Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Monday Evening in The Valley: Drinks and Eats at 101

I had to go down The Valley this week to talk with some people that needed talking with. I asked Dolly-girl, "Want to go?" She looked at me through the wave--she was doing her nails and looking over her glasses to see them. She purred and pushed her specs up onto her head. "Yeah, sure. I got some people down there I need to talk with. Some old friends, some new ones. You figure it out." I didn't need to figure it out. Dolly-girl has friends all over and I knew who she'd be looking up.

I went to the kitchen to check dinner on the Tappan and to put more brown whiskey in a glass that was only ice. I heard her on the blower. "I'll be there Monday. Early. 101? OK. Yep. [click]" Somehow I knew it was Dixie on the other end of the line. "Dixie and Slider, 101, early." "I heard."

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.

Anyway, they gave the up-and-down to a joint we'd been to once before and one they'd seen the inside and out of more than a time or two. It was OK by me. The place was known to know what to do with bathwater and olives and rumor had it they only used a bottle of wet a year--arid, I call it. Maybe sere.

We slid into a booth and before Missy came by with the whadda-yas, Slider and Dixie came through the door. Took me by surprise as I hadn't checked the place over yet. Hard to see out the windows and Dolly-girl had something against the corner booth. "Its the Valley, for chrissakes, relax." OK, so I like to see trouble where it isn't, but hey, what would I do if I didn't?"

Missy shifted her weight left. "Drinks? Ladies?" Dixie knew what was whistling her tune, "Manhattan. Cherry. Quick." Dolly-girl was studying the whaddya-drinking like the Rosetta Stone--she's not much for the hard stuff, but seemed to be in the mood. "Matador if the limes are fresh." "They are." "Matador." "Gotcha. Gents?" "Dunk a couple in Bend and don't rain on the parade." "Make that two, but stuff mine." "Cheese?" "Gnarly."

Missy knew how to put a smile on our faces and she was back pronto with exactly what we'd ordered. We clinked our glasses, said Salute! and got down to business. "Want some hash slung your way?" Dolly-girl swooned, like I said, she's not much for the hard stuff. "You betcha. Bring us some of them pomme frites. You know the ones you make all crusty with 27s and that shaved wax?" "On it." "Oh, and we'll want more..." How about that, Missy knew that Herb S wore #27. Maybe she's a Tribe fan.

We looked at the whadda-ya-wants while Missy went off to get the kick-us-offs. She was back double-quick and we gave her our gimmes. "I'm a southern gal, bring me that south-of-the-border special." "Check." Dolly-girl was eying the Kraft 'n Wax--you can get in trouble asking for Mac and Cheese, even in The Valley. Slider and I were on the same wavelength tonight. "Burger, pure and simple." "OK, folks. You guys are putting me on EZ street." "Oh, and bring us another go-around on these bathing beauties." "Right, another trip around the Desert Breeze."

The do-it-agains were back quick and the eats weren't far behind. The gin slinger knew his business as you can see by what came out of the Kodak.

The Kraft was what Dolly-girl was hoping for. Thick and rich and good enough to get a sweep of the wave off her eye. "If they'd had this when we lived here we might still live here." I knew Dolly-girl was kidding--it was more than a hot dish that moved her to Stumptown. Still, I knew what she meant.

I didn't see any grits or syrup on Dixie's plate, but she was in the Land of Cotton by the look on her face. "Beat's the hell out of the Treadmill Tango. Must have some 'gator meat in there!" Slider and I clinked burgers and chowed on down. As far as we were concerned that steer didn't die in vain.

We pushed our plates back when there was nothing left. Missy came by with the tempt-us and we settled on some sort of fruit and cream and whatever, and a couple of night caps to share. A great end to a great night in The Valley. We said our see-ya-soons and slipped out into the night. Slider pulled Dixie close like they were going to shoot the curl on a single stick, and headed west as Dolly-girl and me hooked our paws and headed for the river. Next time it would be in Stumptown, on us.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Showery Midday in Portland: Passing By the Franz Bakery

"They say bread is life. And I bake bread, bread, bread. And I sweat and shovel this stinkin' dough in and out of this hot hole in the wall, and I should be so happy! Huh, sweetie?" Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck

Nancy and I stumbled on the Franz Bakery today. It's been in business since 1906. In fact, it's the largest family-owned bakery in the United States of America! They have a number of bakeries, but this is the original location and some buildings date from 1912. They seem quite proud of their history and the window on the corner of the building features some historical photos. Signs in the windows on NE 12th feature interesting facts like the one shown on the sign to the left.

The rotating sign drew our attention to the bakery. I stopped to take a photo which turned into our adventure for the day.

Little did I know that the sign rotated 2,628,000 times per year. That's 5 RPM, Twenty-four/seven. We saw breads moving in the window so decided to have a looksee.

Sure enough, the mouth of the 100 foot long oven was disgorging anywhere from 4 or 5 pans of, shall we say, non-artisan bread to maybe 15 or so every 15 or 20 seconds. It looked like it must have been going flat out making some sort of white loaf, but not a standard sandwich loaf. Maybe a deli white. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the Deli Sourdough French Loaf.

We followed the parade of bread as best we could. Through the window you could see a few bakers--I think they are called bakers--a couple slicing machines where the loaves were backed up awaiting their fate like steers at a cattle chute, and a conveyor of dough in pans headed for the oven. Unfortunately, the windows had a reflective layer that my eyes could pierce, but my camera couldn't.

We stopped by the factory outlet where outstanding deals were offered on various Franz products if you were in the market for Franz products. The shopkeeper asked why I was taking pictures and said "You're not from Oroweat, are you?" I assured her that I wasn't and that I just liked to take pictures of common things and write little stories about them. She seemed fine with that. By the way, did you know Oroweat is owned by Bimbo Bakeries? I'm not kidding.

We bought some rolls for sausages and some cookies--yes, they bake them too, although not at this bakery.

So, next time you see a trademark bright yellow Franz triple-trailer truck, think about the family-owned bakery at NE 11th and Flanders, right here in Stumptown, and all the delicious, non-artisan bread, hamburger buns, and chocolate mini doughnuts that are crammed in there, making their way to your table. Or not.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Beautiful Spring Sunday Morning in Portland: Breakfast at Rumpspanker's

Heater, blower, clock. In order, what I saw when dawn cracked. It's what I see every morning. Dolly-girl stretched. "Sun." She got out of bed and headed for the Tappan. I heard the burner go on, the percolator start, and the door of the Frigidaire open, then close. Blond for the joe. Dolly-girl's got to have it. Says she doesn't, but she does. I heard the joe gurgle done, got up, grabbed a mug, and picked up the Rex Parker. It took about 15 minutes, easy for a Friday grid.

Dolly-girl came in from outside. "Nice morning for a stroll. Let's put on the feedbag over in the Woodlawn Triangle." I was amenable. There's a joint over there, below the Village Ballroom, that she and me go in now and then. We call Woodlawn home--picked it because the Woodlawn Pears play there. They're a team we follow, follow? I grabbed my usuals--blower, heater, Luckies--and off we went. We walked by Kitty's. "Hen fruit?" "Already ate." "Joe?" "Nah." Kitty had plans.

The Woodlawn Triangle and Ladd's Addtition are about the only parts of Stumptown that aren't on the straight and narrow, plat-wise. Woodlawn's seen good and it's seen rough and it's seeing good and rough right now.

The spot we were headed to was clearly marked. It's a feed-a-torium you've read about before. Dolly-girl wrote about it once, it fact, the first time Dolly-girl stepped into these pages was when she wrote about another time we came here. With Kitty turns out.

It's called Rumpspankers, probably for a whole lot of reasons if you are of a mind to believe what you might read in the broadsheets or hear on the street about what might or might not happen up in the dance hall upstairs. Me and Dolly-girl got no opinion one way or another on that.

We walked in. I eyed the layout, saw that maybe there might be something a little true about the whole dance hall thing. Missy said sit anywhere. We did. Dolly-girl picked a table by the wall where I could turn sideways and see the whole place plus the door. Dolly-girl knows what I'm looking for when it comes to keeping an eye on Stumptown, even on Sunday morning. A group sat in the window, and a librarian and a chiquita that Dolly-girl knows were sitting at the bar doing a Rex Parker, dictionary open next to them. I made a note of that. A couple ought to be able to make quick work of a Rex with a book like that.

Dolly-girl picked up a whadda-ya-want and gave it the once over. "Late enough for lunch." Dolly-girl's favorite feedbag is a lunch box. Missy brought Bull Run. "Joe?" "Had enough." "Squeeze some for youse?" "Bull Run will do it." "What's yours?" "Give me the Eh-Talian, all the cowfeed, crunch some Iowa yellow in the alley with south-of-the-border music." "It's yours. Pal?" "Wreck two, grind the hog, whiskey down." "On it."

I took a drink, swallowed, took another. Damn. It's water. The joint's got some strange stuff hanging around, like lights. Art, too, like a couple nice murals and some RCA Victors that've been painted on. Seems like it's OK to write on the walls too. I'm guessing it's the got-no-blower crowd leaving meet-mes for each other. Quaint.

Missy brought the feedbags and we tied them on. Dolly-girl slipped me a peek though the wave that let me know that the sandwich packed in her Dale Evans was just right. The south-of-the-border music was made right there and was tasty. Mine was just what you'd expect from an order that started "wreck two." It's what the doc had in mind for me today.

Missy was back to check on us. "Howzit?" "No spots left to hit." "Dolly-girl?" "Molto bene." Dolly-girl speaks what she eats. That's why she doesn't go for kielbasa but once a year. "You from outta-town?" "Nope, Woodlawn, why?" "Don't get many shutterbugs in here, that's all." "Hobby of mine."

I walked back to the bar to settle up. A George short of a Jackson did the trick and left a smile on Missy's face. It had the look of a slow day and he's got bills to cover just like Dolly-girl and me. The librarian asks me what's up with the Kodak. Missy breaks in, "I already drilled him. He's OK. From the neighborhood."

We slipped out the front door, still wondering about the Village Ballroom. We headed for home, along the angled streets, just soaking up the sun and passing the time, the way we do, talking about this or that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Beautiful Day in Our Nation's Capital II: Walking Around DC and Dinner With Molly

I spent a few hours walking around Our Nation's Capital today. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny, and lots of other people had the same idea. I started at the White House. It really is a beautiful place and it seemed to me it was more beautiful than I had ever seen it. It looked uplifted.

Next door is the Treasury Department. It didn't look so uplifted. I saw some sort of fatcats being escorted in the back door, no doubt to pick up their TARPs. Out in front I expected to see pails stacked up given all the bailing that's been going on. They must be using bilge pumps!

On the South Lawn of the White House I could see why the building looked so much better than I remember seeing it look in a long time. And you can see the garden from the fence. Lots of plants were waiting to be planted.

I walked by the Federal Reserve too. No buckets there either, but a couple guards chatting while they protected the economy.

I headed west on Constitution Ave., stopping at the National Academy of Sciences to say hi to Einstein, but a particularly ill-behaved class was there and their teacher was letting them climb all over the Caulder bronze. Then I saw the DC Duck tour bus/boat.

I went to the Lincoln Memorial to wish Abe a happy 200th birthday and then I stood in the EXACT spot where the Boss had stood during that concert I attended before the inauguration--remember my previous post from January 19?

I stopped by the Viet Nam memorial as I usually try to do and think about some friends who didn't make it back. Bill Wade, Mike Eckerfeld, Tom Scullen, and Vernon Green. RIP.

Later I met up with Molly and we went to dinner at Poste in the Hotel Monaco near where she works. It was good.

We took the Red Line Metro to Farragut North where I got off and she continued on to her stop at Van Ness.

Time to head home tomorrow.