Thursday, July 31, 2008

All Right, That's It! Game Over!

My friend Ole sent out an e-mail the other day about a recent experience of his in Forest Park, which I found nothing short of hysterical (especially the last paragraph). Hence, I give you... "Whacked By an Owl," by Ole Peterson. Enjoy!

Okay, it was a beautiful, warm summer evening, so, as I often do, I went walking on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park. I’d had a very busy day and my mind was racing, as usual, so I was hoping to get into a nice, slow, nature-inspired groove. I started at the north end of the trail and walked to the first fire lane – about a mile and a half, then made a u-turn to return to my car. I’d had a few quiet moments, but my mind was still all yap-yap-yap when a gray shape buzzed over my head and perched on a branch about twenty feet away. The gray shape morphed into a beautiful owl. I thought “What a wonderful gift – this owl was sent to help me find some inner silence.” I stared for a while as this bird stared right back at me and squawked a squeaky squawk. Robins, towhees, sparrows – they don’t look at you – not for more than a nanosecond, but this bird was making observations and taking notes. It looked me down and up (in that order) and did that circular head motion that they’re fond of doing. I said aloud “Hello, you are beautiful. Thank you for visiting me,” then resumed my stroll back towards my car.

Ten seconds later, I felt wind rushing above me, looked up and saw this creature fly on ahead to the next convenient branch where it perched and resumed its reconnaissance. “Okay, cool” I thought. “I’ve been chosen for something. I wonder if I’ll ever know what it is”. Sometimes you don’t find out. So, not wanting to get too attached to any particular outcome or psyche myself up over some message that might never arrive, I walked on.

I heard a light “whoosh” like air brushing against air (which it was) and felt a slight nudge on the top of my head as this determined avian whizzed gleefully towards the next tree. “Okay, this is getting weird,” said my real self to my ego, which was still preoccupied with “larger meaning”. At this point, I recalled an incident with a grouse back in 1990 in which I naively assumed that this curious bird had friendly intentions, only to narrowly avoid losing my left eye. “Owl,” I said, “I realize you are probably a mother protecting your young who are very close to us right now, so I’m just gonna walk on past you now and leave your forest never to disturb your serenity again.” Not wanting to lose sight of her, I looked back every few paces, mentally prepared to wave my arms, yell, duck, whatever it might take to protect myself from attack. As I turned my head, I once again heard air against air and before I could say “Omigosh, an owl has just whacked me in the head,” she whacked me in the head! I didn’t even see her as it happened. I looked up and there she was again on the next branch glaring at me with animal rage in her beastly eyes.

“All right, that’s it,” I yelled. “Game over!” I ran past her perch and continued on about a hundred paces, stopped, caught my breath and thought, “Why do I love nature? What is this strange fascination?” Conclusions are always difficult for me to draw, but if I had to try, I’d say that a bird in your hair is worth two on a branch. I’d also say this: Whatever the hell it was that had my mind in such a stir when I set out searching for some peace and quiet was long forgotten now.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Capitol Hill Block Party 2008

So I headed up to Olympia this past weekend to hang out with my favorite Portland expatriate, Jenni, and drag her along to this year's Capitol Hill Block Party, arguably Seattle's best music festival (that's Jenni's wrist in the photo, by the way). Mind you, I had to give up PDX Pop Now!, one of Portland's better music festivals, to attend, so you know there must have been some good acts on the bill...

Friday's lineup was great, and included my own city's Menomena, but I had to limit myself to Saturday. So the plan was this: The Builders and the Butchers (another Portland band; what is it with these music curators in Seattle poaching our talent, anyway?), The Fleet Foxes, Throw Me the Statue, The Hold Steady and DeVotchKa, in that order.

The festival started off on a good note for me as Jenni and I were walking in the entrance, when the girl taking the tickets said to me, "Your chops are fresh!" (my chops, while not quite Lemmy grade, are indeed fresh, if I do say so myself). We were meeting up with my cousin Brad and his people at the Comet, and being as the line outside Neumo's was insurmountably long, we decided to skip the Builders/Butchers and have a pint with Brad and his friends. After about an hour, we all headed out to the main stage, in the intersection of Pike and 10th, right between the Comet and Neumo's, to catch the Fleet Foxes:

This is the band I was most looking forward to seeing (Appearing on Letterman! Touring with Wilco!), and I'm glad to say they did not disappoint. While they describe their sound as "sleepy" on their Myspace page, I think they might be selling themselves a bit short. While that word does go some way towards describing them, it fails to take into account the impeccable guitar work, the very solid rhythm section and harmonies which at times evoke, as most good harmonies will, Crosby Stills and Nash. Not that they're a bunch of sixties folk revivalists or anything... they're indie folk revivalists! (but then, who isn't these days?) There's some rock in there as well, of course. A touch of Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, along with a little Band of Horses... I could go on. Good mix of stuff, check 'em out.

After the Foxes' set the six of us headed over to a gallery/bar (a great idea, by the way. Is anybody in Portland doing this yet?) called Grey. Alice Tippit and Chris McCullen were the featured artists on the walls, and a Sapphire G&T was the featured drink in my hand. We killed time in this stark yet beautifully appointed room (which used to be the OK Hotel, as seen in the movie "Singles"), until it was time to catch Throw Me the Statue's set back at Neumo's. Unfortunately, TMTS was a bit of a bust, and we skipped out early and headed back into the Comet to wait for The Hold Steady. Here's a shot of them taken with a camera, well... not held very steady:

I wanted to like these guys a lot more than I did. I hadn't heard much of them before the show, but they've garnered quite a bit of press in the recent past, and I figured I'd enjoy their set, which I did, just... not very much. They'd have been fun enough as a bar band, or at least marginally impressive in a Husker-Du influenced sort of way. But all they amounted to was a bar band version of Husker-Du, and that just kinda fell a bit flat. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for DeVotchKa to go on:

You could lump these guys from Denver in with the recent rash of bands that mine Eastern European traditions for both inspiration and instrumentation, mixing said traditions with more modern sesibilities... say, Gogol Bordello, Beirut, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, etc. DeVotchKa play it a bit closer to their American roots, however. I might put them a little closer to The Arcade Fire than the rest of those gypsy rockers. A great set from one of the few bands out there these days with a tuba player.

Of course, we did eat some over the weekend, and as I haven't posted anything about food on this blog for a good long while, it would seem an appropriate time to fill you all in on a good breakfast place in Olympia, should you head up (or down) there anytime soon:

This place used to be called Rose's, but is now Sage's Brunch House. It's on the west side, just down the block from the Olympia Food Co-op, and I'm gathering it was at one point some sort of general store. Nowadays, they serve up some of the best breakfast grub I've had in quite a while. I had the biscuits and gravy with a potato pancake, while Jenni had the smoked salmon scramble, also with a potato pancake:

Well, there you have it. My weekend in Olympia/Seattle. I wish I could say Olympia offered up a little more excitement than it did, but college towns tend to be pretty dead in the summers, of course. Good thing it's smack dab between Portland and Seattle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wanna Throw Your Kid in the Drink?

Well, my friends, it's official: I'm old (full disclosure: I turn 37 next month; my apologies to those of you who are actually, well... old). Spencer Elden, the baby on the cover of Nirvana's 1991 album, nay, American pop-culture landmark, Nevermind is about to enter college. For those of you who were born between 1960 and 1980 and happen to be in the mood for a serious blow to your ego, check out the recent NPR story here.

In the meantime, here's Spencer's take on the whole thing: "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis, so that's kinda cool." Right on, Spence! We'll see ya at next year's World Naked Bike Ride then, right?

One silver lining: teenagers are still calling each other "dude." I believe it was my parents' generation that cemented that word into the lexicon...

Irrespective of cultural and/or generational significance, the photo, taken by Spencer's dad's underwater photographer friend Kirk Weddle, really is a great image, is it not? Discuss...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Matt Harding for President!

Or at the very least, Secretary of State. This is the best thing to come along since Spencer Tunick... While we here in the States continue to slit each others' throats over abortion, gay marriage and the FISA bill, the rest of the world is doing this:

This is amazing. I can't take my eyes off it. Thank you, Matt! You may just be our last ambassador of goodwill!