Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Women in the Kitchen

There are two Starbucks shops on the route from my kids' daycare to my office. Sure, once I get to the office, downtown, there are several other better local independent coffee choices, but on the long cold road, I need a quick and reliable jolt of Joe.

The first is in Multnomah Village. The village is a small alt.goth.granola shopping district in the hilly SW arts district of Portland. It is quaint and friendly. Low key. Pedestrian friendly, which means, no parking.

Really, there's like three parking spots. If none of the three are open as I pass by, I have to bypass that first stop, and jog on to the next shop.

The next one is, in fact, in Hillsdale, the slightly upper scale, more suburbany top-of-the-pass neighborhood. The coffee is the same, the crowd is slightly different. Parking is better, and it works well as a back-up coffee stop.

Problem is, it's packed with loafers. Students, writers, haus fraus and lay abouts.

It can get packed, and when it does, I'm hosed.

That is, until recently. A month or two back, I was confronted with a coffee crowd and a long line at the Hillsdale Starbucks. Time was tight, and I dejectedly turned tail to head into town without my first hot fix.

Then, suddenly, I spied something new. Or, at least new in my mind since I hadn't seen it before.

A small bakery, two doors down. Baker and Spice. Cutesy name, kinda turned me off, but I needed coffee. Surely they had some.

It was warm as I passed through the doors. Strong scents of cinnamon, yeast and cocoa filled my nose. Well-packed cases displayed absurdly perfect pastries packed tightly into trays. It all had that glowing sense of freshness; it was begging to be eaten.

I saw that there was coffee to be had, and the line was short. The available tables were taken. The crowd was mixed.

I looked at the coffee menu. It looked standard. Prices were the same as Starbucks.

Then, I saw the woman at the register, taking orders. Tall. Thinish, but not wafer-so. Customary compliment of Portlandy tattoos. No make up... Short finger nails... Boyish hair cut... Ahhhhhh. Gotcha.

Not an issue. Besides, I just wanted my coffee. But then, I looked up...

The kitchen was expansive, open, glimmering white, punctuated by industrial stainless steel. Populated by about two dozen very angry-looking lesbians. All busy. All working very hard making terribly yummy concoctions. All looking hell-bent for leather. Ticked off. Full of piss and vinegar.

OK, so I wouldn't necessarily expect a kitchen loaded with artisan lesbian bakers to look like the goddamn Keebler tree, but really, I was taken aback by the palpable anger.

Now, the coffee was nutty and delicious. The vanilla cupcake I ordered was divine, and I have now returned many times for their fine morning fare. The amazon-like register girl is always friendly. The coffee is always respectable.

The lesbians in the kitchen? Always Angry. Always.

Just part of the charm...

Next time you're in Hillsdale, stop at Baker and Spice and pick up a little snack. Don't fear the kitchen staff. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

So, There Was This Guy Named Stephen

December 26, 1987. Dr. B and I arrived early for what was going to be the longest shift of the season.

Puente Hills Mall was dimly lit and the retail cages were still closed. Small hordes of bleary-eyed haus fraus roamed the tastefully-plantered landscape looking for their first kill of the day.

I knew from past experience what was waiting for us at the end of the promenade.

As we grew closer, the vast throng appeared to grow larger. There was an insatiable consumer hunger in their eyes. I quickly unlocked the gate and we slid in, low to the floor, and we hurried to brace ourselves against the press of bargain hunters.

It was the day after Christmas, and we had been working at my uncle's Christmas Store, one of a small chain. Everything was 50% to 75% off. We really didn't want to have to haul it all back to the warehouse...

I worked for my uncle for several seasons, and December 26 was always like that. ravaging bands of the cheap and greedy coming to fisticuffs over marked-down baubles and trinkets. As a shopping day, it rivals Black Friday.

At least here in the U.S.

Elsewhere, in other English-speaking countries, December 26 is called Boxing Day. I've always wondered why it was called that, as we don't call it that. so, I did a little half-assed research. This is what I learned.

So, there was this guy named Stephen, or some Aramaic version thereof, and he was friends of Jesus. Well, he may have been a friend of a friend, but still, he was two phone calls away from the son of god. Records show (to the extend that the Catholic Church relies on such things) that Stephen was the first official guy to die for Mr. J. He was stoned, to be precise, and not in the good way...

Coincidentally, Saint Stephen, like St. Nickolas, whose day we just celebrated, was also associated with the giving of gifts. AND!! Both Stephen and Nick's special days coincide with the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which ALSO featured the giving of gifts! Imagine that! This is why, at this time of the year, I am endowed with approximately $300 worth of Starbucks gift cards, which I'm NOT complaining about... No, no, daddy needs his grande coffee...

Somehow, sometime, probably around the time of the Reformation (mid-1600's), when England decided to not be Catholic anymore (for a while), They stopped referring to it as St. Stephen's day, changing it to "Boxing day."

Which really doesn't make any sense.

Anyway...

Boxing day incorporated the gift-giving ideals of St. Stephen's day, and the wealthy would basically hand off their scrap gifts to those who were not worthy of Christmas gifts, like servants, beggars and the Irish.

Over time, as these things go, and as with their non-Canadian American friends, the Boxing Day tradition was converted to one big shopping day. And so, now, 21 years later, St. Stephen, looking down on us from Heaven, still nursing his 1,973 year-old blunt-force trauma wounds, can squarely be blamed for my 16-hour marathon of discount retail misery.

Happy Boxing Day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here's hoping you stayed on Santa's "Nice" list this year...

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Feel of Food

It is dark and cold, and i am drinking scotch.

Good scotch.

Neat.

Problem is, this sinus thing I've been fighting has left me with out smell, and thus, without taste.

I can feel the vapors of the scotch on my nose, but I cannot smell them. it warms my mouth and stings the back of my throat, but I cannot taste it. Still though, the physical sensations are pleasurable in a familiar way.

Lasagna tonight was hot and meaty. The cheese was stretchy and gooey. It was pleasurable to bite and chew through the varied layers. Yet, i could not taste any of it.

It is frustrating, yes, but only causes me to work that much harder, paying attention to the non-flavor qualities of food.

What I have found is, spaghetti is terribly boring, in terms of texture, while a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a delight. Who Knew??

I may go blow my nose now. Sometimes that offers a hint of a whiff. I hope there's something...

Storm Watch 2008!!!

OK, so, it's still snowing...




Solstice

Welcome to winter! Today was officially the shortest day of the year. I mean, it still had 24 hours, but well, you know...

Anyway...

Winter, you may have heard, has arrived in Oregon, and most of the west coast, with a score to settle. Apparently, we've been getting off too easy for too long, and Winter has come to make us its bitches.

12 inches of snow, now, over frozen ground, topped with a 1-inch thick shell of top-ice, fun for stomping on, but not good for driving. Then, for added insult, we received another six inches of snow today on top of the ice shell.

Mind you, I have yet to start my Christmas shopping.

So, with limited entertainment options, and with a dazzling landscape at my disposal, I took a walk with my camera...

And yes, there are only about two of you who care about this stuff, but that's about all of my remaining readers anyway. If you are interested, I'd suggest clicking on the photos to view larger images with better detail.










Sunday, December 21, 2008

Doll House

Four years and two nights ago, I sat on a padded bench, eating vanilla pudding, and watching Men in Black on small television suspended high up on the wall.

The missus was well-medicated and sleeping soundly. I was killing time before the morning arrived, when my daughter would begin the process of clawing her way out...

I wasn't really watching the light-hearted Sci Fi flick, though. Rather, I was thinking, as any father would, about what was to come. Certain events were sure to come in the life that was about to begin. Certain checkpoints, mile posts. Walking. Talking. Learning to ride a bike. Starting first grade, etc...

One thing that I pondered, though, was the inevitable doll house. It kinda got stuck in my head, and it rumbled around for a short time. It seemed important, I suppose, for a little girl to have a doll house, but only when she was old enough not to bite the heads (Ozzy-style) off the dolls.

I wondered what it, the house, would look like. I wondered where I would put it together, and how much work would it require. Would she like it? Would she want it? Where would we put it.

Well, that particular road marker has been met. While she's had other smaller plastic versions of dwelling places, she asked for and received her first very own doll house. AND, to answer the questions, I put it together in the living room while she napped. The assembly was not over-burdensome, but the instructions were shitty.

AND, she liked it very much.


Here, we see the girls where they belong... joking... just joking.

And here, of course, is the family sitting around in the living room watching Battlestar Galactica. It must be Friday Night.

This, of course, is the bedroom. Yes, I did consider posing the dolls in compromising positions for the Lounge, but Come On! It's my daughter's doll house...

Although, here is grandpa tanking a dook. I'm not sure why, exactly, he's still wearing pants.

Now, this one is not what it appears. Grandma has come in to the bathroom to wash her hands at the sink, which is just out of view. Although it appears that Grandma is getting ready to give grandpa a blumpkin, I assure you, there is nothing tawdry going on on.

Really, get your mind out of the gutter...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quatro


Happy Fourth Birthday to the Girl! The party has been postponed due to ridiculously inaccurate weather hype, but the Dora Pinata is filled and hanging from the ceiling.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Silly Me

Oh dear me!

Too many words.

I lost sight of the intellectual capacity of my readers.

Here you go, this should be more your speed...














Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What it is About

o' for a muse of fire...

I sat, sipping on an African ale, stretching cheese tendrils from the slices of my brick oven-baked pizza. I sat with a friend from the office, a regular reader who had less of an appetite, but who sipped a hot toddy to ward of the winter, nonetheless.

We chitted and we chatted and I related my recent television viewing experience as best I could.

"So," I said, "we've been watching Mad Men on DVD. Netflix, you know..." I added that last bit to punctuate my independence from network broadcast strictures. I mean, with DVD, Tivo, DVR, On Demand, and YouTube, who the hell watches anything when it's on anymore??

"Ohh!" Her eyes lit up. "I've heard that's really good. What's it about?"

What's it about? What's it about. I had no good answer. I've been fiddling about with that query for three days now, which has brought me no closer to anything like an acceptable answer. In fact, I have applied the same question to several other great programs as well.

Which just leads to more questions.

The show is set in 1960. Firmly, deeply, unapologetically set there. It is set in an ad agency on Madison Avenue in New York. But that is certainly NOT what it is about. It is no more about the advertising business, than Deadwood was about gold mining or Big Love is about Mormonism.

Style. The show adheres to a strict 1960 aesthetic. There are no anachronisms. It is a pristine alien environment. The vocabulary. The clothes. The music. The behavior. But the show is not about style.

Shock. This hits closer to the mark, but is not the point either. Shock is a tool to make the point. Shock is a side effect of the point being made. Racism and sexism are open and accepted norms. Sexual harassment is par for the course. Women secretly sleep their way to the glass ceiling. Men assert their dominance with a never-ending carnal carnival of grab-ass and insults. The copious, and somewhat gratuitous, cigarette smoking is, as another friend and regular reader put it: "nothing short of pornographic."

The pregnant woman smoking the cigarette while polishing off her second cocktail is not even noticed.

And while the social shock of very primal and disturbingly-unenlightened behavior will be the lasting hallmark of the show (I'm confident that every frat boy in America is busy memorizing every line), that is not what the show is about.

What the show's creator says the show is about is "The internal struggle of men, and the women who suffer for it."

But actually, I think he's not exactly right. He may be right about the internal struggle thing, But it is not gender specific, and it is moderately misogynistic to suggest that only the women suffer or that they suffer only because of men.

Some 50 years later, we find ourselves with radically different values. PC run rampant. We have educated ourselves and trained ourselves so far away from the way things were, that the workplace and the relationships of 1960 are barely recognizable today. We are more diplomatic now. More respectful. At the very least, more tolerant.

Yet the show pushes every button we've been trained to ignore. It spotlights every internal impulse, every conceit, every private assumption and desire.

Who are the men you know today?

Why, they are Ross, Chandler and Joey.

But who are men really, beneath the politeness and the sensitivity? At their hidden core? Men are Don, Pete, Roger and the other boys at Sterling Cooper. Men ruled by their Id and their fears of inadequacy.

And the women who suffer? No, women who play the game and perpetuate it's rules. Women who are complicit in the values of the culture. Women who prey on other women. Women who prey on men. Women who practice the mystic art of manipulation, conscious or not.

But we have have made a new game for ourselves, written a new rule book. We try to behave better, but it is learned behavior. The expectations are somewhat artificial.

A dog can be trained to not eat a steak, but is that natural?

So, really, the show is about us, and our inner struggles, and our attempts to be better people, but it pokes, it prods and it shocks its way into making its decidedly-pointed point. It is an uncomfortable ride to take, but the vehicle has style.

Something to Say

So, I have something to say, I'm just not sure what it is yet. See, we've been watching Mad Men on DVD, and, as those of you who have seen it know, it provokes certain thoughts and gives you more than enough to chew on. Many things, actually.

I'm just not sure what I necessarily need to say.

So, I will sit and think on it tomorrow. It appears I will have plenty of time for that, as the next blustery blizzard is set to roll in any minute now. (And I'd rather rub a hot cheese grader over my tiny pink nipples than take another goddamned Trimet bus in to downtown...)

In the mean time, though, I will say this: Today is December 17.

December 17 is 12 days before my birthday. It is just three days before my daughter's birthday! But most significantly, it is Wednesday! And Wednesdays kick ass!! Woooo!!! Let's give a big G-and-T Lounge shout out to Wednesday!! Yeeeee haaaaaw!!

What?

That's not what you were expecting?

I'm forgetting something?

Oh, ya, well, it's also Mrs. G-and-T's birthday, I suppose. Is that what you were thinking?

Oh, alright...

Happy Birthday to Mrs. G-and-T!
You're not as old as Dr. B, but you're still older than me!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bus

I am on the bus. What started as a charming winter adventure has
quickly devolved into a siberian gulag caravan.

With all of the delays detours waiting and standing around, I cannot
imagine how many man hours are lost to public trans every day.

The government should scrap busses altogether and just buy everyone an
SUV.

Ok I just looked at the clock. I have been on this little adventure
for an hour and fifteen minutes. I am only now leaving Oregon city.
That is like three miles from my house.

TriMet's stupid fucking incompetence is hateful.

Bleggg!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Should Have Gone to Costco

The streets of Portland are essentially clear. My street, though, is a side street, and is on a hill. It also has a 1-inch thick sheer sheet of ice covering its entire surface. I'm a bit stuck at the moment, or at least until the next temperature bump over 32 degrees.

Meanwhile...

We're out of beer. We're out of diet soda. We're out of sandwich meat.

The situation isn't exactly dire, but I may kill and eat the neighbor just for sport.

I've taken to eating tomato/basil flavored Wheat Thins for excitement.

I think I may hike out tomorrow for help. Or, at least to catch the bus into downtown.

If you don't hear from me, assume the worst.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowday

By Oregon standards, it was one of the better snow falls in recent memory. We were able to sneak out and see Santa Claus before it got too thick.

Hot chocolate, sledding and snowballs. It was a good day all around.

Now, pat my back and tell me how cute my kids are.












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