Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Foggy, Sunny, Rainy Afternoon in Portland: A Visit to a Museum

It's been quite some time since Nancy and I spent time in a museum together--we seem to end up at the Portland Art Museum on our own, so I guess our last joint outing was back in May in Venezia. Today seemed like a day to check out a unique gallery in Southeast Portland that she'd read about. After a couple cups of joe, a brunch of leftovers, and some chores around the house, we headed out to SE 24th and Burnside. Destination, The Velveteria

The genre is, well you guessed it, velvet. Specifically, most of the collection is comprised of paintings on velvet, primarily black, but other colors as well. This medium has been around for some time and I, to-this-day, regret that I never bought the big painting of The Duke as Rooster Cogburn on black velvet that used to be on sale periodically at the Kwik-Fill on the corner of the Elmira Road and the Spencer Road in Ithaca. I missed the opportunity while I was single back in the early 90s--most women seem to appreciate black velvet paintings in "galleries", but not in the home.

While most of the collection is paint on a canvas of velvet, there are other pieces as well, particularly featuring religious items (read Catholic kitsch), shells, small lights, and plaster bases. My favorite item on display was the Virgin Mary crafted of plaster and covered in a very pink velvet, similar to the color in the photo to the left. I don't have a photo of the artwork itself as I respected the rules--No Photos--although Caren, the curator/owner told us we were free to take pictures in the lobby and we could take one picture of each of us in the museum. Here's Nancy in the religious section.

The lobby offered a nice selection of interesting artworks including a stuffed animal, some sort of cat, but you know, plush, not a real stuffed cat--wearing a purple velvet hat. Other features were the ever popular Last Supper on Velvet and The King, Elvis Presley. Caren told us that they were very careful when it came to images of The King since those Presley people are constantly on the lookout for unlicensed uses of his image. The same may be true for Princess Diana as her image was absent, while those of Michael Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Isaac Hayes, Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, The Beatles, all four of The Three Stooges, Dog Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Jimi Hendrix, Timothy Leary, and a whole host of others were prominently featured. A corner features a few presidents--Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and a truly black velvet president, Richard Nixon. There is also a black light room that should appeal to dope fiends, as my father used to call them.

A special section, near the back of the gallery is a, how shall I put it, Boob Apse--an area of the museum filled with paintings on velvet of women with prominent breasts on full display, if you know what I mean.

So, if you have a chance, check it out. It's certainly worth every bit of the $5 admission charge. Caren is as knowledgeable as one can be, I think, about her specialty, and you also get to see The Big Boy on velvet! As was pointed out in Austin Powers, Man of Mystery, "In many ways, Bob's Big Boy never left, sir. He's always offered the same high-quality meals at competitive prices. " But not on velvet!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Saturday Night in Portland: Dinner at Beast Restaurant

Dolly-girl was just dishing up the soup a week ago when the blower went off. She took the call. It was a chiquita I used to work with when I was doing investigations, down in the valley, before we moved to Stumptown. Turns out the chiquita--Tootsie--and her old man, Slim, were planning a weekend in our fair city and they were looking for a night out on the town and some relief from the valley hash houses. Stumptown's the place for that, know what I mean.

Happens that Tootsie and Slim were bringing some others along, a couple of nice kids, one of them Tootsie's niece, just moved here from The Great White North. The other kid's an old friend of the family, been a fan of hash slinging since he was a squirt. Slim had a joint called Beast in mind, not far from the Cup and Saucer. The place had been getting a lot of good ink in the broadsheets, so we figured it's worth a try. Dolly-girl was worried--places called things like Beast tend to be a little heavy on the farm animals and a little light on the farm--but she's a game chiquita so she tossed her hat in the ring.

We met at our place and tossed down a couple of olive baths before dinner. Dolly-girl had a spritz. Gin, whether it comes from a bathtub or a bottle, isn't her cuppa. Being it was a nice night, we rode shank's mare and arrived with some cold cash ready for some hot food--Beast don't come cheap, follow?

Beast is one of those new-fangled joints that's supposed to be like an old-fangled joint, or maybe one of them Frenchie farm places, the kind where the hash slingers are in the room with you, or maybe you're eating in the kitchen. A couple a long tables and 20 chairs is all they got. The place makes a guy like me jittery--loud and dark, no juke box, but some one or thing calling the shots on the 45s--but I settled into a too-small chair as near to the back door as I could get, where I could keep an eye on the room and the street. I'd never hear someone behind me. No whadda-ya-wants--everybody gets the same eats, like being in the can, except the big guys can't take your grits.

The boss slinger, a chiquita with a reputation around Stumptown, was working at the counter, loading up the syracuse with the start-ups--somebody said they call it "plating"--and pouring soup into bowls. The sous slinger was on her left, and the Missys were moving around the room with the Bull Run and taking drink orders. We were already into it--Slim's got old habits and put the bottle in the sack on the table when we walked in. He eyeballed our Missy, a medium sized guy who seemed to know his way around a cork screw. He nodded and in a couple we had some skid row in our glasses. Turns out we ordered a bottle from Missy later, frog-made that hit the spot.

The soup was great, a cabbage number, but I'll tell you, this cabbage didn't come out of a kraut can. A little goose liver had fallen into it and Missy said there were some shreds of truffle, but it that didn't taste anything like those chocolates I picked up for Dolly-girl when she had her shorts in a knot that time, remember? Nah, it was Oregon white truffle, Tuber gibbosum or it might have been oregonense, I didn't get a look at the peridium. Most people don't know I used to teach mycology--another life, another story-- but I keep tabs on my old friends in the business, they just published a book...

Next out was some little snacks, arranged around like a clock. They had lots of names, which I can't remember 'cause my French ends at "soup on the side". There was some salami, a cracker with some chopped chicken liver on it, a little piece of toast with meat and a bird's egg, both raw, some pork meatloaf, and a thing that looked like candy, but was more goose liver. There was some slaw in the alley, supposed to help you get from one taste to the next, Missy said. I worked my way from noon to midnight, and punched out--a regular sort of day.

Missy cleaned up our plates and brought out dinner, a slice of pork on some money with a little squash "tartlet". Now, I'll tell you, this slinger has got one different idea of what a tartlet is, with me on that? The squealer--came from a place called Tails and Trotters; cute--was tasty alright, sitting on some sauce made out of French's. Missy told us it was going to taste like hazel nuts (we call them filberts) 'cause before the everlasting, they rode their trotters into a hazelnut orchard and chowed down. Have to say, I didn't taste their Last Supper, so I'm guessing they were trying to take it on the lam and beat the scalding pot.

The cowfeed was next, a good pile of it too. Came from someplace down in the valley that Tootsie and Slim knew of and they gave it the he's-ok so we chewed it down. Usually I like my Kraft in the alley, but the slinger had already put in on the bale and she was giving the stinkeye to anyone who wanted anything different. I shut up and chewed.

While we were eating I saw the slinger cutting up some wax and figured she must have been getting ready to burn a couple high and dry for the staff--they were working pretty hard. But instead, Missy brought us a plate with a couple kinds of wax, a couple nuts, and some little cookie kinda things. I shot Dolly-girl a glance that said, this ain't the sorta joint that we walk into. It's not that we don't take in some good spots--me and her's been all over Stumptown and eaten in all the big names. And once we took a trip, nevermind.

A slice of cake with some whipped cream topped it off. While the cake was on the table, the slinger pulled out an envelope and started doing the payroll. You see it all when you eat in the kitchen. The Missys were gathered around, getting their cut for the week while we polished of the twinkie. We dropped a c-note and a half for our share and headed out the door. Slim and Tootsie, Dolly-girl and me, all thinking, yeah, it was OK, we had some laughs, but what's the fuss. A few snow flakes fell as we pulled up our collars and headed for home, leaving the Beast behind.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Saturday Nootime in Portland: Lunch at the Cup and Saucer

Right around when the noon whistle went off, Dolly-girl and me perambulated over to one of her spots, a not-a-greasy spoon half-diner over on Killingsworth at 30th, what people in the heights of Stumptown call Gourmet Gulch, but what people on our side of the river call home. It doesn't make it as a greasy spoon 'cause they spend a little too much time cooking for the grazers and wax snappers, and it's not a diner, 'cause it's only open when trouble's asleep--know what I mean--8 in the morning 'til an hour before cocktails.

We weren't the only ones who had a taste for the breakfast scrambles and blue plates; I could see that by the line out the door when we walked up. I backed up against the wall under the sign and scanned the scene while Dolly-girl went in to talk to her Missy friend and see how long we'd be looking at the walls. Not long it turned out as a bunch of the egg and bacon crowd were on the south end of java and heading out to wherever Saturday was going to take them. Ten minutes under the sign did it and we slid into a table in the upper room.

The place was filled with mostly 20 and 30-somethings. What is it with knit caps with ears? Dolly-girl spied some strange ones, commented on the size and number of piercings, and joked about maybe she'd ought to have one of those hats. But I knew she was pulling my leg, 'cause she likes that wave in the eye look too much, know what I mean? Being that I like to use a Kodak, I noticed that there were some "interesting" pictures on the walls, snaps of far away places, but mostly the Brownie sort of shots, including some snapshots taped to the wall. Just scenery so I figured the clicker to be some sort of play-boy rather than a gum-shoe on a case. A few were in cheap frames, for sale. $20. Note to self, if the trouble business goes south, there may be some options, you with me...

Missy brought the whadda-ya-wants and a couple Bull Runs. "Java?" I shook my head, but Dolly-girl ordered a blonde. It came in a mug with a spoon--nice touch--but I noticed, and looked around to be sure, that there wasn't a saucer in sight. "What's with the name?" I asked Dolly-girl, "Why not Mug and Spoon?" She eyed me over the blonde and through the wave and shook her head. She tells me I need to suspend reality, but hey, reality is what I do.

"What'll it be, Dolly-girl?" So it is on her trapline. "Give me the garden on the sheaves and toast it. Make sure there's a slice of California green on there. Sweet potato fries in the alley" "Yours?" "Melt a Charlie on whiskey with wax, and throw some cowfeed and a love apple on it. And I'll take the potage sur la côté." "You got it, Frenchie." Missy headed for the kitchen.

Things were hoppin' back there and the hash slingers were extra busy keeping the granola orders separate from the real food. Have to say that tofu never seemed like real breakfast eats to me--I mean it doesn't come in shells, you don't peel it, and after you cook it, it's less slippery than when you started. Yeah, I eat the stuff when Dolly-girl gets on one of her far eastern healthy kicks, but really? For breakfast?

Missy brought the plates, asked if there'd be anything else, and before we answered, dropped the check and walked away. She knew Dolly-girl and so she knew there was never anything else--we had what we'd come for. The Charlie was tasty, much better than a run-of-the-mill radio, with some chopped stalk, breath, and just enough of the Dijon spicy. The wax was sharp and the rye was toasted crisp, just right. The cowfeed was added by Missy I'm guessing as it was fresh and cool while everything else was piping. The potage poulet à la bébé was great in the alley--full of clucker and rabbit food in a thick cream. Dolly-girl was looking at a regular trip through the farmer's market on wheat over on her side of the table. I knew from her look that it was hitting the spot, with those sweet potato fries punching extra hard.

Dolly-girl stirred her blonde, drank it down, and tossed her napkin on the plate. "Told you it was A-list" she purred. I can't disagree with that. A Jackson got us outta there with a smile on Missy's face. Outside a few flakes were coming down. I pulled Dolly-girl close, tugged the brim of my fedora, and pushed the door open. The bell on the door tinkled twice as we crossed the street and headed home. It won't be the last time I hear that bell.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration 2008: The Lincoln Memorial Concert

I'm just back from the concert at Lincoln Memorial to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. Yes, I know, I didn't tell you I was going. Frankly, I was surprised myself, but I'm sure glad I did it. It was exhilarating, even though it was really cold there. The crowd was huge. I'm really glad I had my super long lens with me or I never would have gotten these shots.

The show opened with The Boss doing The Rising, joined by a choir. It was great. I've always loved that song and it was surely a good way to start off the concert. He was dressed for the occasion in what looked to be like fairly new black jeans and a pretty new leather coat. I was disappointed that Little Steve wasn't with him. Of course, he may still be recovering from the wounds he suffered as Silvio Dante.

There have been a lot of parallels drawn between Barack and other presidents, particularly Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. Of course, I wasn't alive when Roosevelt was inaugurated, but today's concert took me back to JFK's ceremony where I, like everyone else was stirred by his call to service. I snapped this picture from a very good vantage point at that speech. President-elect Obama warmed up to that today and will likely issue a Kennedy-like call with Roosevelt-like challenges. I'm anxiously awaiting his speech, even though I won't be able to attend it personally.

One of the high points today for me personally was when our own Sheryl Crow was able to play for the President- and Vice-President-elect and their families. For those of you who are loyal readers of the page, you will remember that Nancy and I were central to the rescue and recovery of Sheryl this summer after she flew into one of our windows. She seems to have recovered and, I am happy to say, after her last molt, she's looking a lot better than when she was perched in our bushes.

Another highlight was to see those Obama girls--are they cute or what? I'll bet it will be hard for them to go to school on Wednesday. "Hey, what did you guys do over the weekend?"

Bono and U2 gave a really nice performance and reminded us that people around the world are watching this event. Then the President-elect addressed us and told us, basically, to take our expectations of him down a notch and up our expectations of ourselves several notches. It's an important time to be telling us the truth. Speaking of which, have you seen the snow storm of revisionist history coming out of the Bush administration lately?

The concert closed with Beyoncé Knowles singing a beautiful rendition of America the Beautiful and then she was joined by all the other performers.

So, I've finally warmed up, I've flown back to Oregon, and I've written this blog. What? You're asking about the red border around some of the pictures? And maybe some of the strange colors and resolution? What, you don't think I was really in Our Nation's Capital for the concert? Well..., er..., gotta go...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Any Weekday Afternoon in Portland: Happy Hour at the Concordia Ale House

Dolly-girl and me like to slip into the Concordia Ale House for a brew and something to hold us over. The Ale House is a local that draws our part of Stumptown. It's a joint with a few regulars shooting pool, another handful waiting for the numbers to come up, and a couple railbirds I know reading the racing form, following the action at Portland Meadows. One game or another is on, and a barfly or two are listening while playing cards or shooting 6-5-4. They don't spend much on edisons in the place, know what I mean?

We settle in at our usual table, about halfway to the door with a clear view of the front door and into the poolroom, out the back way. Force of habit I guess--never much trouble in this hop joint. But, in our game, and when you get around like me and Dolly-girl do, it's always a Betty Grable to keep an eye out. You with me on that? Not much decor to get in your way, but we didn't come for the wall hangings, if you know what I mean.

The bar girl wandered by while Dolly-girl looked at the whadda-ya-want. I already knew what I was after--something hot and spicy and cold and bitter. "It's happy hour," she chirped, and Dolly-girl's baby-blues lifted off the menu. "What's good?" "You name it--sliders, mac and cheese (we knew she wasn't talkin' street trade), ORs, bowl o' red, tacos du mer--you name it. She pronounced "taco" like something you nail down carpet with and "mer" like what the Maji left by the manger. Whatever, she was making me reconsider my usual--a firehouse and the tap jockey's favorite IPA.

Dolly-girl went for the mac and cheese with ORs in the alley while the sliders spoke to me. It takes something to get me to pass on the firehouse--bacon, cheese, hot peppers, hot BBQ sauce, and a burger on an OR--but it was afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Just something to hold us until Dolly-girl whipped up a dinner at home that she'd been planning since The Ball dropped.

"What to drink, honey?" Missy shifted her weight from one hip to the other. She didn't write anything down, so the right hip must be food and the left one drink. Dolly-girl wasn't getting a baby in this joint, that's for sure. She started looking at the list--maybe a hundred and a half brews in the Coldspot and a couple dozen handles behind the bar. "Him first." I eyeballed the tap list and settled on the Hub IPA. "Pint?" "Is there any other way?" "Ready?" "No, yes, um, no, TG golden." Her regular. Missy headed for the kitchen, back behind the bar. "Gild one and a pint from the heart of Mumbai..." "Gotcha." Missy never had called it Bombay.

Dolly-girl was perusing the local broadsheet and I was looking at my nails, sipping at the brew, and thinking about the job I had coming up. It was a top-to-bottom on an old man--complete run-down, who, what where, when, and why. It wasn't going to be fun, and it meant I had to spend a couple days away from Dolly-girl--never like that--over in Hood River. The food arrived and I forgot what's-his-name.

The sliders were maybe half the size of a burger each, grilled just right with roses pinned on, and some wax running down the sides. All that's missing is the hot stuff, but the red and green avery islands heated them up good enough. Dolly-girl tasted the mac and cheese and got a smile on her kisser. "Hmmm, that's the ticket. Real good." She doesn't say much about food--it's all in her manner. She shook her head, ran her fingers through her lid, and took a sip of the golden. "OK, I'm good."

We finished the eats, downed the suds, thought about a refill, but passed. Missy dropped off the tab. Three Lincolns and a deuce covered the check with plenty left for Missy's apron. We headed out the front and turned west towards home on shank's mare to settle the bill-o-fare and enjoy the afternoon. When you need to hit that sorta spot, you can't beat the Alehouse.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Drizzly Afternoon in Portland: Just Hanging Around

I went out for a walk at noontime today and came across this scene of modern window washing. Remember the good old days when a scaffold was suspended from the building and a couple guys climbed on board, lowered themselves from top to bottom, and washed the windows on the way down? Today it's like a window-washing Delta Force! A squad of washers, rappelling down the building, weapons of buckets and squeegees hanging from their belts...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Rainy, Windy, Gloomy New Year's Day in Portland: Lunch at the Nite Hawk

The New Year dawned, gray, gloomy, and wet in Stumptown. Dolly-girl put the percolator on the stove while I poured us a couple eye-openers to get past the day-after-the-night-before, know what I mean? Another year, shot to hell. I cataloged the Coldspot, but nothing appealed. We headed out in the beater, looking for an open restaurant.

Dolly-girl has been angling for a trip to the Nite Hawk ever since we moved to Stumptown, over a year ago. It's the kind of place that time doesn't count; it just sorta slides from one day to the next. Changes of season are marked by the decorations on the booths and the jackets the clientele wear on their backs.

The place wasn't three-quarters full, and quiet. Spoons stirred blondes with sand in Syracuse China mugs. We took a booth by the front window where I could keep an eye on the interurban platform and tracks outside. This part of town never sleeps and the neighborhood punks got a way of finding trouble in an empty room. Sure, it's a holiday, but that don't mean much up this way--someone's aching to be Booking #1 down at the Police Bureau.

The whadda-ya-want said "Serving Unique Individuals Since 1931" so Dolly-girl and me was in the right place. But the URL on the menu cover sorta took the shine off the feel of the joint. That and the composite countertop that held up the elbows of 4 or 5 diners that looked like they felt like we felt before the eye-openers, know what I mean? Formica with a metal edge would have been a better match to the Naugahyde seats and stools.

The card is just what you'd expect in a hash house like the Nite Hawk. Breakfast served anytime, lunch and dinner start at 11, beer and booze in the back, through the door to the lounge. You could see down the counter through a window in a mirrored wall into the kitchen. The cook was all business and looked like he knew how to make the special--chile verde, rice, beans, and a tamale. Dolly-girl wasn't having it though--she's a BLT with cole slaw in the alley chiquita in a joint like this one. Oh, and a glass of milk. I settled on the meatloaf, mashed, veg of the day, and cow feed with thousand on the side. I was tempted by the joe, the real stuff here, not that designer java they serve all over this city. But I'd had my fill off the stove top at home.

The interurban slipped by in the mist and bad 70s music played in the background, coming from a speaker by the Keno screen. The Hawk is missing a juke box. I fought back the urge to play a couple 6 spots. I was feeling something, but it wasn't luck. Maybe I needed a shot out of the blue bottle. I heard "Missy, order up" and the soup jockey brought the food, and Dolly-girl's baby. I don't know how she drinks that stuff.

Dolly-girl pushed a wave of hair out of her face and tried the slaw. "Some of the best in Stumptown. Tastes like Dot's." Dot's her mother. The BLT was good looking and the way it went down it must of hit some spot. The loaf was dense and sliced thin-a little too thin for my taste. The what's-up-docs were done just right and beat the hell out of the canned Frenchmen I expected. The spuds were whipped, not mashed--I'm thinking the Murphies came out of a box. But the gravy was thick and salty and made up for what could only be called an average plate of comfort food. Texas toast took the place of the menu-promised dinner roll. It survived the meal.

We pushed the plates back and I reached for my Luckies. Damn, I'll never get past that feeling. Missy brought the check and out of habit asked if we wanted pie. She'd seen what we'd left and knew we'd had what we'd come for. I dropped a Jackson on the table and tossed down a couple extra for a Happy New Year. I slipped Dolly-girl into her coat, pulled my collar up and my hat down, and we stepped out into the wind and rain, headed back home to listen to Bob Dylan on the radio. You might run into Bob at a place like the Nite Hawk...