Sunday, September 26, 2004

Franz Ferdinand, my mother-in-law and half a cow

Friday is dress-down day at the lattice semiconductor corporation and - oddly - it really does add a mildly laid-back vibe to the proceedings. The weekly team lunch at the local indian was however a "disappointment". That's a polite way of saying it was vile. After work I drove straight downtown to rendezvous with the family before our appointment with the Franz Ferdinand boys. We went to a(nother) brewery for pizza and beers, then walked together to the Crystal Ballrooms when the gig was too happen. Only Rachel and I had tickets, but Leon wanted to go to the box office to see if there was space left for Saturday's Bjorn again. FF was sold out and scalpers were trying to flog their tickets for 60 dollars a throw. A few sk8ter boiyz were hanging out in Elephant black bemoaning their bad luck. Then something amazing: to no-one's amazement (or even recognition) the FF lead singer setps off the tour bus and starts chatting to the sk8ter kids. Even though he looks much shorter in real life, I am sure it's him: "it's the lead-singer," I say. A small, self-effacing sort of chap he puts the sk8ter kids on the guest list. Then Julie starts chatting to him. Ten seconds later, Leon, Linda, Julie and Ben are also on the guest list. How cool is that?

The Crystal Ballrooms are quite the venue. Capacity must be around a thousand or thereabouts. The whole dancefloor is built on springs, like a giant mattress, not enough to lose your footing, just enough to be able to bounce really really high. The band were fantastic: super-tight and energetic, happy to play all the crowd-pleasers, it seemed like they were realy enjoying themselves. If you get the chance to see them live, you probably should.

On Saturday we went for a walk along the Columbia gorge. We took a six mile trail following the course of one stream up the mountainside and another back down again. It was so beautiful: waterfalls and bubbling, freezing water cutting through dense green forest. If you come and visit us, this is one thing you have to do; it reminds me a lot of a scene from Last of the Mohicans. Without the mortal danger of course. Unless you slip.

a photo from the somewhere in gorge

Last night celebrated four weeks since Ben and Julie's wedding and one month since Rachel and I arrived in Portland. Leon took us out to "Morton's of Chicago" for the full-on American steakhouse experience. And it was an experience. Before you eat, a waitress wheels around a trolley displaying all today's items in raw form. This includes, somewhat off-puttingly, a live lobster. Personally I find lobsters quite terrifying to behold; nevertheless the only emotion I felt at that moment was one of intense pity for the poor creature, out of his element and trollied around a restuarant with his claws bound, still jet-lagged - no doubt - from his red-eye flight from Maine. Rachel and I were all for adopting "Mr Pinchy" and taking him home to his own personal tank. As the waitress went on tp explain the various ways he could be split open for our culinary pleasure I felt my stomach twist. The trolley also displayed some extremely large cuts of meat which I assumed were there to display the type of cut from which a steak could be taken.

How naive.

I ordered the new york strip au poivre. It arrived some fifteen minutes later, at least two inches thick and about the size of my forearm. It must have been 20oz plus (I later discovered that a 48oz steak was available, though it is recommended this be shared by two diners). I hadn't eaten all day and I'd had plenty of exercise. It was, I'm ashamed to say, quite delicious. Even so I had to harness every last ounce of gluttony within my soul to finish it. And yet, following the exertion, I felt something other than comfortable satedness; I felt rather guilty.

It's a once a year trip. But if any of you fancy it, I'd be prepared to take you there. It's certainly quite an experience.

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