Monday, January 31, 2005

The news in pictures

I finally got some photos developed to give you a clearer picture of life out here in Portland. Many of these refer to adventures already detailed and will be posted there too for the sake of consistency. Apologies to everyone without a broadband connection - this may take a few seconds...

our ginger car (Mazda 3)
The ginger car

our house
Our house, 3027 SE Main St in all its glory

from left to right: Ben, Julie, Johnny and Rachel
from left to right: Ben, Julie, Johnny and Rachel

Rachel plays Donkey Konga
Rachel plays Donkey Konga

Rachel at the zoo
Rachel at the zoo
Rachel charms the birds at Portland zoo

snowshoeing at Mount Hood
snowshoeing at Mount Hood
Up a certain mountain...

wanker's country store
You had to see it to believe it - yes, it's Wanker's Country Store. 'Tis the season for Eggnog Lattes indeed.

the beach South of Florence
the beach South of Florence
The beach south of Florence on our Anniversary

View from the hotel, Yachats
the view from the hotel, Yachats

sealions in Newport
Sealions taking a break in Newport

the waterfall near Silverton
the waterfall near Silverton
The waterfall near Silverton; squint to the centre left of the water on the upper photo - yes that tiny mark is someone on the path about to walk behind the falls...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

"Research has conclusively demonstrated…"

…is another great way to begin a sentence drawn from one's own fevered imagination. According to my own research, there's an awful lot of research out there and it all demonstrates with alarming and uncanny accuracy precisely whatever it was initially expected to. Therefore one should feel free to quote research of which one is completely unaware in the knowledge that - more often than not - the quote will be accurate. This also saves a lot of time on, well, research, or "reinventing the wheel" as we refer to it here in industry.

In breaking news, SpongeBob has been outed by the Christian right. Personally, I always had my suspicions. Anyone who lives in a pineapple has got to be a little suspect, right?

Meanwhile myself, Bart (offbeat Californian Berkeley/Princeton graduate who stands out as the under-groomed section of the marketing division), Troy (also works in marketing and has an ex-wife from Isfield - yes Isfield I tell you) and Joe, his best friend from school and manager of one of Portland's most successful salons (hairdresser to you), have been kicking around the idea of opening our own bar somewhere in the city. Needless to say, this has involved some research, which has so far only demonstrated that drinking on an empty stomach after work produces rapid insobriety - although this is not yet conclusive. A trait common to most Americans, one which it is difficult not to admire, is their general get-up-and-go; their enthusiastic, entrepreneurial outlook on life, an attitude that meets failure as no more than a temporary setback - rather than just further evidence of one's own incapacity and Fate's cruel mockery of man's vanity. Not very British to be sure, but the mood is infective and uplifting. The sense of possibility is, in itself, rather liberating.

"It's me knees, doctor" is what I should have said, though it would only have been amusing to me and may have lead to a different diagnosis. Turns out that I damaged the cartilage in the aforementioned joints in that spurt of over zealous running (yes, of course, it's was rather more jogging, but I'm trying to glamorise it for the sake of my dignity) back in November. The condition is in fact called Runner's Knee, which put me in mind of Housemaid's Knee, the one condition the protagonist in Three Men in a Boat believed he was not suffering from. In any case, all will heal in time, but for now I've been prescribed two patella straps (essentially belts which fit under one's knees) and been told to grin and bear it, but to avoid any, well, running. Which doesn't sound too difficult.

Meanwhile Rachel is very much enjoying her new job as a proof-reader for the medical reports generated when workplace injury compensation cases come to trial. As a word of advice, it's probably best not to operate a chainsaw whilst dangling from a helicopter.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Was it not Baudelaire who said...

One should always be drunk? In fact it was, but the fact is that no-one around here knows that. I have been musing on the possibility of beginning every other sentence with the words "was it not Baudelaire who said..." and then filling the blank with the first bit of nonsense that comes into my head, "...the spreadsheet is but the whispered geometry of Hades," for example.

Taking the train to work has given me the opportunity to read once again; unfortunately I remain convinced that nothing of any value has been put into print since the nineteen-thirties and, besides, we unloaded almost our entire library to the hospice charity shop on Lewes High Street some six months ago, leaving me with but a clutch of cookery books, philosophical tracts and reference manuals that I felt it would have been over-zealous to dispense with. And because it's hardly seemly to produce a Nigella Lawson hardback on the 7.14 from Goose Hollow, I've been forced back on the aforementioned tracts and therefore upon the painful remembrance of the infinite depravity of my own nonchalance, the vertiginous chasm of unfulfilled possibility and - in general - the absurd folly of existence. Indeed, everything a man should remain ignorant of until the age of 45 when I believe such considerations are de-rigueur. I have to say it's a less than inspiring start to a day to be spent distracting oneself from the urgent inevitability of one's own demise with innumerable reams of pointless activity and general bad faith.

My boss has returned from a recent stint in the Far East to a mix of relief, dismay and - for me at least - general hilarity. A sincere, capable and (to my mind at least) oddly driven individual, he commented on my delight at having received a Nintendo Gamecube for Christmas with, "A Gamecube? But that's not aimed at your demographic!"

Today finds us frozen into our house! The upper air being somewhat warmer than that at ground level, rain fell from the sky and froze where it landed, depositing sheet ice on every surface. As today's high was -2C, it's not going anywhere and the city has been advised not to leave the house. Fairly wise, as I decided I was not capable of making it as far as the hot-tub without risking mortal injury. Of course the news is a litany of those who dared venture forth and met with mishap, both serious and comical. As I write however, the house is filled with the hypnotic rhythms of Donkey Konga, I have a bottle of Port beside me and my darling Conker is lying to my right - there really is no reason to leave the house.

Rachel plays Donkey Konga
Rachel plays Donkey Konga

Interesting that as one ages one becomes more aware of one's physicality. To be sure, even at an early age I knew that there were limitations to my mortal being: I was never going to run a four minute mile, for example, let alone fly as if unhindered by the shackles of gravity. But for the most part, my body did what I told it in such a way as I could pretty much ignore the fact it was there. No doubt my knees dangled before me then as they do today, but could I care less? Perhaps one is never really aware of anything until one is painfully aware of it. Indeed, was it not Baudelaire who said...

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Mount Hood is about 90 minutes drive from Portland and - in addition to creating an impressive backdrop to the city's skyline on clear days - is the nearest ski destination.

No, I didn't take this one myself, but you get the idea...

Just before Christmas a colleague organised a trip up the mountain - in snowshoes. I'm up for almost anything and therefore found myself heading up to Timberline lodge one cool morning in late December in the back of a Ford Explorer (or some other analogous monstrosity - they all look the same to me). We hired the shoes in nearby Sandy; in case you're not familiar with these contraptions, essentially snowshoeing involves strapping each boot onto a metal plate which has teeth on the underside and a pivot at the ball of the foot which connects to a sporty looking plastic tray. The tray acts to spread one's tonnage across a wider area, thus limiting the speed with which one sinks, meanwhile the teeth grip the packed snow beneath you, reducing your chances of slipping when the other shoe is in transit. Most of the group new to the experience found it a little awkward and struggled initially to prevent one shoe landing on the other with cataclysmic effect. I, on the other hand, being naturally bow-legged, took to the sport like the proverbial duck to water! Although around freezing the sky was blue and the sun very bright and before long the vast majority of my ten-or-so layers were deposited in my backpack and I was shoeing up the mountain with the best of them in no more than a t-shirt and jacket. Surprisingly perhaps at the age of 32, it was my first trip up a mountain in winter time (well, apart from that time Rachel and I got lost on the way back from Santa Fe, but that wasn't really recreational) and I had a wonderful time! Everything was so bright in the sunshine and the snow was soft and white and festive and you could see forever and I felt lovely and warm and full of life though the air was cool and frosty. We didn't push it too far and climbed less than 1500 vertical feet, stopping half-way for sandwiches and the large bar of Cadbury's chocolate I'd stowed away especially for the occasion. The journey down was much easier of course and I rewarded myself at that end with a big mug of cocoa at the Lodge. The apres shoe, if you will.

snowshoeing at Mount Hood

snowshoeing at Mount Hood
Up a certain mountain...

It was a quiet day on the mountain as the snowfall has been well under-average this year (no this is nothing to do with so-called "global warming" and all the SUV's on the road, you communist), which meant that until very recently the runs were nothing but ice and protruding boulders. My next trip to the mountain will probably be to attempt skiing for the first time as with Linda, Leon, Julie and Ben all working as instructors this year I should be in safe hands. Wish me luck.

We've had more of an opportunity to explore our neighborhood recently and I must say I really like it: it reminds me very much of the North Laines in Brighton circa about 1990 - you know, before the money moved in and The Green Dragon became The Office; all cafes and bric-a-brac shops, comic and retro clothes stores, specialty delis, the odd arty little boutique, bookshops, ethnic mini-markets, a good sprinkling of bars. Halcyon days for Brighton, but its all still right here in Portland at prices you can afford (yes, you especially, with your hard currencies). Plus Hawthorne Boulevard has a Ben and Jerry's. And Big Daddy's BBQ.

We finally got around to seeing Team America: World Police at a second run cinema around the corner last week. Definitely worth seeing; even better after a couple of beers, when you might even find yourself singing along as the puppet jets swing into action: "America - fuck yeah! Coming again to save the motherfucking day, yeah!"

Must dash now as season 4 of 24 is about to premiere on Fox...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year!

Was convinced by the family to go clubbing this New Year; wound up at "Doug Fir" on East Burnside. Margaritas served in pint glasses, go-go dancers in fur bikinis, two floors of music I only dimly recognised - you know, the usual. Good to have the opportunity to stumble home for once, although it did little to sober me after an evening of sublimely retarded mixing for which my kidneys have no doubt paid a steep price: sake, Margaritas, Stella, Champagne and a rum and coke. Ben sang (and mimed) along with the gangsta rap in tan slacks and Christmassy jumper; Johnny remarked that the dancers were unattractive and couldn't dance and I asked if it reminded him of the motherland. Fortunately he was considerably more drunk than Rachel, who wants to make it clear that she was "only slightly tipsy".

Rach got quite homesick on her birthday and realised how much she missed everyone and of course the opportunity to have a big party for her thirtieth. She cheered up however when we took a trip to the Zoo with (our niece) ickle Katrina, followed by a couple of swift Cosmos at the Low-Brow Lounge and dinner at Jake's Crawfish (in my opinion the best, though not the most expensive, restaurant in the city; you have to be careful to save room for the desserts which are to die for).

I write this piece whilst Rachel is downstairs banging away on Donkey Conga. No, I'm not making it up - this Gamecube disc comes compete with a set of plug-in Conga drums and play-along soundtracks ranging across the gamut of human musical artistry. Plus a track from Queen. This brings me to the next bit of news which was the Bumper Harvest for presents this year which puts all other Christmases into the shade. Hopefully my parents aren't reading this of course: they always tried their best for us, even that year I got a train set instead of a scalextric. This year I got a Gamecube (with MarioKart and Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour), a mobile phone, a toolbox with a hammer, saw, screwdriver set, pliers, an electric drill (that's 700W of power, friend), duct tape and a can of WD-40, SmartWool socks, a coffee grinder, some lovely pictures of Brighton (thanks Simey!), lots of yummy English chocolate (thanks Hazel, Nick and Briony!) and a beautiful set of serving dishes. That was just my share! I had to fold the backseats down in the car to get it all home again!

I have lost no time setting about DIY tasks around the house. New back doors are installed but they are only half-painted as they are very fiddly and it's always raining. Most impressive is a set of four shelves for bottles of booze (as yet unpurchased) which I built myself from scratch e.g. sawed the wood and everything. Ok, so Ben helped a little bit. Photo to follow. Also I constructed a coat rack. The hot tub is still empty as you need a degree in chemistry to calculate the chemicals necessary to make the thing sanitary, ph-balanced, grease-free etc - and I only have an A-level.

Other than that, we have just been hanging-out with the family and slowly scratching tasks off the moving-house to-do list. We are, at long last, beginning to get settled in.

It looks like Rachel will start a new job fairly soon, working from home as a proof-reader! This will be great as she'll not have to suffer with poor office furniture and obnoxious colleagues - and will instead get to spend more quality time with Conky and Das Peanutten. More soon!