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Archive for the ‘city life’ Category

Heaven Adores You – a heartfelt tribute in film to Elliott Smith

It was three years ago I discovered the Kickstarter campaign of a filmmaker named Nickolas Rossi. He had a vision of creating a documentary film about singer/songwriter Elliott Smith that would be less drama about his life and more music focused; what came to be known as a “love letter” to Elliott Smith. And as I followed the path of creation that became the film Heaven Adores You, it was evident every step of the way that this project was being done with the utmost love, respect and admiration for Elliott and his family and friends as well.

And finally the time arrived for me to be able to view this film that I had literally been counting the days to see. The screenings have been at various film festivals literally all over the globe, which is a testament to the worldwide appeal of Elliott Smith’s music. But last night was a very special screening I attended, the showing of the film in Portland, Oregon, a city that is widely held as Elliott’s hometown.

The theatre was packed, a sold out show, and the energy of breath-holding anticipation for Heaven Adores You in Portland was palpable. After a lovely set of Elliott Smith songs performed by the Portland Cello Project it was time to see the film that so many have waited to see.

What I watched for 104 minutes was a very well crafted tribute to Elliott showcasing his music not just from his days of fame but also treating the viewer to some rare songs from his adolescence where it becomes obvious that he had the seeds of musical talent and genius ready to sprout.

Heaven Adores You is also well seasoned with snippets of commentary and memories from Elliott’s dear ones that shared in his lifetime. I found myself in more moments of laughter than tears as I watched this film, not being awash in the usual drama and darkness that is often attached to the telling of Elliott Smith’s lifetime.

And then there is also the visually stunning cinematography that adds to the breath and depth of Elliott’s journey in the various places he lived and created and played his lovely music.

Heaven Adores You is the ultimate gift of tribute to this lovely troubadour who left us all too soon; it is a fitting homage of love to a man who was really just all about love himself.

http://heavenadoresyou.com/

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His music still plays, and his spirit still shines

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

 

Changes in regard to coffee

Yes it’s true, we Portlanders love our coffee, and there are a plethora of coffeehouses all around town to drive home that truth. I myself have a list of favorites in my neighborhood, but what a joy it is to discover a new treasure outside of the Alphabet District, the quaint and quirky name of the area in which I live.

And yes it’s true, shortly after moving here I dared to get rid of my coffeepot and the monkey on my back habit of half a pot of coffee in the morning. I had started to feel like a coffee junkie, so I quit cold turkey, suffered the pangs of caffeine withdrawal and stayed away for a time. Well, a short time that is, until I found myself tiptoeing back to instant coffee, only one cup a day. And hey, that’s not really an addiction, only one cup of instant coffee in the morning, is it? And I can quit anytime! But today was different, I just needed more – and here is my story…

Two Cup Day

I had relegated myself

To a self-imposed limit

Only one cup of coffee

To start my day

But today felt different

A cool breeze

Gray clouds in the skylight

The flickering candle I had lit

To stave off the dim daylight

One last swallow of the first cup

And off to the kitchen

Marching triumphantly

To celebrate my new holiday

Behold the inauguration of

Two Cup Day

tiny coffee

Huber’s Cafe – a Chinese owner, American turkey, and Spanish coffee

It was another luncheon outing of the “lovely library ladies”, the group of us from the book club who meet once a month for lunch at various eateries in Portland. This time we decided to try Huber’s Cafe, the restaurant that sports this claim to fame, “Established in 1879, Huber’s is Portland’s oldest restaurant”. It is a beautifully old, dark wood, lowly lit place from a time past. The room we ate lunch in is covered by a ceiling of Tiffany glass, along with a bar that looks like it came out of an old Hollywood movie, complete with the original brass cash register.

Huber’s was started by Frank Huber, but was eventually taken over and bought by Jim Louie, a Chinese immigrant hired by Frank Huber as Huber’s original cook. The main menu item of the early Huber’s was a turkey sandwich and coleslaw, and Jim Louie continued on with the turkey tradition, expanding the menu to include many different types of turkey offerings. The turkey melt sandwich I had with brie cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted baguette was very tasty, along with Huber’s famous coleslaw that lived up to its reputation as delicious.

But the best part, and certainly most entertaining was the Spanish coffee we had after our meal. This drink was developed by James Louie, another member of the Louie family, and having it prepared table side is an event in itself.  This amazing and very yummy drink consists of Kahlua, 151 proof Bacardi rum, Bols triple sec and hot coffee, topped with fresh whipped cream and nutmeg – what a tantalizing combination of flavors it is! The bartender came to our table with a tray of all the needed ingredients and special heat resistant glasses rimmed in sugar, and proceeded to concoct our beverages with the showmanship of a magician. He poured layers of the various liquors into the two glasses he held, as he moved his arms in an sweeping arc, almost like the movements of a ballet dancer. And at one point in this performance, he lit the liquid inside the glasses on fire, adding much flair to the whole spectacle.

It was the perfect end to a delightful lunch on a cold and rainy Portland day, as we added another great Portland food destination to our ever growing list of lunch time adventures had by the lovely library ladies.

The bar at Huber's

The bar at Huber’s

The start of Spanish coffee

The start of Spanish coffee

Lighting the coffee on fire

Lighting it on fire

Topping it off with fresh whipped cream

Topping it off with fresh whipped cream

Ready to drink!

Ready to drink!

 

 

 

 

 

The sparkling Christmas lights of Peacock Lane

Since I am spending Christmas here in Portland this year, and not traveling back to Minnesota to be with my family, I was able to experience a Portland Christmas tradition the other night. I learned about the Lights on Peacock Lane, which is a holiday tradition going back to the 1920’s. Since that time, every house on the SE Portland street of Peacock Lane has participated in decorating for the Christmas holiday with lights, yard ornaments of all types, and even music that plays for everyone to hear. Since it was one of the few rain-free nights we have had in awhile, their were plenty of people out and about to view the shining lights and festive decorations. I guess there is even a special song that has been written in honor of this event, although I didn’t hear anyone singing it, not even the carolers who were there. But it was a beautiful sight, and a lovely evening to share with my fellow Portlanders, as I spend Christmas in the place I love the best.

 

 

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Only in Portland

Keep Portland Weird! The bumper stickers with this quirky catchphrase in bright yellow letters can be seen all around town. Some of the locals find it trite, but for me it was a draw to this “weird” city, a place where the eccentric are encouraged to come out in full force. The origin of this slogan was actually a campaign started by a company to encourage shopping at local merchants around town, but it really defines the energy of this very interesting city.

Another aspect of Portland that makes it so unique is its almost overzealous love of dogs, rivaled only by some European cities. Instead of most major cities who would have to post a “dogs allowed” sign in the window of any business, Portland assumes that dogs are allowed everywhere! The only sign posted here is “only service dogs allowed”. And Portlanders are not shy about taking their dogs everywhere, often dressed in cute little doggie clothes, making them as eccentric as their owners. I have seen dogs in many restaurants, coffeehouses, all kinds of local businesses and even in the grocery store. But this morning as I was picking up a few things at the grocery store across the street, I encountered a surprising lack of Portland patience for our canine friends.

I was in the produce section, trying to size up the pomegranates and figure out what makes one pomegranate better than the other, when I heard the announcement from a less than happy employee – “Would the person who owns the dogs chained outside to the bike rack please go and take care of them – they will not stop barking! Thank you.” And this is something else that amazes me, is the honor system that is in place; allowing people to leave their dogs chained up outside an establishment while they take care of their business, never giving a worry or second thought that someone might come by and steal their precious pooch. Only in Portland…

And in another vein of quirkiness, I am proud to say that I live in the city that houses America’s Largest Hat Museum, simply named The Hat Museum. I had the good fortune to be able to take a tour through it with a women’s writing group one rainy Saturday afternoon. Reservations are required, and only groups of up to six people are allowed, so it is not like just any old museum that one might stroll through.

The museum is located in the Ladd-Reingold house, a vintage house through and through, built in 1910. Of course for many years it was a private residence, but now it is literally filled to the rafters with hats of all kinds. I was greeted at the door by Alyce, our tour guide, dressed in a wonderful outfit from the turn of the 20th century; a beautiful vintage dress circa early 1900’s, black lace gloves, black leather boots from that period, and of course an extremely flamboyant hat full of ribbons, feathers and flowers.

We started on the first floor, gazing in awe at the stunning collection of antique and vintage hats, some of which were adorned in very ostentatious ways. Then we moved on to a more modern day collection, learning all along how hats have really been a huge part of our histories and cultures. The second floor houses a massive collection of men’s hats, where we learned that because of the overwhelming desire for beaver hats in the day, the poor beaver was almost hunted to extinction. After that we moved on to the unusual collection of novelty hats, which included hats for every occasion and holiday, even one that was made to resemble a Thanksgiving dinner table – very quirky! We finished up with the collection of international hats, most of which have been sent to the Hat Museum from people all over the world.

So it is with great pride and joy that I shout out to all who will listen – Keep Portland Weird! And I love being able to relay stories to my non-Portland friends, beginning with the words, “Only in Portland”…

https://i2.wp.com/www.keepportlandweird.com/images/products/KPWLB.jpg

It’s not always about the food

Every month I meet with four other women for lunch, at a previously chosen destination somewhere in Portland. We call ourselves the “library ladies”, due to the fact that we first met during the monthly book club at the Central Library. As we made small talk one day before the book club discussion started, we soon discovered that we were all transplants from other states. So in order to get to know our new city better, as well as get to know one another better, we decided to meet once a month for a lunchtime adventure.

This has gone on for about a year now, and it has been so much fun as we find new and interesting places around Portland, with a wide variety of all types of food. We have eaten everything from Vietnamese to Mexican to Chinese, and of course the regular fare of what would be considered American food. And the venues have varied from the simplicity of ordering food at the counter of a local taqueria and finding a place to sit, to lunching in some rather elegant places such as the more upscale hotel restaurants around town. And as much as we go to enjoy the different foods and atmosphere of different restaurants, I seem to find that our monthly get together is really more about friendship and not the food.

Our latest foray took us to the Portland City Grill, which is on the 30th floor of an office building in downtown Portland. I could feel my jaw drop in amazement as we were led to our table, in a dining room completely surrounded by windows. The view was spectacular! Luckily the restaurant wasn’t terribly busy at that time, so I was able to grab my camera and run around looking like a crazed tourist, trying to get the best picture of Portland I could without bothering too many people. The service was great, the ambiance lovely and relaxing, and the camaraderie between friends was delightful. And although the food was good, I wasn’t as wowed as I thought I might be, for the price that I payed. And the part that I just had to laugh at was dessert; I was expecting so much more. I ordered a lunch special that came with “Brandon’s Ultimate Dessert Selection”, and I was ready for my sweet tooth to be charmed. But I was more like shocked when the Ultimate Dessert came, in the guise of an eclair – that’s right, just a plain old eclair, like the kind you can get for a buck at just about any bakery. It tasted good, but not in an ultimate kind of way.

So I looked at our lunch date that day as more than just going out to eat. It was about getting a bit more dolled up than usual, sitting in a fancy schmancy place and just soaking it all in. It was about the breathtaking view of my beautiful Portland from high in the sky, and watching a red tailed hawk soar right past the window by our table. And most of all it was about spending precious time with friends. And no matter how overpriced and overrated I may think the food itself was, the time spent in friendship was worth every penny.

The view from our table at Portland City Grill

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