Going Out Of Business!

Portland Edition.

I went out on a lil urban hike yesterday morning and was confronted by the reality of a frequently occurring conversational topic of late: commercial real estate in Portland.

The rug shop on the corner across from my place is closing. Well, is closed.

Just as a reminder, I live in a neighborhood called The Pearl which is nestled in the Alphabet District of Portland’s Northwest neighborhood. Essentially, this neighborhood runs from Burnside to Lovejoy streets from North to South and from Broadway to 8th to Park and then 9th-13th on the East to West streets.

It’s an 8×11 street grid.

There is/was three rug shops within that grid, so “How many rug shops do you need in that small area?” is a valid question.

Here’s one of the survivors, which was forced to move from its original location a few years ago to make way for a 14 story, half a city block apartment building that is finally nearing completion.

I’m not complaining. Once this is done early next year, my immediate area will wrap up its fourth major building project over the last four years. That’s two new hotels and two new apartment buildings that added about 500-700 new neighbors and countless tourists to my corner of the world.

Until the Post Office project begins in god knows when, I’m in the clear, construction-wise.

Interestingly, the opposite corner of my block (shown above) rented nearly a year ago and just recently opened. It’s a rowing studio, which upset the Filipina Fox greatly, since she and her husband were planning – still are – to open a row studio. But if you got clients that are too lazy to walk into class, you’re probably better off not even bothering to open.

At least they are friendly. Homegirl gave me a nice friendly smile and wave.Still, it goes back to my earlier question, how many <insert business here> does one small part of town need?

When it comes to gyms, I can think of too many:

The grand daddy of the OGs, 24 Hour. It’s been here since well before the turn of the century. Another OG – LA Fitness – came in a decade and a couple blocks later.

There’s now City Row, Yo Yo Yogi, Pearl Yoga, Firebrand, Barre 3, Bar Method, RevoCycle, BurnCycle and countless CrossFit studios within my tiny grid. Including one that moved into this site for about an hour.

But fitness and rugs aside, this whole conversation started with a few notable business closures.

Namely, Pearl Bakery and Henry’s Tavern with an honorable mention to Byways Cafe.

Pearl Bakery had been in its current location for 23 years, serving up fresh baked breads and pastries as well as top notch coffee the entire time. It was a Pearl landmark.

Henry’s, on the other hand, could arguably be said to have been here in the Pearl since before there was a Pearl to be in.

Henry Weinhard’s started brewing beer here in 1906 and I know people just a few years younger than me whose parents worked there. It was bought by AB a few decades ago and brewing operations were consolidated elsewhere sometime after that. In the 90s, the brewery was redeveloped into a founding corner of the a Pearl called the Brewery Blocks, which enveloped the block that Powell’s sits on and also included a couple of condo and apartment buildings The Henry and The Louisa, named for Weinhard and his wife. One of the old brick buildings was remodeled and became home to Henry’s Tavern, run by the recently relegated to the annals of bad business Restaurants Unlimited. Still, RI was snatched up by Landry’s and there was hope that the namesake restaurant in the Pearl’s Brewery Blocks would be spared the axe.

Alas.

Still, you gotta wonder, if coffee and beer can’t make a go of it in one of Portland’s affluent destination living and shopping districts…hadn’t there got to be a bigger problem?

Henry’s is hardly the only brewery or taproom to face this fate.

Last year, Bridgeport shut down brewing operations in the Pearl and later closed its onsite restaurant.

Avid started its life as Atlas before being sued over copyright infringement and forced to rebrand. It opened last year in one of the two nearby apartment building projects i mentioned.

On Deck will close permanently at the end of the year, putting the Pearl down a sports bar.

It was quite the summertime destination – for some, not me) with a rooftop that probably doubled its square footage. I think this business in particular struggled with a too common threat in the neighborhood these days:

Redevelopment

Rumors circulated for the better part of a year that this block was due to go under the wrecking ball to create a new mid-rise building. Office Depot occupied the other corner of the block and pulled out last year.

And while I am a supporter of housing density, the panic future development rumors create is detrimental to our present.

Indeed, my backup – and preferred – coffee house is on that block, you can just make out the red reflection of its “Open” sign in the picture above. As a matter of fact, Nossa is new to this block within the last couple of years, having moved from literally two blocks down when its former location came under the same redevelopment axe.

Yet, here its former location is. Empty as the rumors that helped facilitate its relocation. Also, some randomly occurring Jingle Bell runners.

But as in favor as I am of redevelopment, I think the overall benefit is mitigated by the negative impact of commercial real estate’s larger problem: greed.

Real estate – both commercial and residential is at a premium in Portland overall and more so in the Pearl specifically since it’s such a hub. So, for every new building that goes up, there’s at least one – if not two – large restaurant or retail spaces included in the new building as anchor spaces.

Case in point, The Rodney.

This apartment building was finished early this year and included a large restaurant space on the ground level. This corner is on Glisan, one of the two busiest one-way through-fares in the neighborhood. Including construction, there’s been over two years to lure a business into this spot. It’s next door to 10 Barrel Brewing and Rogue Brewing’s taproom restaurants and a block from Andina, another Pearl District restaurant mainstay.

That they can’t rent this space out is problematic. Then again, it took two years post-construction for City Row to open in the large space next to my building, so…

A bigger problem?

The building right across Glisan that should be complete and open early next year. Including what I assume will be at least one large restaurant space in its three corner spaces – it’s a big building.

Between these two buildings, we’re adding around another 750+ residents to the neighborhood…it shouldn’t be that hard to draw a business that can make a go of it here. As long as it’s not named something complementary-awkward to its neighbor. All we need is an apartment building named The Slice sitting across the street from The Rodney.

But large restaurant space is tricky. Even chain based restaurants can’t make a go of it. Back before RI went out, they snatched up Pacific Restaurants. This was back in 2007 and I believe – forgive me if I’m wrong – PR was an affiliated evolution of Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlors.

Between the two, they put successive restaurants into this Glisan corner space for decades.

It was home to Palomino and Trader Vic’s with at least one other incarnation from the brand’s portfolio in the mix. Then it sat empty for a couple of years before signage for a Pink Taco went up in the windows screaming about a new future.

Then silently came down.

More recently, the space has quietly announced a new tenant.

And apparently the low key nature of its announcement saved enough money for remodeling to actually begin this time around.

Meanwhile, on the opposite corner of that block, facing Hoyt, another of the Pearl’s pioneer eateries sits vacant after closing in the middle of the night a few years back. Oba! was an exciting happy hour destination and a swanky date night or celebration restaurant destination.

Then, poof!

Gone.

Ironically, another Pearl nightlife mainstay is rumored to have leased the space, but those rumors are growing stale after almost 18 months.

Jimmy Mak’s was a jazz venue in the Pearl since the days where there was only one or two industrial co-ops and maybe one condo building in the hood. Then they moved catty corner to a new location next to one of our three neighborhood rug shops.

Then, the rumors came.

Kush decided to move ahead of the demolition of its half-block. Jimmy Mak’s decided to close down once its owner’s cancer resurfaced. The farewell party was planned – a New Years Eve to Mark the end of the Jimmy Mak’s era.

On New Years Day Jimmy died. It was tragically sad and a simultaneously beautiful ending to the story.

Until…a couple of former employees decided to reopen Jimmy Mak’s in the Oba! space six months later. Another beautiful tribute to a legendary entertainment venue.

The “Leased” sign is up…but 18 months in, we’re still waiting.

Celebrity chef based restaurants aren’t faring any better than chain-backed ventures.

Isabel Pearl was a restaurant opened by cookbook author Isabel Cruz back in 2008. After a decade, plans for the San Diego based cookbook author cum restauranteur to expand into the old Gilt space a few blocks away on Broadway were announced.

Gilt was the space’s former tenant and is the restaurant made famous by the Colin the Chicken episode of Portlandia…

If you can’t stay in business with that pedigree…alas, instead of expanding to a second location, Isabel decided to “reimagine” their original Portland location.

A hand-drawn magic marker sign. I can see that no expense was incurred – at least they learned something from Pink Taco.

Speaking of which, maybe that’s the restaurant that should anchor the building across from The Rodney!

Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

The Star brings deep dish pizza to the space formerly home for tow decades to The Paragon. Hopefully, they enjoy a similar tenure.

Two Wrongs is a collaboration between a Portland bar/restauranteur and the marketing/brand master behind Portland Gear. They took over a former Black Rock coffee house to open a bar.

Here’s Byways, which I mentioned earlier. Fifteen years ago, this was Shakers Cafe. Both incarnations were kitsch themed diners and have occupied this space for…gosh, 25 years collectively? They announced their closure after failing to negotiate new lease terms with the building’s owner.

There’s that greed again.

That the Sheepskin shop that shares the building with Byways has outlasted them is truly mind boggling. And it’s not like the building is going anywhere. There’s a co-op on one side and a similar small building housing a taco joint and a kitsch decor store called Cult on the corner.

Taprooms aren’t the only alcohol based destinations to struggle. This space is in the building that the Silver Fox lives in. It sits on Everett – the other main through-fare in the Pearl used to House a wine bar called Remedy. They limped along for a couple of years before closing and one of the owners – who owned the commercial space – had it rezoned and remodeled into his private residence.

An old school shared office building (pictured top) closed up last year. It had been here forever. It featured a now whitewashed wall that formerly depicted a mural of home state hero Steve Prefontaine and a fun neon sign helpfully suggesting the proper use of ones time.

I’d like this mural restored, if they’re just gonna cover it over and then leave.

Come to think of it, I want the neon back, too! Maybe keeping the “Working” side lit would keep homeless people from camping in the doorway.

Given its billion dollar a year losing competitor across the park, I can see where it would be hard to compete successfully. But this is Portland. We’re supposedly hard wired to support the underdog. WeWork should not have won in this scenario.

Affluence doesn’t always guarantee success over commercial real estate greed, either. Opposite the corner housing Pearl Bakery – which started this whole ball rolling – was a Charter School. It had been there for quite some time, bringing kids into the Pearl’s North Park Block neighborhood. That was an add that even this grumpy old man appreciated.

The City even collaborated to renovate the old Park Block playground into this

Bit then the school decided to move – for whatever reason. Hmm…what could it be?!?

Greed?!?

Perhaps.

Maybe they just outgrew the building.Ok, ok…I know this is running long. I think I’m wrapping up. I mean wearing myself out.

Let’s compromise and call it both.

The corner pictured above used to be a favorite pre-turn of the century coffee haunt of mine called Torrefazione. I actually made it a hangout for my main character in No One Of Consequence.

Anyway, Starbucks bought the small chain out and then closed them all up! Talk about cutthroat.

The Torrefazione family responded by leasing the restaurant space in the new high rise condo that was built on the opposite corner and opened Caffe Umbria.

Take that Charbucks. The family’s roastery May be Seattle based, but at least one of the family members lives locally and drops in to watch soccer with his toddlers on the weekends.

It was a very Portland thing to do, protest opening a business like that…even if selling out wasn’t so Portland.

The three pics below all represent businesses being priced out or rumored out of their homes. The Beneficial Bank looks nice, right?

It should.

After being forced out of its home for a couple of years once it’s space was slated for a high rise residential project, it was welcomed back with a paint job. Seems funding may have hit a snag. Who knows? Anyway, score one for the little guys.

Snow Peak, on the other hand, is just beginning it’s rumor based adventure. There’s a new “Coming Soon” window sign up a few blocks away. It coordinates well with the rumor of a new mid rise building in its current spot.

What I can’t figure out, though, is the how of that mid rise rumor. The Snow Peak space sits between the aforementioned and newly remodeled Rogue Brewery space on one side and an architecture firm on the other side.

I’m kind of worried that the architect space will come down to make way – along with Snow Peak – for another high rise apartment building.

The rub?

It’s right across from The Rodney – so maybe that intersection isn’t out of the redevelopment woods just yet.

Even more surprising is the answer Snow Peak represents to my “How many” question from earlier.

Snow Peak is in the Pearl’s crowd of outdoor and cold weather clothiers.

REI, Nau, Fjallraven (with TWO locations in the Pearl!), North Face, Patagonia and Icebreaker…and I know that I missed some!

Ironically, for as persistent as outdoor clothing stores are in the Pearl, home stores don’t fare so well. The Tactics skateboard shop above is a new notion for a space that was a gallery and then a home store and then a home store and then nothing. Likewise, the brick warehouse across the street was a furniture store and the space across the alley was also a home store that became a CrossFit gym for an hour or so before settling into its current sweatpants and ponytail version of an empty space.

In a further fit of irony, the CrossFit space was subdivided when it was a home store to reduce the size of the shop and thereby the overhead. It was slated to become Jimmy Mak’s new home before the cancer resurfaced. Then it became an “event space”.

Let’s hope the Oba! space fares better. Eventually.

Design Within Reach expanded last year to the above space, leaving its old two-story space vacant.

It looks way more inviting now, so I’m glad. But it got me wondering.

Maybe the evolution/solution to our commercial real estate vacancies is going to be something that Design Within Reach, Snow Peak and Nossa Familia have all already learned – along with countless college students.

The way to control real estate expense is to move.

It may cost more in the short term, but overall you leverage the expense downward.

For everyone.

It forces the market price correction that is necessary to offset the empty space and make those spaces affordable. I mean, commercial real estate brokers could just do the right thing and re-write current leases.

But how likely is that?

The banks didn’t do it with mortgages during the real estate crisis until Obama forced them to. Somehow, I don’t see the commercial real estate industry doing the right thing here.

Then again, investment brokers are doing something similar right now, by cutting transaction fees all the way to $0. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Until then?

I wouldn’t mind seeing out city planners get a little more involved in approving all of this ground floor commercial space.

Or not approving it.

I think there’s a case to be made for more ground floor live/work space.

With the Pearl spanning 11 blocks on the North to South expanse, surely we could limit the commercial space on the ground floors to maybe 4-6 of those blocks? I mean, residence density is our goal here, not excess vacant commercial space.

We don’t need a brewery, yoga studio, flower shop or restaurant on every block.

I think the current situation has proven that.

Going Out Of Business!

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Ok, how this isn’t an ongoing theme for my blog…I just don’t know.

Maybe I should try making #ATIDTW a thing.

I realized after my walk this morning – doing prep for a larger entry tomorrow – that I was wearing mismatched socks. No biggie…it’s just a Saturday morning walkabout.

It was the second time this week. No, they weren’t the opposites of the other mismatched set. Yes, last time was a workday.

I guess I should be more careful about golfing laundry in dim lighting.

Or around wine.

I barely avoided sending a snarky email to the owner of the company I am consulting for the other day. I realized I had somehow chosen to “reply all” as I was proofreading it – I’ll explain what that means later, Silver Fox – and decided it was safer to just tell her in person.

In a small victory over my own awkwardness, I fell into my chair at work without spilling my coffee. I was attempting to sip coffee, hip-check my chair so it spun so that I could sit down and turn around all at the same time. My foot landed on one of the casters, sending me off balance as I turned and my chair skittering in the opposite direction from my vector.

I fell backward.

Somehow, I hit the chair.

Arms flailing.

Coffee sloshing but not spilling.

Thank gawd I was alone in the office, but I still looked to make sure not even the Chief Feline Officer was present to witness my derp.

No, neither of those three things – socks, reply all or near fall – happened on the same day.

I am only in the office three days a week, so I’m batting 1000 in the awkward department for this week.

I had a date this week. Someone I met online and decided to throw $20 at to see if he was as good in person as he was online.

He was!

A cute construction worker type. Maybe 5’8″, so right there in my shorty sweet spot.

And while he was an engaging conversationalist, he was also a good listener. Letting me prattle on about me-things while he listened attentively and encouraged me with relevant follow up questions instead of scrambling to get the conversation back to himself.

Turns out…he was 20!

Is. Fine.

Goddamnit!

While he was trying to sell me on the fact that he was almost 21, I was asking him if he voted in the last election.

“Nope. I wasn’t old enough, silly! But I’m voting in 2020, for sure!”

“Nono. In the midterms!”

Blank stare.

At least I came away from the encounter with something more upsetting to me than his age.

And to cap off my week in derp, I stopped on my walkabout this morning for a coffee. It was my backup coffee shop because it was geographically desirable, plus my primary shop opens at 9 on Saturdays and it was only 8-ish.

I haven’t been in in about a month because my Barista Boyfriend has a girlfriend now. Or at least he did last time I was there at the beginning of November. We were the only two people sitting on the mezzanine and he stopped by to kiss her.

No kiss for me, though. But fresh off a really good kiss (goddamnit!) from The Toddler yesterday, I figured there’s worse things than being fake betrayed by fake boyfriends.

“Oh my god! It’s been so long!” – Female Barista, Boyfriend Barista was looking on, smiling from behind his La Marzocco.

“Coma.” – Me

“You look all flush! How are you feeling now?” – FB

“I think it’s just walking in the cold. Or maybe my scarf is too tight! I miss Elvis, though.”

“That was a long coma…”

We went on to chat a bit more, then finally convincing me that I needed a hot coffee if I was going back out. Might as well be a peppermint mocha, too if it’s the only hot coffee of the season.

Winning argument.

I also found myself without my reusable bamboo straw, this being a spontaneous event. FB convinced me to get one of the metal straws, since it had a silicone tip and she could chew on it.

“Well, you can chew on the bamboo straws if you really want to.”

“P’shaw…I’m not a panda!”

“Whatever you say, Ping Ping.” – Me, in perfect deadpan.

That was the awkward, by the way….

“Well, I may be Chinese, but I’ll leave the bamboo chewing to the pros. I’ll still answer to Ping Ping, though, but only for you!” She gives her coworker a little side eye warning.

She was laughing, as was Boyfriend Barista and I thought Ping Ping could stick. Still, there I was…totally feeling like a latent racist for bringing panda names into the conversation with someone who turned out to be of Chinese heritage.

It registers on some level with me when someone is a POC. But that level is the same level as hair color.

Still, when race comes up, so does my guilt. Honestly, I couldn’t profile an Asian person’s race if there was a million bucks riding on it. For a cool mil, I might make a guess. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

One of my best friends is Philippino. Something I only remember because she nicknamed herself Filipina Fox. The Silver Fox’s daughter in law is Asian, but I have no idea what race. She’s from Las Vegas and Seattle, the end.

Anyway, with Ping Ping, I decided to ignore her race drop in and pivot. I segued to panda trivia.

“Did you know that it costs $10 million a year for China to loan out pandas? That’s per panda.”

“No! Really?”

“Yup. Key word: loan.”

“Goddamn. That’s quite a racket!”

“And any pandas born while they are on loan belong to China, not the host country! No anchor pandas allowed!”

The discussion went on from there, but I never got to impress them with the full extent of my panda trivia because people came in.

I’d bought my cool reusable straw –

– but I did manage an aside to my two-timing Barista Boyfriend as he topped off his latte art with a few dollops of chocolate whipped cream.

“Hey, if anyone asks for a loaner straw for their drink, charge them $10. Per drink, no free use on refills!”

“Right? Why should China have all the fun?!?”

I don’t think these things only happen to me. I do kinda think that it’s possible no one embraces their awkward with as much vigor as I do, though…

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Ridiculously Devastated

Rojo the Llama has died.

I can’t believe how sad this has made me. Nor, how utterly surprised I am at the feelings the death of this Weird Portland Icon has created within me. I’ve found myself misting up, on the verge of tears repeatedly today.

He was – and I suspect will be – a part of the tapestry of weirdness that Portland both nurtures and embraces.

The Unipiper.

Voodoo Doughnuts.

PDX Carpet.

The Church Of Elvis.

Rojo.

Rojo was a therapy animal, professionally and famously known as Rojo the Therapy Llama, he made appearances at Portland’s Pride festival, myriad local corporate events, schools, farmers markets, perhaps even a low-grade protest here or there…and was even sighted riding on the local light rail once by mine truly.

I’d read over the last few months of his retirement. In recent days of his upcoming trip to OSU for advanced veterinary care and then this morning learned of his passing from the Filipina Fox via her Instagram Story.

I was absolutely gobsmacked by the news.

Heading immediately to his page, I watched emotional story clips by his “mom” describing his final day.

I saw people posting pics of them wearing their Rojo swag in memorial…so many emotions at the impact he made and his therapeutic legacy.

That legacy will live on. Rojo will be taxidermied and placed at the School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington where he can continue to make a difference in his own unique way.

Until then, we’ll always have Rojo Cake. Er, doughnuts?

Rest In Peace, you magnificent buck-toothed therapy stud.

Ridiculously Devastated

A.W.O.L.

It’s kind of just like me to go from one extreme to another.

I’ll wait for you to collect yourself after that announcement.

In other world-shaking news, Donald Trump occasionally bends the truth.

In less…surreal news, I’ve arranged my schedule so that I work Sunday-Friday days between my HR gig and my convenience store job. This leaves me evening’s free to drive for the Verb or opt into meal delivery, if I’m feeling the need to generate income but not be social. Either way, I have the freedom to take a night off and I give myself Saturdays off.

Or free at any rate.

While my parking situation isn’t just like my parking situation on weeknights, it’s similar. There’s the option of paying for street parking two hours at s time. Or, I can pay to park from 7 am until 7 pm (when Street parking is free) for $7.

You’d think with all those sevens, I’d win the lottery or something, but…no.

This morning, I was slated to opt out of work and park using the $7 option. I even went to bed early, so I’d be up and at ’em by 7. Then I woke up at 130, tosses and turned until 5 and didn’t wake up until 8.

This is life. But, it did solve one awkward problem. My goal was to hit the cafe and write this morning. However, the cafe opens at 9 on Saturday, so I was kind of homeless until then.

Plus, writing is technically a job – sure, it’s my worst paying and I should probably report myself for my flagrant minimum wage violation – but it’s still something I call work. No, not so that I can write off my coffee as a work expense.

Now that I think about it, though…

On top of that little timing complexity, I left my laptop at my office yesterday.

Which brings me to the point of this post – other than to indulge in something I’ve missed doing.

In needing to drive to my office and retrieve my laptop and having missed my discounted day off parking, I decided to play my favorite ride-for-hire game.

Sorry…it still needs a name.

When I need to run an errand: recycling, ATM, picking up a paycheck; I get in my car and turn on my driving app.

Then I see how long it takes to run said errand. Do I accomplish my task or do I get a ride?

Well, this morning, I didn’t even get out of my parking space – I hadn’t even shifted into drive – before I got pinged. From three blocks behind me. It wasn’t one of the nearby hotels, but as I rounded the last corner, I did realize it was the extended stay/corporate housing buildings in the neighborhood.

Looks like I was going to the airport!

Couldn’t be a ride of shame, like I usually get right out of the gate on weekends.

No, the airport.

But waiting on a return ride gave me a chance to write this – another version of that favorite game!

Plus, the guy I picked up was a nice looking young man.

From the UK.

Wearing sweatpants.

As if that wasn’t enough, he tipped before I even got his bags out of the car. Such a nice boy.

A.W.O.L.

TIL #10: Bufferin

They should just market this as a people repellant.

Because, people – me, at any rate – need a buffer.

Yeah, don’t kid yourself, Today I (didn’t) Learned…why they call this Bufferin. Although, the bros that just walked into the Arthouse Cafe – f&b was renamed and rebranded to compliment the neighborhood a bit better.

Complete with street art!

Anyway, these bros order food and then execute my trending pet peeve:

Taking the seat closest to me in an empty space!

It’s truly annoying. You’d think my favorite part of this shituation would be that they both started playing videos on their phones.

I mean, why even go out to eat together?!?

But, I noticed they were sports videos, even those these two were obviously gay for each other. Maybe the videos provided distraction enough to keep them from soberly blurting out

I love you, man!

Whatever. I don’t care.

No, the most annoying part of this wordless bromantic breakfast was the gift of allowing me to watch them tossing food into their never-closing mouths and then grind it up before sending it on its way to the poop chute.

So gross.

Therefore, since I’m not being given my people buffer and there sadly is no pill to rectify that, I’m going to distract you with a story. This happened a few weeks ago while I was working, and since my lil PT gig provides me with an opportunity to interact with people and is decidedly unchallenging, I exploit the opportunity to my maximum amusement.

In this case, it involves taking another pet peeve and making up a fact around it.

Of course, the story starts with a cute guy.

Goes without saying for this ho without a laying? Right?

He was tragically buying smokes and looked under 30, so I carded him. He whips out an out of state ID and I ask if he’s visiting.

No, I’m practically a native, I’ve lived here so long!

Me:

What? Oh, wait…are you a native? How long do I have to live here before I can call myself a native?

Me:

Stop saying “native”.

Indigenous?

Ok, that made me chuckle.

I went on to tell him that natives don’t call themselves native, they call themselves SNOBs – Society of Native Oregon Born.

It’s a thing, but I was vamping, we call ourselves natives all of the time. But he was enjoying my schtick, so I kept playing.

So, how long until I can be a SNOB?

Me:

Never.

That’s what I was afraid of.

Me:

Wah-wah. Look, here’s the deal, being an Oregonian isn’t about time served.

It isn’t?

Such wonder and naïveté.

Uh-dorable.

Me:

No, it’s fucking Oregon, not a prison sentence.

More laughing, which I take as him begging me to slide deeper into – er…keep going.

Me:

Being an Oregonian is about how one drives.

Trick question! You cycle, right?

Me:

Yes, but no.

Kinda dying over here…

Me:

Alright, alright. Simmer down. It’s how you drive. Specifically, relative to pedestrians.

Oh, really? Wait, wait…the whole “No, you go” thing, right?!?

Me:

Partial Credit. That’s the filtering device.

So, transplants see someone at a crosswalk – maybe they see them, pedestrians might not even register to out of towners – and just whiz on by. “Watch out, poor people, I have an automobile!”

But SNOBs stop!

Me:

Of course, but more importantly, we stop correctly.

Because there’s a right way.

Me:

Yes! This is the difference between a self-proclaimed Native and a SNOB.

Natives fall all over themselves making a show of stopping. Standing on the brake and laying down 10 feet of rubber at the last minute, if need be.

SNOBs understand that crosswalks always exist, even if you can’t see a person nearby, and are ready to stop.

Seems like an arbitrary differentiator…

Me:

Does it? Ask the car waiting to cross traffic from the side street while the native driver idles in the intersection in a dissipating cloud of stinky blue tire smoke.

Damnit! I see that all the time!

Me:

There ya go.

Ok, the gay bros left.

Thank you for allowing me to distract myself!

TIL #10: Bufferin

The Roto-est Of Rooters

I’ll need a photo ID as well as your insurance card.

A pleasant delivery doesn’t stop me from wondering aloud from behind the Silver Fox if they wouldn’t likely have a lot of imposters showing up to an appointment like his.

My pithy posit barely merits a side eye from The Fox, but I’m accustomed to my observations being met with an occasional absence of encouragement.

Today, you see, is a certain someone’s very special once-in-a-decade doctor appointment.

The dreaded colonoscopy.

You know it’s been longer than a decade since the last time we did this, right?

That was my question as I parked.

The Fox assures me that I’m wrong, but I remind him that a decade ago I was living in Seattle.

The email I got said it was my ten-year reminder!

As if that closes the conversation. I mean, “The email said” is a far better argument than “I read it on the internet”, but it’s far from authoritative.

Still, I let it drop, wondering if perhaps I took The Fox to his first “people pay for this experience?” appointment and perhaps there was a former boyfriend that filled in for me ten years ago.

It’s not unlike my best friend to be religiously early. We jokingly call it Fox Time.

Even for this. Closing in on his sixty-eighth birthiversary, if this happened to be his third procedure, I could easily see him justifying his first at a Fox Timely 48.

Of course, the problem there is that it probably only seems like we’ve known each other two decades. Especially to him, I imagine, given that he has to put up with me and sometimes I’m a little much.

For instance, we didn’t talk so much this morning in the our first of dozens of daily texts. I just sent him this:

So I dropped the timing question. No need to unnecessarily poke the bear, as the saying goes.

Or The Fox, in this case.

Poor guy’s about to get poked enough for a while, I imagine.

Besides, there’s plenty of other topical material presenting itself. As we step into the elevator, The Fox pushes to button for the top floor.

They’re on the top floor because everyone that goes there bottoms.

I could do this all day.

I did manage not to comment on the photograph of the canal hanging in the lobby of the office.

The gaping span framing a lovely waterway bordered by blossoming cherry trees.

Anyway, before the Silver Fox is done not responding to my initial query at the check-in window as to whether this office has a lot of imposters showing up for colonoscopies – it is Portland, the kinkiest city in America – I see this:

I cant help it. My derp thoughts just appear out of nowhere and without warning.

My imagination instantly starts creating this story where a translator is called in to break the process down into gay-speak.

Gurl, I hope you brought poppers because this. is. happening. Mmm. Git it.

And with a Cher tongue, flip of the imaginary wig and snap of a paper accordion fan, the consult is over and my best friend is led off by a GoGo Boy in gold lame hot shorts.

And the next time I see him, he’ll be all doped up and rubber-legged. I do recall that from last time…it was quite amusing to see my fairly dignified bestie a little worse for the wear.

But the light at the end of the <ahem> tunnel is food!

The last words he said to me were about how hungry he was. The last words he texted to me – a few moments after being led away – were about him being one pound inside his goal weight range.

That shut me up.

You know how many back to back colonoscopies I’d have to prep for to get down to the goal weight range that I abandoned?

Lots.

The staff would probably think I had fetishized a good snaking.

Like I said…it is Portland.

Now, I’d better go before they finish up and I’m tempted to write about The Fox’s behavior while he’s sedated!

The Roto-est Of Rooters

That Moment When…

Do you ever start telling a story about “the old days” or “a classic” movie/song/what-have-you only to have your brain catch up with your mouth halfway through and realize the story you’re nostalgically telling doesn’t pass current PC muster?

Of course this happened to me.

So, I suppose this should be titled “That awkward moment when”…

There I was, at Nossa – hey, it’s Sunday…it’s what I do. Anyway, I was talking to my barista boyfriend while he made my drink and the Silver Fox found the perfect table – y’know, one that looks perfect but spills my drink when he innocently adjusts his foot. Our conversation started after The Fox asked if the tables outside were reserved for the brunch the bar downstairs hosts on the patio on Sundays.

It’s a shared space, so sit wherever you want!

I heard a chipper and enthusiastic statement but his body language had an edge to it, so naturally that was the conversational thread I chose to pull. I commented that they sure put a lot of effort into their brunch service, since they start serving at 10 and I’d been there at 8 before to see them beginning their set up.

Yeah, they don’t even open the downstairs space, they just use the patio until their regular hours.

That was kind of surprising, since Portland weather is kind of…unreliable. But on top of two-plus hours of four people setting up the patio – which I assume is mirrored on the back end for clean up – with a bar cart, racks of tableware staged at the edge of the building and a music set up – which is usually a live band; they are spending money on extras as well.

Well, like all that isn’t extra.

But they are either buying extra pub height tables and chairs to supplement the regular patio furnishing the landlord provides or they are emptying out the bar below to provide seating. On top of that, Nossa has a couple of umbrellas they usually put out to shade the tables – I think there’s eight tables normally. The first time I witnessed this brunch endeavor, the restaurant added in some orange umbrellas. Today, the umbrellas were all a nice, dark green. No red Nossa umbrellas in the mix at all.

I don’t mind, really. It brings people in…

“Yeah, but with those green umbrellas, you’re probably gonna end up with not just your customers or their customers…you’ll probably get some Starbucks customers coming in to add a really confusing third leg to your customer barstool.”

Bring ’em on!

“Oh, really…you think you can rehabilitate Starbucks customer’s palates with your good coffee?”

He looks like he makes a real effort at thinking about it for a second, then says,

Well, maybe some of them…

We both laugh at that and that’s when it happened. I was thinking about that aha moment of a Starbucks drinker experiencing good coffee and instantly questioning their previous life choices.

That was the scene that popped into my crazy head, which made me laugh even harder. I asked my Fake Boyfriend if he’d ever seen Young Frankenstein.

I think I watched it a couple of years ago at my parents’ place one Christmas.

“Of course. It’s the perfect holiday movie! Do you remember when Madeline Kahn meets The Monster?”

Yeah. Hehe. Wait, I think I do…

So, naturally I go on to describe the scene and he’s giving me, “Yeah. Yeah!” as he listens along and remembers.

Except as I’m talking, I’m starting to remember this part of the scene

Where The Monster kidnaps Madeline and how the whole “Sweet mystery of life” moment occurs while The Monster is forcing himself on her.

I’m beginning to simultaneously try and gauge the people standing nearby – because were in Portland, for crying out loud…the wrong combo of AntiFa and Feminista overhearing this could get me in real trouble – and figure out how to get out of this conversation.

And then a third thing happened.

I got mad.

This was the part that did it…

I was suddenly disgusted with the notion of framing a rape as the woman being wrong about what she wanted and coming out the other side of her assault fulfilled and awakened.

Ruined.

So, I’ve been running a B-reel argument about how “times have changed” and “it’s a comedy” with myself to help figure out whether my nostalgic feelings about this movie can survive in this woke #MeToo day and age. I told myself,

Just watch it again and make sure you’re not misremembering the context…

Nope. Can’t fall for that argument. I’m not planning on running for office, but still…can’t have Jeff Bezos tattling on me if he sees Young Frankenstein in my viewed queue.

Now I’ve given myself a headache.

That Moment When…

This Must Be Foodie Hell

What you see above is all that’s left of Portland’s biggest – and my personal favorite – food cart pod.

It’s fate has been known for the last year or so, since the owner of the lot it sat upon announced future development plans. What remained unknown was the timing as the local business press kept the curious up to speed on the plans for the site.

What came to pass was design approval for Portland’s fifth tallest building and first five-star hotel.

So, on this past May 31st the business owners at the 10th & Washington food cart pod were notified that their last day of occupancy would be June 30th.

30 friggin’ days!

What a crushing bit of news for the thousands of folk that made a meal at this pod a part of their routine.

Bad news for the businesses, too, one would imagine.

That said, there were a couple of really big unknowns accompanying the announcement.

A) who exactly this five-star tenant would be. It’s not that it wasn’t announced, it’s that no five-star hotel has expressed interest in or accepted the opportunity to partner in the finances involved in a project of this scope.

Yup, the owners of the land evicted the tenants without financing for the project. Which brings me to the larger issue here,

2) where are the displaced food carts to go?

Thirty days isn’t much time to secure a place in any of the other pods – even though Portland is crawling with pods. The thing that made this pod so successful, aside from location, was the following its carts engendered. I can’t tell you the number of times I took friends to my personal fave, Bing Mi, or recommended it to visitors from out of town.

As a matter of fact, that was how I heard of the cart in the first place!

Anyway, a few carts had used the vaguely looming deadline as a chance to find a new place and move on their own terms. The former square of outward facing food windows had started to show a few gaps, but it was far from looking like a hillbilly smile.

The end result was the same, though – come July 1st…no more pod.

During our last coffee klatch or two of June, the Silver Fox and I had discussed the rumored future for the displaced carts. It was exciting to consider since it would directly benefit us, even though the chance of happening without disruption to business as usual was exactly zero percent.

The rumor was that the city had proposed moving the pod into the Couch and Davis side streets of the North Park Blocks. Remember, the northwest quadrant of the city that I live in is called the Alphabet District because the street names are in alphabetical order. For context, The Fox and I live on opposite sides of the Park Blocks between Everett and Flanders.

Yup, the proposal from the city would land the pod one to two blocks from our homes.

The shit thing for the businesses affected is that with more harmonious planning, the city could have laid out the minimal infrastructure changes – power and traffic flow – needed beforehand while the carts were simultaneously able to notify their loyal customers of their new location.

Actually, I misspoke earlier – the city was proposing lining the actual park blocks with the carts by placing them in the parking spaces on the park side of the street facing the park itself.

The plus side here was that it would drive foot traffic into the urban park blocks, which the city considers to be underutilized. I swear, that’s bureaucratic-speak for “an increase in regular citizen traffic would probably create a decrease in urban campers”…aka: Portland’s much maligned homeless.

The side street idea was mine. It came from a couple of issues, of both my own making as well as reporting on the potential project.

The city spends a lot of money each year on planting and replanting grass in the park blocks. No sooner does the initial reseeding effort bear grass than the summer parade/festival season begin, starting with Pride and the International Beer Festival in June and ending with Art In The Park in late August. Lining the blocks with park-facing carts is just going to cause more damage to the parks.

For its part, the city seemed concerned about a loss of parking meter revenue – and parking ticket revenue, I’m sure!

For my part, I don’t care about parking revenue. I do care about where I can get my Bing Mi!

Gimme regular, uninterrupted access to a Bing Mi and nobody gets hurt.

My plan of using side streets for the carts might do nothing to reduce any parking revenue impact this proposition creates, but it has another positive impact. Namely, eliminating traffic trauma for drivers unfamiliar with Portland downtown traffic.

You see, the North Park Blocks are bordered by 8th – a one way street that runs southward – and Park – another one way street that runs northward. Most of the side streets are two way. For whatever reason, this confuses drivers and The Fox and I spend a lot of time watching drivers go the wrong way down one way streets.

It’s really quite surprising, the frequency. More so, the number of times someone realizes their mistake and corrects it by turning the wrong way onto another one way street in order to make things right.

People.

Anyway, both Couch and Davis are two way streets. Lining those blocks with carts and making them one way would allow the city to make the approach blocks one way in a manner that allowed only right hand turns onto or off of the park blocks, eliminating confusion. Looking at you, Vantucky Drivers.

Where’s my damn Nobel Prize?

But this is all in the planning stage still. A phase I’m sure will outlast the displaced carts’ ability to remain out of business. Oh, and it’s worth repeating that these carts were displaced by construction and that half of the block between Burnside and Couch is due for demolition (an old Bridgestone service center) for construction of a new apartment building in the next year-ish.

So, where are the carts in the interim?

I don’t know, exactly, however I did discover this little hiding place the other day one a walk.

We’ll get to the markup in that photo in a second. First, this…

That mural says Market of the Future. It’s decorating the street side of the parking lot those food carts are parked on.

The lot itself is the backlot of the downtown US Post Office’s sorting facility. For context you’ll need soon enough, the Post Office complex runs three blocks wide from Hoyt Street to Lovejoy Street, enveloping Irving, Johnson and Kearney Streets.

The back story there is that the city decided not to renew the government’s lease on the nine square blocks between Hoyt/Lovejoy and Broadway/9th in favor of development for housing and retail space.

Oh, and an extension of the North Park Blocks!

The US government – as a result of this eviction – proactively moved its sort facility to a new industrial development out by the airport. Now the former urban sort facility sits empty except for the walk up customer service counter and PO Boxes which basically occupies the storefront space on Hoyt between Broadway and 8th Street.

This has been the only functional part of the business for quite some time.

Long enough, actually, that one day while accompanying me on a trip to my PO Box, The Fox decided to go up to the counter and demand of the poor associate an explanation for the delay in development.

He returned with an actual explanation, stopping my smug chuckling at the futility of his mission.

It turns out, the crafty US government had written into its contract a provision which I’m sure was meant to discourage eviction by the city. Namely, if the city sought to terminate its lease, they needed to find a similar sized customer service store front with 25 parking spaces within ten blocks of the current site.

Well played, US government…well played.

Maybe 20 years ago the city could have pulled this off, including on my very block. Unfortunately, now the three abandoned warehouses on my block have been replaced with a Hampton hotel.

Most other blocks within that pre-ordained 10 block radius have already been developed. Indeed, the nine square block parcel the Post Office complex is on is the largest and nearly only undeveloped parcel within the Pearl District.

But now that the sort facility has moved, most of that parcel is derelict. There’s signs of the city trying to repurpose the space in the interim, but keep in mind that about six of the nine blocks are occupied by empty structures. The remaining three are abandoned employee and truck parking.

Cleverly, to that end:

But that is only one of the three blocks of parking. The food carts are on one of the other blocks at the far end of the parcel. From the looks of that mural, one (me) could reasonably assume that perhaps the city is planning some sort of urban market that would incorporate food carts into it.

The wrinkle here?

The mural says, “Coming summer 2019” and its approaching mid-July.

Also, Portland’s Saturday Market is practically blocks away on the waterfront. Sure, maybe this Market if the Future would be open every day…still.

Never fear, Galby is here to save the day by solving everyone’s problems.

So, back to the markup…

That “separate back building” is on the back third of the nine block parcel between Kearney and Lovejoy streets.

There’s only the teensiest little overlap of the main building with this back third of the parcel. Methinks that could be demolished and closed off with minimal impact to the remaining customer service windows located on the first third.

The paid parking in the middle block could remain operational and likely have plenty of customers on the construction crew.

Developing that back third would allow for planning a building with a ground floor retail footprint that included with it the required parking spaces so the Post Office could move, allowing development of the remaining two thirds of the parcel.

The thing is that the city didn’t know know what it wanted to do with the area. Sure, they know they needed housing solutions within the downtown core. Then the whole Amazon HQ2 thing came along.

To its credit, the city seemed to know it didn’t want that…yet knew it was expected to throw a proposal in the ring. So they did, but with tax breaks so bad they were like garlic to the tax-dodging vampire that is Amazon, ensuring we were never a serious contender.

Since then, the city has begun posting plans around the parcel – sorry for the tightness of this shot, but it’s a picture of a nine block development plan on a piece of 8×11 copy paper…

For placement context, that dark black structure is the Broadway Bridge and it’s at the northeast corner of the parcel. Broadway itself runs on the east side of the Post Office, but the bridge actually ends with Broadway forking off onto Lovejoy Street as well, which borders the north side of the parcel, or the back third that I was talking about developing first to move the whole project forward.

From the perspective of a person with virtually zero knowledge of either urban planning or construction – ignorance is so liberating! – it seems doable. Further to the upside, that back third is the only part of the project that has buildings on all three blocks. The remaining two thirds will have buildings on their outer blocks, but the center blocks will be the extension of the North Park Blocks I mentioned earlier.

The potential benefit there is that starting with the back third would mean that three of the seven blocks with buildings planned on them would be done first. That’s 43% of the construction, meaning that work would progress away from the most labor intense phase. Somehow in my mind this means less whining about construction noise from the new buildings’ residents but I’m having trouble quantifying my argument.

Something about the remaining 57% of the project being divided into fourths for the impact of the two blocks adjacent to the Lovejoy blocks and then in half again for the development of the Irving blocks in the final third phase…but I’m so distracted by my craving for a Bing Mi right now that I can’t get there.

Meanwhile, in the interim I’ve got no Bing, thousands of others are missing out on their favorite carts from the 10th & Wa pod and were in a holding pattern on both the development of the Post Office blocks and the new five star hotel.

Lose, lose, lose…how is it that when we lose things – like my favorite food cart pod – it happens quickly yet when we gain things, it comes so slowly? Rhetorical questions aside, though, with so little happening so slowly, the positives that we gain will likely feel like winning the lottery when they do finally happen.

This Must Be Foodie Hell

Can Evolution Go Backward?

That’s a thought that’s been on my mind lately.

The impetus for that little question? The appearance on the streets of Portland of the “next” generation of e-scooters…and evolution, so to speak.

Yup. It’s like an e-scooter and a bike had a baby.

A hybrid for people who are too lazy to pedal a bike and/or too lazy to stand up.

For fuck sake, humanity.

At some point, someone on a design team had to say, “This is a pretty lame idea”. But they forged onward with production. Probably the argument for was something along the lines of, “But we can make a buck”…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the few that isn’t outraged by e-scooters whizzing through the streets of my hometown. Whizzing down sidewalks and through our parks is a little aggravating, sure. But I’ve adopted a respectfully proactive approach to that frustration. When I can, I say in as neutral tone as possible, “That’s – sub out that pronoun with park or sidewalk as appropriate – not allowed”.

People are surprisingly ok with that tactic. I’ve only had one person yell at me and try to give chase. He broke off after turning his scooter around. It’s not that I outpaced him with my lanky gait, I think he just saw plenty of witnesses and thought better. Good for him.

But that takes me to my second inspiration for this devolution post. This text exchange from yesterday between my mom and me:

There was not one, not two, but three separate protest marches in the streets of downtown yesterday. And I was working right in the middle of them.

Police in heavy duty troop transport vehicles driving by the front of my store.

Cops in tactical riot gear stopping in for a soda or snack while they waited for the potential melee.

Awkward moments of me staring at a customer’s tattoos or tee shirt trying to figure out if they were aligned with any particular group while the police PA blasted out an eerily Big Brother-esque warning to disband the un-permited and therefore illegal march.

Proud Boys.

AntiFa.

And a new group – at least to me – called #HimToo.

If pressed, I’d bet that last group wasn’t a legitimately harassed or assaulted group of men. I’d go one step further and posit there was a barely discernible Venn Diagram of that group’s members and those folks who’ve spent the last four weeks wonder why they couldn’t have a Straight Pride parade all over social media.

Backward Evolution, I say!

It reminds me of a magnet I bought about a quarter century ago.

Hold on. I’m debating going through a couple of boxes I have packed away in a closet to find it and take a picture for you all…the Silver Fox pointed out last night – because I have plenty of dumb moments, too – that the reason my fridge magnets are packed away unlike his which are plastering the front of his fridge is because his is faced with quality stainless steel and mine is a lesser caliber metal.

Shit faced, if you will.

Ok, I’m not going to go find it. Not because I’m too lazy. Rather, because of this situation:

How dare I disturb Myrtle’s blissful slumber? The poor dear barely gets 20 hours of sleep a day!

Back to the magnet.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

It’s a quote attributed to George Carlin. Boy, was he ahead of the curve with that observation!

Congress.

Gimme all that money!

White People.

Everybody gets a trophy.

Scooter Designers.

We want all the money, too!

Portlanders.

Did someone say trophies?

Stupid Americans…

Here’s hoping that whole Crispr thing works out if only so whoever ends up controlling the technology can finish Hitler’s work…if only to prove the point that evolving forward is about inclusion not so-called refinement.

Sure, I guess that means a certain grumpy old man is going to have to learn to accept those who choose to neither stand nor pedal on an e-scooter.

As another wise, old friend used to say,

Life is lumpy.

Can Evolution Go Backward?

Not So…Fast?

Do you ever do something or realize something and think,

That was exactly what I needed!

Yeah, well I’m not sure this post will technically qualify…yet, that is exactly what’s seemed to happen the last couple of days.

You see, by the time I eat dinner tonight, I will have subsisted on only water for the last 48 hours.

No coffee or soda.

No Mac & Cheese or pizza.

No booze.

Surely, I’ve lost my mind.

However, I met up with Diezel on Sunday afternoon and he just looked so good. He’s playing around with facial hair again, but now it’s got the best gray pattern. It looks great. He’s been playing sportsball with the gays, so he’s looking taut and toned, in addition to the endorphin glow.

Me? I’m sitting across the table, haven’t had a haircut in three months, opted to give my hair a day off from washing, to – which is allegedly good for it. But I still looked like Step One Of Dreadlocks.

I haven’t been to the gym for anything but cardio since before Christmas. And, trust me…the cardio I’m doing isn’t keeping up with my erratic diet of mostly beer.

In short: my self care was in the toilet.

I needed a change.

Nonetheless, Sunday night I ended up eating…I dunno what for dinner and then topping it off with ice cream. I was so full at bed time, that even though I fell asleep, I woke up two hours later and tossed and turned until it was time for work.

At work, I felt so full that I was worried any caffeine would only give me heartburn, so I stuck with water. At lunch, still feeling full, I opted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk the Esplanade.

I mean…why not?

So, all in I walked 6.1 miles that day and drank only water…on two hours of sleep. But my vitamin D intake was off the charts.

Not that kind, Diezel.

But, all that fresh air and lack of sleep had me in bed by 7 without dinner. When I woke up this morning, I decided to keep it going through lunch. My cafe wasn’t open yet when I walked by on my way to work – so, no caffeine.

Again.

It was a beautiful day here in Portland.

Again.

So, why not take another spin around the Esplanade? It’s a great way to kill the better part of an hour. Plus, I’d remembered my sunglasses today, so the ghostly white limbs and bare backs of the runners wouldn’t blind me.

Side note: the Portland Police and Medical Examiner were busy fishing a body out of the river as I walked by the midway point on today’s urban hike. No idea what happened, but I cautiously wondered if it had to do with too little caffeine…

So there’s the answer to my earlier question about why not walk the Esplanade at lunch.

Who knew?

Anyway, the positive here is that I accomplished what I suspect is a pretty significant fast. Plus, I didn’t even get hangry until today around noon. That’s saying something for me.

Additionally, toward the end of my workday, Diezel started texting me and making sounds like he might want to attend the lowest key gay pride event I can find this year…so now the pounds I shed the last couple of days get me within spitting distance of being nowhere near having a pride-ready body.

(How messed up is that? Gays feel like they can’t show their pride unless their bodies are show-worthy…)

So, while I want spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, I’ll probably obsess myself into baby carrots and water.

But maybe this is just the snap my mind and body need to get back in the groove.

Not So…Fast?