Monday, June 29, 2015

City of Roses

Portland's nicknames include City of Roses, Bridgetown/Bridge City, Beervana, Rip City, PDX and P-town.

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita, including a vegan strip club.

Portland has 58 breweries within city limits and counting.

Portland is home to the International Rose Test Garden.

Portland has 10 bridges.

Portland is home to the largest independent bookstore in the US, the largest city park in the US, and the second largest hammered-copper statue in the US (after the Statue of Liberty).

Portland has 600+ food trucks.

Portland is divided into five quadrants.

You heard me.  Five quadrants.

Portland is in the Willamette Valley between the Pacific ocean and the Cascade Mountains at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, and has views of Mount St Helens, Mt Hood and Mt Tabor - all active or formerly active volcanoes.

Portland's sport is football - actual, not American - and the team is the Portland Timbers.

Portland is the second largest port for wheat shipping in the entire World.

Portland is responsible for: Courtney Love, Dandy Warhols, Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, The Shins
And Matt Groening.

Portland is home to Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which in Brooklyn is slang for 'I know what I'm talking about when it comes to coffee'.

Portland is 16% parkland.

If you think roses, local beer, street food, books, nature, indie music, agriculture and questionable maths sound like things I'd be into - YOU'RE RIGHT.

It's like it was designed with me in mind.  Cheers Portland.  Here's a collection of views from around town taken over the whole trip whilst bopping around with no specific goal in mind.  The next posts will get a little more specific.

Travellin', travellin' travelling travellin, looking for something what can it be?

 The journey begins: I left my Brooklyn apartment at around 4am, walked north 10 blocks to the A train, transferred for the Airtrain at Howard Beach and made it to Terminal 8 of JFK with plenty of time to go through security, drink coffee and get psyched.  Even more psyched.

Dark blob on far left is Prospect Park.  You can't see it in the picture but there's a large hangar type building right near my house and I could see it from the plane, so I could essentially look at my home from the air.  It was fun.

Goodbye NY until next weekend!

 Journey phase two:
Went to sleep on the plane listening to music from KEXP podcasts (the greatest music podcast, Seattle-based radio station)
and woke up looking at THIS>>>

These crazy landscapes, the likes of which I've never seen before, are the Arizona desert.  I'm not sure if we flew over the Grand Canyon but I was doing my best to spot it!

So I was headed for Phoenix, Arizona.

Arizona has always seemed to me like a place that exists only in films with roadtrips and small desert towns with a few houses between a motel and a gas station.  Which at first seemed like an accurate notion.  Desert desert mountains canyons then SUDDENLY - huuuge sprawling city!
It was so crazy as well to see roads criss crossing across this vast empty landscape, I was looking at them thinking 'who is going on a drive here? Where from and where to? How? How can anyone drive across such a wide barren space?'

And then suddenly - metropolis.  Never seen anything like it.  This country is mental.

Also Arizona = hot.  I was never outside but you can just tell the air is burning.

And taking off again, Portland bound.  Another thing I couldn't get over was seeing mountains in the distance, and in the middle of the city.  Houses built around, then a random small mountain, and the houses carrying on around it as if there's nothing there.  I'm used to being on top of rolling hills or looking across beautiful acres of fields and woodland but somehow these reddish brown mountains just casually hanging out in the background blew my mind.  Like, from any point in the town where you happen to live, you can just see full scale MOUNTAINS.  What???

 Journey phase three:
If you think the Arizona landscape got me overexcited, it was nothing on the view of the Pacific Northwest.  I woke up this time to completely green mountains, blue vistas, snowcaps, lakes, pine forest and fields.  Just beautiful.

And so I arrived in Portland wreathed in smiles.
PDX international airport has been voted by some organisation best in the US, and it's easy to understand why.
It's all glass panels, natural light and green accents that make it feel very soothing.  The food options are great, there are little rooms with booths for plugging in devices in comfort and privacy, the wifi works perfectly (cough Phoenix cough JFK) and the largest cuckoo clock in North America takes pride of place, its outside carved from a single piece of maple and displaying a montage of Portland signatures - roses, hazelnuts, a cyclist, Portlandia etc.

The first thing I did was go to check out the transit situation.  Portland runs on Trimet (Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon) and I've just spotted that on their website, one of the tabs is called 'How We Roll' which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it.
There is MAX (metropolitan area express) light rail, street car, and buses.  I had no idea about Portland public transport going in but I can now declare that it's bloody fantastic.  It's not as frequent, widespread or 24 hours as in NYC but it is $4 cheaper for a weekly pass, it's clean, it's quiet, eco-friendly, easy to navigate and just in general a pleasant experience.  I LOVED riding the MAX and the tram, it's so fun seeing the city that way.  And you just hop on and hop off, except for on the bus you don't really have to pay.  ??!! 
Anyway I got a weekly pass and had it briefly explained to me by the incredibly kind and helpful lady manning the area where TriMet passes were available.  Yes, they had a person designated to hang out in that area and help people out with their public transit.  Well played, Portland.

So as you can see blogging about this trip will be an inolved process.  The only way I can think of to do it is to break it down.
I took about 800 pics.  Buckle up.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I write this in the back of a cab... was after I left things in shops on two consecutive days (my phone in a Duane Reade, my purse in a hardware store) that I realised I might need a break.

So I'm taking one, next week. Going somewhere. Not sure where. 5 days. Just me. Sleep, food, music, books. Necessary.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Real Babysitters of New York

I may have spent the weekend in a game show/reality TV hybrid along the lines of survivor or BB where participants have to complete challenges.  I'm not certain because I haven't seen any cameras but I'm pretty convinced.





Day 1: 

First challenge: early mornings with 12, 8 and 2 yr old boys plus dog.  Everyone must be appropriately washed, fed, exercised and changed by 10am

You earn for your team (you are the only member) two huge coffees

Second challenge: Football match! 12 year old has his last game of the season, you need to get him in full kit to Riverside Park and 107th at 12.30.  To make this challenge harder you will be bringing both younger brothers.  We have removed the lift from the apartment building and sabotaged the pushchair so that the 2 year old must walk.  You must be on time, you must have water bottles, snacks and suncream for everyone and you must walk the dog just before you leave.

During the game you must try and get the 2 year old to rest a bit on your lap since there's no way he can have a nap in the pushchair.  You must simultaneously achieve this, watch the game and support the 12 year old, and stop the 8 year old from getting in the way of the teams practicing and warming up.  
If anyone gets sunburned, grumpy, needs the bathroom after you leave the house or hurts themselves you will incur a severe penalty to your team.

You earn for your team an empanada from the Ecuadorian food truck in the park (because the baby didn't want it)

Third challenge: Saturday afternoon on a searingly hot day - find a way to occupy all three kids 
You only have to deal with the smallest one, the other two are going to Connecticut with friends and coming back at 11pm
Enjoy your quiet evening team.


Day 2:

First challenge: Wake up first

The dog barking woke you up
The baby was already awake and invaded the living room that is currently your bedroom
As penalty you will lose most of your sanity and your shower privileges

Second challenge: Kid's Birthday present.  You must walk with 8 yr old and 2 yr old to a sporting goods store and try to by a present for a birthday party 8 yr old will be attending later, with no knowledge of the birthday boy.  The 8 yr old also doesn't really know him either so you are going in blind.

CHALLENGE COMPLETE - purchased obscenely expensive football shirt, let's hope it fits and he likes football. 
For bonus points: Find a great card and show off your gift wrapping skills
You earn for your team a quiet spell in the middle of the day while middle kid is at party (transportation courtesy of another kid's dad), toddler is napping and oldest kid is watching TV with his friend.  Enjoy an actual full meal with nutrients and everything.

Third challenge: The remainder of the day.  You need to get the 12 yr olds off the sofa and outside.  
The two youngest children must come with you.  Still no pushchair.  It's still boiling hot outside at 5pm.

CHALLENGE COMPLETE - football in park with friends, no sunburns
Penalty incurred because a couple of kids asked if they could have water which you didn't bring (because there are fountains everywhere...hmm).  The penalty will be feeling the judgemental eyes of some other kids' mother.
You earn a bit of a tan and some muscle definition from all this schlepping around outside and carrying a heavy toddler up steep hills and several flights of stairs

Fourth challenge: Sunday night is a school night.  Everyone needs to shower/bath, eat a reasonable dinner, prep for the next day and be in bed on time.

Major penalties for: 
Giving in to kid's picky and labour intensive food requests just to get them to eat anything with a vegetable in it instead of just making them eat what they're given
12 yr old delaying bed time with myriad of excuses
The penalty will be spending two hours cleaning up the house instead of going to bed early

Bonus points gained for achieving above minimum acceptable number of dog walks for both days and for toddler not screaming during his entire bedtime process.  Also for getting the 8 yr old to take TWO (necessary) showers today
You earn for your team the season finale of Game of Thrones and some chocolate






Saturday, June 6, 2015

Belated pic blast

My Birthday meal at my namesake restaurant - I never blogged about this. Tessa is on 77th and Amsterdam, the menu is mostly French and Italian with staples like the Tessa burger (I'm a burger! Dreams come true every day) but then there's bouillabaisse and octopus salad and risotto and rabbit a pretty fantastic cocktail list. I'm also a cheeseboard, a salad and both signature and vintage cocktails. I had the Amsterdam Punch: Goslings Rum, Muddled Cherries, Creme Yvette, Lime, Ginger Beer, Balsamic - absolute magic in a glass.

Joining me on my night of luxury living: anti clockwise from me, Maite/Joris/Carlos/Jacob/Lauren.

Just look at that table! Lovely glassware, nice lighting, good looking bunch of folks.  Consider me stunningly fortunate to have nice friends, nice places to go, nice food to eat.

NB We all shared the selection of dips: carrot harissa, smoked eggplant, ricotta cheese & cucumber dill, lavash bread, then I got the scallops with lemon risotto, followed by the Chocolate Cremeux (salted caramel mousse, hazelnut ice cream, coconut chocolate chantilly).  And I made Carlos trade me some of his rabbit cavatelli for a scallop.
I'll dream of that meal until next Birthday.

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's been a while since I ranted

I'm probably repeating myself but oh god do I hate the bullshit fitness culture that exists...everywhere. It seems that way anyway.
I loathe it I abhor it I despise it and I scorn it.  And I'm big enough to admit that it's not least because part of me harbours a shameful desire to be one of those sculpted people who smugly walk around in $50 workout leggings all day.  They were fitness clothes as their every day wear, because at any given moment they might go to the gym for 3 hours.

I hate it all the more because it sucks me in and I have to resist and then I feel guilty for resisting - because that's how the whole machine works, it's based on guilt - and then I kick myself for feeling guilty because that's nonsense.

I just wish someone, anyone else here would agree with me! Too many friends and acquaintances really do buy into the dangerous fitness myths that are only increasing in popularity.

Here's how it seems to go:

I've joined the gym


To get fit

*is it really to get fit or is it to lose weight*

*you don't need to join a gym to get fit*

*day-to-day functional fitness is actually pretty easy to achieve in a city where you walk, a lot, and carry things with you on those walks, and buildings don't have lifts, and you usually have to make a trek to do laundry, and you stand up on pubic transportation*

I had an injury and my physio has a series of exercises to do to strengthen the muscles around it

Cool! Good luck! OR

I just need to do more, I'm just not in the shape I want to be in

You're already actually a decent level of fitness just from the life you live, have you joined the gym because you want to get extra fit so you can become an athlete? Competitive weight lifting? Joining a football league soon and want to be in shape for when the season starts?

No none of those I just want to get in shape

So, you want to lose weight?



Because I'm medically overweight and it's bad for my joints and heart

Fair enough. OR

Because, bikini season is coming!

Shut the fuck up that's not a valid reason for anything.  You can wear a bikini if you want, when you want.  

I think that's what my hatred of stupid vapid fitness culture boils down to.
If most of us, in NY in particular, were super honest with ourselves, we've joined a gym or spin class or something in order to have a 'better' body, in other words to more closely adhere to the standards of attractiveness dictated by marketing and advertising.

And so many people pretend that's not the case! It just kills me.  I'll admit it - why do I belong to a gym? Because I have this silly, shallow notion that I will one day knuckle down, go every day for a month and emerge glorious and muscle bound at the end of that month, women's jaws will drop with envy and men will line up to pledge their souls to me.

If I managed to go to the gym every day it would mean I'd neglected at least 3 other things in my life, and even then who knows what I'd look like in a month.  Probably not that different to how I look now so I can't imagine it would be worth it.

It pains me that people I know and care about are sold on the fitness myths and can't see around them. It pains me that multitudes of people and specifically women flock to the gym every day in search of this thing that has been promised...and many of them achieve it, many of them have what would be deemed smokin' hot bodies, well bully for them what are you going to use it for? Advanced beach laying? Nuclear posing?

I know there are plenty of people who have good reasons for going to the gym but I can't fathom people who think it's a great way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in a city buzzing with free concerts, outdoor dance parties, food markets, beach buses, rooftop film screenings and much more.
Life is too short to spend a great deal of time in a gym, if that's not what your chosen life's vocation is.  Go run in a park.  Go play frisbee on a beach, go walk around the Met that's several miles if you do the whole thing.  Go do grocery shopping! All of these equate to exercise.

So many anger tangents this is going to lose it's cohesion but...IT'S NOT OVER

Cool rider

Officially joined the legions of Brooklyn bikers.
I've inherited David's old bike and today I took it by a bike shop for a once over and some air in the tyres. There is no bike pump in the house despite there being three bikes.
After the nice bike man pronounced everything in good shape, pumped up tyres and sold me a bell, lights and a chain, I cycled the 5 minutes home to hurriedly attach my bell and lights so as to be a law abiding cyclist.
As soon as that was done and I set the combination on my lock, I rode on to Eastern Parkway, a greenway which takes me directly to Prospect Park. Adjectives I would use for this part of my day include carefree, joyous, buoyant, gleeful and triumphant.
I stopped for an ice cream before entering the park and doing a full circuit (with a sunbathing stop). Prospect Park is err really big, bigger than I've so far given it credit for. I've never seen the lake there before but it's very nice. You can also ride horses, have barbecues and go to a rollerdisco all of which I support.
And then I rode home again!
Pretty much the absolute best sunny Saturday I could have had. I feel that life has changed significantly for me with the addition of a bike...I hope so anyway. Getting around Brooklyn will certainly be a breeze and eventually I may be persuaded to ride to Manhattan, if I can find a chaperone. Every one makes it look so easy but I'm nervous about the one way systems - what if I'm planning to go down a certain street but I'm not allowed to and then I can't figure out how to get to where I want to get? Short of memorising by heart the NYC bike path map I'm not sure how people manage.
Big thanks to David for donating his bike to me and yay me for taking the leap - I have never ever ridden a bike in a more urban area than Alresford before. I'm quite impressed with myself.