Ketchup Spill Threatens Portland

I find it ironic that in Portland, Oregon – a city that is often considered the “greenest in America,” so much so that there is a city-wide ban on plastic bags in grocery stores – you can’t buy lunch or coffee without the cashier handing you a stack of napkins so thick they rival phone books. Or would have, back when phone books still existed.

(Well, I suppose they’re still around. A couple of years ago I complained when a phone book arrived on my doorstep. I swore up and down I had no use for it, but then one of the legs on the couch broke, and I ended up shoving the book under there to prop it up. Worked like a charm, and forced me to eat my words. Turns out the phone book is still useful).

But I digress. Back to napkins.

Maybe this happens everywhere. Regardless, it always strikes me as odd. Yesterday I was running an errand on my lunch and stopped in at Subway for a sandwich. I emerged with a bag stuffed full of napkins. And it was a measly 6″ sandwich, for crying out loud! Why would I need more than a single napkin, anyway? Crap. Maybe it’s me. I must strike people as messy. Why else would I end up with so many napkins? And it happens wherever I go. McDonald’s. The corner deli. The sushi joint down the street. Hell, I ordered a latte from Starbucks last week, and ended up with enough napkins to wallpaper the living room. And that was for a cup of coffee. I certainly didn’t intend to get any on my fingers. Granted, accidents happen, but still…

Has nobody heard of the conservation movement?

Napkins everywhere!
Napkins everywhere!

As a result, I’ve got extra napkins tucked away everywhere. My filing cabinet and desk at work. The center console of my car. Stuffed down the front of my pants. (Though, ahem, those are always there). I suppose if the shit ever hits the fan and there’s a massive ketchup spill threatening the city I’ll be prepared, but the odds of that happening have gotta be on the slim side.

Please, pretty please, public proprietors of penne pasta, pretzels, pepperoni pizza, potatoes, porridge, polenta, pork, pancakes, panini, pad thai, pastrami, pineapples, peas, pastries, peanut butter, peaches, pickles, potstickers, prawns, pudding, prime rib, poultry, pumpkin pie, popcorn, and a plethora of possible preparations I’ve yet to ponder – I only need ONE napkin.

Thank you very much.

The errand I was running, by the way? I found a repair shop that specializes in vintage stereo equipment. Remember the groovy stereo cabinet/console I scored off Craigslist a couple of weeks ago for only $40, a real steal of a deal? Well, it would have been, had the turntable worked properly (and by “worked properly,” I mean, worked). Yeah, I got it to turn, but at about half the speed it should have spun. But I absolutely love the console and figured it was worth the price to have a working record player, which was kind of the whole point of buying the thing in the first place. I certainly have no need for the eight-track. So I bit the bullet and found a place that could fix it. Wrested the turntable out of the cabinet and ran it down there on my lunch. The guy was friendly and knowledgeable; he owns a tiny shop with inconvenient hours (closed after 6:00 and on weekends), but it’s a family-owned business that’s been around since 1952, and when I walked inside, it was stocked with really cool vintage stereos, radios, and TVs. So I have confidence that he knows what he’s doing and will have my turntable running good as new in no time. The only drawback? The estimate is $80 if it just needs a good cleaning and lubrication, $125 if he has to work on the motor.

Ouch. So much for getting the cabinet for a song.

But, as Tara pointed out, it’s worth the extra cost anyway. The whole thing is in excellent condition cosmetically speaking, and I have longed for one of these cabinet consoles for years. Many of the ones I came across on Craigslist were selling for $150, $200 anyway. Even when all is said and done, I still think I ended up with a good deal. Not a GREAT deal, but I’m not complaining.

I’m saving that for all these damn napkins that keep piling up…

Owl’s Well That Ends Well

Salt and pepper here...

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with hooters.

Have been, ever since I was a boy growing up in the 70s. I found them exotic, big and beautiful, something I thought about but never glimpsed. When they came out, they usually did so at night, long after I was asleep. I took to filling notebooks with drawings of them, page after page. Oh, how I longed to see them in person, up close and real. Maybe I could touch one. Pet it. Caress it.

I’m talking about owls, people!! Jesus. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Boobs are nice, too…

But I digress. For some reason, as a kid, I liked owls. I thought, as far as birds go, owls were pretty cool. Large and powerful nocturnal hunters that could scoop up an unsuspecting mouse in their talons and devour it mid-flight…how badass is that? Plus, they can swivel their heads as much as 270 degrees. That’s a pretty awesome parlor trick, you have to admit.

One of several recent owl-themed purchases, now proudly displayed in our living room.
One of several recent owl-themed purchases, now proudly displayed in our living room.

I guess my fascination with owls as a child is simply a sign of the times. The 70s were definitely the decade of the owl, a symbol of the environmental movement of the 60s. They became cultural icons thanks to Mr. Owl (“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”) and Woodsy The Owl (“Give a hoot, don’t pollute”), both popular cartoon characters of the 1970s. Owls were everywhere back then, icons of fashion and home decor. Their color combinations – brown, orange, and gold – were wildly popular, giving avocado green a run for its money. It’s no wonder I liked them so much: I couldn’t escape them!

Given my penchant for all things retro, it should come as no surprise that I’ve rediscovered the owl. Every time we stop by the vintage stores on Hawthorne Boulevard, I come back with something owl-related, it seems. Salt and pepper shakers. Wall hangings. You name it, I’ve bought it. Some people might think this is a silly little retro craze, but I don’t give a hoot. I like owls, and I like the 70s. It all fits in with my lava lamps and beaded curtains and record albums and peace signs. I am very much a child of the 70s, and it shows.

Thank god Tara likes that stuff, too. You might say she and I are birds of a feather.

Quit groaning. I never met a pun I didn’t like.

So, when my parents announced recently that there isn’t a bat in the belfry, but an owl, I was understandably excited. Only, they aren’t so much. This owl has taken up residence near their house, and awakens them in the dead of night with its plaintive hooting. I say they’re lucky, they say, “we’re calling an exterminator.” Clearly, they do not share my enthusiasm for the wisest of creatures.

Salt and pepper here...
Salt and pepper here…

In other news, spring has definitely sprung here, after a very disappointing (in my opinion, because there was no snow) winter. Tara marvels over our lack of temperature swings (low of 45, high of 53 is common this time of year) and buds on the trees already, while Ely is gearing up for a snowstorm this weekend. Not us. It’ll be sunny and close to 60, perfect weather for a weekend jaunt to Seattle. We’ve averaged a trip north every 4-6 weeks, but everybody has been busy lately with work and other obligations, so it’s actually been a couple of months since we’ve gotten up there. We’ll rectify that wrong tonight. I’m looking forward to seeing the family, and equally excited over a trip to Pike Place Market tomorrow evening. I love the hustle and bustle of that place, not to mention the excellent seafood. It’ll be the perfect way to celebrate National Crabmeat Day.

Just four more hours ’til we fly the coop!

Dogs Playing Poker Doesn’t Qualify as Art?!

Say what you will, but I think this is a perfectly lovely piece of art.

Friday afternoon, I was wandering around one of my favorite areas of Portland – the Hawthorne District. It’s fun, funky and cool. The people watching alone makes it a worthy destination! There’s a place there called House Of Vintage where I love to browse. It’s a cavernous store full of vintage (or retro, or antique) appliances, decorations, knickknacks, clothing, etc. It’s already a well-established fact that I am in love with the 1970s (see: my fascination with/collections of lava lamps, tie-dye, peace signs, vinyl records, and someday – hopefully – a VW Bus). So, when I spotted a groovy tapestry that featured dogs playing poker – and for a mere $29 – I knew I had to have it! My mistake was firing off a text to my girlfriend.

Do we want a dogs playing poker tapestry?? I wrote, and included a photo of said tapestry in all its velvety glory. I’m dead serious…

Um…no. Maybe one day when you have a man cave, she responded.

The rest of the conversation went like this:

But…I love it!
But…where would you put it??
In the dining room.
You’re a nut.
A nut who loves tacky 70s stuff. Good thing you’re moving in, or I’d totally buy that.
You could hang it in the garage.
Nah. Such a thing of beauty deserves a place of prominence.

And just like that, my dreams were dashed. I still thought Tara was slightly crazy for not recognizing the beauty of this amazing tapestry (which I genuinely did love), so I posted a photo on Facebook, and was promptly bombarded with a slew of less than enthusiastic comments.

Puke, wrote Monica.

Ummmm…WTF, Mark???? chimed in Wendy.

Mark, they don’t appreciate your refined taste in “art,” said Mike, the lone male in the conversation. Suddenly this man was my savior, the sole voice of reason in a sea of negativity. Dogs playing poker must be a “guy” thing.

And then Wendy slammed the coffin lid when she replied, I thought you WANTED Tara to move in.

It’s really not that bad…is it??

Say what you will, but I think this is a perfectly lovely piece of art.

I guess it takes a certain type of person to appreciate that kind of artwork. I personally thought it would look fantastic hanging on the dining room wall. A real conversation starter, for sure! I’m forced to concede that perhaps dogs playing poker is a “guy” thing, along with lighted beer signs (I’ve got one hanging in the garage!) and bikini calendars. I love Tara to pieces, but man, she broke my heart with her resistance to that masterpiece. We’ve got so much else in common, I was rather shocked that our tastes deviated so drastically when it came to this tapestry. In retrospect though, I suppose I should have known. Each time she’s come out here, she has managed to “girl” the place up a bit more. Last time she left I found myself with a pumpkin-scented air freshener downstairs and a sorta-flowery air diffuser in the bedroom. And she’s already talking about things like a throw rug in the living room and plants hanging from the ceiling.

Living together is going to be an adventure!

Speaking of adventures (and demonstrating the fine art of segueing), my whole Friday was chock full of fun! I started out by heading downtown for the first showing of The Hunger Games. I haven’t looked forward to a movie so much in ages, and this one felt like an Event. I devoured the trilogy in a matter of weeks, and even though it’s marketed as Young Adult fiction, the story is dark enough (kids fighting other kids to death in an arena while an enthralled nation watches the bloody spectacle on television) to appeal to adults, too. And when I finished each book, I passed it on to Audrey, who tore through them just as quickly, providing us with a nice father-daughter bonding experience. We would discuss plot points and various characters over dinner each night, something we’d never done before. So, how was the film? Pretty damn good, as a matter of fact. The story was condensed in places, a few characters were cut, and the tension between Katniss and Peeta was downplayed quite a bit, but it was a faithful and satisfying rendition. I loved seeing the book brought to life, and many of the characters – Effie Trinket, Caesar Flickerman, and especially Haymitch Abernathy – were spot-on. Woody Harrelson rocks, and Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect choice for Katniss Everdeen. I can’t wait to see what they do with Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The theater was also packed to the rafters. I see a lot of movies, and I’ve gotta say, I haven’t encountered crowds like this since…ever. Black Swan came close, but that was during Christmas break and an evening show. The matinee on Friday started at 11:30, and it took me twenty minutes just to exit the parking garage. I predict a huge weekend opening.

It was around 3:00 by the time I reached Hawthorne. Later than I’d planned, and rush hour traffic would be kicking in shortly, so I just decided to spend a couple of extra hours there in order to avoid it. After the vintage store and my aborted attempt at buying the dogs playing poker tapestry, I stopped by the Bagdad Theater for a cocktail and an appetizer at the McMenamin’s pub. My Cable Car was delish, and the Cajun tater tots hit the spot. I then wandered around for quite awhile, stopping in various shops (a record store, a bookstore, an Italian market) and soaking in the sights. Like this one.

I told you Hawthorne was great for people watching! It’s like a street full of sensory overload.

Nothing screams “Portland!” like a fake kidnapping. Fortunately, she was a mannequin.

I think.


As the sun sank lower, I figured it was finally time to head for home. I ordered a pizza to go from Hot Lips, and then hit the freeway. Fortunately, my timing was perfect, and the traffic flowed smoothly – I had managed to avoid rush hour altogether.

Got home, watched a movie, read for awhile (11/22/63 by Stephen King – I am enthralled with this book!), and then went to bed. It was a near perfect day! The only thing missing was Tara, of course.

And my beautiful dogs playing poker tapestry…

A Retro Dude in a Digital Age

Got A Whole Lava Love

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade.

If I ever find one of these I'll be egg-static.

This realization dawned on me yesterday. Probably when I was listening to my Woodstock record while my living room was lit up with the glow from my lava lamps. I’ve always been drawn to the styles and trends of the late 1960s and 1970s, and my affinity for peace symbols is merely the tip of the iceberg. Call me retro or my tastes vintage, but dammit, I wish they still made avocado green appliances. Come to think of it, I wish I had a secretary named Bunny whom I could subtly harass while she made me coffee, and I wish I could get excited about the Space Race. I was alive when we first put a man on the moon, but don’t remember much about that day seeing as how I was less than three months old. I wish I could fly on Pan Am. The haze of smoke from the passengers with cigarettes in their mouths would probably make me nauseous, but at least I’d get a nice meal, say a salisbury steak rather than a pathetic little bag of peanuts, served by a stewardess with a short skirt and pillbox hat instead of a “flight attendant” who might very well be male. (I’m looking forward to ABC’s new Pan Am series that debuts next month, too). I wish I could go to the movies and watch some disaster flick and laugh at the special effects and then drive home in my Dodge Charger the size of a boat that had a bench seat in front and no seat belts. Hell, I would hang up one of those bead curtains for doors that were so popular in the 70s if I had a decent place to put it, and one of my dream discoveries is a classic egg chair.

The skies would be a whole lot friendlier if we still had Pan Am stewardesses.

Sigh. Dare to dream. But at least I’ve got my lava lamps. And yes, that’s plural.

I’ve been collecting lava and glitter lamps for several years now. I’ve got 11 on display downstairs and turn them on most nights. There are a multitude of colors, sizes and shapes. I love them – they make the townhouse feel warm and cozy once the sun sets, and are a great conversation piece. Most visitors really seem to dig ’em. I do have a “real” lamp but rarely use it – it feels too bright and impersonal.

Every single one of my lava lamps (and there are more than just those eleven – I have some upstairs in the bedroom, and still more tucked away in the closet) were purchased at either garage sales or through Craigslist. You’d be surprised how easy they are to find, and how cheaply people sell them for. I’ve paid as little as fifty cents and never more than $10; usually people ask between $2-$5. Just yesterday I picked up a new one at a yard sale for four bucks. Whenever I see one for sale in the store, I laugh at the idea of paying $20 or more for something you can find so cheap elsewhere…and often still in the original packaging, unused.

Just a few of my lava lamps. Groovy, baby!

And my record collection – that’s something else I’m proud of, and enjoy immensely. In the 80s, I bought a lot of albums. I gradually converted to cassettes, and then CDs, but I couldn’t bear to part with my records so I had my parents store them in an old wooden trunk out in the garage, always vowing someday to return for them. A couple of years ago Crosley started selling these vintage-looking record players housed in wooden consoles with built-in speakers, radios, and CD players. I bought one for myself and, true to my word, rescued my vinyl records from storage oblivion. Granted, it took me twenty years, but I remained true to my word. The albums were in excellent condition, unmarred by the ravages of time. I listen to them often, and am always on the lookout for records at garage sales and thrift stores. In fact, one of my new favorite pastimes is perusing through the bins of used record stores, of which Portland has several. I love that vinyl has seen a resurgence in recent years; there’s nothing like that crackle and hiss of a spinning record as the needle finds the groove – it’s so much warmer and more inviting than the coldly sterile digital noise pumping through our iPod earbuds these days.

Speaking of Warmer

Saturday, the Summer That Wasn’t suddenly – and without fanfare – turned into the Summer That Was. Up until yesterday, it had been unusually cool out here, especially compared with the rest of the country. We hadn’t even hit 90 once; typically by May we’ve reached that milestone. I was beginning to think – and hope – that this year we might never get there, but then Saturday happened and the high temperature reached 96.

Way to overachieve, Portland.

90 is bad enough. But 96? Ugh. I have never been on friendly terms with hot weather. I just don’t like it! Kind of ironic considering I was born in Hawaii and spent a good portion of my childhood there. You’d think I’d be used to a little warm weather. Nope!

I’m not complaining, though. Why should I? I’ve got central A/C delivering icy cold air to my townhouse at the flick of a switch. It’s only a minor inconvenience when you’re out and about, dashing from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned car. Besides, August is already winding down and autumn – my favorite season – is right around the corner.  I told the kids when I dropped them off the other day that the next time I see them, it will be their last week of summer vacation. A declaration that was, predictably, met with moans and groans.

I don’t care. I’m ready for fall!