pillows hung from rope to be faux cushions behind tables along the wall. Christ, the place even sells its own organic produce. Who knew? The food is superb.

The best sight on our walk to Rumpspankers? This former snow person, gone the way of the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz: melted.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Rainy, Slushy Evening in Portland: Photos from the Past

My dad took a lot of pictures--something like 25,000 color slides and half as many prints. He organized them carefully, packing upwards of 450 slides in each plastic case, each case with some yellow legal pad pages that gave cryptic descriptions of what was actually on the slides.

After he died, I had my brother ship me about 20 cases, so somewhere around 8 to 10 thousand slides. This winter, I decided to go through them, slide by slide, projecting them and snapping a digital image from the screen. It's not as good as a scanned image, but good enough.

The chronosequence starts about 4 years before I was born, and I don't know how old I will be in the last slide of me. I've seen some when I'm thirty-couple years old.

I'm glad I have these slides, although I have to admit some guilt when I empty a tray in the trash, uninterested in countless slides of trips to England, and hundreds of pictures of the Metropolitan Park. He always said, "I know what you boys will do with these slides--you'll just dump them." But not all of them...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Beautiful Day in Portland: Merry Christmas to All and Now Can the Snow Please Melt?

It's Christmas and the Winter Wonderland of Portland continued. We scrapped our trip to Corvallis and stayed right here at home. Karen came to dinner this afternoon, trekking the 1.5 blocks from the Little House in the Big City to the Slightly Bigger House in the Big City. Once again, Marcella Hazan served us well and we cooked up the Drunken Pork Roast from the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking along with bourbon-spiked yams, roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts with mustard butter, and some home-baked bread. I bought dessert over at the New Seasons. A nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo topped it off.

As we were sitting in the living room enjoying the fire after dinner, Nancy was nostalgic over the nostalgia of the WPIX Yule Log, something all New Yorkers treasure. Lacking the technology to watch the real thing, we made our own...

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Beautiful Morning in Portland: The Quiet of a City Snowstorm

Portland is blanketed with about 8 inches of snow and the city, for all intents and purposes, is closed. Few planes are taking off. Bus service has been contracting as they struggle to keep some lines running--only those with frequent service are operating now. The MAX is struggling to keep up. The few snow plows that are available are dedicated to the major arteries. Ainsworh Avenue, just around the corner from our house, is not one of those major routes...and neither is our little avenue!

Nancy and I went out for a walk this morning. The city is eerily quiet compared to the east where one would hear the scraping of plows, both on streets and driveways, the roar of engines and spinning of tires, the sounds of salt trucks, and the splash of slush. Instead, the streets are filled with chatter as people discuss this rare snowfall event, and with the sounds of skis and snowshoes as lots of people haul out equipment they generally have to drive 75 miles to use. Here's some parked outside an eatery on Alberta.

We did discover that the "story" that President-elect Obama is in Hawai'i is just that, as you can clearly see by the picture to the left. He apparently is visiting a neighbor just on the other side of Ainsworth and he's dressed for the season.

The walk in the snow was nice, but we both agree that we're ready for the snow to go away. Maybe in a few days. Heavy rain is predicted to move in behind the storms. Ah, back to Life in [Normal] Portland...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Beautiful Morning in Portland: Cogitating on the Bus to Work

One day last week, instead of listening to my iPod or reading email on my Blackberry, I started thinking about a poem. Living with a poet brings that sort of thing to the fore, I suppose. Plus the day before I'd spent two hours catching up on podcasts of the Writer's Almanac, each with its own daily poem.

It's not that I believe I have any talent when it comes to poetry, but it's intriguing to me that short thoughts can be put together in a form that can bring an image to one's mind. If everything goes right, it can bring an image to someone else's mind as well. I've tried writing poems from time to time in the past and have found it to be fun, which probably means I'm not good at it or I would let it torture me. My greatest sucess, I think, was with a series of art cards where I wrote haiku to go with pictures I took on the beach.

Anyway, here's my latest try--tapped into my Blackberry as the bus rolled along--and helped immeasurably by my personal poet's eye and ear...

Mass Transit

I like the bus on Friday morning.
It glides to my stop
in the dark, mostly empty
because people are taking the day off
working maxi-flex or sick. In the dark,
I take and keep a seat to myself.

We fly down Broadway
like the bus in It Happened One Night,
but no one is singing
"The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze."
The pheasant-feather tam-o-shanter bus-saluter
at 5th and Everett is surrounded with
Keep Portland Clean cops chatting.
We miss our salute.
Does it happen every morning
and I see it only on this ahead-of-schedule day?

The 9 Broadway slips into line behind
A 4 Fessenden, an 8 NE 15th, and a 33 Fremont
for a schedule stop at 3rd and Couch.
We tap our feet.
We wait.
We kill
traffic-free-Broadway-won time
until we get the go to make our run on the mall
to stop at 3rd and Oak!
Alder Max! And finally, for me, Salmon Main!
This Friday morning no one takes my seat.
No vacationer, no maxi-flexer, no sickie
got on between there and here to claim
my spot.

A Beautiful Morning in Portland (?): The Big Freeze!

The first day of winter arrived with a vengeance in Portland today. Nancy's brother Jerry came to visit on the 16th and left yesterday morning on the 7:10 to Las Vegas and then on to points east. Turns out, his was one of the last flights to get out of Dodge on time. By 7:30 it was snowing hard and PDX is, shall we say, de-icing-equipment-challenged. By afternoon, most flights were canceled and they remain canceled today.

So the snow was coming down, the winds were blowing (note the doug-fir branchlets on the snow in the pictures below), the roads were closing (I-84 from Troutdale to Hood River and lots and lots of streets with hills in Portland), and all vehicles in the metro area had to be chained. Buses were running on snow routes (that cuts off a lot of NE Portland where we live) and MAX was icing badly--switches froze, power cables coated with ice, tracks full of snow and ice on the city routes.

Amtrak trains sat--the Northbound Coast Starlight for 5 hours just 1/2 mile short of the station while repair crews tried to get the lower deck of the Steel Bridge locked in place. The Southbound Coast Starlight sat in Portland waiting for the same bridge. The Eastbound Empire Builder was canceled due to a derailment of a BNSF train at the Portland Junction.

I drove our 4WD pickup over to 33rd and Killlingsworth to pick up some things at the New Seasons. A quick stop at the Brown Whiskey Store--the most popular store in town, it seemed--turned into an ordeal for some as the line was out the door when I left. I was a little ahead of the crowd.

We had planned on walking over to the Kennedy School to watch Appaloosa, but thought better of the idea and instead trudged down to Karen's at 6416 and made pizzas with her. That dial-a-fire is sure nice on a winter's eve...

This morning broke cold and gray with a crust of ice on the snow and off and on a little freezing drizzle. The cats instinctively know what to do when weather like this hits, but people are not so smart.

I shoveled our walk and our neighbor's, but ours are the only cleared ones in the neighborhood. Why, I remember in Ithaca you got a ticket if you didn't get your walks cleared. Harumph, where are the neighbors? Where are the drunks who used to dig Nancy out for $5? Then I realized that in 99.9% of Portland homes, one thing is missing. And that one thing, which we have hauled dutifully around with us all these years in Oregon because it's really good for picking up sidewalk sweepings, is:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16--My Birthday

It's my birthday today. I was born in Berea, Ohio.

I was remembering birthdays past while drinking coffee this morning. I saw a picture of my 5th birthday while sorting through some of my father's old slides--a chocolate cake in our kitchen on Franklin Drive. No Christmas decorations in sight as my mom always waited until after my birthday to usher in the season.

When I was in fourth grade, I got a catcher's mitt (I've been trying all morning to remember who signed it--maybe Russ Nixon, I think) for my birthday and during show-and-tell at school, I threw up on the floor. That's the first birthday I really remember. The school, without the vomit, is pictured to the left.

The day after I turned 14, I became an Eagle Scout.

When I was 16, my mom took me over to the DMV in Fairview Park to get my learner's permit. Woo-hoo, I got behind the wheel and drove home! She was brave, that mother of mine.

When I was 18, I had three final exams at Penn State and then caught the overnight milk-run Edwards Lakes-to-Sea bus home. For most of the trip, I was the only passenger. That night Tom, Bruce, and I went out and I had my first legal beer--a Stroh's redcap (that means 3.2% alcohol). The next day I went downtown and registered for the draft. Then I went to Syracuse and visited Bob. That's the last time I had peppermint schnapps...

Nineteen seventy-one found me in the snow and cold of the Ditchbanks near Cloquet, Minnesota (home of the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station) with my friend and colleague, George, changing charts on weather stations in black spruce stands. I remember the roads were horrible on the way home and I arrived a few hours late for the first birthday dinner my new wife cooked for me--I think it was ham loaf, an old favorite.

In 1976, the day before my birthday was commencement at the University of Minnesota and I received a Ph.D. In 1978, there was a big party in Newfield. In 1989, there was a small party in Newfield.

In 1996, I was blessed by a Cardinal in St. Peter's in Rome. While I was in the restroom at a restaurant, Nancy managed to explain to the waiter that it was "il compleanno di Giovanni" and I got a piece of cake with a candle in it! In 1997, I got a cell phone on my birthday--Frontier Cellular, $19.95 per month and 10¢ a minute. In 1999, there was a big party at Oxbow.

In 2007, I went to Portland Meadows and bet on the ponies. Unfortunately, mine didn't come in.

Lots of birthdays found me getting a haircut. In Ithaca, I often went to the Ithaca Diner for a meatloaf lunch on that day. For a number of years, I've taken the day off for work, and Nancy finds things for me to do, often related to the Post Office. Most years just remain mixed together in the past, which is fine with me as I don't like to make a big deal out of my birthday. It's just my day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Beautiful Evening in Portland: Sights and Sounds of Portland as the Holiday Season Progresses--The Christmas Fleet

Every year as the holiday season comes to Portland, two fleets of decorated small craft take to the Columbia and the Willamette, one to each, and cruise the rivers each evening in a light show afloat. Nancy and I were there for the opening performance of the Columbia fleet, captured here on tiny movies.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Beautiful Evening in Portland: Sights and Sounds of Portland as the Holiday Season Begins

We eschewed shopping, as usual, on the day after Thanksgiving, but we did venture into town to see Man on Wire, a wonderful movie (it gets 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) about the caper involved in Philippe Petit's astounding wire-walking between the Twin Towers the day before Richard Nixon announced that he would resign the presidency.

The movie was showing at the Living Room Theater in Portland, a great movie house that shows no ads and delivers scrumptious food to your seat! Afterwards, we strolled down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to see the newly lit city Christmas tree. We also stopped by Knit Purl to see the Thanksgiving dinner made completely from felt.

A few other store windows and signs--Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen, the Ace Hotel, and Powells, rounded out the walk.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: A Walk-About Along the Willamette With The New Oregonians

Saturday was a superb fall day in Portland. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was warm enough to wear shorts for a walk along the Willamette with our old friends from Ithaca, Anne and Ron, The New Oregonians. Anne has been living/visiting for a while now, staying with her sister and family where she has been Aunt Anne of the Basement, a moniker her nephew coined and we have adopted. Ron has just taken a position with Oregon State and they will be moving to Corvallis (he from Athens, Georgia and she from a) New Jersey, b) Georgia, and c) from the aforementioned basement) in mid-December. Aunt Anne of Sunview Drive, as we now call her, will continue her HR-biz career. Here's a shot of the Steel Bridge with the Broadway Bridge behind it (the red one) and the arch of the Fremont I-405 Bridge in the distance.

Yesterday the four of us headed out on a walk over the Morrison Bridge, down the Esplanade (where down=down stream), across the Steel Bridge, and back to our car. Along the way, we had to back-track on the Morrison, not my favorite activity as my vertigo was raging what with being a hundred feet off the water, with nothing over my head, and with a steel-grating bridge deck. But, Mt. Hood was out, as we say, and that made life better. Back-tracking was caused by the fact that we were on the wrong side of the bridge to get to the river front, so we dodged traffic while skipping to the other side.

The walk on the Esplanade is made very exciting by the presence of combat double strollers, speeding bicycles, skateboards, and roller blades, all moving at speeds beyond our perambulation, and few if any offering warning of passing.

Our timing was perfect from my point of view. First, the Coast Starlight was leaving Union Station so we saw it close up and personal as it crossed the Steel Bridge headed for Albany, Eugene, Klamath Falls, and points south in California before pulling into Los Angeles twenty-some hours after we saw it building speed on the south-bound UP track.

Then, the Global Endeavor, a bulk cargo ship, was taking on wheat from the elevators by the Steel Bridge, which had in turn, taken it on from Shaver and Tidewater grain barges on the Columbia, having taken it on from other river-side elevators, that had taken it on from trucks that had been filled by the combines of eastern Oregon and Washington. Wonder where it's headed and what sort of bread will be baked from it.

Then, for the trifecta, bells started ringing and a disembodied voice announced that the lower deck of the Steel Bridge would lifted to allow some boats to pass to the south. The Steel Bridge is a double-decked vertical lift draw bridge that can lift its decks independently. So, while the bottom railroad deck was lifted for some not-so-huge boats to pass, the upper deck--cars and the MAX--were in place, and traffic rumbled over.

Finally, it was a walk through the plaza in memory of interred Japanese-Americans from Oregon, a swing past Voodoo Doughnuts where Anne and Nancy were briefly tempted by the famous maple-bacon bar, and then home to a grilled salmon dinner. Keta salmon, as they call it at New Seasons. I guess they think more people will buy it if you call it keta versus what anglers call it--chum or dog salmon. It was tasty however, and left us all yelping for more...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Gray Morning in Portland: Managing Carbon Falling From the Sky

AN ADDENDUM: Thanks to information provided by two colleagues, I am now able to estimate, with almost no precision, that our three trees produced round about 327,000 leaves. Thanks to Henry and Barbara for providing quantitative backing for my attempted carbon budget.

Our yard has three large big-leaf maples (probably more than you want to know about Acer macrophyllum at that link, by the way). They provide a lot of great shade in the summer, and of course, readers of this page know that Sheryl Crow found refuge in those trees this past summer as she was recovering from injuries sustained in a pre-mature fledging from her nest. But now, it's fall. And "fall" has taken on new meaning. Seems like about a million leaves have come down. They have no respect for us. Yesterday, we spent hours raking and removing leaves from other shrubs. This morning, I looked out the window, and the camellias were covered again. Even as I raked and bagged today, they continued to fall, and not into existing piles, but right back where I had just raked.

I estimate that, from the number of bags and carts we've raked up, somewhere around 75 cubic feet of compacted leaves hit the ground. At, and I'm just guessing here, 15 pounds per cubic foot, that's a little over a half a ton of leaves. What's left in leaves this time of year is cellulose and lignin, with very little water and nutrients. So, that means about 50% of the dry weight is carbon, taken from the atmosphere last spring and summer, and soon to be released through decay. It's too bad that we don't have a place to compost those pesky yellow fellas as we could sure use more carbon in our garden soil. But, they will be composted at a nearby facility and reused next year.

As the trees leafed out last spring, I tried to imagine the yard in the fall. I'll have a better idea next year. Where's that chain saw...