Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Portlandia (Part 2)

Have I mentioned the rain?  Oy vey.  A big November rain storm hit so it basically rained all the time.  Let's see, where was I? 

On Sunday S came by and we had breakfast at a cool diner/cantina like place in the Pearl.  It was delish, but I was not really that hungry after the foodie dinner the night before.

After breakfast, we continued our exploration of Portland.  First we headed up to the Washington Park which is on a hill overlooking the city.  We went to the Rose Test Garden which overlooks the city.  There were still a few roses hanging on, but most of them were gone.  But I guess Portland is the city of roses and there are a group of people who help tend the garden who are called Rosarians.  Kind of cool.  Love the statue.  Now, I had to ask about the test garden.  Apparently they test out new hybrids of roses to see how they do before the roses enter the commercial market.  Never thought about that.  Kind of cool.  After the rose garden we drove around Nob Hill which has some just amazing homes.  Uber expensive I'm sure, but it's the really steep hills that surprised me.  Apparently they do get ice storms in Portland and I'm not sure how you would get up those hills.

After the driving tour, we headed down to PAM, the Portland Art Museum.  We kind of did the tour in reverse so we saw the impressionists first, which I loved.  But then we went into modern art.  Which I'm not a huge fan of.  Basically, if it's "art" that I think I can do, then I just don't think it's art.  Having said that, I would never create a life size statue of an overweight man sitting on a small chair.  When we first saw it, from the back, both S and I thought it was a real person doing some weird performance art bit.  It was that life-like.  When we figured out it wasn't, we couldn't stop laughing.  I shared the pic with Museum Man and he made an interesting comment.  He said: "If Marcel Duchamp can hang a urinal on a wall an call it art, then this attempt to recreate a person as realistically as possible - to the point of making the viewer uncomfortable then the artiest has achieved his or her objective."  I guess.  But PAM's special exhibit was "Bodies Beautiful" which was basically about ancient Greek art.  So I prefer my male statues to look a little bit more like this.

Dinner was another foodie adventure.  A place call "Beast."  Chantalle mushroom soup (I don't like muchrooms), a charcuterie plate that include some weird (but good) rabbit sausage, foie gras (ugh), and some weird (and not good) terrine, then a palate cleanser, beef cheek on Gruyere cheese infused potoatoes.  Seriously delicious.  Spicy arugula salad with hot almonds and goat cheese.  Yumm.  A cheese plate that include some wildflower honey.  Which as amazing.  And then a spice cake with creme fraiche and rum raisin ice cream.  I wanted to lick the bowl.  Way to good.  I did not do the wine pairing.  I think I was still in recover from the night before.

Monday was the day we were going to go to see the Multnomah Falls.  And have I mentioned the rain?  Wow.  After a great breakfast (S definitely knows the best breakfast/brunch places), we headed out to the falls.  One of the really great things about Portland is that there is so much natural beauty so close to the city.  We were basically out of the city in 15 minutes and in the country another 15 minutes after that.  We had planned to take the historic highways that sort of goes along the Columbia Gorge but it was closed.  So we ended up taking the highway which meant we only got to see 3 of the main falls.  But there was so much rain falling that there were several smaller falls cascading off the gorge walls.  Just totally amazing.

We did hike a little bit to see some of the falls.  All of the trails we used were paved which was good because it was slippery as sh!t.  But it was really great.  And the falls were unbelievable.  With all of the rain, the amount of water was just incredible.  And hearing the water hit the rocks and the water below was like a constant roar of thunder.  Totally cool.   And even though we were getting soaked, I was having the best time.  S was a real trooper to go out with me in the rain.  I would totally love to come here in the summer when the weather is nicer to go on some real hikes.  But in this rain, not so much right now.

After that we headed back to town and I took a long, hot shower.  And then I did some work, I did grad a bit to eat at a diner, but then I was back in the hotel early.  My train to Seattle was early in the AM.

Portland has potential as a possible future residence.  We'll see.     

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Portlandia (Part 1)

So Portland has sort of become a fantasy land for me.  I'm not sure why, but I have this persistent fantasy about quitting my job and moving to Portland.  I'm not sure why, but it has some sort of draw on me.  And so when I had a chance to come out to Portland for a couple of days, I jumped on it.

So Portland.  I arrived on Friday to cloudy skies, but atleast it wasn't raining.  After checking into my hotel, I walked over to the Pearl District which according to Museum Man is the new hip area and where I should live if I moved to Portland.  And I can see why.  It is more industrial than my current neighborhood, but it is definitely quirky and kind of cool.   And the good news is that it has less crazies than downtown Portland.  Downtown Portland definitely had a high number of crazies.  I guess DC does too, but I just don't see them where I live.  I stopped at a local brewery for lunch.  The Rebel Hop was my favorite.

That evening I hooked up with S, a good friend of John's.  She and her BF took me out to dinner at a cool restaurant in the Pearl (I think) and then we went to this crazy dessert place that was just amazing.

The next day, S picked me up and took me on a tour of the city.  First we had brunch at a cool place just on the edge of Chinatown.  We went to the Chinese Gardens which were small, but very cool.  Oh, and it was raining now.  Not a lot, but enough to be a bit of a haze.  But the upshot was that there was no one there.  We also went over to the Saturday market area which was cool, but with the rain wasn't that impressive.  Apparently in the summer it's huge and there is live music, etc.  But it was still kind of cool.  After that, we walked back to downtown and hit the Nordstroms where I picked up a good rain slicker with a hood.  My jacket/umbrella combo really wasn't going to cut it here.

S also recommended a couple of foodie places to eat while I was here so I headed to one of them Saturday night.  But first I had 2 glasses of wine at the happy hour at my hotel.  Then I took a cab to Le Pigeon where I was told the wait was 45 minutes.  So S had told me of a wine bar called Kir around the corner.  So I went there and had a glass of bubbly.  Then I went back to Le Pigeon and had another glass of wine while I waited.  Have you counted the number of glasses?  This is all before I've eaten.  I get seated at the chef's table which is the bar that overlooks the very small kitchen.  Which was really fascinating.  John would have loved this place.  I did the tasting menu, with wine pairing.  Of course.

Now, let me be clear.  I'm not a foodie.  John was.  And I would always go along and I would always try whatever was on the menu.  I'm a trooper.  So when the waitress asked me if there was any food I didn't want to eat, I said yes, but it's not a big deal.  But she wanted to know what it was, so I said mushrooms and foie gras.  She wanted to know if I had an ethical issue with foie gras and I said no.  So she asked that I give their dessert, a foie gras profiterole a chance.  And I said sure.  Again, I'm a trooper.  So she smiled and I got ready for my tasting menu.

And the first course was steak tartare with some seasoning.  Now, I have this small issue with raw food.  If I'm at a restaurant, I sort of want them to cook my food if I'm paying for it.  Call me crazy.  But I ate it.  And as long as I didn't think about it too much, I sort of enjoyed it.  I would never order it again, but it was sort of tasty.  And I had a nice glass of wine to wash it down.  So that was the bad course.  It would have to get better after this, right?  Nope.  The second course was uni on a bed of roe.  So not only am I not a sushi fan (see above), I'm also not a caviar fan.  But it also came with a fried oyster.  So I managed to eat it and again, if I didn't think too much about it, it was pretty good.  With the wine of course.  The third course was a fish course that was very tasty.  And interestingly enough it was paired with a red wine because it had a very earthy sauce to it.  The fourth course was the best.  Beef cheek on a bed of gruyerre cheese infused mashed potatoes.  Hello yummy!  Really, really good.  And then we get to the dessert.  It was the foie gras profiterole (which was actually really good) plus a goat cheese cheesecake that was just devine.  And I had a lovely dessert wine to go with it.

Now at this point, I'm beyond full.  I'm more than a little tipsy and just stuffed.  So instead of hitting the town, I went back to the hotel and crashed.  And wow did I have some cra-cray dreams after all of that rich food.  But definitely a good time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Orlando (Part 2)

So I guess it's fitting that I'm writing about this on Veteran's Day.

In March, I applied for a job at AFRICOM in Stuttgart Germany.  I've been thinking about changing jobs and it sounded interesting and moving back to Europe seemed like a real interesting opportunity.  So I applied and I got an interview.  It went well and then I thought, wait, what happens if I really get the job.  Would John leave his job?  Could he find a job in Stuttgart?  They *must* do patent work in Germany.  His firm has an office in Brussels.  How would all of this work.  We had several conversations, all of them speculative since I didn't have the job yet, but we weren't sure how this would work out.  And then I started thinking of the logistics of it all.  Even if we were married, would even be allowed to come with me?  DOMA would prevent him from getting spousal status.  Could he even get into the country?  Or get a work visa?  Would Germany recognize our marriage even if the U.S. didn't?  Could he even get access to the base to pick me up from work? Or use the hospital?

So many questions.  So while DADT was repealed, gay and lesbian service members (and service civilians) don't have equal rights and access to a whole host of rights and services because of DOMA.   A friend of mine asked if I was interested in joining the board of the Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) who had been one of the primary drivers for the repeal of DADT.  I had originally said no, but John had recommended I do it and after the AFRICOM flailex (though I was never offered the job), I knew I wanted to help get marriage benefits for gay and lesbian service members.  If you are willing to put your life on the line for this country, then you deserve the same rights and benefits as everyone else.

So the primary reason I went to Orlando was to attend the OutServe-SLDN International Leadership Conference and the OS-SLDN board meeting.  Over the summer, SLDN merged with OutServe, the active duty GLBT organization that has something like 6000 members.  Needless to say that with John's death, I was sort of pre-occupied with other things.  So this was my first opportunity to participate in the organization and attend the board meeting.

The conference was interesting and I learned a whole bunch of stuff.  But it was the board meeting that was interesting.  The repeal of DADT meant that SLDN's primary mission had been achieved and they were now focused on getting marriage benefits for G&L service members.  However, while DADT allowed gays and lesbians to serve, it didn't allow transgender persons to serve openly.  In addition to the merge, OS-SLDN also hired a new executive director.  A West Point graduate who had served in Iraq.  Who is a transgender woman.  She is still married to her West Point graduate wife and they have three children.

Now I'll be honest and say that at first I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole transgender issue.  On the gay and lesbian issue, I was always, if the person can shoot the enemy, can fly a plane, can drive a ship, if they can diffuse the bomb, fundamentally if they can do the job.  Then does it matter if they are gay or lesbian or black or white or green or young or old or whatever?  And I guess to be honest, if that argument is correct.  And I believe it is.  Then does it matter if the person is transgender?  The answer is no, not really.

I'll also say that I can't imagine what it's like to go through what they go through everyday.  The courage and integrity it must take to live their life they way they want to.  To say no to the easy but wrong answer, but yes to the hard but right answer.

And aren't those the exact attributes you want to a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Storm Center - San Diego!!

So you know how the TV stations in DC will go into hyper drive when there is a big storm in DC?  They will have reporters all over the place, even before the storm hits?  Here's Megan Smith reporting from a sanding station in Northern Virginia where the snow us due in 6 hours?  Stuff like that?

Well it's gone crazy here in San Diego.  We've gone all Storm Center San Diego.  And why?

For pop up showers.

Pop up showers?

So a little rain?

And that means you need to have a four person team reporting on it?

For rain?

Just kills me.