Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Northwest Style (Part 1)

An oxymoron, you say? Those Capilene-clad jam-band groupies wouldn’t know style if it bit ‘em in their Birkenstocks.

Having lived all over the Pacific Northwest for the last 14 years and being very proud of that fact, I should take umbrage with this preconception.

But you’re dead fuckin’ on.

It’s as if someone decreed Portland, Seattle the “why bother” fashion capital of the world.

Huge rubber toed shoes that look clownish and uncomfortable – a Northwest staple. Hair that hasn’t been washed in far too long and exists in places it shouldn’t – right next to me, right now at the coffee shop.

For the most part, I’m ok with this. I’m no Pierre Cardin myself, and I appreciate the lack of pressure in that regard.

But there are a couple things going on out here that just aren’t right. They are desperate attempts at creating a style that’s not stylish. They are completely isolated to their city of origin, failing even to catch on in the other major cities of the Northwest. And they irritate me so much, I’ve had to cut ties as a result.

Today we’ll start with Seattle and the utilikilt.

A heavily pleated, durable fabric skirt with pockets, the utilikilt is worn primarily by men – I have spotted women wearing these atrocities, but that is not what we’re talking about. The men who wear utilikilts are not exclusively gay – I have spotted gay men in them, too but they’re only part of what I’m talking about.

The real demographic of note is the burly, usually quite stocky, and always thickly bearded, straight Seattle man who wears them as some kind of Northwest badge of honor.

This is not some miniscule segment of Seattle society. This shit is rampant. You see them all over town, but more frequently performing manual labor like when there’s heavy lifting to do or sawing wood. They can be worn to go out on the town, but this is not their common habitat. They’re most often accompanied by a sturdy pair of work boots. And they’re not cheap. They start at about $150 and go up to the mid-$600 range, if you're one of those dudes who likes your pleated skirts to come in leather. And they are so popular in Seattle that they necessitate not one, but
two retail outlets (please click this link for the user-generated Utilikilt mock-umercials - they are fantastic) devoted exclusively to the waist-to-knee eyesore. After your third or fourth sighting, you start to get desensitized.

In 2004, we moved to the Fremont neighborhood, a veritable bastion of dreadlocks and patchouli - seemingly a very different subculture than the utilikilt lover but you still see 'em everywhere. The former owner of our house was putting some finishing touches on the place. In his utilikilt. And let me just say, this guy could totally kick my ass.

Despite this introduction to Fremont and the neighbors with their chicken coops, I loved living there. There was a park two blocks away where I walked my dog daily and chatted it up with neighbors who did the same - a few of us hung out pretty much every night shooting the shit while our dogs took some laps.

One guy was particularly nice, a middle school teacher who rented a room in a house across the street from the park and often invited me to sit on his front porch for beers. We talked about all kinds of things in life and I probably told him more about my day-to-day issues than most members of my family. My wife and I went out with him a few times socially and for a while, felt like he was one of our better friends in town. He had a big bushy beard.

And then the weather warmed up. I show up to the park one fine May evening for my regular session only to find this dude all skirted up. I was duped. He wasn’t the type and he never let on that he wore that shit. He could have told me months earlier that he was a skirt wearer and it never would have gotten this far. After that, it got awkward. He was somebody else in that pleated skirt and I couldn’t shake it.

I didn’t write the guy off completely. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was just experimenting. Not turning totally skirt or anything. Just taking this $150 garment out for a spin. But the nice weather got nicer, the skirt got more play and I got more uncomfortable. It totally ruined the whole nightly hang for me and I had to start taking my dog to other parks. Eventually he moved and we never saw or heard from his skirt again.

Postscript: Apparently, there are utilikilts now residing outside of Seattle. This guy from San Francisco loves 'em. But I've never had a sighting beyond the 2-0-6. Please let me know if you see one so I can issue a retraction of my Seattle-centric critique. The city does have two big stores, though.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ah, regrets

This post is mostly just an excuse to bury the last entry. Yes, I diverted from my angry ways. But I was angry when I wrote it damn it, even if it did just sound like I was a big pussy. One reader went so far as to call me a hyper-sensitive fag. And that was a chick.

Rather than defend myself anymore on this one, I'd just like to point out
some stupid shit other people do, too. And in this case, the ramifications are a bit larger than five readers not being entertained enough by my random disillusionment with the world. So piss off.

I guess no one in the marketing department at London's Office of Government Commerce caught the self-indulgent
logo (right) before it made it's way to some corporate swag.

It was soon turned on it's side to appear less, umm, wanker-ish.

So on behalf of London's Office of Governement Commerce and this blog, please excuse all former masturbatory materials. It shan't happen again.

For the full story, check the UK's Daily Telegraph report here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I love me a good couple's fight, Part 2

Other than the loose tie back to a previous post (Love Me a Good Couple Fight), this next story does an awful job of staying true to any form devised by this blog. But it weighs on me, so I air it. If you’re one of those purist types who feels I’ve diverged, lost my way, “jumped the shark” perhaps, just skip this post.

4.21.08 Approx. 7:32 am

I ride my bike to work. Just not in the rain, which probably doesn’t sound like very often in Portland, but you’d be surprised. And the only relevance my bike has to this story is that I find by passing things slower than I would in a car or on a bus, and by not having steel doors around me, I become almost an active participant to the events around me.

Anyway, there are a couple different routes I’ll take, depending on the coffee shop I want to stop at on the way – today I chose Grendels on East Burnside and 7th. It’s fine. Nothing special but one of the few tolerable places (decent music, not too sterile,) on my way into the office – please, if nothing else is gained from this blog, someone just open a cool coffee shop between Burnside and SW Harrison, or at least notify me of one I’m missing.

I specifically chose Grendels on this particular morning because I had a free coffee coming to me and I was running a little light.
The route between my house and Grendels takes me through some fairly industrial areas right before I hit my destination. This morning, I came across a parking lot full of big rigs. It’s one of those things that you never pay attention to, and you would have no idea if the trucks are for sale or just parked there for the night, or anything else about them – I normally just ride by.

But on this particular morning, I happened to ride up to this parking lot, just as a man in his 20s, and woman who was most certainly in her teens, and the low ones at that, emerged from behind a truck. The man did the ol’ look both ways and go for it. And the girl, dressed in way too short a dress for this early in the wedding season, wandered aimlessly and confused as if she just had her very innocence violently ripped away from her.

The whole thing was horrible. And since there was absolutely nothing I could say or do, I tried to justify what I just saw.

Maybe she was a whore getting in her last licks of the night (definitely in the right part of town for that).

Maybe she was his coworker and they just had a disagreement about how to run the business.

Maybe that was the most loved she’ll ever be.

I will never know. But since I now have to live with the image of those two walking away from each other in utter disgrace, I figure someone else should at least share it with me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The restaurants I hate (And why they probably hate me back)

What good are restaurant recommendations? From anyone? I have specific tastes (good). You probably have specific tastes, too. And if someone recommends a restaurant to me and I don’t particularly like it, you would think my giving them an honest opinion was akin to me wishing cancer on them.
So I think we’d all get a lot more out of knowing which restaurants I emphatically urge you to avoid.

My ultimate goal, through this blog, is to single-handedly put these restaurants (all in Portland) out of business - or at least convince a few less people to support them.

It wasn't necessarily the food. Or the service. Or the atmosphere. And truthfully, you could very easily have a wonderful experience at one of these places.
But they wronged me. And for that, they should pay.

These are listed in no particular order, except for the first, which was just the most recent event and impetus for this post.

1. Mississippi Station
This place has all the makings of a great restaurant/bar, but fuck them. Last Thursday night, at around 9:30, I met a friend there for a drink. He was initially opposed to the spot due to an equally shitty experience there, just the night before. I chalked it up to an off night on their part. I arrived first. The room was lit up like a high-school cafeteria and despite the three or four parties still comfortably settled in, the bartender and waitress appeared to be tidying up for the night. I ordered a whisky for myself, a beer for the friend and handed them my Visa, asking them to start a tab. They rejected my tab and told me it was almost last call. AT 9:30 PM! So I asked what time they closed on a Thursday night. They responded together, "11." Umm, I checked the watch I don't wear and reminded them it was ONLY 9:30 PM! They stumbled over each other like a bad Abbot and Costello routine and told me they were actually closing at 10:30 but they would start a tab for me, like they were some patron saints of inebriation. And with my tab, I received the annoyingly attentive service of a acne-laden waitress, who looked much better, much further away, but hovered over anyway, hurrying our second drink on us and placing the bill down with them, all but holding our jackets open. We left promptly at 10:30, just short of involuntarily – geez, I'd hate to see them make any more money before closing.

2. Sweet Basil
Sadly, this may be Portland's best Thai food. I won't mention its location because I wouldn't want you to be tempted and there are plenty of other good ones, so just deal with it. Because the first thing you’ll find there is the wait. We typically order the food to go and no matter how long they tell you it will take, or how long you actually give them, they invariably make you stand by the cash register for no less than 18 minutes. It’s like you serve penance for the delicacies about to be bestowed upon you. You could easily watch a group come in, get seated, order, get served, eat, pay and leave in the time it takes for them to put your take-out order together. My last pick-up was with a buddy so I have witnesses and he’s a much more patient person than I. We waited and when it finally came time to pay the $35 tab, both my friend and I each laid a $20 bill on the counter. They asked us if we wanted any change. First of all, it's take out. Not delivery. Not eat in, and mess up your place. It’s TAKE-OUT!. Second of all, don't ever ask me if I want change. Yes, I always want change, even if I am eating in your stinking joint and then I will decide how much of it you get. We responded “yes, we would like our change” and graciously left her a dollar each. We got home and unpacked the food. They had forgotten two orders of spring rolls and one order of Pad See Ewe. I called and asked them what they intended to do about it. They defensively argued that they had no order for Pad See Ewe and we were not charged for it. What about the spring rolls? Oh yes, they did forget those. So, ummm... Yeah, ok, they'll deliver those. But not the Pad See Ewe unless we wanted to put that on our card. Should be at our house in 15 minutes (sic. 1 hour). The driver showed up and held his hand out for a tip, which I refused but felt bad cause it really wasn't his fault. Until he left. He only brought one order of the spring rolls. Goddamn them! My wife suggested we call the restaurant again and tell them to give the money we were charged for the spring rolls that will never belong to us, to the driver, since we didn't tip him. I suggested we never call them again and blog about how much we hate them.

3. Any Small Plates Restaurant
Clark Lewis. Toro Bravo. That place on NE 28th that everyone loves so much. I haven't even been to the last two and I hear Toro Bravo is the best place to wait 2 hours for a table in the city. But fuck them anyway. I hate this new small plates dining movement that's taken the pretentious foodies by storm. It's bullshit. If there are four people in your party, they bring three of whatever you ordered. If there are 20, they'll bring 19. It's the small plates Russian Roulette mind fuck to see who is the most selfless person at the table. Who will politely bow out of each dish, just because they won’ t bring your table enough to go around? You know who? Me. You guys loved the place because you ate. I starved so I could blog about it.

4. Stumptown Coffee
Yes, it's still better than Starbucks. And I’m all for supporting local business. But if you’re waiting 12 minutes in line for your morning latte, just to soak in that gritty yet hip bike messenger vibe, then you're just a big sucker. Wait a minute....

5. Park Kitchen
Everbody loves Park Kitchen. It’s so eclectic and inventive and the atmosphere is admittedly warm and lively. But get outta here with your crazy meat concoctions. Duck ham, preserved strawberries and goat cheese fondue. Carpaccio of halibut, oil cured cardoons and chervil. Savory rhubarb, big woods blue and oat crisps. Freshly marinated anchovies with preserved lemons and fennel. Yes, you’ve wowed me with your inventive spirit and love for the epicurean. Too bad everything tastes like I threw up in my mouth.
Ed. Note: The restaurant Rocket falls into this same category of hate for me. They have Grilled Spencer and Scrapple on their menu and when I asked what these items were, the server responded as if I were rubbing feces all over myself. Who doesn’t know what Spencer and Scrapple is? With that warm reception, my party and I stood up and walked out. So I didn’t actually eat there. But the view from their balcony may be the best Portland has to offer. Too bad you should never go see it.