Saturday, April 25, 2009


I really have nothing against Seattle other than it’s over three tedious hours away and constantly raining. If you are at all sensible you will break the journey at some point – I would recommend you choose a lesser known exit and find the nearest diner; you may happen on a sublime slice of pie a la mode (which means “with ice cream” in the US, because ice cream is perennially in fashion). On arrival at your destination you will find a sort of Portland on steroids, only with traffic and less hip and twice the price.

On the positive side, Jeanne and family live there and I have therefore resigned myself (and Ethan) to the biannual excursion, though, as you can tell, I have only resigned myself to doing it and not to stop whining about it, much to everyone else’s irritation.

Ethan was a little young and a little tired for the aquarium, which was actually rather good; however he did enjoy running up and down the boardwalk repeatedly. Sea otters are enormous BTW. The black spot on Ethan's left cheek is a penguin, in case you were wondering.

As per usual, Jeanne whipped up a fabulous meal with apparently little effort and Evgeny (or “Uncle Dude” as Ethan calls him) let me have full reign on the liquor cabinet. Plus I was able to watch Top Gear “on demand”. So I really have nothing to complain about. Meanwhile Ethan enjoyed the Easter Hunt, or more specifically the “special treats” he found inside the day-glo plastic egg shells.

It may not be a four day (or even a three day) weekend, there may not be a hot cross bun in sight and the eggs may be laid by chickens rather than made by Cadburys, but by virtue of having married into a family of essentially upbeat and practical people, I had a far better time than a curmudgeon should reasonably expect.

This neatly captures the chaos that now epitomizes family gatherings.

Ethan and cousin Max almost playing together.

Ah – a special treat!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Early Middle Ages

It was late morning on the day following my birthday that it finally dawned on me that I was middle-aged. I was quite possibly experiencing the worst hangover of my life and this too too solid flesh seemed hell-bent on melting, thawing and resolving itself into a dew... of course, it was more than alcohol poisoning: it was the realisation that I was indeed too old to play the Dane... another door slammed against me, indeed the rampant, percussive beat of closing doors is most assuredly the incidental music of maturity.

The previous evening remains a merry blur. A pub crawl along Alberta St. All saw the initiation pint - the house special at the bye and bye - an odd, pink concoction served in enormous jam jars - as a poor omen. At establishment number two or possibly three, Dan bought a round of Miller High Life - "the champagne of beers" - to be served in champagne flutes. We meandered up the street. A car backfired, followed by police cars and incident tape, meaning that was no car backfiring. At some point I switched up to bourbon. There was an oddly surreal moment where I believed I held the minority opinion in a six versus one debate on who's cooler - Metallica or Johnny Cash. It was a messy business, but then again I really had no idea how drunk I was until I attempted to climb the steps up to my porch. I must have met with success, however, as I awoke as if from a coma on the couch around 5am.

Right - Ethan enjoys my special birthday treat at Ben and Jerry's.

So – what else has happened lately? My father-in-law extracted one of my wisdom teeth; it was so rotten that he had to section it and pull it out in pieces. Was conscious throughout the whole affair, am sure he was more nervous than I was. Was handed a prescription for some fairly serious narcotics on the way out – however did not need them, and was back at work the next day. Must grudgingly admit that he is something of a genius.

In fun ‘rotten boroughs’ type news, the first openly gay Mayor of Portland got in a bit of bother over his barely (allegedly il-) legal romance with a young intern and admirer by the name of Beau Breedlove - you couldn’t make this stuff up! Meanwhile, in “oh – so that’s globalization” news, I was able to purchase a bottle of Harvey’s Christmas Ale in my local Whole Foods – yes, actual Harvey’s, all the way from faraway Lewes, land of my fathers! Not that I’m actually very fond of Harvey's – that’s not the point.

Oh yes, and my boss just got at job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the consequence that I now report to a man in DC. What are they thinking? It’s like Colonel Kurtz up the river.

This week - a selection of signage and a vintage car found on Belmont Ave (Hawthorne's little brother), snapped on the eve of my trip to Washington...

Left: what more could a man ask for? Right: A 'second run' cinema and penny arcade.

The iconic Stumptown Coffee at it's original location. Locals believe Stumptown to be the best in the world and a certain pride is felt in the fact that it's now expanded to Seattle's Pike Place Market, where Starbucks, the evil overlords of the coffee universe, started out many years ago. Lattes are topped with foaming works of art.

The Belmont Inn, a no frills bar with pool tables, young, dishevelled people and White Russians served in pint glasses.

A more soigné bar experience, with neatly-turned out young people.

Have never been in here.

The rest of the neighbourhood may be sleeping, but the line outside Pine Street Biscuits is a constant of weekend mornings. Their signature breakfast sandwich is sublime but not worth the wait unless - like most people around here - you have nothing better to do.