Monday, June 28, 2010

Hollywood Theater Has Been Through the Wringer—In a Good Way

Last week, I met a famous actor and a renowned musician. Both of them starred in the new flick “The Gray Area,” which I saw at the Hollywood theater on the second-longest day of the year, June 22. The film started at 7pm, and by the time it was out at 8:45pm the sun was still high in the sky. Part of me felt as though I’d wasted a gorgeous afternoon—sitting in the dark instead of playing basketball or riding my bike or running—even though it was a well-spent evening.

Have you been to the Hollywood theater? It’s a non-profit venue that was built in 1926, originally meant for live orchestras and vaudevilles (magicians, trained animals, comedians, dancers and so on that come together for “variety entertainment”). Apparently it’s been through the wringer these past 76 years. From the dusty, red spiral staircase to the creaky wooden seats that populate the theater, it’s easy to envision 1950s movie-goers walking around the place, clad in fluffy dresses and suits, buckets of popcorn in hands. In this vision, the deep-rooted venue is brighter, its saturation turned up.

On June 22, I stroll through the Hollywood theater like the camera does at the beginning of the movie “Titanic”: I observe the theater’s current state—dusty, ugly, old, perhaps ruined—until my imagination takes flight and I see sparkling gold door handles, clean carpets, bright red curtains, and walls that drip with life and color. The music in my head turns on, and it’s classical. Violins and pianos come alive while the venue radiates old-fashioned energy.

I take my seat near the middle of the theater and heave a Quiznos salad from my purse. I eat it while the movie starts. (That’s one great thing about old venues—employees don’t care if you bring your own food and wine in.) The film is written, directed and produced by a couple of Portlanders in their mid-twenties. With just a $24,000 budget, it’s Oscar-worthy.

The renowned musician? Is Jeff. His song plays during a bar scene at a crucial point in the film. But when we hear his voice in the background, neither of us listen to a word the actors speak and instead tune into his lyrics: the volume, timbre and how they sound on the big screen. We dub this night Jeff’s music motion-picture debut.

The famous actor I meet? Is the antagonist in the flick. He plays a drug dealer, and for most of the film he’s bloody and getting the shit kicked out of him. I notice him on the street after the movie—he’s much smaller than he looks on screen—and I call, “Nice flick!” And then I pump my fist in the air like the guys from The Jersey Shore.

He hollers back, “You saw it? Aww, thanks!”

And the child in me feels as though I’ve just met Brad Pitt. I want to ask for his autograph, but I decide against it so as not to make the musician jealous.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Time to Get High-School Skinny

Let me preface this tale by telling you that I’m very impulsive—and completely impatient. It’s a scary combination. When I get an idea—to switch cities or jobs or apartments, or vacation in Paris alone, or chop my hair to my earlobes, or pay $150 for an online Weight Watchers subscription because I think 125 pounds is beyond all help—I follow through within a day or two, no matter how crazy the inspiration. Most times, I end up regretting the result. (I even wrote an entire entry on this sort of chaos.) Examples include: buying a solo ticket to Paris a week before leaving (I regret the price of airfare but not the trip); deciding to move to San Francisco and packing my bags the next day; and taking two days to think about whether I should uproot my life, move to Portland and leave my job and friends in San Francisco—and then leaving my job and friends in San Francisco. (Although this is one quick decision I don't regret.)

(You know the story.)

Anyway, I have another one of these ideas. Truth is, I need to get in shape. Like, really in shape. Summer’s here (today’s the first day!), and I’m not comfortable parading my soft ass and belly around in anything but jeans and t-shirts. (And that’ll be weird when the temperature hits ninety.) Actually, I’m starting to wonder if it’s even appropriate to show my upper arms, because they’re looking rather tubby, too.

My idea? Is to run a half marathon.

The race is September 19th near Champoeg State Park. The training schedule is a ten-week program, so my initial thought is that August will be a perfect time to run. Then I read the schedule's fine print: “This training program assumes you have been running consistently for at least 4-6 weeks and can run for at least thirty minutes without stopping.”



So I need to get in shape before starting to train. Naturally, I have another brilliant idea: I’ll purchase a new iPod nano for $149 (so I’ll have something to listen to while getting in shape), an arm band for $30 (to hold my new iPod in place while I zip around the track), a Nike+ sensor for $29.99 (to record my distance, burned calories and total steps while I run), a pair of Nike+ ready running shoes for $53 at the employee store (to connect with my Nike+ sensor), and $20 worth of new songs for my new iPod (to keep me pumped while I train).

After charging $281.99 to my Capital One card (before even registering for the race, which is $50)—in less than 24 hours after the idea’s inception—I’m ready to brave the trails.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Quick Hike up the Astoria Column

One of the many trips I’ve taken since being back in Portland includes a drive to Astoria, Oregon.

Random, I know.

The idea surfaced the night before Mother’s Day, when we asked my mom what she wanted to do on her special day. I expected a breakfast-in-bed sort of answer, but instead she said she’d like nothing more than for Caitlin, Dad and I to pile into her sports car and drive the ninety minutes to Astoria, where we'd climb the town’s famous column and look out over the city.

I was all for it, but Dad was nervous, his forehead suddenly occupied with glistening beads of sweat. He’s not much one for climbing things. Besides the fact that he’s deathly afraid of heights, his idea of a relaxing Sunday involves crossword puzzles, sunny beaches, and reclining chairs that accommodate falling asleep under late-afternoon rays when his eyes grow tired from reading and puzzling.

Mom? She’s more about action and adventure: exploring, hiking, doing. When the rest of us are relaxing on said beaches, she chooses not to unwind but to make sandwiches for the gang, packing them in bright canvas bags along with mini bags of chips, sodas, and games to play on the sand. I’m convinced it’s a maternal instinct thing.

So on Sunday, Mother’s Day, we decided to do something for her: load the car and set out for Astoria. As a kid, Mom remembers climbing the Astoria Column to no avail. Back then, at nine years old, it was never-ending. When she described the climb to us the night before Mother's Day, my mind drifted to rocky terrain, dirt, and grassy knolls. The hike would be a tough workout—just what I needed! I’d be sore, covered with sweat, on the way home. I decided hiking boots and workout pants were necessary. In my getup, I looked ready to brave the Himalayas.

Soon we pulled up to a skinny tower on top of a concrete mound. There was no soil or shady trail in sight—just a gorgeous landscape. Slightly embarrassed, I climbed the windy staircase—a five-minute ascent—until reaching the top for photo ops. Turns out hiking boots and workout attire weren’t required. (The good news is Dad didn’t puke off the side balcony while thinking about what a long fall it’d be from the top.)

We took pictures and ate a late lunch while looking at the ocean before driving the ninety minutes home. And although most of the day was spent in the car, it was a memorable one.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Picture Perfect Soccer Saturday

Maybe I don’t understand soccer, but in my book, a win is a win and a tie is a tie. A tie is not a win. In fact, it’s hardly a reason to celebrate. But on Saturday, when USA tied England in one of the first World Cup games of the tournament, the crowd at Director Park (Portland's new piazza in the heart of downtown) went nuts.

I’m stumped.

What’s so great about a miserable score of one to one? I’m the type who needs more points—more goals, people!—to stay entertained. (Good thing Director Park had a beer garden to keep me amused.) Near the end of the match, the JumboTron outside Nordstrom showed groups of crazed fans from New York and Chicago, screaming barbarically at the camera. They all were thrilled to have tied—to have scored one goal.

Perhaps it’s my preference for basketball—a fast-paced sport with which my family is obsessed—or the fact that at age twelve, I was forced to watch my eight-year-old sister play countless games of “soccer” (otherwise known as kick-the-ball-and-chase-it-even-though-there’s-no-plan-and-you-don’t-know-which-way-your-own-goal-is) against my will, but I’m not much one to get pumped for a soccer match. Soccer’s just too dang slow.

So on Saturday, when Jeff realizes we’re driving in circles and looking for Director Park in the wrong place, I’m not upset. We’re supposed to meet friends at the new quadrangle on Ninth and Yamhill, but after succumbing to the Rose Festival’s many detours, we’re turned around. We park, grab a sandwich, and eat as we walk toward Director Park, where we’ve been promised lots of beer and a JumboTron broadcasting USA vs. England. The line to get inside the beer garden is a good twenty minutes long, but we wait patiently until reaching the front.

After USA’s “victory” (I still don’t get it), our group eats and drinks at On Deck on NW 14th and Kearney in the Pearl, and then we relocate to another park—this one with real grass and trees and folks lounging on blankets in the shade—where we sit in a circle and play childhood games such as Duck, Duck Goose and Frisbee. I borrow a baseball and a glove and talk three different people into playing catch with me, something I haven’t done since I was sixteen.

Minus the booze, Saturday is reminiscent of summertime as a kid. It’s picture perfect.

Friday, June 11, 2010

City Liquidators. It's One Funky Garage Sale.

City Liquidators isn’t a chic boutique or a trendy restaurant or a little-known art gallery in Nob Hill or on Mississippi Avenue. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: a gigantic warehouse, positioned in a dark alley on Southeast 3rd Avenue, directly under the booming Morrison Bridge. It reeks of old fabric and mothballs and is crammed with ancient, squeaky rocking chairs and drapes and carpets from the 1970s, forcing you to think about the countless pairs of dirty, bare feet and hands that have scoured them over the years.

Parts of the warehouse are cruddy and reminiscent of a great grandmother's garage sale, but the prices on new items are phenomenal. My leather couch? Was just $299. A pair of chic, black bar stools? Only $90! And the best part is they don't look like they're from a mucky stockroom. They could be straight from a Pottery Barn catalog. (Photos of my apartment coming soon.)

Jeff and I are really into City Liquidators. This place can keep us busy for the better part of a Saturday morning. (See photos of us posing in Knight armor.) My advice to you? Is if you ever need a couch, bar stool, table, funky coffee mug, evil-smelling bath mat, or warrior helmet, come to this place. (Insider tip: The owners serve complimentary donuts and coffee on Saturday mornings.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

'Tis the Wedding Season

‘Tis the season to get married. Especially if you’re a twenty-something girl—and one that I grew up with—living in Portland. This month I’ve been to three bridal showers, the most recent for my friend Georgia. It was an enjoyable get-together at a beautiful home in Canby, Oregon, spent eating and drinking and chatting with people I haven’t seen since college. The reason I’m writing about Georgia and not my other soon-to-be-wed gal pals is because I played a major role in getting Georgia and her fiancé, Eric, together.

As a matter of fact? I take full responsibility for their marriage.

For years I’ve been not only happy but also secretly proud of the fact that Georgia and Eric are an item. I introduced them back in April 2005, when I was a mutual friend of the two, caught up in Delta Gamma folly with Georgia and lightheartedly dating Eric’s roommate. On Friday, April 1st of that year, my friends and dorm-mates gathered to celebrate my nineteenth birthday, and because we were freshmen we decided there was no better way to party than with sophomore boys—my then boyfriend and his buddies—at their ultra-cool (ultra-trashed, ant-infested) live-out, a house just a few miles from campus.

While multiple bottles of three-dollar champagne exploded onto their carpets and round after round of beer pong transpired in their garage, Georgia and Eric sat at the corner of the dining room table, looking into each other’s brown eyes while absent-mindedly flipping cards, unfazed by the chaos resulting around them. It was just the two of them, playing a game meant for two people falling in love.

I’d only been dating Eric’s roommate for a few weeks, and, in fact, I didn’t know Eric at all. So I suppose I didn’t introduce the couple, but I like to think they’d be nowhere without me. Georgia sure as hell wouldn’t have met Eric on April Fool’s Day 2005 without me. And after sharing a bottle of wine with a friend before Georgia’s shower last week, I told her so.

Attached to a beautifully wrapped gift from Bed, Bath & Beyond was the Hallmark greeting that Alexa, Emily and I picked out for Georgia, and inside the card I (shamefully) thought it was appropriate to write this message:

Dear Geo,

I’m so happy for you and Eric. And I bet you’re happy for me, too, because I’m the one who introduced you! Remember that? You’re getting married because of me. I love you!


I just hope I haven't been dis-invited to the main event.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Goodbye Harrison Rocks the Doug Fir

“Um, hi. I think I’m supposed to be on a list?” This should be a statement, a confident declaration, but it comes out a question. I’m panicky, uncomfortable with special treatment when my friends are regarded as regular customers. But tonight I’m a VIP.

Kind of.

I think.

(Okay, I’m with the band.) (The band!)

“Identification,” the bald, tattooed man behind the counter snaps. I slide my driver’s license through the hole in the glass. It’s a flimsy California ID, authentic yet unconvincing. Oregon waiters and ticket-takers never can find my date of birth, even though it’s stamped in bold, red ink below my photo, in which I’m ecstatic because I’d just passed the California state drivers’ test—on my first try. (In Oregon it took three times to pass the written portion and twice to pass the driving.) (Hey, no one told me to turn my cell phone off before pulling out of the parking lot. And to refrain from reaching into the back seat to answer it—the first and second time it goes off.)

We’re at the Doug Fir on East Burnside Street. The tattooed man hands me a ticket and backstage pass, and I wait for my friends to pay the ten dollar cover and get their wrists stamped. A pang of guilt strikes me as I watch them surrender their hard-earned cash, but it’s quickly suppressed by excitement. Twenty or so trendy Portlanders form a line that wraps around the corner of the venue, all of them eager to see Goodbye Harrison on one of Portland’s most popular stages.

For me, this is more than just a concert—the event has been on my calendar for a good three months—and now that it’s finally here and we’re five minutes from show time, I realize this moment is more nerve-wracking than anyone should have to endure without a pitcher of margaritas.

Backstage, Jeff is even more nervous, but in a good way. In a rock star, big-man-on-campus sort of way. He’s standing in the same spot that other celebrated performers have stood, waiting to take the stage and stir up the audience with original lyrics and fresh beats. He wipes the sweat from his forehead while looking at me, his eyes bluer than I’ve ever seen them.

My friends and I push past the swarm of fans just in time for the first song, one we haven’t heard yet. The sound echoes and reverberates off the floor and in my chest. Suddenly the Portland-based group is large-scale. Jeff grabs the microphone and screams (in his most superstar-ish intonation), “How’s everyone doin’ tonight?”

The crowd hollers with energy.

The beats pick up.

And tonight, the guys of Goodbye Harrison are celebrities.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sun and the City

This year, Memorial Day weekend is all about sun and—you guessed it—the city. Friday morning, I fly to Fog City to visit old pals, walk the streets I once called home, and take a long, hard look into my past. Part of me feels as though I left San Francisco just yesterday—the town is familiar, comfortable, not like it was when I first arrived in August 2008, when I was anxious and bright-eyed and carrying a small suitcase packed with tank-tops and sun dresses, items much too light for a city known for fog and cold—and the other part of me feels as though my time as a San Franciscan is merely a dream. So much has happened since I uprooted my life in January.

I’m not sure what to expect as I climb the stairs from the BART station that lead to Market and Beale streets—my old stop. Even at nine in the morning, the sun soaks me with its warmth, enveloping my shoulders and gradually coating my arms and legs with each step.

The streets are ghostly. Still, hailing a cab is more difficult than I recall. I walk a few blocks up Market Street, lugging a bright red suitcase behind me and flapping my free arm in the air at the sight of each passing taxi. I'm a disoriented tourist.

“Ahh, hello pretty girl,” an Indian driver says when I hop in his Yellow Cab. “You’re a very attractive lady. God has been nice to you!” His thin neck slithers around the drivers’ seat to face me, and he glides his sunglasses down his nose to get a better look, lifting a bushy eyebrow. He winks.

Four months ago I would have rolled my eyes, exhaled obnoxiously and stuck my nose in my BlackBerry to peruse junk email—anything that didn’t involve listening to this. But today I beam and make conversation. I’ve forgotten how magnificently chatty and inappropriate San Francisco cabbies are. What self-esteem boosters!

When I see Maijken, we throw our arms in the air and wrap them around each other while jumping and laughing and squealing like farm animals. We catch up at Starbucks, which is right around the corner from her new, ultra-sleek abode in SoMa: a modern loft—complete with granite counter tops and hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows—with hints of classic, San Francisco character strewn about the place. In other words, a perfect urban home.

The long weekend involves:

1. An all-day boozing extravaganza at The Ramp, a brunch joint that reminds Maijken of “lounging in Mexico,” located in the heart of a grimy industrial area on Potrero Hill.

2. Vintage shopping trips. (I didn’t buy anything—I still don’t know how to find the “potential” in dresses with shoulder pads.)

3. Wine and spirits at swanky hotels and bars, with views of the night skyline.

4. Sunny, seventy-five degree weather.

5. Bottomless mimosas at Luna Park in the Mission.

6. Manicures and pedicures. My fingers and toes miss this city!

7. A girls' night, which starts in the afternoon and includes sugary cocktails, a Sex and the City viewing, an expensive dinner, more cocktails, dancing, and pizza delivery at 2:30 a.m.

8. Purchasing another ticket to SFO. I’ll be back in three weeks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Barista in Love

Because I haven’t mustered the energy to buy coffee for my apartment yet (that's right, I'm officially an apartment-renter in Portland, Oregon!), I’ve been getting my daily fix at work. When I trot down the stairs, debit card in hand, ready to order either a (a) 16-oz skinny vanilla latte or (b) a 16-oz coffee with room, the barista is usually on a smoke break. She leaves her patrons an adorable sign that reads, I’ll be back in five minutes! :) The sign is laminated, striped with bright yellows and blues, neatly (perhaps strategically) perched atop the counter so that her customers can’t be angry when they see a vacant coffee bar—at least not without feeling guilty about it.

Today, though, I’m a little angry. And I don’t feel guilty. It’s the third time this week I’ve waited eight minutes for her to return. When she finally strolls in through the double doors that lead to the parking lot, where she likes to smoke her cigs, I greet her kindly. Despite her portliness, her blue zip-up hoodie hangs loosely off her shoulders, the way a skinny teenager’s does. Her murky hair oozes of fresh cigarette smoke.

“Are you doing anything fun for Memorial Day weekend?” she asks politely, lively, perhaps sensing my annoyance.

“I’m going to San Francisco. To visit friends.”

“Oh, fun!” Her thundering voice correlates with the tubby figure it hails from.

“Yeah. What about you?” I invite her conversation.

“I’m movin’ in with my maaaaaaannn! Uhhh! Honey, I’ve been waitin’ fer this day fer soooo long. And it’s finally here!” Her smile is a Montana sky, wide and stunning.

And then my mood lifts, because I think to myself, there’s nothing like a woman in love.