Monthly Archives: October 2011

The basis for all things October – October 24, 2011

When I look back over my years of writing about October, it’s easy to see a pattern.

What makes October special?

Is it the sound associated with October? The howl of the werewolf at the full moon, the crinkle of cellophane as you pull it away from the caramel apple, the wind moving fallen leaves?

Is it the smell of October? The dark earthen musk of those same fallen leaves after the rain, the scent of the freshly cut jack’o’lantern, the sweet spiciness of hot cider?

Is it the flavor, the texture, the anticipation of a holiday waaaaay at the end of the month? What is it?

It’s more than that.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but when you read this, look back. October, for me anyway, is a month-long remembrance of my childhood.

It’s camping out on the floor in front of my friend Holly’s tv to watch the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s the Halloween carnival at school. It’s the Halloween party when I was 7 (?) with the plastic spiders strung on fishing line. It’s trick-or-treating in Palm Springs and, yes, trying to shove those popcorn balls into that little plastic pumpkin.

It’s the awful, muddy trips to the pumpkin patch with my cousins when we first moved to Oregon. It was in October so long ago that I found myself in Portland, a city I now proudly claim as my own.

It’s the memory of a simpler time in all of our lives. October, even as fantastic as this one has been so far, will never compare to the Octobers of our childhood.

Happy October. Remember.

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Posted by on October 23, 2011 in October 2011



Fall color – October 23, 2011

I spent a couple more hours today at Lone Fir Cemetery this time in dress rehearsal for the upcoming Tour of Untimely Departures (tickets available here).

It’s really beautiful there. I’m sure it’s beautiful all the time, but with something like 70 different kinds of trees (I think that’s the number I heard, but I can’t find confirmation at the moment), the colors are phenomenal. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t have my camera with me today.

We’re at that point, people. The leaves are turning and starting to fall. One gusty day and we won’t have these brilliant oranges and reds and yellows hanging around any longer. Enjoy them while you can.

Fairly soon, perhaps any minutes, those fall winds will pick up. They call them Cohos here, but in the desert where I’m from, they’re Santa Anas.

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.” Raymond Chandler’s Red Wind

Winds in folklore worldwide often bring with them ill portents, but I think these October winds simply bring change. How we interpret that change is up to us.

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 23, 2011 in October 2011


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And his hair was perfect – October 22, 2011

2011 will go down in the history books as a monumental year.

I bet you think I’m going to start waxing poetic about my Timbers again. I probably am, but not in this post.

No, kids, 2011 will be known as the year Trader Vic’s returned to the Rose City. Long may he reign.

I’ve been waiting to make a trip to Vic’s for years. I remember it from my adolescence, the thatched awnings and tikis that decorated Vic’s original Portland location on Broadway in the center of the city. I wanted to go there so bad, but it just never happened and that incarnation of Vic’s closed in the mid ’90s, only minutes after I was old enough to partake of one of their signature Mai Tais.

Thankfully, someone picked up the mantle and brought Vic’s back to Portland. I went twice the first week they were open and then again a month later for my birthday. I’m not sure I ever need to drink another Mai Tai. But if I do, it’ll be a 1944 from Vic’s.

But what on Earth does Trader Vic’s have to do with October? Seriously. If you don’t know, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

Yes, that’s Adam Sandler.

I find this slightly more disturbing. Yes, that’s the Grateful Dead.

We still miss you, Warren.

There you go. Proof that I can link any two disparate subjects through the catalyst that is October.

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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in October 2011


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Fall crush, part two – October 21, 2011

It was a pretty big international news day and I’m a bit of a news junkie. So you know if I’m going to disconnect from most of my news sources for any length of time to run off and do something else, that something else has to be pretty fantastic.

And it was.

I caught a little of the news this morning before heading out to the heart of Oregon’s wine country to meet my Twitter/Timbers friend Dave. Dave is the general manager at Vista Hills in Dayton, Oregon, and was kind enough to agree when I invited myself out for a behind-the-scenes look at the wide world of wine.

He’s a good sport, that Dave.

Today’s work was being done at Panther Creek, where we were to process six tons of grapes that had been picked this morning. But when I got there, things had already apparently gone awry. Dave and his crew were in semi-scramble mode, trying to fix the destemmer. The lesson learned today is that, when you unplug something, you should always pull the plug, not the cord. Pulling the cord for the destemmer had loosened some of the electrical connections which, thankfully, was a much easier fix than trying to find another motor to swap out (which was the other possible oops being considered).

Back on track, we got started sorting the fruit, looking for anything that shouldn’t be in the mix. “You’re a Timbers fan,” one of the other wine guys told me. “Just pretend you’re looking for Roger Levesque and when you find him, get him out of here.”

Dave had warned me that it would be sticky work. Nearly twelve hours later, I’m still sticky, but I can’t imagine many things I’d trade the experience for. A few hours in wine country, shoulder to shoulder with the winemakers, a shared meal and grape schmutz in my hair. That’s a win in my book. I can’t wait to go back.

Did I mention that we listened to Rush at very high volumes for an extended period of time? Double win.

These sorts of things are what we’ve moved away from in our automated, industrial, commercialized world. We don’t get our hands dirty. We drink wine we buy in a grocery store, knowing nothing of the land or people that produced it. The same can be said for pretty much everything else we consume.

It might be cheaper to run down to the store for a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, but there’s better out there. Make the effort to find it. Think locally, buy locally. Get involved locally. Grow something. Make something. Or, at the very least, make a friend who does. And then invite yourself to his vineyard.

Happy October, people. And thanks again, Dave.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in October 2011


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Fall crush – October 20, 2011

I wholeheartedly believe that I am genetically predisposed to harboring a desire to be part of the winemaking process. I can’t help it.

My mom grew up, at least in her very early years, in the heart of wine country in Northern California and I grew up with holidays spent at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table in Napa, surrounded by grapes and hot air balloons and all the other wine country trappings.

When I started my hotel career over a decade ago, I did so at an European-style bed and breakfast tucked into the middle of a working vineyard. It was there that I learned the basics and there that I learned to appreciate the magic of fall crush.

When the weather starts to turn, there’s a level of stress among the vintners that we civilians will never fully comprehend. To make a truly great vintage, one must pull the fruit from the vine at the exact perfect moment. Too soon and the sugars will not have fully developed, too late and the grapes will have ripened too far. There is science, there is intuition, there is luck. When you combine all three, that is when you may be able to create a wine worthy of sharing with friends and loved ones.

I’ve been lucky over the years to find a few wines (and a few winemakers) to whom I am loyal. I hold a fondness in my heart for the estate chardonnay from Lange here in Oregon, the Snoqualmie merlot from Washington, and Elysium, a black muscat from Quady. I’m always on the lookout for a wine that surprises me but doesn’t break my budget or try my patience by being too expensive or too pretentious (I’m looking at you, Domaine Drouhin).

And, when day dawns, I’ll be on my way to visit the winery where my new friend Dave works. Dave, a fellow Timbers supporter, has been teasing us all week by posting photos of the vineyard, the winery and the winemaking process to his Twitter account. I won’t post his Twitter handle today since I forgot to ask his permission (on the off chance that every single one of you suddenly floods his Twitter stream with, well, I don’t know what, I want him to have some notice) but I’ll be sure to ask when I see him.

Fall crush is an experience unique to October when the farmhands and the vintners come together to create true magic, bottling it and keeping it safe so that we may enjoy it year round.

More tomorrow….

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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in October 2011


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Why are they always stale? – October 19, 2011

Popcorn balls are one of the traditional treats of October. I’m sure it had something to do with celebrating the harvest and whatnot but Nebraska (Nebraska?!) lays claim to the original creation of popcorn balls with a story that might have come straight out of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Here’s my favorite popcorn ball quote EVAR (linked to its original article and some interesting popcorn ball recipes):

“Popcorn balls are to Halloween what fruitcake is to Christmas. A tradition everybody enjoys but nobody eats.”

That pretty much sums it up. We have them around because it’s tradition, but nobody really likes them. You know it’s true. If you get one that’s actually edible, you’re shocked. Of course, how would you know if it is edible? You know darn well that you’re not going to attempt eating any popcorn ball-esque objects people give you. You’re not stupid.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t have any truly fond memories of popcorn balls. And if you’re of my generation and perhaps a bit older, you remember with great bitterness every single house that gave you a popcorn ball when you went trick-or-treating. And you remember with great frustration your attempts at shoving it in through the not-quite-large-enough hole in the top of your orange plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat receptacle and scraping your knuckles as you did so on the sharp edges of said pumpkin.

Gahhhh. Popcorn balls.

So, starting this year, I make the following request: let’s make that our October swear. Stub your toe whilst raiding the Halloween candy in the middle of the night? Popcorn balls! Arrive at the costume party in your super-unique costume only to find seven other six-foot-tall Smurfs? Popcorn balls! Realize too late that your semi-permanent rave green hair coloring is not exactly semi at all? Popcorn balls!

Popcorn balls!

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in October 2011


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Shades of grey – October 18, 2011

I am not a meteorologist. I cannot give you the scientific reasoning behind fog aside from a brief explanation of temperature and moisture but that’s not what you came here for. What I can give you is this:

Fog is mystical, magical. Fog lends mystery to the mundane, drama to the ordinary.

Fog envelops, surrounds, shrouds.

Fog sneaks up on us, twisting our surroundings and pushing us off balance, causing us to wonder if perhaps we should turn back and spend our evening at home near the hearth with a dog who does not howl because he cannot see the full moon.

Fog is the form the vampire takes in order to steal into your bedroom through the keyhole or from around the panes of glass in your window. Fog takes no heed of ropes of garlic or sacred amulets meant to ward against evil.

Fog obscures the path before you so you stumble blindly. Fog follows you so there’s no way for you to see your assailants until they’re already upon you, all claws and teeth and things best left unsaid.

Fog is the icy breath of October at the nape of your neck.

Fog is alive.

Happy October, people.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in October 2011