Feed Us A Live Insect

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It’s A Snow Day Today Here in Portland

Eugene to Portland is only 105 or so miles and should have taken one and a half, two hours, tops, but instead took more like four. Those last ten miles were just…grindingly…slow. More on that later.

(Sunday)

So, following our Oakland show, we had a family day in San Francisco and went to The Exploratorium, which was great but a bit overwhelming for some of the parties involved. The Exploratorium, if you haven’t been, is a huge hangar/warehouse structure in an absurdly expensive neighborhood next to The Palace Of Fine Arts, which I gather was an early 20th Century attempt to build some faux-Romanesque ruins to make the city a bit artsy, or something. It's got a dome. Big one. And some columns, and a pond with some ducks: you know, just like the ancients had. And then there's the long, squat Exploratorium, which is a hands-on science museum designed to make kids get interested in science by showing them that if you turn a crank really fast you can make little teensy light bulbs glow. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a great place, and I loved it dearly as a child, it's just that if you do happen to find an interesting exhibit (maybe a motorized pump demonstrating, say, a fountain of human bile) you only get to fool around with it for a few seconds before a herd of fifty small children descend and it's all over.

We headed over to the Castro for lunch at the very tasty Chow, where we met Dan again and our friend (and fellow ex-Calarts refugee) Mark, who nowadays is a very successful graphic designer: in fact, he helped design this bonkers and amazing website, which is up for an award that you must vote for! We spent our final night in San Francisco in Chinatown, which was mostly closed except, forutnately, for a few restaurants, one of which (whose name completely escapes me...I think we basically chose it at random) fed us on walnut shrimp, huge, fabulous potstickers, peppery beef, and a salted chicken and tofu dish, all excellent. Yum.

It seems as if there's more homeless in San Francisco than Los Angeles, although perhaps it's just that they're in more parts of the city here than in LA, where they're mostly confined to skid row. I find myself in situations where I say, well, should I give my last two bucks to this pregnant lady in Oakland or this legless Vietnam vet on Market? There was this one guy, I’m sorry I didn’t have anything to give him, tall older guy: “I’m freezing here…” Had to tell him no, and he was thanking us all the while…I’m really, really sorry about him…crap.

(Monday)

A travel day, from San Francisco to Eugene. This was pretty uneventful, and long, and mostly boring, except for the going-over-the-mountains part, and although there was some snow on the ground the roads were dry, so the driving was easy. I can’t say the same, though, for:

(Tuesday)

We woke up this morning in Eugene to wet, slushy snow. It looked as if it was going to switch from snow to rain but by the time we got our Dutch Brothers coffee and got back on the freeway it was coming down heavy with big, gloppy flakes. Things cleared up a few miles north of Eugene, and although the roads were wet they were mostly clear, and we thought we were going to luck out: until we were about ten miles outside of Portland, and everything went to the pooper.

The highway department had big signs posted: "Portland Metro Area, chains required for ALL VEHICLES." Now we have chains for the van, which we had never had occasion to use, and suddenly it seemed like a very very good idea to put them on. We sashayed off the freeway into a Target parking lot, bought some gloves, and then I spent the next hour and a half struggling with the chains, which are basically medieval torture devices, employing every profanity I could think of at a very high volume. I admit there was a moment when I did not actually believe the chains would in fact go onto our van's wheels: and one jovially unhelpful passer-by observed something along the lines of "those don't come from 'round here, do they, dude?" (joke's on you, bastard: it says MADE IN OREGON right on the box. Ha ha!) But eventually I got everything fastened on and did a little victory strut just in time for a pair of guys to pass by and point out that I'd put the chains on the rear tires of our van, which was almost certainly front-wheel drive, and therefore accomplished pretty much nothing. I will say on my behalf that it was vastly easier to put the damn things on the second time around than the first.

Driving with chains, though, that kind of limits you to going about 25 miles per hour or so, and those last ten miles into Portland took FOR EVER. But the chains worked: we crawled on by past dozens and dozens of abandoned cars on the side of the road. These didn't seem to be cars that had gotten stuck in the snow, or rendered inoperable: we later learned that when Portland got hit with a very unusual three whole inches of snow that morning, people kind of flipped out and just abandoned their cars on the spot and...fled, I guess? Pa-thetic. We were undaunted, we had CHAINS, dammit.

Portland is strangely quiet this evening. I learned that the whole metro area has just 55 snow plows, and most of those are busy with trying to clear the highways (not very successfully). The roads in town aren't salted or cleared, the city operates on the principle that the sun will come out in a day or so and melt all of the snow away: except that the weather report says this will not happen for quite a while now, and so all of the roads are turning into sheets of packed-down ice. As a result nobody is going to school or work and a lot of businesses are closed down. It was kinda eery and depressing. I think even the strip club down the street from our hotel was closed down.

Fortunately we were lucky enough to be able to practice at a friend's place: this would be Alex, another creotian. He very very generously gave us some desperately-needed practice space and we later met up with him, his girlfriend Theresa, and their friends Rachel and Jeremy at a local watering hole (Bimp's, I think? Something like that) for some equally desperately-needed beer and filled us in on the local housing market and the oddball weather patterns. It was great fun and I'm very glad we're here, even if we are in the midst of the great blizzard of '07.

(Theme song of the moment: "Chains Of Love.")

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