“The Thermals” intake

The past few weeks in Oregon have been crazy busy. Whether we were running round Mount Hood, stopping at fruit stands to sample the latest dried cherry, hazelnut butter, and dried blueberries spread OR seeing trained cats ring bells for freshly cooked chicken breasts….it’s been an amazing couple of weeks.

We have decided to keep a calendar on our wall to schedule our “together” events and our individual happenings. I’m fully aware how shameful it is that a tech guy doesn’t keep a public google calendar or somesuch..but the calendar is only as accurate as the people who use it. I assure you Ginger would not use a cloud calendar…sorry honey…it’s just like that. I have found myself asking more often: “What do we have the week of…”.

This past weekend was one of those weekends that was packed. Friday night we both went to see the amazing “Acro-cats”. The show was fun and worth the ticket. Ginger and I found our jaws hurting from all the laughing and smiling. It was a great opening to the weekend. Saturday we spent running around which would lead into the evening where we would go our separate ways. Ginger was volunteering at “Dress for Success, Oregon”, and I was headed to a concert.

The concert was a Portland band named “The Thermals”. Now if you haven’t heard of them and you’re a fan of not so hardcore punk alternative genre…then they are right up your alley. Check them out at the end of this post. (go to the 25:00 mark to check out their song to get people going)

The concert was at a club named Branx PDX. Upon arrival, I walked by a door approximately 20 yards off the road without any signage. Luckily there was a guy outside smoking who verified my inquisition. I made my way inside and the guy at the door stamped my arms and said “it’s much better upstairs”. So I made my way up there only to learn the little bastard took me for a fool. His intention was to get me to buy a drink at the bar upstairs and to drive some customers that way. Good on ya jackass. Well the joke is on you….I really don’t drink anymore, so I just awkwardly stood around and attempted to engage others with cigarettes outside on their balcony. Anyway I ended up getting a coke, nothing was happening upstairs so I started to make my way back down. As I passed a woman on the stairs she stopped me and said “you can’t take that past this point”. I said “it’s just a coke”….”it doesn’t matter you’ll have to leave it here or toss it” she replied. Yeah okay…let me just leave my open cup drink out in the open for you people to slip me the date rape drug while I’m not looking. No thanks. So I just set it down and walked by. As I passed the jackass who told me to go upstairs, I showed him my branded wrists and he acknowledged. I watched the opening band from the back of the room. After their set was done I headed to the bar, downstairs this time, for another coke (I was getting lit tonight…hahah). After the bartender handed my cup o’ syrup sans soda water, I started to make my way to the front of the stage where I came across a tall bouncer who took his job waaayyyy tooooo seriously. This is where I began to reminisce of the old Dallas music scene. He looked over casually and said “no drinks past this point”. WTF!!!! I just bought this to replace the one I wasn’t allowed to bring past the ten foot barrier..screw this…it was syrup anyway. He repeated it slower to me as I gave him the scathing “I hate your skinny hipster jean, full beard, captain hat wearing face you son of a bitch” look. He acknowledged my disdain with a smirk…so I looked him in the eye and tossed my 9/10ths full cup in the trash next to him, in hopes he’d get splashed…and then walked by with an equal (if not better) smirk.

I was now a few feet from the stage and looking at the t-shirts. As I stood there looking at the choices, suddenly a light came up in to my face and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Kathy Foster…the bassist for the band I was about to see. She was trying to spot her product better and by accident hit me in the face with 60 watts. I smiled at her after I made my purchase, and rather than ask for a picture with her…I just nodded and smiled.

After a few minutes of setup, they came out and acknowledged their loyal local following. The crowd was full of energy that I had not felt in a long time. Everyone from teenagers to sixty somethings was in attendance. As they started to play, I noticed a tension there. I didn’t pick up on it right away…but as the band busted into “Pillar of Salt” I finally was able to put my finger on it. The crowd wanted to dance…and dance they did. Call it “Slam” call it “mosh”…whatever word you use, just know it was glorious. I had not seen a pit like that in so long. Everyone in Dallas is too goddamn busy looking at their phones, texting their friends, and social media’ing to live in the moment. Well this WAS the moment. The moment I realized the real music scene is alive and well in the underground. Past the unmarked door…through the douchebag bouncers…with the bands who put in the sweat work. Clearly this band was hard working, I hope it is paying off for them (in whatever form of payment they seek). This fan fully appreciated what they were doing and I’m excited to finally see a real music scene again. Bravo PDX…Bravo.



Want to celebrate in Portland? You better have a parade!

FACT! We have attended more parades in Portland than we have in our entire lives.

It seems as though every big celebration in Portland has a parade associated. Last fall when we visited, we attended the Macy’s Christmas parade and fell in love with the city. There have been several parades in the past few weeks. One of which I really wanted to attend but couldn’t….It was the “Starlight parade” which celebrates the Portland Rose festival (May 23-June 8) at night. So the floats are lit up and travel down mostly dark streets, and they televise it because it’s a big deal. Portland does an amazing job at coordinating the events. From the police to organizing street vendors, they do a far better job than what either of us are used to with events of this size.

This past weekend we attended the “Grand Floral Parade” which is the crown jewel of the magnificent two week rose festival. The parade is a little odd because prior to the actual event they have a “Grand Floral Walk” where participants just walk the parade route. Occasionally someone would cheer the walkers and they would respond by hamming it up. The vibe was set from the get go…it was a fun crowd. It was a gorgeous 70 degrees and sunny. After the wait for the parade to arrive, the choked up feeling Ginger and I felt back in December returned to us both. I think it was a combination of reminiscing and recognition that we have these celebrations in our backyard.  As the parade marched we found ourselves clapping along with the marching bands and cheering the peace corps as well as the other varieties of groups, businesses, or civic leaders. Alaska Air even had a large contingency of flight attendants and a fairly elaborate choreography which included travel bags, pirates, and a beautiful float. I was amazed that a town this size could put on such a world class celebration…..and everyone was loving it! No riots….no scandals….just fun. For all you fellow band nerds, you’ll be happy to know that the very BEST marching band in the parade was a group called “One more time around again”. They were an enormous conglomerate (500 active members) of ex college and high school band members ranging from 18 to 80’s in age. Of course their soul, rhythm, and performance was second to none. They got the crowd pumped up big time. I could go on to describe how wonderful all the floats and people were but you get the point…I will leave the parade part of this blog with two things: Alpaca with a fez and Poop Squatch! Serious awesomeness.

After the parade we grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor selling locally sourced links from a company that’s been around since the 1920’s…Do I need to say it? Really? Okay…AWESOME dog! Best I ever had in fact.

We made our way down to Tom McCall park (which is where all events end up in Portland) to watch the dragon boat races. Again the event was well organized and orchestrated. Four boats would be out on the water while four more were on the dock loading up. When the one race was done the next four would leave in perfect time so the other four could dock and allow the next 80 rowers enough time to get into their boats. Many races were blowouts, but as the day progressed the competition got a little more tight and the races started to get more exciting. The crowd on the river banks cheered louder and louder as the boats got closer to each other at the finish. The teams were warming up with their yell chants and dances, there was no blocking out the electric atmosphere. Many teams had funny names like “no teacher left behind” and “draggin’ bones”. All took it seriously but were clearly having fun…how could they not?

I was amazed at how pedestrian friendly the city was (yet again). We walked from the parade route to the waterfront….then up to a small strip center to grab a cone of ice cream…only to return to the banks to watch more racing. As we sat watching the racers in the glorious sunlight, I felt like celebrating the city. HEY a PARADE!

Look! Alpaca with a fez!

Look! Alpaca with a fez!

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awww nuts!

In my last blog post I mentioned the numerous fruit, vegetable, and berry stands on my commute. A few weeks ago I stopped in to a grocery store near my office in McMinnville to pick up a few snacks. In addition to the locally grown strawberries I picked up a  few generic items as well. One item in particular caught my eye in the bulk section. The tag on the barrel said “locally grown walnuts”…the price…??? $3.99 a pound. Yeah, you read that right. A full LB of freshly shelled locally grown walnuts.

I’ve stated it before…and I have no problem stating it again. The produce in Oregon is amazing! The reason? Well first off the farmers care if their product is quality because that’s how they make their living (shocking concept to some of you I know). We’ve become so far removed from our food source that we come to expect the grocery stores to be responsible for picking our produce for us. By the time it makes it into our shopping baskets, it has passed through a gauntlet of handlers, inspectors, grocer buyers, then finally the stockers’ hands. Do you think that happens overnight? HELL no! It takes time. The whole time the product is aging and fast. For example…the strawberry season is in full swing right now. Hood strawberries are the flavor of the month…in a few weeks another variety will be available. I stopped and picked up a few pints. Normally we’d have to eat them in a matter of days(if purchased in a grocery store), but up here they are bright red when we buy them…a week later they are still as sweet and healthy as the day I purchased. What gives? Of course!!! The time to market is shortened.

Why are the farms up here so successful…why are they so plentiful? Well there are laws in place to… 1. help the farmers and 2. to ensure farmland stays farmland. Not Starbucks, Old Navys, Targets or Wal-Marts (in fact Portland recently ran Wal-Mart out of town). What a novel concept! People need food…farmers need land to grow food and if we want the farmers to sell their food they must be treated fairly. The CEO of the company I work for explained to me that the area holds farmers in the highest regards and makes sure they have what they need. All of Oregon is apparently like this. The farmers treat the consumer fairly by not gouging the hell out of them and then using the excuse of “well we grew it with our own hands”.

I remember as a kid going to the real farmers’ market in downtown Dallas and coming home with produce much the same as what we are finding here. My father and mother would speak directly to the farmers and ask them “where did you grow this?”. If the farmer engaged my parents…then they would buy their produce because a farmer’s word was his bond. The last time I went to the downtown Dallas farmers’ market, I remember employing the same technique. Only the response I got from the “farmer” was shrugged shoulders and an “I don’t know” response. That happened repeatedly. What I came to realize is that there were food distributors just across the street…and the people in the market were merely resellers. Now it’s fair to say I didn’t go to each one of them and ask them…but those that I did had the 1000 yard stare. Shame on you Dallas for ruining what should have remained a success…instead you stuck your nose in it time and time again…ultimately destroying the farmers’ outlet. Luckily some smaller markets have started gaining traction in the DFW area.

Now this is where the “wow” factor comes in. Whether you hate reading this blog…or are intrigued by my giddy childlike wonder at all the “new” things up here, I promise this will amaze you too.

I stopped at the same farm store as I did last week to get some freshly roasted and locally grown hazelnuts. I was also going to pick up some of the latest walnut crop. I picked up a variety of prepared hazelnuts…roasted, dry roasted, honey roasted. Then I moved to the walnuts. They only had one variety “raw”. I picked up a 2lb bag and a smaller one to send to someone that I promised. I took them to the counter and the woman exclaimed “oh shoot, I need to call her”. I asked what she meant and she replied the lady across the street that I buy these from. Now I had seen the walnut farm before and wanted to visit, so I asked her why she needed to call them. She said that I just bought the last bag and she needed more. The lead time was a little long because…………….wait for it……………..the owner of the farm shells them by hand. What the what? I asked like by hand by hand? She replied yes 1×1. She held up the bag and pointed something out I hadn’t noticed before…how absofrickinglutely perfect the nuts were. There wasn’t a single discolored, scaley, gnarly nut in the bunch.

Yeah…I thought the same thing…that’s nuts!