Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Little People, Big Pumpkins

I admit, I like my fair share of bad TV. It’s a great chance to give my over-active mind a break. But unfortunately, I have only seen bits and pieces of “Little People, Big World.” You know, that show on TLC about the family of midgets (although I believe “midget” is no longer the PC term, I will be using it in this blog post). Not knowing the show, however, did not stop me from getting excited when I learned that they live right here in a suburb of Portland. And what makes it even better is that on their farm they have a pumpkin patch.

Now, I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at a pumpkin patch, but a midget pumpkin patch? This was a must-see. So my friend Ben and I headed out there on a perfectly clear, beautiful fall day. Ben wasn’t too stoked on the idea, but he’s a good sport and decided to come along. And he especially wasn’t stoked on the idea when we came to a complete stop, miles from the pumpkin patch. Obviously, the rest of the world thought this was a must-see too.

While waiting, we saw license plates from as far away as Montana and Texas. Seriously?! The little people really have some big fans out there, I guess. I don’t think I would have traveled more than the 20 minutes it took us (well, 20 minutes, plus the half-an-hour of waiting). But while waiting, we got to see the father, Matt, drive around in his official-looking cart. I got so excited I wasn’t able to get my camera out in time to take a picture.

After we finally found a parking spot, we walked up to where the mass of people was. I couldn’t believe that there was actually a line to get in to pick out your pumpkin. Turns out, there wasn’t. People were waiting in this monstrous line to meet the mom, Amy. I didn’t care to meet her… I wouldn’t have anything to say. Turns out though, I was able to get my picture with her anyway.

As far as pumpkin patches go, it was pretty sub-par (according to Ben… remember, I hadn’t been in ages). The patch itself wasn’t very big, and the pumpkins were pretty picked over. There was “Zoo-otic” though, that housed a ginormous turtle, a snake, and other non-pumpkin patch animals. But the best part had to be while we were waiting in line to purchase my pumpkin. They had a couch set up that you could sit on and get your picture taken “with” the cast of “Little People, Big World.”

We made the trip worthwhile by stopping at a little bar down the road that had great burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I had a blast, but not enough of a blast to add “Little People, Big World” to my list of crappy television shows I currently watch. My goal now is to carve my pumpkin before Friday!

Click here to see all the pumpkin patch pictures.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Politics and KU Basketball

When I first moved out here, I compared the current presidential race in Portland to that of KU basketball in Lawrence, Kansas. Everyone’s abuzz. It’s all anyone can talk about. And everyone is on the same team. In Portland, they’re all for Obama.

In regards to politics, I’ve always preferred to keep my mouth shut. Isn’t it one of those three things we’re taught to not talk about? Religion, politics and money? Hence, me watching the debates in the comfort of my own home.

I decided, however, for the last presidential debate I would “be Portland” and go out and watch it. I had been reading and hearing about debate watch parties all over Portland. A lot of the local brew and view theaters stop movies to show the debates. Bars host events. So, I finally gave in and decided to check it out.

I pictured a smattering of people dressed up in red or blue (obviously 99.9 percent blue in Portland), jumping out of their chairs and cheering, fists pumping, and the booze flowing. This is exactly what it is like watching KU basketball at a bar, down to the colors. I wore a yellow striped shirt and green vest to be safe.

The booze was flowing, and as expected, you wouldn’t be welcomed if you were a McCain fan. Show your support for the “wrong” side and you’d probably have a bar full of liberals wanting to take you on. This makes sense… It’d be like a North Carolina fan walking into a bar on basketball game day in Lawrence. It could get ugly.

But instead of cheers, there were laughs and snickers. There was no energy in the room. Now, granted, I went to a small bar, Hungry Tiger Too, and it wasn’t very full. So I was only hearing a few people’s thoughts, but I was surprised at how negative people were. Instead of people cheering on Barack or agreeing with his politics, they disputed the other side and made fun of McCain.

Now yes, I agree, like in basketball, bad calls should be booed and pointed out. So yes, if something is said out of turn or is false, boo away! As Americans, we deserve and expect the truth. I’m all for calling people out when it’s legitimate. But I’m also for supporting and cheering on those that I believe in. It’s like a good book. I am constantly saying, “Hey, you should really read this book I just read…” Passing on the good word.

That night watching the debate, I heard very few positive comments about Barack. Maybe I was with a bunch of Nader supporters. Or maybe Portlanders are just so bored with the election by now and no one to argue against, so they’re in need of new material. Whatever the case, I believe political aficionados should take a cue from Kansas basketball fans and cheer on their man by spreading his good word, rather than use all their energy to blast the other.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Portland is gorgeous...

Every time I cross one of the bridges going over the Willamette River, I remember why I moved to Portland.  This city is beautiful.  And I am reminded of this pretty often, because it's a regular occurence for me to somehow end up on a street that takes me to the other side.  But I've really only driven or ridden over the river - never really stopping to fully enjoy it.

So Sunday, Ben and I visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (known as OMSI here).  We had an exciting afternoon of playing Six Pack Man (Pac-Man slowed down to the speed as if you were drunk), looking at fetuses in glass containers, and playing mind bender games (we were only about 3 for 10 - pretty sad).  Below is a picture of us all infared-ed (I'm an English major... I'm allowed to make up words).  The whiter the area, the warmer; the redder, the cooler.  Ben looks like a Panda.  I obviously have a very cold nose and a very hot neck.

OMSI is right on the river, so afterwards, we decided to go for a walk.  It turned into a rather long walk, which was perfect, because on the way back, I got to see my first draw bridge go up!  And not only one, but three!  And we were standing on one of the bridges as it started to beep in warning of going up!  A small thing for some people, but the small things are what count, and it was pretty exciting for me!  Click here to see the pictures.  Portland is so pretty!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Portland Brawl

I wouldn’t normally think a bar fight would be worthy blog material, but that was before I experienced my first Portland brawl.

Attending Omaha North High School growing up, I saw my fair share of fights. Three stick out in my mind: one in the cafeteria where the dueling pair ended up on my table, and my lunch ended up on my lap. Another where one girl grabbed another girl by her weave and banged her head repeatedly on the ground. And no North High graduate can forget the riot that happened on Ames after school one day that closed down the entire street. Since my high school days, however, fights in my life have tamed. A typical bar fight in Kansas City is two drunken meatheads shoving one another, waiting for their friends to jump in and stop it so they don’t actually have to throw a punch.

But this bar brawl on Friday night at Portland’s Sassy Jack’s takes the cake for my favorite fight ever. This brawl was done in true Portland fashion.

One of the best things about Portland is that it’s very laid back and slow. Places open later in the day than they do in the Midwest. No one is ever really in a big hurry. It’s a very roll-with-the-punches type of town. So it only makes sense that a bar scuffle would follow suit.

Sassy Jack’s is a small place. When we walked in Friday night, there weren’t many people there. It wasn’t within 15 minutes of being there that a big mass of boys rolled by our table. A fight had broken out!

It was probably 7 on 7 – which made up for half of the occupants of the bar. But they were moving awfully slow for a fight. I didn’t see a single punch thrown. There was no broken glass. No knocked over tables… only gently shoved aside tables. There was no blood, only a few spilled karaoke cards and a lost shoe. We rescued our beers and stood up to watch as the mass of bodies rolled around on the ground.

This lasted for several minutes. Finally, the bartender and another man were able to gingerly maneuver the body ball, and it rolled out onto the street. It was as if the fight was happening in slow motion… minus the cool special effects. They’re like, “Hey man, we’re in Portland, let’s take this fight slow. No need to get upset about it.” I’ve never seen such a slow, non-violent, long-lasting fight in my life. It totally defied all typical fight characteristics.

And to make the situation even more entertaining, while the boys were brawling, a man was singing karaoke. He didn’t stop or miss a single beat.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A rose by any other name is still... a rose.

I’ve never been much of a fan of roses. Probably because they either come from a boyfriend who in the end turns out to be an ass, or from a friend as a bouquet of condolences – meaning something bad has happened. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful and brighten your day and the thought behind them is extraordinary, but they leave a bad taste behind when they die. So it’s kind of ironic I moved to Portland, the city of roses.

And Portland likes its roses. You know those ugly manhole covers you see on the streets? Yeah, well, Portland’s all have roses on them. And in June they have the Portland Rose Festival – a ten day event that celebrates roses. (I’m amazed you can fill ten days worth of activities that center on roses.) So, I thought it only appropriate that I visit the International Rose Test Garden, located – you guessed it – in Portland. Why wouldn’t Portland be the INTERNATIONAL place to test roses? Makes perfect sense to me, what, with all the other unique titles Portland holds.

The Rose Garden is located in Washington Park, and last Saturday, Jeremy, my new friend Ben, and I went. Washington Park is also home for the Japanese Gardens, but Jeremy was feeling frugal and didn’t want to pay the $8 to get in, so we settled on the free rose garden. After visiting, we understand why it was free: you REALLY have to love roses to like the place.

Now don’t get my wrong, it was beautiful, and serene, and had an awesome view of Portland and Mt. Hood, but it wasn’t very exciting. I guess, what did I expect though, it’s a rose garden. Plus, I’ve been spoiled by Multnomah Falls and Cannon Beach already. Maybe I should have gone to the Rose Garden first…

Anyways, we walked through the rows and rows of roses. And I stopped to look closely at some roses (much to the boys’ boredom) because they were pretty. But the highlight of the rose garden was this: we saw an older couple walking a cat on a leash. We all three watched in what can only be shock and horror. That poor cat. Then the man proceeded to pick up his cat and put it in a stroller. Wow. Jeremy’s reaction: “I think this will be the first documented case of a cat suicide.”

I unfortunately did not get a picture of the suicidal cat, but I did take some photos of the rose garden. You can look at them here.

And the garden actually does have a cool history behind it – hybridists sent flowers to Portland to keep them safe from the World War I bombings that were ravaging Europe. To learn more, click here.

But after visiting the garden, the statement holds true: A rose by any other name is still... a rose.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A city of "-est's"

Portlandians love their city. They also like to lay claim to a lot of “-est’s” – the biggest, smallest, tallest. There are also a lot of “most’s” here as well. I am on a hunt to find all the “-est’s”, and experience all the “most’s.”

There are two “most’s” that make Portlandians (and myself!) the proudest: Portland has the most breweries per capita than any other city, and Portland has the most strip clubs per capita than any other city (this includes Vegas and San Fran!). What a combo. I have frequented many bars thus far – actually, an embarrassing amount. (Jeremy’s keeping track and writing reviews about each one. Check it out here.) I am yet to visit a Portland strip club – but I do know which one I want to go to. Soon. Very soon.

One of the first weekends we were here, Jerod and I had a day of “-est’s” with Ryan as our tour guide. On the list: Powell’s, Mill Ends Park, and Saturday Market.

Powell’s is the largest bookstore in the world. It is indescribable, you really have to see the place, but I will try. It takes up an entire city block. It stocks more than a million used and new books – a million! The store is divided into color-coded rooms (rose, orange, blue, gold, red, etc.) by sections – there are 122 sections and 3,500 different subsections. The purple room is my favorite – I could spend an entire day in just the pop culture/sociology aisle. The bookshelves alone are the biggest, tallest bookshelves I have ever seen. It’s a booklover’s dream.

We continued onto Mill Ends Park, the smallest city park in the world. Shaped in a circle, it is only 24 inches in diameter and is located in the middle of Naito Parkway. You really have to keep your eyes peeled for it, or you’ll miss it. In 1948, the “park” was built to be the site for a light pole. When weeds sprouted in it, Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, decided to plant flowers in the hole. His column, “Mill Ends” would often feature the park and its leprechaun inhabitants. According to Wikipedia, the park has been home to many unusual items in the past, including a swimming pool for butterflies (with a diving board) and a miniature Ferris wheel. (No leprechauns were harmed in the taking of the below picture.)*

The last stop in our day of “-est’s” was Saturday Market. Located under the west end of the Burnside Bridge, it is the largest open-air crafts market in continuous operation in the U.S. I was stoked to go – I heard there was shopping, beer, food and live music. Sounds awesome! And all of this was true – to an extent. In actuality, it was a bunch of booths with random crap you don’t need (i.e. blown glass, bow and arrows, miniature dog statues), the live music was hippies beating on buckets, the food was mainly fair food (and we all know how I feel about eating food from a fair), and the beer was contained to a small area. Bummer.

Other Portland “-est’s”:

- The Hood to Coast Relay is reportedly the world's largest running relay race, with nearly 20,000 racers per year. The route is from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to the Pacific Ocean at Seaside. I hear it starts out really cold in the mountains, then gets hot at sea level, then finishes cold again on the coast. It’s 130 miles.
- Portland has the largest fabric store in the U.S., Fabric Depot.
- The Portland Building hosts Portlandia, the second-largest hammered copper statue in the world, second only to the Statue of Liberty.
- Portland is home to the very first professional hockey team in the U.S., the Portland Rosebuds, though no longer a team. But Portland was first, nonetheless!
- Forest Grove, Oregon, west of Portland, has the world’s tallest barber shop pole.
- In 1905, the largest log cabin in the world was built in Portland to honor the Lewis and Clark expedition.
- I’ve also read that Portlanders supposedly eat more ice cream per capita than any other city. Which is weird. I haven’t seen a single person eating ice cream since I’ve been here.

Now I haven’t heard of any “only’s.” Hey Portlandians, Portland is the only city to what? Fill me in!

*According to many sources, Portland is also home to the largest urban park, Forest Park, which is nearly 5,000 acres. I have heard, however, that Alaska swooped in and took over the title with one of their parks. Non-Palin supporters insert remark here. Poor Alaska.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where Diane and Portland Meet

I remember visiting relatives in Texas as a child. We’d be down there for only a few days and I was already sleeping on “pillers” and referring to “you” as “ya’ll.” Well, it’s been a similar assimilation process in Portland. I don’t know if it’s because I’m impressionable or if I just adapt well. I’m going to go with the latter. Either way, I’ve learned that even while doing things the Portlandian way, it’s still Diane doing it.

Here are some shockers for you: I recycle. I ride a bike as transportation. I gave up Miller Lite for PBR. Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, let me explain…

I recycle. Portlandians LOVE to recycle. I never much got into recycling in Kansas City. You had to pay extra for it, and I remember hearing the rumor that Defenbaugh just threw it with the rest of the garbage anyway. That was excuse enough for me to not participate! What’s the point?! I said.

But people are serious about their recycling here. I watched a bartender, probably 3 or 4 times throughout the night, take an empty cigarette pack off the bar, slide the plastic off (non-recyclable), tear out the foil stuff (non-recyclable), and fold up the cardboard box to put in recycling. And he was fast at it! If it were my bar, it’d be going in the trash.

In Portland, they make recycling so easy, I’d feel bad if I didn’t. There’s a giant recycling can, big and green, just sitting right outside our house. What sort of people would we look like if that wasn’t dragged to the curb every Tuesday night? Definitely not Portlandians!

But keep in mind, I’m recycling in lazy Diane fashion. I’ll throw soda cans in a separate trash bag and paper in a box. That’s fine and easy. But if it’s something that requires being washed out, like a can of spaghetti o’s, sorry Portland, it’s going in the trash. I’m proud I’m doing as much as I am.

I ride a bike. And not just any bike. A bike named Nancy. Nancy is badass (as is obvious in the picture below). And yes, there was a Sid. I told Jeremy, who was with me when I bought Nancy, that he should buy Sid. He thought that would be silly being he already had a bike. Whatever. So, I bought Nancy, and broke up the bike couple. I told Jeremy that this was actually perfect, that I would find my lost Sid riding down the street some day, and we’d be instant soul mates and fall madly in love. Aaahh…

Jeremy broke my daydream with, “It’ll probably be a lesbian who buys Sid.” What? No. He continued, “Or no one buys Sid, so they send it back to the factory and melt it down to make another Nancy.” I’ve totally cursed Sid – and my love life – by buying one-half of a bike pair. Dang it.

But I did buy the most Diane-friendly bike I could find, even if it does prevent my happily-ever-after. It’s an automatic. That means, I don’t have to figure out shifting. I’m just riding along, and Nancy senses I’m struggling, so she just kicks it into an easier gear, and *wa la* pedaling is fun again. Also, I have small hands so therefore used to hate braking. Well, Nancy has petal brakes. Problem solved. Though, I must admit, on my first bike ride, I fell twice looking for the brakes on my handles. I panicked and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. It was awesome.

I drink PBR. A lot of it. I’ve tried some of the local beers – even drank a beer named “Nebraska” – but Pabst is just easy here. First of all, practically every bar either has it on tap or as tall boys. Secondly, it’s cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap. So yes, while I’m drinking not the best beer, I’m being frugal Diane.

The most I have paid for TWO, not one, PBRs here is $5.80. And I was appalled at that price. “What? I bought two last night for $3.00! That’s a $1.50 a piece! And you expect me to pay $2.90 for one? That’s ridiculous.” No, what’s ridiculous is that I’m already absolutely spoiled by this.

But Portlandians like to drink, and so there’s a massive effort to make it accessible for all. Like last night, we went to this neighborhood bar for the first time. We walked up to the bar where someone politely pointed to the cups and free keg. Sweet. Not only is Portland the city of roses, it’s also the city of alcofrolics – everyone just drinking and having a good time.

I can adjust to all of this. And still be me. Home sweet home.