Sunday, May 31, 2009

Starlight Parade

Just so you know, Portland gets a little crazy when the sun comes out and the town gets warm. And that craziness seemed to kick off tonight on account of the Starlight Parade. So I am far from an expert but the deal seems to be this: the Portland old schoolers go bonkers for the Rose Festival which is sort of like Gay Pride but it is for the whole state and you don't have to be gay. Viva La Oregon, etcetera. The Rose Parade is next week. Tonight was the prequel with the night parade of lit-up floats and marching bands, and corporate and philanthropic armadas and the high school girls who are vying to become the Rose Queen and have their name forever emblazoned on a brass plaque in the rose garden up in Washington Park. (As a side note, I remain disappointed that I cannot run for Rose Queen. Sort of took the fun out of moving to Portland for me. Apparently you have to be a high school student. Dang).

A whole lot of people lined the streets of downtown to watch the procession. My favorite floats were the Star Wars fans done up like storm troopers, the astronomy club that included an acappella choir that was singing about celestial bodies, and the letter carriers union who built a float out of tin cans in the shape of the St. John Bridge.

We watched the parade from Burnside and then hung out in a hotel bar that was full of people dressed like pirates (I guess there was a pirate float) and Rosarians in the lobby. Surreal.

Elliot Smith - Rose Parade (live)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Effortless Cool

Just east of the river and north of the fruit warehouses, about 100 people gathered last night in a parking lot for a little rock and roll. It was warm out and the air smelled like burnt oranges (because the Tazo tea factory is around the corner) and hotdogs (because somebody set up a grill). Out comes Calvin Johnson in a skin tight red polo shirt, writhing around with maracas and a melodica wedged into his pocket. The stage wasn't well lit and he was too punk rock for a microphone, so all the kids gathered in real close to hear him drone about Homer and what have you.

After that, Chain and the Gang started up. With the vibe of a tent revival preacher, the Sassiest Boy in America did his scream and croon and we were all hand claps and finger snaps. The opening band was also really great. Wallpaper. Heard of them? Me neither. Maybe they sound a little like The Sonics covering The Byrds while wearing thrift store clothes.

Chain and the Gang - Interview with Chain and the Gang

Chain and the Gang - Unpronouncable Name

Photo by Leuwam Tesfai.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

7 miles in, 7 miles out.

Here's one way to attack a case of jet lag. I have friends from Ohio visiting me this week and though I was mildly delirious for the first 36 hours after getting home from Europe, when they said, "Let's go hiking," I said "Sure." And they packed me into the car along with some peanut butter sandwiches and off we went to the Gorge.

We ended up down at Eagle Creek, which Scott had heard about in a guidebook I think. Very spectacular hike and it so happens that the NY Times just wrote about it. Oh, and Scott did not tell me that we could have been killed. I guess that is a good thing because it would probably have been less fun if I was thinking about falling to my doom the whole time. Instead, I practically ran up and down the trail (not sure what got into me) but I did take time to admire the wild flowers and the many waterfalls along the way, including Tunnel Falls which we walked RIGHT under. Neat.

Monday, May 25, 2009

23 Hrs in Amsterdam

I had never really wanted to go to Amsterdam. But it just so happens that it has a non-stop to Portland and my frequent flier mile reservation included a 23 hr layover. Not Enough Time. I had heard that Amsterdam was sort of a party town known for its sex and drug scene and that did not interest me, but no one told be it was also completely bad ass.

I showed up pretty much blind and completely unplanned. I stopped by the tourist info booth at the airport and got a fairly priced tiny room in the southern canal neighborhood that was walkable to everything. Got a guidebook. And hence my time there looked something like this:

-walked for blocks and blocks around the canals and houseboats and apartments.

-ate smoked mackerel on brown bread with dill sauce. (this sort of thing ranks high on my list of favorite kinds of things to eat).

-found Homomonument, a pink marble memorial to the not-so-nice things that happen to the lesbian and gay people around the world.

-noticed that the Dutch people sound like they are talking backwards but that is okay because they all speak English anyways.

-walked through red light district while the sun was still up and found it packed with roving groups of guys who seemed to be from the U.K.. It was like Bourbon Street with a lot of pot smell and ladies in windows.

-bought toothpaste in a grocery store.

-randomly met a couple from Texas who were also lawyers and we ended up going to a sharp looking wine bar in the Jordaan neighborhood together that featured throughly explained tasting flights and excellent conversation.

-got directions to a couple of women's bars which ended up being quite packed with tall, pretty girly, smartly attired Dutch ladies. Not that I really would notice such a thing.

-went to some photography galleries.

-walked by the Anne Frank museum.

-thought about Dutch bands I like:

Shocking Blue - Send Me a Postcard

Bettie Serveert - Lover I don't Have to Love (Bright Eyes cover)

-managed not to get in the way of any of the billion kabillion bicycles rolling around town.

-wanted to stay.

-slept 6 hrs, went to airport, flew 9 hrs back to Portland.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I´m going to have to tell you later. Having a too good a time to be in the internet cafe. Tomorrow, Amsterdam.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roman France

Yesterday, toured all over Chateaunuef du Pape, Gigondas and Cote du Rhone region on fun wine tour with a very knowledgable and gentlemany Dutch guy. Now I know lots about vines and soil and barrels and what have you. Met winemakers on their farms, found out what cuvee means.

Showed up in the city of Nîmes today, billed in their brochure as the only city in France whose name contains a circumflex accent. But that's not all! From what I gather, this city was serious Roman turf back in the day and where victorious legionaires would be given plots of land in their retirement. The Roman runis here are well-preserved and my no-star hotel room is adjacent to the big stone arena that was built by Augustus Ceasar and is used these days for bullfights and operas. Did you know they had bullfights in France? Me neither. But it is worse on the animal rights scale than betting on greyhounds while chewing on veal, so I'm not going. And it doesn't happen until July. But I digress.

So I spent the whole day searching out roman ruins like the Temple of Diana and such, walking through the ornately designed parks, drinking little coffees, watching old people play bolle. And since all this was done with an ipod set to T. Rex, so much the better. I'm also finishing a very long, out-of-print mannerist Hamilton Basso novel that I made a project of, and enjoying the incredible weather. This is a very beautiful city and there is less dog shit and pee smell than in Avignon. Fussy hygenic American traveller thumbs up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Today I am a very happy traveller. I woke up early and took a short train to Arles. The place where Van Gogh left his ear, the site of an old roman arena, and, AND the location of an huge street market. I visited the cheesemonger, who sold me tiny little goat cheeses that looked like gumdrops. Then I bought cherries, a batard, and a quarter of a chicken from a rotisserie place set up right on the street. I looked for the longest lines of French-speaking people and got in those lines. Then I found a shady place by the ruin of a roman theater and had a picnic.

And can I just say that there is something very precious about tiny children yelling stuff in French?

After I got back to Avignon, I got serious about being a tourist and went to see the Palace of the Popes. It seems that the Vatican was a sketchy place to be in the 1300s so one of the popes packed up a la Green Acres and moved the papacy to backwater Avignon. And 12 or 13 popes afterwards stayed there in France. So the palace is this unreal, gigantic, fortress like building and I got to stand in the spot overlooking a vast courtyard where all those popes were coronated. Really an amazing place, and since the weather has been so nice, I could see for miles out those high up windows.

I am having a very nice time here.

Friday, May 15, 2009


After clearing out of Italy yesterday, I made my way to Nice and had the most amazing lunch at an old diner sort of place. Chez Palmyre has been on Rue Droite since 1926 and from the look of it, the same lady has been cooking there the whole time. Sardine beignets! Now I am in the big gritty port city of Marseilles, staying at the apartment of a friend here on sabbatical. The place is ridiculously vast and old. It looks like the place in the Bertollini film Beautiful Ones where the kids try to break th record for running through the Louvre the fastest. I am ready to get back to the country this afternoon, heading up into Provence wine country. Au revoir.

Post script: The film is The Dreamers and it is by Bertolucci. Merde!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Okay so Iàm Italy, so far so good. I started out in Alba, which was way the heck out in the middle ofr nowhere, three trains to get there AND the sister city is Medford, Oregon. Yeah, okay, sister city, who cares. Alba cares! Deeply! In all seriousness, they renamed part of the town Medford. Alba does not look like Medford though. It looks like a red brick and tile duchy in the middle of vast acres of grapevines. I did enjoy the barbaresco and dolcetto d'alba. In fact, I probably had one of the best meals of my life there (fresh pasta w spring veg, rabbit, amazing dessert, all very affordable) at a place called Osteria Di Sognatori. WHOA. and then, this morning, it was on to the Cinque Terre. I'm staying in Vernazza (pictured above) which turns out is a pit of German tourists with Alpine walking sticks. But it was sort of cool to get off the train and talk to a guy named Egi (pronounced Edgy) who rented me a cheap room off the main street in town. I was checking in and paid for about 7 minutes after getting off the train in this tiny little town. I'm going hiking now and am going to try not to get clobbered by Alpine walking sticks.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Last Day of the Sky Car

This is the view from my office window. As you can imagine, it was more awesome before they started building next door. But I have to admit that it is entertaining watching the workers build it everyday and to see the crane move around and all the busy hard-hatted high rise action.

Slowly but surely they are installing the windows and tomorrow they will probably put them on the 16th floor across from me. Even after the steel skeleton went up and the concrete floors were pumped in, I could still see the sky car ever so distantly through the space between the floors. The sky car is the tram that goes up the hill between the waterfront Oregon Health Sciences place and their facility way up the hill. When I get back from my trip, all the windows will be up.

Goodbye little tram. Nice knowing you, what, with my AD/HD and endless capacity for distraction by things like distant sky cars.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Two Bits of News

1. Apparently Harrison Ford is in Portland filming a movie and is being sighted here and there. I like him because his face is sort of smooshy and even though he hasn't picked a good script since Mosquito Coast.

2. I read that last year Portland was flooded with over a million dollars in shiny dollar coins. The U.S. treasury department is trying to get people to think dollar coins are cool or something. Along with Grand Rapids, Charlotte, and Austin as the pilot cities, Portland is supposed to be an early adopter sort of innovative place where it will catch fire. I have been here for months since these coins apparently hit circulation, and I think I've only seen one and that was last week. Also, if they want Portland people to think it is cool, then they should reconsider having Andrew Jackson on all the coins. I think they would do a lot better by minting the image of Keith Carradine from his Kung Fu days or maybe Paul Bunyan.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Those halcyon days...

I spent the morning high. I'm not proud. It seems that going to the dentist makes me edgy and my very conscientious dental provider does not want me to bite his hand or rip the arm rests off his chair. And so now going to the dentist is accompanied by a light dose of prescribed halcyon. I also brought my ipod and listened to St. Etienne the whole time they were working on me. Recommended.

This week is all about a mad dash to get ahead of schedule so that I can go on my long anticipated European adventure and so i am working long hours and just not being my typical gal-about-town self. Tonight I creeped back from the office after 9pm and am settling down with the final episodes of the John Adams bio pic that has Paul Giamatti in it. It has been suggested that this interest makes me an old man. So be it.

St. Etienne - Teenage Winter

St. Etienne - Sylvie


Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day!

Yesterday was May Day here in Portland and it was unusually lovely out. It seems that this weekend kicks off the season of endless waterfront festivals and happenings on Pioneer Square. I was wandering around downtown afterwork and saw way more cops on horseback and bicycle than protesters, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood. There there was no cracking of skulls by fascist pigs or rioting by godless commies. Reggae on a big PA! Black clad young people holding hammer and sickle flags!

Later that night there were fireworks on the waterfront (unrelated to the commies)and so it appears that summer has begun.