Category Archives: travel

Today in Confusing Graffiti: Portland’s Cathedral Park

Because the sun set at approximately

4:16 p.m. yesterday, I thought we could all use a little break to remember what fall looks like. Trees, apparently from time to time they get these “leaves” that “fall” every year after “turning” to a red/golden shade. I know, right? Crazy!

So last month, before the really cold snap, Yean and I took a little jaunt to Cathedral Park in St. Johns, which is in the waaaaaay North part of Portland in the little armpit of land where the Willamette starts curving West. I used to commute there from my rented room in Beaverton at like five in the morning when I first moved to Portland, and by the time I got off work I had no energy to enjoy the splendors of Lombard St., let alone to drive home without running five red lights. So it was a bit of a revelation to go back there and experience the neighborhood as a consumer rather than an employee.

The St. Johns Bridge is probably my favorite Portland bridge, and I still lament not getting this one apartment in an old Victorian with absolutely stunning views of the bridge and the hills, flaky shiny-shirt-wearing landlord notwithstanding.

Now, its important to point out that the St. Johns was not, in fact, designed by the same guy who did the Golden Gate. They’re both suspension bridges, they were both depression-era projects, and they’re both, um, fanciful colors, but the dudes who built them were actually rivals, or at least that’s what Wikipedia and the Portland Neighborhood Association tell me. I think they both rock. Asking me to pick one is like asking me to pick a favorite child, or possibly a favorite stressful traffic situation. Ol’ St. Johns may not have the Gate’s steep toll, but I did have to drive across it once in a snowstorm and the memory gives me stress cramps to this day.

Obviously the park gets its name for the Gothic-ish towers that support the bridge, which make a picturesque place to picnic, canoodle with your teenage lover or, as we found out(MOTHER DO NOT READ THIS IT IS GROSS), write confusing graffiti:

To this day we still debate whether this was two people, one who wrote “pussy” and another who added “fart,” or one person who simply meant “pussy fart.” I also could have sworn there was an “e” on the end of “fart” but looking at the pictures maybe I imagined that exciting tidbit.

Right after I took this I asked Yean if there was poo on the ground next to her:

We think it was just dirt though.

I mean, we’re pretty sure.

Oh, Portland.

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Big Pimpin’ in Seaside

It is my belief that Lewis and Clark,

Soggy and suffering from a recurring strain of malaria, were looking for one thing and one thing only when they stumbled into Seaside, Oregon. It wasn’t money or fame, or even a decent bed or the company of a good (hopefully syphilis-free) woman. It was the thing we all seek at one point in our lives. The thing that brings us together, binds man to sea and potato to shellfish.

That’s right. Clam Chowder.

“WELL WHERE THE FUCK IS IT???”

-M. Lewis, January 8, 1806

It wasn’t the chowder specifically that brought Yean and I to Seaside a couple weeks ago, but I will say that our journey did involve a lot of food hunting. Portland’s turned a bit chilly by now, but Seaside was still a comfortable mix of sunny and breezy. I always feel bad when we head to other places on the coast like Astoria, because we end up passing through Seaside without a second glance. We scoff at the Pig n’ Pancake and outlet shops and go on our merry way. But there’s more to seaside than whet you see along the highway! This is alarming to me, as someone from a beach town that’s pretty much exactly what you can see from highway 1.

Seaside is kind of like if Monterey and Santa Cruz had a baby. And then that baby started banging Pier 39. It was October, so it was a little on the dead side, but there’s a long touristy street with bright ice cream and fudge shops and semi-shady nautically themed restaurants/bars. At the end of that is a little turnaround with the statue from the top of the post, and a looooong hotel-lined boardwalk extending in either direction. We walked up and down it exactly 5,000 times.

I’m not ashamed to say our first stop was The Buzz On Broadway, an enormous candy shop boasting fudge, gummies, and A LOT of bacon-related goodies. Now, I am not one to be swayed by candy shop selections. I work with sugar all day. I’ve seen it all. And there’s no nostalgia factor for me because my parents did not let me eat that shit. But I am strangely taken with these gummi cola bottles, which smell like ass but taste delicious. Also there is a massive fudge selection. You can get a “6-pack” of fudge, ensuring you’ll never have a real six pack but oh who cares it’s buy four, get two free, or B4G2F. Faced with the undeniable bargain of B4G2F, Yean and I bought six initially impressive pieces of fudge which we of course had no desire to finish after day three. We liked pumpkin the best, creamsicle the least. Peanut butter swirl was good but needed more peanut butter. Chocolate-walnut and milk/dark layered were good but nothing to write home about, and maple pecan was…sweet. Very sweet. And the nuts could have been fresher. I gained five pounds regardless.

Then we went to the Aquarium! To see seals! The Seaside Aquarium is one of those old-timey boardwalk attractions that has somehow survived despite the fact that it looks like a place where fish go to die. But hey! The aquarium has octopus and a giant lobster exoskeleton and a thriving Harbor Seal breeding program. These are no loose seals.

Is it wrong to say that I found this really enjoyable? The dorky laugh at the end of the video is me being alarmed at the splashing of some frustrated seals who had HAD IT UP TO HERE with the tourists next to us, who were being indecisive with handing out the little fish you can buy at the ticket booth. Sadly, it had the opposite effect the seal intended and we all ran away giggling instead of giving up the tasty snacks. Later they had a “real feeding” with bigger fish, and the noise was fucking ridiculous. I found myself jealous of these seals. “Those fat bastards.” I thought. “I’d like to swim around all day while people give me treats. I guess it would get boring, but then you could just go hump something.”

We really needed a vacation, is what I’m saying.

Then we went for a nice little walk on the beach, which was surprisingly clean and condom-free. There wasn’t even a Taco Bell to interrupt the view. SERIOUSLY, THIS BEACH TOWN GIRL IS CONFUSED. You actually use your beaches for recreation? And people are okay with that?

We rounded out the day with linner at Norma’s Ocean Diner, which had sub-par chowder but DE-FUCKING-LICIOUS fried oysters. Even the tartar sauce was amazing, and I am not necessarily a big tartar sauce person. Yean had a salmon BLT, which she claims was exactly as wonderfully decadent as it sounds. I didn’t try it because I didn’t want to share my oysters. Sometimes it’s like that when we eat.

I can’t even feel bad about the chowder, which was a tidge skimpy on the clams and very, very potatoey. But I knew from the start it wouldn’t be my One And Only Chowder. It says right on the menu that it’s pork-free, and me, I’m a pork girl. The search continues! Side note: why do saltines taste so good in soup? They’re so bland otherwise. But put a soup cup in front of me and I go all Napoleon Dynamite.

“You gonna eat your ‘tines?”

Yean gave me hers. She didn’t even make me bark for it. I did slap my belly, though.

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Portland’s Japanese Gardens: Totally Like That One Anime

So the other touristy thing we did last week was hit up the Japanese Gardens, also in Washington Park right across the street from the Rose Gardens. It was a gray and gloomy morning, aka the perfect Portland morning, aka the perfect weather in which to wander a dense, mossy, slightly ethereal garden. I’m the last person to buy into the idea that Asian automatically equals exotic and mysterious, but this place was bananas, even when filled with old people with cameras. Somehow the rainy Pacific Northwest weather and rolling greenery of the southwest hills really go well with classic Japanese garden design. Even Portland’s shabby downtown looked shiny from up there.

From the parking lot there’s a shuttle that takes you up the hill to the entrance, or you can be a real man and walk the 0.2 miles through the pretty gate and up a nicely maintained path. We took the path, because we’re not wusses. Also we couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity.

Well, maybe that last one is just me.

I should point out that the path climbs the side of a hill, directly across from which is a steep cliff covered entirely in ferns. We’re talking ferns for days. Fernapalooza. Big damn ferns. I’m from the coast and even I was all, “holy shit! ferns!”

Neither Yean nor I have ever been there, despite living in Portland for quite a while now. I’m really not sure why. Well, actually I’m pretty sure I know why, and it MAY HAVE something to do with the eight dollar entrance fee. Which is not that bad! It’s just I am very broke, and also cheap. Because of being broke. But that eight bucks actually seems pretty low when you enter the gardens and see how immaculately groomed everything is, from the lobey trees to the carefully hidden and appropriately mossy stone figures strewn about the sides of the paths. Even the railings are decorative, one of which was a waist-high wall with a tiny roof on top. A roof! For a wall! So cute!

There was also cool shit like this rock garden. I really wanted to rake the gravel, y’all. I wonder how many two year olds, running around without the supervision of their hands-off hippie parents, launch themselves into this baby and mess it up. There wasn’t even a wall on the front of it. It was tempting.

This little birdy was, like POSING on this fountain while I fought with an old dude over the best position to get a shot. Also there was a fountain kinda like this one, but huge. It would make that clacking noise every few minutes as the bottom section filled with water and tipped into the pond, which we kept hearing but never saw. I’m not ashamed to say I made Yean and Mom stand there while I waited for it to tip because I’d only ever seen it in anime and was fascinated. “I think it’s, like, symbolic.” I said. “Yeah,” Yean said, “Symbolic of a commercial break.”

Anyway, it tipped and it was awesome and it’s possible I watched too much anime as a kid.

I really liked the natural garden area, which was this hilly little area with tiny streams and steps and paths cutting across it. It was way too dark to get good pictures, but it was like being in another word. The ground had a thick layer of moss on it, and there were little statues and tiny trees all around. I felt a little big and clumsy, and also concerned for the many old people carefully picking their way across the slick stone. We sat down on a bench and just stared for a bit, oblivious to the fact that fifty feet away, on the other side of a fence, cyclists in spandex were zooming down the road. In the middle of a hectic week, it was nice to have that quiet moment.

Also there was a nice reedy koi pond area, which we didn’t stick around for long because there was this ratty white dude with BO and a ponytail mansplaining to his companions about the history of pet koi. I’d like to say this annoyed me but really there’s nothing I love more than giving the “wtf?” look to a total stranger, walking ten feet away and turning to Yean all, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT DOUCHE?”

That’s just how I roll.

Then we went to the taco truck by my house. That’s also how I roll.

Portland Japanese Gardens
611 SW Kingston, Portland, Oregon 9720
10 am – 7 pm tues – sun
noon – 7 pm mon
(503) 223-1321

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Call Your Mother

Mommy was in town last week.

Some people don’t like the word “mommy.” Some people, I’d even say, are sickened by it. But I feel all right using the word at 24 because a) it’s not that unusual in Asian families, b) I’m pretty comfortable with my level of independence from my mother, and c) If I stopped now, I’d break my mother’s heart. Well, that’s not fair. My mom’s a hearty sort of woman; I’m sure she’d understand. But to me, she’s Mommy. I can refer to her as “my Mom” to other people, but on the rare occasion when I get to see her, she’s Mommy. Name: Mommy. Occupation: Mom. She also has a real name and occupation, but look at her. She’s just so dang cute.

Such a Mommy.

So the first thing we did, of course, was take her to Mother’s Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Portland. I hate that I like this place so much. It’s big, it’s in the middle of the city, and you can always see the chefs taking a smoke break when you’re waiting for a table. I hate that. I had a teacher in school who refused to enter Jake’s Grill downtown for this same reason. But the food at Mother’s is so, so good. The egg dishes are gorgeous. The biscuits and gravy is rich and meaty. And they make an eggs benedict that jiggles like an angel’s boobies. I don’t even care about the nicotine-sucking cooks (like RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR). They make a bangin’ hollandaise.

I have to try very, very hard not to get biscuits and gravy every time. Or eggs benedict. But I’m also in love with this stuffed fritata, which is essentially an omelet with broiled cheese on top.

The next day, we went to the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. I’ve actually never been before, despite the fact that I used to live one MAX stop away from it.

I took a lot of pictures. A LOT. And it was very bright, so I couldn’t quite see what I was doing. But some of them came out okay! Actually, most of them. I guess you can’t go wrong with pretty roses.

Let me tell you, that place is huge. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d just gone to the Japanese gardens and at that point were severely hungry, I could’ve wandered around for hours. Did you know there’s a Julia Child rose?

And a Karl Lagerfeld one?

All in all it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. And it felt fitting. Roses for Mommy, because she’s awesome. Even though she’s not fond of receiving flowers, and also I think it’s illegal to bring Oregon plants into California. As I am writing this she’s just called my sister and told her that she’s home safe, even though she couldn’t sleep in her hotel last night because the woman in the room next door was making loud sex noises.

That’s my Mommy. I miss her already.

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Today in Canned Things: Astoria and Cape Disappointment

So, Lewis and Clark.

They came, they saw, they all got malaria. The Northwest is filthy with L&C landmarks. You can’t spit without hitting the Historic Place Where Clark Peed Himself That One Time. I admit, I’m a sucker for it. There’s something so fascinating about this wildly optimistic, mistake-riddled journey. Something, dare I say, so American.

Right, enough of that. Let’s get some fish.

Along with our Flavel House visit a couple weeks back, Yean and I hit up some of Astoria’s more accessible tourist attractions.

I’m pretty sure this jail was still in use. But oh, what a historic treat for the inmates. I hear the drunk tank even has original fireplaces. Or maybe I’m thinking of the Flavel House next door.

I like to do this thing when I take pictures. Someone once told be it was only good to take a landscape photo if there were people in it. It makes sense, when paging through picture after picture of indistinguishable ocean views. So when Yean and I are admiring a view, I like to back up a few paces and take a picture of her looking pensive and thoughtful.

This is the view from the Ship Inn, where we had a late lunch/early dinner (henceforth referred to as “linner”) of oyster fish and chips. Oh my God. It was so good. I like that right away they ask you if you want lemon and extra tartar sauce, which is fantastic. We had a bit of trouble finding it at first, but discovered that if you so much as mention it to a local they’ll give you detailed directions, along with a gushing “mmm!” noise and a mini-review of the food.

Did you know there’s a Pier 39 in Astoria? And you can shop there? Well, there is and you can. There’s a little area with a couple surf/kayak shops, a nice but touristy bar, a cute coffee shop and a little free museum where the old cannery used to be. I’m also so into old canneries, even though it’s a dying industry and there are tricky sustainability issues. But this place was fascinating, and a little creepy. In one room there was a random tv turned to static, with a radio recording about canning blasting in the background. I tried to capture the Ring like quality.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about ““, posted with vodpod

Also, there was this.

And this.

Hey, uh…soo…why do ya think they called him, uh…um. Well. Let’s not go there.

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Astoria’s Flavel House – Why is this not my house?

I’m sure there are a lot of complex psychological reasons behind my need to torture myself with things I’ll never afford, but now is not the time for that! Now is the time for pretty, pretty pictures of pretty, pretty houses. That some guy lived in a long time ago. I think his name was Flavel?

Ah yes! The Flavel House Museum, in Astoria, Oregon, which is a good place to learn about history and architecture and also a nice place to go if you’re bored and it’s too hot in Portland. I day-tripped out there a couple weeks ago with my sister lovely Yean for some fresh sea air and fresh sea…food, which they also have a lot of. I’ve got a general Astoria post in the works but first I’ll talk about the highlight of our trip, the Flavel House (which I think is pronounced flah-VELL, even though I’ve been rhyming it with “waffle.”)

This hallway was totally haunted

This hallway was totally haunted

Yean’s a sucker for old-timey home decor, and I’m a sucker for old-timey kitchens and also possibly haunted places, so we ended up having a blast despite our shared fear of breaking something expensive. Plus we’d both just read Victorian-era romance novels and now we want a historical romance set on the West Coast. He would be a rich frontier businessman and she would be the heiress to a cannery. Someone could even get shanghaied. Think of the fish-related shananigans!

Where the magic evidently happened

Literary cliches aside, the Flavel House has been lovingly restored, with original fireplaces and woodwork shining like new and period-appropriate furniture adorning the massive rooms. Compared to wealthier towns it’s rather modest, but for 19th century Astoria, this place was the shit.

This little gem was in one of the guest rooms, next to a diorama of stuffed dead birds and dried flowers under glass. I’m not entirely sure what was up with the hair wreath. Maybe people were just thriftier with their hairballs back in the day. Modern crafters have felt and faux fur and baby alpaca yarn to work with…these people had hair. Go fig.

I was probably more enchanted with the kitchen than I should have been. But hey, I’d just read Sherry Thomas’ Delicious and I was imagining it as the Kitchen Of Magical Sexing.

I think I might start a rolling pin collection. They're handy in the kitchen and useful in case of a zombie attack.

I wish I’d gotten more pictures, but it was quite dark inside to protect the furniture and flash photography wasn’t allowed. We got a dollar off the ticket price for having a AAA card, so for four bucks each it’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon. I’d say it’s worth it just to pace in front of the massive fireplaces pretending to be a brooding man of the house, which I totally did. Also the Historical Society must have figured that after all these roped off rooms and no-touchy rules, people, especially kids, would need a place to go nuts, so they dedicated the nursery to being the interactive learning room. I thought it was a nice way to sidestep the creepier aspects of antique toys, but clearly there was some sort of supernatural force at work anyway. Look what it did to Yean:

I don’t think that chair is period appropriate. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw it at Fred Meyer last week.

Flavel House Museum
corner of 8th and Duane st.
Astoria, OR 97103
503-325-2203

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