Portland is so Friendly

Portland is so friendly. There is a show about how hip and nice everyone is. Lots of people are moving here. But shhh, don’t mention that the livability everyone raves about is virtually gone. Rents are sky high. Traffic is abominable. Food prices remain stagnantly high even though the price of gas has been consistently low for years. Jobs are scarce and wages are below national averages, but hey! We have a great t.v. show named after us and that’s just swell, right? If we told the truth about how Portland really is, all the people who think it is so wonderful might not make the move and the city “leaders” would lose all that commerce kickback and that would be bad. Other Americans watch the special show and see the Subarus at the stop signs waving one another through, and the friendly restaurant customers making sure they know the chicken’s history before they will eat it, and think Oh! I want to be in a place like this!

Let me you in on a little secret: It’s all an act. Portlanders aren’t really so friendly; they just want you to think they are friendly. It’s friendliness for an audience: I’ll speak really loudly in the grocery store offering you the cantaloupe we both reached for so everyone knows how friendly I really am; I’ll wave through the car in front of me so all the cars at the stop sign can see I’m friendly while ignoring the 18 cars stuck behind me; I’ll drive really slowly behind the bike in the middle of the road going 4 miles per hour because Hey! I’m chill with with it. Nevermind that the biker isn’t friendly at all and will chase you down and flip your ass off if you dare go around him because “sharing the road” means people driving cars are all assholes who deserve to die while bikers are revered Gods who can do whatever they want. They get a pass from the courtesy rules of Portland because they are riding bikes and that is better for the planet, right?

If I seem sarcastic (and how could I not, because I am being incredibly sarcastic), it is because I have lived in Oregon my entire life and Portland off and on since 1988 and I know that the marketing campaign that paints Portland as it is is complete bullshit. I’ve known this for years. Anyone who has lived here most of their adult life knows it is bullshit. We talk about it being bullshit. So why now am I suddenly discussing the bullshit on my blog?

I live in the Overlook neighborhood of north Portland. I don’t live in the Overlook neighborhood proper overlooking the ridge for which the neighborhood gets its name. I live over toward Arbor Lodge. It is less ostentatious, more racially diverse, and less economically advantaged over here, but that is changing rapidly.

Mine is currently a BadAss neighborhood. A few years ago, some guys made a Portland Badassness Map. They put together all the little things they thought made the different neighborhoods in Portland cool and hip, that is Badass. See it here. My neighborhood is moving up that list. I think their criteria included the ability to walk to bars, beers, food carts, strip bars, and coffee, but really it comes down to the most gentrified and expensive. (They could have sorted it by which neighborhood had cast out the most poor and colored people and replaced them with white educated people and it would have kept the same parameters. The Pearl (and these italics are so that the name is stated with a hint of sarcasm) is a “Hella Badass” neighborhood, the Pearl being the most stolen-from-the-poor-and-given-to-the-rich-neighborhood of all and one of the reasons all those people keep flooding in.)

I realize that in my neighborhood I am one of the gentrifiers. I didn’t know I was doing it when I did it. I just wanted a house I could afford and when I bought my tiny little house that had been a rental for 20 years I had no idea that my neighborhood would soon be a hotbed of coolness and that the value of my house would nearly double within three years, but such is the nature of gentrification. One of the things I valued about the neighborhood when I bought it was the fact that there were many brown faces walking by. Lately, the brownness is disappearing. I also valued the fact that all of the children in my daughter’s school weren’t wealthy. I’ll bet that will disappear too as the prices continue to climb.

But I digress. I was on a rampage about the Overlook Neighborhood Association. I never did go there, did I?

So I live in the Overlook neighborhood and there is an Overlook Neighborhood Association. They hold meetings and print a paper that is favorable to building ugly cement monstrosities along Interstate Avenue that don’t fit with the character of the city or the neighborhood. Basically, I think they may be a bunch of rich assholes who moved here from somewhere else. All of the meetings have been when I have either had to work or could not find a babysitter so I haven’t gone, though it is my goal to attend one, especially since they have decided to vehemently oppose the homeless camp at the bottom of the overlook ridge. They claim they would like the camp to be “managed responsibly,” but really that just means they want to move them out. Here is a quote from one of the emails I get from the association:

The Overlook Neighborhood Association Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday discussed the homeless camps at N Greeley Avenue near N Interstate Avenue. Board members expressed particular concern that the city has neither communicated with the neighborhood nor followed through on its promises to manage the camp responsibly.

Therefore, the Board today sent the following letter to Mayor Charlie Hales and members of City Council asking that the city immediately close the camp, exercise emergency authority to open humane shelters throughout the city, and help campers relocate into them or other more suitable places.

Yes. Get them out of here. We don’t like the way they are, all homeless and whatnot, because homeless people don’t act like we do. They live in tents and are dirty and all that. They pee outside! So we want you to shut them away somewhere else. If you can’t do that, then we will just have to do this:

About 75 people attended the Overlook Neighborhood Association special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the homeless camps on N Greeley Avenue near N Interstate Avenue. The OKNA Board heard from a couple of representatives of Hazelnut Grove and about two dozen neighborhood residents. They provided thoughtful, compassionate ideas about how the neighborhood association should respond to the current city plans for the homeless campers.

After the neighborhood testimony, the board discussed the options and voted to take two steps in parallel:

First, we will send a letter to the city reiterating our opposition to allowing the camp to exist on a site that is unhealthy and unsafe. If, over the neighborhood’s objection, the city chooses to issue a permit for the camp, we request that it include provisions that will address concerns raised by neighbors and will improve health and safety for all. Among them, we will ask:

That campers be required to register under their legal name as residents so that the city and neighbors know who is living there. That there be a cap on the number of campers allowed. That a firm deadline be established by which the camp will shut down no later than the expiration of the city’s emergency declaration in October 2016. The mayor’s office has repeatedly stated that this is a temporary, short-term solution. It’s time to define what that means. The full letter and list of requests is in the works. It should be available early next week. The Board will post it to the OKNA website and send it out to our email list.

Second, we will consult with an attorney regarding our legal options to address the city’s plans through litigation if necessary. We remain deeply disappointed that the city has refused to engage with us in any meaningful way and regret that legal action seems to be the only course forward to have our concerns addressed by the city.

Essentially, this is the thoughtful and compassionate view of my neighbors who care: that we get to know everyones’ names (even though we don’t know all of our own neighbors’ names, but hey, homeless people are all criminals), they have to leave by next year (because money and jobs are plentiful in beautiful Portland and they block our view), and since you haven’t done what we want all along, we are hiring a lawyer to sue your asses and send those skanky homeless people packing. They ruin our view of the industrial wasteland along the river! But if we say we are compassionate, we are, and that’s what counts, right?

The City of Portland gave Hyatt Hotels something millions of city dollars to build an ugly hotel by the convention center so more people could come and stay here before moving here and making the city ever less livable by the second and so that the NBA would hold an all star game here, because THAT is important (more traffic, more people, more homeless hidden away in outer Gresham or somewhere). The City cares about its rich friends who build hotels. They are busy! They are important! They invest! The City is too busy being busy and important to be spending the money of its gentrified citizens making sure that people without money have a warm and dry place to live or food in their bellies. Most of those gross homeless people are probably mentally ill too, so the truly compassionate thing to do would be to just kill them because they aren’t able to fully participate in the capitalist dream anyway. Although I did discover in attempting to find links to back up this claim that there are lawsuits trying to block the payment to Hyatt. I am heartened that some people can see that it is fully insane, but my cynical self supposes it has less to do with any real compassion and more to do with hubris.

Meanwhile, in Iran, part of the Axis of Evil, residents have created spaces where those in need can take the excess from those who have too much. See the BBC article here. These spontaneous charity drives were created to help those in need. Interestingly, as these charity walls increased in number, the citizens saw them as evidence that their government wasn’t doing enough to help people in need. Imagine that, expecting those who govern us to take care of everyone rather than making sure their views aren’t sullied or that hoteliers have a free rein to build.

I can see such walls popping up in Portland. However, here citizens would not see such charity as proof of lack by their government, but as proof of how good we are. We could make a Portlandia episode out of it. Portland, the do-gooder city, gets rid of its old clothes and helps out the poor! Aren’t we wonderful? Why don’t you move here and join us? When you get here, make sure to kick out the homeless people you probably displaced when you drove up the costs of living because such an eyesore would ruin the image you have created of yourself as friendly and compassionate. Welcome!

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Dear New Seasons

Dear Mr. Deli Man at New Seasons:  I know it’s late and the time changed, so it feels later in your body than it really is, but could you please be a little more attentive and properly put the chicken in the plastic bag rather than getting only its hindquarters in, thereby leaving the remaining chicken in the paper bag that isn’t designed to hold a greasy glob of cooked meat? Thank you.

Dear New Seasons:  Thank you very much for installing toilet tissue holders that actually turn easily when one pulls tissue off them. I can’t tell you how much this thrills me. So many stores are stingy and obnoxious with their tissue. It’s a real drag to have to pull one square, have the roller catch so the square tears off, then the roller rolls backwards so that the edge that just tore is in the back, leaving you to then scratch and pull to get that edge to the front, only to repeat the process 10 times in order to get enough tissue to do your business. I don’t want to wipe with my fingertips; that’s nasty. New Seasons, your generous tissue holders make me grateful to you every time I’m forced to use them. Thank you.

Dear Carrot Buyer at New Seasons:  Are you a new employee? Are you a particularly gargantuan human? I have to ask because the carrots you’ve chosen this week are enormous! I could have used one for a bat. Maybe you aren’t actually large, but a sports fanatic, and you would just LOVE it if someone used one of your ginormous carrots and a potato to start an impromptu game of baseball right there in the produce section. I could see it! Thank you though. I only needed to buy two of the things to make my soup, which is easier to carry without a bag than more carrots would have been. I don’t like getting bags in the produce section. They’re plastic and not good for the environment or wild animals, so I definitely prefer skipping the bag. The giant carrots made this more possible.

Dear New Seasons Stuffed Animal Pricer:  I get it that stuffed animals at the grocery store are a pure profit item for you. Who buys stuffed animals at the grocery store anyway (people who forget to buy gifts for small children at a regular store and are up against a deadline possibly?). What I would like to know though, is why you have to charge so danged much for them. Maybe you know purchasers of stuffies at the grocery store are in a last minute kind of thing position, and you are therefore taking advantage of our having not planned better. I would like to suggest you don’t take advantage of us. We’re already feeling precarious, having waited until the last minute and all. Maybe you could lower the price just a teensy, weensy bit? Please? For me? Thank you.

Dear New Seasons:  I would like to suggest that if you run out of whole cooked chickens in your deli section that you allow those of us who wanted one to purchase a whole uncooked chicken for the same price. The reason I make this suggestion is that, surprisingly enough, chickens from New Seasons that are uncooked cost MORE than chickens that have been slow-roasted in that cool turning thingamajig that leaves the meat falling off the bone. The cooked ones are way easier for us buyers, which seems to me to make them a premium item. Raw chickens are way more work. Shouldn’t the higher premium chickens cost more? Or at least the same? But they don’t. And some of your delis are not hip to the cooked chicken demand. The location by my house is AWESOME. They rarely run out of cooked chickens. The one by my old house, not so awesome. They ran out all the time and never seemed stocked like the one by my house now. But either way, making the raw chickens the same price would be oh, so very helpful. Thank you.

Dear New Seasons:  I checked out the Green Zebra. It’s so dang small, you can’t pass another shopping cart when you’re pushing one. And pricey! I’ll keep going to you, so whew!, right?

Dear New Seasons:  I am a loyal customer. New Seasons is always my first choice for food from a grocery store. I have to confess though, that I’m going to be stepping out at another store in the future because they have local, organic fuji apples for half the price of yours. They also have organic, steel-cut oats for a dollar a pound less. On many items, you’re actually cheaper than a lot of the stores people think are cheaper, like Fred Meyer. Fred Meyer is a joke. So is Albertson’s, and Thriftway, and Safeway. I hate all these stores. They are over-priced and have way too much processed and non-organic crap. Plus, they’re REALLY expensive. Arborio Rice at these stores, same brand, same size, costs over $2.00 more a container than the same arborio rice at New Seasons. And they can’t even compare when it comes to produce and meat products. But New Seasons, Sheridan Fruit Company has you beat on a lot of things, and I’m just going to have to buy there more often. I’m sorry.

Dear New Seasons:  You sell Gin Gins, my all-time favorite treat, for $3.99 for 3 ounces. This works out to be $15.96 per pound. I was able to locate Gin Gins on the internet in bulk:  Eleven pounds for $62.00, and shipping is free! Don’t ask me why the sell lots of eleven pounds instead of some more round number like say, ten, but that’s how they sell them. That works out to be $5.64 per pound. Even when you had them on sale at 3 ounces for $2.50, they were still $10 per pound. The bulk price is better, so I bought eleven pounds of the things. I admit it. That bag should last a while. Sorry, New Seasons. stepping out on you for the Gin Gins too.

Dear New Seasons:  Final letter of the night, I promise. I just wanted to say that I love going to your store. Everyone is always nice, even when they’re putting the chicken halfway in the plastic bag. All the workers seem not to mind being at work. The customers even seem happy. You help the local food scene. You buy meats that came from humanely raised critters. You’re a bit overpriced on some things (like fuji apples), but I can deal with that. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll go to a New Seasons just to get a pick me up. I like you, just the way you are. Too bad you’re not a man because I’d date you in a minute.

McMeanamin’s

If any person I know is ever with me when I consider going into a McMenamin’s again, please stop me. Just don’t let me do it. It won’t take much prodding. The only reason I would be considering such torture would be because I was on the verge of passing out from hunger, but even then, encourage me to find some ants or flies to tide me over. It’s not worth it. Remind me that no matter which location I go to or what time of day, the service will be so abysmal that I will want to leave something vile for the server, like a gutted chicken filled with maggots, to let them know just how rotten their service was, and that I won’t be able to do it and will end up tipping 10% or something anyway and then feel grave resentment for having done so. Let me know that the server might just as likely see a gutted, maggot-filled chicken as evidence of my love because the server is quite likely a Satan worshipper. Not much else could explain their nastiness. Maybe it’s working at McMenamin’s, but I’ve never gotten the vibe that the servers suck because of their employer. They don’t seem harried and rushed because of some evil manager or cook hiding in the back flogging them on, pushing them to move faster and thus turn over the tables more quickly. Rather, servers seem proud of their odious attitudes, conspicuous indifference, and reprehensible lack of courtesy. It’s like a badge of honor there. We customers should be grateful they bothered to meander by and notice us. We should thank our lucky stars that grease-spotted menus were left on the tables, and that if we are extra, extra nice, we might get some food-like substances tossed our way. Don’t bother asking to have it prepared as we like it, that’s not the McMenamin’s way. And definitely, definitely, definitely do not go there if you are in any semblance of a hurry. Better yet, order and drink alcohol so you won’t notice just how disgusting the food really is, covered in grease and sauce and too much cheese and peppercorn. Maybe that’s their tactic to sell alcohol. They should call the place McMeanamin’s. I can’t think of a name that adequately describes their awful bar food, but it doesn’t matter because awful bar food isn’t what makes the place special. It’s their amaranthine capacity for treating customers like shit that is McMeanamin’s real badge of honor. Any location. Any day. Any time. Expect the worst service, then multiply it by 14, and you’re about there.

In any case, please. If I won’t listen, show me this post and remind me. I beg you.

Columbia River Law Group

I started a law firm with my friends. One of them will be joining us after the first of the year. I would love it if anyone who visits the site would give me their feedback.  It can be seen at CRLawGroup.com. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to contact me on the website or here.  We are bankruptcy and consumer protection attorneys. We help people file bankruptcy in Portland, Vancouver, and the surrounding metro area.  We genuinely care about the people we help, and between the three of us, we have several decades of experience. If you know anyone who needs help with a bankruptcy, please do not hesitate to contact us. We like to help!

STORM OF THE CENTURY!!

I don’t have a television, so I can’t watch the local news. It’s unfortunate. I miss out, I’m sure. I have little doubt that today I’m missing out on the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! There are pitiful snowflakes mixed with rain coming down in Portland. It’s barely at freezing and there isn’t enough precipitation to create any snow of any substance, but I’ll bet anything the local news stations have camped out at the highest elevations, looking for that razor thin layer of snow to indicate it’s sticking and a tiny flurry of flakes in order to justify standing outside in their perfectly matched snow bunny outfits to warn us all about the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! They probably also found some moron who drove too fast on a curve and whacked into a tree to warn us just how “dangerous it is out there, Bob, and back to you.” And back at the station, “Yes, be very careful. This storm will cause very dangerous conditions.  Very dangerous.  The world is full of danger. Watch out.  Don’t go out.” It must be thrilling for the local newscasters to live in a state where snow is a major news item. They’d poop their drawers if anything ever really did happen.  I guess they would be prepared.

Cameo Cafe

I love the Cameo Cafe (8111 NE Sandy Boulevard).  It’s kitschy, small, and in a sort of odd location, but the food is delicious and the prices can’t be beat.  They always use fresh ingredients.  They are only open during the day until 3, so breakfast seems to be the main thing for them, but they also have a delicious lunch menu.

Their specialty is a bread called Strong Bread.  I’m not sure why it’s called that.  Next time I go in I will ask.  It is covered in poppyseeds, and buttery yummy.  It is hard to resist.  If you’re on a bread-free diet, don’t go there or at least make sure they don’t bring this bread to your table or you’ll be off your diet.

They have a salmon salad covered in fresh veggies and spinach.  The salmon is generous and always cooked to perfection.  I haven’t been to many restaurants, especially one like this that looks like a truck stop diner, that cooks salmon so well (see the next review I’m planning to do on Koji, for a place that can’t cook salmon).

The decor is odd, but it is unique and fun–sort of garage sale meets diner.  For instance, there is a carousel about a foot and a half tall, with lights on it, that sits in the corner, spinning away as you eat.  There are photos of Miss Oregon all over the doors.  There are fake plants in various locations. The chairs are these metal things with heart-shaped backs.  There is a long dining counter and tables along the wall.  There is outside seating on the patio and a chicken coop near the front entrance by the street with cute chickens inside.

The service has always been splendid when I’ve been there.  All the servers chip in to help.  The service is definitely a big reason I like going to this place.  If they had terrible service, it wouldn’t be as fun. The place is too small for grousy servers.

I recommend Cameo Cafe.  It’s got personality.  It’s not the biggest place in the world, so it isn’t the place to go if you’ve got a big party, but fun for a few.

The Tin Shed (NE 14th and Alberta)

This blog needs something. It’s crapped out in the last year. Gone from a trickle to a drip. Part of it is that I don’t really feel like working out my own bs here anymore. I thought I did. I started doing that again a while back, but it felt weird. The other big reason is that I have an infant and work and having an infant is s full-time job in and of itself without the addition of a job outside the home. Plus, sad but true, I must not be such a full blown artist devoted to my writing because given the opportunity to sleep, I choose sleep, every time. Today I specifically set my alarm to get up earlier to write, so I suppose there might be hope for me yet, but it’s dicey. I have even toyed with the idea of shutting this blog down, but then where would everyone go to bitch about Pure Med Spa, Brite Smile, et al?

So in an effort to breathe new life into the thing, I’m going to use it to post my non-foody opinion about restaurants in Portland and nearby.  I eat out way too much, why not use it for something more than a hit on my pocketbook? It can be creative inspiration.  Then someday if I ever get enough reviews, I’ll make them into a pamphlet for no one to read.  I plan to change the look of the blog too, when I can find the time, but for now, this is it.

First review:  The Tin Shed, NE 14th and Alberta, in Portland.

The Tin Shed is my daughter’s favorite restaurant, namely because patrons can bring their dogs if they decide to sit on the outside porch. I give The Tin Shed high marks for service.  Nearly every time I have gone there the service has been impeccable. I say nearly because once I went there and had a server who visited our table maybe once after taking the initial order, but that was an anomaly.

Last night I ate there with my two daughters (age 9 months and 11 years), my mom, my three-year-old niece, and my dog.  The service was fantastic. I’m not sure if this is a regular feature of the restaurant, but it seems like I always get a primary server, and then everyone else really helps out. This was definitely the case last night.  We never had to want for drink refills or anything. The server brought the children their food as soon as it was ready, which was great considering the three-year-old wanted to climb on the table and baby was starting to grab everything in sight.

Immediately upon being seated, the server brought our dog a bowl of water. She spilled it minutes later, but the service was still canine thoughtful.

Oregon had 100 degree weather for about five minutes, then as is often the case here, it got cold again (I think it is about 60 degrees out right now). We were seated out on the patio because of the dog (doggie customers must sit at patio seating), and the wind started to blow. We asked management to turn on the heater above our table. They did so, which led to patrons at other tables asking for their heaters to be turned on. The patio toasted up nicely. The server also pointed us to a closet filled with blankets we could use. Now that’s cool (or warm, as the case may be). We were all snuggled up at our table in blankets under a heater in July. Good, old climate change.

The food was delicious. I particularly like a dish called Baby Beluga. There isn’t any beluga in it.  It’s rice, avocados, spinach, raisins, and a few other vegetables, with a yellow curry sauce. I get the sauce on the side because it has a pretty good spice kick and I’m a wimp, but on the side, I can tolerate it just fine in smaller amounts.

The children each ordered noodles with butter and Parmesan. The Parmesan was the real stuff, not that powdery, disgusting crap.  The noodles were swirly, which the children loved. Good stuff. Mom had the stack sandwich. My daughter’s dad has gotten that before and both he and my mom give it rave reviews.

I only have one small complaint. Our table was next to the entrance, and up on a curb. I tripped on the curb sitting at the table, and my mom actually tripped and fell backwards about five feet into the planter behind her.  If she had been holding my baby, both of them could really have been hurt.  The host said there was supposed to be a planter there.  I suggest they return it there pretty immediately, or they might have a lawsuit on their hands. It’s really quite dangerous.

Actually, I take it back.  I have another complaint, although it did not apply last night.  Any time I have eaten indoors, the music has been too loud. When music is so loud that conversation is difficult, it’s too loud. Restaurant lately seem to like to play music really loudly. I personally hate this. I find it extremely distracting. I never like it. If I wanted to go to a disco, I would go to a disco. I do not like to shout to my dinner companions, and if I’m eating alone, I like to read, and I don’t like reading in a disco. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I can’t stand it, and it is one reason I have passed up The Tin Shed on occasion.  Other than that and the unsafe curb table, I really like the place and recommend it.