Category Archives: Oregon

The City Eats Its Own

As one who loves beautiful, old, historic things,
and as one who loves American city architecture from the early 1900s,
and as one who lived in Oregon for five years,
and as one who has a massive crush on Portland,
and as one who loves books and needs to be pried from Powell’s with a crowbar…

…I of course loved it when Cabel Sasser tweeted the following:

Renovations for across the street from Powell’s uncovered this beautiful, untouched tile from the 1900’s. Cool.

Tile Floor from Cabel Sasser

And needless to say, I was heartbroken when Cabel followed up a few days later:

Well, so much for the beautiful tile floor they uncovered during construction. :(

Tile Floor from Cabel Sasser a Few Days Later

Cultural metabolism.

If ignorance were not in such great abundance, we could all have nice things.

UPDATE: Awesome! Pedro at Longbored Surfer looked at Cabel’s photographs, and took the time to recreate the tile pattern digitally. Sounds like Cabel snuck a piece of the actual floor, too, when the builders weren’t looking!


So. My kiteboarding photography is going to be featured in the next issue of Sports Northwest magazine, perhaps even on the cover. I must say, however, that the current cover will be a tough act to follow:

Maybe I can convince Mike to get a bikini wax and pose with his new kites.


Buried deep in our chests, each Hood River citizen is now required to wear an economic growth inhibitor at all times. The weather-changing device atop City Hall is now operating at full power, effectively deflecting all tourists and their valuable Canadian dollars away from our town.

We’ve started referring to this month as June-uary, and at this point we’re beginning to lose all hope for the summer. It’s 50 degrees and cloudy here, and if this miserable weather pattern keeps up much longer there’s risk that we’ll all go back into our off-season hibernation. Frigid conditions aside, I’ve still gotten in a ton of kiteboarding this season, and last week I rode my custom 5’3″ North Pacific in some of the biggest, glassiest swell I have ever seen at the White Salmon Bridge.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the new Aaron Hillegass book and trying to teach myself Objective-C and Cocoa. The book is wonderful, but every time I try to improve my programming skills I feel like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. My knowledge of Ruby and other object-oriented languages definitely helps with the learning curve for Objective-C, and my familiarity with a few different MVC frameworks, including Rails and CodeIgniter, helps with the underlying concepts of Cocoa. I recently spent an inordinate amount of time researching event listeners and how they’re manifested in JavaScript, and as a result my crude understanding of event-driven programming is nonetheless sophisticated enough that I can recognize it in unfamiliar territory.

This ability to abstract knowledge from the specific to the general is what separates man from the lichens and mosses of the world, and I take pride in that fact. Even so, I always feel clumsy and awkward as I stumble blindly through a new language or a new programming concept. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m making this harder than it is, that these are ideas I would have learned the first semester of my freshman year, in an Intro to Computer Science course.

That said, my education wasn’t in computer science. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now, and it won’t be in September. My areas of study included music, jazz, writing, English, philosophy and journalism. And yet I keep inexplicably gravitating towards programming, perhaps because I enjoy learning, perhaps because I’m a glutton for punishment, and perhaps because I have this awful habit of seeking out and doing the things that I find most frightening and difficult.

Ergo Oregon, ergo kiteboarding, ergo interaction design.

Rice Balls

We’re done. Kate and I have finished our applications to graduate school, all of our transcripts have been submitted, and our recommenders have completed their assessments of our qualifications. In the end we only applied to three schools, as the fourth school on our list made considerable effort to come across as an arrogant prick. It was as though they were doing us a favor in allowing us to apply to their school, and we should be so lucky that they were taking the time to communicate with us in the first place.

So now after four months on this project, averaging two hours of work every evening of every day, we now wait to hear back. Or at least, some of us are waiting to hear back. Kate was accepted to her program at one of our schools less than a day after submitting her application. I keep telling people that I’m involved in an abusive relationship, and my girlfriend beats me. Not only does she beat me by turning in her applications before me, but she beats me in getting accepted to her schools before me.

In other news, on Friday I finally got my car back from the auto body shop. They were having a hell of a time resetting the error codes in the system, so they had to take an extra day and drive it to the Subaru dealership in The Dalles and have them clear out the codes for good. While they were driving to The Dalles a rock got kicked up by another car, chipping my brand-fucking new windshield, and requiring yet another day of repair. I am becoming increasingly convinced that either my car or that stretch of highway is cursed, and I will never again be able to drive to The Dalles without suffering the consequences.

I went snowboarding at Mount Hood Meadows today, and had a splendid time scouring the mountain for something that was not ice. Conditions were fairly mediocre, as we only have a 50-inch base and we haven’t had a significant snow storm in more than a week. Ice and rocks aside it was great to get on the hill, and even though I loved driving the Ford Focus while my Subaru was in the shop, it’s nice driving a car to Hood that doesn’t leave me feeling terrified. Oh, Ford Focus, it’s sad and alarming how much you have in common with my old Ford Tempo.

There is encouraging news, too, on the knee side of things. I went riding at the mountain last weekend with my friend Joe, and on my second run I took a huge digger right on my knee. While it hurt like crazy I assumed I was just acting the wuss, and so I forced myself to keep riding on it for four more hours. By the time we got to the van it was feeling pretty tender, and I iced it with a ziplock bag of snow for the drive back to Hood River.

When I got home my knee had since swollen to the size of a grapefruit, to the point where I couldn’t even stand and cook dinner. It was all I could do to drop ibuprofen, ice my knee, and sit on the couch watching episodes of The West Wing. The injury has since matured into an impressive bruise that spans my leg, and I no longer look like I have the knee of a World’s Strongest Man.


Phew. It’s been a busy holiday, though hardly in the conventional sense. On Wednesday they sent me home early from work, partly because I was sick, but mostly because I was being a regular old sourpuss on account of being sick. I went home and took a three hour nap, and then loaded up the Subaru and started on my way down to Bend for Thanksgiving. The plan was to celebrate with my friends Shane and Brandee again, and perchance do some mountain biking or snowboarding or whatever, as dictated by the weather.

When driving to Bend in the winter I typically like to drive out to The Dalles and turn south on 197, so I can avoid going up and over the saddle of Mount Hood. The route barely adds fifteen minutes to my drive, and it lets me avoid the Cascades and do the bulk of my driving through the dry high desert landscape. Despite my careful planning for this trip, I never made it to Bend. I barely even reached the first exit for The Dalles.

I swerved to avoid the first deer.

And that’s when I hit the second deer.

He was a huge feller, much bigger than the doe that I didn’t hit. For one thing I am a gentleman, and I would never hit a lady. For another, I live by the conviction that if anything is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right. If you’re going to hit a deer, hit a huge fucking deer. That said, I have nothing on my uncle, who suffers from Parkinson’s and just recently shot an eight-point buck from his freaking wheelchair.

The buck did an incredible amount of damage to my car, smashing in the headlight, mangling the fender and the hood, shattering the windshield, snapping off the side mirror, and denting in the passenger doors. Fixing it is going to be ridiculously expensive. While I’m kinda pissed about the whole thing, I do realize that I still have my life and liberty, which is more than I can say for the deer.

Meanwhile, my hobbies lately have included sneezing, coughing violently, and talking to my insurance company. I’ve been doing my best to fight off this virulent plague I’m hosting, and so long as it’s not the Killing Cold I think I’ll be able to come out on the other side of this one. I’ve been pulling down hard on the Western Family Orange Juice, a from-concentrate concoction that’s so delicious you can actually taste the municipal water source.

Hot Air

The other night I went to see Playground, Warren Miller’s new ski flick. I believe this was about my third or fourth snow pr0n movie of the season, and to be perfectly honest I’m going to vomit if I need to sit through another half-hour of Alaska heli-skiing. Seriously, I don’t care how hardcore the terrain might be, or how many times you can say “stoked” in a sentence, your big-mountain shit bores me to sickness.

I suppose Playground was decent, in that it was just like every other flick I’ve seen so far this season. Except, what the hell was up with the ten-minute spot on Bode Miller? How the hell do you toss that f-wad in the middle of your ski movie, with nary a hint of irony, and expect to be taken seriously? The ass didn’t even bother to shave for your interview, for chrissakes.

Additionally, there were times where I felt like I was watching an ad for Corona. After about the fifth hot tub shot (in the Alaskan Chugach Mountains, natch) framed with a half-finished bottle in the foreground, I became a bit suspicious. Indeed, I came to discover that Corona was one of the major sponsors for the movie.

In wholly unrelated news, I got a flat tire today. After spending fifteen minutes trying to fill it back up at the Chevron’s broken-ass air compressor, I went across town to the 76 Station next to the freeway, where you can enjoy Oregon hospitality at Washington prices. One person didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked if they had compressed air, and the other person looked at me funny.

“Compressed air? Do you mean air? Like, just, air?”
“Uhh, yeah. That’s right. Air.”
“Oh yeah, we got that. Blue hose, right over there by the propane tank.”
“Blue hose? Now, you’re sure I won’t be filling my tires up with propane, right? Because I don’t want that.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure.”

He seemed a bit too sure.


Today my friend Jody and I went on a 17-mile mountain bike ride along Surveyor’s Ridge, and in spite of our attempts to go way too fast and pitch off cliffs we emerged from our expedition largely unscathed. The forecast called for anything from freezing temperatures to rain to snow, and while it was a brisk 38 degrees when we started at the trailhead, the day turned out to offer some perfect biking weather. We were treated to hardly a drop of rain, and the sun was even kind enough to make the occasional appearance.

The fall colors are in full swing, the oaks having completely yellowed and the maples absolutely on fire with the season. Despite some amazing overlooks along the trail, Mount Hood never shrugged off its cloak of clouds, so we had to imagine what the peak must look like all draped in fresh snow. I could just barely make out Cloud Cap, and it is obviously buried under at least a foot of snow at this point. This was not the weekend to go camping.

In other news, my neighbors moved out a week ago, but I swear that I am still hearing music, voices and other noise coming from downstairs. I think ghosts have moved in. Ghosts that flush the toilet.

Sum of All Futures

After a three-month leave the rains have returned. They arrived Saturday night as we were camped at 6,100 feet up near Cloud Cap on Mount Hood. We had a wonderful evening gathered around the campfire with bellies full of Pibber, and irreverent of our most optimistic hopes it never dropped below freezing that night. Thus, despite the patchy snow in the campground we were treated to a night of rain, and I awoke with a river running under my tent.

We clutch our season passes in our tiny meaty fists even though it is not yet snowboarding season, and with the whispers soothsaying the end of the kiteboarding season having now reached a chorus, it is unclear how we will busy ourselves in the coming weeks. Gin has the potential of being an obvious component, but if we are truly honest with ourselves we have, to be blunt, more than enough shit to do.

The future is uncertain in much the same manner that a particle’s history is uncertain. I’m taking up an awkward space, where I feel as though my current position is merely the sum of all futures. There are so many paths from this point, so many damnable paths, and most of the desirable ones run right through four-hour exams and gauntletian application procedures. Intellectually I have a good idea where I want to be a year from now, but geographics are an entirely different matter. My future could hold anything from nine months of incessant rain, to ski resorts built on piles of garbage, to trees adorned with hippies and chains.

The good news being that it would involve the love of my life finally living in the same state as I. Perhaps the same zip code, even.

Cool Down

The sun still feels hot but the air has taken on a distinct chill. The Cascades are whispering, and once again the cold breath from the upper elevations is winding its way through town, carrying with it the taste of nameless forest groves. Hood River has all but emptied out, and while we certainly appreciate the great attention doted upon us during the summer months, there’s definitely a feeling of shared relief among those of us left behind.

Out on the water the wind continues to blow, but it now follows a fall schedule of unpredictable nuclear winds and random easterlies. Yesterday evening it was gusting to 42 mph at Swell City. Today it was so windy that someone was actually kiteboarding on a trainer kite. I had a good session on my seven meter kite after work on Wednesday, suddenly realizing how much more power I could handle when I stand up straight and actually use good posture while riding.

I took my Omega out of its mushy 2:1 pulley configuration and now ride it in 1:1, which makes it a much more fun, but ultimately less forgiving kite. The stock 1:1 configuration recommended by Cabrinha is awesome in that it’s incredibly reactive and completely eliminates bar pressure, but it destroys the range of depower to such a degree that by the end of one of my sessions I found my waist harness up around my armpits.

I’ve since rigged my bar and kites in the unofficial 1:1 configuration, which increases bar pressure and reduces responsiveness when compared to the stock 1:1, but grants a much wider range of depower. Seeing as how I’m typically riding in conditions that range from 13-30 mph, I’ll take the added depower range any day.

Last weekend I got out to the Oregon Coast for the first time in years, camping at Oswald with Kelly, Jason and their friends from Beaverton. The drive out was full of firsts for me, including visiting Trader Joe’s and eating at Jack in the Box. Kelly and I ordered our food to go, stole a bag of Jack in the Box sauces to complement our Trader Joe’s “snausages” that we eventually devoured at the Coast, and ate our questionable meals ghetto-style, sitting on the curb under the florescent lights of the parking lot.

There was a family at Jack in the Box who was treating their foreign exchange student to a fine meal out on the town, and in recognition of this occasion the husband wore his cleanest Hooter’s t-shirt.

At the Coast I tried surfing for the first time in my life, and I managed to keep it together for some time out at Short Sands, despite the fact that I found the water to be unbelievably cold at 49 degrees. I’d paddle and ride until I found myself absolutely gnarled by a wave, at which point I would hand the board over to Kelly so she could do the same.

We kept up this pattern until the sun fell into the ocean.


From Minneapolis to Hood River, everyone I know is safe. I emerged this evening from The Simpsons Movie to stinging eyes and the taste of smoke thick on the air. At 4:00 this afternoon a wildfire started in someone’s backyard up near Country Club Road and Frankton Road, on the west side of Hood River. Helped by the awesome winds that made my afternoon on the water so much fun, by 8:00 tonight the fire had burned to 50 acres and they’ve been evacuating homes in the area.

This fire is completely unrelated to the twelve acre fire that popped up on the east side of Hood River last week, which started when a trailer lost a wheel and threw sparks into the grass. That one struck as I was out kiteboarding last Friday, and it was a bit scary to have this huge kite in the air as all these low-flying planes and helicopters were swooping about. I know they only look close, and they’re still probably 500 feet or more in the air, but there’s just something about a crowded airspace that puts one’s nerves on edge.

My session that evening came to a graceless end as I was sitting on the beach packing up my kite. All I remember is my friend Jason yelling “Oh shit!” and diving for the ground, as I was suddenly enveloped in someone’s kite lines. I cursed like a sailor at the offending person as the lines raked across my skin, one of them wrapping itself around my ear. I freed myself from the lines as they ascended with the kite, but I was caught off-guard when they immediately swung back for a second round. We made contact again, and by the third passing I had finally rolled off to the side and out of harm’s way.

The next thing I saw was a gal being dragged head first on her stomach across the sandbar, and Jason running to grab the handle on the back of her harness. As it turns out, a complete moron was teaching her to kite, and he had opted to teach her directly upwind of Jason and I, upwind of the only two people on the fucking sandbar. She had lost control of the kite and had put it into “death spirals”, where the kite loops repeatedly in the same direction, crossing the lines and making control nearly impossible.

After watching me go toe-to-toe with the kite lines, the guy had the sense to see how I was doing once his girlfriend had been rescued from her kite. I asked him to look at my ear, and he told me it was scratched up but otherwise it looked fine. I pressed him, insisting that he tell me whether it was still attached to my head. He chuckled, and assured me it was still attached.

He chuckled. At the time I wasn’t in the mood for confrontation, but it made me realize something startling. The fact that he laughed at my question suggests that he totally did not understand the gravity of what he had just done. Those kite lines could very well have taken my ear off, possibly more. They use string to cut clay, and the spectra line used for kiting is good to 700 pounds before it will break.

This guy’s sheer stupidity could have killed two people. He should not have been teaching his girlfriend so close to land, he should not have been teaching her directly upwind of people, and most of all, he should not have been teaching her in the first place. This is the reason we have certified, professional kite instructors. Please use them, people.

As it is, I now have rope burns across the back of my ear, my forearm, and four long gashes under my arm. They didn’t look like much the night they happened, just grazes through the first layer of skin, but man have they ever scabbed impressively over the last few days. I look like I’ve been whipped.

As for the girl, she emerged from the fray considerably shaken, but otherwise unharmed. She told her boyfriend that she had had enough, that she was frightened, that she wanted to be done with kiting for the evening. It sounded like a reasonable and intelligent request. Instead, the guy relaunched her kite, took her back upwind, and made her keep practicing.

Jason and I made a quick exit from the beach.