Thursday, May 22, 2008

Portland

Place: Round Table Pizza
Lunch: Lunch buffet (salad, pizza, pizza, pizza, twisty garlic thingies, pizza), Pepsi

I LOVE this dining room. Brown woods, tiffany lamps...it's old and awesome.

Blue Ford Focus comes flying into the lot and pulls into a handicap spot. Driver fishes in the glove box and produces a handicap hanger and hangs it on the mirror. She and a little girl get out and jog to the door, showing no signs of any handicap between them. There were several non-handicap spots nearby, including one closer to the door.

I only get home about once every five years anymore, and I wasn't planning to come home now either. But on Sunday, two days into my Utah 8-day sabbatical, I decided it was now or never. And after two days here, I am reminded why I don't come back more often.

Portland is, by far, the most beautiful place I've ever been. The greens are simply greener. The air smells fresher. The colors are vivid. Even the highway pavement looks nice. I still get a rush coming into view of downtown at the I-5/I-84 junction. Great restaurants are abundant ("so why are you at Round Table?" you ask. Bite me) and the city and people have an identity all to themselves.

So what's wrong?

It's crowded. I picked up my aunt from work last night on 5th avenue downtown. A flood of people doing whatever they feel like (because former Mayor Vera "Nit-Wit" Katz apparently legalized right-of-way to non-motorist traffic regardless of status of traffic or signals) just beg to be run over...one even accused me of trying to run her over in an explosion of temper and high-brow attitude. Peak traffic is a nightmare on all freeways.

It's snobby. The people of Portland are left-wing snobs. They won't talk to you (or give you a good job) if you don't have a college degree, unless they have something about you they want to complain about. They're fiercely politically active. There have been some absolutely wacko things put on the ballots here over the years. It's like a San Francisco with a smaller gay population. If you don't like politics, this town will just depress you. And I'm pretty sure there's some requirement in getting a public job that you "must treat everybody else sub-human".

It's dangerous for all the wrong reasons. Years ago while working at the Target on TV Highway, one of my co-workers...a woman...was pulled over in our parking lot for a burned-out tail light. They discovered she had an outstanding parking ticket or some such thing and decided to arrest her. She asked if she could tell her boss she wasn't coming in and the officer agreed. She started walking toward the store, he grabbed her, threw her against the car, and made some statement about leaving the vehicle before he was ready for her to. She spent her day in shackles on various police transport buses being transferred to different precincts all day. My comment to her upon her return to work the next day when she related her adventure to us was "You're lucky they didn't shoot you." And everybody...including her...agreed. If you knew the police there at the time, it made perfect sense.

It's self-righteous. Years ago, I went on a blind date with a woman to Cannon Beach, where we stood over the bluff up high at the beautiful view and she said "This was a nice place before all these people ruined it," looking at the people on the beach. I guess we somehow didn't count as the low-life people she was referring to.

It's expensive. Think housing prices are high in your community? I don't know how ANYBODY can afford to own here. Expect to spend $2 million here on the same home you'd get for $400,000 in the Midwest.

Mini-Serve Gas. Oregonians can't pump their own gas. It's the law. What a stupid law. Lawmakers have tried to change this over the years, but the people keep signing petitions to get it to a vote, and they always vote it down. Oregonians are too good to pump their own gas.

Interstate Speed Limit: 65. And the highway patrol is as thick as it is in Nebraska.

So basically, I could probably live here happily if I were independently wealthy and I could limit my movement to
between the hours of 9am and 1pm, then maybe 7pm-5am, because anytime outside those hours means gridlock traffic and foul tempers.

Then again, it's not like they need any more residents here anyway.

Not even a native.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Oil Madness

Place: Ivar's Seafood Bar
Lunch: Jumbo tiger prawns, french fries ("chips"), original white chowder, Coke

Another summer approaches, and even MORE pilfering of your pockets by the oil companies.

I've seen gas range from $3.55 a gallon to $3.92 this week. For the low-end stuff.

Nobody cares. I have proof. I've seen gas stations a block from each other with as high as a 20 cent a gallon difference in price, but both are just as busy.

Somebody on the radio made the suggestion that oil companies simply lower the price of gas by a dollar out of the goodness of their hearts. Their point was their profits would STILL be obscene, but they'd be helping the country out a little.

I can tell you what their response would be..."We have a responsibility to our shareholders."

They're right.

Selling gas for less wouldn't necessarily make a barrel of oil drop in price, but it would send the stock of the oil company plummeting.

The reason gas is so high is not supply or demand (or any refinery "shutdown" scams). It's because the buyers and sellers in the commodity markets keep pushing the price up as they abandon common stocks for oil.

This problem COULD be solved if the market players sell their oil and get back into business stocks. They're cheap right now. They could drive the market right up and make lots of money.

How much higher can oil go, anyway?

I don't even want to think about it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shangri-Fraud

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, fries, Southern chicken sandwich, orange drink, orange drink

I have a Big Mac craving and I want to try the new chicken sandwich. So I order the Big Mac combo and a chicken sandwich. Smiling Counter Guy notes that, if I buy a medium drink, I get the chicken sandwich for free. It's a day-only promotion of some sort. So I go that route. And end up with two drink cups...one for the sandwich deal, and one for the combo.

The Southern chicken sandwich is McDonald's answer to the Chick-Fil-A. It's WAY smaller though, and probably not worth $2.99.

Last night, I went to the Shangri-La Buffet for dinner. I have dinner here once or twice a month. It has unusually good food for a cheap Chinese buffet. You can't beat their crab rangoons.

So I walk in the door, and a cute young smiling waitress says to me "You come for your bill?"

"What?" I reply bewildered.

"You here last night?"

"No."

"You never been here before," she says sarcastically.

"No, I've been here before. I just wasn't here last night."

Apparently, she thinks I was here last night and didn't pay for my dinner.

I wasn't here last night. I was at home eating Ivar's chowder. And tacos that I picked up on the way. Tacos and chowder. It's what's for dinner.

People who walk out without paying are selfish, stupid deviants. As worthless as used toilet paper, and about on the same social level. But people who blame me for doing so are just as bad.

She seats me and things are business as usual until at some point when I'm eating and she brings the check, points at the money tray, and says "You pay now."

She SERIOUSLY believes I was here the previous night and welched on the check!

It's not like I have one of those faces. The only person on Earth as hideous looking as me is my father, and as far as I know, he's in Alaska right now. This girl wears glasses. They're in need of checking, I think.

And who would do such a thing and COME BACK THE NEXT NIGHT? Common sense is not at play here.

In any case, she gets her money, brings me change, and says "Thank you."

I stare. I'm doing a slow boil at this point.

She again says "Thank you."

At this point, I am ready to tear her apart.

But I don't.

I'll never go back.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cinco De Morons

Place: HuHot Mongolian Grill
Lunch: Two plates of scallops with mushrooms in a mixture of hoisin, teriyaki, and barbecue sauces with hot chili oil, water.

Woo hoo! They almost never have scallops during the week. I hope that means today goes better than yesterday.

It all started with yesterday's end of the work day.

First, I try to go home. My lovely brand new townhouse is a mile less distance from my work than my crappy old home. When looking at different developments, I clocked how long it took to get to/from them. I tracked them on a GPS. I did my research. This one took 8 1/2 minutes. That's a good seven minutes quicker than the old place's best time.

Unfortunately, that was on a weekend with no traffic. I've never even come close to that since.

This is the commute from hell. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. And everybody drives 50 mph tops, when the speed limit is 55. So my 8 1/2 minute commute is more like 15 if I'm lucky, 20-25 if it's a day like today.

I get home and it's 76 degrees inside. The climate control thermostat says it's 73, but I have another thermostat that knows better. So why hasn't my brand new central air conditioning kicked on? The thermostat control is set to "Cool", the temperature is set to 68, and the interior fan is running. So I reset the fuse box breaker. Nothing. I go outside and check the unit...it's not doing anything. I check the breaker outside at the unit. It's plugged in.

I make a service request. I also note the dishwasher doesn't work. It started the first time I tried it, then died somewhere in that first run. The dishes were dirty. There was water standing in the bottom of it. Having an electric dishwasher was one of the most exciting features of this new place for me...and the stupid thing doesn't work.

I feed the cats, who are looking at me like "We demand you feed us and open the windows. In that order" So I feed them and I open all the windows. Then I leave to run some errands in the cool confines of my car with its working air conditioning.

I go to Lowe's, where the air conditioning is about as good as at my house. I have a list of things I need. I leave with ONE of them, because the stuff was either really expensive or not in stock.

I go to Wal-Mart for another list of things. They have more of what I need, but are also out of several things. I suppose on the other hand that I should note they DID have one of the things I failed to get at Lowe's. But either way, I end up with about half my total list stuff. And of course I end up in line behind some old woman who buys dozens of one dollar DVD's and waits until after they've all been run through and she's heard the total before sliding her credit card. Then there's a hassle over that. Then while I'm getting rung up, she (who has been reviewing her receipt all this time, barely moving out of the way for other customers to check out) complains that one of the dollar DVD's rang up as "a doller and sixty seven cents." She's STILL there whining when I leave.

I go to Target for the other things. I walk out empty handed. I literally walked out of Target without buying anything. Who does that.

I go to dinner and spend $21.70. I give the server two twenties. She brings back $8.30. She leaves before I notice her attempt to short change me. I sit around waiting for her to appear again. At least she admitted to her mistake.

I go to Cold Stone at the mall and spend $5.00. No, wait...$4.50. The guy charged me for the wrong size initially. HE caught his own mistake.

One of the things on my list today was a desktop calculator/adding machine. Preferably a nice modern looking one that is backlit full-time (and therefore is a plug-in, not battery operated). It doesn't have to print receipts, but it does have to calculate tax.

Wal-Mart and Target failed miserably. They have the same crappy old designs they've had for the past twenty years.

I try The Sharper Image. The Sharper Image has gone out of business.

I try Brookstone. Not happening.

Nothing at Amazon.

I go home. It's still hot, but not as bad as it was.

This morning, I pulled out of the garage and noticed a package in front of my door. It wasn't there last night...I would have tripped over it when I went out to check the air conditioner. The mailboxes are locked and when a package is left, they put a key in your box to one of two larger secure boxes. I can only guess yesterday's letter carrier put the key in the wrong box, and the neighbor who got it dropped it on my doorstep sometime last night/this morning.

But this is a new day, HuHot has scallops, and there's an Office Depot down the way with probably a whole aisle devoted to adding machines.

Which will probably all be boring and stupid too.