Thursday, February 28, 2013

Handicapped for Hip-Hop

Jack went to see Method Man at the Domino Room last night. Jack is an older white gentleman and the crowd last night was pretty much all 2-1/2 to 3 times younger than him. Jack was at a disadvantage, music-wise, but not necessarily due to his whiteness or age, but for another reason.

Let me explain.

First of all, the crowd was a lot of fun. The place was packed and the energy was high. There were three, roughly, opening acts (members kind of blended with each other, for example, Mike Fish [Person People] was onstage with other artists), and more than a few folk provided DJ function.

Wearing my black Wu-Tang hoodie I hoped to avoid mocking from the younger people, but it probably wasn't needed. The kids were fine.

I arrived early enough to snag one of the few bar stools upstairs and drag it to the front of the balcony (this being my plan to avoid standing all evening long, something we elders try to avoid). As the place filled, a fellow, about 24 years old, said "Great seat!"

I said yeah, but the problem is that if you go to the bar and don't have someone to hold the seat, you'll lose it.

He asked what I was drinking.

He left, then, returning a few minutes later, handed me a fresh drink.

Seeing my surprise, he said, "Yeah. I'm that guy."

The guy who kindly brings a codger a drink at his seat. Nice guy.

I stayed for about half of Method Man's set, then took a cab home. Mrs Elliott was asleep when I let myself into the house, I kissed her when I got into bed.

And reflected that I would have gotten a lot out of the music were it not for my handicap. You see, I have "lyric blindness," an unofficial phrase that means I don't hear the words in songs. You know that song by Adele that had all the ladies crying last year? I've heard it many times -- I have no idea what she's singing about. In fact, I have no idea what singers sing about, ever.

It's not due to not listening or not paying attention. I hear the words, but the part of my brain that tries to process the voices is overwhelmed by the part that listens to the music. I hear the music, I hear the parts the instrumentalists are playing, I hear the beat, I hear the sound of the voice. But what they're singing about? Not so much.

Musicals, much beloved by many, are boring to me. I saw "Rent" a few years ago. It might as well have been in Italian. Which is fine, because I like "La Boheme", the opera by Pucinni, a lot. And listening to folk sing in a foreign language means that I don't need to worry about trying to tease meaning out of the sounds coming out of the singers's mouths.

Poetry is baffling to me. That might be associated.

Anyway, the problem I have with hip-hop isn't cultural or because I'm old or white, it's because what hip-hop is about is the poetry, the words, the stories and feelings. And without having a sense of what they're talking about, the music just isn't that interesting.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Food and Music in February in Bend

Mrs Elliott has two ladyfriends visiting from the Southland. Betty and Veronica -- not real names, a blonde and a brunette, both smart and beautiful -- are house guests this weekend. They are presently out shopping and I am preparing tonight's dinner:  Filipino Chicken Adobo, Garlic Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes," and Roasted Hearts of Romaine Salad; the latter with white anchovies and EVO dressing. With a very fine viogner that was being tasted at Newport Market this afternoon.

I don't normally find viogner interesting but this, from 3 Horse Ranch, is nice.

Tonight, the oven will be @ 450 degrees F for the roastage of the Romaine so it will be too hot for plate warming, so I'm trying to MacGyver (hack, create) a plate warmer from a three-holer stainless steel buffet tray/warming tray that we own.

The idea is sound but the towels I'm using to keep the plates separate from the hot bottom of the tray smell like a high-school locker room while they are warming and drying and I don't know why. They are freshly-laundered, and have no business smelling like that. I'll see if they lose the odor as they dry and heat. In the meantime: Feh.

I'm going out on Monday night to hear the Central Oregon Symphony Orchestra play at the Bend High auditorium. I've written about this orchestra before. The members are all volunteers and they sound great. The has conductor done a fine job of bringing them all together, and the hall has excellent acoustics. It seats thousands of people (number not before me) and it's always filled for all three nights. BTW, I have been a lifelong lover of the classics and have heard several world-class orchestras in some of the finest concert halls so I know good when I hear it.

Ralph Vaughn Williams's viola concerto and other items are on the program.

I've sent out emails to everyone I know to find someone to share the tickets with me.

While I'm not a great RVW fan -- the Brits are boring -- I'm lucky to have the opportunity to hear some of the world's best classical music played well in a good-sounding space right here in tiny little Central Oregon.

I hope that someone I know knows someone who wants to fill the seat beside me.

And then on Wednesday: some real hip-hop. A buddy and I (he's another old white guy like me) will be staying up late to see Method Man at the Domino room.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Long-vanished Rail Spur leads to Location of Bend's Old Flour Mill (pt. 1)

(If you receive this post via email, you may wish to view it directly by opening the link. There are plenty of photos and maps.)

Part 1 
Wall Street Storage Building holds Key to Old Rail Spur

Wall Street Storage sits close to the north end of Wall St. near Olney Avenue. It is a great hulking building of wood timbers, constructed back in the day when lumber was easy to come by in Bend and 12 by 12s were a foot across. Inside, buzzing sodium-vapor lights hung from the ceiling 20 feet overhead cast pale yellow light throughout the vast space, illuminating a warren of aisles and storage spaces, large and small, divided and partitioned by plywood sheets.

Entry is through a small door up a short flight of stairs at the front of the building. A powerful spring keeps the door closed at all times, and a security camera surveys the entry hall. The air inside is cool in summer and dead cold in winter. 

Jack and Mrs Elliott rent a small space on the lower level, a space for our personal and business tax and accounting records, unused trinkets, old photograph albums, and a whole lot of seasonal items. In winter, boxes of Halloween and Christmas decorations and wrapping paper come out of storage and move into our garage, while summer's toys -- camping equipment, deflated vinyl rafts -- leave our garage and move into the storage space.

Other than the buzz of the lamps, it's generally quiet inside.

Mrs Elliott finds the place gloomy and forbidding, but Jack is fascinated with old buildings, old properties. 

A tale of discovery of some old Bend history

Jessica Woodmansee has been manager of the facility since 2007. She has an inquisitive mind, takes delight in arcane facts, and finds old buildings intriguing. When I visited the place to rent a space around 2011, she offered to show me around and describe some of its history--and I was pleased to take that nickel tour. 

She said that the building dated from 1939. Called "Hudson House," it was built by Portland-based wholesale grocer Hudson-Duncan. In the office she sifted through a stack of papers and pulled out a manila folder containing old newspaper clippings. A photograph, from a July 31 1939 Bend Bulletin story (page number unknown, the online archive of this edition is missing seven pages) was photocopied into two halves. The manila folder may contain the only remaining evidence of the photo.
Composite image of front of Hudson House, 1939 made by crudely pasting together the two halves of the photocopy. Across the front are loading docks for trucks. "Hudson House, Inc." can be seen on the south, left, wall. Click to embiggen.

It's a vast building: 20,000 square feet on the top floor, 12,000 square feet in the basement, according to this article in the March 3 1939 issue of the Bend Bulletin.
Interior of warehouse after completion. The photo does not give the scale of the place. The ceiling is easily 20 feet high. Photo courtesy Wall Street Storage.

But what really caught my eye were three large, counterweighted doors on the south side. This is door No. 5:
Door No. 5 is located closest to Wall Street. Doors No. 6 and 7 are spaced along the side, respectively closer to the western (back, river) side of the building.
According to Woodmansee, when Hudson-Duncan was serving Central Oregon with groceries, produce, and goods these doors were used to load and unload freight from box cars parked on a railway spur alongside the building.

The Adventure Begins

Old infrastructure and trains are catnip to Jack. Better than single-malt Scotch whisky.

Like a stale madeleine, the freight doors lingered in my memory. Earlier this year, while shifting some household possessions into or out of our storage space, I took a few minutes and looked at the outside of the building. There was no sign of the old freight doors: they had been covered; nor were there any clear indications of tracks alongside or near the building.

Here is a historic shot of the building:

Front of Hudson House (Courtesy Bend Bulletin, July 31, 1939)
And the building today.
February, 2013. The front loading area is now completely enclosed to provide more space for storage inside. (Jack Elliott)
Sighting eastward toward the railroad tracks (now on the other side of the parkway), I saw that the south side of the building across the street (1340 NW Wall St.), is aligned with the south side of the storage facility, and paralleled by a line of pylons -- big utility poles --  all the way to the parkway.

Here's an aerial shot (click to embiggen):
Satellite photo of Wall Street Storage with notations. The side of the Wall Street Storage building closest to the bottom of the picture is blank on the outside, but the freight doors are visible inside. The long arrow pointing eastward across the street toward the parkway and the railway is the likely route of the old rail spur. (Photo courtesy Google Maps.) 
Power lines often follow railway rights of way, and the alignment of the south sides of the two buildings suggested that they had once abutted something. My guess was that there had been tracks there.

Calling in Backup

If there were tracks, there surely must be a record of them. So far I had nothing but supposition. 

I needed help.  

And I knew just the man to contact: Michael Hill of Sweeney Pond, Alsea, Ore., a genuine cartophile (map lover); student of: surveying notation, township & range & section, taxlots, metes and bounds, benchmarks, farmer ... and general swell guy.

The map-fu is strong in this one. So is his desire to help. I suspect I took advantage of him.

So here's this poor dude vacationing at his partner's house in Bakersfield for the winter, minding his own business & enjoying the sun when I sent him an email, asking for assistance.

Little did he know that my idle little request would turn into a full-blown research project. He innocently agreed to help.

To The Maps!

Michael first turned up a link to the Department of the Interior's United States Geological Survey (USGS) collection of historical topographical maps.

The earliest quad map showing Bend dates from 1926 and isn't very high resolution. But there is a some information here:
Section of Bend from USGS 1926 map. It's a bit hard to pick out, but there is a railroad spur (highlighted) running from the railroad mainline, on the east, across Wall Street (in red), and then close to the river. It looks as though it curls a bit southward at its end. At or near its end appears to be an "X" symbol, which could be an open pit quarry, or a gravel, sand or clay borrow pit.
The next map is dated 1929 and it's a wee bit clearer:
Section of Bend from USGS 1929 map. It's a rail spur. The symbol at its westward end may be  crossed pickaxes: the symbol for a quarry or open pit mine. The little black dots on the river bank, north of the spur, may represent buildings. 

USGS map symbols:

You be the judge.

Anyway, when we get to 1955, the USGS was doing much higher-resolution work (WWII technology?) and we see the spur clearly. The quarry symbol is no longer present:
Section of Bend from USGS 1955 map. The rail spur is quite clear. No indication of a southward curl or a quarry (the "X" out in the river appears to be an elevation control mark, but there is no elevation noted next to it, so that's odd). The power house and the Newport Ave. dam, originally put in in 1910 by the Bend Light and Power Co. and now owned by Pacific Power, are both shown on the river bank.   
But Hill wasn't done yet -- not by a long shot. Jack may rely on USGS topo maps in the backcountry, but Michael knows they are not reference documents when it comes to property.

So he turned to city of Bend documents and found a couple of historic zoning maps. Here's a cropped section of the map entitled "Proposed Zoning Ordinance Map, City of Bend, February 1947":

Section of City of Bend's 1947 Zoning Ordinance map. 
Now this is interesting. Here the railroad spur is shown curling south along the river.

And he found a zoning map titled "The City of Bend, 1960":

City of Bend 1960 zoning map. The spur is clearly visible, curling down to the river just north of the old Pilot Butte Inn. 
I was struck by two things about these maps. First, the earliest USGS map (1926) showed that the railroad spur predated the Hudson-Duncan building, which was put up in 1939; and second, while the USGS maps all show, or suggest, that the spur ended to the west of the storage building, the city maps tell a different story, showing it curling to the south.

And then Michael turned up a real gem. The next day he wrote, "This will help." and gave a link to the Right of Way and Track Map of the Oregon Trunk Railway, dated June 30, 1916 (8MB jpg). Here's the relevant section:

Section of 1916 map of the Oregon Trunk Railway. The right-of-way for the spur extends west from the mainline, crosses Wall Street, alongside the site where the Hudson-Duncan building will later be erected in 1939, then curls south, almost into the parking lot of the present-day Liquid Lounge at Newport Avenue. 

The earliest USGS map indicates that the spur was put in sometime before 1926. Does this railroad map tell us when? We get a clue. Note the callout "No. 138" right above the right of way where it starts to curl southward. The map's Schedule of Property tells us that the right of way for the spur was procured on December 15, 1910.

The railroad obtained the right of way for the spur from the Pilot Butte Development Co. on Dec 15, 1910
The Oregon Trunk Railway had already sent surveyors to Bend before April 1910 (Schedule of Property No. 126, above) to establish rights of way well before the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company would commence regular passenger and freight service. The first train pulled into town just before 9 pm on October 31 1911, 26 days after James Hill drove in the "Golden Spike."

This was a big deal at the time. Before the train, Bend didn't have much going on. Goods were hauled into town by wagon.

To prepare for the train, the October 25, 1911 edition of the Bend Bulletin reported that "[t]here is no letup in the activity in the local yards. Clearing of the roundhouse grounds, grading of the spur to the flour mill, erection of water tank and building of the passenger station continue, a large force of men being at work." *

End of Part 1

Next: In Part 2, Jack puts feet and eyes on the ground at Wall Street Storage, seeking signs of the old rail spur. 

* Four examples of the work being done in Bend before the train arrived were described in the October 25 1911 Bend Bulletin article. I did a little research on those four:

The Roundhouse and the Water Tower: Bend was the south terminus point of the rail line until the late '20s when the Great Northern Railroad established connection to Klamath Falls and to California. Until then, the return trip back up to the Columbia river necessitated that the locomotives be serviced and turned around. A roundhouse would provide the necessary facilities, but I couldn't find any information about the old roundhouse. The end of the line for the Oregon Trunk Railway was by Jaycee Park. Roundhouses need a lot of space and there is a large railroad property about 1/2 mile north of the terminus point, so perhaps the roundhouse and water tower were there. 

Click to embiggen. (Courtesy
The Passenger DepotThe depot was originally located a block north of Greenwood (N 44° 03.657’ W 121° 18.411’ center of this Google Maps image). NW Kearny Ave. went directly to it. The passenger depot was built of volcanic tuff stone in a unique "Mission and Romanesque" style, and is said to be "[...] one of only 4 examples throughout Oregon's passenger railroad stations with this unique combination of masonry and the porte cochere design [...]. "In the 1990’s planning was underway for construction of a new route for Hwy. 97 through Bend [the parkway - Ed.] and the Depot was in the way [and] the Depot had been taken apart, stone by stone (" then later reassembled to the south, as Arts Central Station (The Central Central Cascades Geotourism Project).

And the Spur to the Flour Mill? We'll get to that in a bit. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flagrant Self-Promotion?

Like many here in Bend, Jack was somewhat perplexed to read in last week's The Source Weekly --"The Love Issue" -- that former mayor Bob Woodward had won in the category of "Hottest Over 50."

Over 70, maybe, but over 50? I can think of several men I know who deserve the award more than Woody. Hell, even H. Bruce Miller in his dotage is a handsomer specimen.

But I figured that the Woodman is an old pol, and that ballot-box stuffing, money under the table, and calling in old favors are all normal for this former ward heeler and recent inductee into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. He also might have something on Erin Foote Marlowe.

So I decided I'd let it pass without comment.

But what I saw today changes everything. Look here:
Corner of Newport Ave and NW 3rd.
A closer look:

There was no one in line.

[UPDATE]: I see that the Source beat me to the punch.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Diogenes Had It Easy

Diogenes the Cynic (412 BCE - 323 BCE) was a Greek philosopher of the Ancient Greek school of Greek philosophers. I am sure there have been many Greek philosophers since then, but he was one of the old guys. Anyway, the man was an irrepressible scamp, full of high jinks. He thought he was pretty funny.

For example, Wikipedia tells us that "he used to stroll about in full daylight with a lamp; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, 'I am just looking for an honest man.' Diogenes looked for a human being but reputedly found nothing but rascals and scoundrels."

Ha ha. What a cut-up! I'm sure that many people wanted to just slap him.

Well, I'm here to tell you that while finding an honest man in some marketplace in Ancient Greece may have been tough, but finding a bar in Bend to hear the Super Bowl isn't much easier.

Why "hear"? Because Mrs Elliott said to me that she wasn't much interested in the game, but she did want to hear the commercials.

We don't get CBS here (as I previously described here) so if I wanted her company, I needed to find a place to both watch and hear the game.

Sidelines, downtown, is my usual game-watchin' venue, but it was right out. The sound in the place is a mess: an echoey blur, and the crowd -- jovial and enthusiastic they are -- but also noisy. Upstairs at Sidelines they have cushy sofas and big screens, and the sound is said to be better, but bartender Eric told me that the whole upstairs had been rented for a private party.

So I drove to Rivals, out on NE Division Street. They have plenty of screens, and the bartender assured me that the sound is good: they'd have the TVs turned up and the sound up on the surround system. So I got there early, and landed a good table. But as we neared game time, and the place started to fill, the crowd noise overpowered the sound system and all that was left was watching people on the screen moving their mouths while hearing only a vague boom of sound in the background.

Besides, their Bloody Marys were uninspired. Oh, did I forgot to tell you that Jack decided that Super Bowl Sunday was also Bloody Mary tryouts? Well it was.

With kickoff approaching, I drove downtown to find a place with seating, a good screen, and articulate sound. Parked on Wall.

I stuck my head into the Summit Saloon, a place good for watching games, but the bar was packed, and the tables by the other screens were taken, and the sound boomy and difficult to understand.

NB: Normally I don't consider audio important for watching a football game. My old man used to watch the games with the sound on the TV turned down -- he thought the TV announcers were dolts.

I next tried Brother Jon's Alehouse, a very decent pub, but the sound there was also blurry. Not good enough for hearing the commercials.

I crossed the street and checked out the Deschutes Brew Pub, finding the Puppy Bowl on the screens and Jimi on the sound system.

What about Seven? I like Seven, they have gay nights, so I popped in. Found a decent seat on a sofa upstairs in front of an old-school projection TV. The sound was decent though not great. I ordered one of their Bloody Marys.

Awesome! It had two (2) strips of bacon, and had a sufficient amount of horseradish to give it a kick; made the Mary at Rivals taste like the watery bottled mix that it probably was.

While I was waiting, Mrs Elliott, who had been out shopping for Alpine ski boots, texted to say that she had received a recommendation from the salesman for the Cascade West Grub & Alehouse out on Century Drive, so I handed back my unfinished drink, paid my tab, and joined her there.

Jack has never been to Cascade West -- it's pretty funky. Not much of a menu, but I must say the burgers were fine. For the requisite Bloody Mary the bartender gave me glass with ice and vodka -- and the rest was up to me over at the condiments table. I know nothing of how to make a Bloody Mary so the results were . . . odd. Next time I'll obtain the help of a paid professional.

But and but. The sound was about 1 second out of synch with the picture. Maybe the sound system was getting its feed from satellite and the picture from cable? Who knows, but when the video and the audio are out of synch, the result is a disconnected mess. I like the lips of the actors to match what I'm hearing, otherwise it's like watching a dubbed Italian art movie from the '70s.

I dashed across the street to check out the viewing conditions at Players, and the place was surprisingly full. The sound was good, too, but there was no place to sit.

Back across the street. We were nearing half time. I knew that Mrs Elliott wanted to see the show, and it made no sense to watch the singers' lips move while the sound was something else, so I suggested that we go downtown and try a couple other places.

Besides, the Ravens had contained the 9ers and the score was ugly.

We left my 1984 VW camper van at Cascade West and took Mrs Elliott's car in a downtown direction. On the way, I dashed into Brother Jon's on Galveston -- full and noisy; and into the Westside Tavern, ditto.

But M&Js was good. There were seats in front of a screen, and sound clear enough we could hear what was going on.

We watched Beyoncé dance and sing, saw some commercials, and then back to the game. An amazing 108-yard kickoff return. Cool.

Then half the stadium went dark.

We waited and we waited, and finally I said, screw this, score is 28-6 Ravens, the 9ers ain't gonna win, the power may be off for ages, some hulking great transformer has blown, it will take ages to locate and truck in another; let's go home.

Back over on Century Drive, Mrs Elliott dropped me off at my van and headed home.

I had parked the van in a difficult location. If you know Cascade West (and who doesn't?), you know there are several parking places in front of the building, and I had parked in the westmost spot, the farthest from the cutout in the curb. So I was slowly backing my way eastward to the driveway opening when I though, "Hey, there's just this curb between me and the street . . . heck, I'll just pull onto the street from here."

Checked for oncoming, drove off the curb.

K-bump! The front wheels dropped onto the street. K-bump, the rear wheels dropped off.

Then the engine died. I put it into Park and tried to start it.

Nothing, just the grind of the starter. Tried again, and again nothing.

So thar I was, blocking the eastbound lane of Century. I put on the hazard blinkers, put the van into Neutral, and pushed it backward to the curb so as to block less of the lane, but I couldn't budge it forward and turn it parallel to the curb and park it.

Just then, a few guys came out of the pub and easily pushed the van off the street near the German Food street vendor trailer.

I have a triple-A membership and Mrs Elliott's son is a tow driver for Consolidated Towing who handles AAA tows, so no worries there. I called Mrs Elliott, she drove back, we called Consolidated and requested her son, he reported he was on his way, and she drove home.

Our son and his flatbed truck arrived shortly and hauled me and the van back to the house and unloaded the van on the driveway for troubleshooting in the morning.

"Have you been watching the game?" he said. "The 9ers have come back -- two touchdowns and a field goal!"

Mrs Elliott and I looked at each other. "It's a game! Quick -- to the Mrs Elliottmobile and to the closest bar!"

That would be the Broken Top Bottle Shop. They have but one screen, the bar was moderately full when we got there, the Moon Mountain Ramblers were setting up to play some music, but the game was on and there were two seats at the bar, smack in front of the screen!

And we watched that game, and we had some cider, and we enjoyed every moment. Seated next to Mrs Elliott was a fellow who explained the brilliant reasoning behind the puzzling (to me) safety that the Ravens took in the final seconds.

Mrs Elliott, who had only wanted to watch the game for the commercials, ended up being totally thrilled with the game (she knows more than I do about football). I was quite pleased.

We both had a lot of fun.

But I surely hope that next year's Super Bowl will be on a channel we get (anything but CBS) because yesterday was also one exhausting day. I'd rather stay at home where it's safe and easy.

(Oh -- the reason the van stopped running is because the electrical connector to the ECU had been jarred loose, cutting off both ignition and fuel. I plugged it back in this morning, and made sure it was properly seated.)
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