Friday, August 21, 2009

North of the Border II

I drove over a river today and stopped to look at the stream below. Thousands of pink salmon (also called humpies) have made their way back to spawn after a two-year stint in the ocean. I suspect it won't take the bears long to find this "all you can eat buffet..."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

North of The Border

From time to time the blower sparks and Thelma tells me "They're callin' from [exhale] North of The [exhale] Border. Thelma keeps up with her nails at work. I don't mind as it makes a good impression on the clients, and frankly, there aren't so many of them--clients or nails--that doing nails at work makes a difference. Plus it keeps her from asking me what she's supposed to be doing to help me which I don't need any of most of the time anyway. I took the call.

The upshot was that there were people who needed talking with up north of where most Maple Leafs set their brakes. I'd been there before and I was game for a do-again, so I told them yes and had Thelma book me the Clipper north, change in Gastown, and then on to the end of the road. Keep in mind here that the Clipper isn't the sort of Clipper me and Dolly-girl are used to when we go to Venezia to visit la familia D'Mestiere. This is the sorta cruise line that serves something in a little bag that looks like salty snacks but are sour as hell. They call them Rocket Chips. They weren't chips and we weren't on no kind of rocket.

There's two things I look for soon as I set foot on terra frosta up north of the US of A. Coffee Crisp, the world's best candy bar, and poutine. I pronounce it just the way the Newshawk told me--poo-tin--and that gets me some good looks from the locals. Newshawk says the people who call it poo-teen call Celine Dion Se-lean instead of Se-linn. I take him at his word.

There's starting to be some places to get poutine in Stumptown, but as I told you a while ago, goats don't have any business around a poutine, at least to my way of thinking and I'm pretty sure Newshawk's with me there. Rouge, I'm not so sure about. She and Dolly-girl got some strange taste buds I'm here to tell you.

I scouted out the joints in the aerodrome and only one was slinging poutine--A&W. Now I hate to buy from a fast-food chain as much as anyone, but what's so slow-food about poutine? You got your murphy nails taking a bath, your chunks of wax, and your Mike and Ike. I told the Missy, "Dish me up one and make it quick." She looked shocked because they aren't used to being snapped at up North of The Border. I could hear and see Dolly-girl; I relaxed.

There's a few other things you gotta like. Jus de Tomate. South of the Border, ours isn't nothing like it --Canada Fancy. While I'm at it, you gotta like two languages. It's a lot easier to pass the time on a Clipper when you got a bilingual tomato juice can. Particularly when Canada Fancy translates to Canada de Fantaisie. I'm pretty sure that Jus de Tomate ain't no fantasie of Dolly-girl's!

And you gotta like Tim Horton's. Tim's is invading the USof A in case you hadn't noticed. I was disappointed that Tim didn't offer poutine, but then poutine on top of everything else he offers might just cause an acute clog of an artery or two."Give me a box of Timbits and a... CODE BLUE!' Dixie'd be all over that one...

You gotta love a country that names towns names like Sandspit. And Germans love to come fishing so the flight postings have German too.

You gotta love a country that provides health care for all its people.

I was pondering all this while wondering how fast propellers go on a clipper like this one. I figured 1250 RPM once using a different camera. This little movie camera can't freeze them.

Well, enough reflecting. The Clipper circled over Kitimat and headed into Terrace for a smooth touch down. I could still taste the poutine and Coffee Crisp and the Jus de Tomate, and, unfortunately, the Rocket Chips, but it was time to get to what I came up here to get to.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Beautiful Evening in Portland: Happy Feet on Rainbow Lane

"Jack, Lili's on the blower. Wants to know if me, Kitty, and you can meet up with her and Mittsy tonite. There's people need talking with over off The Beach at Rainbow Lane. Kitty already gave it the up and down." The Beach is a main drag in Stumptown and one of the few on our side of the river that runs at an angle. Lots of action on The Beach and apparently some of it was going to spill onto Rainbow Lane. "Count me in, if trouble's on his way, Mittsy and Lili can use the help."

Lili Barbarula and Mittsy LaCroix were friends from back before me and Dolly-girl set our brake west of Big Muddy. Fact is, me and Dolly-girl saw the first time Lili and Mittsy locked lips. It was after what some would say was too much skidrow one time when Dolly-girl was saying hello to a new decade. Others would say that it was just the right amount of rosso, if you're with me. Anyway, Mittsy's called that from back when he was tending goal for the Les Maringouin des Chicoutimi, a junior hockey team up on the Saguenay. His mitt was so fast that mostly he hardly had to use his stick or blocker.

Lili's a people-sort-a-person who kept folks in line for a drug crowd back east. She left that behind like a bald tire in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, pulled Mittsy out of the penalty box in the Greek part of Gooberland, and did a Horace Greeley. Now they live down The Valley where Mittsy uses the web instead of a mitt and Lili's doing time with the State in Capital City. Lili's sister lives on Rainbow Lane and they were some of the who that needed talking with.

I tucked my heater in my belt while Dolly-girl picked up an applesauce cake and Kitty grabbed a cooler full of cold ones. "Hey, this ain't no picnic at The Beach," I told them. That got me a look through the wave and a "That's exactly what it is, Jack, a picnic. A block party. Food, music, fun. Leave Messrs. S&W home, will ya?" Well, you can imagine I felt 2 inches tall. Here I thought there was some sort of caper afoot but instead, there's just some foot-longs and some capers in a dip. I got to quit taking Stumptown so serious.

We arrived and right away, things were looking up. Turns out, Rainbow Lane is about in the backyard of a place where they brew some pretty good brew and someone had rolled a barrel of Hop Monkey down the street and it was cold.

OK, so The Beach doesn't have to be all business. There was plenty of food around which helped me get past that all-business-in-Stumptown sort of attitude. Plus there were kids, dogs, Tiki torches, and music. I decided to let sleeping dogs lie, got a plate, had a couple of brews, and talked with Dolly-girl, Kitty, Mittsy, and Lili.

The band, called the Slimjims were jammin' up a storm and they were easy on the ears. The pedal steel man knew his way around all sorts of guitars, the lead was singing songs we hadn't heard sung (some for good reason) since back before Stumptown was where we were setting the brake, and they had a chiquita banana on fiddle that was playing everybody's tune. Wasn't long between the Hop Monkey and the steel, and the fiddle, before there were happy feet on Rainbow Lane.

The band kept playing, the blue lights came on, and Kitty was cutting the rug on the street as you can see just to the left.

Me and Dolly-girl swung each other around a bit like Lawrence Welk and little Janet Lennon, and Dolly-girl was working up to a polka, but mostly we tapped our toes, sang along, and watched the Happy Feet on Rainbow Lane!

When the night was done and Kitty and Dolly-girl and me packed into the roadster to head back to our part of Stumptown, we agreed it had been a keen time!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: Stopping for a Burger at the Stop and Go Burger

Dolly-girl was at the jawbones dealing with, as she calls it, dental destiny, so me and Books decided to talk with some people around town that needed talking with. It was just about an hour after the Stumptown noon whistle blew, so it was a good time to stop by the Stop & Go Burger go for a little fill-me-up. Books passed.

Stop & Go is a joint on our side of the river, but a ways from where me and Dolly-girl set the brake. The hashslinger/Missy was in the little silver shed that Stop & Go calls everything-we-got, which isn't quite true since they have a covered area with a few tables where we could enjoy the summer day, watch Stumptown motor by, and eat a Prince burger. Yep, the whaddaya-want was a royal offering, starting with Prince, then Queen, ...OK, I'm guessing you follow.

I settled on the Prince with yellow paint and a hemorrhage, pucker-ups, wax, and a rose pinned on. The sign said "Fresh Grilled" and the joint lived up to the billing. Me and Books rested our tails while hash/Missy burned one. She yelled out, "Yours is up, Jack", which I could guess since, being 45 minutes past the second whistle, nobody else was around. I work what you call a flexible schedule, follow? Anyway, Harry of Wales arrived in a little paper sack, on a piece of brown paper, on a plastic tray. Cute, Dolly-girl and Kitty would be giving the Stop & Go a D minus in the Save-the-Earth column. Especially after they saw that on top of the paper and inside the sack, the Prince was in a little paper cup thing...

The Prince looked like advertised and I dug in. Books looked over and gave me the whaddaya-think? "As good as one of those fast-food places for twice the price," is what I thought. But then it wasn't that fast, which isn't all bad, and I'm thinking the stockholders were doing the grilling. With me? Stop & Go won't stop you in your tracks, but I'd give it a go.

Oh, you won't find's not that upscale a joint.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Cloudy August Afternoon in Portland: A Visit to Powell's City of Books, Jake's Happy Hour, and Bailey's Taproom

The Clipper touched down at Stumptown Field right on time. I heard the announcement, "Now arriving, Clipper 461 from Detroit, Milwaukee, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Rapid City, and Boise." I stood on my toes to look over the crowd and saw Books as he stepped off the aeroplane. Books, or Libretto D'Mestiere, was here to visit us and we'd been looking forward to it. Dolly-girl named him Libretto because she said he was like a book of lyrics, but "Books" was more to his liking and was a pretty accurate description of his favorite activity, not to mention the way he earned a buck--balancing and making, and not necessarily in that order, if you get me. We shook hands, hugged, and he said, "How soon can we set the brake at Powells?" There was no getting around the fact that me and Dolly-girl weren't the only draw in Stumptown--there was The City of Books, too.

"Soon as you want to," came out of my mouth which brought a "Well, how about now?" "On it. Let's pick up Dolly-girl." We did and a few minutes later we were on the other side of the river at a place Dolly-girl calls a second home. Books and Dolly-girl disappeared inside while I kept my eye out for you-know-who. This is a part of Stumptown where the bad and the good share one thing, a love of books, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Trouble Brothers drop their attitudes at the door. I took up a spot on the corner and did my civic duty, the sorta Neighborhood Watch a neighborhood like this one needs but doesn't get often enough. After all, some of the business may be dull*, but the sun doesn't set on shenanigans in this part of town.

* It's true, an architecture firm named Dull Olson Weekes Architects. Wouldn't you change your name if it were Dull, particularly if you were an architect?

A couple hours later, after Ambassador Franklin and General Grant shook hands with a cashier in the City of Books, Books and Dolly-girl found me at my lamppost. "Lookin' for your keys, Jack?" "You know what I'm up to Dolly-girl and one of these days you'll be the better for it, too." She liked to kid me about how serious I took serious business, especially when business was serious. I knew she was kidding, but every once-in-a-while it put a burr under my saddle, follow? Anyhow, I knew they'd by ready to put on the feedbag after all that perusing.

"Jake's?" Dolly-girl pushed the wave back and smiled. "It's ringing my bell, how about you Books?" "Never been there, willing to try." We got on shank's mare and headed over there. It wasn't far. Jake's is a serious seafood joint and a fixture around Stumptown. It was Happy Hour, which in Stumptown means regular prices on the whaddaya-drinkin' and almost free on the whaddaya-want. That was hitting our spot.

We walked in. The place was crowded even though it was only the middle of the afternoon. Jake's is a place business--and some of it shady--gets done; you could tell that from the pictures hanging on the wall. The missys were dressed in white jackets or black skirts depending, follow? They were buzzing around the place like yellow jackets on fresh grilled albacore. Our Missy brought us the whaddaya-wants, Bull Run all around, and an attitude. "Ready to roll? Remember, the plates are big." We were. We didn't.

Books was ready for a cold one, "Float me an amber down Gastineau Channel." "North to it." "The heavy one that's been to the Sub-continent and back for me." "Terminal Gravity IPA, it's yours. You, miss?" "Czech it, something local, bring me the HUB lager." "Czech? Check." Missy knew her game.

We gave the whaddaya-want the twice over. There's always a temptation to order like it's going to be some nibble in a cup like they pass out at the A&P on Saturday. Mark us tempted and tried.

Missy was back with the brew. "What'll it be for youse?" "Give us a couple orders of flattened left hook, some rings of the deep, an order of the southern murphies, and a couple seaweed wraps and dunk em'. Oh, throw in the dirty dishes, too." Missy rolled her eyes and puffed out her cheeks, doing an imitation of us by the time the big had was on the six. We settled it and nursed the pints.

Missy and a helper showed up with the food. "Must be some mistake--we ordered Happy Hour feedbags." Missy rolled her eyes. "Salmon cakes, calamari, sweet potato fries, pot stickers, and the tempura sushi. Now, I told youse the plates were big--eat up and make me proud. Do it again on the malties?" "Sure, give me a Kolsch from over the hills. Books will have a Laurelhurst, and wash it out." "Right, a Double Mountain and a pale ale. Yours?" Dolly-girl gulped and passed.

She was back in a flash with the one-more-times while we did our best to get to the bottom of the feed bags. We almost made it but ended up giving the rest of the rings of the deep to Birthday Girl and a pal-o-mine of hers at the next table. "We just hang around here, nurse a beer, and wait for people to leave--there's always oats in the bottom of the bag..." "Check. Happy day."

We rolled out the door and onto the street. Funny how when you stand up, two things happen. Feed settles and good ideas rise right to the top. "How about we finish this festa off with a trip to Baileys?" "Gads, Jack. You can't be serious. How can you possibly think about heading over there after this?" A look through the wave told me I was going to have to do some convincing on this one. "Yeah, Dolly-girl, but Books hasn't been there and they don't have places like Bailey's back where he sets his brake and who knows if we'll get back to this side of the river and, and.." Another shot through the wave and I knew I had her. "It'll be exercise. OK." We headed over. It wasn't far. The taproom was hoppin' what with it being Friday afternoon. A lot of people who started the week asleep were waking up now and giving themselves a pat on the back for making it through another one. We slid in and joined them. Missy poured us a taster of Captured by Porches Invasive Species, Lucky Lab Superdog, Fanno Creek IPA, Ninkasi Sleigh'r, and cask-conditioned Lagunitus Dogtown Pale.

Dolly-girl was right. We drank them down and waddled on back to our side of Stumptown. A grand day out!