Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Beautiful Evening in Portland: June's Last Thursday

I screeched to a stop at Stumptown Field and set the brake. I hopped out, handed Dolly-girl's valise to the baggage man, and pulled her close. I kissed her, hard. It had to last to the other coast and back. It would. I could hear the gate agent on the loudspeaker: "Last call for Mrs. D'Mestiere, Fi-or-a D'Mestiere..." "I told you we'd make it in time, Jack." Dolly-girl doesn't care for anything about air travel and always waits until the last minute. "Have a good time with Fin! Tell him I'd be here except I got people who need talkin' with back on the coast." She gave me a look through the wave, smiled, turned on her heel and walked past the agent, waving her ticket, through the gate, and onto the Constellation. The door closed, engines 2, 3, 1, and then 4 coughed and fired, it taxied out and roared down Runway 10, non-stop to Gotham. I waved.

I got home, fed the cats, picked up the blower and dialed 3-7-3-2. Kitty. She's in the same exchange so I only have to dial the last four. Technology, it's great. "Yeah-low, Kitty." "It's me. Last Thursday. Fin's in town. Wanta?" "I'm game." Fin is a pal-o-mine from way back when I did investigations down the valley. He was going to help me talk with some people who needed talking with the next day. Kitty knows Fin and since he doesn't get to Stumptown that often, I figured she might like to say how-do-you-do. She did.

I call Fin Fin because, time was, he was a pretty fair swimmer. I coulda given him some tips, but mostly I just keep my mouth shut, got it? Fin and his chiquita, Sparky--she's a swimmer too, fact is he can't keep up with her--still live down the valley. He deals in environmental services, if you know what I mean, and Sparky runs the feed-bag at a retirement home. They like to dive for sunken treasure in their spare time. Helps keep beans on the table and skidrow in the glass.

Last Thursday on Alberta is an unwinder that draws 'em in from all over Stumptown. All types, all kinds. Dolly-girl, Kitty, and me have been there before and you got the rundown on a joint we like not long ago. Maybe last Last Thursday, or it mighta been the Last Thursday before the last one--every month has got one. Anyway, you get my drift, right? Lots of jakes and jills, lots of art, lots of food, and more than just a little bit of drink. With me?

We took it on shank's mare from where Dolly-girl and me set the brake. The three of us slipped into a place me and Dolly-girl like to go from time to time, a joint called Mash Tun not far from where our Tappan is in the kitchen. They brew their own there, but they got some from other people too if you don't like what they've drained out of the barrel lately. They got food, too, and it's worth the shoe leather to get it. When Dolly-girl has bar food on the Zenith, Mash Tun's playing her tune, with me? But that was another time.

Tonight it was packed. I wasn't happy about it, but I could hear Dolly-girl in my ear, "Relax Jack, a crowd's the best place to be." She was right. I reached for a Lucky. Damn, forgot them. Make a note: Get Luckies before the Feds take them away. There's a new broom in town and he's sweeping up the vice business. Missy stopped by. "What's it?" We ordered brew, three of them. Missy was back double-quick, we clinked, and started catching up.

Seemed like a snack might be good--no one was much in the mood for a sit-in-one-place night. Missy was by again. "Feed-bag?" "Just some grazing--an order of Irish lads and make it quick." "Gotcha, TTs. Hey, ever try our Tatchos? Nachos made with tater-tots?" Make another note: Tatchos. Have to be when Dolly-girl is out of town...
The lads arrived, Missy brought us a do-it-again, and we dived in. One of those things nobody will say they like, and nobody ever eats them, but when it's all said and done, it's all done and never said.

We settled up for a likable price and headed out to see what the street might hold. Turns out, it held a lot of music and dance and people and art and dogs and this and that.

We perambulated down Alberta and first up was capoeira.

Just watching all that jumping around raised us a little appetite, so we stopped in al Forno Ferruzza pizzeria and got us a bite. It's maybe the best pizza in Stumptown. Try it out.

A marching steel drum band passed us by...

And drummers were drumming on the corner...

We kept on going and came across a group of Indian singers...

Dark was falling and all that perambulating had worked up a thirst in this trio, so we stopped by the ale house, you know, the one me and Dolly-girl go to for a couple to hit the spot. We headed out, ready to call the night by its name--a night--but the lights of Fats Pub, a new eatery in Gourmet Gulch, drew us in. Us and no one else. Tables were set, bar was stocked, door was open, but not a person in sight. I yoo-hooed. No response. So, I looked at the whadda-ya-want, the whadda-ya-drinkin', and took a couple snaps with the Kodak. Make one last note: go back there soon.

An Editorial Revision Post of April 29, A Monday Evening In the Valley: Drinks and Eats at 101

For loyal readers who are concerned that if I change the names and backgrounds of characters they won't keep up, I've revised the post of April 29. The BJ nickname was not working for me. Didn't work for Dolly-girl either. So BJ is Slider and Slider is Dixie's guy. So what's writing without editing?

Check out the revised post here or read what's different below:

Dixie's a chiquita from Florida. She and Slider met in a bar in Appalachicola where he stopped to eat some world-famous oysters on his way northwest when he was traded up from the Brevard County Manatees to the Montgomery Biscuits. It was his base stealing ability that got him a promotion from a run-down bus league to a beat-up bus league, but he blew an ACL in his first AA game and so he headed back to Appalachicola and the nurse he met doing shooters at Papa Joe's. Yeah, it's a sorta Bull Durham story, but with oysters and a nurse instead of cheap bourbon and a part-time teacher. How they got to The Valley, now that's another story for another time. Leave it at Slider couldn’t play ball anymore, but he could slide into the big pipes on the California coast. They're pals of Tootsie and Slim too and there's always a lot of laughs when they're around. Dixie works in the medical field--she gives people chest pains and they pay to get them. Go figure.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: Sunday Parkways North Portland

I knew something was happening when Dolly-girl and Kitty were yakking in the kitchen. I'd been on the road, talking with people that needed talking with, as you've been reading. I was in the parlor. The show was on the Zenith and I was listening while I read the broadsheet. I could hear Dolly-girl and Kitty--community...parkways...bikes....Sunday. Oh, never mind. I supposed they had something worked up, but I knew come Sunday morning I'd be looking at a Saturday Rex Parker, drinking a coupla-cuppas from the percolater on the Tappan, and scratching the neck of a cat. Sunday's my day off and for the last two, the Boss had me on the road and this wasn't going to be another one.

Sunday dawned and Dolly-girl was out of bed before the hens on the other side of the alley started clucking. "What's it?" "I told you Jack, Parkways. Fun for everyone. Me and Kitty are helping out. I tell, you Jack, you don't listen." I got a look through what would have been the wave if she hadn't just got out of the tub that said I better say, "I remember, Dolly-girl. I'll meet you over there." I did.

Me and Dolly-girl usually depend on Shank's mare to take us places, but it seemed like a good day to try a more modern mode of transportation. We've had bicycles for some time. Every time I ride one, I remember Butch Cassidy and Etta Place: "Meet the Future. Do you know what you are doing? Theoretically. [Butch sings] Don't ever hit your mother with a shovel, it leaves a dull impression on her mind..."

It was Sunday and the Reverend and Congregation at Lifeline Christian Church were warming up. It's not a place me and Dolly-girl usually find ourselves on a Sunday morning. They have things other than a Rex Parker and a blond with sand on their minds there and I hand it to them for that.

Dolly-girl and Kitty were both at their appointed spots by the time I got there. Seems their jobs were to monitor an intersection and stop the perambulators when someone who lived on the block needed to take a roadster out for a spin. What is it when you hand a girl a piece of chalk? First Kitty, and then Dolly-girl, both of them with chalk on the street. At least there weren't any hop-scotch squares in sight!

The crowd passing by in an event like this one seems to lose all hostility as well as ability to judge art. Sure, the girls did some nice drawing, but people were talking like they were drawing the freakin' Mona Lisa...

I rode back and forth between their posts for a while and then they were released from their civic duty. We headed over to Peninsula Park where you can find--without going to THE Rose Garden, why Stumptown is also called the City of Roses. The park was in full bloom, all maintained by volunteers. I gotta give them some snaps.
Along the way, we passed this beautiful, but half dead, madrone, Arbutus menziesii, one of Dolly-girl's favorite trees. She says she thinks spirits live in them and when we used to live down the valley we had a beauty in our back half.

We kept on pedaling to see what we could see.

I like to keep my eye on what's going on around me, and you never know when a case down the road might need something you saw back when you didn't see anything, so I turned on the handlebar cam.

Kitty, now there's a bike rider. She rides that damned thing all over the place. Hell, she's riden in foreign countries even. When me and Dolly-girl set the brake in Italia, it ain't bikes that are singing our tune I'll tell you. Besides, those seats are not that comfortable...

We made it to Peninsula Park and I spotted some nude stilt walkers. I was sure this caper was gonna end bad, but then, it turns out all the flatfoots were busy flattening their feet at intersections to let all the perambulators go through. So, these nude stilt bugs got away with it clean. People even seemed to get a kick out of it. Like the little girl at the end of this clip.

About the time the sun dial said noon--remember, the sun doesn't know anything about daylight savings--Dolly-girl whistled and the three of us headed over to what she called a "venue", to check out the Sprockettes, a local troupe of tough chiquita bananas that like to dance for the public. Check them out.

So the afternoon came to an end. I headed off to pick up some pork and beans at the local A&P while Dolly-girl and Kitty rode home. By the time I got home, my bicycling parts were singing the blues and I remembered when Butch parted ways with his bike--"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles." Give me shanks mare and I'll thank you for it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Caring for the Land and Serving People: The trip home through the land of Alternative Energy

Work took me to Eastern Oregon this past week, out to visit La Grande and Starkey Experimental Forest and Range. La Grande is a pretty, wide-open, quintessential western town with wide strrets, tree-lined neighborhoods, bungalows, and a different pace of life. The Oregon Trail followed the Grande Ronde valley and European settlers started coming in numbers in the 1860s. It's currently a rail hub, ranching and farming center, and home to Eastern Oregon University. Boise is about to close the last sawmill in town, but logging and lumber used to be big.

I like the land out there. Big ponderosa pines, meadows, vistas. It's pretty rocky and sometimes building a fence takes more effort than one might be used to. Check out these fence post supports! Of course, the fence is designed to exclude cattle and elk from an experimental area at the forest and that takes some fence.

On the way home I stopped at Boardman to fuel up the car, but I passed on the Bozo Burger available at the C&D DRIVE -IN

North central Oregon and south central Washington have become a haven for wind energy farms. The winds that sweep off the high plains and up the Columbia gorge provide the sort of constant, medium velocity resource that makes wind-farming pay. We spend a bit extra each month on our electricity bill to support these developments. Supposedly that means we are using "green power" but hey, electrons are electrons and who knows where ours were generated at any given time. And "green power" more accurately describes the greenhouse gas emissions associated with generation; I haven't seen a complete analysis of how long it takes to overcome the environmental costs of manufacturing, transportation, installation, and maintenance of a far-flung dispersed generating network. This particular farm was built by Suzlon and everything except the rotor blades is manufactured in India or China and shipped to Oregon. I did see a dozen or more trucks moving pieces of towers east as I drove west. A posting in Wikipedia says the carbon payback time is a matter of months, I suppose compared to coal generation. The Wiki posting did seem pretty pro-wind.

Green is also of variable shade depending on whether you are a bat or not. Wind turbines take a toll on bats and other critters. Bat lungs may explode if they fly through the area of low pressure associated with the blade tip. Birds may also bite the dust at rates of up to 4 birds per turbine per year (again according to the wiki posting). You can get an idea of the size compared to the tractor-trailer on the highway in the picture.

From time-to-time, they take a toll on neighbors and families. The newspapers are full of stories of friends and families torn apart over disagreements stemming from obstructed views and constant noise associated with wind chargers. But, driving along, I have to admit that they seem attractive to me in a sort of 21st Century way.

They pop up on the horizon as I drive east on I-84. I suppose in a few years they will seem no more foreign than the cattle, fences, grain elevators, center-pivot irrigation rigs, hydropower dams, interstate highways, fast food joints, and hybrid poplar plantations that we've lived with for various decades.

They actually seem sort of peaceful to me, turning away out there. I grew up in Ohio in a time when coal was the major source of energy for almost everything. Mr. Boone stoked the boiler at Fairwood School with coal, the power plants burned coal, Ford and Chevy burned coal, people heated their houses with coal, and the towns smelled like coal smoke. I'd rather have these.

Not much further down the river, I passed the John Day dam. It seems a lot more violent with the water coursing through the turbines and spillways, and I'll bet it's loud down there. And those dams are pretty tough on anadramous fish trying to make it up river to spawn. And those dams are large, concentrated pieces of infrastructure. And, it would take more than 1,000 wind chargers to equal the generation capacity of the dam. But, when the wind isn't blowing, the water's still flowing...

Friday, June 12, 2009

An Evening in Ellensburg: Dinner at the Valley Cafe

Sunday. I'm doing a Rex Parker, Dolly-girl is puttering in the kitchen. I hear cackleberries cracking on a Pyrex bowl. The blower sparks. I look. The Boss, my big client. I answer. "Sorry to bother you on Sunday, Jack. Thanks for answering. I know this is getting you a look through the wave and it ain't 'come hither'. Tell Dolly-girl I'll make it up to her." "Sure. What's it?"

"I need you to go talk with some people you've talked with before. I need you to go on the road Jack. Appleland. Tomorrow. Early." "On it. I'll call you Friday." I reached for the Luckies. Damn it, Dolly-girl, you turned my Luckies into Doublemint again. This woman is going to be the health of me. At least I could go to E-Z's in Appleland.

The sun sparked on the east side of Stumptown. I loaded the roadster, pulled Dolly-girl close, gave her a kiss she'd remember, and said, "See you Friday, Dolly-girl." "Stop and see Kay Anthony (she said Kay in a sorta long and drawn out way and assumed a theatrical pose) in E-burg if you have the chance, Jack." "On it." "You know, it's the timothy hay capital of the freakin' world." I didn't, but she knew that sorta fact got to me.

We knew Kay Anthony from way back, in time and space. She slid pizzas in and out of a brick oven in an upscale trattoria where Dolly-girl was moonlighting when I met her across the continent, an age ago. She did some music too. Sweet voice, but she couldn't carry a torch in the east. She could do the mellodrama thing, particularly when she introduced herself, turned half sideways and looking over her shoulder. "I'm Kaaayyyyy. I'm your siiiinnggggger tonight..."

Time and space lead people far and wide. Kay Anthony and her pipes were working a club in central Washington, and I'm not talking the District here. Turns out, her guy Anthony Kay, won a piece of the joint in a card game back east somewhere. They packed up the roadster and headed west to find the fortune. But fortune, fame, and trouble hide in funny spots. They hit the west coast and next thing you know, Kay's doing time with the state and Anthony's picking up a new career, waiting for her to serve. Word on the street is that she's working the farm labor scene while he's just gotten philosophical.

They'd been together for a while and were thinking about taking each others names, but then she'd be Kay Kay and he'd be Anthony Anthony, so they decided to leave sleeping dogs lie.

So Monday finds me most of the way to Appleland, pulled into a motor hotel, and talking to Kay Anthony on the blower. "Meet you downtown, let's get some food, catch up, Dolly-girl wants the lowdown, Kay Anthony." "I'm there. The Valley. Anthony Kay will meet us. He's working tonight, there's people that need eye-ballin' and some of them want to talk to him."

The Valley Cafe wasn't even part full on a Monday night at an hour that may have spelled "dinner" in Stumptown, but said more like "tomorrow morning" in E-burg. A couple were finishing up when Kay Anthony and I walked in. The sign said "Wait to Be Seated, but Kay Anthony strolled past. It's that stage presence, plus she knew Missy. See, she'd been through The Valley before and she feared no evil...Sorry, I couldn't pass that one up...

Missy came to the gallery and told us his name was Mickey. He had a sort of strange manner--talking and moving--about him. He brought everything in individual trips: whaddya-drinkings, whadday-a-wants, the local version of Bull Run, bread and some damned good oil to slide it through. He gave us the low-down on the whadda-ya-want which was "What you see is what we got. No blue plate today. One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece." I looked around at the empty joint and knew I could hold my fire.

We ordered. Skidrow, rosso, for both of us. Cowfeed and some peelers, peeled, swimming in Bronx vanilla for Kay Anthony, and frutti di mare for me, but the hash slinger had them swimming in a Mumbai Milk Sauce. "Oh, and keep off the grass for me." "Correct." Strange...

I looked around the place. An old joint with original wood, a pieced floor, and tin ceiling. Nicely done. Missy was at the kitchen slot talking to the slinger. Must have been looking at that piece of lasagna. Something tells me he was going to be looking at it for his supper.

The bell on the door tinkled and in slid Anthony Kay, just in time for the food. We did the how-do-you-dos and Missy/Mickey brought him a whadda-ya-drinking, then a whadda-ya-want, then the local. "One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece." "I'll just graze off hers, but bring me a cookie." Missy/Mickey's eyes got big and he said "Ohh, they are my favorites today..." walnut something or other. Anthony Kay made his day.

Missy/Mickey brought the eats, told us he sincerely hoped we would enjoy them--no cutting language short for him--and left to look at the one piece of lasagna.

By all accounts, the eats were as described and there's not much doubt in my mind that The Valley Cafe is the place to put on your bib in E-burg. But get there before 8:10 or there may only be a single piece of that daily lasagna...

We slipped out of the joint a little after another twosome, coming off the road from someplace else, no doubt, had slid into The Valley.

"One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Afternoon at Starkey: I'm Dying Over Here

I visited the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range today to learn about the world-class wildlife research that will be coming my way before long. Starkey is known around the world for their research on elk, deer, and cattle and how they interact. While most of the research focuses on the ecology and behavior of wild elk and deer, they do have a research herd.

Near the corrals, they also had a killdeer and her nest with 4 eggs.
Killdeer build their nests on the surface of the ground, often in open rocky areas like this one. If you approach, the mother will try and lure you away from the nest by feigning a broken wing: "I'm wounded, come and eat me. Hey you, I'm dying over here, come OVER HERE and eat me." Of course, if you go over there, she flys away and leaves you, mouth watering for a delicious killdeer...

Here she is in action: