Why I love WordPress

This is the third home for my blog.  I started on MySpace.  This was in the Long Ago, the before time.  In those day, MySpace wasn’t something to be embarrassed about.  It was actually cool.  Good bands had cool music for free.  I met some really awesome people, and even agreed to meet some of them in real life.  I started blogging there, and used it for most, if not all of my time in Japan.

I really liked it.  I got to see how many people were reading each blog, and a lot of the friends I made on MySpace were because I wrote there.  I wasn’t making music, but it set my page apart.

This was, remember, before Facebook was open to everyone.  You used to earn your way into Facebook.  You needed an email address from a recognized school back then, and University of Lethbridge had just made the list.  My social life was more strongly based out of work, and not everyone who worked at the restaurants that employed me were students, so they could get a MySpace, but not a Facebook.

Facebook wasn’t social enough for my social networking needs.

But slowly, MySpace began to change.  Even if you weren’t a band, you could put a song on your page, and they were always too loud.  When you got to a new page, your first instinct was to find the music player and mute it before you had to hear their profile song.  Then  came the code.  You could go to a side site and get a code to spruce up your MySpace.  It would update the background, and while it could be done tastefully, like on my MySpace, most people did a gaudy mess of glitter, like Lady Gaga vomit.

I’m not going to subject you to glitter text.

Then the people changed.  You stopped getting messages from people who thought you were cool.  If a cute girl sent you a message, she was no longer someone who liked your writing.  She was a cam whore who was trying to get you to sign up for a pay service.  Bands no longer cared what you liked.  They sent you friend requests to boost their fan numbers, and hoped you clicked it by accident.

So like everyone else, I moved to Facebook, who by this point had opened their doors to everyone.  But Facebook notes didn’t meet my blogging needs.  So I checked out a few sites and tried their technical aspects, and found I liked writing on Live Journal most of all.

While I enjoyed their technical aspects, I didn’t research the community enough.  I didn’t find out until I had been there over a year that the site was associate with angsty emo poetry by fifteen year olds or Harry Potter slash fiction.

No thank you.  I already have a Deviant Art account.

Then I found WordPress.  It’s technically superior to Live Journal, helps drive traffic, and most importantly, has better statistics than MySpace ever did.

I know that the searches that bring people to my blog through Google are “Tony Stark Beard” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Comic”, “Jessica Alba fake nudes” and “Rachel McAdams”.  It’s good to know what you’re known for.

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Joey was looking at his stats to figure out what you like in his blog.  If there are types of blogs you like more, let him know in the comments, or send him a message.

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Los Chilitos

I can never remember the name of Los Chilitos, which is on 17th Ave near 14th Street in SW Calgary, but I’ve been obsessed with it since the first day I saw it.  Tequila and Taco House?  That’s awesome!  I usually call it Tequila and Taco House, which is the most awesome name in all of nomenclature.  That’s just unbelievably cool.

Somewhere, Leonard’s metal chin is rusting with drool thinking of this place.  When I was in Japan with her, she needed to eat tacos at least every two days.  Do you know how hard it is to find tacos in Japan?  There’s no Tequila and Taco houses there!  A2 can empathize.  Aparently she did the same thing through all of Europe.  Well, guess what, Leonard?  There’s a Tequilla and Taco house near my house, and you can’t come because you ate too many tacos in Japan, and wouldn’t even try tako.

You may not be able to tell from that picture, but Los Chilitos looks like a house set way back on its lot, with an enormous two story patio.  There’s more space outside than inside.  It’s a really nice patio with a really nice view.  You know how some Mexican restaurants feel like they’re owned by a chain, and some feel like they’re owned by a family?  Los Chilitos just oozes authenticity. 

Tall and I went one sunny afternoon, because he loves to eat and he loves to help.  The drink menu impressed me, and I couldn’t resist the mohito.

I don't think it's a gay drink.

Do you see that?  Real mint leaves crushed in there.  It was frigid and delicous.  It is porbably the best mohito I’ve ever had, and I’ve had over three.

Tall loved that his Coke came in a glass bottle.  He usually hates Coke, being very devouted to Pepsi.  He tastes the difference easily, and for a Coke to do well by him is an amazing feet.  Perfect temperature, and perfect presentation.

Honestly, it didn’t seem like things could get better. 

Then our food came

Those tacos there, they were amazing.  And I got both the red salsa, and the green salsa.  Green salsa is the super spicy salsa.  I love the taste, but it’s too hot for me most of the time.  Having both let me use just a little bit as needed.  This is one of the best tacos I’ve ever had, and I’ve had over 300 tacos.  Most of those are since meeting Leonard.

Tall’s burito was just as good.  Tall couldn’t find anything to complain about with it.  Tall loves to complain about food.  He loves it as much as eating food and helping.  It’s his favourite thing in the world.  He could find no fault in this burito.  That means it was aboslutely perfect.  Nothing was wrong, or he would have brought it up. 

Then it started to rain a little bit.  Our waiter appeared, and told us he had prepared a table for us inside when he saw the clouds forming.  He didn’t want us to have soggy food, and as soon as the first drops hit, he was there to help us.

Waiters have a hard job.  They have to juggle all kinds of tables, and make sure food comes out, and everyone is happy.  There’s a certain amount of forethought the job requires, but usually you do the basics by route and save your energy to solve problems with angry customers.

But this guy, he solved problems before they happened.  He was ready to help us out as soon as he thought there could be a problem.  The rest of the servers were cute girls, with asses like onions; they brought a tear to your eye, and you were in no way sad.  This guy was so good, he was better than that. 

Yeah, this dude was better than cute girls.  He was amazing.  I think he might be the owner, and if he is, this place will do well.  They have a man who not only understands good customer service, but goes above and beyond to provide great customer service.

And inside is pretty cool too:

Smiley faces protect the identities of the innocent

When our bill came, it was really good.  We had eaten amazing meals in a great place, with excellent service.  The prices were what you’d pay in any causual dining restaurant, but this was one of the best meals out in my life. 

I love this place.  If you want to throw me a party, or thank me for something, or impress me, take me to Los Chilitos.  It’ll put me in a great mood, to be sure.

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

Rating: 5 Stars

Food Star: Excellent, a superb taco.

Drink Star: Fresh mint in the mohito!  YES!

Atmosphere Star: Spot on.

Staff Star: Greatest waiter ever.

Price Star: Worth so much more than we were charged for

Tall’s Rating: 5 Stars.  From Tall.  He found nothing to complain about.

Miniblog: Wheels

When I moved back from Japan, I decided I didn’t need a car.  This decision was made, in part, by poverty on returning, as the exchange rate turned three months savings into one within a couple of weeks.  So I lived in Calgary, carless, and got used to it.

When the money started coming in, because no one raised in a stone’s throw of my Dad’s work ethic will stay unemployed for long, I still didn’t get a car.  I could have gotten something cheap, just to get around, but there was no need.  I lived and worked downtown, so every part of my life was in the same area.

Then my savings started going up, and I could have bought my first ever brand new car.  But then again, there’s travel.  I love going places, and I usually want to go further than I can get by driving.  So instead of getting a Mazda 4, I went to visit Japan.

Even when my work relocated to the edge of nowhere, I came to enjoy the hour on public transit.  It’s a time to write, or to read, or to play Nintendo DS.  I’ve been so long without a car I don’t miss it day to day, and instead of paying for insurance or gas, I get a bus pass and put money away to travel.  I think right now, it’s a better choice.

But my parents are going to Europe for a couple of weeks, and since they’re flying out of Calgary, they’ve decided that instead of paying for parking, they’ll leave their car with me.  I’m still on Dad’s insurance as an occassional driver.  So for the first time in years, I’ll have a car in Calgary.

I don’t plan to abuse it.  Maybe a trip to Ikea.  And Peter’s Drive-In.  But that’s it.

Probably.

Miniblog: Cheating at Twitter

Did you know Japanese people cheat at Twitter? Seriously. I mean, you get 140 characters, right? Well, in English, Japanese People takes 14 characters. A 10th of what you’re allowed. In Japanese, it takes 3.

THREE! That’s a 47th of what you use in English!

They can write way more. We need 4.7 times as many characters! So I figure they should be allowed 29.79 characters. That’s all they get.

Make Twitter fair. Take away Japanese characters

Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

The Back Alley With My Brother

I don’t try to keep up with David, my younger brother, very often.  I tend to feel old amongst his friends, mostly because they’re much younger than him, too.  I’m Methuselah in their company.  He sometimes gets caught up in trying to impress his group of acolytes; servers, bartenders, and hangers-on, who are drawn to his gregarious personality.  He forgets that they would already follow him over the brink of reason.  He doesn’t need to go big to impress them, but somehow he always decides he needs to out drink them, out party them, out go-without-sleep them, and generally out do them.

  

Then again, he is my brother, and that does lend itself towards a certain flair for the dramatic.  I’ve just gotten too old to need to do a shot of tequila or stay up till 5 am to prove myself.  I only do those things when I want to, not because someone else thinks I should.  

David gets along with my friends, but I live in a calmer world.  I mean, watch how early in the following tale we lose my social group:  

On Saturday night of May Long Weekend, I invited Matt, Ren, and David over for the sort of thing that lives more in my sort of social gathering than my brothers.  We watched Yatterman, a strange and wonderful piece of Japanese … something.  

Technically a movie, but …

We watched it with no subtitles and drank every time it made no sense.  Ren kept predicting the fucked up things in the movie, like the flowers were missiles, or that Yattergirl could deflect them with a stick.  

The movie is pretty fucked up, so we were nicely drunk by the time it ended.  David and I decided we wanted to go to a bar.  At the mention of such a thing, Matt and Ren vanished.  Matt had important World of Warcraft raiding to do, and Ren, not always the most social individual, was in no mood for the drunken general public that night.  

My friends, in general, are not partiers. 

David asked me to call anyone I knew who would join us.  I scrolled through the contact list on my phone.  There were maybe three people in there who might have gone, and they were out of town.  So he furiously texted a bunch of people while I played poker on my phone as we rode the train to the Back Alley

While drinking, my BlackBerry photography skills are minimal at best...

 We arrived to find a short line out front, who turned out to be smokers finishing their cigarettes before they headed inside.  It appeared the city had been abandoned for the long weekend.  We flashed our IDs at the bouncer and checked our coats.  

 Of all the clubs I’ve ever been to, the Back Alley is by far the best.  The first time I came, it raised my expectations for all clubs forever after, and nowhere else has ever come close.  Mostly, it comes from the music.  Very few clubs play music I like, as I find most dance and top 40 jarring.  Back Alley plays Modest Mouse, the Proclaimers, Rage Against, ACDC, and all sorts of stuff you don’t hear outside of pubs.  I never find myself praying to Zeus to fry the sound system with divine lightning to save my sanity.  

Not the ghost town I had expected

 On top of that, they always keep the crowd at a good size.  Even on the long weekend, we were pleased to find the place was busy, and the dance floor was packed, but we could move, and find a space to breathe if we needed one.  The staff is fun, and seems to enjoy their jobs, even the tit-shot girls who pour a shout of tequila down patrons throat from a hip-holstered bottle, and then motorboat the drinker.  I was a bit surprised they still do this, but I guess they’re will always be a market.  Even the bathroom attendants are unobtrusive and helpful.  Other places, I find them creepy, mostly because in University, the clubs that had them either needed them to ensure you weren’t coking up in the bathroom, or they were selling coke.  In the Back Alley, you never notice them until they drop some liquid soap in your hands and turn on the water, and they keep the place far cleaner than you would expect from such a busy club. 

David and I did a lap around the dance floor, on the off chance anyone we knew was there.  Apparently, even David’s texting was fruitless on May Long, the busiest camping weekend of the year.  We grabbed a pair of stools by the dance floor, and enjoyed a couple of beers and the scenery. 

Two cute girls slid off the dance floor, brunettes in little black dresses, barstars in their prime, and they ask my brother if he’s David.  He feels famous, even though one girl went to school in Stettler with Bev, our youngest sister.  They wanted to dance, but David knows me.  “You need a couple more first, right?” 

“I’ll be fine,” I told him, waving him towards the floor.  “You go, I’ll have some beers and people watch.”  Barstar2, the girl who wasn’t from Stettler, looked really disappointed as the three of them went back to the floor. 

Cute girls don’t know it, but they love to be ignored. 

By 12:34, focus was not my strong point.

I don’t know why, but I always feel part of something when I’m enjoying the same music as people around me.  I always get that feeling in the Back Alley.  I’m involved in whatever everyone in the building is involved in, and it’s not like a Starbucks, where people are in public, but each table is an island.  Everyone is here, in the same place.  I think it’s something we avoid, with iPods and carefully ignoring everyone around us.  I know I’m guilty of it too, and it’s nice to step out into a bigger world, even if it’s just for a few hours. 

I'm 93% certian this is the bartender I'm talking about

When I went and grabbed another beer from the bartender, she’s par for the course here; stunningly gorgeous, down to Earth, and glad you’re there.  I often find servers in busy clubs seem bored, and are faking that you’re not a hassle.  Staff at the Back Alley treat you like you’re attending their party, at their house.  Sure, they’re busy, but they’re having a great time, and it’s really important to them that you are too.I got lost in the crowd, enjoying the people around me.  I saw old friends running into each other by surprise, new couples clumsily batting tongues as if they’re alone, people lost in the sound and dancing their hearts out, and the strange, flamboyant people with Mohawks and feather boas, trying to find themselves and praying no one notices they’re lost.  I mouthed the words to songs and slipped like a shadow through the club, soaking up all the spilled drops of life stories. 

After a while, David and the Barstars came off the floor, and we did a round of Jaggerbombs.  “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers came on, and Barstar2 and I shouted the lyrics at each other.  She asked us if everyone from Stettler Line dances.  As she did, the only country song they play all night comes on, and it was “Cadillac Ranch” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so in the back of the bar David, Barstar1 and I formed a line and showed them what we learn in Junior High School in small town Alberta. 

I was trying to be a good brother here, and wingman for David.  The problem is, he hadn’t chosen his Barstar of preference, so we kept switching girls.  Since he wouldn’t pick, I was waiting for them to do it for him.  They either couldn’t decide who wants whom, or neither is willing to settle for the runner up, or “Little Brother” prize, as I like to call him. 

This went on for a while, and at some point later in the evening, we got separated from the Barstars, who find guys who will buy them drinks to impress them.  Suddenly, they seemed very thirsty.  David is poor, and I was just sober enough to remember it’s often a mistake to hook up with a 20 year old Barstar.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but I’m not willing to spend fifty bucks to get her drunk to seal the deal.  Or twenty bucks.  We gave them another beer (which is a unit of time in which it takes us to consume a single beer, we really weren’t buying them drinks by this point) to choose cool over guys who have nothing to offer but a drink, and then headed over to say goodbye before we grab a cab. 

They were super disappointed, but they walked away from us, so we returned the favour.  David grabbed both their numbers, and they were also disappointed when I don’t ask.  They have little to offer me outside of their little black dresses, except being out of their little black dresses, and I’m not taking a rain check on that.  Barstar2 hugs me goodbye, which catches me unaware, and is really awkward until I call her clingy.  David and Barstar1 laughed, and she caught on that it was a joke.  She seemed to learn an important lesson about whoring herself out for vodka slimes. 

David and I took a cab back to my place, where he crashed on the couch.  I have a very small stash of Aquarius, and after drinking hard for twelve hours, I decided to pre-cure my hangover. 

This is what magic looks like

As I fell asleep, I thought about how after I go to most clubs, I don’t want to go back ever again, or at least for six months.  I never get that with the Back Alley.  I was ready to go back the next day…

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

Final Rating: 5 Star

As stated above, I love the Back Alley, so that get all the stars:

  • Drink Star
  • Staff Star
  • Price Star
  • Music Star
  • Atmosphere Star

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Seriously, did you go to Joey’s Twitter yet?

Staying In

I know back in my mission statement, one of my goals was to get out more, but tonight that’s not happening.  The weather is cold and miserable, and every time I think of brining my little black book to a bar or a coffee shop, I cringe.  I just want to stay in.

On my way home from work, I just decided fuck it.  I stopped at Edo on the way.  Their menu claimed they had a bento.  Bento is the Japanese term for an easy box lunch.  Normally, there’s some art to these.  I mean, they look nice, even from convenience stores.  Not here.  Here they just throw some food in a Styrofoam to-go box.

Well, Finger painting is an art too, kinda

Yep, Calgary still uses Styrofoam.

I trudged back to my place to enjoy a couch bound evening.  I mean, look at the weather outside.

The Sky is frowning

That’s literally what the sky looks like, and there’s no MS Paint involved.

Want to see something sad?  I went to the fridge and found this

One sad, lonely beer

That’s sad for the beer, so I better drink him.

Normally, I try to limit my time with DVDs and video games.  I enjoy them, but they’re traps.  Time traps.  I’m pretending it’s okay that I’m putting in this evenings third disk of The Office because every once in a while I write a line in the book between episodes.  Also, I went to the gym twice this week, so it’s okay.

I’m sad for me because the beer is gone.  What else is in the fridge?

Cream Soda?

 Why the fuck do I have Cream Soda.  Do I even like Cream Soda?  I poured it into a glass to find out.  It’s not terrible, but I don’t want to go back to the couch without a full drink.  That’s just asking for trouble.  I’ll need to get up again way to soon.  What goes with Cream Soda?

 
 
 
 

Is it Vodka?

Obviously.  Vodka goes with every thing.  How could this be terrible?

It fucking is.  It’s like discount cough syrup.  I should just head out, grab a beer at Watchman’s around the corner, or at least pick up some decent mix.

But

 
 
 

The Sky is frowning

Screw it.  Vodka Cream Soda isn’t that bad.  Mostly.

Tommy Burger

I barely made it back from Portland in time for Tall’s birthday.  He wanted to go out on Friday night, and I was landing at midnight.  Being the unstoppable force of nature I am, I planned to take a cab home, drop off my bags, and catch up to the party.  The day before I left Oregon, I got a text, saying the festivities had been moved to Tommy Burger on Saturday afternoon.  That meant it would be easier to get there, and Kodie could pick me up at the airport, because he was no longer going to be at a party.  Everything was coming up Joey.  

 

A few months earlier, one of my coworkers, W1, had told me about a restaurant downtown where they served gourmet burgers, like a $40 Kobe Beef burger with lobster and white truffle Hollandaise sauce.  Only in Calgary, kids.    He told me about their wild game burgers, like elk, and the tuna, turkey, and bison.  Gilly was slightly disgusted for what passed for classy in Alberta when I told her about this place.  She couldn’t believe we would be willing to make burgers out of Kobe beef. On the drive home, Kodie was worried about the cost, but glad it was close.   

The next morning, I realized I was wrong.  W1 had told me about Lounge Burger, not Tommy Burger.    

Where we needed to be...

Where we needed to be...

 We were not going to the above restaurant.  My first concern was that Tommy Burger was a far ways South down McLeod Trail.  I called Kodie, who after all these years was still surprised I could be wrong.  His boyfriend, Shawn, was at work with his car.  We called him, and Shawn had thought to find the restaurant before he needed to leave.  He swung by to pick me up, and we grabbed Kodie and headed south.   

   

Tommy Burger turned out to be high-end casual dining rather than gourmet, which suited me better.  Casual dining, for those unfamiliar, means a restaurant is nice but not pretentious, the sort of place you aren’t ashamed to bring a date, but you know every item on the menu.  I don’t have a highly refined palate, as evidenced in my wine country tour.  I will eat anything, and I would try an ostrich burger, or whatever rich people insist on eating, but I generally prefer something simpler.   

We walked in, and the hostess was a beautiful blonde girl in a short dress so tight it looked like she had been dipped in half a bottle of ink.  I decided it was probably best I did the talking, since it would be wasted on the gays.  I told her we were there with people, and gave Tall’s name.  I was about to say something witty and charming, the details of which I won’t type here so that I don’t get promises of undying love from women I’ve never met, but then I remembered she was a hostess. I used to work in a restaurant, back in university.  There I learned the true reason restaurants have hostesses.  Sometimes, a jaw droppingly gorgeous girl will come in and apply for a job.  You would never guess by looking at her, but she turns out to be sixteen.  Alberta law requires servers to be eighteen in a licensed establishment.  Minors can only be employed in positions that don’t handle alcohol.  A restaurant does better with attractive serving staff, and a hostess is an investment in the future.  She has a job right out front, drawing customers into the restaurant, and she starts to learn how things are done.  When she turns eighteen, she can become a server.  

A Classy Interior

A Classy Interior

Jailbait is jailbait.  I bit my tongue and followed her to our table.  We were about twenty, so they put us in a section where our long table had walls on three sides, with just one opening into the rest of the restaurant.  The décor was designed to subtly remind one of a 1950s diner, but with enough restraint to keep it from being tacky.  Over half our party was there, so I let someone else entertain Kodie and Shawn while I perused the drink menu. 

What’s this?  Tokyo Iced Tea?  

Tokyo Iced Tea

Tokyo Iced Tea

Kiwi?  I fucking love Kiwi.  Our waitress was tall and smiled easily, and was too busy to give me her undivided attention.  I stopped flirting and sent her off to get one of these tiny wonders.  

Really, look at that drink.  Think about how good it could possibly be at its best.  It was better than that.  David showed up, and I told him needed to try one.  “Joey, that’s just a long island iced tea with kiwi.”   

“Yeah!  Kiwi!”   

He decided to sit at the far end of the table to avoid me.  I assumed he just didn’t want to compete with me should our cute waitress have three seconds to spare.   

Tall is a giant, and he eats like one.  Meals out with him generally include appetizers, to maximize the amount of food he can possibly consume in a single lifetime.  It was 2:12 by that point, and all that was sloshing around in my stomach was Tokyo Iced Tea, so I figured I had better get a starter.  Then I saw them; Kobe beef sliders.  Despite living reasonably near Kobe in Japan for a year, I never had their beef.  There was enough other exciting food.  Gilly might be right, putting Kobe beef in hamburgers, even tiny hamburgers, might ruin it.  

Also pictured; Shawn's bucket of poutine

Also pictured; Shawn's bucket of poutine

But trust me, sliders are not ruined by Kobe beef.  They were juicy, without being fatty.  I bet that’s what angels taste like.  They were amazing.   

For the main course, you could choose a prebuilt burger, or build your own.  I perused the ingredient list, and found a dilemma.  First of all, they make tamago burgers.  The Japanese may not know a lot about burgers, considering the fact that they won’t put Kobe beef in them, but there is one piece of burger technology they have perfected.  Everywhere you go, every chain, has a tamago burger.  First you take a regular burger.  Then you add a fried egg.  Then you’re done.  You’re welcome.   

But next to the second greatest hangover cure in the world (after Aquarius), was another burger-vation.  That is an innovation specifically related to burgers, by the way.  They would put a pineapple on my burger.  I love pineapple.  Pineapple makes me consider the possibility of a loving god who understands my taste buds.  So now I had to choose between tamago burger and pineapple burger.   

Some of you are probably thinking “Pick both!”  That’s a dangerous option.  What if the savory glory of the egg is compromised by the pristine tang of the pineapple?  In the past, I have melded such diverse ingredients and created chimeras of fantastic taste splendor, such as the Unholy Cheeseburger Pizza.  But that day was not the day to see if fried egg and pineapple mix.   

Mostly because they probably don’t.   

Instead, I had them put on fried onions, bacon, aged cheddar, and I went with pineapple.  

The Burger as Art

The Burger as Art

Some of you might not like the fruit, but let me tell you, this was as good as pineapple gets.  Imagine the best possible outcome for this burger.  Now add 25%.  That’s how good it was.   

 Tommy Burger was high end casual dining.  While it wasn’t the cheapest burger I’ve ever eaten, it didn’t break the bank.  It was worth every penny.  It was one of the best.  Top three, actually, after Freshness Burger and Hawaiian Kitchen in Koichi, Japan.  But if you’re not willing to leave the country, you may have to make due with Tommy Burger.  

 You know, which is like making due with a Rachel McAdams/Jessica Alba threesome.  

So Far, so good...

So Far, so good...

What? No Amy Smart? I'm out of here.

What? No Amy Smart? I'm out of here.

 

Tommy Burger gets 5 stars from me, and if you don’t go check it out, you are either a vegetarian, or you hate yourself.   Which most vegetarians do.  

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

Ratings Breakdown:

 Full Stars; Food, Drink, Staff, Price, and Atmosphere.  

Five Star Total

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

If you are a Calgary restaurant, and you’d like to have Joey review your restaurant, send an email to joey.stadelmann@gmail.com.

Oregon Miscellany

Portland from 30 Stories Up

Portland from 30 Stories Up

There are several Oregon items that don’t quite merit their own posts, but they’re good.  I’ll collect them all here:    

Micro-breweries: Apparently, Portland is the micro-brew capital of the world.  They have approximately 3 micro-breweries on each block.  Any beer which is bottled more than a dozen at a time is despised, and generally unavailable to prevent riot.  Instead, everywhere you go, someone offers you a beer you’ve never tried.  There are lots of good ones, but by Oregon law, you may never drink the same beer twice.  Ever.    

Wineries: As above, but with wine.  Also, I don’t really care about wine without a Stretch Hummer.    

The British and Rivers: Chris asked Gilly why the English were obsessed with finding the source of rivers.    

“What do you mean?” she asked, confused.    

“British people are always trying to find out where rivers come from.  Like where does the Nile start, or the beginning of the Amazon.  You’re all obsessed with it.”    

“Where did you get that idea?”    

“I’ve been reading books by an English author, and every one has finding the source of a river was a major plot point in each book.”    

“Maybe it’s just that writer.”    

“Maybe.”    

“I mean, I went to the source of the Thames, and it wasn’t impressive.”    

“See!  No one else would care!”    

We’re an All Natural Commune: Portland is a green city.  It’s good for the world, and the ease and access of bike trails and public transit are admirable.  Sometimes, they go a bit far.  Everything is all organic, done/made by hand, and locally produced, and it’s very important to the average Portlandian.  They seem to think the rest of the world is a poison cesspool full of robot created Chinese death.    

As I was leaving, Chris was worried that I didn’t bought any completely natural, handmade Portland goods.  I told him, “I think that’s more important if you’re from Portland.  Akiyo laughed so hard I thought she was going to burst a blood vessel.  I think she may be tired of hearing about the wonders of handmade organic Portland goods.    

Sales Tax: Oregon has no sales tax.  It’s the only thing anyone knows about the state up here in Canada.  Txt Girl, a cute girl who lives in Vancouver and texts between every heartbeat sent me three messages when she heard I was going.  Each expressed her jealousy that I could shop without paying sales tax.  People in Portland try to convince you you should buy an extra metric tonne of handmade organic goods because there’s no tax, and you could just ship it home.  They refuse to understand that the freight would be higher than G.S.T.    

Gilly’s Detective Skills: Gilly joined me on the couch as I was working on a blog.  Because the whole internet will see it later, I let her read over my shoulder.  She pointed to where I had written Gimtmbifhbsic.    

 

     

It looks like this in the Black Book

It looks like this in the Black Book

    

That’s not a word,” she told me.    

“You’re a great English Teacher.  It’s a code.”    

“Why are you writing in code?”    

“I’m not sure if I’m going to put it in.”    

“But why bother with code?”    

“So if you see it, you won’t know what it says.”    

“Are you worried I’ll be mad if you write ‘Gilly is mean to me, but I forgive her because she is cute’?”    

“…no.  And it’s not slander if it’s true.”    

Food Stands: On third and fifth street in downtown Portland, there are outdoor food stalls like the ones at Skidmore Market.  The food is great and inexpensive.  You have to try them if you get the chance.    

Powell’s:    

It's bigger than it looks

It's bigger than it looks

Powell’s is an enormous second-hand bookstore.  They have new titles as well, and they’re stored on the same shelves, so if there are no used copies you can still get the book.  It’s divided by the Dewey Decimal System, and I think it may be bigger than the University of Lethbridge library.  They certainly have more rare books.  It is several stories tall, and divided into sections like literature, genre fiction, true crime, travel, foreign language, and each ends up with its own room, large enough to be a lesser bookstore.    

When I see this, I hear Choirs of Angels...

When I see this, I hear Choirs of Angels...

Bookstores are fiscally dangerous for me.  It happens like this; I see things I want, I buy them, and I don’t worry about when I’ll actually have time to read them.  I tore through the building, abandoning Gilly in the first room.  When she caught up to me, 45 minutes later, I had shown great restraint.  I only had three books I had to buy.  There were eight more I was seriously considering.  They were the sort of strong maybes that would become yeses with just a little time.  Gilly had much stricter requirements.  She wanted something small (even by book standards) due to the weight restrictions on her luggage home, cheap as this was a used bookstore, and unique enough she might not find it somewhere else.  She needed more time.    

I realized I was about fifteen minutes from a euphoric bookstore breakdown.  This would have led me to drain my bank account and max out my credit card.  There was no tax, so I could just ship all those books home.  Before all logic drained from my brain, I bought the books under my arm and headed to the attached coffee shop.  I waited there, downing mochas for two hours while Gilly gave the store the attention it deserved.  I kept thinking I should get just one more book.    

Akiyo Plays Volleyball: In Japanese school, if you join a sports team, you spend hours each day playing that sport, a level of dedication reserved strictly for hockey in Canada.  Akiyo played volleyball from Junior High until she finished university, and we went to watch one of her community league games.    

Akiyo is sweet, energetic, friendly, and modest.  When she’s playing volleyball, she’s all those things and a force to be reckoned with.  She tends to call thing out in Japanese.  For example, when she serves, she yells “Hai!  Ippun!”  She can play any position, and play them well.  She was dominating the games we watched.  At one point, when she was serving, she scored ten consecutive points.  She would serve, and before you knew it, she was at the net, spiking the ball back with more force than she could have possibly contained.  She was everywhere at once, and the other team was terrified of her.    

Gilly Makes a Wish:  Gilly didn’t want to go back to work, and wished she didn’t have to fly back to the UK.  The next day, a volcano in Iceland exploded, interrupting all air travel to Great Britain.  The airlines lost over $200 million a day, and I encourage them to talk to Gilly about it, because correlation equals causation and this is her fault.    

A Ride in a Convertible: Chris’s care is a two-seater green convertible, which is cool but not practical when he, Gilly, and I need to go somewhere.  We kept walking or talking trains, but eventually we needed to drive somewhere and couldn’t find a larger car to borrow.  Chris informed us that there is a way to fit three.    

We pushed the passenger seat all the way back, and I sat there, being much bigger than Gilly.  She crawled in and sat on the floor between my legs.  Even though she’s tiny, it was a tight fit, with my legs squeezing her ribs.     

In order to avoid being pulled over, Chris decided to stay off the main roads.  The street we took had speed bumps.  Before we reached the first one, Gilly instructed “Make a cushion with your hands behind my head.  I don’t want to head butt you in the crotch.     

As I do, Chris informs us “Usually, the third sits facing the person in the seat.”    

I take a moment to think of how that would work, with Gilly’s face colliding with my business.  It is not an image of pain.  “You can turn around if you want,” I suggest, with my smirk in my voice.    

Just then, we hit a speed bump, and I catch the back of her head as it flies at me, too quick for comfort.  “You can move your hands, if you want.”    

Gimtmbifgbsic.    

Going Home: I decided “Fuck Bombardier Q400s” on the way home.  Alaska Air my charge $6 for a tiny bottle of vodka, but I wasn’t going to get pass-out drunk on beer.  I had to shell out.  I finished my first, and try to get my second.  Apparently, we were too close to descent, and the attendant wouldn’t bring me another.    

Sweet Escape

Sweet Escape

I grab a few quick drinks in Seattle, and formulate a plan for the next flight.  I slammed the first.  I figured if I went fast, I could get 3 down in an hour and not think about how much I hated the deathtrap around me.  You think the flight attendant got without shouting range at any time before we hit turbulence?  Because that would be a big no.  I think they were hiding from me.

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Is there a story about you and Joey you’d like to hear him tell?  Want to know his warped perception of some event?  Good news, he’ll take your requests, about that time you met, what he remembers about you, or that fucked up time in Cleveland that no one really wants to remember.  Send him a message through WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or email and he’ll write it and let you know when it goes up.

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.    

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Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.

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.