Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Nietzche said something like "Formula of my happiness: a yes, a no, a straight line, a goal". Well, he may have prefigured the entire canon of twentieth century existentialist thought, but really, what a frightful bore. Here's my go: "Formula of my happiness: two scoops of 'Appley Ever After' with hot caramel sauce and whipped cream. Crumbled Oreos are an optional extra."

Köstlich, ja? Thus spake Zarathustra. Anyhow, the weather has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. I think it rained constantly from the beginning of March until last Sunday, if memory serves me correctly. Today it was high seventies and I was wearing far too many layers.

This week, a very brief tour of Hillsboro, where I affect to work. I mostly post these photos to cheer you up in whatever you're doing. In this way I serve a very similar function to the people manning the refreshment trolleys that pass occasionally up and down the gangways on Connex South Central.

Fraggle Rock. Sorry, I mean the office.

The MAX, or light rail system, which ferries me daily twixt Hillsboro and the great metropolis.

A Starbucks, much like every other, only this is where I spend most of my lunchtimes if I can get past the Gorgs (or somesuch). Now I think about it, wasn't Starbuck a character in Battlestar Gallactica? You know, the same actor that played 'Face' in the A-Team. Dirk Benedict, I think.

Look at this beauty. Sadly there is nothing European by which to correctly judge the scale in this photo, but let me tell you that even in a state where at least fifty percent of all vehicles are SUVs or pickups, this baby stands out as a monster. It is always parked in exactly the same spot, leading me to suspect that the owner can no longer afford to drive it, what with petrol now being $2.40 a gallon.

Purgatory aka my 'cube'

Now you feel happier about life, why not do something for me? One thing I miss terribly, as you can imagine, is the British Press, in particular the tabloids. With this in mind, please summarise the most significant event to occur to you in the last week or so in the form of a Sun headline. Oh, go on!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Around and about

On Thursday night we discovered "The Horsebrass" on 45th and Belmont. Unlike the other so-called English pubs that one happens upon every now and then, this one is almost frighteningly realistic - somehow they have even managed to import the distinctive odour along with the oak beams, odd rural memorabilia, dartboards, ash trays etc.

Rachel nurses a pint of Dry Blackthorn at The Horsebrass on Belmont. Frighteningly authentic.

Poor Rachel, who had missed "hard cider" (as they call it here, US cider being unfiltered apple juice) dreadfully, actually got rather nostalgic and would break off conversation to say things like, "I keep expecting to see Emile over there!" and so forth. This is despite the fact that she never really had a lot of time for the pub in England, if memory serves me correctly. For my own part I found the experience quite uplifting, firstly to know such is available around the corner, but mostly because, reminiscent as it was of a slightly more soigné and oddly more authentic "Royal Oak," it reminded me of exactly what I wasn't missing when I spent my weekend sipping martinis instead.

Rachel could only be consoled by a trip to Dairy Queen, where I had a raspberry cheesquake blizzard, if I recall.

However, Rachel's reaction is actually very interesting from a psychological perspective because it highlights a pathology endemic to the ex-pat: a highly romanticised nostalgia for objects and experiences which one never had any time for previously. Teary-eyed visions of the "old country." I even found myself getting hacked-off with the retarded morning show presenters on 1190 KEX (the name says it all) as they laid into Prince Charles when it was initially suggested that he wasn't going to change his wedding day because of the Pope's funeral. I was all for phoning in and asking whether any of them would have changed their wedding day if it had happened to coincide with the Pope's funeral and by the way the British Royal Family haven't been Catholic for about 400 years (I think, actually I've always been rather poor at history). Then I realised: what do I care if they're slagging off Prince Charles?

Anyhow, here's some more photos as promised!

"Big daddy we love you, Big daddy and your barbecue" - scarily that's a jingle I made up myself.

The nearest restaurant to our house, you always know you're home when you see the flame-coloured motif hove into view.

Although this photo singularly fails to capture the full glory, Portland is alive with spring bloom, which you occasionally get to appreciate when it stops raining for five minutes. If Rachel looks annoyed it's because I dragged her from her Sunday afternoon nap to take a walk in nearby Laurelhurst Park

Welcome to my kitchen, said the spider to the fly, or somesuch.

A master at work. That's the base of a bechemel sauce slowly infusing under the sheet of kitchen roll, by the way.

It's the living room, with Conker in it. By the way, I strongly recommend you read his blog this week; after months of lethargy Das Peanutten has stepped in and done him proud.

That'll be the dining room then.

The Bombay Cricket Club dashes further US stereotypes by proving it is possible to get a decent curry in Oregon. Really, this place is outstandingly good, with Prawns Coconut Curry medium-hot (pictured) being my top pick. Their "hot" is actually far too hot for me to handle, though not nearly as hot as the "Great Balls of Fire" available at Salvador Molly's Pirate Cookhouse (eat five and you get your picture on the wall; Rachel, Leon and myself couldn't manage one between us). However the Cricket Club is as expensive as the Shanaz (which is shocking over here) and they call Sag Aloo a curry and charge you $10 for it, when everyone knows it's a sidedish.

This is where all my money goes: the cheese counter at PastaWorks.

At last - evidence of that sand-dollar Rachel found at the beach in February.

Look, I married that woman off Star Trek. She won't thank me for this one.

Hands up who didn't need to see this. That'll be all of you, then. Still, a man needs to relax after a spot of Saturday morning footy and I could hardly leave you without seeing the hot-tub - or could I?.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fate failed to resist temptation, again

There was a sad inevitability to the fact that, having wittered on at some length on the topics of rude health and the endless sunshine of February, I would succumb to a beastly cold after several seasonal drenchings received during my daily commute. Not serious enough to tuck myself up in bed full-time; no, instead I must suffer the indignity of paid employment, then retire immediately, only to repeat the process ad infinitum. Hence not much to report.

Having gotten myself very wet very often of late I have toyed with the idea of purchasing a second car. The standard number of cars per family out here equals the number of adults in the household plus one. That makes us rabid environmentalists by US standards. It will probably not happen though, if only because the car I most covet is made by a certain german company whose vehicles are universally driven by tossers. No, I cannot bare to speak its name. That said, I have recently considered the possibility of dispensing with any remaining elements of sham-pained leftism and Islington PC and planting myself wholesale in the me-first wanton adam-smith-free-market-irreligious-unthinking-neo-fascist rightist camp. That's right: it's blasphemy. Call me Ishmael, the problem is that my aging conscience can no longer bear the colour-supplement hypocrisy of preaching equality amongst men whilst simultaneously squandering $12 per pound on imported Taleggio and feeling relatively guiltless as babies in the Congo die faster than lab rats at Pfizer. Rachel and I end up giving a few hundred quid a year to charity (obviously, I don't like to talk about it - you can see that) - a fact brought to my attention by its tax-deductible status in the US - but let's face it, I'm 33 years old and I'm not Che Guevara. If I therefore choose to position myself politically on the right I can feel lifted by any unnecessary random acts of kindness that I perform. If, on the other hand, I stay on the left, I'm just going to wallow in guilt and pointless self-flagellation (metaphorical of course - I'm not Michel Foucault).

Of course with an election on the horizon this is not entirely academic. Don't panic, given that all the options on the ballot are in any case somewhat to the right of Friedrich Nietzsche I might as well vote Lib Dem as ever. There is however a bit of a logistical issue, in that in order to get a postal ballot I first have to request one - by post. Given the expected efficiencies of both the US postal service and East Sussex District Council (no offence, Mr B), the chances of the three-way exchange of mail taking place before 2009 seem slight, let alone May 5th.

I took full advantage of Rachel's week in New York (not that I've mentioned this at all; but she spent Easter with her grandparents, mother, middle-sister and niece on Long Island - some of us have to work meanwhile) to watch all those films that I pick out at Hollywood Video but receive the old uxorial veto twixt shelf and checkout. If you like a bit of righteous violence and can stand two-and-a-half hours of artsy shaky-cam, I can highly recommend Man On Fire. Meanwhile Underworld looked fab but lacked even the vaguest of plots and it didn't help that the supposed arch villian both resembled and sounded rather like Bill Bailey.

I hope to have some more photos for you soon; nothing spectacular, just pics of the house (primarily for burglars so they can better burglarize us) and the neighborhood to give you a feel for the city...