A Month Without Coffee

It was decided. The new year became the time to change the eating habits in our household. It’s like the character, Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction, says, “my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian.” I took it as an opportunity to experience something I’d wondered about for a while which was whether or not I could stop drinking coffee for any amount of time. I decided a month was the right duration to use for this challenge. 

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My coffee habit had gone into hyper drive over the last couple of years. A rough estimate had me up to five cups a day, but it was the constant focus about when I was going to have my next cup, the expense, the always having to buy it, make it, the packing the thermos for work, the extra cup or two when I should have laid off, the jitters and occasional insomnia when I thought I could drink coffee at night or late in the afternoon that made it all seem like too much.

The first realization about what I was doing was that my timing was wrong. Winter is the best time to wake up with something warm to drink. I picked the wrong time to stop drinking coffee. Going cold turkey presented physical challenges. By Sunday evening of the day I stopped, I felt my body heating up, followed by a massive headache. That evening my skin was flushed. I threw up and couldn’t get off the floor for an hour. All signs pointed to caffeine withdrawal. The next morning my headache was gone and I felt fine enough despite the empty hole in my morning ritual. My self-imposed coffee stoppage had begun.

Things started to feel whatever I thought normal should be. I know I was spacey and sluggish, but I thought I was managing. I got jealous when I saw people walking down the street with coffee. There were cravings. It was tough to see a guy standing outside of Figure Plant drinking from a mug, not that I had thought about coffee jacking him, that much. My coffee obsession leveled off. Weekend afternoons were tough when all I could think about was going out for coffee but I had a point to prove. One afternoon my wife smelled the fumes of a cup of decaf coffee I’d made. Ronna explained that what I was really detoxing from was uric acid. What? I was thinking, there’s acid in coffee?

There’s a mystique about coffee and coffee shops that I’ve tried to make a part of my Portland experience. When we first moved here there was time to hang out. I remember writing to friends back east about how I was sitting around in the coffee shop drinking hair bender coffee. Living in Portland at a time when I had no job gave me a chance to hang out. It felt like freedom. A couple was talking to their realtor at the old North Star coffee shop and the mystique grew. In Portland people do business over a cup of coffee. Now the coffee shop lifestyle seems to equal time and money. Something that’s in short supply. Still there’s nothing like sitting in an old building, sipping from a mug, taking a breather, soaking in the ambiance. Usually there’s no way to tell who the unpublished novelists are with everyone pecking away on laptops. There usually aren’t frantic scribblers around and I mostly end up reading old newspapers during coffee shop visits.  

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There’s great coffee places around and I’m sure with a bit of searching or through good old proximity a comfortable fit can be made for anyone  who needs their own space. Arbor Lodge Coffee has been a nice place to visit. I appreciate the bottomless cup at Cup which replaced Northstar. No Wave Coffee, off of Lombard, plays crazy good music, but you might expect that from the name. The Bison Coffee House was an oasis on rainy days when I found myself subbing in the Cully neighborhood and Posies adds a touch of class and character while filling a huge void in downtown Kenton and it’s only a block away.

In the end I found I could survive a month without coffee. I’ve since gotten back on the wagon. The light at the end of the tunnel kept me going. I was counting the days. It was a sad, but due to poor planning, my fast ended at a 7/11 one morning before work. Somedays any coffee is coffee enough for me. The coffee obsession has roared to life, but I also noticed that it’s got my brain and body moving again acting like an internal lubricant. The Tin Man didn’t need oil, just a pot of coffee. I survived thirty coffeeless days and realized that in the event of an earthquake, supply chain disruption, coffee bean blight or a change in my daily routine, I’ll at least know I can live without coffee, not well, but I made it a month and I’ve lived to tell about it.

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A Night For Frogs

I saved a frog’s life but I didn’t have time to think about it. As soon as I delivered it to a white bucket to await transport to the wetlands, I was off in search of another frog hopping on wet pavement towards a certain demise that awaited if she found her way to Highway 30.

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Proper frog handling technique.

An initial orientation meeting at the Linnton Community Center about volunteering to rescue frogs was an eye opener. I was introduced to the plight of the Northern red-legged frogs who need to get to the wetlands from the hills past Linnton, specifically in the area of Harborton Road. The barrier is four lanes of treacherous highway. Years ago after discovering that frogs were unable to reach the wetlands safely, a group organized volunteer crews to help save them. They now meet seven days a week in the evening during the migration season which generally runs from December to March. The conditions for frog migration have to be just right. Frogs head to the wetlands for mating and egg laying on rainy nights when the temperature is above 45 degrees. My wife, Ronna and I signed on to volunteer for the Friday night shift. We waited seven weeks until conditions were right. On a rainy night in February we headed to Harborton Road which runs up a hill off the highway on the outskirts of Portland.

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A red-legged frog in the spotlight.

That night I spent a couple of hours getting rained on and scanning the asphalt with a head lamp looking for frogs. Proper rain gear kept me reasonably dry as I spotted these amphibians out of the corner of my eye moving towards the highway. Others resembled stones when they sat motionless. This was usually the smaller Chorus frogs who got in on the free rides to the wetlands by having to cross the same road around the same times as the red-legged frogs.

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Awaiting wetlands transfer.

Catching frogs wasn’t too hard. I figured out how to scoop them up and quickly became a kind of biologist short stop. It was a matter of getting in front of them, getting a hand under their heads and grabbing them as they hopped into my hands. Other frogs would freeze if they were blinded by the light which made them easy pickings. The tricky part was holding on to them while transferring them to the white transport buckets. They had a powerful kick and would get squirmy.

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Busting out of the bucket into the wetlands.

Volunteers installed silt fencing running up the road along the guard rails to keep frogs from heading toward the highway. Frogs spilled into the base of Harborton road, a wider section at the bottom of the hill. There they had open access to Highway 30. Through rain splashed glasses a few frogs got close to having to contend with screaming automobiles barreling down 30, but they never got far enough where they couldn’t be rescued. One frog slipped by me and ended up well into the road. I resigned myself to sheer fate hoping nothing would happen until the road was clear enough and I could get to this imperiled frog. I faced an existential-zen conundrum of sorts, considering whether a frog’s life was more valuable than that of a human. I didn’t consider this for long realizing that an attempted frog rescue during oncoming traffic would have killed us both. Besides it’s not like frog volunteers are given training like the secret soldiers of Benghazi. I held my breath and waited for the coast to clear. The intensity ramped up when a  pick up truck drove down Harborton Road and was about to turn into the lane where the now immobile frog sat. As soon as the truck turned traffic died down and I dashed into the road to get the frog who emerged from the misadventure unscathed.

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Frog Release.  (Photo by David Craig)

After egg laying and mating is finished in the wetlands, frogs need support getting back to their homes in the hills. Silt fencing helps corral them in that area too allowing volunteers to find and deliver them for release back into the hills. At the end of the night 48 red-legged frogs, along with hundreds of Chorus frogs, gained a new lease on life, avoiding vehicular calamity. Having no understanding of the behind the scenes efforts involving the many volunteers, the frogs seemed content to accept their  bucket ride and be chauffeured across the highway to Marina Way and their wetlands drop off spot. We felt a sense of having made a difference in the lives of these frogs that night. Feeling a kinship in our rain-soaked sogginess, we headed home knowing we had done our part to rescue a few frogs who will in turn create more frogs that are bound to need saving in the future.

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The outskirts.

For more information see http://www.linntonfrogs.org

All photos, except where noted by Ronna Craig.

Next Post: A Month Without Coffee

Here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day

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To keep up with our east coast Orbit rival, I find myself having to work holidays. Today it’s all love to everyone. Whether you’re spending an arm or a leg on a prix fixe meal at a fancy restaurant or cooking something amazing at home, I hope it’s the best Valentine’s Day meal you ever had and whether you’re gouging yourself with chocolate or hanging around the grocery store waiting for candy to be marked down 50%, well again it’s sounds like you’re experiencing Valentine’s Day at an optimal level. Enjoy!

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Seasons greetings and Happy Valentine’s Day from the Portland Orbit. Hope you make it a day of fun, love and calories.

 

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An Orbit Obit: Foggy Exotica

Most of you are thinking, why is this guy writing about strip clubs and rock clubs? These are the types of places the guy has barely stepped a foot in since he moved to Portland eight years ago. That thought, if we were communicating telepathically, would have me stammering, hemming and hawing for several minutes.  Given time to defend myself, I’d acknowledge the need to mourn the loss of our local cultural institutions. Then I’d offer up what little I may have experienced of these places in tribute.

Foggy Notion

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Use the old shoe store photo filter.

What’s not to love about a place that may (or may not) have been named after a Velvet Underground song? I’ll live with many regrets, one being not having tried the pierogis they served there. We came close once on a walking tour of Lombard Street that ended at the bar, where all walking tours of this area  should end.  It wasn’t in the cards that night but I did have time to be critical about the decor. In hindsight I have to admit that the kind of rock club I want to go to should have a picture of Mick Jones and other assorted punk rockers on the wall in a stark black and white mural. It’s good to see Mick represent so how can I complain? Besides there was  a nice high stage, skee ball and Arizona ice tea if you were in need of an alternative to alcohol.  My best memory was standing outside the club waiting to meet up with someone and listening to a beautiful, god awful racket as the noise roared out of the club through the windows. A group of people spilled out of the door and seemed in parts bewildered, amazed and in good humor about the whole thing.

I have no idea what it takes to keep a club going but I know it has to be a challenge. Even a cooking show make over of the bar menu couldn’t save the place. In an area that seems to have 10,000 bands performing on any given night it also seems impossible to compete for people’s entertainment dollars. I was hugely inspired when the Foggy Notion got an exterior paint job with what looked like a row of record albums and bright colors for the trim. They jazzed up the old shoe store they were headquartered in which makes the silence from the closure all the more deafening.

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If Exotica International Club for Men could talk it would say, “rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This is what I found out after riding my bike through the glassy sidewalks along Columbia Boulevard to arrive in the empty parking lot. It always looked like a classy place in passing. Then again how much class can a business retain when its nearest neighbor is a Jack in the Box restaurant? I was always attracted to the exterior decor. The dark stone mixes well with the odd shade of blue. I was struck by the attempt at what I’d call tiki-exotic. I was never inspired enough to succumb to the temptations inside that would have led to an inspection of the interior design. Upon further review while visiting the site, I spied a note that stated that Exotica was closed due to repairs and maintenance. It seemed a safe bet to conclude that an empty lot and a for sale sign meant it was shut down for good. It all feels better to be able to report that a repaired and refurbished Exotica International Club for Men will return some day.

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Note: Jack in the Box Reflection

Now I can say I come to praise Exotica not to bury it. I used to look over at the club every time I was on my way to pick up take-out. I knew little about what went on there besides an old coworker telling me that some of the Blazers from long ago, well, after 1999, would hang-out there. The truth to that rumor (or fact?) could not be confirmed at press time. If there’s anything that distinguishes this place from other strip clubs it may be the name and other details on the sign. I’ve always had in my head that it seemed upscale, as far as strip clubs go and the loopy font of the basic Lounge sign add to its charm.

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It hardly matters at all now that I’m finding that I’m merely mourning the end of an era: Exotica International Club for Men 1999 to 2015. No word on when it’s coming back, but it sure seems likely to spring back to life. Men are waiting.

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See a Portland Orbit video report about Exotica: https://youtu.be/FdLE8ljT3L4

 

 

The Beautiful People of the Bike Lane

In Portland, Ore., we have bike corridors and bike lanes, both of which are marked with large images. Bike corridors are streets marked with bike symbols that provide easier access for bike transportation. The bike routes are recognizable thanks to the oversized bike symbols, while the bike lanes that run along side roads have lined borders and are marked by a thick, stick figure riding a bike with a floating head.

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I didn’t know what they were called until I did some research. I didn’t care for the knick name “bike guys” somehow preferring my own more generic name of “lane markers.” Once I began to notice the footless people riding on these bike symbols in the bike lanes it was hard to miss the detailing added to the occasional markers. While huffing and puffing around town, their entertainment value is undeniable. Sure the thrills are cheap, but the designs also provide a bit of low-key joy to the world. If you study the generic nature of the stick figure person on the bike, you can imagine how some creative enhancements spice them up adding pizazz to the bland features.

I wasn’t sure who decorated these things before I researched the subject. I surmised it was the work of one person. The designs seem uniform and consistent in the number and style of additional elements. My theory had me under the impression that bike marker decorations were the work of a lone, talented vandal. Consulting the bible of all Portland Oddities, PDXccentrics, which exists in book and blog form, revealed that the lane markers are the work of PBOT, that’s the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Which makes sense because, when I had a look at the movie “Martinis in the Bike Lane,” I discovered there’s a bit of know-how involved in burning the thermoplastic material that makes the designs into the road. This isn’t something that gets pasted on the asphalt which negated another of my theories about the markers being giant stencils.

SW Terwilliger Blvd

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How can I knock this? I just happen to think that a hobbyhorse is a goofy toy. I probably would have had hours of maniacal, improvised fun with one if I had one as a kid. The subtle use of green in the hat, belt and boot made me want to stop and take a picture. Of course there’s no shame in riding over a one legged hobbyhorse rider.

N Vancouver

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Dubbed the transportation super hero, this female representation of the decorated bike lane markers is one of the reasons I don’t like the bike guys moniker. I can really appreciate this cape and glasses wearing female super hero. Usually it’s the exact opposite, when super heroes only wears glasses to disguise themselves as normal people.

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N Broadway

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I like how this marker celebrates the Rose Festival, a local event who’s spirit I’ve never really caught. It brings back memories of  the incline that stretches from Lovejoy and well past the Broadway bridge. When this Rose Princess marker showed up it provided comic and cuteness relief. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the rose parade tradition. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the significance of the half dozen roses she’s carrying, in case you’re wondering.

Here’s a blog entry as part of the PDXccentric web site.  Scroll down to get the history:https://pdxccentric.wordpress.com/c4-bike-guys/

Great coverage from a Portland bike community blog: http://bikeportland.org/tag/bike-lane-characters

Post Script:

A week or two after this post I discovered a photo I took of another lane person. This is more of example of the older “bike guys.” This one might be smoking a pipe and sporting horns.

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