Maybe it's the post-victory hangover in Baghdad. Maybe it's the record-setting 14 consecutive days of rain this month. Maybe it's the fact that this is the week Uncle Sam extracts his annual pound of flesh from our already-lean savings accounts. Or maybe it's the stupid economy.
Whatever the reason, we're feeling particularly grouchy this week.
Sure, Portland remains a paragon of livability. And we know the rain was needed. But that didn't stop us from dusting off a tradition started in January 1999, and repeated in April 2000: Kvetchfest. It's the flip-side to the Best of Portland (coming in July): a chance for us pick some nits and air our pet (and petty) peeves.
Blue Ribbon on That Collar?
When did "blue-collar" become the prevailing "steelo" among so many middle-class, college-educated, salaried Portland hipsters? If you're not a mechanic, lose the blue uniform jacket with someone else's name patched onto it. Not to mention the foam mesh trucker cap you picked up at Urban Outfitters for $24. And don't drink Pabst because it's "lowbrow"--drink it because you like it, or because you honestly can't afford a microbrew. (P.S. Guess what? The PBR you're nursing was probably brewed, under contract, by Miller Brewing Co., which sold $5 billion worth of beer in the U.S. last year and is owned by South African Breweries, the word's second-largest brewer. It's totally not indie-rock! So there!)
Speaking of indie-rock and geek chic: It's time to stop dressing like our grandparents. The moth-eaten green cardigan should have died with Kurt Cobain. Brown and orange do not go together. Orthopedic shoes belong on kids with rickets. And for Chrissakes, wash your hair! It does not make you look like that guy from the Vines!
Chicago has a Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. Portland has a giant penis and nutsack (Pete Beeman's Pod) opposite Powell's bookstore. We also have tiki totems, boulders perched on metal pedestals, William Wegman's dog bowl, PICA's pointless permahedge at Southwest 3rd and Taylor, and Sean Healy's skybridge photos embalmed in waxy resin, not to mention bronze beavers and salmon and bears. Oh, my. Why can't local artists create something that inspires rather than insults? There are realms rich in symbolism, history and--yes, damnit--beauty between the poles of condescending and cutesy. C'mon, creative types! If we want to see a giant phallus, we can see it on the screen at the Jefferson Theater!
The sidewalk in front of your house is cracked, big-time. You call the city to have it repaired, only to discover--surprise!--it's your problem. "It's the property owner's responsibility to take care of sidewalk repairs," says city Transportation Office spokeswoman Mary Volm. "We just inspect them. We'll only repair a sidewalk if the homeowner is negligent, and then we charge them a lot more than a contractor would." So let's get this straight. If the pocked-and-pounded sidewalk needs fixing, we have to hire a contractor; if we don't, the city will take us to the cleaners? Hmm.... Since it's our sidewalk, y'think we could etch a doodle or two into concrete while it's still wet? Maybe a political statement: "Make Hemp, Not War"? "No," says Volm, "that would be considered graffiti, which is against city code."
You finally convince the cutie walking his dog in Wilshire Park to give you his phone number. You repeat the seven digits, like a mantra, until you can borrow a pencil. But even then, you realize, you may not make a connection.
Since October 2000, Oregonians have contended with finger-straining 10-digit dialing and the uncertainty that comes with it. Should you dial 503...or 1-503...? There's no way to tell if it's long distance, short of dialing the number and hoping you don't get those annoying three beeps that precede the "We're sorry, you must first dial a 1" message. And then there's the wild card: that little-known, upstart area code, 971, used from Portland to Salem. You don't think this is a problem? Talk to the folks at Apartments Northwest, a Portland rental-housing brokerage (503-222-3433) that shares the same last seven digits as Fife Restaurant on Northeast Fremont Street (971-222-3433). Shane Grindeland with Apartments Northwest says he takes an average of 30 calls a day from people wanting reservations. If you ever track down the dog-walking hunk, maybe Shane can get you a table for two.
Back in the old days, Goodwill was the last resort of the desperate. But now that it's "cool" to wear clothes that are not only "retro" but UGLY too, Goodwill has started putting on some serious airs. No more 50-cent granddad slacks! Some of the newer, sleeker Goodwill stores even have special "retro" or "vintage" sections, with vastly inflated prices for the hipsters. Sure, $14.99 for a BCBG satin dress is a deal, but it's a little fancy even for the "nice" Goodwill on Southeast Grand. And $9.99 for a fake-lizard mini is just robbery. Come on, people! Golf pants are NOT worth $6! Ever!
We nominate Portland's newfangled meters, which made their debut last summer, for the best scam of 2003. By June, there will be 400 of the chirpily named SmartPark meters, which are set up midblock and dispense parking receipts you attach to your window. We know that they're supposedly more dependable. We know that you can take your unexpired receipt with you to another spot. But they also rob us of one of life's sweetest joys--hitting the poor man's Lotto of not just a parking space, but a meter with time still on it! They also double the time it takes to get yourself parked and paid, since it requires a trip to the meter and back. "Most people seem to be happy with them," says Mary Volm, of the city's Office of Transportation, although she acknowledges there is no mechanism in place by which to measure user complaints. "It sounds kind of weak when people say, 'I don't want to walk half a block.'" Count us among the weaklings.
Portland may well be the most wired city in America, but it's still filled with yahoos who pick email addresses that give no clue to their identity and send messages with nothing in the subject line.
Attention, Regal Cinemas: We, the intrepid moviegoing public, are sick and tired of standing in line outside the Fox Theater in the rainy cold to buy our tickets--only to discover that the movie we want is sold out anyway. Would it really be that hard to make your SOLD OUT signs visible before we reach the ticket booth? Trust us, we're not going to change our minds and go for the 7:15 showing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding if we can't get into the 7:10 City of God.
Working the System
Nobody ever said being an artist was easy. Maybe that's why several local businesses and nonprofits, such as PICA, give "working artists" a discount along with students and seniors. How much work do you have to do as an artist to qualify? A collage every other weekend? An art-history class back in your freshman year?? Fingerpaints in preschool??? Even worse is discount creep. Recently, a man in line at the Hollywood Theatre asked the cashier if a "full-time activist" could be let in for free. After he was told there were no "activist" discounts, let alone freebies, he disappeared briefly--and then snuck in at intermission! If activists think they should get a discount, why shouldn't social workers, public-school teachers, firefighters or "working writers"?
Since when did any group of more than two people qualify as a "community"? We now have the "goth" community, the "firedancing" community and the "differently abled" community. But mainly, we have communities revolving around sex. We have the gay community, the lesbian community, the bisexual and trannie community, the BDSM community, the bear community and the poly community. We're all for freedom of association, but this is just free-associating. One WW staffer, on a recent afternoon stroll, overheard a wispy earth-mother type say to her male companion (we are not making this up): "There seems to be a lot of trouble in the pedophile community lately."
Yes, we love Joey Harrington (we have to; it's a state law). But he's with the Detroit Lions now, the worst team in the NFL. So let's stop replacing broadcasts of games involving decent NFL teams with Joey & Co.'s lackluster pro performances week after week. And that shrine on the wall at Nick's Coney Island? Can you say overkill?
* Speaking of Nick's: How many times does a guy get a free plug in Phil Stanford's column before he buys a freakin' ad in the Portland Tribune?
* Speaking of Tribune columnists: Does the Rev. Dr. Bob Pamplin have some sort of a contagious rash? What's with all the face-touching all the time? We've got Pete "Thumb-on-Chin" Schulberg, Kerry "Kung-Fu" Eggers (for his "Fair Game" column), Kerry "Coy Boy" Eggers (for his "On the NBA" column), Diane "Just Parking My Chin Here" Dennis-Crosland, Promise "Deep Thoughts" King--and let's not even discuss the daffodil in gardening columnist Anne Jaeger's mouth.
Going to the Dogs
If you love nature enough to hike through it at Macleay Park, Powell Butte or a zillion other natural areas, WHY DO YOU LET YOUR DOG TRAMPLE IT TO DEATH!?! You know there's a leash law; you saw the signs on your way in. Is Fido's freedom more important than an entire ecosystem? Sure, he's your baby. But would you let your toddler trample the trilliums in Tryon Creek State Park? For that matter, would you leave your kid tied up on the sidewalk while you stop in for a pint at the Lucky Lab? And if your 4-year-old took a dump in Laurelhurst Park, would you pretend not to notice?
If you are actually Tibetan, please, feel free to hang anything you want from your porch eaves. But if you live in the Woodstock Boulevard area and attended (or hang out with people who attended) Reed College, dangling strings of Tibetan prayer flags all over your house is just irritating.
Paper and Plastic
Two sides of the same kvetch: Sure, local bars and restaurants that refuse to take credit cards (Dots, Cup & Saucer, Beaterville Cafe, Delta Cafe, Fuller's, Philly's, Stanich's) need to join the modern era. But people who insist on putting their $1.87 nonfat lemon scone on Visa when there's a six-mile line at the coffee shop need to be slapped. Stick a fiver in your sock or something!
The Nearly Departed
GOING OUT OF BUSINESS, the newspaper ad trumpets. CLOSING DAY SALE, the signs read, held aloft by paid hands standing on the corner in stupid outfits. Sucker that you are, you snap up that Turkish rug and the half-price coffee table--only to discover the same hucksters manning the same sales the following week, and the next, and the next. Pioneer Rug Import (1123 SW Washington St.) has been having a "closeout sale" for weeks now, and a salesman confided it's expected to go on until mid-summer.
People who spit on the sidewalk because they either can't find a hankie or can't be bothered to walk 10 feet to the nearest trashcan are disgusting. But if you absolutely must spit, please, PLEASE do not point and loudly describe the big honkin' loogie you spawned as "lung butter."
Unless you're heading to Smith Rock, there's no need to put the keys to your Ford Valdez on a carabiner.
If you've moved into a rehabbed bungalow on North Mississippi Avenue, you are automatically disqualified from bitching about gentrification.
Is there anything more enjoyable on a rainy day than hopping the streetcar behind the art museum for a trip to the Pearl District? Yet this sleek ride is continually marred by a whiny, nasal female voice that announces each stop. First, there's the slurred sloppiness: "Legacy" sounds like "Lazy" Good Samaritan Hospital. Then, the annoying tentativeness in her statements. Everything seems to end in a question: "Next stop is? Sponsored by? Jake's Grill?" Is the announcer editorializing ("I can't believe these stops have corporate sponsors!"), or is her querying quaver evidence of her recent graduation from a phonics program? Either way, fingernails tilling a blackboard are more euphonious.
Bridge over Troubled Eardrums
It's a gorgeous spring afternoon and you're driving, walking or pedaling across the Hawthorne Bridge when the lights start to flash and suddenly you realize the bridge is going up--as it does roughly seven times a day--and for the next seven minutes, you ain't going nowhere. Once you accept there's nothing you can do about it, the languid lumbering of the deck is an opportunity to gaze at the river and meditate on the futility of modern existence--or it would be except for that...maddening...HORN.... Thanks to some sadistic traffic engineer, the interlude is destroyed by the industrial-strength klaxons with their deafening honk that saws through your eardrums FOR THE ENTIRE SEVEN MINUTES to document the fact that, yes, folks, the bridge is up. "It's a harsh sound," concedes Mike Pullen, public information officer for Multnomah County Department of Transportation. "We need some type of sound for safety, but it could be a more pleasant sound that doesn't spoil the contemplative moment."
Attention, mass-transit commuters: When the MAX or bus is full and you're standing in front of the door, it's OK to step off and let others out. The nice folks at TriMet will let you get on again for free. Really.
Why is it that every coffee shop, rock band, gardening project, knitting club, etc., in this town sees the need to drape itself in a "mission statement" or some other highfalutin and self-serving manifesto? Among the worst offenders: the sign in the window at Groundswell Coffeeshop on Alberta (above). Or, for that matter, WW's own mission statement on page 3.
We realize this ain't New York, but, oy vay! Can't people learn the most basic facts about Judaism? If you're working the meat counter at New Seasons Market, you really should not need an explanation of "kosher" chicken.
Or, for that matter, the word "kvetch."
--Executive bitchers Becky Ohlsen and Richard Speer were aided by the snide comments of Zach Dundas, Caryn Brooks, Chris Lydgate, Steffen Silvis, Byron Beck and John Schrag.