Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

Cheap Vegan Eats in Portland, OR

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Back in the day I worked a few temp jobs in downtown Portland. Kinkos, Bank of America, Wells Fargo; all the fun places. I learned (or should have) that office drone work really isn’t my forte. But one of my favorite things was that I got to eat lunch downtown everyday. I had a rotating list of places but my rule was that lunch had to be 5 dollars or less.

It’s well-documented that times have changed. Food prices haven’t quite skyrocketed like housing prices but these days 10 dollars is considered cheap; many food carts have prices this high. Now, objectively, 10 dollars is a lot of money–4.4 billion people live off that much or less per day. So it’s a bummer to spend that much on a sandwich or curry or whatever.

But fear not! Though many years have passed, I’ve made a list of 5 places you can still eat at for 5 dollars.  They are all downtown or walking distance to it. Here in 2018 Portland! And while American portion sizes are such that you can share one portion and each spend around 5 bucks,  this list is straight up solo traveler 5 dollar meals. You may, of course, indulge in any sharing shenanigans you see fit.

Los Gorditos The Rice & Bean Burrito $3.50 ($4.50 at the Pearl location) or Beans Rice & Avocado $4.75

It’s no secret that I love Los Gorditos the most. I go through cravings and withdrawals when I’m away for it from too long. It even won over my sister, who was initially hesitant. And it’s such a good deal. There’s even a vegan only cart way out on Halsey. If you spend more than 5,  you can get tofu, soy curls, etc.

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Food Front Co-op Half a Sandwich $4.99

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Okay, with the 5 dollar limit you can only get half a sandwich, but you can load it up with baked tofu (spicy if you want) or marinated tempeh plus add hummus or vegenaise or pesto and tons of organic veggies, including pickles and avocados and roasted red peppers and more! A big part of the fun is entirely customizing your sandwich.


Blackbird or Sizzle Pie Vegan Slice of Pizza $>5 (prices vary depending on location and flavor selection.)

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Blackbird has only one location (on Hawthorne) while Sizzle Pie has many (including the Rose Garden). Both serve awesome vegan pizzas by the slice. Sizzle Pie has pretty good salads as well and you can order breadsticks or whole pizzas at either place as well.


Thai (& Vietnamese) Food CartsPad Kee Mao, Bahn Mi, etc $5

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At first I had a specific location listed, but you know what? Let’s open it up a little. There are a handful Thai (and some Vietnamese) food carts downtown where you can still eat for 5 dollars. Sure that would be a feast in Chiang Mai or Hoi An, but for Portland that much for a paltry stir-fry is pretty great. All places naturally have tofu, and if you say vegan they’ll know what you mean. A little reminder that you’re not down with fish sauce doesn’t hurt though.


Sweatpea BakeryBagels, Charlie Browns & More $1.75-4.5

Located in a vegan mini-mall this industrial looking institution has too much yum for just one visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe proper sandwiches are out of the 5 dollar range but plenty of options remain. I’m partial to the Charlie Brown (chocolate and peanut butter and oats) but my sister swears by the bagels with schmear. Personally I can’t think of a less appetizing word than schmear but those bagels are actually pretty grubbing and you can get earth balance or hummus or peanut butter etc if you don’t want the cream cheese substitute.

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So even in modern Portland there are plenty of food options for those who want to go out but not spend a lot of cash.  I don’t know a lot of the new restaurants either so I’m sure I missed a couple. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments.

 

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Best of 2017 (in photos)

Previous years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  2012201320142015, and 2016.

The Best Of 2017

Saddle Mountain

This year was spent pretty evenly split between South Korea and the US, though I did little traveling other than that. I was able to get to beautiful places like the redwoods and the coast and Seoraksan and Mt. St. helens.

This was a year of enjoying friends and family and local nature. Next year, perhaps, will be a  bit more adventurous.  (I also need to get a better camera–currently using my 2013 phone and it isn’t exactly killing it on the photo front.)

January 2017

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January – One reason I love Seoul is for it’s habit of constantly rewards aimless wanders with the unexpected. On this snowy winter day, nahid and I found a giant trash pile on top of a mountain (next to an exercise area and a path to the peak, naturally). What’s the story here? Who knows!


February 2017

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February – Despite visiting quite a few temples (& working at Hwagyesa for a year) and frequently going to Insadong, I was late to discover Jogyesa. Which was pretty dumb of me. It’s got a lot going for it and is great to wander through during all four seasons.


March 2017

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March – In March I came back to the US. Korea is of course known for  벚꽃 (beotkkot, cherry blossom) but spring in Portland is no slouch either. This walk on the Willamette, with my sister and brother, was very reminiscent of visiting Yeoido in Seoul only with a fraction of the crowds.


April 2017

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may 17 6April – A double picture month! The first one was taken on the Long Beach peninsula in Washington, where we did our best to recreate a photo from the summer of 1995.

I had to include that. But the trio of tents was a celebration of another anniversary–my 30th birthday hike with Craig and Garrett along Lake Chelan. We hoped to recreate that with another decent hike but logistically couldn’t. Instead we camped between the redwoods and the beach, which wasn’t too bad a compromise.


May 2017

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May – Already summer in Korea, I took several long walks.  This picture is from a long walk with my friend Luka, where we began at Olympic Park and then walked 20k along the river.


June 2017

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JuneHwaseong Fortress is not all there is in Suwon, but it’s always been my favorite part of it. This time I went to meet my friend Praveen. We walked around the fortress walls before eating Indian and then heading to his place for a board game.


July 2017

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July I have been to Seoraksan many times and it’s long been my favorite place in Korea. This trip, with Nahid, Praveen, John and Alison (the latter three who had never been before) was during the soggy monsoon season. Very wet, yes, but the fewest people I’ve ever seen there as well.


August 2017

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August– Back in Portland just in time for the Soapbox derby. You can’t help but like the creative DIY that leads to entries like the Catbus.


September 2017

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September – Staying on Tabor,  I snapped this view of the reservoir on a walk with my brother. We met my sister at Quarterworld after and played some epic Mario Kart.


October 2017

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October – Sauvie Island is a gloomy place in the mist and I like that these scattered pumpkins have a ghostly feel to them.


November 2017

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November – Sure, it’s just a traffic cone in an over-ambitious mud puddle. But a) I was on my way to hang with friends Craig and Martina at Orycon and b) this part of the month is that perfect liminal state between fall and winter.


December 2017

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December – Walking to meet my sister and mom at the Portland Night Market, I was able to get this shot of the wintry sunset.

 

 

Yeti Hikes: Rocky Butte

A long, long time ago (15,000 BCE) and for about 2000 years, floods that started in what is now Montana blasted all the way through everything in their path until they hit the Columbia River Gorge. (On their way they stole a lot of rich topsoil from places like Eastern Washington, leaving them fairly barren even today.) These floods weren’t hardly fucking around; what is now Portland was then under 400 feet of water. A lonely four volcanoes poked out from that swath of de-facto ocean. Those volcanoes are now known as Mt. Tabor, Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, and Rocky Butte.

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View of Mt. Hood from Joseph Wood Hill Park, top of Rocky Butte

Those floods pushed a lot of rocks into the northside of the Butte, granting the mountain its current (obvious) name. In the early 20th century, Portlandersr built a prison and quarry there, which lasted for a few decades before being demolished to build the only thing more American than a jail: a freeway. (The rocky northeast side of the butte is still used for climbing, with over 150 routes.)


The views from Rocky Butte are grandiose. In addition to St. Helens, Hood and the top part of Jefferson, there are views of St. John’s Bridge, the West Hills of Portland, the airport, the Grotto, and the river. There is a radio tower and actual parapet walls.

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Legit castle, right?

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The few final steps

Mt. Tabor has admittedly been one of my favorite spots in Portland for almost twenty years. Powell Butte, likewise, is a nice place to hike, what with forests down low and open expanses on top. Council Crest/Washington Park have exceedingly nice views too. I haven’t been to Kelly Butte, (never even heard of it, to be perfectly honest) but of the three I’ve seen Rocky Butte has the most  most beautiful views.

While it seemed most people drove up, a handful of people biked up a rather steep incline. I didn’t see anyone one else walking, but even with steep windy curves, it never felt unsafe to ascend on foot. The path began in suburbia and then wended its way through a forest and a tunnel.

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A little more climbing and then it evened out, going past some nice houses and trees just beginning to promise some glorious fall foliage.


The top was mostly empty on the sunny October afternoon I reached it.  Planes left the airport and ascended directly in front of Mt. St. Helens, which seemed to content to sit and observe, head blatantly bare.

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Castle Walls, perhaps to ward off marauding floods?

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Rocky Butte in a nutshell.

It was the kind of place you could just sit and chill for hours. As this couple did, having brought up a hammock.

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These guys had the right idea–but I don’t envy them the bike ride up!

The way down was very nice as well, with periodic views of Mt. Hood.

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The road on the way down

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Some of the cliffs made by that flood all those thousands of years ago. People climb up these now.

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October for Humans, sure, but these berries are clearly still living in August.

The road goes by a church/college that worships one of the vengeful skygods before eventually reaching the town again. From this side, SE 92 leads to gateway (and is quite walkable/bikeable) or you could turn and take Fremont, which is inconsequential here but becomes quite cool in 20-30 blocks.

All in all, it was probably an hour and half to climb up, hang out on top, and come back down. I’m shocked I never came up here before but relieved I have a place to hide away next time a flood from Montana blasts into town.

10 Reasons I Can’t Live in America again

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here. I’ve been writing and developing games and running an RPG here in Seoul which claimed much of my free time. Plus I think all bloggers go through a point where they wonder if the hours spent blogging might be better used on … almost anything else. But this is a subject that has been percolating in my mind for a while now.

Before I go any further, I’ll clarify by saying that the reasons I do have to go back–family and friends (and burritos)–outweigh these. Okay, Mom?

 

Consumerism: buy buy buy

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This has been covered before just about everyone, but the longer I live out of the US, the harder it is to come back to the bombardment of “buy X=happiness” messages that make up so much of day-to-day life. (The part of the world I live now is arguably just as consumerist, but not speaking the language or belonging to the culture makes it feel far less so.)

Buying into the culture gets harder too–“new” things like uber and Spotify and smart phones and well who knows what gaining popularity since I lived in the US lead to a disenfranchising feeling. (For me at least.) On the flip side, going back is often a process of discovering a new culture, which I do appreciate.

Over-Regulation and Bureaucracy

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Renting an apartment requires background checks and credit checks and promises of first-borns. My mom moved for the first time in years and was shocked at all the hoops she had to jump through. From checking into a hotel to registering for school, everything is so needlessly complex.

This might be more an Oregon thing, but it insane to me that a thirty year old person cannot necessarily buy a beer if they don’t have their ID. A non-ending series of permits are required for far too many things, from opening restaurants to painting your house. Everything is needlessly more complicated than it should be, and that’s no way to live.

Gun Culture

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See the guest post from 2015 by liberal anarchist and gun enthusiast Bob Swan to demonstrate that even educated people can hold very bad ideas. Selling guns in stores and online is, if the rest of the world is any sort of system to judge, a bad idea and a key ingredient of a toxic culture.

 

 

“I Deserve” Entitlement

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This one is harder to articulate–it’s a more a “I know it when I see it.” But it permeates everything; the decadent “I deserve” mentality and the counterpart, the prevalent “you should sue” mindset. This is a refection of rampant consumerism and while there’s nothing objectively wrong with those attitudes, they are pretty much 180 degrees from how I live my life.

Undereducated Populace

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Socialism is still a bad word. People don’t know it’s not the same as facism. I should note this does seem to be changing now, but there are still plenty of people who think that socialism=lazy people asking for free stuff. This goes far beyond the political. It’s a society that glorifies money and fame for their own sake.

 

Driving Culture

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The ultimate symbol of freedom in America? A machine that kills or injures over 2 million people a year, and includes costs for insurance, gas, repairs, and registration. Even Portland, famous for bikes and public transportation, requires a car to get anywhere out of it. Intercity options like Greyhound are stigmatized and inefficient for anything other than big cities.

Politics

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They suck everywhere but in the US they are a special flavor of suckiness. (And I wrote this sentence a year ago, well before this year’s singular madness of an election process.) I haven’t commented much on the election this year, but I’ll say this. For me, the candidates rank like this. Bernie Sanders (he’s not actually as liberal as I’d like but still the best by far candidate), and then Green Party candidate Jill Stein (better than Sanders but with even less of a chance), then a tie between Trump and Hillary (both of which are disasters) and then Cruz (the worst case scenario).

But part of me wants to see Trump in the White House. He is the president that “Honey-BooBoo”-watching, mass produced pop listening America deserves. The mirror image of the culture. And it would make for way better comedy shows. (Inherent in this opinion is that he wouldn’t be any worse for the people of the world than Clinton.)

Anyway, one of the problems in my opinion is that the US is too big and too diverse and the solution of splitting into separate countries  still seems too radical.

Measurements

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I actually defended our wonky system for years, but I can’t do it anymore. It would be hard to go back to funny old Fahrenheit and miles after the nice conciseness of the metric (almost) everywhere else in the world. It’s the 21st century and a system based some English King’s foot probably isn’t the best system imaginable.

Fear culture

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The USA is good at big portions, and that includes the buffet of fear-mongering options that citizens chomp down on with glee. Fear of other countries. Fear of germs. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the other. Fear of the Other. Fear of Republicans and cyber-predators and flying and terrorism and so many other ungrounded fears.

Even in relatively safe places like Portland, people knocking on doors is a cause of fear. And yes, a fearful populace is a more easy to control but is that all there is to it? It would be exhausting to be afraid all that time and, quite frankly, I’m afraid to be that afraid.

Portland is a Hard Place to Live

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Most of the reasons on the list are philosophical. This is purely practical though. It’s so hard for me to find a job in Portland. I have applied in my life for several hundred jobs in Portland (over a period of almost 20 years now) and heard back from fewer than 20. I’ve been rejected from Powells 3 times. And I only apply to jobs where I fit all the criteria. I always thought it was just hard to get a job in Portland but my sister has no problem doing it so maybe it’s just a me thing. It’s definitely discouraging to come back and be *lucky* to get a job temping or in a grocery store.


So that’s my thinking. From afar all of those things seem kind of terrible. But as I said, with so many good friends and family there, I probably will come back.

 

 

The Best of 2014

I’ve been doing this for  2009, 2010, 2011,  2012 and 2013. How does 2014 stack up? While not without blips, it had some of the highest highs (literally).. When I look back on this year though, however, I will remember another amazing year on the road.

2014 will be characterized for me by the hospitality of so many people who took me in, cooked vegan dinners, showed me around their home towns, and just were genuinely nice. It’s a year that I’m very grateful to have had.

January 2014

Life of Pai

Life of Pai

Pai is one of my very very favorite places in the world. For me, it’s nearly a perfect town–filled with vegan cafes, surrounded by nature ( waterfalls, gorges, and hot springs) and moving at an easy pace of life. If I could move there tomorrow, I just might.

February 2014

Back to Kuala Lumpur

Back to Kuala Lumpur

February was a great month for me. I saw Ayutthaya and Sukkothai, spent some time on the resort island of Langkawi, and rediscovered Bangkok. The return to KL, where I stayed at my home away from home Agosto Inn, though, is what I’ll remember the most. KL is my favorite city in Asia and it remains a great place to wander for hours.

March 2014

The High Himalaya

The High Himalaya

The hardest hike of my life, but so incredible. 3 weeks in the Himalaya, with highlights including Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Ri, and thousands of Yak sightings.

April 2014

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

Kathmandu Tattoo Convention

While not quite as low-tech as Burma, the Kathmandu convention does experience several power cuts a day.  It’s also great to walk out to the posh Yak & Yeti hotel, where international businessmen give the stink eye to the scroungy backpackers who trek in one weekend a year. I was lucky enough here to work with Nic Pretty Ink, who designed and delivered an Ent tattoo in less than ideal working conditions.

May 2014

The tea plantations of Bali

The tea plantations of Bali

Though I didn’t really enjoy Indonesia, there are a lot of beautiful places there. I didn’t really have a camera during this time, only a 1 megapixel phone camera. So this picture does not do the reality justice. Another thing I do love about Bali is the preponderance of Hindu temples everywhere. They’re beautiful and unlike other temples I’ve seen.

June 2014

The almighty Trolltunga

The almighty Trolltunga

My first weekend in Norway was close to midsummer. My friends and I drove to the west coast in one of the most beautiful road trips I’ve ever been on. After some stealth camping on the side of the road, we got up, mountain biked to a hiking trail, hiked to a cliff, climbed a via ferrata up the rock wall, and then made our way to the Troll tongue (long one of the places in the world I most wanted to see). Just an average weekend for the hardy Norwegians, but for me truly one of the best experiences of my life.

July 2014

Rocking at Roskilde

Rocking at Roskilde

I’ve raved about the festival already, but it was a chance conversation with a Canadian and a Dane at about 13,000 feet up in Nepal that brought me there. Not only did I see bands like the Rolling Stones, Jack White, Stevie Wonder, Outcast, and Les Claypool, but I made so many awesome new friends.

August 2014

The Streets of Stockholm

The Streets of Stockholm

Of course, I shouldn’t have even been there. My plan was to go to the UK, Ireland, and France. I even had flight tickets and places to stay.  UK Immigration had other plans though and to be honest more time in Denmark and a chance to meet with friends in Sweden was a pretty awesome backup plan.

September 2014

Autumn in Portland

Autumn in Portland

I had just been back in Portland last summer, but lacking a proper autumn for years made the pumpkin crazy time so nice. Portland is so walkable and always changing and though I don’t get to NE that much, I do enjoy that area quite a lot.

October 2014

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

A grand road trip has to culminate with the Grand Canyon right? Though I saw Zion and Vegas and the redwoods and Lassen and Shasta, the Grand Canyon was damn impressive. I wasn’t really expecting it to be so vast and incredible and I’m so lucky to have finally seen it.

November 2014

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm

Hiking the kalmiopsis with Mom and Storm


 
A good deal of my time in the States was spent at my mom’s place in Southern Oregon, where we cooked, baked, played games, and went on lots of walks. This day, a hike with Storm the Wonderdog, was one of the best as we had chickpea salad sandwiches and dill pickle chips plus the day was so clear and beautiful.

December 2014

Olympic Park in Winter

Olympic Park in Winter

December should have been my first month on a 9 month contract in China, but I had to call an audible and ended up back in Seoul. Catching up with old friends and realizing that Seoul is sort of a second home to me–plus finally getting a real winter after years in SE Asia–made December a great month.

Telling Tales in the Beaver State: the Many Narratives of Oregon

Time overlaps itself. A breath breathed from a passing breeze is not the whole wind, neither is it just the last of what has passed and the first of what will come, but is more–let me see–more like a single point plucked on a single strand of a vast spider web of winds, setting the whole scene atingle.”
Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

It’s the rain that comes to mind. Oregon, in fact, comes with quite a few associations—tumbling waterfalls, lumberjacks, hippies, microbreweries, vegan food, indie rock, pine trees, and dying oxen in the pioneer game Oregon Trail are some of the more obvious ones. But it’s the ceaseless precipitation—Oregon sunshine, it has been dubbed—that most indelibly characterizes the state. Funnily enough, two-thirds of Oregon is dry desert and the actual rain-is-coming-down-wet days are vastly outnumbered by dreary-gray-but-dry days.

Portland in the Rain

Portland in the Rain

It is an insular state; a place where locals are still afraid that word will get out how nice it is. The slogan of “Welcome to Oregon. Now go home,” is apocryphally said to have appeared on the California border. That’s not correct, but it is true that in the seventies Governor Tom McCall famously told a news reporter: “Come visit us again and again…But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.”

It is also a quirky state, as indicated by the famous mantra “Keep Portland Weird.” This is a state that calls hazelnuts “filberts,” a state that chose not a wolverine, grizzly bear, or panther as its state animal. Nope, Oregon is the Beaver State, and disproportionally proud of it. When 39th Avenue was renamed to honor Caesar Chavez, there was significant effort to likewise redub 42nd in honor of Douglas Adams. And despite the rain, 40 inches a year in the Portland area, it’s a place where carrying an umbrella is seen as a major character flaw. (But to really annoy an Oregonian, pronounce it “Ore-e-gone” rather than Or-eh-gin.)

Beaver State

Beaver State

That combination—idiosyncratic, parochial pioneer stock, kept inside for too many bleak wintry days—has led to the creation of some great art. Being that the great cultural homogenizers in this modern world are film and, to a lesser extent, literature (fine arts, etc are not part of society’s narrative in the same way), Oregon hosts a trove of treasures waiting to be discovered.

A belletristic journey could take you across the entire state, from the Shakespeare Festival in Southern Oregon to Trek in the Park in Northern Portland. A comprehensive list would be unwieldy and unnecessary, but here are some of the top places to visit in Oregon for literature and movie lovers alike.

Portland

City of Roses

City of Roses

Naturally, the biggest city in Oregon has the biggest presence. In addition to current shows “Grim,” “Portlandia,” and “Leverage,” Stumptown has seen its share of cult films like Drugstore Cowboy, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and The Hunted.

Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from the Portland area, and visitors will notice many street names with familiar names (Quimby, Lovejoy, Flanders, Kearney, etc. While we’re on the sidetrack of NW Portland streets, the street spelled “Couch” is mysteriously pronounced “Cooch.”)

Those who remember Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby can discover the real Klickitat Street, with statues dedicated to the characters in nearby Grant Park. Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic Lathe of Heaven uses the backdrop of Mt. Hood and other Portland landmarks most memorably. Parts of The Road and The Shining were filmed near Portland as well.

The movie was neither set nor filmed in Portland, but Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk used Portland landmarks in the book. His nonfiction Fugitives and Refugees is a bizarre travelogue of some of the city’s weirder sights.

The Coast

The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast

Moving on from Portland, it’s a 90 minute drive over the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. The Oregon Coast is wild, wind-blown, and wonderful. Gnarled pine forests grow to the sea, long stretches of sandy beach have more shells than people, and small-town bookstores and charming restaurants make up the bucolic whole.

Astoria

Astoria

Astoria

The oldest town west of the Mississippi, not far from Lewis and Clark’s winter settlement, this city of one-percenter John Jacob Astor is a capital destination for those who love eighties films. We’re talking Goonies, Kindergarten cop, Short Circuit, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. (The Ring 2 was also filmed here, but the less said of that, the better.)

Newport

Newport

Newport

The next stop of the entertainment tour is the home of literally the biggest star of the nineties.

Yes, I am referring to Keiko, the world’s most famous orca, who found fame in Free Willy. The film was mostly shot in Oregon, and Keiko was a resident of the Newport Aquarium for some time before being sent back to Iceland. (Where, sadly, he kept hanging out with humans and died of pneumonia.)

Newport, along with nearby Kernville, is also the film setting for maybe the greatest Oregonian novel, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. This tale of a small-town lumberjack family is as quintessential to Oregon as a cloudy day, and even if the filming locations are hard to find, the towns themselves are surprisingly unchanged from the early seventies.

There is plenty more to see on the coast, but for purposes of our tour we will now take the 20 to the 5 and head inland to Oregon’s most famous hippy college town.

Eugene

Further

Further

This college town is chilled out even by Oregon standards, a sprawl of co-ops, farmers’ markets, and scenic bike paths. The nearby Oregon County Fair, an event every summer, is like time machining back to the sixties, and Cougar Hot Springs are another way to meet some of the real free-thinkers of the world. (The slogan “Make Love Not War” originated in Eugene in the sixties.) Eugene itself is famous for two very different films.

The first, Animal House, was filmed in Eugene and nearby Cottage Grove. University of Oregon parties might feature fewer togas these days, but pre-funking a Ducks game would just about capture the right Jim Belushi spirit. (U of O was not the original setting for the story, but after turning down the chance to be the setting of the Graduate, the University pushed for this one.)

In Stand by Me, Brownsville filled in for the fictional town of Caste Rock. Other scenes were shot in Eugene, Franklin, and Cottage Grove. Recreating the sets of this film would be fantastic fun, but I recommended leaving out the leech scene.

Finally, for the runners of world, both Prefontaine movies were set here in the land of Phil Knight.

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Ashland is home to The Shakespeare Festival, which was founded in 1935 and is arguably the greatest place outside England to encounter the Bard. There is outdoor theater in the summer, where you can pack a picnic dinner and get spat on by enunciating thespians. More locally, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline was filmed by Portland’s Laika, and set in Ashland.

Jim Jarmush’s trippy existential tale Dead Man was filmed all over Southern Oregon, including Applegate, Rogue River, and the hippy bastion Takilma. You too can wander these areas with No One, meeting characters too strange for fiction.

And although the film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed in Salem (the state capital, between Portland and Eugene on the interstate) and Depoe Bay, a more interesting use of time would involve a visit to Ken Kesey’s farm in Southern Oregon. The infamous bus Further still rests there, dredged from the swamps by his son Zane and surviving members of the Merry Pranksters.

It’s true that using art to form your narrative in this manner, you miss out on places like the surreally gorgeous Crater Lake, the charming town of Bend, the high desert, the Wallowa mountains, and the Columbia Gorge But the variety of film and literature that has been set, written, and filmed, here would make for a truly entertaining entertainment-based visit.

The Best of 2013

Though 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 were all great, 2013 was probably the best yet.  It began with one of the Great Hikes in New Zealand, and ends in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In between, one full year of backpacking, with eleven countries and most of South East Asia are accounted for.  Even more so than previous years, it was quite difficult to choose just one photo per month.  But them’s the rules, and so without further ado:

January 2013

Cruising the Milford Sound

Cruising the Milford Sound

The beginning of the month was spent touring New Zealand’s South Island.  A cruise through the Milford Sound on a cloudless day was equal parts good luck and beautiful views.

February 2013

Sunrise at Bagan

Sunrise at Bagan

February saw us traveling around Malaysia and visiting Burma.  There were far too many great moments, but sunrise in Bagan is hard to top.  Our night bus got us to town by 5 am, and a small, beleaguered horse brought us to the temples just in time to get see the sun rise.

March 2013

Happy Holi!

Happy Holi!

March was the second time I unknowingly landed in Kathmandu for Holi.  What is there to say about Kathmadu, other than it’s the maddest, greatest city we saw the entire year.

April 2013

Just a Normal Day on the Annapurna Circuit

Just a Normal Day on the Annapurna Circuit

April saw our trek through the Himalayas, where we were treated to legendary views, legendary climbs, and legendary blisters.

May 2013

Chilling at the Taj

Chilling at the Taj

When your month includes a visit to probably the most famous building in the world, it’s pretty much what you gots to go with.

June 2013

Southern Oregon Swimming

Southern Oregon Swimming

The transition from India to Orange County and Southern Oregon was a strange one, to say the least.  But spending my days swimming in the river with my family quickly became the norm–and a welcome one it was!

July 2013

Hiking Hood

Hiking Hood

Summer in Oregon is a pretty special time, and while Hood doesn’t compare to the Himalayas, I will always cherish the Cascades.  This picture was taken while hiking with a friend from Korea, after which we stopped at Los Gorditos for grubbing burritos.

August 2013

Camping at Mt. Shasta

Camping at Mt. Shasta

I returned to Thailand in August, but before that I got to go camping with my brother and mother at Mt. Shasta.  The town of Shasta was really cool, and our campsight was really spectacular.  We had a grand old time walking, swimming, playing card games, and cooking on the camp fire.

September 2013

Swimming in Laos

Swimming in Laos

September was so much fun.  It began in Southern Thailand, where we met a friend from Korea and hung out on various beaches.  Then my sister showed up and we cruised up to Laos, which quickly became very dear to all of us.  The day we biked to the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vienne and jumped from the tree for a few hours was the best of an already good couple of weeks.

October 2013

Sapa views

Sapa views

We spent most of October rushing down Vietnam.  While so much of the trip was gorgeous, Sapa was the highlight for both of us.  This was the view from our 8 dollar a night guesthouse.

November 2013

Mexican Thanksgiving

Mexican Thanksgiving

By the end of November, we rented a place in expat heaven.   It was easy to procure microbrews and stuff for an excellent vegan Mexican Thanksgiving.

December 2013

Fighting Cthulhu on Christmas

Fighting Cthulhu on Christmas

Yeah, I love board games.  So when Christmas day included a trip to the zoo, homemade palak tofu, rajma masala, chana kaddu, chapati, burmese tomato salad, that was all pretty great.  When post-dinner digestion featured vegan peanut butter chocolate pies (with oreo crust) and Cthulhu carols and a rousing game of Elder Scrolls…well, you do the math.