Monday, July 6, 2009

Groovin' the Couv and other 4th of July antics

It was about time for the Fourth of July - only a 3-day weekend this year, but having three days off is better than just having two. Anyway, in New York the big thing to do is watch the fireworks one way or another - either on the street, perched on a rooftop, on a boat floating in the temporarily rocky waters of the East River, or on TV with the rest of America. I've watched them in New York in all locals listed except the boat. After awhile, not that the fireworks aren't phenomenal (they definitely are fantastic), I just didn't seem to try terribly hard to make it out to watch them. The streets and subways can be crowded and it's often so muggy I'd rather stay inside. I know it sounds terrible like Fourth of July isn't all that special to me, but maybe it's because it's been a long time since I've a spent a Fourth of July with a more local ambience and got that magical feeling of people coming together to celebrate. This year was different.

Let's start with Friday. Remember I'm new to Portland, but I'm also new to the concept of legally being able to buy fireworks. So much so, every time I think about the idea of buying fireworks I envision trips across the border to Tijuana or buying products from a one-handed guy on some rural back roads. Never did I think it was legal to buy them in Oregon (if only for a small window of time) or even better in Washington state where I'm told they have the really "good" fireworks.

Thus 4th of July begins with a friday morning adventure to have breakfast in the Couv' (that's Vancouver - just across the river from Portland). We saw on Google maps a lot of dots in the downtown area of Vancouver where there should be lots of places for breakfast. With that knowledge, we decide to drive through Vancouver's downtown area only to find it, well, empty and somewhat uninhabited, except for the older gentleman we stopped walking on the street to ask for a breakfast suggestion. He said we should try breakfast at the hotel, though it's not that good. And with that advice we decided to look harder ourselves by driving up and down the streets of downtown. This is what is called "Groovin' the Couv". Finally, we find a place: it's the oldest restaurant in town and even proclaims on its menu that a baby was born in the bathroom a few years back. That's right Walmart Baby, step aside. Turns out the place was pretty legit and the food: well, a good enough start to the day. Though don't ask the waitress what she thinks of anything on the menu as she will inform you that she doesn't eat there. Somehow that made me feel a little better about the place.

The Couv's exciting and all, but the real adventure was just a few miles up the road: a huge circus size tent where they sold fireworks. This was truly unlike anything I had seen before. There were signs and long traffic lines pointing the way. It's hard to decide which of these make-shift establishments to patronize. Thankfully, one sign stood out more than most: You'll Love Us, the Competition Hates Us. And, thus, my first hands-on firework experience begins. It's amazing to me everyone (customers and sales folks alike) seem to have both hands and even all their fingers. There's an insane variety of fireworks; I didn't know there were so many ways to have something burn up and make crazy noise. They even sold fireworks in family packages. There were sparklers (sticks that you light and twirl as it burns - or not), which turned out to be not so toe friendly. Sparks hurt - Note to self: don't wear open-toed shoes when using sparklers.

Upon leaving the Couv' with boxes filled with fireworks, I made the mistake of asking, "what do you do with all these fireworks?" That's when I learned about a place in Portland called Little Beirut, also known as Felony Flats, where it seems to be tradition to blow up as many fireworks as possible without really hurting anyone or anything. I wish I could say I was brave enough to go, but maybe next year. Instead, I did the thing I hadn't done in years, I got in a car with some friends, drove downtown and parked the car, got out and walked toward the Hawthorne Bridge and watched the fireworks with other spectators and stopped bridge traffic. Now, they weren't as grand as those found in New York. They weren't even really set off with any rhyme or reason, but there was something "All American" to me about this Fourth of July. I kept thinking that I would hear John Cougar's "Ain't That America" blasting on the radio, but I didn't. I guess, instead, I got the sentiment and that was just fine with me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Words: Fred Meyer

If you've never been to Portland or Oregon, for that matter, these are two words you'll come to know quickly. It's the one stop shop for virtually everything. At first glance, you might think it's a really big super market with a few extras, but alas they sell TVs, music, storage, paint - really, anything for the home. I think I must have went to the mother ship yesterday - it's the store in Hollywood. (Side note: The neighborhoods here sometimes take their names from somewhere else - thus Hollywood. There's even one called Brooklyn, but it's not anything like Brooklyn. You don't even need to take a bridge to get there.) Anyway, this store was easily the size of two football fields with plenty of room for visitor and home benches. It was freakin' ginormous. It had clothes, BBQ's - gas and charcoal - a large gardening center, and of course tons of food and a fabulous wine selection. I think the only thing it didn't sell was wood, so you can build a house. I only went for a few items, but I was in the area - so clearly I got a bit of exercise while I searched out and selected my items. 

Here's the thing for me about Fred Meyer: I like to shop. I really, really do. It's an activity and part of the activity for me is discovering new little finds in random places. There's something extremely gratifying for me to go to a few speciality shops to seek out special ingredients for something I want to make later that day - the bakery for bread, the cheese shop, the corner vegetable stand/bodega. Though it inevitably creates more bags to carry (new or recycled), there's something magical to me about the whole process -- bags and all. So, this one stop shopping is not really for me. It makes me think I should be in some snowbound town found in Minneapolis where these kind of stores are needed since you usually get so snowed in you can only make it out to one place and that place better have everything you need.  Yet, that's simply not the case here in Portland and so the need for an  institution like Fred Meyer puzzles me, but it is indeed a defining Oregon attribute. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Making the Move

I arrived here about four months ago with my dog Zsa Zsa to live with my boyfriend, Matt. About a month prior to the move, we actually made the decision that we would indeed be living in Portland instead of New York. There were many reasons and loads of logic that went into the decision making process, but basically it came down to where would it be easiest for both of us. Seeing as we're both pretty independent, it became apparent we'd need a lot of living space and it's no secret that it's going to be a lot easier to fill that requirement in Portland than in New York. So I came out for a week with Zsa Zsa and we found a place that had a tiny yard for Zsa Zsa and plenty of room for me and Matt. I headed to Vegas for CES and then back to New York for a quick two weeks to pack-up and gear up for a move west. It's been quite an adventure and even a bit of culture shock. Now, four months later, here I am with a ton of observations to share and I even have a few questions I'm hoping to get answered.