Friday, August 26, 2011

... it's 9pm and i'm backdating this entry...

so. let's pretend that i'm writing this on friday, sometime around brunch. imagine me, having breakfasted and had a shower, dressed comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt while i slowly make my way through virtual history. then i think to myself, hey, i haven't blogged yet. i should do that now. let's pretend that's how this entry is coming about. in point of fact, description is not entirely wrong.

i have been spending inordinate amounts of time sitting outside reading and i feel much improved for it. that being said, i haven't been as diligent with my blogging as i would have liked and have a bit of catching up to do. happily, it's not overmuch of a problem.

yesterday, was last thursday. this happens at the end of each month along the alberta street shopping strip, from the corner of 15th avenue down to about 33rd. it all really gears up around 7pm and i had planned to go along with people from the guesthouse i've been staying at but i was in the mood for something to eat. i wandered up the road to the bus stop and thought i'd get some cheese to snack on while i made my way into the city. it wasn't until i'd bought some cheese and sat down to snack that i realised going into town would actually mean i'd likely fritter away my time in there and possibly miss going to alberta street.

i decided instead to just start walking along and watch people setting up their stalls. last thursday is a very ad hoc thing. there doesn't seem to be any kind of central organising committee liaising with anyone and if you want a particular spot along the strip then you better get there early and claim it. if you've been there before you get to know the regulars and there is an unspoken respect for those people who've made a spot their own.

what an amazing collection of stallholders. notwithstanding the shops, which are by and large pretty nifty on their own, the sheer variety of stuff on offer and to be seen and bought is wonderful. by comparison, the saturday markets by the waterfront are pretty ordinary and... slick. it doesn't really feel like a "market" if there's not a bunch of stalls sellings stuff off of blankets on the ground - that's definitely alberta street and not the saturday markets.

i stopped and talked to a few stallholders as they were setting up, as is my wont. the first thing i did, however, was stop for crepes. the crepe-maker was actually a french woman and it was great to be able to have a bit of a conversation in french for a while. the rest of her fellow stallholders were locals (inasmuch as anyone in portland is a local, given how many people here seem to have come from somewhere else) and non-francophone and seemed to be taking bets on where my accent is from. the crepe was packed full of nutella (her: "voulez-vous un peu de nutella ou en plus?" - me: "trop, s'il vous plait." - her: "trop? bien sur!" - me: "merci beaucoup!") and it was hot and delicious. my sister and i having spent many saturdays wandering around markets with sticky fingers from vienna peanuts, i knew better than to touch anything while i was eating my crepes.

i found a stall where everything looked like prints done on fabric but it turned out that what looked like prints were actually embroidered. the artist's name is jaclyn rose and i'll see her again at the first thursday art walk thing in the pearl district on the 1st. she has an etsy website called holidaytart and the stuff she does really is unique. some of it is very like pointillist work and quite intricate and very beautiful.

i bought some cards from a stall run by a couple of artists. it was the first time they'd done last thursday and i was their first sale of the day! i've written messages on the cards to send out and i need to go to the post office and get a clue about how much more postage to put on them to make sure they get home. at this stage it'll be interesting to see which gets home first - them or me.

there is a building that has multiple studios in it - something like the lady of shalott - and the various studios all have different artists making stuff. one artist, allie bentley, makes some amazing jewellery and metalwork. another person who came to portland for one reason and ended up staying for another.

i stopped at an ice cream place called salt & straw where i had some ice cream that had actually been made with local craft-brewed beer. each day for portland beer week they debuted a different flavour at their "scoop shop" on ne alberta. (they also have an ice-cream van and thought it was hilarious that we call our mobile ice-cream vans "mr whippy" vans...) i had some kind of chocolate ice cream made with stout. it was very nice.

of course, since i was eating again i couldn't go very far and touch things i was looking at so i stopped and looked at some hats being put up on some cyclone fencing in front of a building that was still under construction. raucous goods is another online etsy store and honest to goodness, the hats look like someone had gone on a killing spree on the set of the muppet show or sesame street! justa, the creator of this... headwear said that the biggest time of year for sales was right now - apparently they're huge at "burning man", the crazy art/music/lifestyle festival they have out in the desert.

as i moved further along i found a sign directing me to a "pop-up shop". i was curious - does it just pop up out of nowhere, like some kind of guerilla retailer? no, it was the name the various artists called their little zine and craft store. i picked up a zine called food stamp foodie #1 published by a vegan cartoonist called viriginia, who also has a blog here.

it's a real eye-opener to buy food here. compared to australia, food seems to be quite cheap, especially given that the amount of waste that is thrown away at the end of each day by restaurants and food places seems to be enough to feed a fairly healthy (?) freegan and dumpster-diving movement. the food carts are probably the best tasting food, using the freshest ingredients (i'm certain that many use ingredients grown in their own gardens at home) and are prepared pretty much on the spot.

buying food at a supermarket, on the other hand, is ghastly and looking at the ingredients panel on this stuff is buy turns surreal and terrifying. somewhere in the past someone decided that in america, each man should be his own physician and in that vein there is simply list of ingredients vomited from some company's public-relations wing onto the back of the packet you're buying. in my naivete, i assume that back in australia the people who can tell you what's in preservative 231 (or whatever number it is that makes the soft drink that it's in leave a furry aftertaste in your mouth) and that it's their job to give you that answer when you ask. i assume that they know how the preservative affects people as well as the food it preserves and that if it should come to pass that those effects were unsatisfactorily bad for you, then i also assume that they get the ball rolling in having in banned. like i said, i'm naive.

here, however, it seems that that's all up to you. it's the thinking that allows drug companies to market prescription drugs in the media to people. surely you shouldn't be creating a demand for a drug. i know some will say that they're informing and educating the public. i doubt that very much. advertising is about convincing people to make a choice. public service advertising is about encouraging people to make selfless choices - wear your seat belt; don't drink and drive; quit smoking so you can see your kids finish high school; vote; swim between the flags - but advertising drugs is about selling drugs. full stop.

how did i get onto food? oh, yes. the vegan food stamps zine. lots of vegan cooking zines around, although i love the fact that, checking out the associated wordpress blog (see the link above), there's actually a recipe included from a book called veganomicon. i love the title. i don't know that i could be a vegan - it would require a large number of conscious choices that i'm a little ashamed to say i'm happy to not make - but the title itself reminds me (deliberately, i'm sure) of the necronomicon, a device used by h.p. lovecraft in his cthulhu mythos as well as being the book that tries to eat bruce campbell in the evil dead series of movies.

another stand that i liked was run by a website called fashion mouse. several different designers trade under one room through a website maintained in such a way that all they have to do is supply the stock. not quite etsy but a lot less work for the designers. before i reached the end of the street's stalls, i came across one more stand, called skrappi. they sell things made from re-used material like kitchen mitts, around-the-home knicknacks, and - what caught my eye - childrens stuff. i was quite taken with the bath mitts and with a new niece in my family i thought it would be a very nifty thing to get. i didn't buy anythnig (i was saving my shekels for something later) but i grabbed a card and promised to blog a link.

i think that's enough for now. stay tuned for more exciting stuff.

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