Renegade Folk in Sherwood Forest

As I mentioned here Gilly lives near Nottingham.  When I found out about it, our conversation went something like this:

Joey: Like Nottingham Nottingham?

Gilly: Is there another Nottingham?

Joey: Probably, in southern Ontario.  They don’t let a good name go to waste just because it’s already been used by somewhere more important.  Like, Sheriff of Nottingham?

Gilly: I suppose.  Why?

Joey: Like, there’s a Sherwood Forest nearby?

Gilly: …(Well, we were on the phone, so I couldn’t see it, but I’m rather familiar with the silence that indicates my question is stupid and she’s rolling her eyes. Gimtmbifhbsic)

Joey:  So, can we go to Sherwood Forest?

Gilly: Sure.  Is that all you want to do?

Joey: IT’S ROBIN HOOD WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?

And to shut me up, Gilly took me to the forest.

Sherwood Forest does have some Robin Hood things attached to it, but they’ve also done a good job of preserving its natural majesty.  There’s a couple of gift shops, a tiny museum, and an overpriced restaurant, but there’s a lot of forest you can wander through that have nothing to do with those things.  And there are cool, ancient things in that forest.

Some are man made, like this carved stump.

There’s also signs that people are using it to pass on survival training.  For example, I found this shelter just off the path:

But with no pine trees!

I think it’s pretty cool that a lot of naturalism and conservationism is taught here.  After all, if Robin Hood had to live in the woods, and that meant he needed to know how to survive.  Someone’s still teaching it around here. … or living in the forest.

Then there’s the Major’s Oak:

It's kind of a big deal

That tree is over a thousand years old, maybe twelve hundred.  It’s ten meters in circumference around the trunk, and you can’t get within thirty meters of it.  The fence was put up because in the sixties, it became a major tourist attraction.  By the seventies, visitors had trampled up to it, injuring the roots and nearly killing the tree.  Conservation experts insisted on the fence, and now the tree is healthy again. 

Seriously, 1200 years old.  Think about that.  That’s older than countries.  That tree is absolutely astonishing.

I think oak trees are cool.  I mean, look at their leaves and acorns:

Also note Gilly's skillful hand modelling.

Those leaves are super cool.  There’s nothing like that here.  Plus, the make excellent resting places.

I could of sleep here all day. I tried, telling Gilly I just need a few more shots of me sleeping.

They are a mighty and noble tree.  And a worthy opponent.  So I challenged them to a duel.

And I took its three hundred year old Quickening

On a final note, I did go to the gift shop, and I found this, which is a super kind of awesome:

I also make a good hand model.

Whiskey fudge doesn’t taste like whiskey.  It tastes good.

And that’s all I have to say about England.

Shires: Not Just For Hobbits Anymore

After a morning of fighting with British Rail, which seemed to believe that reasonable prices for a two hour train ride are somewhere between a first-born child, or an arm-leg combo, we were off to Derby.  Fun fact; while it may be spelt like a dapper hat:

Classy!

no one in Derbyshire pronounces it like that.  For the four years I’ve known Gilly, I thought she was from some place called Darby. 

Nope.  In this one case, “e”s are pronounced like “a”s in her accent.  Not in any other cases, just Derby. 

Derbyshire is gorgeous.  It’s green 

because it's not sub-arid.

and they have some really old buildings. 

like this church, which is older than Canada

Sure, Derby is an actual city, and the residents love to tell you they’re responsible for the Industrial Revolution, like anyone cares.  Seriously, the precursor to the Robot Revolution should be a point of shame, and we’ll remember you when we’re all in the cog mines under our robo-masters, Derb… Derbites?  Derbyshirians? Proudfeets? 

Pictured, most people in Derby.

Anyways, it’s not the city I like, it’s the area. 

That's pretty. Until the robots get there.

I did learn some important things in Derbyshire, mostly about food, because Derb… Proudfoots eat like hobbits.  Seriously, every meal has different names.  Breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, tea, dinner, roast, supper, they all denoate a completely unique meal and everyone knows the difference. 

  1. Jacket potatoes are just baked potatoes with weird shit like beans in them.  They are more delicious than they sound.
  2. No one in England scrapbooks.  Instead of accepting this as good, Gilly insisted on proving she had no interest in having a life by scouring the city for scrapbooking supplies.
  3. Chipies are where you buy ridiculous quantities of fish and chips for next to nothing.  Try the curry with your chips.  Mushy peas remain an abomination.
  4. The British pay twice as much as we do for consumer electronics.
  5. Gingerbeer is better when it’s alcoholic.  It comes like that in England, but I have to add my own vodka here, which is nearly good.
  6. Panel shows are like game shows where all the contestants are comedians and there’s no prizes.  They are brilliant, and all British television is inherently better, as their lowest common denominator isn’t as sad as ours.
  7. English movie theatre sell sweet popcorn.  It’s not caramel corn.  It looks normal, but it’s not salty, it’s … sweet.  What makes it that way?  Is it sugar? A light syrup?  No one knows.
  8. Like Cockfosters on the London Underground, the English can name things after dicks without admitting it’s funny.

This is a real thing. They must know it's funny.

At this point, I would like to point out that I made it through a whole blog set in a shire without making fun of Gilly’s height.  (She is short) 

I did find the remains of a hobbit hole.

We didn’t really do much that was touristy, because she lives in Derbyshire, and I couldn’t be bothered.  We just kind of hung out. 

Except for when we went to SHERWOOD FOREST…. (next time)

One Night in London

After landing in Heathrow Airport in London, I needed to find my way to King’s Cross Station to met Gilly.  I went looking for the tube station, and found out that LONDON IS IN THE FUTURE:

They have Jetson Sidewalks!

I took the moving side walk, and got an Oyster Card, which Gilly had recommended as the cheapest way to get around the city.  You buy them at a little kiosk by the entrance to the tubes, and swipe it against the turnstile.  It slowly drains the credit you put on it, charging you less for the subway and keeping you from using up your change.

The line to King’s Cross terminated at a place called Cockfosters.  I laughed like a ten year old everytime it came over the PA.  It made the people around me think I was crazy, so no one sat to close.  There’s a skill to riding transit, and I’ve mastered it internationally.

Gilly met me at King’s Cross, and we checked into the Clink 72 Hostel.  Seriously, this is a nice hostel.  It’s really cheap for London, but it’s clean, it’s easy to find.  We didn’t get a chance to check out the bar in the basement because we were too busy drinking other places, but when we went down for breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice the buffet of cute girls from around the world.  I’m not sure if it was just this hostel, and I’m thinking of finding the hostel’s in Calgary, seeing if they have bars, and hitting on girls who don’t speak enough English to get annoyed with my charm.  It could be, however, that more attractive people visit London than Calgary.

We dropped off our bags and went to met K1 who had managed to find a pub directly across the street.  We had a beer there while we caught up, and while I almost bought the blue bottle Smirnoff with the higher alcohol content, she almost brought me some as a gift.  Yep, we drink well together.

Once we settled up at that pub, we headed over to Inslington to find food.  We ended up in another pub, and they had roast boar on the menu.

I would eat that, as I assume it's bacony

But the bastards were out of it.  So I decided to have fish and chips.

I have been eating food called fish and chips all my life, and everyone has always lied to me.  No one has ever really given me fish and chips before.  I think I need to sue every restaurant in all of Canada.  It’s like calling noodles and cheese Kraft Dinner.  Maybe you have all the pieces, but that doesn’t make it the same. 

Mushy Peas are another story.  A horror story.

A really scary horror story.

I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it yet.  It’s just, it’s just too close.

K1, being the expert drinker she was, found us a party to join.  I’d like to tell you I got crazy wild drunk and had great adventures, but the flight left me with too little energy.  I just drank vodka cokes for the caffeine, and caught up with K1 and Gilly.  At about 11 or so, I just couldn’t stay up much more.  K1 had to take a train home because she’d come into London to hang out with us, and Gilly gave into peer pressure so we said goodbye and headed back to the hostel.

To make plans for the next day, in which I would tour London like the English literature geek I am.

Flying to London

I only had 10 days in England, and I wasn’t going to lose any of them to jet lag.  Since I couldn’t sync my sleep cycle before I left, I decided to try and crash into English time.  I stayed up as late as I could the night before I left, planning to coast trough work.  I wanted to be completely exhausted, but force myself to stay awake until a proper bed time and then fall to an exhausted sleep when I got to England.

In the early hours of the morning, I was goofing off on the internet when I realized either they changed my flight time or I such at the 24 hour clock, because the flight I though left at 8 pm left at 10.  I pretended it was delayed and went through with my original plan.  I also decided I need to practice the 24 hour clock.  The next day at:

07:15 I showed up at S1`s place.  I had bribed her with Crave Cupcakes to take me and my luggage to work that day, and to the airport that night. 

How to get your way in one easy step

This plan meant no suit cases on the C-Train, which makes my life easier.

08:00 to 16:00 Apparently I worked, but in a cloud of anticipation, I don`t remember any of it.

16:01 I rushed S1 out of the office.

16:20 We arrived at the airport.  I was bouncing around the car the whole way there.  I fucking love to travel.  S1 stopped the car and I took out my luggage.  She hugged me good-bye, and I was too tired to let her know that we aren`t hugging friends, but that`s generally how people become my hugging friends; someone tries to hug me, I don`t stop them, the world doesn`t end, and it is therefore permissible in future. 

That`s not an excuse to try it, S2.

16:31 At Cole`s, I bought the first to volumes of the graphic novel version of Scott Pilgrim.  The girls at the counter ask me if I`ve seen the movie.  They`re almost cute, and paying attention to me, which makes them cute enough.  I regurgitated this blog. They are entranced.

16:42 I realize I`m holding up the line.  I leave.  The girls are heartbroken, and rightfully so.

16:51 I head into the Montana`s lounge and get a vodka coke and a chipolte burger.

19:57 I realize I`ve read two complete volumes of Scott Pilgrim.  I settle up my bill.

20:04 I check in using electronic boarding passes direct to my phone for the first time.  If you`ve never used one, it works like this; within 24 hours of your flight, you log onto the carrier`s website and put in your phone number or email and booking number.  You receive an image of a bar code on your phone, which gets scanned anytime you would usually show your boarding pass.

The woman who checked my bags obviously hadn`t seen a lot of them, because she was confused as to where to write down my gate info. She then realized it was in the text the bar code came with

20:08 I returned to Cole`s to get Scott Pilgrim 3 and 4.  Unfortunately, the shift had changed and I didn`t care about the hipster dude who really wanted my opinions on shit.  I leave quickly, breaking his heart, and rightly so.

20:12 I tried to go to the B Gate, but it was closed, saying we needed to check through security at gate A

20:15 I reached gate A.  With double the passengers, no one thought to increase the staff.

20:17 I realized only one of the metal detectors is open.

20:20 A French father and his four kids lined up behind me.  The three sons and one daughter were all dressed in matching pink striped sweaters.  Obviously mortified, they decided to raise all kinds of hell to embarrass him.

20:22 By this point, the wild kids were running and fighting and squabbling, and they`ve reminded me of an ad.

A French child screams in the grocery store for bonbons.  The temper tantrum gets worse and worse until the kid is screaming on the floor.  The camera then looks at the exasperated, end of his wits dad.  It’s an ad for condoms.  I wish this French dad had seen it.

20:23 I considered offering to slap one of his kids upside the head.

20:24 A kid punched the dad.  He slapped the boy upside the head.  I suppressed a cheer.  The dad tells the kid, in English “Do you want to fight me?  Go ahead.  You’ll lose.”

20:47 I get called to the metal detector, and rush through to escape the Franco-Hellions.

20:52 The security guards pull the French family aside to check one of their bags.  I can only assume the staff planned to punish the father for what he has put everyone through via an invasive cavity search.

21:09 After long consideration, I decided that even at duty free prices, I shouldn’t buy a 2-6 of Triple Distilled Smirnoff Vodka.  I was going to the UK, where drinking is like kung-fu — there are many styles, and I go to learn from the masters, not to study the style I use at home.

21:33 Half an hour of peace is shattered when Franco-Hellion family showed up at my gate.  They were on my flight.  I consider telling the airport security guard that they are a gang of armed drug smuggling terrorists to keep them off the flight.

21:51 Everyone who got on the plane before me misread their row numbers.  I forced everyone of them to move, displacing fifteen people so I can sit in my assigned seat.  I feel like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, but when no one is in the seat next to me, I became too happy to care.

This is the face of satisfaction at the expense of others.

22:03 I remembered why I love big Boeings.  This thing was like a smooth air mall in the sky.  There was enough room with that empty seat, drink service as soon as we leveled off, and a little screen that let you chose your own entertainment as soon as the seatbelt light went off.

22:15 After a peaceful half an hour and another volume of Scott Pilgrim finished, I turn on the inflight entertainment system.  I watched several episodes of 30 Rock, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, some crappy sitcom called Party Down, and fell asleep to Gunless.

Hour Unknown: I felt the plane begin to descend.  I failed at staying awake, but it should be middle of the afternoon local time.  It was a Saturday.  I decided to wake up and find someone to drink with, because that’s how I travel.

____________________________________________________________________________________

To Be Continued…

England Bound

I recently check myself, pre-wrecking myself, and realized I had come down with a bad case of wanderlust.  While I enjoyed my trip to Portland immensely, I felt the need to go somewhere further, maybe more exotic.  I need somewhere where they don’t speak English, or at least sound funny when they do it. 

England should do the trick.  I mean, have you ever seen Little Britain?  Those accents are wacky! 

What my research shows me average English people are like.

 

So using no small portion of my charm, I convinced Gilly she should put up with me for a week.  She has a poor long-term memory, and hasn’t read this blog where I mock the English yet, so I’m golden.  Hopefully, if she does read this when I’m there, she doesn’t kick me out.  I probably shouldn’t antagonize her, because some longtime readers will remember Gimtmbifhbsic.

It shouldn’t be a problem.  I’ve played a lot of video games.  A large portion of them take place in worlds where everyone fights with swords and a windmill is the height of technology.  In those games, everyone speaks with an English accent.  Based on this wealth of research, I’m forced to conclude that people who speak with English accents are technologically inept, and electricity hasn’t been invented in England yet.

The same research shows that the Scottish are dwarves.

 

The internet doesn’t work well without electricity, and without knowing when I’ll have access, I can’t ensure my blog schedule will be met. 

But you, dear reader, you need me.  You need something to read in a little window on the corner of your desktop when you’re supposed to be filling out TPS reports. 

With cover sheets, of course.

 

WordPress to the rescue!  Using their pre-publish feature, I’ve set it up so it will be like I wasn’t gone.  In fact, if you’re reading this, I’ve already been in England for two days. 

Updates will go up as regular, but it’ll be mostly backlog ideas, and more restaurant reviews than normal. If you leave a comment, I won’t be getting back to with my usual lightening speed, because I’ll be doing English things. 

Research suggests it'll probably be things like this.

 

Then I’ll come back with all kinds of amazing England stories. 

Unless a Dragon eats me. 

… or if Gilly reads this…

A Cabin in Bend

Chris and Akiyo asked Gilly and I if we wouldn’t mind leaving Portland for one night during our visit.  They seemed hesitant, like they thought we might say no.  Chris believes the city is an endless source of constant amusement.  As it’s not Vodka City, capital of the Island of Hot Desperate Women, I don’t feel the level of awe that he sometimes seemed to expect from me.  There’s a resort town in Eastern Oregon called Bend, and Chris really wanted Akiyo to see it.  Gilly’s up for pretty much anything, as long as it’s not my idea.  Akiyo was able to convince her boss to give her a day and a half off in the middle of the week, so we made reservations for Wednesday.    

As Bend is a three hour drive, we couldn’t take Chris’s car.  It’s a two-seater green convertible, and it’s as cool as it is impractical.  We decided to rent a  car, a Toyota Corolla, and we headed off after lunch.  We went through Gresham, an endless suburb of Portland.  It goes on into eternity, a hopeless wasteland of strip malls and lower middle income housing.  I quickly learned why Chris calls it “Fucking Gresham” under his breath every few moments; the place begs for contempt.    

We continued on, and Akiyo fell asleep in the back.  Apparently, she does this on any trip over 10 minutes long.  Gilly was reading beside her, some kind of smart person book with a title I can’t be bothered to remember.  (And to think, someone gave me an English Literature degree).  As we headed through the mountains, Chris and I kept playing with the radio, trying to keep a strong signal on a decent channel.  Gilly politely informed me if I didn’t leave the radio alone, she may resort to murder.  Concluding I would be the most likely victim of such an act, I turned the music off.    

Canadians, have any of you ever used chains on a car?  As we headed up Mount Hood, sign after sign insists they are required.  When I asked Chris why, he said they’re for snow.  I still don’t understand.  Are they to tie to a trailer hitch to pull you out of a snow bank?  Do you wrap them around your tires like tank treads?  I’ve driven in snow since about the first time I got behind the wheel, and I have never needed them.  Chris seemed certain that any snow would mean sudden death for all of us, a tragedy that would be easily averted if only the rented Corolla had chains.  My offer to drive if he got scared did not go over well, and we kept going, chainless, due to my challenge of his manliness.    

Really?

Really?

Seriously, though, fuck chains.    

We crossed the mountains without incident, and the landscape became more familiar.  It was full on prairie, interrupted by river valleys full of coolies.  The rest of the car is amazed at how sparse, flat and dry it is.  I was worried I would fall asleep, so I glance back at Gilly to see if it’s safe to turn the radio back on.  She reads me like a children’s book and shakes her head.  Murder was still on the docket.  Chris and I started telling tasteless jokes about nuns.  Gilly decided we could have the radio back.    

One of several entrances

One of several entrances

In Bend, we were staying at Old St. Francis School.  Chris told us the story of the McMenamin Brothers.  They started running a micro-brewery several years ago.  Using the profits, they started buying several interesting properties in Oregon, and turning them into resort hotels.  This used to be a Catholic school, but now the classrooms have been turned into hotel rooms.  The rest of the school’s facilities have been converted into guest services.    

At the front desk, we found that because we booked our rooms together, we had use of one of the cottages.  It turns out that the school used to provide lodging for some of the teachers on the grounds.  Eventually, these homes were used for classes, before they were converted back into cottages.  We were in the Art House.   

Our Cabin

Our "Cabin"

I don’t know why they called it a cabin or a cottage.  It looked like a house, just with exceptionally bad paintings on the wall.  The faces were scary, and the colour was a bit like old puke.  

Those walls *shudder*

Those walls *shudder*

  Apart from that single visual complaint, it was amazing.  We had a private kitchen, a breakfast nook, a full living room, and the bedrooms and bathrooms were off a little hallway.  It cost about what I would have expected for hotel rooms, not a full on set of conjoined suites, which we literally had.  

Out our backdoor was a courtyard with tables and bonfires. 

Bonfires don't photograph well...

Bonfires don't photograph well...

  Yeah, full on bonfires.  There was a cigar bar with a complete food and drink menu in one corner, and anything purchased there could be consumed around the fires.  However, you couldn’t smoke cigarettes, just cigars.  I really don’t know how that worked.   

There was a normal restaurant, but we were more interested in the eccentric parts of the resort.  They had a movie theatre with a bar and food, but we couldn’t agree on any of the movies.  Chris likes cheesy 80s movies, like Romancing the Stone.  Gilly goes for chick flicks or kid’s movies.  Akiyo speaks English really well, but really prefers if a movie has subtitles, either in English or Japanese, to make sure she understands what’s going on.  No one but Kodie shares my taste in movies, so they weren’t even playing The Convent.    

 

  

The Greatest Movie Ever

The Greatest Movie Ever

 

We decided to give theatre a pass.    

Old Saint Francis School also had a soaking pool, which is like an extra large hot tub.  When we lived in Japan, the four of use used to go to onsens together, which are Japanese public baths.  Chris glanced in through the window in the door to see how similar the facilities were.  He quickly jumped back with a devil’s grin and said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch.  Akiyo was aghast and Gilly laughed. I peered through the window.    

The room on the other side was gorgeous.  An old chapel had been converted to hold the pool.  A skylight and high stained glass windows let in natural light.  The walls were painted with murals of monks working vineyards.  Steam rose from the water, which entered the pool through a gentle fountain in the center and the lion statue in the corners of the pool.  The eye was most drawn, however, to the long haired man sitting on the edge of the pool.  He didn’t appear to be wearing anything, but details were blocked by the girl in the tiny bikini and a tramp stamp.  She stood in the pool, pressed against him, and trying to crawl down his throat tongue first.    

“Oh,” I said as I stepped back.  Gilly took a peek but Akiyo was too crept out.  That would never happen in a Japanese onsen..  We decided to go get our swimsuits, on the official hope that they would stop by the time we returned.  I tried to hurry everyone along because I think it would be funnier to interrupt them and see what they would do.  Despite my best efforts, Poolguy and Trampstamp are gone by our return.     

We soaked, and discussed how that would never happen in Japan, partially because onsens are nude and gender segregated.  Co-ed onsens came up, but Akiyo told us only creepy old Japanese grandfathers go to those.  Gilly piped up “No, creepy young English teachers go too.”  She inclined her head to indicate me.     

“So that’s a no on making out in the soaking pool then?”    

She didn’t answer, as more people came through the door, providing her resounding no.    

After an hour or so, we dressed, and passed an old gym which had been converted into a live music venue.  Like everything they had a full food and drink menu.  A bunch of middle aged dudes were playing slow folk rock.  Akiyo wasn’t familiar with the genre.  “Are they good?”    

“Not really,” I told her.  “I doubt the good bands play on Wednesday night.”    

We decided to spend the evening in the Fireside Pub instead.  The place had an enormous hearth and pool tables.  We had an incredible meal.  I loved their Devil’s Grin beer, and the garlic knots and wood-baked pizza were superb.  We were there for quite a while, mostly because Akiyo wanted to grab a seat by the fire.  We waited until the girls at the nearest table left, and ate desert by the fire.  The chocolate brownie was a s good as the rest, but we may have overeaten a bit. 

Fireside for dessert

Fireside for dessert

We headed back to the cabin in time to catch The Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Akiyo had trouble following either show, and feel asleep by the first commercial break.  Chris and I prefer different programs, so I insisted Gilly decide which was better.  She chose Jon Stewart either to spite me or, more likely, she didn’t quite get Colbert yet, and needs to watch more of him to really get him.    

Here’s the very best part though; in the morning at Saint Francis, someone leaves a basket on the front porch.  Inside are a newspaper and fresh ground coffee.  It was right there, waiting for me, and it was amazing.  I drank a little over half a pot before we had to check out.  If you’re ever in Oregon, you need to check out a McMenamins’ resort.    

**************************************************    

Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.

Wine Country in a Stretch Hummer

Akiyo and Chris love showing you things that other people haven’t found yet.  This is often a matter of perception.  While the whole city of Portland knows about the Weekend Skidmore Market, they understand people beyond the city’s greater metropolitan area have never seen it.  The same can’t be said for Oregon’s wine country.    

I mean, I didn’t know about it.  If you had asked me “Where do they grow wine in the U.S.?” I would have told you California.  Apparently, Oregon’s wineries are famous, at least throughout all of … Oregon.  So if you’re going to tour the vineyards with Akiyo and Chris, there needs to be a twist, because just doing it is too normal.  So they got together a group of people, and we rented a stretch Hummer.    

How to do wine country

How to do wine country

It’s alright.  There were ten of us.  We were carpooling, so , um, it was environmentally friendly…    

The Hummer came to get us at about 11 a.m.  I was dressed in the finest I had brought with me: a collared shirt and a nice sweater over jeans.  Fortunately, while in Calgary this would be casual, or business casual at best, it’s Oregon formal.  Everyone else was about as dressed up as I was, and they did consider it dressed up.  Our driver, whose name I can’t remember but I feel like calling “Jake” was in normal, real world formal wear.  He was built like a bodyguard, and always had his hands clasped in front of him, ready for trouble.  He wore dark sunglasses that hid his eyes, a Bluetooth earpiece, and a well-groomed goatee.  He was a man of action, and I assumed he would have my back should evil rear its ugly head.    

I’m not a wine drinker.  I like bad, cheap wines, like Dr. Zen Zen Zinfandel, which is wine-speak for shit in a bottle.  Generally, I’d be happier with vodka in grape juice.  If you are a true wine aficionado, the tales that follow might horrify you, at the very least for my ignorance.  We were going to several wineries to do tastings, and I drink at a graduate level, so I knew it was unwise not to stick to wine, and I made the necessary sacrifice.  I just happened to be more interested in the drive and the buildings than the individual wineries, but the wine drinkers amongst us didn’t have any complaints about the places we went.  If you did want a real guide to Oregon’s wines, you may be better off going here.    

We got into the limo, and I crawled all the way to the back.  Every cute girl there follow me, so I decided then and there I wasn’t giving up that spot.  Someone needed to entertain the ladies, and failing that they could talk to me.  We were prepared for the drive out to our first stop, and we had a bottle of white wine from the house.  The limo was stocked with wine glasses, ice to chill the wine, a decanter and tumblers in case of scotch, and even a karaoke machine, if we were so inclined.  It’s a style of travel I could get accustomed.    

I could get use to this

I could get used to this

Our first stop was Rex Hill.  The building was absolutely beautiful, with interesting displays of both their product and wine in general, and a gorgeous terrace.  We paid $10 each to taste six wines.  They were they types of wine my parents tend to like; they were classy, and while they were complex, you didn’t need the acquired taste or refined palate of a long time wine drinker to enjoy them.  If you loved fancy wines, they were good.  If you were just a drinker, they were also good.  Everyone enjoyed Rex Hill.  A really cool guy behind the counter poured each glass, and could tell you all the fancy wine things you needed to know if you had more complex interests then trying to catch a buzz.  I was also pleased they didn’t have a swill bucket, the kind for you to spit out each taste.  He also poured more wine into each glass than I expected, and thusly won my respect.   

Rex Hill's pleasant gallery ... a little too pleasant

Rex Hill's pleasant gallery ... a little too pleasant

The area we tasted in was almost museum-esque.  We weren’t allowed beyond the displays.  The guy who poured took us to an area where we could sneak a peek at the brewing facilities.  Is it brewing for wine?  I can’t be bothered to go all the way to Wikipedia to check.  Still, I’m pretty sure the wine guy and the museum were hiding some supervillainy.  I nodded to Jake, who seemed to agree with me.  Should I need to take action, Jake would have my back.  However, there was no time to investigate further, as we had other wineries to visit.   But I’ve got my eye on you, Rex Hill.    

Our next stop was Duck Pond, which was my favourite.  There was a wine counter for buying and another for tasting.  The rest of the main building was a specialty food shop, with BBQ sauces, salad dressings, and all sorts of mouth-watering goodies that made me want to grill up some steaks.  Out front there was a Koi pond with some benches, and it was a pleasant place I could come back to.   

I had such a great time at Duck Pond I forgot to take any pictures. Instead, here is me running happily through a vineyard. Sorry.

It helps that we got to try five wines for two dollars.  Add into that the pourers were cute girls in hoodies, and I’m smiling.  Then leave them impressed by my French pronunciation, and I’m on top of the world.  Duck Pond may sell twelve dollar bottles of wine, but I prefer twelve dollar bottles of wine.  I loved everything we tasted there.  By far, Duck Pond was my favourite.    

Jake motioned with his head that it was time to move on, so I grabbed one of the cute girls and told her I needed a Riesling to drink in my limo.  If you ever have a chance to tell a girl you need something for your limo, FUCKING DO IT! 

That is, if you want to know what it’s like to be Tony Stark … (and, yes, you want that)

That is, if you want to know what it’s like to be Tony Stark … (and, yes, you want that)

No matter the circumstance, she will be impressed, and you will head back to the stretch Hummer with a delicious bottle wine, knowing that she thinks you’re amazing.  I reinserted myself amongst the ladies who got to ride in the limo (sorry, Duck Pond cuties) and announced we were drinking on the way to our next destination.  Akiyo agreed that my selection in wine was delicious.  Gilly, however, has expensive tastes, and prefers red wine, so she was not a fan on two accounts.   

Archery Summit suited her a lot better.  It’s on a mountain top, only bottles reds, and nothing was less than fifty dollars.  A waiter in Oregon Formal sat us on a beautiful patio table, and brought us four wines for fifteen dollars.  I think wine tasting has changed, because even at this classy venue, there was no expectation for us to refrain from consumption.  Being the man of simple tastes I am, these were my least favourites.  The real wine drinkers loved them.  One of the wines we tried was $100 a bottle.  Gilly ended up getting something from Archery Summit.  I’m not sure what it cost, but I’m pretty sure I heard her mention how it would be a while before she planned to have her firstborn.    

Our waiter then took us on a tour, and I learned their facility is amazing.  The mountain has been hollowed out, and hundred and hundreds of oak barrels rest in the caves, carefully aging their red gold.  

The Wine Catacombs of Archery Summit

The Wine Catacombs of Archery Summit

We were told that the light and air-conditioning have been installed because they sometimes host rehearsal dinners and events.  The place was astounding, and worth checking out even if your idea of a good wine is a 2010 Boones or a good fortified Box’o’Wine.   

Jake was ready to take us hoe, but Chris realized we were a touch short on alcohol, and Gilly wasn’t going to part with her treasured bottle.  He asked to stop at Duck Pond.  I offered to go in with him, but he said we needed to hurry, thus cockblocking me, keeping me from the be-hoodied sirens inside.  Why do married guys ruin all my fun with their schedules, and big pictures, and making cute girls promise never to sleep with me by having weddings before said girls even get to meet me?  But then he gave me more cheap wine, and all was forgiven.    

Take us home, Jake.

Skidmore Saturday Sunday Market

I’m staying with A1 and C1 in Portland.  C1 was an English teacher in Japan for 9 years, and was our guru of all things Tokushima when I lived there.  A1 is his adorable, energetic Japanese wife.  Gilly, another English teacher I know from Japan, came to visit them from the UK at the same time.  Gilly is mean to me, but I forgive her, because she’s cute.  

Just like in Japan, C1 and A1 know everything near their home worth seeing, and they always find a long list of great things to do.  On Saturday, I went with the girls to the Skidmore Saturday Sunday Market, as C1 was at work.
 

The market is near Portland’s city center, and it’s amazing.  It’s a huge collection of portable stalls, selling local art, handmade items, and all sorts of tiny oddities and strange wonders.  It reminds me of Crossroads Market in Calgary, except open air, far more creatively geared, and five or six times the size.  

Seriously, it goes on,  

First View  

And on,  

more  

And on,  

Even more  

And on.  

sill more  

There was hand-made clothing and bags, made by hand and often made strange.  There was some amazing fractal art, painting, and photography, which would have been difficult to get back home, but if I lived in Oregon, I’d have such great art in my apartment from the market.  There was hand blown glass jewellery, fused works by artists, and a huge variety of earrings, necklaces, and pendants.  None of it was really my thing, but it was cool to see.  

The food was amazing, and that is my thing.  They had elephant ears.  

There, on the left!  See them?

There, on the left! See them?

They have them every week.  You can go there, and get sugar-coated deep-fried dough all the time.  

That, friends, is a description of Heaven.  

They had all the best festival foods, from mini-donuts to corn dogs, all the stuff I need to wait for Stampede to get.  They had booths offering an insane variety of regional dishes.  I tried Nepalese food.  I’m not sure what the fuck momos are, besides amazing. 

They are kind of like Gyoza

They are kind of like Gyoza

Even the coffee was great, like the best coffee shop you’ve ever tried.  I’m considering moving here just to eat this stuff every weekend. 

We wandered around for several hours.  Gilly and A1 were actually shopping.  I was mostly engrossed in people watching.  There were hippies, young and old, dreadlocked and grey beards.  There were punks with big green Mohawks or liberty spikes.  There were skaters and housewives, midlife crisis-ing artists and bored high schoolers.  They mingled in no set proportion, with no one sub-set dominating any part of the market for long.   

The thing that kept striking me about the market was there were rows and rows of hand-made crafts, and all kinds of alt-kids, but nowhere was I smelling any pot.  No one was selling hand carved pipes without mentioning what you might smoke out of such a craft.  There were no hand blown glass bongs.  I started to think it was due to the higher criminal penalties for marijuana use in the States.  I began to imagine even paraphernalia was sold in underground markets, and you had to by rolling papers from the dealer, as they were as bad as the product itself.  We were there for three hours before we reached the edge of the market.  A permanent shop with it’s storefront open to the crowd  had a Bob Marley lithograph.  Finally, the market made sense.  

Of all the things he stood for, we just remember he liked weed.

Of all the things he stood for, we just remember he liked weed.

There was only one thing that was a permanent fixture for the market, and that was the pipe and bong store.

I’m kidding of course.  There were other permenant stores, like on selling swords.  If you have a free weekend day in 

Portland, you need to check out the market.  It’s easy to find, just take any of the Max Trains down town to the Skidmore Fountain stop.  You get off right in the middle of it.  Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s worth a day of your time.

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Blogs are a lot of work.  Listen to Joey more often, like whenever he’s bored, on Twitter.

Flying to Portland

Friday, 4:16 pm

I arrive at the Calgary International Airport.  If my passport can be trusted, and I’m reasonably certain that it can, it’s been exactly one year since I returned from my last visit to Japan, and it’s been too long.  Sure, I’m just going to Oregon.  I could drive there.  It’s just good to be getting out.  My boss, T1, had never seen me so excited at work.  I spent the whole day bouncing off the walls, singing, and being happy.  My traditional work mood is caustically sarcastic as I worry about the state of my soul, and she was worried I was drunk.  That’ll take more than the three beers I shot gun in the parking lot at lunch…

4:25 pm

I need to check in.  I’m flying Alaska Air, and I can’t find their counter or kiosk.  Everything is WestJet and Air Canada, and the few other companies in the terminal aren’t even close to what I’m looking for.  This is the first time I’ve booked through Expedia.  Most of my adult life, when someone else isn’t arranging my travel for me, I’ve gone through Shogo at Osaka #1 Travel.  Shogo liked major airlines, and he kept me on Air Nippo0n and Air Canada the vast majority of the time.  Maybe it was a Japanese thing, preferring the big brand names.  Now that I don’t live in Japan, I can’t book through him because I can’t pay him without a Japanese bank account.  A computer program that finds the cheapest flights is a poor substitute for his considerate attention.  I think I need to get a real travel agent again.

4:31

Using my detective skills and my willingness to just press buttons on a self-serve kiosk, I discover Alaska Air operates as Horizon Air.  Thanks for the info, Expedia.

4:33

I go to check my suitcase at the Horizon desk.  The guy tags it and points me to the U.S. customs part of the terminal.  I haven’t flown into the U.S. post 9-11, so I didn’t realize how intense the security had really gotten, or that they haven’t really relaxed.  No other country has the paranoia, the balls, or the international weight to make you clear customs pre-flight.  Normally, you do it when you land on their soil.  The U.S. has a walled off section in the Calgary International Airport, and I find it odd and a little insulting.

4:38 pm

I learn there are two types of US customs officials; those that have a desk between you and them, and those that don’t.  Non-deskers are friendly, happy people who make jokes and genuinely make you feel welcome, like most of the Americans I know.  Deskers hate you and your free-range roaming ways.  They are hoping you slip up.  They’re all “Why are you going to Portland?” “Who are you visiting?” “When were you last in Oregon?” “If you’ve never been, how do you know people in Oregon?”  Apparently, these people have never been eight feet away from their desks, and don’t understand how travel works.

4:41 pm

The Americans decide my bag is allowed into the States.  I’m still under consideration.

4:43 pm

I get in line to get in line for the metal detectors.  These are not fast lines, as we have to be careful.  What if I have over 100 ml of liquid in an opaque container?  Zounds!

4:51 pm

I reach the front of the pre-line.  A friendly moustachioed man reviews my boarding pass and asks me to step on a mat.  Nearby, a green arrow lights up, and I’m directed towards the line for a metal detector.  I wander what happens if you get the red arrow?  How does the mat decide?  Do I really want to know?

4:53 pm

My shoes?  We’re still taking off our shoes?  Have there really been shoe bombs?  Is this really a problem that requires continued consideration?  I quietly oblige.  I haven’t been out of Canada in a year, and I’m not waiting another year just because some idiot is afraid my Adidas can take down a jet.

4:56 pm

I get my shoes back.  I try not to look slighted.

5:01 pm

Though I haven’t eaten them in months, I remember hearing you can’t get dill pickle chips in the U.S. I therefore buy a bag.

5:02 pm

I realize a bag of chips won’t survive two flights, probably.  I determine the only responsible thing to do is eat the chips.  They are amazing.

5:38 pm

The Smallest Plane a man should fly on

The Smallest Plane a Man Shoud Fly On.

I don’t like small planes.  I avoid DC 10s whenever possible, and Shogo knew that.  I hate feeling the thing working.  A jumbo jet is like a floating mall, and I never remember that I’m trusting tonnes of metal not to fall out of the sky.  DC 10s wobble, and never let you forget that man is defying nature, at least for now.  I love travelling, but flying makes me nervous.  Planes are basically airborne robots, and I don’t know if you saw Terminator, but robots hate us and will someday rise up and annihilate us.  As long as the plane is big enough, I forget that fact too. 

I’d never seen a Bombardier Q400 before, and I wasn’t pleased.

A Tiny Plane of Death

A Tiny Plane of Death

5:41 pm

They aren’t hooking up the collar, that temporary walkway from the terminal to the plane.  The plane is too short.

5:42 pm

The gate attendant announces the planes overhead compartments are too small for almost anything.  Bags bigger than a laptop will be loaded below, and we will pick them up on the tarmac when we land in Seattle.  I remind myself that the flight is the shortest part of the trip.

5:46 pm

I walk down onto the tarmac, hand over my backpack, and get on the plane.  There’s barely three steps to get to the cabin.  I have to watch my head as I get inside.  The interior is like an elongated Greyhound bus; two seats on either side of a centre aisle, maybe twenty rows worth.

Not How Planes Sould Look Inside

Not How Planes Sould Look Inside

Shogo never would have let me get on this deathtrap.

5:48 pm

I find my seat.  On either side of me is a young man in a well cut business suit.  Both sit upright with their hands resting on their knees.  Their eyes are closed, like they are meditating.  I wonder if they share my fear of the Bombardier.

6:01 pm

The flight crew begins the safety instructions.  When they point out the plane has only one bathroom, I somehow manage to feel even less safe.

6:03 pm

The captain announces it will be 40° outside when we land in Seattle.  I think about global warming.

6:04 pm

It dawns on me that he meant Fahrenheit.

6:05 pm

I finish the math and realize that about 5°C

6:08 pm

The propellers spin up, and the well dressed man across the aisle concentrates harder.  (Yeah, this fucking thing has actually propellers) From the corner of my eye, I confirm the one by the window is doing the same.

6:09 pm

I begin to wonder if these two men are psychokinetically turning the propellers.  Does this tiny plan run on the power of the human mind? If so, why is that less terrifying to me?

6:10 pm

I wonder if the plane is making me crazy.

6:11 pm

I conclude I’m awakened to higher realities.  I wish the psychokinetics the best. Telepathically.

6:13 pm

We sit on the runway.  The psychokinetics are turning the propellers as hard as they can, but we aren’t moving.

6:14 pm

I consider helping them, using my own massive will, but I am wearing a hoodie and a Batman T-Shirt.  I’m not dressed appropriately to assist.

6:15 pm

I become impatient, and help despite my casual clothing.

6:16 pm

We achieve lift-off

6:18 pm

Having done something for four consecutive minutes, I lose interest and stop concentrating.  The plane banks to the left.  The psychokinetic on that side gives me a disgusting look.  I shrug.

6:27 pm

The drink service comes by.  The psychokinetic on the left gets a wine.  I consider asking him if that’s wise, considering his brain keeps us aloft, but decide he’s already mad enough at me.  I say nothing.  I mind my own beer and play Nintendo D.S.

6:00 pm

We change time zones.

6:12 pm

We begin our descent.  The left side is a bit shaky. I blame the wine, and begin to help using my mind, as before.  Drunkokinetic gives me another dirty look.

6:28 pm

We disembark.  I grab my bag from the landing attendants and rush to the terminal.  Who knows what a man who can power a jet engine with his mind might do to my head in a drunken fury?

6:48 pm

I get a burritos in the terminal.  It is as delicious as it is enormous.  God bless America’s obesity.

Thanks, Fatties!

Thanks, Fatties!

7:11 pm

I am unable to finish the burritos.  I am more proud of how far I’ve gotten than how much is left.

7:40 pm

After killing time in the mall that is the Seattle Airport, I board another stupidly small plane.

Seriously, Mall.

Seriously, Mall.

7:43 pm

Three minutes on the plane, and I still can’t spot the psychokinetics that will power this craft.

7:44 pm

Oh shit. Drunkokinetic just boarded the plane.

7:45 pm

Fuck, he’s coming right for me.

7:46 pm

Shitfuck, he has the seat beside me.

7:47 pm

Bastard-ass-cock-shitter-fuck, he asks me if Calgary’s home.  He remembers me.  I steel my mind, in case he tries to blow it up, Scanner’s style.

7:48 pm

He noticed I was writing in my Black Book on the last flight.  I am sufficiently vague about being a blogger, and do not let him see my entries, as I enjoy my currently unexploded head.

7:49 pm

Drunkokinetic turns out to have fascinating ideas about social networking, the internet zeitgeist, and the blogosphere.  While his buzzword vocabulary matches his well cut business suit, he is a fountain of insight.

8:55 pm

This flight passes quickly as I am engaged in the conversation.  Upon landing, I decide against giving him my website.  After all, if he takes offense, how close would he need to be to explode my head?  He found me once, he may track me down again.  I instead pleasantly part ways, brain completely in tact.

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Joey wants you to follow him on Twitter.