Where We Went This Year! (22,000 miles of driving!)

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Sunday, November 2, 2008


Little to say about Portland, not because it wasn't a memorable time, but my computer's suffering some maladies and soon after I arrived I had to take it to the local Apple Store whose very tattooed, dyed, and Gus Van Sant-esque "Mac Genius" sent it off for repairs to Houston and I didn't get it back until I was in LA, the following Wednesday. Oh...and by the way, it's still sick and waiting for another part to arrive at the Los Angeles Apple Store, at which point, there will be yet more time without it while they make the (hopefully successful) repairs. (I gotta say, I never had these kind of problems when Mac had Motorola chips, but ever since they moved to Intel chips, I seem to run into problems kinda often.)

At any rate, yours truly is writing this from his wife's machine - also a Mac, but an apparently well-constructed one - and is trying to catch up a bit, so - all that to say, pardon my paucity of memory.

The first memory molecule of Portland in October, though, is that Portland does Fall like few cities I've seen before. To wit, I offer Exhibit A:

Let it be noted that although I have all sorts of software that can heighten contrast, intensify color, change the sharpness of most photos, I made not a single change to this photo. It's from a walk in Washington Park, which sits on a hill on the Eastern edge of the city. It's more than just redwoods one finds in Portland, but actually there is all manner of floral fantasia. Known as Rose City, Portland sports a garden of roses in Washington Park the size of an arena football playing field with varieties of whose names I thought were a joke, or perhaps little nicknames given by the gardeners until Angie told me that they were, in all likelihood, the particular names of those particular strains of roses given by botanical wizards whose entire life is about cultivating that one unique strain whose name they can personally lay claim to for all perpetuity. And here I am, content with buying daisies at the bodega on the corner.

But they were stunning and fragrant beyond the barriers of even my apathy, and as the three of us strolled around, we stumbled onto a photo shoot with two pleasant young fellows, twins, who had the placid confidence of people who were famous but yet enjoyed enough anonymity that members of the cultural middle class like Angie and me would only recognize that they must be famous but not be able to identify them.

They were dressed in matching grey suits, dark shoes, and open-collared white shirts. Naturally, as we passed by, their palette matched Butley's perfectly, a detail that wasn't lost on the photographer, who asked if we could pass by with Butley in the frame, for some color-scheme underlining. We did so a few times, and then stood by while they stood holding Butley's leash, smiling for the camera (charming lads, but I think Butley stole the shot, frankly). And as they stood there, camera snapping away, we asked what the shoot was for, what kind of work they did, they answered (plainly, to Angie's mind, smugly coyly to mine), "Oh, practically nothing, actually. We write."

Little did we know, though we were soon to find out as we walked away and having made a furtive call to the Spring Awakening culturati, Henry Stram, that they were Matthew & Mark Polish, two biblically named brothers whose work as independent film writers & directors is being touted as that of next generation Coen boys. What they were doing in Portland, I don't know, but apparently the photo shoot was for an upcoming issue of New York magazine in which the two lads will be profiled.

So, those of you who have subscriptions to New York, keep an eye out for the profile, and perhaps you might catch a glimpse of our dog in passing, if not in full grin. Leave it to us to work for ten years as actors and have our dog's photos in New York before our own. But it's fine, it's only my dog. It's not like it was my brother or something...

Housing in Portland was at La Quinta Inn, just over the river in the Irvington section of Portland. We stayed there on our own, Butley-banned from the company housing option, and it worked out just fine. La Quinta (or La Keen-ta, for the culturally specific readers of this humble blog) was clean, spacious, simple, and chee-ee-eep. After the Quality Inn in Seattle (aka, the Squalidly Inn), it felt like an upgrade, and with parking and daily walks down by the river or around the funky eastern neighborhood where the Burger Kings and Wendy's were at least adjacent to funky caf├ęs and restaurants that, by Portland standards, were probably mundane but, to our tastes, had all the hip of NYC's west village without the cramped tables and grouchy waitresses, we were well-lodged. Of note were Milo's City Cafe and Rimsky Korsikoffee (no link available), where the Edgar Allen Poe-themed house-turned-cafe has tables that may - or may not, depending on your selection of them - be the one that slowly, slowly, slowly turns or slowly, slowly, slowly rises & sinks or slowly, slowly, slowly slides into the wall and back out again and which has a bathroom with the most elaborate rendition of what life underwater at the edge of a pier must be like, complete with a sunken Poe mannequin laying on the floor in a canoe, staring at you as you go about your business.

We also sampled the wares of Voodoo Donuts, a hole-in-the-wall donut shop in Portland proper, just down the street from the Paris porn theater, whose marketing slogan is, shamelessly, "The magic is in the hole." That's one of them. The other t-shirt logo you can get, the one I didn't buy for Angie or me, describes its pink-box-packaging with the phrase, "Good things come in pink boxes." And yes, you can buy undies that read the same.

Audiences in Portland, like audiences in Seattle, like audiences in San Francisco, like audiences in San Diego, loved the show. And every night we strode past long lines of autograph-hunting teens, centenarians, and everyone in between as they ignored me, smiled in mild recognition at Angie, and then beamed in glee at the arrival of any of the kids from the show. Yes, it's true. We're not only the veterans of the cast, we're the doddering relics of an earlier age, and it suits us truly quite fine as we get home to walk the dog, open the wine, and turn on HBO all that much sooner.

One fun field trip we took was to visit the monastery where two, yes, two uncles of our assistant company manager, Chris Recker (a child in a family of fourteen kids, and whose parents also shared such distinction), both serve as brothers at Mt. Angel Monastery, a Benedictine retreat where Chris's uncles (he calls them 'muncles') help run one the country's foremost seminaries and keep, along with all their bretheren, to a beautiful life free from just about everything our show talks about - sex, kids, angst, suicide, pregnancy, nudity, etc., etc. And yet they were as fun and charming as any monk might be, answering every question we had about when they actually decide to use their hoods and whether they wear underwear under their robes.

They also took us to lunch at the Glockenspiel Restaurant & Pub, where we were treated to a rousing 5-minute performance of North America's largest glockenspiel, followed by wienerschnitzel and the local brew. The muncles also gave us all candles from their monastery, and every time we light them we feel just that little bit holier. (Of course, I might also note that they gave them to us after feeding us all full of wienerschnitzel and beer - seems like the monks have learned at least a little about the multi-tasking use of devotional implements. So, with all that wind-making German cuisine, we had sins for which we needed great redemption.)

There's a lot about Portland that's redolent still of a bygone time preserved in both functional and decorative ways.

You get the sense of Portland being a cooler, if meeker, sibling to its Northern neighbor, Seattle. Like where all the remaining grunge kids (who didn't land recording contracts) or loggers (that didn't sell their acreage to a paper processing plant) ended up. Still keeping it real, even if only because they never quite got the opportunity to sell it for fake. It's a place I wouldn't mind spending a couple weeks - or a couple months - more. In another life, or another career, or another job, perhaps. But I think we were both glad for the chance to get some sense of the layout of the place. And we were doubly glad to have the chance to soak up as much Fall as we could before heading South for the next six weeks, to a megalopolis where Fall is something that sells greeting cards and serves as a backdrop for horror movies but is otherwise unknown: Los Angeles.

And so, with that in mind, I hope you enjoy a little taste of the Fall of which we drank so deeply, just one short week ago... (Guess I didn't have so little to say about Portland after all...)

1 comment:

longlegs said...

your writing style circa portland is bueno. i like the image of you farting with monks and strolling in gardens and coming across future coen brothers.