If you couldn't tell already, food is very important to me. And beer. But if I had to choose, I'd take food over beer. Especially when you are stranded with not much else to do, food is something to look forward to and invest serious time and energy into enjoying.
So I begin this post with a recap of the meals since yesterday. Last night, Victor and I (another person stranded from the Bravo company CRC) walked down to Uptown and had pizza. It was actually very good! The crust was excellent, and the seafood toppings on my half were very good. I am very picky about pizza and most merits my disdain, but this stuff elicited praise for a pizza that I rarely give. It's the only pizza place in Uptown, so if you are ever here you shouldn't have trouble finding it (oh I remember, Picasso's Pizza).
Breakfast was the free stuff down in the lobby. Nothing to write home about (but here I go) except for the beef steak, which wasn't good, it was just the first time I'd had any. Note: this is very different from the Filipino "bip-stek" which is something else entirely (though it does involve beef). I won't be bothering with breakfast at all in the future, I'm doing well enough on 2 meals a day.
Lunch was at the Rankin, a former hotel that's now an "arts" block. The ballroom is now a catering/lunch place, which seems to be characteristic of most of the places to eat around Uptown. Only open for lunch, and most do catering on the side. Funny the things you notice as odd when you aren't from around there. Anyway, the food was quite good, an open face english muffin and turkey sandwich, topped with tomatoes and smothered with cheese sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though would have liked the cheese sauce to be more cheesy...it kind of hinted at cheese, like someone mixed in some cheese powder along with the usual white sauce powder normally poured over biscuits. Still it was good enough and I would recommend the place to anyone. There is fun memorabilia hung all about ("Beware of pickpockets and loose women" read one) and oddly enough an interesting sword collection. The proprieter (Henry? Harry?) and I chatted at some length about the area, things to do, going to Kuwait, and the comparative economic status of Saudi and Kuwait. Good guy.
For dinner I asked the bike shop lady what she thought of the "pig place" at the north end of Broadway (Country BBQ - see slideshow for billboard) and she was enthusiastic about it so I thought I'd give the local cuisine a shot. I had the texas brisket (though it was all you can eat chicken BBQ night...so I may have missed out...) on the recommendation of the waitress. Sides were some sort of meaty soup (good) and collards (waaaay too salty). The brisket itself was lackluster, bacon-like strips of pork or beef (which one goes in a brisket?), leanish meat, slightly warmed up. I have a vision of a big metal container of this stuff pre-cooked earlier in the evening tossed onto the grill for a few seconds before being put on my plate. There was a dipping sauce that was very good, a bit sweet for me, but when in Rome...turned out to be just what the meat needed to liven it up a bit.
The other things I noticed about the place where the people. First, my waitress was very nice and congenial, a far cry from most of the restaurant workers I've seen since being here (except for the asian ladies at Golden China). I don't know what it is, but the overall impression of the service workers here is that they are being put upon to have to serve you in any way and don't have any problem letting you know about it. It's not universal, but general enough to leave a bad taste in the mouth so to speak. So I notice now when the service is good, not just on time or correct, but delivered with a genuinely pleasant and cheerful demeanor.
Otherwise, the impression the Country BBQ left me with was of the general obesity of the clientelle. Now I'm not skinny (as most of you know) so my bar is a little lower than, say, the BMI, but as I was facing the door from my table, I saw that every person walking in there, from the kids to the older folk, was fat. Seriously fat. Not ponderously, but just...chunky. I'm sure part of it was the location, and there are places I could go in Portland and receive the same impression. But for some reason, that was what I noticed. The only people who were of "normal" body mass uniformly were the waiters, waitresses and kitchen staff, all of whom were the usual young workforce one expects to see in a place like that, either in high school or college. We read and hear all the time about how fat america is, but it was kind of sobering to see it first hand. Can't help but wonder how many of those people will die because of it.
Ok, on to other things...lessee...oh yeah, the rest of the day!
I headed down to Uptown around 10am again and this time went directly to Judy's used bookstore (no Judy was to be seen) and spent a good hour and a half there perusing for more reading as my current selection is rapidly dwindling. I started the Shangri-la Diet last night and have one chapter left to read. Not wanting to be stuck with nothing to read during the coming "wait-a-thon" that is CRC, I was able to locate two potentially interesting reads that I confirmed later are excellent finds. I'll list my current reading selection further down. While there I used the bathroom. I only mention this to explain the photograph in the slideshow below of the toilet and poster. I think that's all that needs to be said about that.
After the bookstore, I headed down towards the river to locate the Chattahoochee (it's fun to spell it different every time dontcha think?) River Outfitters who rumor had it rented bikes. I did not want to ride the same saddle style seat as yesterday and was hoping they'd have different options. I found it all right, but they (as most things) didn't open til 12 noon, so I walked down to the river and sat down to read the first couple of chapters of both books to see if they were going to be any good (they are). It was so stinking hot (90 degrees and what felt like 100% humidity) that I took my shirt off (no picture included, sorry) and was relatively comfortable sitting in the shade for a while. That's where I took the pictures of the river and riverwalk that are included in the slideshow.
After this I headed back up to the outfitters only to find that they were not open yet. I peered inside, and all I could see were segways and ads to do a "segway tour" which sounded kind of cool, except for the $55 and "tour" parts. No bikes. I waited some more. No one. So I headed up to the Rankin place and had lunch and talked to Harry/Henry who didn't know why they weren't open. Then I went over to the bike store I'd rented from yesterday, because some kind of bike is better than no bike. I spoke to a different guy and mentioned the seat issue and he said they might have a real road bike in the back if I was interested...I was and he brought out a Felt 75 (never seen one before) which was more expensive to rent, $25 a day. "Ouch" I thought, but then..."Ouch" thought my butt, so I said ok. He put different pedals on then gave it to me. It took me a while to figure some things out like...oh...shifting, but once I did I fell in love. So this is what a real bicycle feels like! Not that I want to disparage my beloved Bianchi Bergamo, but oh wow... Smooth as butter shifting, precise steering control, the seat was very comfortable though practical, and best of all was the posture my back was forced into was perfect for long distances. Usually my back starts to hurt after more than 30 minutes on my Bergamo, but I never had a problem with my back hurting at all today. Also, the curved handle bar grips allow multiple hand holds which reduce the hand discomfort/pain that comes with a the T bars I'm used to. The shifting mechanism was not one I'd ever seen before but I quite liked it. It's hidden under the brakes, which follow the front curve of the handle bars. They are levers that are pressed inward, while to shift the other direction you push the entire break mechanism! That's what took me a while to figure out. The other thing about the bike that was new to me was the height. It was exactly right for me, so that I could stand flat-footed on the ground and the top bar was comfortably beneath me without actually touching (which I read somewhere is how its supposed to be). My Bergamo must be a little to large for me as this is not the case with that one.
Anyway, the whole thing was a joy to ride and I rode close to 20 miles today with only a little soreness on my seat (mostly left over from yesterday), and my right knee which has started hurting quite badly (not the knee itself, but what feels like a small cluster of muscles just to the right of the knee...it only hurts when I make the downward pumping motion, I don't feel it when walking, but I do when climbing stairs). This prevented me from riding fast, but did not prevent me from going nice and slow. Also, it decided to rain a few times which has never felt so glorious to me before. Riding along in 90 degree humidity and getting pelted with rain is a wonderful thing! I had heard there was a chance of thunderstorms so later when I saw the real thunderclouds moving in I parked myself in a fishing supply store down by Rotary Park and watched an episode of Mythbusters while it thundered and poured like mad outside. Much more like the tropical rains of the Philippines than anything in Oregon.
When the rain had cleared up, I rode back to Uptown, checked the bike in and headed to the Country BBQ, then home. On the way home I kept seeing these great old houses that are scattered all over here, so I snapped a few pictures which are in the slideshow. Two of these houses sandwich my hotel, which is kind of funny. They have so many cool old buildings, but also really nasty new ones (not too many cool new ones). But on the whole they are doing a great job of preserving the downtown (uptown...whatever) area and the historic residential district. If I had to live here, I'd try to live in this area, as the rest of what I've seen is unmitigated sprawl (though admittedly I haven't seen a lot).
I'm really enjoying my time here, it's turning out to be a very pleasant vacation.
Oh, here's a list of what I'm reading right now:
The Science of God: Mentioned this before. It's very good so far, though part of me wonders exactly where he's going with all this. Not sure I get it yet.
The Shangri-la Diet: I read about this a month or so ago and was starting into it when life got crazy so I didn't give it a real chance. I ordered the book to be sure I fully understood it and I almost finished it last night. If you are interested in more, get the book or read here for more info. It may be crazy, but hey, if it works...that and the fact that it's extremely cheap and easy to try (no you do not have to order away for anything) make it at least intriguing to me.
In the Ocean of Night: This appears to be some hard sci-fi written by a real physicist that starts a series that should keep me occupied for some time.
Star of the Unborn: Written by Franz Werfel, this is a post-humously published science fiction novel translated from German. It's pretty chewy material, but so far it's interesting.
The Case Against Adolescence: Actually, I just finished this prior to leaving home. I had intended it to be my airplane book...oops. I got interested in this book from an article that was re-printed from The Scientific American Mind called "The Myth of the Teen Brain." Seeing as I will someday have a teenager on my hands I thought it might be a good idea to start delving deeper into this thing called "adolescence" that I've always subconsciously felt was probably manufactured. I highly recommend reading this book if have or will have any teenagers in your life. I don't necessarily agree with all of Epstein's prescriptive advice, but I do find the data he presents very illuminating. From a more Christian perspective, I found this article to be helpful too.
Ok, I think that's enough for tonight. Here are the pictures: