Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

September 30, 2008


As in "The Great."

Scared yet? I am. Let's see a show of hands: Who sees history repeating itself? Stock market crashing, banks failing, people losing their homes, dollar's value falling........hmm.....sound familiar?

I am trimming every possible extra cost that I can find on our books. No more text messaging as we get charged for each one. No more pay-per-view movies on the cable bill. I canceled the automatic withdrawal to Brian's Roth IRA in August. Canceled the newspaper. Canceled the wireless internet service we paid for each month but never used (for laptop computer travel purposes). Of course those fuckers rope you into a 2 year contract and charge you $175 to break it. Bastards. I won't be taking anymore photo junkets anywhere (sorry Axe, the trip to the Lees' graves will have to wait till spring). No more stopping by the craft stores and bead shops. We're dialing down Xmas. Didn't go to the Puyallup Fair this year. Mr. Vu and his crew was awesome while it lasted, but after the next couple of weeks, we'll have to let him go too.

I've applied for health insurance and Steve is going to pick up a good portion of that cost but I'll still have to kick in some $$ towards it. Brian has no health insurance. We couldn't afford to put him on the policy for which I applied. He's still had no bites on his resume.

But I am pissed. Really pissed. I can solve the Wall Street crisis right now: Make the oil companies bail them out. It's that simple. We're being repeatedly raped with taxes and the cost of gasoline, so let THEM bail out the economy. Why the already burdened middle class has to do it is beyond me. What about all those people who are losing their homes? Who is bailing them out so that they can keep their homes? This is just bullshit.

Maybe it can be traced back to the Clinton administration, maybe not. I think it goes back to the excesses and greed of the Reagan years of the 1980's. Borrowed from Peter to pay Paul back then, and it happened again. Now we're stuck holding the bag? The American middle class? WTF???? As far as I'm concerned, this is all a byproduct of the failed Bush Administration.

Do I blame people for taking on mortgages they couldn't afford? Partly, yes. I do blame people who knew they couldn't afford the $500,000 house, 3 car garage, boat and RV but bought them anyway and mortgaged themselves to the hilt. But I don't blame the people who simply wanted a piece of the American dream, and own their own home. I don't blame people who didn't have the savvy, education and/or guidance to realize that their mortgage and/or home equity loan was a huge scam.

My bank sort of went under. Washington Mutual was about to fail and have the FDIC step in, when Chase bought them at the last minute. But the fucking WaMu CEO, who was there THREE WEEKS, gets to keep his multi million dollar signing bonus AND gets a multi million dollar golden handshake. I am so goddamn mad about that it's not even funny. We initially decided to stay w/ WaMu/Chase, then we heard about the CEO's severance package and decided that it's time to move to a credit union. I'm sure WaMu is going to go out of their way to deny us our money, but they really don't know who they are fucking with if they try that with me. I'm sorry that the WaMu employees and retirees lost their retirements and 401(k)'s when the stock tanked, and I'm sorry that they are facing layoffs just like so many millions of other Americans. Yet the CEO gets like $14million to walk away??????? What is wrong with this picture????? But I'm not going to leave my money in that bank any longer. We've been making a pittance of interest on our savings account. It's time to move on to Boeing Employees Credit Union. I'll feel safer w/ my money there.

And think about the major trickle down effect this is having. It's not just employees of companies getting laid off, but the coffee stands will see their business fall, as will convenience stores, restaurants, dry name it. I haven't been to our dry cleaner since August. There's no need. Brian's cut WAY back on going to his fave watering hole too, so they will start to see a downturn in business. It's fucking scary.

We're in for a bumpy ride, folks. Time to hunker down and wait it out.

September 21, 2008

Julie & Jo's Second Annual BFF Girl's Weekend in Portland, Oregon

On Friday, 9/19, me and Julie (note to Julie: I worded it that way just for you. hahaha) left our respective homes for the approximate 155 mile drive to Portland. However, because most of my trip is on a highway at 70 mph in places, I got to Portland about 45 minutes b/f Julie. I stopped twice along the way to stretch out the trip and I shot this sign at one of my stops. The weather was cloudy, of course, because I was traveling. We'd had about 3 weeks of sunny, warm days leading up to my trip and then the ocean air pushed in. So I couldn't see Mount St. Helens from the highway, nor could I see Mt. Hood or any of our other large volcanoes.

Crossing the Columbia River. I have this exact same shot from last year!!

I didn't take any pictures of our hotel this year, but we were at the Days Inn Motel, a few miles from downtown. It was, unfortunately, right next to Highway 84 and had a city bus stop right on the other side of the parking lot so it was extremely noisy. And the room was hot. We had and used the a/c, but it would always kick off right as the room was finally starting to get comfortable. Tried to keep the window open but it was just too loud, especially the sound of the bus' air brakes when it stopped.

Julie arrived and we checked in at about 11:30. We dumped our crap in the room and caught up for a bit, then we headed into the city. Last year, we were in the main downtown area, near the college. This year we decided to explore "Old Town" and we liked it way better than where we were last year, but for the fact that there really aren't that many shops and a whole lot of homeless people.

We had lunch here, at Old Town Pizza. It was sooooo good.
The interior of the restaurant is extremely interesting. The building is quite old and sits above the "Shanghai Tunnels". The restaurant very dark and filled with tons of antiques, stained glass windows, stained glass lamps, Victorian era furniture, toys & pot bellied stove. You wind your way thru the inside to different rooms. It's pretty cool. Supposedly haunted. I swear I heard, very faint, the sound of ghostly voices wailing and such, which I am sure are piped in. lol

After we ate lunch, we took a quick walk to Apple Music Row, because the time on our parking space was limited. Julie wanted to get some plastic stix for her drum kit so we popped into the drum store. I loved these tie dyed congas and bongos. Unfortunately, they didn't have any tie dyed drum kits.

There's Julie doing her best "Rock-n-Roll Drummer Animal" impression. The salesdude, Brett, was really funny and nice. He asked me to email him this picture so I did.

They had lots of autographed drum heads hanging on the wall, but I honestly did not recognize the names of any of the musicians as they were all from bands I don't follow. I asked if Mickey Hart and/or Billy Kreutzman from the Dead ever stopped in and Brett said no, they hadn't.

Still, they had lots of antique drums and originals. I really liked this one from 1936.

This sign cracked us both up.

A cool doorway in Old Town.

We were walking around, trying to find the car. We rounded the corner and saw this sign and busted our guts laughing. This would be Brian's Chinese name. *wink*

We made it back to the car with one minute to spare before the time limit ran out. Went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day and evening talking and laughing.

Got up at 7:45 on Saturday, went out to breakfast, then drove along the Columbia River Gorge to Multnomah Falls. Again, we had a very grey, overcast day and it was misting the closer we got to the falls.

Multnomah Falls is the second tallest continually flowing waterfall in the USA. (The first is Yosemite Falls in CA). I'm sure this is much more impressive in the spring, after the rains and melting snow.

My plan was to hike as far as the bridge; Julie was going to the top. Although she did it in record time and didn't even break a sweat, I found the description of "40% grade with switchbacks" a bit too daunting for me. But then again, Julie also summits 20,000 foot mountains so it's all relative.

Here are the upper falls, taken from the Bridge.

Upper falls landing in a little catch basin before the water continues on it's downward journey.

Looking straight down from the bridge.

My glasses were fogging up every time I held the camera up to take a shot. I still use the viewfinder, not the screen. So I took them off and this is what happens when I try to take a picture without my glasses. It sure looked focused to me......

Fern & Western cedar.

View of the Columbia River from the trail. That's Washington State on the other side of the river.

Lower falls.

I really liked the contrast of the feathery & regular waterfalls.

There were a few artisans set up outside the lodge. I nearly forked out quite a bit of cash for a gorgeous art marble, but realized we still had the Portland Saturday Market to visit, so I kept my credit card in my purse.

That is until I went into the lodge's gift shop. I want every one of these Seattle Glass Eye Studio paperweights. I didn't buy any of them, but I did spend about $40 on postcards, a magnet and a really cool cross stitch design of the falls and lodge.

These bad boys run upwards from $75. If I could, I'd collect them all. Unfortunately we have neither the money to buy them, or the room for a large, lit glass case. And we live in earthquake country.

Isn't this world one gorgeous? It's quite large too, about the size of a softball.

And of course the obligatory tourist shot.

Multnomah Lodge. I think it's just a day lodge with a gift shop and restaurant.

I liked this Union Pacific train bridge sign, listing the mileage to cities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Didn't realize that I'd also captured a semi traveling on the highway next to the train bridge till after I started uploading photos.

Looking west up the Columbia River. It eventually dumps into the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark sailed down much of the Columbia on their historical journey in the early 1800's. It was the only east-west route thru the Cascade Mountains for the first pioneers.

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge. Farther east is the Bonneville Dam, which provides hydroelectric power for much of Washington thru the Bonneville Power Administration. Oregon is on the right and Washington State is on the left.

We got back to Portland before 11 and went back to Old Town. This time we found an all day parking lot that only cost $6. We headed over to the Portland Saturday Market, which is under the Burnside Bridge.

It was overwhelming. I wanted to buy every single thing I saw. Nearly every single craft was created by a Pacific NW artisan. These guys make creative jewelry, wind chimes, and other items out of silverware and cutlery. Their most popular item is the head band that has one half of cutlery on one side and the other half on the other side. You put it on and it looks like there's a meat clever embedded in your head.

Or salad tongs.

These feathered masks were so exotic and beautiful.

The market spills out from under the bridge, around the side of the bridge and across the street. There was so much to see and so much to buy, but I was a good girl.

I didn't even buy any tie dye.

I would have bought this in a heartbeat.

Or this. I really, really wanted this. It's the most unique stained glass window hanging I've ever seen.

No, Red Green was not making the wallets. lol

A lot of the stuff for sale was of the Thai/Nepalese/Tibetan/Asian genre, which I also love (right Holly?). Julie scored a couple of really cool rings and a prayer wheel pendant necklace. She also got a cool hat. I bought a gorgeous purple batik blouse at a store near the market for a great price.

There was also a lot of live music and by far my fave was the Boka Marimba Band who were set up under the eating tent. I kind of wish I'd gotten their CD.
Julie in her jaunty new hat & holding my bag of purchases, at the entrance of the market.

We walked up on the Burnside Bridge so that I could get a shot of this sign.

We then walked around Chinatown for a little while. It's not very big at all, but I had to take pictures of the entrance gate, since I have Chinatown gate pictures from SF, Victoria and Vancouver.

I liked this a lot, even if they do portray Mt. Hood to be this ginormous mountain that towers over the city, when in reality it's only about 11,000 feet and not that close.

We stopped into this Asian antique store call The Monkey & The Rat. The first thing we were greeted with was extremely loud bluegrass music, which the owner eventually turned down. I really wasn't expecting to hear bluegrass in an Asian antique shop.

We were drooling over what appears to be a very fancy birdhouse. There was a young woman in there with her boyfriend and she really, really wanted to buy this. But then of course I had to point out how gross it'd get with bird poop and how hard it would be to keep clean.

We split for the hotel late in the afternoon, dumped off our crap, then headed out to find someplace to have dinner and were kind of in the mood for Chinese. We ended up at the Shen Zhen Seafood Restaurant, not too far from the hotel, so we decided to get take out.
The place was pretty crowded and 95% of the diners were Asian, so we knew the food was probably going to be good. Out of practicality, we got the combo dinner plate so that we wouldn't have to throw away good food, and neither one of us wanted to cart the food home on Sunday. We had the sweet & sour pork, fried rice, vegetables & egg rolls.
As we waited, we started to take more notice of our surroundings. There were 4 large pretty fetid tanks of fish against one wall. Not a decorative tank of fish, but ones they plan on killing and serving. There was a large eel in one and a dead fish under it. The eel never moved so I can only assume it was dead too. We were glad we didn't get any seafood!! To kill more time while waiting and to keep my eyes off the tanks of fetid fish, I started reading the menu which had quite the selection of interesting items.
This one jumped off the page and I was barely able to keep myself from shrieking in disgust. Instead, I just looked at Julie w/ wide eyes, pointed and whispered, "Ewwww, look!"
Now, I just have one question. Why? Why would you eat a pig's rectum? Why would you eat ANY kind of rectum? And who was the brainiac who first decided to eat one and incorporate into the cuisine of one's area, which in this case appears to be Northern China. The fried pig's kidney is bad enough. But pig's rectum? Julie was as horrified as I was. So of course while we were eating our sweet & sour pork we kept asking each other, "So how's your pig's rectum?" Because for all we knew, that's what we got.
We had the best time and when we left, agreed "Same time, next year!"
Left Portland at a little after 6 a.m. on Sunday and was home by about 8:45 a.m. I passed by Mr. Right Winger's place along I-5 near Chehalis and shot a picture of this year's sign. Last year he had something on there about illegal immigrants. This year it says, "Can the Real Washington Make King County Secede? Re-Elect Rossi". It's a long, boring political story stemming from the 2004 Gubernatorial Election. Rossi isn't our current Gov., by the way, but he would have been if it wasn't for King County. I voted for Chris Gregoire and the second she took office, she blindsided us with a huge gas tax, which is why our gas is higher than everyone else except California and probably Hawai'i. She's been a huge disappointment and really bad for our state. And her mudslinging approach to ads is lame. Needless to say, we are crossing party lines and voting for Dino Rossi, who is running again.