Tuesday, July 28, 2009

... if you're ordering something that's not on the menu...

... expect to pay for it. i would have thought that that was common sense. alas, here at portland internaational airport, common sense does not necessarily prevail. i'm stopping in for lunch. my flight leaves at 14h52 and i'm sharing a table with a stranger, since i didn't want to be one person taking up a table for four. the people sitting over from me ordered something and asked for something to be added that wasn't on the menu, hence the subject line. i wouldn't be expecting to be adding anything for nothing... you might just as well ask for crude oil in a bucket as dipping sauce, or gold leaf as garnish and not expect to have to pay. you can bet they won't be tipping, even though they should, getting something that wasn't on the menu for nothing. crikey.

(settle... it's the kind of thing that will be bugging me all the way home...)

checking in was fine. the next hurdle is immigration in los angeles. (wow... they did leave a tip after all... custom trumps worth, i suppose...) two and a half hours flight to l.a., then five hours-ish to transit, then off to melbourne. my computer is telling me that it's now about 6.30am tuesday in melbourne, so my flight time of about 27 hours is right on schedule.

my last porter before i go home. (sigh...) i'm going to check my email and sign off. i'll blog again when i get home and maybe this weekend, maybe next, i'll go through my photos and start posting those too. please fire me off an email and let me know if you received a postcard - i'm curious to know how many of them will get home before i do.

vaya con dios!

Monday, July 27, 2009

... last night in portland

it's my last night in portland but it feels a lot more like a night in bangkok! rather humid, 36 degree forecast for tomorrow and my flight leaves in the afternoon. i'm planning on getting to the airport about 12.30pm, settling in for a comfortable, unhurried lunch in air-conditioned comfort. it'll be nice. ahhh, but the wisdom of these hostels! i hired a towel so my own towel will be dry as a bone going into my suitcase in the morning...

the russians have gone, the place is much quieter, and i ran into a couple of interesting people. one is a college career advisor in a high school in san antonio, texas. that all sounded very interesting and austin, tx, was recommended to me very strongly. i also ran into a kiwi travelling north america with her daughter looking at colleges to pursue studying under a sport scholarship for volleyball. apparently she shows great potential, so volleyball camps have been booked into to hep get her on the recruiters' radars. she extolled to joys of seattle and remarked how happy she was to be travelling through the classically australian weather that the pacific northwest is currently enjoying - apparently the east cost is suffering under some horribly wet weather with floods in new york, amongst others.

the zine symposium wound up today with some post-symp' drinks at a great little eatery called xv (fifteen), most conveniently located to bring me back hoe to the hostel. i had great plans of going to a restaurant in se portland for macaroni and cheese (allegedly the best in the city). alas, i may never know, now, but if i come back to portland anytime soon then maybe i'll find out how good it is.

i feel extremely tired. i'm almost looking forward to sitting in a chair for fifteen hours on the way home. i'm not ecstatic about having to transit flights in los angeles but tough luck pour moi, i suppose. i was going to buy a game i saw called "bookopoly" over at powell's but that's not going to happen either. i'll have a look for it at home; if i can't find it, i'll get it then. i have one last souvenir to buy, then i'll be off to the airport.

i'm off to bed. i didn't get eaten by bears.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

... almost at the end

it's a little hard to believe that i'm almost at the end of this trip that felt for a long time like it was never going to begin! i've come at what appears to be a warmer-than-usual summer for portland, with the temperatures today getting up to around 31 degrees celsius and it felt (un)reasonably humid (to me) but they're forecasting about 33 tomorrow and happily i'll be on the plane on monday - yahoo!'s weather tracker is forecasting 36 degrees for monday... and i'll be in air-conditioned comfort in a plane. alas, i have to transit in los angeles, where i'll be cooling my heels for about four hours, which isn't as bad as the seven hours i was there between sydney-la, la-ny flights my last trip here.

these last few days there's been a group of russians staying here at the hostel. there's about eighteen, twenty, including as few young fellows about 13 or 14, several chaperones (of the "oh victor you are very unattractive man" style), and the rest girls of about the same age as these young fellows. all raging hormones and thorough clothing-acclimitisation in a foreign country. i'm a tad surprised they only sent five chaperones. they should have lo-jack on all the kids, with a laptop and google maps on it or something. i'd trust any one of these kids about as far as i could throw one. (although most look fairly light...) they're here on a "salmon camp" where they've got a few days here in portland before they're off to study salmon fishing and canning and shipping, all aspects of the salmon life cycle and fisheries. (so i gather.) interesting on paper but i don't know how it'd be. one of them is eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon.

given that the portland beer festival (july has been craft beer month here in pdx) is in full swing this weekend, there have been a great deal more inebriated folk about than i'd noticed before.most seem to be carrying some kind of re-usable beer stein, looking to hold about half a pint. being taken up with the zine symposium, i haven't been out during the day to try any of this stuff out and i've been pretty tired in the evenings - i'm less worried about that, since i'll be happy to be a bit out of it when i'm flying home.

the zine symposium is huge! ninety tables, any one of which could be having two zinesters "tabling", with the possibility of two different tablers for each of the three days. going at maximum capacity, you could conceivably have 540 different tablers over the three days of the event. imagine that! and if each tabler brought only two new zines with the that would be over a thousand zines.

of course, that doesn't happen. many tablers take a whole table to themslves, or use the same table for all three days. when the symposium handbook went to print there were 182 separate tables listed, which is about a third of the conceived maximum capacity. that's pretty good and it's worked really well. mad props (apparently that's the style of the time) to the organisers of pzs this year, especially the really visible movers and shakers. there has been an abundance of volunteers, more coming out of the woodwork every day, and i was fortunate to be able to go around the tables again today, get a whole bunch of zines, and go along to a workshop of working to deadlines and how they can increase your productivity! (makes them sounds like some kind of control undergarment... eeek!)

it's been a bit of an experience seeing so many zinesters i've only heard about or read about. meeting alex wrekk has been fantastic and a real thrill; blue (whom i'd not met before making my initial enquiries about pzs) is an absolute championne; jesse reklaw (of applicant fame, among myriad others), who was so laid back about everything and talked with such warmth; katie, who is kind of new to the scene but an all-in pzs sympanista and organiser and who sympathised about my sense of being star-struck; one of the editors of zine world; ciara, creator of love letters to monsters and others; zine distro organisers; zine librarians; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

fantastic. i've been feeling like kenny at the portaloo trade fair. there are two other workshops i'd like to visit tomorrow, so we'll see what happens. there may be some post-event get-together (i don't know, i might have heard rumours but to be honest i'm having a bit of a seniors' moment about that) and i've been trying out "mac and cheese" (macaroni and cheese) while i've been here. i've twice now been directed to a particular restaurant for what i've been assured is the best mac and cheese i will ever taste in my life. with a scant thirty-six hours left in portland, i feel the pressure's on to make sure i try the best portland has to offer - this mac and cheese may well be the piece de resistance... who knows?

the symposium certainly hasn't just appeared overnight - copious amounts of planning, with a (classically un)healthy sprinkling of last-minute madness, has brought to fruition the ninth iteration of an awesome concept. i'll be going to the gns trade fair in melbourne in a couple of weeks' time (less, actually) and given the resources they have to throw at that may find that in comparison it is somewhat wanting.

two things that i think are great are the sponsors' efforts and the lead-up events. for the month leading up to the zine symposium, there were several events, including a multi-city 24-hour zine challenge and a kick-off dance party.looking at the list of sponsors, i'm confident many were responsible for the nigh-endless flow of food in the free-food section of the symposium space. i don't remember seeing any of the on any of the promotional material, which i also think is great - these sponsors, to whatever degree, valued the symposium enough that they donated without expectation of more than a mention in the booklet (and, obviously, participants' continued business over the year... maybe). very cool.

i have an idea that perhaps that kind of patronage could be something to use in getting some zine-ish thing off the ground... another tool to keep in the shed, just in case it's useful...

i should get to bed. more later. i'm rather looking forward to cataloguing my photos, and these blog posts will help put me in the mindspace of where i was when i took them, which will be good (hopefuly) for reminding me why i thought a picture of photocopiers might be funny... good night.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

... you've got mail

by the way, i finally managed to mail out the postcards i'd accumulated to send home. they're all gone now (including my sister's - i found the address!) and the interesting thing will be finding out when they all arrive! traditionally, postcards don't arrive until after the person sending them (if it's a short trip) so i guess we'll see.

i should have mailed one to myself. derr...

Friday, July 24, 2009

... brief update

this is just a brief update on what i was up to this afternoon. not a whole heck of a lot, actually, but what i did do was get the zines i was donating to the zine library at the iprc and get them up there. while i was there, i signed up as a member - not that i'm going to be doing heaps of zinemaking there but because i thought it was a good thing, as a zinester, to do. i'm sure the money will be well spent; plus i get a zine each month mailed to me, which will give me that much more reason to go checking my p.o. box...

i also went along to the iprc benefit show at holocene. (cool website but a bit too much flash for me...) alex wrekk did a reading and an awesome band called "the tagalongs" played a fantastic set, including "cat party" and (i think it was called) "beer can guitar". awesome. (the lead singer is kinda cute and the drummer has this awesome kurt cobain meets cousin itt hair when he starts headbanging...)

i had a sneaking suspicion it was only going to get louder from there so i simply wound my way back here to the hostel. tomorrow (and the next few days) will be mostly taken up with symposium-related things during the days - what happens after scheduled hours, i guess we'll have to wait and see...

fourteen days and bear-free...!

... life was meant to be easy, i think

yesterday just kind of... dissolved. it was pretty warm and muggy, neither of which i'm very keen on, so i bummed around the faux air-conditioned comfort of the hostel until early afternoon, had a shower and shave, got dressed and traipsed into the city. i'm getting the hang of where the 17 bus goes through town and i rode the portland streetcar all the way around the loop, which was kind of cool. at one end there's a children's hospital, i think, and there are these cablecars that take you up a hill. i don't know why they're there or what's at the top of the hill (maybe the grand old duke of york has men up there) but if i am curious enough by the end of the day i might see about finding out.

in other news, i hung around powell's for a bit, had dinner at rocco's pizza (not bad, especially with the refills on soft drink!) and as the night deepened i made my way to the middle of town to the slightly dodgily-located voodoo donuts. it goes to show how sometimes guidebooks get outdated... i knew that there was a second site for voodoo donuts (follow the link, you'll see there are two - i went to the one on sw third ave) but my zinester's guide to portland (hardcopy) didn't have that updated information (i have the fourth edition). also, it gave a bunch of weird hours but i see on the website that the place i visited is open 24 hours! argh!!!

that being said, i bought a postcard, a t-shirt and three donuts. looking at the menu on the voodoo donuts website, i saw picture of two of them - the voodoo doll and the triple chocolate penetration. the third, the portland cream is portland's answer to the boston cream donut. the chocolate donut was delicious.

even though i know it's a week away (kind of) work is starting to loom as my holidays slowly come to an end. there are souvenirs i've yet to get, postcards i've yet to mail (if my sister could email me her address (i know, i know, i've been given it i don't know how many times and i keep losing it - i'm sorry, okay!?), i'll remedy that immediately), plus i'd like to write a zine to take with me to the symposium (which starts tomorrow). argh! plus there's still one bridge i'd like to walk over (that i think is actually pedestrian-friendly) and i've still not visited the omsi... i may need another vacation...

i think i'll put my photos up when i get home.

so i don't know what i'm going to do today. we'll see what happens. ciao!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

... extra, extra

while i've been here i've seen a bunch of stuff to do with boardgames and role-playing and whatnot. i've been haunting comics shops too and here are some links to stuff i've enjoyed over the last few years games-wise...
  • atlas games - creators of such awesome games as lunch money, beer money and once upon a time
  • cheapass games - these guys make games cheap by working on the assumption that most people have rudimentary game pieces - pawns/pieces and dice - that by skimping on packaging they can provide rules and easily replicatable boards for a whole unch of games without paying $39.95 for every box...
  • twilight creations, inc - makers of one of the most entertaining games ever - zombies!!!
i'm going to copy these links across to the sidebar when i can be bothered but i'm running out of battery and i just finished my drink and think instead of continuing to parasite the free wifi here i'm going to go back to the hostel... ciao!

... check

i travelled on the 17 past where i needed to get off for the hostel and looked for somewhere that i could use a toilet. well, i found a cafe that has restrooms for customers so, of course, i bought something to drink. alas, after trying the door and finding it locked i saw the fine print that said, "leave i.d. in exchange for the key" (or words to that effect). it takes so little for me to simply cross my legs and wait until i get home...

it appears, however, that i have fallen into a chess-hustling cafe. i've seen something like four tables with chessboards built into the tabletops, as well as a guy off to my right who's settling in for a long night with three (!) roll-up chessboards and a book of chess problems. he even had it all in a little zip-up bag that looks like he stole it from paul newman... i haven't seen any money changing hands but maybe that only happens in public parks in new york... who knows? the weird dichotomy of the familiar and the alien is unsettling to say the least.

i left the hostel after a late shower (about 10.30) and hoofed it into town, as far as burnside, and powell's. i spent quite a while at powell's, browsing through several sections of books on urban design and planning, fantasy and sf, crime, rpgs (role-playing games not rocket powered grenades). all in all, quite a pleasant way to spend an unhappily humid day. the temperature isn't that warm, about 29-31 degrees, but the relative humidity isn't in my happy zone.

after powell's i stopped in at reading frenzy and finally managed to check out the iprc. it's a lot smaller and pokier than i expected but, then, what was i really expecting anyway? i've got some questions to ask about cataloguing in their zine library and i'm going to drop off some of the zines i brought with me for their library too. they were very busy while i was there, maybe a dozen people all in the throes of various activities. i'll call i there maybe tomorrow if i can get my act together with dropping off my zines. i'm thinking of doing some kind of "what i did in astoria" zine, maybe with quotes from terry pratchett's interesting times... who can say?

something that i've really noticed about portland is the staggering number of people with tattoos. it really does seem to me to be astronomical! it's not just the edgerunners, it's everyone. i've seen office drones waltzing down the transit plazas with celtic bands tattooed around ankles or their non-watch-wearing wrists, or ink on the backs of their calves. i'm starting to feel very much that if i want the full portland experience, i may have to get a tattoo. of course, i have no idea what i'd get and i'd still have to deal with the inevitable me-luck (which is why i never got my tongue pierced) that says, "very sorry, sir, but it's all become infected and will have to be surgically removed before you die of sepsis..."

i know... i'm such a yellow-hat!

anyway, tomorrow i'll try to decide between holing up at the hostel to write or venturing out to maybe visit the oregon museum of science and industry. i geuss it depends on how oppressive i find the weather...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

... a brief interruption

i was up at several ridiculous hours this morning, worried that i'd sleep through my alarm and miss my coach connection back to portland. happily, after waking at 2am, 5.30, 6.15 and 6.30 i bit the bullet and decided to get up early anyway. i had my gear set out for today, put my dirty clothes into the front pocket of my luggage (where i'll hopefully remember it is when i come to do laundry tonight) and hoofed it down to the astoria transit centre. my favourite coffee place hadn't yet opened, so i stopped in at a different place where, as it turned out, i paid for a rather inferior coffee with burned milk. i couldn't be bothered going back, so i continued on my way, meeting a similarly paranoid fellow waiting for the same coach.

patrick had been cycling down the pacific coast when he'd had a bit of a fall and bunged-up his knee. he'd made alternative arrangements to get down to the california coast and meet up with family but as we chatted and got to know one another we slipped easiy into a discussion about faith and where God has led us and seemed to be leading us now. he had fallen into the family tradition of studying engineering and while doing very well with the practical side, found the maths of it to be rather hard going. as providence would have it, he met a lovely young woman on a river rafting weekend who was studying psychology but was also seriously considering mission work. she prompted him several times about this line of thinking for the future and as he investigated it he found that God was opening up opportunities for him to pursue it. he's now attending a Bible college and i wish him the best of luck. i'll be sending him an email and i hope we can stay in touch, since i'm very keen to find out how he goes and where God takes him (he's hoping it'll be tokyo...).

i've checked into nw portland hostel, i can't get into my room for a couple of hours, can't use the laundry until around 5, so i've made myself comfy down in a common room, charging my phone and ipod, doing some chores online.

for my friends at work, i stopped into a little bookshop in astoria called lucy's books and snagged a hardcopy of their newsletter. it's a funky little shop and i bought a great book on the history of astoria from there. (i finished that barack obama book - did i say that already...?) they were very friendly people and have a lot of author events - maybe worth sharing ideas with...

i did a scant amount of the goonies and kindergarten cop sightseeing, although i did get my photo taken by some tourists from nevada, whose photo i took in return, most of y sightseeing was just looking around. i'm sure i mentioned that i spent time at the maritime museum in astoria but the entire town is like one big maritime museum. the history that i'm reading actually includes some maps and walking tours that you can do and while i didn't use any (too late into the piece) it would be a great impetus to do other stuff on a future visit. astoria turned out to be far more enjoyable than i expected.

oh, by the way, i went bowling at the lower columbia, or l.c. bowl - this is where chunk is when he sees his friends through the window riding their bicycles and he ends up mashing his hotdog on the glass. (i think... that's how i remember it...) anyway, i bowled two games and had a good old chinwag with the woman staffing the counter. i bowled 194 and 142 and was very pleased with that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

... it's naht a too-mer - it's naht, at all!

well, yesterday i got a photo of me standing out the front of the john jacob astor elementary school, aka astoria elementary, used as the exteriors for the movie kindergarten cop. i did see the house from the goonies but it has changed so much it's hard to recognise it. i did a large amount of walking yesterday.

i was up and down to my adopted second home here in astoria, the astoria coffee house, for breakfast and blogging, then i walked along the streetcar line to the columbia river maritime museum, where i spent a good couple of hours trawling (heheh) through their exhibits. i bought a little guide book and a postcard, which i later wrote on and posted home (give it a couple of days at least, mum!), and i took a lot of photos as i wandered around.

the history of the discovery and settlement of the columbia river by europeans is fascinating. astoria was the first u.s. settlement west of the mississippi and swiftly grew to prominence as a centre of the fur trade (otter and beaver), then logging. it has suffered badly over the last thirty years with the demise of its logging industry (weird how in the goonies you didn't get to see much of its 30% unemployed, hey?) but is apparently experiencing something of a renaissance with growing numbers of retirees moving here. that in turn has fed a growth in the artistic community here, partly why places like red hare can do what they're doing so well.

from a riverine perspective, the continuing peril afforded by the columbia river bar means that river- and bar-pilots will remain absolute necessities for this town and for riverine traffic in general. fuel and manufactured goods continue to go upriver while grain and other primary goods continue to be sent downstream and whether a boat is comparatively small or relatively huge, these pilots are those boats' best hope for navigating the bar and the shifting channels of the river successfully, instead of ending up like so many other wrecks in the "graveyard of the pacific".

a local historian has written a book about astoria that i've been trying to get my hands on but it has gone out of print, the author is in a... bunfight with the publisher over royalties (i heard that only one cheque was ever sent) and i'm going to do a final pass through local bookshops today to see if i can find it. i think it will be fascinating reading.

i waited for about half an hour for the streetcar to take me down to the eastern end of astoria's waterfront, where it pretty-much peters out at the 39th street pier. i had dinner there - pizza and porter - and at about 5 o'clock started the long walk up to kindergarten cop school and the astoria column.

when i got to the school, two women were taking each other's pictures there. i commented that we were all there for the same reason and asked if they'd like me to take their picture. we traded off and hence i have a picture of myself there now too. they were teachers from nevada (carson city and las vegas) on a last-minute road trip to seattle who were sidetracked by astoria's filmogeneity (?). we traded stories of what we'd seen so far - they were going to visit forks (twilight-town) in washington but even by car it was going to be too far away... i was thinking about going bowling at the alley we first see chunk in in the movie... then we all wandered off.

i walked quite a ways uphill to 28th street where a trailhead to cathedral tree and the astoria column could be found. it was about a mile to cathedral tree and another mile and a half to the column, the forest was gorgeous (no bears), and my water bottle came in very handy. there were plenty of places to stop and take in the view but even so from time to time i could feel my pulse hammering. (note to self - more exercise.) when i arrived at the astoria column i managed to take a few more photos before the battery in my phone karked it.

the column itself is something of a trajan's column, telling the history of the local area from inhabitation by chinook and clatsop indians, to gray's landing by sea, the arrival of lewis and clark, the founding of fort astor in 1810, the growth of trade, and so on. it's very impressive. more impressive is the view from the top. almost 200 steps takes you up the centre of the column to a viewing platform at the summit, around which one can see for miles in every direction. i managed a few photos from up here too.

despite my calves seeking permission to sign up for some kind of transplant programme, i managed to get back to the hostel and clean myself up to go out. i went to red hare to see country singer and local portland (of 10 years) resident paula sinclair perform. what a great voice! i am in the throes of discovering country, folk and roots music at present and found the intimate surroundings of red hare and the subdued mixing to be perfect for listening to her voice and her words and dwelling in the moment of each song. brilliant.

so, today i'm going to see about using my free cup of coffee at three cups coffee house, i'm going to nose around the markets they've set up for this morning, i'm visiting a comic-book shop where i plan of supplementing something i already have to make it even more fun (bwahahahahahah...), then hopefully have an early night so i can be up bright and early tomorrow for my ride back to portland.

ciao all!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

... i heart chunk

well, quiet day, all things considered. after my breakfast i wandered around astoria, west of 14th street, where my hostel is situated, with the intention of checking out east of 14th street tomorrow. one of the places i spent some time in was called one red hare, where i got to talking with the proprietor, scott docherty, about all kinds of things musical. i'll be there for a gig tomorrow night and would have seen a gig tonight but, alas, the performer never showed up. i hope he's ok. happily, tomorrow night's performer dropped in to hear tonight's guy so we at least have a good chance of seeing her play tomorrow night!

i found a great place called the three cups coffee house, where they forced a free coffee card on me to apologise for putting froth on my mocha (alas!). i walked further west along marine drive, just past the astoria bridge to washington, crossed the road, and followed the astoria streetcar back to my hostel's street (14th). i took a bunch of photos, which i will, at some point, have to put on here somehow (i guess i'll have to open a flickr account or something...) but not right now.

after finding out the gig for tonight was cancelled i walked around for a while, dropped into a diner for a cup of coffee while i finished the barack obama book, dreams from my father. it was pretty good. i had to keep reminding myself of when he'd written it (it was first published in 1994) so that i could keep the timeline of what he was writing straight in my head. worth reading. there is another book i'd like to read, which has lately been credited as being the one that inspired obama to look towards the presidency, team of rivals by doris kearns goodwin. a quick google of the title, however, almost imediately pulled up an article from the los angeles times questioning a certain pollyannaism in goodwin's analysis of lincoln's "team of rivals". by the sound of it, things may well go worse for obama's administration before they get better and in this modern world of truly mercurial public opinion nationwide (and not merely in chicago) he may not have the legs to last the run...

so, tomorrow, i plan to go to the maritime museum and the astoria column, two rich heritage locations here in astoria that will help give me a greater appreciation for astoria's rich and long history. in 2011 astoria will celebrate its bicentennial, a fine thing for a town that burned down twice, built as it had been on pilings over the columbia river. an information plaque down near the maritime museum says that one could fish the river through the sidewalk while waiting for the streetcar. no longer, however, the town's main drag along the riverfront having been built up from the dredging of the riverbed, which also assisted in easing the passage of riverine traffic.

the columbia river mouth remains one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the continental united states, the shifting sandbars (despite some stabilisation afforded by the construction of breakwaters?) continue to pose significant hazards to shipping in both directions up- and downstream and the pilots navigating the bar and the river continue to provide an essential service to the maritime community here in oregon and in washington.

but for now, good night!

... goonies 'r' good enough for me

greetings from the astoria coffee house cafe. (that's astoria as if it were "sass-story-a" without the first "s"...) i arrived from portland last night around 9pm, later than i was supposed to arrive but still in plenty of time to check into my hostel. all i'm going to say is that it's not quite what i was expecting.

astoria feels incredibly small, very much like an australian country town, with a large number of pubs and empty shopfronts. i think i'd previously likened portland to newcastle but astoria is a lot more like newcastle. i went out walking this morning about 7.30, 8 o'clock and even at that time saw a few people sitting around, shiftlessly starting on the first alcoholic drink of the day.

it feels a bit strange to me that it's taken a trip to the consumerist centre of the world to really get a handle on just how the global financial crisis is affecting the first world. we really aren't seeing the effects of the gfc in australia at all, compared with the u.s. - if the gfc were a black hole, australia is, i think, a bit beyond the event horizon but still feeling the gravitic effects enough to notice, while the u.s. is well inside the event horizon and things here will probably get a lot worse before they get better.

it seems to me that there doesn't seem to be a lot of options for people who are out of work here. retraining courses all require payment in advance, i've seen heaps of people living on the street, or at least sleeping out in the street. i'm told that as bad as i might think it is in portland (and i wonder if it might not be a bit too cold here in astoria even in summer for it to be a very attractive option), the state capital, eugene, has it a lot worse, with homelessness and panhandling a serious problem that has no simple solution.

while it's not completely due to the global financial crisis, the flight of citizenry from the city of detroit is a good example of uncontrolled market forces at work. at its height in 1950, detroit had almost 1.8 million people; it now has almost half that number. many of its workers no longer live within the city limits but in satellite suburbs and while it's understandable that people will seek to improve their living arrangements as earnings and timing present themselves, the gaps left behind were/are not being filled. the more i see neighbourhood as status being played out, the more i think that people are just crazy. i don't think that many people want to move to a place because they think it's fashionable (paris hilton moving to sunshine (melbourne) or redfern (sydney) isn't exactly going to push those cities' glitterati to follow, i'm sure) but rather (i hope) because they feel that it's more convenient to their lifestyle, their workplace, educational opportunities for their children.

the very idea that a house should be bought more as an investment opportunity for wealth than a place to raise a family and make a home is one i'm finding progressively obscene. the idea that value should only ever increase is a nonsense, as we have seen in the last 18 months, an idea built on the premise that people will always pay more for something than you did. how ridiculous is that? when you go buy a new place, you're not looking for the most expensive one are you? maybe you are. i don't know. this is part of why i'm not interested in owning a house. not only does it seem that the house ends up owning you, it seems like the whole system ends up determining how you view the world.

...and i know that my own view is skewed by bitterness about the whole idea, believe me, i know. i just can't help feeling that if the way we've been doing things for the last fifty years has led to massive numbers of foreclosures on people who've been doing what they think they were supposed to - get a mortgage, buy a house, make a home - but who have lost their jobs and can't afford what they were led to believe they could afford, then how can we continue to believe that the way we've been doing things for the last fifty years is the right way???

it's the same kind of insanity that believes more cars on the roads or more people catching public transport can happen without cost to the infrastructure delivering those services! they are like a balloon, that has a nominal maximum volume, which can be filled to 10%, 50% 80%, 100%, perhaps even 110% without bursting... at first. Sooner or later, it will burst. that is simple logic! why is it so hard to believe that housing markets, job markets, share markets, public transport systems, sewage systems, power grids, similarly have maximum volumes? is it because they're not immediately obvious? "we can't see an end so let's treat it like there is no end"? it's that thinking that led to the poisoning of our planet by industry since the beginning of the industrial revolution! before!!! since the settling of vilages beside waterways...

while i was staying at the portland hawthorne hostel, i ran into an aussie guy from gunnedah. he commented that the last time he'd been home he ran into someone he'd not seen for about three years but who asked how he was going as if he'd seen him only the day before! gunnedah guy seemed surprised by this but i was more bemused. time and tide separate people through no fault of their own, necessarily. there is a sense that we are encouraged to think of ourselves first (there was an old insurance television commercial that said the most important person in the world was "you"), so why should we be surprised when people do exactly that? the little social impetus there is to keep in touch with people is on "tweets" these days! 140 characters to shout out to the world (or to whomever you've authorised to be able to hear you) what you're thinking. how is that communication? it's more like talking in burps.

argh! i can't help feeling there's too much information coming into my head that i don't have time to sort through before i have to move it to one side and take in more information. i guess at what's important and perhaps, like a fragmented hard drive, there will sometimes be information left behind that can still be accessed by accident and make sense somehow. i have neither time nor skill in defragmenting my brain.

in the last 24 hours i've been trying to make sense of:
  • the millions of dollars spent on sydney's new year's fireworks displays that could be spent on education or health
  • people without jobs when there's things that need doing
  • storefronts that lie empty when there's people wanting to work
  • corporations crying poor, cutting jobs, moving manufacturies, claiming net losses, yet who still give their executives bonuses
  • the idea that if it only costs $22 (us) per month to feed, clothe, immunise and educate a child in a third world country, why is it not already being done?
  • how could a city like detroit have half the people in it now than it had over 50 years ago?
these are the thoughts in my brain...

Friday, July 17, 2009

... pizza and bellydancers

yesterday was a fairly quiet day.

i walked from the hostel to the industrial section of western portland to check out microcosm's portland shop. i was a bit surprised to see how small the shop was (sticky is larger!) and it is chock-a-block with stock, floor to ceiling every shelf filled with stock.

on the way to microcosm, i stopped for lunch (a delicious burger and a glass of porter, obviously) at a place called the green dragon, named for the inn in boston that the revolutionaries met up in prior to the boston tea party. stacy, the nice lady who served me, gave me a taste of the coffee porter before i got the glass and it was very delicious. stacy's comment was that it was her favourite drink because it put together coffee and alcohol - i responded that i got into drinking porter because my first taste made me think of chocolate. i've been trying porter a lot since i've been here, mostly enjoying what i've tried and i liked the porter (6 rivers porter). they were also playing the best music - lots of 80s-style karaoke stuff.

i walked over the morrison bridge, which was cool. i took a couple of photos of the hawthorne bridge while it was raised. pretty nifty.

i wandered around nw portland for a couple of hours, dropped into the nw portland hostel, checked out the buses to catch from there. afterwards, i headed into downtown and went to see the hurt locker at a cinema there. the movie is fantastic, right in the vein of such movies as black hawk down and the kingdom. i think it's a great movie and an indicator of the new war movies that are being produced recently. (more in that later, i guess.)

after the movie i decided to stick to wandering around sw belmont street, several blocks from the hawthorne hostel, and lobbed into a restaurant called "it's a lovely pizza". the pizza was very nice (i had the "jerry garcia") and the beer i had was very dark but not quite a stout or porter, apparently. it wasn't bad at all. the interesting thing about the pizza place was that every wednesday night they have a band playing arabic, persian and armenian, to accompany the bellydancers that come in and dance. i waited until halfway through before i left.

last night here and very hard to ignore the conversations around the table this morning to get this blog post up. i'm going to wander up to belmont to stumptown for coffee, then wander back. i'm just killing time today before i head up to astoria. my bus leaves about 6pm, which means that mr paranoid here will be getting to union station for about 5.30. ('cause that's just how i roll, heheh.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

... spring market

sitting on the front porch of the hostel, watching the world go by along hawthorne avenue, the spring market grocery, seafood and poultry wholesalers a hive of activity across the road.

yesterday was spent wandering around town with one of my fellow hostel-dwellers, andi-k, checking out coraline in 3-d; looking around powell's books (again); going for a ride in a new ford scion (i think it was ford), doing some market research and scoring a $15 food voucher for rocco's pizza (yay!); working how to get wherever when i head off to astoria; back here to do my laundry.

not a lot to tell really.

i've got obama in my bag, i'm going into town to drink coffee and read.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

... just another day

hi y'all, well, just another day in sunny portland... except it wasn't actually that sunny today. it was actually pretty overcast for most of the day, which means that, as per usual, chances are i'll be quite sunburnt. i know, i know... why do you go out walking without a hat if you know you're still going to get sunburnt anyway? i don't know. no, wait, hang on, i think i do know. i am a lazyarse, that'd be it! and i'm very much enjoying the sun! who knows? maybe my arm-tan-lines will be back up to aussie summer standard? perhaps...

i did quite a bit of walking around today. i caught the 14 bus into town, changed to the 9, went up to union station to the amtrak counter to buy my tickets for my side-trip to astoria. i'm almost starting to wish i hadn't decided to go there, simply because of the pain it's going to be schlepping my stuff hither and yon over the next week. i've also been told to go visit long view, washington, which is just across the bridge from astoria and which i've been assured i can get to via a regular service across that bridge. i'm not ecstatically interested in doing that so i haven't really looked into it at this end - i figure that when i get to astoria i'll check it out there.

so after i bought my tickets i walked north to the broadway bridge. it's one of the many bridges here in portland, a town famous for its many bridges, each one unique in its own special way. i'd love to take some photos of those bridges that move to accommodate riverine traffic but i can't be bothered checking with the appropriate authorities for vessel piloting times. if it happens, it happens. i had planned to walk back over the fremont bridge but it didn't have any pedestrian access that i could find. i already knew that it was closed to bicycle traffic, so maybe it was a bit of a pipe dream that i'd be able to walk it. the st john's bridge is further north up the willamette but i'm in two minds about going over that. i've a sneaking suspicion that it may be more trouble than it's worth simply to get there.

i did take some photos from the broadway bridge (it's painted the same colour as the golden gate bridge, called both "golden gate red" and "international orange", or so i've been given to believe), one of the fremont bridge and one of the steel bridge, which i will try to walk across at some other time.

while i was in north portland i had lunch at a yummy pub-place called the gotham tavern; delicious food, yummy beer (i had a "liberty ale" by a brewing company in san francisco called anchor brewing), great atmosphere, wonderfully relaxing in the early afternoon. i decided instead of walking the fremont bridge to find a place called "liberty hall", where once microcosm publishing (see link adjacent) had their digs. the place was locked up tight as a drum when i went past, else i would've stuck my head in. i was starting to feel a bit tired or i might have walked into ne portland to try to find the statues of the ramona characters. going to church the other day, i did go past klickitat street, featured as the home of beezus and ramona from the beverly cleary novels (very popular when i was in primary school oh so any years ago!) there is a park in northeast that has these statues and that is a destination for me.

so instead of doing that, i caught the bus back into the city, connected to the 14, and arrived on hawthorne blvd early enough to go to the bagdad to see x-men origins: wolverine. it wasn't bad, cheesey continuity stuff aside, and i was glad they ended it in japan (post credits). i was less impressed with their rejuvenated professor x (it looked ridiculous in x-men: the last stand so why repeat it here?) and i thought that ryan reynolds was utterly wasted as deadpool. danny huston did a good job as william stryker but i have trouble imagining him ageing into brian cox. look out for max cullen and julia blake! it was turning into spot-the-australian-actor for a while there. i liked the guy who played agent zero - i think that tim kang (the actor playing kimball cho in the mentalist) would have been equally good or better as zero.

when that was over, i went downstairs and enjoyed breadsticks (purportedly with a garlic-herb butter but not that i could really taste) and a glass of porter. since trying (and thoroughy enjoying) the james squires porter, i've been trying other dark beers as the opportunity arises. i've been known to enjoy a guinness now and then but here in portland there are quite a few microbreweries making porter and i'm very much enjoying trying them out. the black rabbit porter was nice enough, better with the breadsticks, had a thick, loamy taste that i wasn't a huge fan of with a mouthful of fruit at the end (which i really didn't like and which the breadsticks quite put paid to). not that i feel i'm becoming a connoisseur but i want to be able to articulate what i like. or not.

i finished the porter in time to go into the next movie, drag me to hell. sam raimi returns to his roots with a simple tale, simply told, or a good girl who does one wrong thing. typically, at least in horror movies since about the mid-70s, the good girl gets the bullseye painted on her back by sleeping with her boyfriend - in this film, she's already living with her boyfriend, brilliantly underplayed by justin long in a role he truly could have hammed up to the max. no, in this movie she gives it up for her boss, a small-town/suburban bank manager played by david paymer (also brilliantly subdued), by going against her gut instincts, being hardnosed with an elderly mortgagee and foreclosing on her house. the woman turns out to be a gypsy - curses her - and so the story unfolds.

i loved the attention to detail that raimi takes with this movie. it's nothing spectacular but if it had gone straight to dvd it might easily have slipped through the cracks. the only personal touch missing was the lack of bruce campbell - although sam's brother ted has a barely-visible-but-you-know-that-voice-anywhere cameo - but i think that the subdued acting (in contrast to the action) would have been hard for campbell to live down to. i found the special effects to feel low on CGI use, giving the impression of effects that one might have seen in a b-movie horror, lots of shadows, creaking doors, wind effects, jump-cut close-ups. the make-up effects are great. i think the lack of name-stars gives the film a cachet and an integrity that bigger celebrity actors would have detracted from and this will yield more enjoyent over successive viewings. i didn't think much of it five minutes later but i walked out two hours ago and i'm enjoying it even more now. alas, i predicted the ending.

one postcard down, four to go, plus a letter. oh yes! i also visited the post office. very friendly. maybe i got them on a good day. who knows?

i'm planning on doing washing tomorrow night, which gives me an extra day to do it if it turns out that i can't do washing tomorrow night. i might just take a book into town tomorrow and find somewhere to sit and read. maybe finish that obama book or read the mary guterson one.

oh, hey! she visited my blog and commented on my post! i couldn't think of how she found it but i realised that she must simply have googled herself and looked for what came up as recent. (i might go try that now... cool - i googled "mary guterson"+powell's+reading and came up on the second page...) there you go. cool.

well, i have a couple of other emails to send, then off to bed. good night!

Monday, July 13, 2009

... quieter day

well, i was up bright and early today, had a delicious breakfast of home fries and scrambled eggs with rye toast and a not bad cup of coffee. then i took the magical mystery tour to the middle-deep of south-east portland, meeting up with a bus to take me to the middle-deep of north-east portland, where i'd decided to go to church.

church was okay. i think i knew two of the tunes (one being for the threefold amen!) and i wasn't singled out and welcomed, which i felt was nice. discretion can be the better part of hospitality too! through the summer (not that you'd necessarily know it - it's cool and wet today with a forecast top of 21c(71f) and right now i think it's only about 18, if that, so i'm pretty comfortable!) the church has lunch between services, bringing the evening service forward to mid-afternoon so people are, i suppose, freed up to do other things for the rest of the day after spending a bunch of time together through the middle of the day. i won't be there next sunday (since i'll be in astoria) but i plan to visit there again in two weeks' time.

i've not made plans for tomorrow but i think i might just bum around the city, park my butt in a cafe somewhere and just write. which was kind of an overall plan anyway.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

... quiet day

today was pretty quiet. i didn't get up as late as i did yesterday but i still didn't leave until very late - about 2-ish. made a few stops worth mentioning.

i went to the markets at burnside bridge. they're pretty glebe-y actually, and as far as handicrafts go it's all pretty slick, pretty professional. not overly crafty, per se. one thing i did get, however, that i thought was pretty cool was a game that some guy had made that he called "the real game of life". if you remember the boardgame that had the little built-in spinner, with the little cars for tokens, and tiny little pegs for people in them, this game has a slightly different take on how you win. in this new game you accrue "happiness" points through the various events that occur as you progress along life's pathways. the winner is the one with the most happiness points at the end of the game. different kind of money but still a matter of the most toys, i guess.

i checked off one of my big to-do list items, to set a copy of season 2 of once and again, my favourite tv (melo)drama series. i won't be able to get season 3 until the studios bring it to dvd, which doesn't appear to be on the cards anytime soon, alas. tough luck, i'll live. i signed an online petition to get season 3 released on dvd. what else can i do?

one of the funkiest things i've found, which i think i might have seen at a bookshop at the international terminal in melbourne, is a book called, pride and prejudice and zombies. the opening line reads something like:
it is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must want more brains...
elizabeth bennett's father wants a husband who will be able to protect his child from the unmentionable menace overrunning regency england. i'm trying very hard not to buy it here - i've only been here a few days and already i'll be carting around more than i should be.

church tomorrow. it's just coming up to 10.30pm now and i'm going to sign off and go to bed. i'm visiting the first orthodox presbyterian church of portland, which i picked after googling a bunch of churches here and checking out their websites. i don't know if i'll visit twice but we'll see.

i'm also going to see about booking my ticket to astoria. i'm taking an amtrak bus, so i'm going to head into union station in the north-east section of the city and check it out and if i'm able to buy my tickets i'll do it then. trying on a sunday is my only concern that i might come a cropper there but, again, we'll see.

good night...

... the world is an amazing place

i did an awful lot of walking yesterday. I was up at about 12.30, had a shower, got changed and motored out up the road to safeway. i couldn't believe it – i haven't seen the safeway sign like that for about 30 years, not since safeway in crown central closed and it was replaced by best & less and the other specialty shops opening up to the stairs leading to keira street... the supermarket itself was pretty huge and i bought some cheese and some granola (mueseli) bars and some grapefruit/cranberry juice (that was just delicious!).

it was a good way to eat breakfast, munching a bit here and there, because i walked from the hostel to the cbd. took quite a while, it was something like thirty city blocks to get to the willamette river, then more once i crossed hawthorne bridge. i'm planning on taking photos of these bridges at some point. i'm getting better at looking left before i cross the road but i've made a deliberate effort to use the footpaths on the left hand side of the road, so i'm usually facing the oncoming traffic. that being said, it's not going to help me learn to look left.

portland is an interesting city. for all the friendliness i was expecting, it's not that friendly. i smile at people as i walk around (feeling a tad like the village idiot, mind you) and get a few smiles back but not as many as i do walking around melbourne. once you engage people in conversation that sense evaporates and everyone that i've spoken with had been very friendly. there is quite a mix of affluence and poverty here – i've seen lot of panhandlers and homeless people sleeping in doorways and whatnot. i've also seen a couple of people using building fire escape doors as urinals. that's a bit ordinary but it seems to be happening more and more these days, home in melbourne too. as i walked through the city i did see quite a lot of empty shopfronts, which made me feel as if i were newcastle. when i went to tina last year, newcastle surprised me by being so... half empty. that's how it felt – half empty, not half-full. portland feels half-full, as if there's even more that could be happening. the owner of counter media, a shop near reading frenzy, told me that he works six days a week and has one member of staff to open the other day. he used to have two staff members and his last holiday was a three-day break a couple of years ago but the times have required a tightening of the belt, which at the moment remains quite tight.

transport here is great. similar to melbourne, transit ticketing seems to be based on travelling within certain zones situated concentrically around the cbd. i bought a weekly ticket for all zones and it wasn't very much, only about $20 or so. for the freedom to jump on any bus or train or streetcar or max train, it's abbasolutely worth it. portland is also incredibly bike friendly. walking into downtown yesterday i saw bucketloads of people riding their bikes into town and not many wearing helmets, although coming home almost everyone was. i don't know what that means. there are a lot of mass biking events and the portland police have apparently come down hard on some cyclists in the last but now i'm told that as long as you're wearing your helmet and have the appropriate lights on your bike, they leave you alone.

something i did notice yesterday but don't seem to see much today was all this fluff that was floating in the air. i was fronted by a volunteer collecting for a charity who, after i declined to sign up but kept yakking anyway, told me that it was a real allergy-starter. i had coffee at a place opposite a park in the city with a wwii cenotaph and the barista informed me that the fluff was most like cottonwood and/or poplar seeds, similar to dandelion seeds. i wonder how much of it i breathed in yesterday without realising...

one of my visits last night was to powell's city of books. as i browsed the shelves, i heard an announcement for a book signing and reading by author mary guterson. i didn't know her from a bar of soap but i was already in the store and i figured, why not? she seemed quite genial, the excerpts that she read were entertaining enough, so i bought a book, had it autographed, and i might read it on the plane on the way home. the book is called gone to the dogs. I browsed through the teen/young adult fiction while i was in-store – two authors stood out, the aussie author max barry and his book jennifer government (which i think we have at work) and an author named john green whose book, an abundance of katherines, sounded entertaining just from the title.

i got home quite late, after eating a couple of delcious cheeseburgers at a food cart in the downtown area where they were showing an outdoor screening of indiana jones and the last crusade. after a few false starts finding a bus stop, i caught the 14 back to the hostel and despite my good intentions of going straight to bed i stayed up talking with a couple of other guests – claire, who's up from california scoping out the lie of the land in anticipation of relocation; chris, a guy from perth who's been living in seattle these last three years; rhoda, chris' girlfriend, who sounded like a seattle native. all very friendly. but i did get up a couple of hours earlier today, which is nice.

today i've intentions of visiting the markets under the burnside bridge, the iprc, and maybe have dinner at one of the local places near the hostel. tonight i go to bed before 11pm! (my grand plan.)

something i came up with while discussing cats yesterday – cats are looking at humans and thinking, if only i had a thumb i could kill them in their sleep! not necessarily true, though. my theory is that they're waiting for humans to invent robots programmed to feed cats (from catching fish to canning, to serving on cats' dishes), at which point the feline revolution will overthrow humans. coming, but not yet...

well, it feels like it could be true.

Friday, July 10, 2009

... on deck in portland

after almost 27 hours of travelling, here i am. interesting people. i'm in a co-ed dorm. it's warmer than i expected but there's an almost constant cool breeze. i kept running into some fellow travellers - one billy-crystalesque guy visiting relatives in new york; one woman visiting relatives in las vegas; one woman, who turned out to be a flight attendant for a rival carrier trying to get home to indianapolis. (i hope she made it.)

clearing customs in san francisco wasn't too much of a trial but perhaps it was because i was one of the first people to check my luggage at the airport in melbourne (arrived about ten to eight - great going allison!) that i ended up being one of the last to get my luggage at sfo. i had planned to have plenty of time between drinks at san francisco, so i wasn't worried about time. i had southwestern corn chowder in a sourdough loaf-bowl for lunch, which was nice. the area i was sitting in was very interesting - a large open space with a high, almost vaulted ceiling, with a big octagonal ceiling formation of windows to make a giant skylight. very pretty.

they also had a bunch of exhibits featuring the work of two designers from the 50s, mary and russel wright. very interesting stuff! i noticed many people on their way to their departure gates being distracted by the big glass boxes featuring items designed at a broad range of stages in their careers. i have the feeling that their book, originally published in 1950 and reprinted in 2003, somewhat precursored the ikea catalogue i love so much.

the flight was a bit weird, though. i felt like i was in a movie marathon with really loud air conditioning... and a very small screen... and very bodgy editing and bleeping. saw the pink panther 2, confessions of a shopaholic, duplicity and 17 again. to borrow a phrase all pretty craptastic, actually. shopaholic was probably the best and only because it tugged at the heartstrings none too subtly but that's ok with me. isla fisher pretty fun to watch (see definitely, maybe) but the lead male (hugh dancy) was also seen recently in the jane austen book cub and did a very competent job with a fairly lean role.

i'm really tired. i'm going to just duck out and organise brekkie for tomorrow, i think, and maybe then come back here, read for bit, and hit the sack. i'm reading barack obama's book, dreams from my father - very easy to read and written (if he proves as good as his election word, i suppose) from the heart. he wrote this after he'd been elected president of the harvard law review. worth look.

plans for tomorrow are still a bit sketchy. i think i'll most likely wander around downtown nd suss out places like the iprc (independent publishing resource centre), reading frenzy, powell's books, etc.

bye from pdx!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

... you could put a tail on it and call it "weasel"

i have a cunning and subtle plan, my lords and ladies. this time tomorrow i should be well and truly on my way to the u.s. via sydney and san francisco - to portland, oregon. home of zines, city of roses, whose name was decided upon by the flip of a coin - birthplace of such characters as henry huggins and beezus & ramona, bands like everclear and sleater-kinney, home of myriad cafes, microbreweries and bridges. (i'm also planning to visit astoria.)

my intention is to blog daily about what i've done and sketch my plans for the following/upcoming day. this is partly to allay any fears my family have of me disappearing in a puff of smoke on the far side of the world. partly because it's probably not a bad thing to do and good writing discipline. partly because such an activity will give each day of mine something to hand from, i suppose. we'll see. i've blogged daily before and i don't remember the posts towards the end being anything spectacular.

right now, i'm finishing up lunch, finishing receiving in some stock, and tidying up my desk. wish me luck. pray for my safety and thank God for the safe arrival of my friends' newest child, henry.

please note a new link to a musical podcast/blog series off to the right, cassettes and chocolate milk. it's deff triff! music i haven't heard in ages, or had forgotten about, or never heard before, all put together by my friend eleanor.