Saturday, June 25, 2011

Absinthe: The Revial

One of the great things about Portland is its attitude towards art. There's a lot of art here and anyone can be an artist. You just have to find your medium. With that in mind I've started to explore my artistic side.

I started taking video classes for work to learn more about working the video camera that I used for work and lighting. Now that is an art form. Lighting isn't easy. Either you get it or you don't. Four classes later I get it, but it's still not my strong suit. It's easy to meet people in these classes because we all seem to be exploring the art of video. In one of these classes a guy turned me onto an interesting idea: Documentary Film Making.

That just sounded hard for me. My friend Barbara in New York made a documentary called Cropsey about a Staten Island legend. If you haven't seen it, you should. You can get it on Netflix. It took her years to complete the doc and when it was done it debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. So you can see why it sounded like a bit of a challenge.

The guy told me about a class he took at NW Documentary: DIY Documentary. The idea? Make a 5 minute documentary in 10 weeks that would be shown in a theater. That seemed doable and I believe the best way to learn is to do - mistakes and all. It's all useful information. So I signed up for the class and made a documentary about Absinthe. You can see the documentary by clicking this link.

The whole process was amazing. Everything from finding a story, to learning more about Absinthe, to shooting and editing the documentary. It was a lot of work, but I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seasons in a blink of an eye

Before I moved to Portland people warned me about the weather because it rains a lot. To be fair I was concerned that I would miss the seasons. I grew up in Los Angeles, which had two seasons: Sunny and Not Sunny. I loved living in New York experiencing the change of seasons. I'd get so excited when Fall came along. It meant a change in fashion, people began dressing in layers not quite ready to put on a jacket. It was time to store the summer clothes and take a trip out to wherever there was some free storage space (New Jersey, Upstate, Connecticut, etc.) most New York closets just can't accommodate a full four season wardrobe.

When I first arrived in Portland it had been snowing. I could check winter off my list of seasons. Sure once the snow melted and the streets dried up I experienced a more traditional Portland winter - gray days. There is rain, of course, but it didn't typically rain non-stop. I would begin to get excited when the sun would appear - if only for a day or two. Even then, although I'd want the sun to stick around a little bit longer, the gray skies didn't bother me.

There is a lot of talk about the lack of sun for stretches at a time. Some people feel it more than others and I know a few folks who found themselves taking Vitamin D or getting a Vitamin D shot just so they could have more energy. So far the gray and rain hasn't affected me that way.

Instead I have a different weather issue. I call it schizophrenic weather. This is what it's like: sunny, drizzly, hail, sunny, windstorm, rain all in the span of about two minutes. It's the not knowing if I should walk my dog or not weather. In case you don't know, my dog - the Zsash - is just not down with walking in the rain. She straight out will go right back in the house if she even senses rain. While this weather pattern just gets to me, something good does emerge: a Rainbow. I've seen more rainbows here than I think I have in my entire life. There's something to be said for that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

All About Beans

I'm talking about coffee beans. We had some news this week about one of Portland's most popular coffee brands: Stumptown. The company has found an investor and there seemed to quite a bit of buzz about what this means. It's probably the vagueness of the statement from Duane Sorenson, the man who started the company back in 1999. I find this interesting because it sounds like business will go on as usual, which is a good thing. What stood out to me is that the news on the site is called "A Note from Duane." This speaks volumes to what Portland is all about. It's not about titles and climbing to the top of a corporate ladder. It's about creating a solid product the way you want to do it and people either liking it and wanting more or not. Just a side note: Good service is also imperative.

The issue is probably more about the fact that people don't want Stumptown to become commercial or another Starbucks-type place with a store on every corner. There are actually very few traditional chain coffee places around town. A definite plus. In the short time I've been here one thing has been clear: it's all about the local business and to me that's amazing. Something you don't see in a lot of places. 

Back to the coffee. Stumptown coffee is delicious. It was actually the first cup of coffee I had when I moved here. Coming from New York I took a flight that got me into Portland some time after 11. It was a cold night in January and there was some snow on the ground. The next morning I woke up craving a good cup of coffee. At the time, for me that meant going down to the bodega on the corner and asking for coffee light and sweet. I put on my Uggs, warm coat, snow hat, and asked Matt where I should go. He pointed in me the direction of Stumptown. It was just a few blocks away and the closest. 

I found my way to Stumptown (turns out it was the original location). It was in a non-descript brick building, there wasn't much in the way of decoration in the main room except a gigantic piece of machinery that must have something to do with the beans and some local flyers pinned to the wall. I noticed something else, too. The staff seemed to know a lot of the people by name. There's that local business feel. Once in line, I decided to get a cafe au lait - some steamed milk sounded like a good idea. 

Here's the cool thing about that au lait: They brought over a cup of coffee and began pouring the piping hot milk into it. Normal enough, right? Then they finished it off with a design of a leaf. By the time I got back to the house the coffee was the right temperature for me to drink. I took a sip and knew instantly I had no idea what constituted good coffee. This stuff was delicious. If all you New Yorkers reading this haven't seen a Stumptown sign where you get coffee, I'm betting you will soon. When you do see that sign try that coffee. It is the goods.

People can think what they may about the Stumptown news. I for one am glad in this economy they have the capital to keep doing what they do best and that's make and serve great coffee.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another One Rides the Bus

Previously, I mentioned that I broke my foot and as a result I couldn't drive. That meant cabs, buses, or the kindness of friends. While cabs and friends were great, there were times that I had to ride the bus. The public transportation here is actually pretty good. When you transfer the next bus is typically a few minutes away so the waits aren't long and they can take you all over Portland with relative ease. The one thing that gets me about the bus is the fare. It's $2.05. Someone, please tell me what's with the five cents? I'm not complaining. I just don't get it. 

Now, I've been on the bus in Portland before - usually around 5pm - when it's basically a lot of commuters. Sure, the bus could get crowded, but I took the bus in New York where the double buses often had people standing three deep in the aisle. So the crowd didn't really bother me.

That was before I took the bus in the middle of the day. It's a whole different ball game. The bus may not be crowded, but it sure is colorful. At first, it was harmful enough. A few people got on in front of the meth clinic and spent the ride exchanging tips on where they could use their food stamps to buy cigarettes. Then it escalated a bit. A man on the bus with very few teeth saw I had "Das Boot" on and decided he should tell me all about orthopedic footwear that he gets at Goodwill for my entire journey. Then there was the lady who talked to herself incessantly and loudly. I looked to see if she was wearing a headset of some kind, but to no avail. 

Perhaps the one that took the cake was the lady who while we stood at the bus stop kept swinging her open umbrella in my face (oh, and it wasn't even raining). Then we got on the bus and she started coughing. Not quiet demur coughs with her hand covering mouth. No. The sounds coming from her made me think she was giving birth to an alien. Finally, someone asked, "Are you alright?" She responded with a bit of saliva coming from her mouth that she was sick. At that moment, a shiver simultaneously came over the rest of the passengers. 

Yes, riding the bus is interesting. I did manage to pick up a clue. The most colorful people on the bus seem to belong to a club. I call it "The necklace club." This is because they all wear their bus passes around their neck on a chain that resembles the chains that attach a pen to a table at a bank. When I see them I know I'm in for an adventure.

I still take the bus. After all, you never know what's in store. And when it gets too interesting I start thinking about songs like Weird Al Yankovic's "Another One Rides the Bus." That seems to make the ride go faster.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Achy, Breaky Foot

It happened like this: I was skiing down a run at Mount Hood and a snowboarder cut me off. I lost my balance, took a tumble, and landed on my foot. Ok, it didn't really happen like that. I haven't been skiing this year and I have yet to make it to Mount Hood, even though I hear it's like a hour away. That story just sounds better than what really happened to my poor foot. It was late at night and I was walking from the kitchen to the couch, my foot twisted inward, I lost my balance, and I landed right on top of it. Yeah, that's how I really broke my foot.

It's my first broken bone and I was oh so excited to get a cast. Have people sign it adding the kind of funny pictures and notes that make High School Yearbooks epic. But that didn't seem to be in the cards for me. In fact, the whole experience from break to heal wasn't at all what I thought it would be.

Das Boot!
When I first landed on my foot and heard something crack, Matt offered to take me to the emergency room. I'm not one for hospitals and who am I kidding? It was late. So I did what I thought anyone with a hurt foot would do: I elevated it and put ice on it. Next day, I couldn't really walk on it.

I called my doctor and instead of saying "Come on in, we'll take a look at it." Without even speaking to him on the phone I was told to go get an x-ray at where else? The hospital. A couple of hours later the verdict was in: the foot was broken. My doctor's receptionist told me to go to the Orthopedic Specialist. Now either this was insanely efficient or totally odd. I still can't decide.

After calling the Orthopedic Specialist I finally got an appointment the next day. Once there, what do you think happened? I had to get another x-ray. Yep, the foot was still broken. They gave me a boot, which I've come to call fondly, "Das Boot." I'd have to wear it for 6 weeks, which turned into 2 months. The doctor said I didn't have to come back for a month, but I shouldn't walk on it a lot. In fact, I had a trip to New York planned and was told I should get a wheelchair to the gate. While I wasn't a big fan of doing this, I can honestly say I would have missed more than one plane if I didn't follow the doctor's orders.

After the second visit to the doctor I had to go back every two weeks. Now, the Orthopedic Specialist office is not close and I'd have to take a few buses to get there. I couldn't drive because it was my right foot that was broken. What would a girl from New York do? Take a cab of course.

Here's what I learned about cabs. Yeah, you can't really walk out of your building and hail one. However, you can call and the cab will arrive in about five minutes. The cab dispatchers came to know me by my name and even learned my frequented stops. They're probably able to do that because my phone number is attached to my stops. Still, I liked the personal touch. The cab drivers were friendly always with a story to tell about the old days of Portland or their life adventures. It made the trips to the Orthopedic Specialist all that more interesting.

While my foot is on the mend (I might even be able to start running next week. Not that I run, but, you know, it's nice to have the option), I don't think I'll stop taking cabs any time soon. If anything, it's nice to realize that it's a lot easier to catch a cab than I previously thought. That's a definite plus!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Honey

Whenever I move to a new place there's one thing I've come to pretty much count on: When Spring comes so does an allergy attack. I remember the first time I moved to New York I spent the entire first summer in a haze of sneezes and tissues. Turns out I had allergies. This I learned is apparently not uncommon when you move to a new geographical location.

So I went to the doctor and he gave me allergy meds. Now, I'm not a big fan of taking medicine of any kind. That said, the allergy attacks were so bad I decided to give it a try. After a few days, I didn't know what was worse, the fuzzy groggy feeling I had on the meds or the sneeze attacks. Ok, I did know what was worse: the fuzzy groggy feeling. So I went back to the doctor to find out if there's another remedy. He suggested I tough out the summer without meds and that would help my body build-up some immunity. So I did. He was right. Eventually, the pollen or whatever caused the allergy attack in the first place disappeared. Although, that did take a few years.

When I moved to Portland I wasn't that surprised to have the same issue. Matt, however, was quite surprised by my daily sneezing attacks and said, "Can you take something for that?"

I explained that it would pass if I just sucked it up and waited it out. A few weeks later I would take a Claritin to deal with it, but I still didn't like it.

So I asked people what they did for allergies and in true Portland fashion they mentioned a home remedy: Eat a spoonful of honey every day for three months. A spoonful of honey? I thought to myself Who are you Mary Poppins? I heard this repeatedly, so I thought, "Why not?" Honey's yummy. But where would I get local honey?

I told Matt of this home remedy and asked, "So how do I get local honey?"

"Look in the pantry," He responded.

I looked in the pantry and didn't see anything that looked a lot like local honey. I did see a jar of yellowish goop without a label. So I pulled it out and asked, "What's this?"

"That's the local honey."

"Huh? How do you have local honey?"

"Oh, I know someone who has bees and makes honey from it."

Of course you do, I thought. This is after all Portland, the home of the front yard farm. It makes sense.

After that, I started my day with a spoonful of honey. Wasn't bad. In fact, it tasted pretty good. A few weeks later I noticed my sneezing calmed down a bit. A year later allergy season has arrived once again and guess who isn't getting any attacks?