best gen-x jazz babies
Any band with the word "balls" in its name should be, well, ballsy, and one-of-a-kind torch singer Storm Large and her three-man backing band the Balls don't disappoint. The commanding, 6-foot blond vixen cleverly twists rock and heavy-metal hits, American classics and everything in between into absurd and poignant renditions best described as loungecore. In Storm's world, Abba and Iron Butterfly coexist harmoniously in "Abba-Gadda-Davida," and it's perfectly normal to revisit Metallica, the Cramps and "The Star-Spangled Banner" in one raucous evening. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Storm's Balls consist of skilled ex-members of Everclear and Motherlode. But she's got the biggest you-know-whats. Check 'em on Wednesday nights at Dante's (1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630) or at Storm's very special outdoor concert at Wilf's (800 NW 6th Ave., 223-0070) on Aug. 31. It's in the old-school spaces where this Sinatra-channeling chick really shines.
best train-station dynamo
Traveling by train has never been so pleasant. Red Cap Craig Kirkeby, a 27-year employee of Amtrak, lends a hand to luggage-loaded travelers, and the help also comes with a cheerful smile and warm personality. Red Cap workers are a service arm of Amtrak that provides porter assistance to travelers, and "in an age when a lot of personalized service is gone," supervisor Tony Buscemi says, "Craig provides that personal connection for quite a few people that might not otherwise get it." Craig is legendary for his Red Cap work, a point proven in '02 when he received the Amtrak President's Achievement Award for Sustained Service Excellence. If a national award and customers' glowing letters of thanks are any indication, this train-station dynamo has made quite the impression.
best etch a sketch artist
Portland Opera's technical director, Erik Walstad, can knock out an impressively detailed drawing of a theater production on his Etch A Sketch faster than you can say Madame Butterfly. The chiaroscuro masterpieces have starred the likes of Faye Dunaway and scenes from productions like The Barber of Seville. "The whole thing is really a hobby, an extension of what I do at the opera," Walstad says. "It began years ago out of boredom. It's for entertainment and takes only 10 minutes. The best part of it is seeing someone's face when they accidentally shake it out. My Seville drawing traveled around the office for weeks until one day someone merely picked it up and destroyed it. The look was priceless." Walstad's next masterpiece is rumored to feature upcoming production Journey to Reims.
best person to break the mold
Just when public schools are slashing budgets, Laura Bender is helping budding artists create lasting art out of bits of glass and lumps of clay. Bender directed students at Lewis Elementary (4401 SE Evergreen St., 916-6360) to create Native American mosaics of beavers and salmon representing Lewis and Clark's journey. At Llewellyn Elementary (6301 SE 14th Ave., 916-6216), students personalized classroom doors with images of Portland's bridges, while at Alder Elementary (17200 SE Alder St., 255-4673) they turned the stuff of their dreams into an outdoor mural. Through clay and paint, the artist has found a way to help kids create lasting color.
After cops and belligerent exes, bouncers can be the biggest downer to a night of downtown debauchery. That's why Fez bouncer Heather Smith (316 SW 11th Ave. 221-7262) is so deliciously different from the thugs who greet you at many local club doors. Believing the club experience should be "happy Disneyland smiles," she'll greet you with a "Hey, hon" and a smile that's too genuine to be anything Walt dreamt up. Like Mickey, her manner is animated and friendly, but she's still sharp as a hawk. As people walk by, she whispers: "Scammer: pretends to be deaf, but he'll be drunk in 10 minutes," and "Drug dealer: Why else do you think he's selling socks?" For all the riffraff, though, she rarely has a problem, since she is a master at de-escalation. "Being a mother with customer-service experience is all you need," she explains. "Add alcohol, and people regress to third grade--it's 'yes, you can' or 'no, you can't." Whether she's carding, coddling or kicking you out, Smith alone is worth the Fez's cover charge.
Never mind team-building seminars, ropes courses or boring strategy meetings: Joel Weber (490-2851, weber-coaching.com) prefers getting to know you. Trained as both a psychologist and a business consultant, Weber left a multimillion-dollar job in Pennsylvania a few years back to assist troubled companies and small businesses in Oregon--by shacking up with them. "Sometimes the greatest successes come from admitting you've failed in what you intended," the 52-year-old Portlander says. "I just help people do what they intended to do. Whether that means a little help or a lot, we decide as the situation merits, as we go along." Weber's philosophy boils down to this: Speeding the sluggish product to market is one thing, but what about productivity lost from employee infighting, or the CEO's family problems that strangle his or her workday? Find the business's problem, Weber says--whether it's a traditional "business" problem or not--and fix it. So far, his track record's golden. National coffee-bean roasters turn 300-percent profit increases under his guidance. Family businesses long stuck in the red come back in black. "Business, like life, should be smooth," Weber says, smiling. "When it gets rough, it's up to us to change it."
best amateur athletes you've never heard of
Right after the able-bodied Olympics this summer, physically disabled athletes will storm Athens for the Paralympics. And, no, their competitions have nothing to do with the Special Olympics, which are for developmentally challenged athletes. Two Portlanders, Will Groulx, 30, and Lynn Nelson, 26, will lead the top-seeded U.S. wheelchair rugby team into battle. Both have been part of the U.S. National Team for a couple of years. Their coach, Ed Suhr of the Portland Pounders (portlandpounders.org), says the players' conditioning, ball skills and dedication make them standouts. The ruggers play indoors, four to a side. The object is to carry the ball over a designated goal line. While you won't see any grass stains, it is a fast-paced sport featuring plenty of high-speed smashups. "Contact is both legal and encouraged," Suhr says.
best transit translator
None of our favorite local singers, DJs or auctioneers has a voice more Portlanders recognize than that of Enrique Andrade. The Stumptown by-way-of Mexico City interpreter has single-handedly taught every MAX commuter in the area to properly say "doors to my left" in Spanish, but light-rail isn't his only venue. When Portland's best-known vox isn't emceeing events at the PDX Mexican Consulate or translating at murder trials, he's spreading that comforting-if-indecipherable (for some) sound to public-service outposts across the border--to the north, that is. "I'm huge in Pasco and Yakima," he says with a chuckle in his off-the-clock language.
best writing about obscure subjects
Mention the word "obscure" to writer Russ Rymer and he'll laugh. After all, you won't find his books on the shelves of Wal-Mart or excerpted in the likes of People. "It's my specialty," says the Portland transplant, who has won some of the industry's top awards, including a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. "I joke about it, but it's actually a preference. I like finding a really odd, unexpected window into a large world." His first book, 1993's Genie: A Scientific Tragedy, focuses on a girl who'd been raised without speech as a way to discuss the study of linguistics and what it means to be human. His second book, 1998's American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth and Memory, details the history of a resort town for African Americans built in the 1930s. His current project, Out of Pernambuco, slated for publication in 2005, explores globalization by focusing on the effort to save a rare Brazilian tree, the source of bows for stringed instruments. Rymer, executive editor of Portland Monthly magazine, also runs an editing business, Old Perplexity.
best 'hood in a box
New Jersey transplant Rachel Elizabeth saysthe hundred-year-old Phipps Rexall Drug Building at the corner of North Mississippi Avenue and Shaver Street appealed to her Garden State roots, so she bought it. Next time you're in the area, check out Elizabeth's progress with a derelict monolith that, since 1991, has been transformed from a modest studio space to the hub of four local businesses. Community-outreach group Our United Villages (4001-A N Mississippi Ave., 546-7499), the Fresh Pot coffee shop (4001 N Mississippi Ave., 294-8928) and vinyl experts Mississippi Records (4007 N Mississippi Ave., 282-2990) occupy the first floor. Even the vacant lot next door, which Elizabeth also owns, makes itself useful as a neighborhood gathering spot and as home to Fold, an Airstream that serves up tasty crêpes.
best reason to get on the bus
Twenty-seven-year-old Alina Clark grew up sure of one thing: Since both of her parents were employees of Oregon's largest regional transit district, she says, "I swore I'd never drive a bus." Lucky for Portland, she didn't keep her word. TriMet's Bus Operator of the Year after only six years of service, this Northeast resident is blazing trails of her own: She is one of the first pair of relatives to receive the honor (her father, Curley Clark, won in '96), as well as the first African-American woman. "I'm just blessed," she says. Although the early wake-ups can be rough, life on the road suits Clark. "I like being free, and with bus driving, you're kind of free--out there rolling around." And off the clock? "I drive my car," she laughs. "I'm on the bus enough as it is." With no set route (though she can often be spotted on Southeast lines), it's hard to pin Clark down. But we knew that, didn't we?
best gym teacher
While most of Portland's elementary schools move to sharing gym teachers, the students and parents of Irvington Elementary (1320 NE Brazee St.) simply won't let go of Karen Barker. Way beyond "line up and play dodgeball," the physical-education teacher of 24 years transforms the gym into a jungle obstacle course (seriously) for family night and into a town to teach street safety. She organizes a barn-dance performance, offers free before- and after-school programs, and runs with all the classes on Run for the Arts day, six hours in all. Barker says, "I'm trying to get them hooked--committed to a healthy lifestyle--before they leave fifth grade."
best grocery-store pitchman
In the battle for shopper loyalty, Wild Oats Market's Laurelhurst outpost (2825 E Burnside St., 232-6601) has a secret weapon in Cass Ryan, its super-charged product-demonstration coordinator. Ryan likes to decorate displays of soy sausage and nutrition bars with electric lights or cardboard hula dancers. ("We don't know why," laughs store service manager Tyler Hughs.) Shoppers and employees await Ryan's attention-grabbing announcements over the store's public-address system, where he's likely to go "freestyle," throwing in a few animal noises or ocean sounds to promote sale products. Or there's the memorable way he employs suggestive phrases such as "slides right down your throat" or "nestled in warm buns" to describe yogurt or cheese, making dairy products sound as alluring as the adult toys sold in some other Portland stores.
most patient patron of the arts
When Parkrose resident Duke Shepard noticed there wasn't a single bus shelter in his neighborhood, he didn't sit around and mope. He just went ahead and appointed himself the liaison between TriMet and Parkrose High School art students to construct coverings for his rain-soaked neighbors. That was three winters ago. Shepard, with the help of a TriMet staffer and art teacher Beth Cordova, began the lengthy bureaucratic process to place two salmon-inspired shelters--one at Northeast 105th Avenue and Prescott Street, another at 122nd Avenue and Shaver Street. Shepard even chipped in money from his own pocket. But just as the project was nearly completed, his connection at TriMet transferred to another department, and the entire process had to be started again. "So all the kids who originally designed them have graduated now," Shepard laughs of the shelters installed this winter. "But they're [finally] up."
best sit-skiing olympic hopeful
Portland native Greg Mallory is headed to Turin, Italy, in 2006, but not for vacation. He'll be competing in 5k, 10k and 15k cross-country skiing events against other disabled skiers from around the world in the Paralympic Games. A downhill skiing accident in '94 left him paralyzed from the waist down, but that certainly hasn't stopped the young, charismatic Portland lawyer. In '02, he attended a cross-country ski clinic to learn how to sit-ski. He quickly took up the sport, qualifying for the U.S. National Team at the World Cup held in Germany and Austria in 2004. Training rigorously, he now looks forward to Turin to add to the experience he never could have guessed he would have.
More People on page 23 **>06Willamette Week * August 4, 2004
Spotted outside of Nordstrom in downtown Portland. Well, that's one way to beat the late-July heat.
best man to deliver the mail to the right place
U.S. Postal Service carrier Bill Stallings seems to deliver everything except fan mail addressed to him personally. The Southeast carrier is considered part of his neighborhood, and several of his customers have called WW to register their praise. "He's the best," enthuses James Moore, defunkt theater's artistic director. One of Moore's former neighbors and theater colleagues (who begged to be called "Anonymous") agrees: "Once, after James moved out of the neighborhood, I sent a letter to his wrong address. When it came back to me, Bill wrote on the letter, 'I think James has a different address, you should check it.' The man is just a sweetie." Perhaps real-estate agents can start promoting local properties that come complete with the best federal employee in town.
best mom 'n' pop photographers
Kim Campbell and Francisco Salgado scoff at dreaded, once-a-year, stiffly posed Sears family portraits. They are, after all, award-winning artists. In 1994, Salgado, a degreed sculptor and art photographer, wed talents with art therapist-turned-photographer (and wife) Campbell. Photographing expectant mothers and young families at their Campbell Salgado Studio (17 SE 3rd Ave., 736-3040, campbellsalgadostudio.com), they capture intimate moments, not cheesed-up Kodak moments (see sample, above). Young parents themselves, they make clients comfortable in their own bodies (and with their loved ones' bodies) with easy charm and humor. By the end of each two-hour session, everyone's family.
best doc to stick needles in your face
Acupuncturist David Naimon (2700 SE 26th Ave., Suite D, 234-6556, drnaimon.com) is not only a handsome guy but also a damn good doctor. In his offices, Naimon addresses his patients' lower-back pains, blocked meridians or sinusitis with a few well-placed needles. A licensed naturopath as well, he makes a mean liver-tonic tea that works like Scrubbing Bubbles on the organs of wine and beer aficionados. Out of the office, you're likely to run into Dr. David at a Cat Power show, or at a screening of a re-released Fellini film. Or maybe when you're listening to KBOO and happen to tune in to his Monday show, Health Watch. Regular visits not only result in a general sense of well-being but in a good idea of what record or book to look for in the coming months.
best poetic presenter of poets
"It's a challenge to describe what James Tate is capable of in his poetry. And I don't think using literary jargon would do him justice. So let me suggest this: If Tate were a chemist, the discoveries he's made would radically change our understanding of the periodic table. If he were the man responsible for naming the constellations, there would be a new breed of skywatchers among us. If he worked at AAA, plans for our trips would turn out quite differently. And if he were a carpenter, and I were his lady...but we don't need to go there."
Four times a year, hundreds of Portland-area poetry-philes are treated to readings by some of the best in the business as part of Literary Arts' Poetry Downtown series. Four times a year, the poets themselves are introduced by the master introducer of them all, Howard Aaron, the 53-year-old program director for Portland Arts and Lectures, who delivers his encomiums in a uniquely cool, syncopated style. Aaron is himself a poet, which may help explain his special way of appreciating the greats who bless us with their presence each spring. His words contain at least a hint of his genius at this metier--witty, wide-ranging, human, tightly crafted.
best flame thrower
Maybe nobody told Xander Bourdeau he's a parking-lot flagger, not the leader of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every weekday morning from 7 to 11 am, he's outside his lot at Southwest 4th Avenue and Clay Street flailing an orange baton as if he were conducting five orchestras simultaneously. When the 23-year-old took the gig over a year and a half ago, it was for lack of anything else, and the twirling propelled him toward job security. Now he's toned down the action from spazzed-out to manic. He's happier with his job than some might think possible, swinging the baton with one arm and greeting every customer with an earnest "Good morning!" And then he follows up with a wave of his free hand.
best understated success
Until recently, the customer shuttle at Sellwood's Tom Dwyer Automotive in Sellwood (530 SE Tenino St.) was driven by Tom Dwyer himself. That's evidence that, despite building a bustling auto shop with a devoted following, Dwyer doesn't put on airs. He also takes up less air--because he's been shrinking. Over the past three years, since being told he was at risk for diabetes, the 5-foot-11 Dwyer has dropped from 295 to 155 pounds (see after-and-before photos, above). His secret was not some pre-packaged diet. After consulting with a nutritionist, he limited his daily calorie consumption to 1,500 to 1,800, then started working out an hour a day--that means sweating, not just hanging out at the gym. He now eats a lot of greens, takes supplements and preaches things like dietary pH balance, Omega-3 fatty acids and "anti-inflammation" diets. Dwyer advises others to take control of their own health. "I love to fix stuff," he says. "You don't fix problems with pills."
best virtual museum director
Museums--what monsters. Gotta have a massive endowment. Best to sign on some high-octane schmoozers to prime the West Hills donation pump. And the more "blockbuster exhibits," the better. (Guillotine! Headless Heroes of the French Revolution...coming soon?) But does it have to be that way? That's the question posed by The Museum of the City, a museum of urbanism and urban theory spearheaded by ex-Oregon Historical Society honcho Chet Orloff. Seek ye long and hard for this museum, and ye shall not find it. Shedding bricks, mortar and significant capital costs, TMOTC will exist online and in a moveable feast of lectures, classes, charrettes and temporary exhibits. The Museum's current website (www.museumofthecity.org) is a drab placeholder, but Orloff is currently confabbing with Intel to create a deep, broad and slick reservoir of urbanist thought. As Web plans unfold, the Museum's maiden voyage is "Portland at the Crossroads," a rolling symposium that began this spring with a lecture by urban-theory godmother Jane Jacobs. Other legs of the yearlong-plus deep-dive into Portland's future include Portland State University classes, lectures and a study of the River District's Centennial Mills by PSU and University of Oregon architecture students. Orloff is also at work on an "exhibit" on Portland's transit past. His intended venue? TriMet buses, MAX cars and the Portland Streetcar. It may not be a Secrets of Queen Elizabeth's Tomb roadshow, but like Orloff's ghost-museum itself, it will be uniquely ours.
best urban santa claus
An unspoken agreement exists between Portland residents and their neighborhood bottle collector. But for Hal and Bea Peers--a spritely white-haired couple who troll about Southeast Portland every Sunday night--bottle collecting is a perfect opportunity to do more than collect glass cylinders to recycle at Fred Meyer. Four years ago, under doctor's orders, Hal started walking two miles a day. After seeing other people collecting bottles from the recycling bins, Hal decided to turn his exercise into a profitable activity. What sets Hal apart from other collectors is the strange Sharpie-enhanced collage art he shares with those who allow him to take their bottles. Now select residents in the Southeast are privy to magazine clippings of swimsuit models with phrases like "Time to Prey" pasted across their chests.
best canadian who wants to feed your family
Troubled? Try the Tony Karias method. Because in the owner of the new Northeast Broadway restaurant Irvington Corner Table (1700 NE Broadway, 331-1200), you have a character with a strikingly brassy approach to life. In debt? Work a couple years at an aluminum foundry in your native Ontario. Bored? Take off for Florida. No work visa? Just show up at a restaurant straight out of Kitchen Confidential. ("Everyone was running from something. One guy had anxiety attacks if he saw a black Jag with New York plates. They fired one chef after he threatened me with tongs.") Girl of your dreams walks in during a dead shift you're only working because you lost a coin toss? Drop everything to follow her to Idaho, then Portland. Tending bar at 37? Don't shy away from your lifelong calling. Embrace it. You get the feeling ICT, which opened in June, is just the latest adventure. But Karias says, "I've been thinking about a restaurant ever since I first started. And then just putting it out of my mind. But it suits me. I love the chaos of it." Maybe a devil-may-care attitude is in his blood--Karias' grandfather flew with the Royal Air Force's Polish section in World War II. Or maybe it's just that Canadian pluck.
best raging rookie
Ever since 22-year-old Alan Gordon strapped on a pair of red cleats, he's been kicking ass--and footballs. Gordon came to the Portland Timbers (pgepark.com/timbers) in top form after a month's stint for the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer team. In his first week of practice with the Timbers, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward tore his old cleats to bits. Seeing his predicament, a friend offered him the one-size-too-small "red rockets" and the goals began piling up. Within weeks, his fancy footwork helped propel the star-studded Timbers into the top three of the A-League Western Conference. In fact, Gordon himself leads the league in scoring and has been named player of the week--three times. Not too shabby for a guy only halfway through his rookie year.
best performance in a temporary role
We've heard of wearing your heart on your sleeve, but Connie Stockburger wears her "patriotism" on her back. Throughout tax season, Stockburger donned a sea-green toga and matching spiked crown to become the Lady Liberty of East Burnside Street and 20th Avenue. The 55-year-old mother of seven was one of a crew of costumed Lady Libertys and Uncle Sams who hit city streets to advertise Liberty Tax Service (2044-A E Burnside St., 233-0123), the local franchise of a national chain. Stockburger had so much fun in the role she reprised it to push fireworks for the Fourth of July.
Inside "Best of Portland 2004"