WT2010 – USA – Day 31/32 – Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 16, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 31/32 Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / The Thermals / Phoenix / Animal Collective / Blur

Driving a short trek from Vancouver, BC in the morning to Portland, OR. Six hours of freeways ugh. Funnily enough I got pulled up at the boarder because the people at LAX (when I arrived initially) hadn’t stapled/stamped my customs declaration (they stamped the passport only) and the guys at boarder control were rather confused with this; they thought I was entering the U.S for the first time. I sorted it out in 5minutes though and was on my way. Not much fun but getting into Portland felt kinda weird, like oddly familiar in a way as if I’d been living there for years some time ago and I needed to catchup on things.

I got a late lunch at Wendy’s. I’ve made it one of my points to try every dodgy fast food place America has to offer. From comparing the major chains to ones back home and new ones serving up generally the same rubbery burgers. Wendy’s was rather dodgier than the rest though. It was also kind of funny being in there as a tour bus or something had formed a queue before me. Nothing like experiencing the American dream; the rush and commotion of orders being yelled in a Wendy’s burger queue.

I was trolling through The Mercury (Portland’s free street-press equivalent of the DrumMedia in Sydney) It’s odd how similar they are actually. Jotting down some things to do on my last night in Portland (the next day would mean a long (10hour) drive to San Francisco, I was only half interested in some of the stuff going on so I decided to call some contacts from the previous visit. Portland know-it-all Noelle (knowelle) gave me directions to a house party where another mate Clint’s band was playing a gig.

The house was in SE Portland and was utterly rad, it had no plasterboard on the walls so it was just timber framing inside but had heaps of character and was very welcoming, I got to talking to one of peeps who lived there about a few things such as the random art on the walls and some of the band equipment in one of the rooms. They apparently just picked up some equipment and jammed when they felt like it, weren’t really in a band or anything. When I got there however “Jackalope Saints” were about to kick off their set to an intimate room of locals swilling IPA brews and the odd home-made concoctions mixed in jam-jars.

Straight from the get-go I noticed that lead singer Clinton Herrick’s vocals are spot on for the vibe of the band; a 4 piece with double-bass / acoustic gtr / with lead mandolin-banjo to boot! For all your Australians think; Xavier Rudd but less beach-bogan with didgeridoo and more Pacific-Northwest American refinement. The set swaggered from slow songs with cool picking to upbeat strumalongs with impressive lead mandolin. With folkrock influences like Paul Simon this relatively new yet fairly tight band has a bright future beyond their native Portland, Oregon.

I tried snapping photos in vain; it was a living room in a house after all and there were no front-facing stage lights but I did snap a few that captured the mood; people dancing along with beverages of choice in hand. After the set I explored the house some more until it was suggested we move on to a cool bar somewhere in the NE, when you’ve essentially got a tour guide you don’t pay much attention to where your going. I then got roped into trying something called a hot-totty (or something) which was hot whisky with lemon and honey and some other stuff. Noelle bet her life on it’s sugary allure but I couldn’t stomach it! Not so much the taste but the hot-ness thing. I have heaps of trouble putting down hot sake also so maybe I’d like the iced variety? After some food and whatnot we headed to meet another pal of Noelle’s and talk shit at another bar. This led to us eventually deciding to hit a strip-club.

Noelle and Brett knew one of the dancers, which Brett tells me isn’t unusual. Have I forgotten to mention that Portland as a city has the most strip clubs (per capita) in the world?! (I thought it was only in the U.S) But Noelle corrects me triumphantly. Fuck Vegas, who needs it? Essentially Portland isn’t anywhere near as seedy as Vegas nor does it have any of the fakeness of diva-esque neon lights haphazardly ram shackled onto anything that will support them. The clubs and scene is there but it’s more understated. It’s there if you want it. Anyway twenty or so $1 bills and a few drinks later and it was closing time. The girls at Sassy’s work pretty damn hard and put on a rad show, Brett/Noelle’s friend was probably the best there and came for a chat later on. She mentioned wanting to travel around and to Australia even but like anyone else, it’s hard to get some savings together. It reminded me how long it’s taken to get mine together to be doing this.

Saying goodbye in the early morning and then driving out of Portland left me with a feeling of sadness, as if I were driving away from well known and loved surroundings/people evan though in reality I’m no local. I haven’t really felt that way at all on this trip so far (apart from leaving Tokyo) A few droning hours on a freeway sorted me out though. Got into San Francisco late again, great.

Saturday night really isn’t the night to be out in SF it seems, It was basically the same deal as last time round. Cheesy club nights. I got dinner and roamed around a bit, random pubs that weren’t playing anything interesting and this was in the Mission district. I don’t know if I’ve somehow unluckily missed all the cool places or something but SF just doesn’t seem to be my kinda town. Which is odd because everyone I’ve talked to has spoken fondly of it. It is the place to be if you like “cutting-edge” hipster electro-dj nights and r&b and soul and the like. It reminds me a lot of Sydney in that it has it’s gorgeous tourist sites (if you take away the two or three half-deascent club nights that is) Ouch, scathing! huh?

As I mentioned before though, a lot of the places I wanted to visit have literally closed in the last month so maybe it’s going through a change of guard in regards to Indie venues or whatnot. Who knows, all I know is I’ve managed to sniff out amazing places in every city I’ve visited thus far including ones where I can’t speak the language and San Francisco wasn’t speaking mine. Not enough time I guess! Roll on New York.




WT2010 – CANADA – Day 27/28 – Vancouver, BC

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 10, 2010

Day 27/28 – Vancouver, BC
[On the iPOD] The Undertones / The Go-Betweens / Johnny Foreigner / The Hives

Vancouver is only 2.5hrs drive from Seattle (or less even) Its like Sydney to Newcastle. Crossing my first border was Interesting. It doesn’t feel like your in a different country at all at first. But then you start hearing French on the radio. I was wondering where the hell the mountains were, I couldn’t see anything in the distance at all and then the freeway obviously changes direction and your staring at these Mordor-esque HUGE mountains in the distance, they literally cut out of the flat landscape like giant city-wide pyramids the top half of which just completely disappears into fog/clouds.

Soon you cross a bridge and your driving through suburbia and then downtown Vancouver jumps out at you with mountains visible in the background like some fake backdrop on a stage performing a Shakespearian play. Snowboarding snowboarding where for art thou snowboarding. It’s quite an amazing site, the freeway/overpass gives you this oversight towards the mountain and the cityscape buildings build themselves up either side of the road you enter on.

Vancouver looks modern and ‘internationale’ no immediate visibility of any history but it seems so cutting edge you don’t care. My initial plan was to go snowboarding right away but it was a tad late and I was pretty tired from the night before. So instead I was on a walkabout around downtown Vancouver. The main strip Granville St is home to many bars, restaurants and shops of all description. It’s a long street though so I ended up walking awhile. I came across some cars tipped over in the middle of the road?! As it turns out they were shooting scenes from the series “The Fringe” and a host of series crew members were making the scene look like some sort of explosion had occurred, they were piling car parks and junk out of the back of pickup trucks and randomly throwing them on the road.

My goal was a much talked about record store on W Hastings St. It was vinyl only but the prices were kind of ridiculous, exactly what you’d find back home. Used albums for $50? No thanks. I’m regretting not buying a heap more in Japan, am yet to come across those sort of bargains. I’m hoping maybe the UK will have some bargain basements.

I found an amazing Sushi place and spotted some amazing backstreet graffiti. Further down W Hastings the neighbourhood gets distinctly dodgier. The street is littered with homeless people all congregating around one block really. Offered bud and shrooms twice whilst walking past. It’s probably only a matter of time before the gentrification of the city turns this area into brand new apartments and all these people are shoed away somewhere out of site, it seems like Vancouver is aiming to be that kind of city. But the area near the water has that old-historic vibe to it (called Gas Town) I unfortunately didn’t get to explore any further as the weather started to get pretty bad. Headed back to the hotel and whilst out looking for dinner I found a place called Morrissey’s. Of course I headed straight in, it does seem to be named after the singer with one of his albums displayed proudly near the stereo. They play really good music at this trendy bar/restaurant (when I say trendy, I mean modern but not wanky) you can even make requests. I had probably the best Steak/Salad I’ve ever eaten and then headed back to my hotel for an early night (up early for snowboarding!)

I somehow woke up late with my head feeling not so-great. Too many drinks at the pub the night before perhaps? I was worried about Cypress Mountain. There was the debacle at the recently held olympics (it was an official venue for several of the events) and apparently they had to ‘cart in’ snow because there was such a lack of it up there. Everyone I’d spoken to said I have to go to Whistler (a real resort with big mountains about 2hours drive North) I’d already driven 3hours from Seattle the day before however and it’d be a 4hour round trip, add to that the fact I’ll be driving a total of about 19hours over 3days after I leave Vancouver and I’d decided against it. I’m not an all-mountain pro boarder anyhow and besides I’d already experienced big stuff in Japan.

Thirty minutes from my hotel to the carpark! Like a quick scoot to your friends place and your in the Cypress Mountain lodge carpark. That is fricken awesome! No fees to park and all day lift tickets are $47. The lodge is at the base of two mountains (Black Mountain and Mount Strachan which literally go in opposite directions like a valley) You only have to walk about 100m to either lifts. I opted for Strachan first up. Canadians have an interesting idea of “no snow” Snow depth was at 4metres and nice and soft and utterly better than anything you’d find in Australia. The only lack of snow was on the road on the drive up the mountain (which I was happy with having no snow tyres) It’s probably people being picky, sure Cypress doesn’t have 10minute lifts and dozens of trails but it’s perfect for beginner/intermediates like myself. I don’t think a 4hour roundtrip to Whistler is worth it frankly, though it probably would be if your pedantic and an experienced boarder. This is only my 9th day on a board after all. My head wasn’t all there so I had lunch before I headed up. I’d hired a 2009 Burton Custom so for the first time ever I’d be on a really good Burton board.

The thing turns on a dime, it took me the first part of the day to get used to my new settings, switching from 0 at the rear to 6-out. It’s effortless to turn but takes some getting used to, as your mostly always turning too much but I eventually settled in. The green run is nice and long and doesn’t really have to be green, you can cut in down trails that are blue halfway down and the run itself had a nice ‘ditch’ area near the end where you could drop in/down and then get some good air off jumping back out (like a mini-halfpipe/gutter run) I ended up staying on this run all day practicing trying to get air and mostly falling on my ass. Still have a long way to go.

I ended up meeting some cool people and even though I’d had an allday pass (which runs to 7pm) I had to call it a day at 5 because I was ready to fall asleep. No more beers the night before! I was looking forward to the next day though. Also on the way down the mountain there is a viewing point which overlooks Vancouver and the ocean. Stunning views! Of course I didn’t have my camera! :s The storm clouds brewing on the horizon wasn’t a good sign though and that night it started raining heavily, which meant no getting out and taking photos of Vancouver at night unfortunately. I again headed to Morrissey’s for good food and some tips on where to go in Vancouver at night. Roll on the next few days!