Thursday, July 29, 2010

Public transit etiquette.

(Picture from

I started an intensive summer session of school this week which requires me to be downtown on campus Mon-Thurs, which means I've been able to take the ultra-convenient bus line every day that takes me from right outside my house directly to campus in about twenty minutes (depending on traffic). I have been anticipating this switch to public trans from the car-commuting-to-the-'burbs for my job I have been doing for over two years (I am quitting very very soon, which feels strange) with total excitement and relief. Know what's a lot better than sitting in traffic in my car? Reading a book. Or napping. And not paying for gas. My love for public transit really expands beyond what I have time to type right now, but I'll just say that in general I am a big, big fan for multiple reasons.

Know what I'm not a big fan of, though? All those jerkfaces who do not adhere to public trans etiquette, who exist on every subway line, every light rail line, every bus in every city. I feel like in Boston and other East Coast big cities most of the people who rode public transit were more on the ball, more learned in this etiquette, and there was just the exception of the occasional tourist and/or normal jerkface. But I feel like a lot of people in Portland just really don't get it. Like, they honestly DO NOT KNOW how to move back on a bus, or on a MAX, or on the streetcar, etc., (Portland has too many forms of public trans), even when there are twenty people completely crunched up into each other in the first five feet of the bus with absolutely NO ONE taking up the aisle in the back of the bus. This frustrates me even when I am happily sitting in a seat. Just watching the stupidity and the inefficiency of the situation gets me riled up. MOVE BACK, PEOPLE. MOVE. ON. BACK. It would be so much better for everyone!! Also, lesson #2: there are two seats to each row. When they are both empty, and you sit down, you sit in the one CLOSEST TO THE WINDOW so that the next person can sit down, too. I have been in buses where almost every aisle seat is taken and every window seat stays empty, while there are people standing. Yes, I could technically ask you to move and/or awkwardly step over your lap into that seat, and I do see people doing that, but for some reason I lack the boldness. Perhaps because the fact that I shouldn't have to bothers me so much that I'm too stubborn to actually do it. So I stand, and stare at people, and stew, instead. (I credit this to genes from my grandpa.) Also, biggest lesson of all: YOUR BAG DOES NOT DESERVE ITS OWN SEAT. If it's an empty bus, by all means. But I have seen bags occupying seats while there are elderly people who are about to keel over any minute, and/or hardworking people in scrubs who have probably been standing all day/night helping sick people, standing in the aisle next to them. And then also let's talk about the people who lay down over two seats/prop their sneakers up on the seat next to them like they are in their living room, ALL WHILE THE ELDERLY STANDING PEOPLE ARE ABOUT TO CROAK RIGHT NEXT TO THEM. Even if I'm coming from the airport and have a huge suitcase to lug around, I will do my best to scrunch up my knees as awkwardly around it as possible if I have to. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.

I understand this is a blog to write about things I like, so this bit of ranting is diverting from the philosophy of the blog, but I can bend my way around that by saying 1) it's my blog and I can do what I want, and 2) I do like people who do know public trans etiquette. In addition to all the jerkfaces, I have also seen countless kind people do the normal and/or generous thing. In one small example, today a stranger helped a woman close up her stroller, which she was having difficulty doing being that she was holding her baby while trying to maneuver the clunky thing herself. The stranger walked over, helped her out, gave a nod, and quietly returned to their seat. In truth, one of the reasons I love public trans so much is because you see more of the reality of your community and also more random acts of humanity than perhaps anywhere else.

But seriously, jerkfaces. Get your act together.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cathedrals, Jump Little Children.

I went through a pretty intense Jump Little Children phase in college, wherein I saw them play a few times in Boston, I believe mainly at the Paradise, and spent many a T ride with their songs in my headphones. I bought lots of their albums and had particular opinions on many of them as well as many members of the band. The end of this story is that my Jump Little Children phase ended awhile ago and so I forget everything. Okay, a better, fuller end of this story is that although I still enjoy their music when it pops up randomly on my iTunes, I haven't even actively listened to a full album of theirs in a long time, and so I wouldn't be able to conjure up the knowledge and passion to write a true, full entry about the band. This happens a lot with a lot of bands and can seem kind of sad but I think has less to do with the music itself than with the simple passage of time.

Anyway, what I can say for certain is that last night Cathedrals played when I was shuffling my iTunes and I can't remember the last time I heard it and/or really listened to it prior to that, but it gave me chills. Chills! The first line, the lyrics of the chorus, the dreary melody, the swelling strings with the spare guitar. Everything about it musically appeals to me, and everything about it lyrically appeals to inner voices and memories inside my head; I picture actually being in countless cathedrals in Europe, the feelings I had there, and how at the end of it all I just wanted to get back to America; I think about my continually conflicting equal devotion to the meaning of travel and the meaning of home. In other words, Jump, this song is pure gold, and always will be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Iced tea.

I've never been a big soda person, and when eating out, I try to be good and stick with water. But sometimes, I can't resist a good iced tea. (Or a good beer, but that's another post.) I do declare that there is NOTHING that cures thirst like a freshly brewed unsweetened iced tea. But I pretty much like all kinds. And when I say like I actually mean love. No more holding back: I love iced tea! Here's a list of my faves:

1) Queen's Iced Tea at Stumptown. Well, when I first moved here it was called Queen's Iced Tea, but recently I've been seeing it labeled as Thyme Iced Tea. Which for me ruins the fun mystery of the unique flavor. Guess what! It's thyme! Boring. Anyway, Stumptown usually leaves out a nice big jar of honey, and I love drizzling honey in the lattice-style that was drilled into me during my time at Starbucks, right over the top of the ice and then plopping the top back on and letting it seep down. This may be the best iced tea I have ever tasted. It is seriously delicious, people, and seriously refreshing.
2) The sweet tea from Pine State Biscuits. Really, any sweet tea (when made proper Southern style) is good. I'll admit I even like McDonalds' version. Sweet tea = always a good idea! But Pine State's always seems especially authentic and good.
3) Honest Tea, pictured above. As far as bottled-packaged iced tea goes, there is something about Honest Tea that I am currently addicted to. Many nights freshman year of college at Emerson in the LB I remember chugging SoBe Green Tea, which tastes impossibly sweet and gross to me now, and which also kept me up all night and made me feel kind of crazy, but it was what I craved. (Who knows what SoBe puts in any of their drinks. Eck.) Years later, I've matured in my educational iced tea addictions; Honest Tea is getting me through grad school. I have purchased countless bottles from my favorite convenience store at Portland State.
4) Paradise Iced Tea, available at the Cheesecake Factory and also locally at Pizzicato, although I feel like it tastes better/fancier at the Cheesecake Factory because everything tastes better/fancier at the Cheesecake Factory. So tropical, so refreshing!
5) Any peach, mango, or mint flavored iced tea is always a good bet, pretty much anywhere, even when I know it's just made with some sugary syrup, such as at Pizzeria Uno's or Dunkin. For bottled, Tazo's Giant Peach is particularly delicious.
6) Starbucks' Green Iced Tea: venti with only 2-3 pumps of their Classic sweetener. (Normally in a venti they would put in six pumps, people. But 2-3 is perfect.) I'm also a fan of the Passion Iced Tea, but because its tart sweetness is such an intense flavor I have to be in the mood for it. And although I labeled it Starbucks just now, all of their tea is Tazo, yet another awesome Portland company. (I like making homebrewed sun tea with a bunch of packets of their Refresh combined with a couple of packets of Wild Sweet Orange, as well.)

Holy crap, am I thirsty now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crater Lake National Park.

I am in love with National Parks. To be honest I am kind of obsessed with them, and have a goal to visit as many of them as I possibly can, all of which I blame on the fact that not one has let me down thus far. In fact every one I've been to--Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia, the Badlands, Mt. Rainier--has exceeded my expectations and left me a little breathless. I love the uniform map they hand you at every entrance with the black band across the top with the name in white sans serif font; I love the immediate feeling of being somewhere special and sacred and far away from the rest of the real world; I love the squabble of voices of international tourists; I love the whole idea of the National Park. And this week I was able to check off another on my list: Crater Lake, the only National Park in Oregon.

Crater Lake lies in the caldera of a huge, distant explosion of the volcano Mt. Mazama, and since no rivers flow into or out of it, is made up entirely of rain and snowmelt, and the mountains which surround it are spectacularly steep. There is only one way to access the lake itself, via a very steep hike. Driving around Rim Drive, which circles the entirety of the lake, is enough though. I really cannot describe what it felt like the first time we viewed the lake: we parked and walked up a sandy hill and then, BAM. The bluest blue, surrounded by the craziest symmetrical mountains. I have seen a lot of stuff in my travels, but I am really tempted to say this place was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was just ridiculous. Kathy texted our friend Meredith who is originally from Oregon about it, and she replied: Crater Lake is a ridiculous made up fairyland that only Oregonians could believe in. Well said. Accordingly, and I knew this at the time like I always know this but it always disappoints me each time, none of the hundreds of pictures I took even captured what it felt like to really be there. Not only was the lake gasp-inspiring every time you viewed it, but the road winded perilously around what felt like the top of the world most of the time, revealing wide blue and green tinted tree filled valleys and a ridiculous number of distant white peaked mountains, including at certain points Mt. Shasta in California. There were a severely limited amount of guardrails and fences surrounding most of the road and viewpoints, which made my dad, who made this visit possible, exceedingly uneasy, being that it made you feel like you could plummet to your death in a number of ways with a possible slip. Oh, and there was also snow. Like, everywhere. In July. The park is only open to the public approximately three months of the year; feet upon feet of snow cover it the rest of the time. All of this seemed a little bit crazy, but the strangeness and the ruggedness of it all is a happy jolt out of reality, a reminder of the American West of our history and of our dreams, a reminder that our country, a lot of the time, contains more remarkable surprises than we can even imagine.

I mention somewhat frequently that my heart will always belong on the East Coast, which I still believe is true. It will forever remain there for a bunch of personal reasons which I can't even necessarily name or process, other than the fact that home is always home. And I do believe that so many different areas of the country have their own specific beauty than can't even really be compared to one another. But just in the last few days I have seen so many cool things in this state, some new ones and ones whose awesomeness I had already been aware of. And when I think of all of them combined--from the gardens and coffeeshops and bookstores and funky second-run theaters of Portland, to the vast array of breweries which exist pretty much everywhere, to the Columbia River Gorge, to the rugged and peaceful and well preserved coast, to Mt. Hood, to Bend, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, to Crater Lake, and on and on--I can't help but think that this is the absolute coolest state I will ever know.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hot sauce.

It makes everything better! Seriously! Although my recent favorites include on eggs and mac 'n cheese.

When hot sauce doesn't work, I recommend a good slice of lime. A good slice of lime also tends to make everything better, in my experience. Seriously!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sarah McLachlan on VH1's Storytellers; 1998.

I was fortunate enough the other day to see Sarah McLachlan live for the first time, and even though it was a short set at Lilith and we were seated on the lawn way far away and it was freezing at that time of night and it was years away from the height of my obsessions with Surfacing and Stumbling Towards Ecstasy, I still felt grateful. She will forever remain one of the most classiest ladies in music ever, in my mind. There is something that just seems special and sacred, something deeply felt, about so many of those songs. It is also hard for me to think about her without thinking of this one worn out VHS tape of mine.

See, my VHS habit started with my Hanson fandom, which was rabid and all consuming (and obviously the topic of another blog post altogether), and which obviously forced me to tape all of their TV appearances from the TV onto VHS. And they were on TV a lot. Tapes upon tapes, people. Soon in my craziness and out of habit I just started popping in a blank tape and clicking record anytime something relatively cool came on the screen, and that usually happened to be various episodes of VH1's Storytellers. This was a fantastic show and although I don't have any particular judgment about whatever VH1 shows these days, I will tell you that I miss that stuff. VH1 was amazing in the 1990s, yo. Holla. But the Storytellers that I recorded and watched the most was Sarah's. Over, and over, and over. Just looking up some clips on YouTube from it gives me chills and waves of memory flashbacks. There are a few reasons why it is so good: her sincere half-whisper voice she speaks with all the time; the dark lighting with all those pretty golden lamps and candles--so pretty and magical and perfect!; that cute short haircut; her overall genuine-ness. And then of course there is that one point where Paula Cole comes out to sing one of my favorite songs in a ridiculous wonderful outfit (watch the video above! It is so good!). Afterward Paula rolls out a birthday cake to surprise her for her birthday and Sarah almost cries. Also, at one point near the end Sarah talks about how surprisingly wonderful the experience of the show has been and how thankful she is for it, and then after her last song (Adia), as the crowd claps, she thanks them and bows her head a little and smiles, and ACTUAL TEARS WELL UP IN HER EYES as the credits roll. Oh man.

I brought the VHS with me to college, but before the move out west, I think I stored it at my mom's house. But I don't think I'll ever throw it away.