portland gig

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PORTLAND TOUR DIARY

I flew to Portland on Tue Oct. 3 for a working vacation. I was hired to play the wedding of Ann Wieding, a friend I met in college when I was her Teaching Assistant in Brother John Perron's English Composition class at St. Ed's. I know a drummer in Portland named Pete Szymczak, who lived in Austin in the early 90s. We had a grunge band called "Agitation" that practiced a lot and had just a handful of gigs at the back room and steamboat.

In 96 I was accepted to play the North by Northwest music festival, and I had some free tickets from a Continental Airlines christmas party. Pete and I put together a band including Jeff Groves bass player at the time, and my travel partner Allyson Lipkin. We did the songs from the new Superego CD at the time, My Bad. Pete was a gracious host back then and has gotten even more generous. This time around, He helped me find a bass player named Brian Casey, who is currently in the orchestra of the Too Much Coffee Man musical in Portland. We recruited a sax player on a Portland Jazz website named Noah Peterson. The gig went great. It was at an amazing resort/bed & breakfast called Edgefield, which is part of the chain of properties developed by the McMenamins, former Grateful Dead roadies who have turned an impressive real estate portfolio of run down old schools, restaurants, hotels and theaters into rustic resorts and brewpubs. Edgefield had four restaurants and 6 bars and a hotel nestled into the cozy architecture of a former poor farm and old folks estate in the verdant forest northwest of Portland.

On Tuesday I flew to Portland and connected in Denver, where I ate in the terminal at Chef Jimmy's bistro, remarkable only for the fact that they have servers and decent salads, and a bizarre wildlife moment with a tiny field mouse that I caught under my table and gave to the waiter who was frantically trying to sweep him up. On the frontier flight, I caught a good portion of Fast Times on the little movie screen on the set in front of me, Sean Penn's finest film achievement.

Pete picked me up at the Portland Terminal and we went straight over to the Edgefield to have a production meeting with Ann, her fiance David, and the soundman Nate. We had good burgers at the Power Station and Ruby brews at the Little Red Shed and nightcaps at the Distillery while discussing details of the reception and walking through the site of the wedding tent. Pete and I checked into his charming new 2 story frame house in the SE Clinton neighborhood, and took a last call walk over to nearby Division street to catch up on things at the Reel M Inn, a dive straight out of east Austin.

Pete had the week off from his freelance graphics business, so he showed me around the town in high style.  On Wednesday, we had an incredibly full day of exploring. We ate some lovely fritattas at Detour Cafe, went over to the  New Seasons Market for some echinacea, grabbed a binder for my loose charts at Fred Meyer, and headed over to Hawthorne St for some shopping. I bought a vintage Bavarian green Fedora at the Red Light thrift store, and we chatted over lattes at Peet's Coffee. We drove over the bridge through downtown to Washington Park, where we toured the Japanese Garden and meditated by the Koi pool with some of the most gorgeously colored fish I have ever seen. Down the path is the Rose Gardens with every known variety of rose bushes, in glorious bloom even in off-peak season.

After parking downtown at a debit card operated meter, we wandered around, stopping to browse at the gigantic indie bookstore Powell's Books and the groovy record store Jackpot. A quick pit stop to Whole Foods yielded some delicious fresh tuna steak samples, an the downtown Red LIght thrift store was too pricey.

Pete's lovely wife Diana, another St. Ed's friend, invited us to her bosses tailgate party on the huge 10th story deck of the Wieden + Kennedy building, the most influential marketing company in North America. Their buildings like a museum, with glass think tanks and high gloss conference rooms surrounding a giant courtyard space. There is a giant eagle's nest built into the rafters where high level brainstorming sessions take place.

After the party, we returned to Pete's neighborhood and caught the end of the People's co-op fall harvest festival, with square dancing to a live fiddle band, organic farmer's market, and face-painting. Later we dined on some upscale creole cuisine at Acadia, and made some posters that we hung up for my solo show at Mississippi Pizza. We stopped for late night Tiramisu and gingerbread at the Pied Cow, a lovely little dessert shop in a spooky old house with lots of strange art.



Thursday, we breakfasted at the old fashioned diner Juniors and headed out on the highway for some sightseeing. Pete drove us to the spectacular Multnomah Falls, a 700 foot waterfall that occasionally drops giant tree trunks and boulders the size of a house from its sheer cliffs. I asked him to drop me off at the Max Train station so I could ride the rails across town. The train was just arriving so I hopped on without a ticket. It was the most pristine public transit I've ever seen, with bright yellow rails and places to hang bikes. People actually sat on the floor and used their laptops. I hopped off just across the river in the Old Town district, where I popped into several clubs including Kell's Irish Pub, Berbati's Pan, Dante's (where the Knitters were on the bill), and Ash Street. There was a vintage guitar and amp shop called Old Town Music, and I encountered a shop owner at the Avalon forties era gown and hat emporium who had stepped right out of a Hitchcock film, complete with black gloves, huge black spectacles, cigarette holder and poodle.

I walked through the ornate entrance to Chinatown and past some tasty looking restaurants and rough looking vagrants. On a whim, I went into the Portland's tallest, the pink building and up the elevator to the 30th floor for a draft Stella at the Portland City Grill, where I drank in a spectacular city scape, all the bridges, the hills and trees laid out like a panoramic postcard. Back in the street, another vintage hat shop nearby had some great styles, but too expensive and none my size. I got a transit day pass at Pioneer Square and caught the train, but by the time I got to Beaverton, there was only time to hop off for a piss and hop back on to go back and get a bus for Division St, where I arrived with 5 minutes to spare before rehearsal.

Brian and Pete really did their homework and it was a smooth rehearsal, we covered 3 hours of music and stopped only for the occasional tweak. His spacious basement is the perfect rock and roll workshop. After rehearsal Pete took us over to Slabtown, which was reported to be the hipster hang out of local alterna-mercial darlings the Dandy Warhols, but turned out to be a good old blue collar pool hall where I felt right at home on their open mic.

Friday morning we set out to rent a keyboard for Ann's Uncle Jay, who had signed up to play for the reception, but the Casio he was provided was not up to specs. We first priced the offerings from Showcase music on Hawthorne, then stopped at Pro Audio, who referred us to a guy way out in Gresham. His one synth was too complicated and he was busy supplying backline for the Romantics show at the Crystal Ballroom that night, so we headed back and stopped for some lunch at Pho Hung, before returning to Showcase. As I was about to pay for the rental, we recognized a customer as Uncle Jay himself, who introduced himself just in time to pay for the rental. He followed us over to Pete's house and we set up for a rehearsal, but the keyboard was defective so we had to return it and start again. Once we got going, it was a fun Jam with Jay, who had great shops and atitude. After rehearsal I enjoyed a peaceful nap in my cozy second floor spare bedroom.

Later Pete, Diana and I had Sushi at a great place called Kappaya, and went next door for fancy desserts at Pix Pattisserie, where we ordered Tiramisu and an orange tart to go. We took a walk through the Ladd neighborhood, and stopped in at yet another sweet coffee shop called Palio, where a scrabble tournament was underway. We walked over to hawthorne, past the bagdad theatre and some vintage antique window shopping, and it was back to the house for the first half of Spike Lee's Katrina Documentary and our delectable treats.

Saturday, I awoke to some delicious Quiche ordered from Clinton Corner, then took a leisurely walk to people's co-op for some carrot juice, and a film crew was interviewing a rock and roller organic farming activist with a giant MC5 fro. We loaded up the gear, including a great Maple Stratocaster and Deluxe Amp loaned by Pete's bandmate Lee, to head out for the sound check at Edgefield. After we hooked up all the gear with the help of Nate and his able assistant Casey, we snacked on some awesome calamari and mushroom pate at the Black Rabbit, washed down with a ruby ale.  The reception went great, the band all arrived in plenty of time, we started with our standards and had them dancing all night to the classics. Uncle Jay never made it down from his room, his vertigo condition had flared up during the wedding so he could not get behind the keys, but nephew Jay provided some enthusiastic harmonica textures. After the show climaxed with Whiskey River and Is Anybody Going to San Antone, we packed up and wandered around with the wedding guests to the red shed, and ended up around the distillery campfire, where I made a joke about a drum circle and immediately a drum and didgeridoo jam broke out that went for hours. I explored the grounds and enjoyed some stargazing, eventually ending up in the family room where late night breakfast was picked up at a truck stop down the road and Ann brought back meat loaf, scrambled eggs and pancakes for a feast. I lay down in my dorm room with no phone or TV and passed out around 3am.

Sunday morning turned into nearly noon, and I was waiting around for a city bus in the rain, but ended up hitching a ride back to town with Casey. My hosts were on a grape stomping excursion so I walked to the corner of Clinton where I had OJ at Dot's and ws denied a meal at Henry's which closed 15 seconds earlier, so I ended up at The Press Club, which had tons of magazines and some great breakfast crepes. I ventured into the Green Noise psychedelic punk record shop next door and picked up a Nat King Cole trio album as a housewarmer for my hosts. We watched the Packers and the Chargers and I took the keyboard back to the shop and gassed up Pete's truck.

At 8 we stopped by the White Eagle open mic but it was crowded with old folkies, so I skipped it in favor of my billed show with Shoeshine Blue at Mississippi Pizza. Ann, David, and Jay came out for pizza and all bought CDs which helped lower my overhead that much more. We decided to try one last sweet shop before I left, so we stopped at a place named after a Russian composer. There were lots of signs about where a party of various sizes was allowed to sit and a table of 10 was waiting for a phantom waitress, so we took off after 10 minutes to go back to the tried and true Pied Cow, where the Pecan Pie hit the spot and put me in the mood for my return to Texas. All in all I broke even for the trip, which made it an awesome working vacation. Monday's flight was uneventful and I got to catch a good portion of Inconvenient Truth on the plane before finishing a short novel called Hula, which was kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Little Prince. 

On my arrival in Austin, I caught the Airport Flyer Cap Metro bus to Springdale where my trusty pickup was waiting. I spent some time with the locals hanging out at the Springdale bus stop, and one of them knew my partner Allan from hanging out in the vacant lot by his studio where my truck was parked.  I got the keys, drove it back home and unloaded the PA that had been working in my absence.  I'm getting back in the groove.

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