Sea Bear


Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The COVID madness aside (universities, schools, bars, gyms, libraries, museums, what have you, any public place shut down except grocery stores?), things seem a little hung up, a little wonky, as if the gears are grinding a bit in regard to my plans. Which is all part of it, of course. The adventure presents its trials and they’re never the trials you expect, they’re never quite the trials you’ve prepared yourself to endure. Otherwise they wouldn’t be true trials, I suppose. Likewise the helpers. Which is why the myths express them as magical.

Hence, my heartening, truly heartening correspondence with Tilo, hereafter T.E. (easier to cut and paste from here to the blog while maintaining anonymity) whenever he appears. I know it’s always difficult to maintain an acquaintance outside a shared workplace (or school if you’re young) but it’s even more so with a writer. At least when you too, are a writer. Talking about each other’s writing isn’t anything I’ve enjoyed on a regular or even infrequent basis, for that matter. Writers who get read are too busy (1) writing, (2) reading that things that motivate them to write, and (3) trying to find time to manage their correspondence. Writing and reading take so much time. That’s why books last compared to other forms of art-craft, I think: it has to do with the work, which amounts to the substance, that goes into them. Not all of them, mind you. The sci-fi pulps were written quickly, to be consumed likewise by ravenous readers. It still goes on, the write fast, publish often business model – ALLi  legitimizes it as one of several or more business models for the authorpreneur. I wrote each of the first drafts of the TC series, so far, within nine months or so and, hell, I thought that was fast. It wasn’t. And grinding through the editing of TC2, where I’m making very slow progress, makes me think it’ll take six months to get through. And then I’ll have to self-edit it again, and perhaps again, before it’s ready for a professional edit. If I can somehow afford to dump another $7,000 into another book that doesn’t sell.

Friendship, meanwhile, is based on shared experience, that’s all. And while it lasts, it can be grand. Too bad it never lasts. Because we never keep sharing our experiences. It’s nobody’s fault. People change jobs, have kids, retire, move away, what have you. And what lasts, after all?

Meanwhile, I’m keen to not allow my enthusiasm to get the better of me and the better of my newfound relationship with, in this case, T.E. I tend to cultivate an intense correspondence, probably because it’s rare that I encounter anyone who shares my interests and my enthusiasm runs rampant. Which makes me sound like a bore. And a pain in the ass. Which perhaps I am, these days. But right off T.E. and I have established what seems a manageable pace of exchange, namely, allowing for at least a couple of weeks between responses. Which works well for honing the topics and staying on point. And not becoming tiresome. It’s more like old fashioned letter writing, perhaps, where things are required to ferment a little longer between exchanges and the content is required to be more mindfully relevant. That’s my theory that I just made up, anyhow. Having no expectations, though, is probably the simple answer, the most reliable strategy which is no strategy at all except one of trying one’s best to be authentic and true. That I even have to coach myself through any of this is troubling – I never used to think about it – but so be it. The dynamics of life change, they never sit still and we can remain aware or suffer. Let go the fruits, of course. A review for TC1, for example, let go of that.

Editing TC2 is both a balm and a bother. A balm because immersing myself in the characters makes me feel better; it’s an end in itself, somehow, to keep their stories alive and moving forward. It’s a bother because it sucks, as I’m sure most writers will admit, to reread your crappy writing and to be tasked with making it better. The scenes, the plot, always seem worthy, thank heaven – if I had to overhaul the story I’d fucking die – but my words fail. How could I have written it that way, I think? What in hell is going on in my head that allowed me to put that on the page that way to begin with but then to leave it there? First draft hell. Second draft horrors. And so on. It’s horrible. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve managed something worthwhile and it keeps me going. And then the next day, rereading it I think, ugh, what the fuck? And I change it. But what else is there? It’s the nature of the work, working within one’s limitations, one’s frustrating mediocrity. What do great writers do? Do they just spread their immaculate prose like sweet butter? I’m sure that some do; in every field there are folks who make it all look easy and put the rest of us to shame. Believe me, I’ve considered that perhaps my work is better left in the can, as it were. I’ve referred to myself as a private writer more than once along the way. Shut up already, we’ve had enough. Find something else to do. I get it.

It used to be that writers like Conrad, Joyce or Heinlein would have their novels serialized in a magazine, enticing readers with the chapters as they were being produced, giving the author a chance to get paid during the long months of creating the novel and the readers something to read. I’m not sure I’d enjoy being so on top of oneself, so to say, publishing almost in real time, like a blog. Probably because I’m never completely satisfied with my results. Edit after edit I always seem to find something, some clumsy sentence, weak imagery, some damn missed opportunity to get it across more evocatively, compellingly, memorably. Nevertheless, here’s something from TC2, at the end of “Chapter 4 – Sea Bear”:

“It is despicable,” she said. “It’s unthinkable. And it’s just like Laron, isn’t it, to make it even more so by insulting the mythology.” She brushed specks of gravel from her slacks and the raven, which Mr. Z. had not noticed, beat its wings once, twice, lifting itself heavily from the beach and drifting like a dark spirit into the trees, Vixy following its flight.

She’s as pretty as ever, he thought. Womanly, now, too. Her prickly self-consciousness a thing of the past. For a moment it seemed he hardly knew her. Yet he recognized her willful expression, her look of determined confidence, that flash of unpredictable obstinacy that endeared her to him. He had no heart to place her in harm’s way ever again. “Vixy,” he said.

But she interrupted him. “I bet you’re surprised I remembered something from class, aren’t you?” A clever grin crossed her face, then a shadow, too, and she lowered her eyes. She ran her hands over her thighs, curling her manicured fingertips into loose fists. It was getting cool. “Among the Haida,” she said, turning to him, “we have our own version of the axis of the world. And Ttsaamuus. Snag. He guards it.”[1]

Mr. Z. grinned mildly at her. “It’s the original house pole, too, isn’t it – Snag’s stone post at the bottom of the sea.”

Vixy looked steadily at him. “I love it here. Being home. I think it saved me.”

“Vixy,” said Mr. Z. Once again she stopped him, this time by way of her expression, her air of self-possession, which seemed somehow brave.

“My mother gave me this years ago,” she said, “when I graduated from high school.” She withdrew a slender, silver necklace that Mr. Z. had not noticed from beneath the collar of her blouse. On it hung a tiny black carving, which she displayed for him upon the back of her hand.

“Argillite,” he said, squinting at it. “Sea Bear?”

Vixy nodded. “I never used to wear it. Back then, you know, I thought it was silly; Haida heritage, indigenous culture stuff – it was all too old fashioned, too beneath my modern sensibilities. She smirked at herself and shrugged. “Anyway, I read up on it. On the mythology. How Snag and Sea Bear, they’re akin to each other. I’ve read up on a lot of things, lately, I guess.” She trailed off.

“It’s a fine charm,” said Mr. Z., getting up. “And it’s fine, more than fine, that you want to stay here.”

Vixy slipped the necklace back into hiding under her blouse. “It’s said that to wear a Snag motif indicates an acceptance of responsibility.” She looked to the horizon with a curious intensity. “Responsibility for supporting the world.”

Her words struck him and he followed her gaze for a moment. Responsibility for supporting the world. He felt a pang in his heart and turned to study her. She would thrive here. Thrive in her new life. “I’m sorry I came, Vixy.” His shoe grated upon the gravel and she looked up at him, her eyes glinting in the failing light.

“No. I’m glad you came. I was afraid at first. But you had to come, I know.” She got up, straightened her pullover and smoothed her slacks. She folded her arms tightly and shrugged her shoulders against the chill air. “Tell the Captain I want to help. Tell him I’m ready.”



You Can Farm

I read Joel Salatin’s book You Can Farm. It was worth every penny and provided very practical information on what a profit-making diversified farm needs to be. His self-sustaining system, focused on the attributes of growing healthy grass pasture to farm chickens, cattle, pigs and even rabbits in accordance with their natural behavior was inspiring and also sobering. Inspiring because, as Joel Salatin tells us, anybody who has the drive to pursue farming in this way can indeed accomplish the successes he’s had – a white-collar income as he calls it as a full-time farmer – along with a life-style that suits many people. Sobering because he explains, in plain-spoken terms, that for many of us farming is not a realistic option. First and foremost, Salatin advises against a wannabe farmer purchasing land – he sees it as too great a financial risk for someone who doesn’t know if the life is right for him or who doesn’t have the capital to stick it out at no profit for five to ten years. Instead, he thinks it makes more sense for wannabes to focus on either investing in an inspected kitchen, where one could market their value-added foodstuffs or, if committed to animal farming, trying their hand at it by leasing, renting or simply borrowing land. He’s also got sobering advice on the physical challenges of farming that he thinks precludes anyone beyond the age of thirty-five getting into it without at least acquiring the help of a younger partner. All of these things – lack of experience, lack of land, and my age – count against me as a new farmer according to Joel and I have to agree with it all. The guy has farmed all his life, having inherited several hundred acres from his parents, and having accumulated all the hard lessons his struggling parents had to learn first hand. He says he’s seen too many well-intentioned people fail at farming because they didn’t have the knowledge, experience and resources to make it work. Maybe some of them knew enough but ignored the realities anyway, thinking they’d somehow beat the system on earnestness and passion alone. It’s the same mistake people make going into a small business. Except I still have a vision for HH that includes raising my own pigs and running my public house; my heart tells me this is what I need to do. So I’ll have to massage the reality to coincide with the vision.

Salatin also sells a dvd showing the day-to-day operations of his Polyface farm and for sixty bucks, I thought it was another wise investment. I need to be exposed to as much reality as I can. Also, I thought Angie would appreciate seeing some stuff versus just reading about it also, and that it would either turn her off from the HH concept or keep her jazzed. In the end, we both enjoyed the book and dvd; Angie liked watching and learning about the Polyface operation and I think it helped explain and encapsulate my HH concept for her. I learned that I’m not interested in running a big Polyface-style diversified operation. I’m just interested at this point in pigs and cooking and the monthly dinners idea. So, starting small and testing our talents and interests and seeing where it leads us is still the plan and Salatin’s book and video were fantastically important to keep the HH vog moving in the right direction.


January 2011. It’s early morning, 6:00AM in Portland, Oregon, and in several hours we’re going to accompany our rural real estate agent, Terri F., to several small-acreage farm properties outside of the city. This is my third visit to Portland, Oregon within a year and Angie’s second. It’s part of the HH due diligence process that we’re trying to work through. We need to get our feet on the ground and see the country life in person, trying to envision our lives there, and see if the HH vision has “legs.” If we’re turned off by what we can afford, then we’re going to have to reevaluate the viability of the H2 vision – it may have to be modified. That’s okay. We want to get this right; it has to be in line with our biophycomythology otherwise we’ll just have to keep examining our entrepreneurial vision.

In any case, I’m actually a little nervous because this means a lot. It will determine, over the next couple of days, whether or not I’ve been on the right track with my vision. But as Ari says, a vision of greatness should be a little scary, otherwise it’s not pushing you far enough. So we’ll see. The day and a half we’ve been in town has already been great – we’ve urban trekked both days (yesterday for fifteen miles) and I really like this town. Good food, good tunes, good people, good spaces and places. The folks here understand life in the same way that I do; that it can and should be joyful and rewarding. Not a crushing compromise. Like Ann Arbor, you can find people with smiles on their faces, which come from just being alive, just living in the moment. I know we can live here, but should we?

Here are some highlights of our visit:

Produce Row Café. PDX bars all seem to “get” the concept of great micro-brew but here they also like to create “pairings” of beer and whiskey. It works. The space is great, located in the industrial area just over the Willamette River in between the Morrison and Burnside bridges. Inside, it’s suitably masculine and seems to be tuning into a need for take-out food in the area – at least several to-go orders were being requested. The food was of average quality – none of it inspired, not insipid, but certainly in need of some finesse to compliment the beer/whiskey idea and the forward-thinking urbanity of the space. But worth a return visit. We met a local guy in his sixties who was fun and had some tips about where to obtain some land for HH – he was the first of at least several folks we met that were completely on board with the entrepreneurial concept and also were interested on why we wanted to move there – it seems the locals, like any locals, need moral support on what makes their home special, especially during the gloomy, rainy winter months. Everyone seems to question the appropriateness of their hometowns at some point, whether it’s because of the culture, the jobs or the weather and PDX is no exception. I think PDXers are spoiled, like folks in any culturally diverse, intelligent and globally-relevant city. They have so much great stuff to enjoy versus those unfortunate souls who are indeed living like ghosts in towns that they don’t connect with, like us here in the Houston area.

The Mountain Shop. Apparently a PDX retail stalwart and the oldest outdoor gear supplier in the city at something like seventy-five years. I needed hiking shoes or boots, gore-tex or similar. Badly. I took a chance on wearing some low-cut North Face light hikers that I had beat to hell and they had no waterproofing. I had indeed planned on replacing them in PDX as the town is of course oriented towards outdoor recreation, especially biking, but certainly hiking also. We tanked up with beer and food at Produce Row Café and walked to the store in a light on-and-off-again drizzle. I was immediately successful trying on a pair of Keen high-tops with Keen-Dry, a version of breathable waterproofing very similar to Gore-tex. They fit perfectly – very light weight and comfortable – and reasonably priced at $132. I ended up wearing them the entire visit and they stood up to our long rain-soaked walks, keeping my feet perfectly dry. I did have pain in a tendon on my left ankle where the high-top put pressure on the bone – it was considerable, but I’ve learned that issues like that will typically work themselves out – the body responds eventually by creating a callous or other protection to compensate. In this case, I struggled with just this one spot and the shoes were otherwise perfect for me, so I toughed it out and I hope to not have the problem in the future. It’s one reason you should go on long hikes to “break in” shoes before travelling, in case you do have an unresolvable problem and have to return the shoes.

Portland Winterhawks hockey game. An amateur team in the World Hockey League (WHL) for 18-21-year-old players, a few Winterhawks have made it to the NHL (Mark Messier and Brendan Morrow are notables). The game was at Memorial Coliseum and we enjoyed watching hockey in person again, although the level of play wasn’t any better than the Houston Aeros. NHL hockey is what we like because of the speed and skill, but this was fun and we got a feel for the hockey culture in PDX, which is certainly a niche market, as it is so many other places. One would think hockey would appeal to the culture of PDX, I don’t know why, maybe the proximity to Canada makes me think that, and PDX’s interest in the counter culture attitude, but really they don’t seem to connect with it. The hockey itself isn’t that entertaining, which is probably most of the problem, just like in Houston. The clumsiness and lopsidedness of the games just doesn’t lend itself to repeated attendance – there were only about two-thousand folks at the game, in an arena that held at least twice that. Angie said it reminded her of the high school games she used to attend, which is no compliment. But we had fun, even though at about twenty dollars per ticket, it didn’t seem worth it. Ticket costs seem to ruin everything, from concerts to sporting events – the cost seems out of scale with the value of the entertainment.

Killer Burger. On one of our long days of urban trekking – prior to hitting the Alameda Stairs, we needed lunch. Our timing was a little off to visit Laurelhurst Market, which was on our agenda – we arrived too early, about 10AM, so it wasn’t open and it didn’t have the right vibe for us to want to make a return trip – too sophisticated for our lunch-time hiking mood. As these things happen, when a door closes, another one opens, and this case it was the door to Killer Burger. A true burger joint gem that I can almost taste right now and I’m indeed craving it for lunch as we speak – that’s the true sign of getting a restaurant right: the crave factor – if you find yourself thinking, or dreaming about it days, weeks, months later, it’s a success. The burgers had the bold beefiness of freshly ground beef, whether they grind their own I don’t know, but it tasted like it in the same way that Blimpy Burger and Zingerman’s Roadhouse (both in Ann Arbor) do. The toppings were inventive without being silly and getting ham, egg and cheese on a burger makes me happy, so that’s what we had. I think it was called “The Farm.” The pickle, usually a palate-killer on most burgers – too tart and sour – was instead unusually cucumbery while still providing a valuable kick to the sandwich. The fries were also perfectly cut and fried – deeply browned, crunchy and of the more unusual medium-thickness cut that I think is perfect for the crunch/flavor balance. Rockin’ seventies jams – Foghat, Mountain, Zeppelin, etc. and a multi-tasking counter girl/cook (maybe she also owned the place?) with a low-cut shirt provided an inspiring view while leaning over to take orders. Yes, I’m a pig but Angie agreed that it might inspire most men so I think I’m off the hook there.

The walks. Even in the rain. They did their job of connecting us to the environment, tiring us out, and making us hungry and thirsty. Of note is the Alameda Stairs Hike which appears in the Walk There guidebook, and takes you through a very charming (and expensive) neighborhood with homes full of architectural character. The funky staircases, several of them, made of concrete with steel railings, were hidden within the neighborhood, in between houses, so that if you weren’t paying attention, you’d walk right past them, which we almost did once or twice. These were what I assume to be shortcuts for pedestrians to get through the neighborhood more easily. Being in a car must be another story – lots of winding, turning and driving uphill and downhill. Such change in elevation is always fun when walking or hiking – the views are usually inspiring and just the act of climbing uses your leg muscles in a different way which can provide some relief to aching feet and knees. This area, with its half-million-dollar-plus homes and awesome views of the city and mountains (when it’s not foggy) was worth seeing.

We made our way back towards downtown by way of Hawthorne Boulevard where we planned on beers and food at Bridgeport Alehouse, which I’d enjoyed during my Spring 2010 visit. We dried out in the pleasant brew-pub environs and restored ourselves with fine Bridgeport brews and a better-than-average pizza, fortifying us for the not insignificant walk back to downtown and our hotel.

The walk to Pittock Mansion, on the hilly west side of town, another route I selected from the Walk There guidebook, was great 5.6 mile hike, even in the drenching rain. It was raining gently when we awoke that morning before dawn, at it didn’t stop raining until the middle of the next afternoon. In fact, during the day, it just kept coming down harder and harder until, without rain pants, we found ourselves soaking wet from our ankles to our underwear – our cotton jeans just acted as water wicks from top to bottom. Our rain jackets, highly effective in almost any conditions we’d used them in previously, actually began to allow small quantities of water to penetrate the shell – after four or five hours of wet hiking, I guess it wasn’t surprising for jackets with semi-breathable fabrics. Anyway, the day began with us walking to Chop, a market west of the Pearl District, eating a great lunch at Melt, then heading out on our Pittock Mansion route, 2.8 miles one way. The route itself was very interesting, guiding us up dramatic staircases – one was about 175 steps. The steady upward elevation brought us literally into the clouds and into occasional heavy rain – all our views, except for a very few moments, were unfortunately almost completely obscured by the clouds, mist and rain. We certainly missed some fantastic views of the city below because of the weather, but the amazing multi-million-dollar homes, perched on their mountainous bluffs, were worth the walk. We were determined to get to Pittock Mansion, rain or no rain, and finally arrived, soaked, only to find it closed for tours that day. We turned around, a little disappointed not get a chance to go inside and get a break from the weather. On the way back down, our enthusiasm flagged, we encountered a group of three walkers, more properly outfitted in rain pants as well as rain coats, making their way up the same route – the girl in the group had a copy of the Walk There guidebook and we managed to give them the thumbs-up, too tired and wet to stop to talk or even say hello.

We had purchased tickets to see Kelly Joe Phelps with Corrine West at the Alberta Rose Theatre later that evening. After drying out for a few hours at the hotel, we were determined to see our plans through despite the never-ending down pour; we put our damp shoes and rain coats back on, and headed out again, trudging stoically through the rain to the MAX train station, which we took east to Lloyd Center. We got out and started walking – a mistake on my part – I should have arranged to get on a bus at this point to get us the rest of the way to the theatre because we were soon getting soaked once again. We walked for another mile and I stopped us under a bus stop, dripping wet, to look at our map again, which only discouraged us. In a rare case of urban-trekking defeat, we decided to give up, turn around and go home to the hotel – we were just too wet already and the rain just wouldn’t let up. The thought of enduring the whole concert drenched to the core sounded like a miserable idea no matter how good the music might be. We took a bus back to Lloyd Center and caught the MAX back to downtown, discouraged.

Rural land searching. We did this over two days with a “rest” day in between to contemplate what we saw. Terri F., the real estate agent in Oregon whom I’d been working with through email, had been sending me properties during the previous several weeks to look at electronically – the technology is such that you can see pictures of the house and property along with aerial photos of the acreage, with flood plain info, etc. I had about five selected and she added another before we got to PDX. She picked us up at Hotel Modera in the morning and drove us out to see three properties each day. Only one inspired me. It was in Hillsboro, at the end of the Max train line and close enough to the urbanity of Hillsboro downtown to be doable long-term for our needs. We now know that we are not country folk. The isolation and one-traffic-light-town attitude is not for us. Also, given our $250K limit for a mortgage, we also know we can’t afford the combination of proximity to PDX, five acres, and nice updated house that we want. How to include the pigs and public house is still a challenge. Whereas the Rainier, Estacaba, Oregon City properties were just too remote, too creepy or just had homes that were too grungy or too old, the Hillsboro location at least verified a space and place that resembled what I’m seeing in my VOG for H2G. Even the price was probably doable though on the high end – we may have been able to get it down from the $325K asking price closer to $300K. However, we really need more like $250K to allow for some financial breathing room – some capital to work with while I work through this. Lack of capital ruins so many good ideas. I’m determined not to be another negative small business statistic.

So I don’t know where that leaves us. There’s also the matter of PDX weather – very, very soggy in winter so I’d need a hoop house at least for the pigs which is not a deal-breaker. However, I don’t think Angie was inspired by even the Hillsboro property, so I’m thinking PDX won’t be it for us, even though I could easily live there myself. She’s still convinced Ann Arbor is her place. Personally, I can’t see where I fit in there anymore, if I ever did. Michigan just seems like a ship that has sailed for me. I can’t let this be a limit to our success however. It certainly seems like a limit right now though. I just can’t see asking Ari for a job at ZCoB, which is all I really see happening if I were to move back there. We can’t afford to do H2G in the A2 area and besides, Alex Young is starting his own public house on a farm anyway, he’d be a much more well-financed form of competition. Trying to get around ZCoB in Ann Arbor just seems stupid. They keep expanding – they’ve reached that growth stage I figured they’d always attain. The deli is expanding this year, and today Angie tells me that ZCoB is acquiring the space that Eve, the restaurant, has occupied for some time. Like most chef/owners, Eve is moving on to another restaurant idea, somewhere else in town, with landlord issues driving the need to move. You must OWN YOUR SPACE, I truly believe that. I’ve heard too often about lease concerns ruining great businesses – the owner of the biz is under the thumb of the landlord, the asshole who owns the space, and ultimately it can put you under if the jerk won’t agree to your terms. Kitchen Port as another great spot in Kerrytown that left because of such bullshit, and look where they’re at now – goddamn outside of town, in the Dexter suburbs for all intents and purposes, in a fucking strip mall. I just cannot do that compromise. I’ve been compromising myself into the suburbs my whole fucking life. I’ve spent probably 99.9% of my life in a suburban existence and I’m not proud of it but I still do it. Is it a weakness? I like an updated house that doesn’t require the endless fixing and remodeling money and effort that an old home requires. And city renting usually sucks because your neighbors are living above, below and around you and the noise is the big problem – mine and theirs – it’s inevitable that it drives you out. In our Timber Trail house – a new house within walking distance to downtown and also a bus stop – we found the best of both worlds. But you can’t have pigs and a public house in a suburb. In the end, the Hillsboro, PDX property proved to me that it can be done, that the place and space does exist. There must be a way, whether it’s PDX or elsewhere, to engage this VOG.

We had a few other really great eating & drinking experiences in PDX. Melt was quirky and fun. A very cool, very charming, very tiny café/bistro near Chop, which we had gone out to visit for lunch on a very rainy day. Chop was a great little market, but it had no place to sit and eat what you bought, so we looked around and discovered Melt, and it was perfect. We sat at the diminutive bar, had a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich and good tomato soup and spent at least an hour talking to the friendly owner, Sara, a part-time painter, who ran the place with her husband, an Italian chef. They had apparently been in the restaurant business for twenty-some years, owning several establishments one after the other, the last of which was, according to Sara, a more upscale Italian place, a style of cooking which her husband actually preferred. She seemed a little burned out, in need of a vacation – either their current Melt didn’t jazz them enough, or they were burned out on the restaurant biz, I’m not exactly sure, but we had a very good conversation about being who you are, (she spoke at length about the troubles her son was having finding his way as a musician), about how her kids, now grown, helped out occasionally at Melt, but none were going to take over the business, which is so typical. Children always seem to want to do anything besides take over the family business. Anyway, we found good tunes, good space, good food, and good folks at Melt – we really seemed to connect with the space and the owner herself. I thought about emailing her to let us know if she ever planned on selling the place – I think me and Ang could see ourselves picking up where Melt left off.

The Farm Café. Otherwise known as “Farm.” We ended up here after attending a Kearns something or other (I forget the name) beer fest at EastBurn, a pub serving great beers but forgettable food (and the worst burger I’ve ever had – a dense, over-cooked, meatloaf-seasoned, brick of weirdness). We captured a suitably serious buzz after all the beer, stumbled into Doug Fir, which we’d read about and thought would be cool only to find massive quantities of alternative lifestyle pretentiousness – ugh – much like Gruner, which prompted us to exit quickly. Farm however hit the spot – the perfect blend of all things portlandia to us – friendly staff, great tunes, beers, space, vibe and dedication to food with flavor versus attitude, a very cool place. Intelligent but fun. Accommodating but forward-thinking. Just stay away from the absinthe. I think this caused some subterranean upsets in my gastrointestinal geography, and my head – wow, dizzy – so we left our beers (awesome black oatmeal stouts) behind to get fresh air and avoid falling off our bar stools. Fun comes at a price. It was the kind of place where you start with dessert – bread pudding – then work your way back to savory. Rosemary-roasted locally sourced hazelnuts (with Tabasco glaze) were noteworthy. Cheese ball: surprisingly satisfying. Bake brie with apples: very good. Turntable behind the bar spinning worthy tuneage. Great space. Should’ve photographed the cool mural outside.

Other highlights included:

  • All the city trees
  • The mountain views (when the clouds lifted a little)
  • The art movie from Lance Bangs at the Portland Art Museum
  • The Cravedog after-movie “party” (which was unfortunately more like an album cover collector’s personal show with warm free beer)
  • Pizza and beer and Bridgeport Alehouse on Hawthorne
  • Stumptown Coffee uptown for a good bagel & cream cheese
  • Public transportation (MAX and buses)
  • Hotel Modera

I recommend Hotel Modera, at least as of this writing. It was managed to combine cool urbanity with a warm welcome and an arty funk with an earthy lack of pretention. We spent one of our evenings on the stoney patio, next to one of the built-in fire pits, talking to some new food & drink friends (Paul and his wife – he’s a gym teacher and part-time “Tasting Facilitator/Judge” for WinePress Northwest). Somehow we got around to Zingerman’s, which they were familiar with, and they gave us a bunch of chefy contacts they thought would be interested in our H2G pork. In all, we got around the city very well, engaged our phycomythologies and used up my PDX map:

The answer to the question “Should we live in PDX?” remains. The vog we generated for this visit includes answering this question, then taking applicable action. If “yes” then we put all our energies into dumping our Texas house and getting to PDX. If “no,” then we place PDX into our collection of “cool” cities and hopefully get back here again someday for a visit. The vibe I’m getting from Angie, without saying anything, is that she’s not for living here. I can see myself making a heroic, but doomed effort with HH here – I like the food culture, friendly folks, urbanity, atmosphere, weather, mountains, size of the city, the look of it, and the vibe. But unless we both agree on the space and place, it’s not going to work. That, and the two practical problems of start-up money and our inability to afford land close enough to PDX. I’m disappointed but not surprised that, after this third visit, I still don’t have the gold-plated answer. I need to get more info, see more places and regroup. Goodbye for now PDX; I don’t know when we’ll see you again, but thanks for the memories….

After being home for a few days, it became time for us to address our PDX III VOG and its questions:

We’ve enjoyed engaging our phycomythologies to the maximum in PDX! We know now that PDX will be our new hometown, that it will support our personal and H2 VOGs, or that it will remain just a part of our collection of cool cities. Our trip has allowed us to get going on the strategy for moving to PDX a.s.a.p., or we’re now making plans to visit Ann Arbor for a biophycomythological adventure test.

Our post-trip questions will have answers:

Is PDX our new home?

What are the details? (neighborhood, apt., house, rural, urban?)

What will each of us do in PDX? (jobs, H2?)

I asked Angie to respond in writing then I did the same:

Angie’s PDX III VOG debriefing (meeting scheduled 5:30PM):

  1. Provide response to the above questions as applicable:

Is PDX our new home? No. I think PDX is a neat city and fun to visit but I did not form a bond. It’s bigger and wetter than I think I can handle. While it has a lot going for it, the food culture didn’t seem as advanced as advertised. The winter weather isn’t as cold as A2 but the rain would make it just as difficult for year round walking. I think I would struggle to get used to the rain. I find it depressing and oppressive. Parts of the city are beautiful but other parts are not appealing. I think it would be difficult to launch the HH concept since it would need to be at least 30 miles from the city, we have no connections to start with to spread the word and our main attraction was Portland and not some country-like suburb. The initial investment and risk of success are higher than I am comfortable with. I would feel lonely, outside of the city with no friends or family and if things didn’t go as planned we would be stuck, similar to our current situation.

The more I considered it the more it made me love Ann Arbor. I love its size, the college influence, the culture, opportunities, connections with family, friends, co-workers. If we stuck with the original HH concept we could still be close to the city and use our connections to establish a clientele. I would likely still be able to work from home but would be close enough to have better job security. We would buy a place that we could afford on my income and if I lost my job we either advance our business plan to make more income or I might try something else like working at Zingermans. We both love the city and the only downfalls are 1) winter; 2) proximity to family. 1) If we keep our housing and other expenses low enough we could afford two winter vacations somewhere warm where we could hike and maybe form some food connections (Maui?) and they may be sufficient to survive the long winter. 2) It is up to us to decide how much or how little we see our families and to establish the types of relationships we want. After a lot of consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ann Arbor really makes my nut spin. There may be other places that have this same effect on me but I may spend a long time trying to find them. In the meantime my life is passing me by. Why not search for a place I love while living in a place I love? Or why search at all? I know now that I need to have a home and I need to grow roots and build a life. I don’t want to spend my life searching. My roots need fertile soil now.

  • Provide additional input and/or action steps as you see fit:

Action steps: I ordered the A2 Observer so we can get up to speed on what’s going on in the city and to make sure we can still fit in there. I think we need to research properties, both land and homes with land near the city and also discuss alternative options for the HH beginnings. We know we can afford to live in a cool small home in the city and raise four hens with hen house in yard (and maybe bees for honey). Maybe we start with that and hosting some small dinners as Phase 1 and set milestones for future phases. I like that idea.

Keith’s PDX III VOG debriefing (meeting scheduled 5:30PM):

1) Provide response to the above questions as applicable:

I’d like to think it’s our new home because I’m tired of looking, but I have to agree with all of your info on this. I couldn’t have described the challenges any better nor the ways in which it seems to fail as a home and HH locale versus just a “cool city” to visit. The food culture was actually better than I expected as it seems to me to be ripe for more entrepreneurs bringing higher quality like me – it’s not a saturated market, but I just can’t see how we get close enough to the parts we need with the money that we have – too much slogging up a soggy hill at his point in our 40-something lives. It’s an intelligent town, and not just academically.

A2 remains unique. But I remain indifferent to it, and very, very uninterested in hard winters. It still feels like the past to me instead of the future. I can’t go back there with my head down, shuffling back to a place just because I can think of no other. There’s nothing in me right now that needs what is there, besides what I can get through the mail and email. In that sense, returning feels like a death. I also see it as limiting for HH – ZCoB’s presence in the food culture there is becoming dominant and I only see them as a competitor and temptation for me to just go get a job with them, or to in fact try to get some of their money for my own endeavor (I won’t be a Bill Niman). That’s a very bad thing and I don’t know how to reconcile this with what you need to do. I have to see myself there. One step at a time, following guides, keeping a creative and open mind, and we’ll see what happens.

2) Provide additional input and/or action steps as you see fit:

Making plans to visit A2 in the same way we visited PDX, which was part of this VOG sounds like a next action step. You’re already investigating and you can take the lead on this one because I’m just not seeing it this time which is o.k. I’ll just leave the door open and keep engaging my biophycomythology to see what breaks. When one door closes, another opens. I must trust my guides and of course you are one of them. The disappointment of not finding it in PDX will pass – it’s like needing a rest after the effort of a long walk. I looked at other cities like Fort Collins (same size as A2) and Colorado Springs (much bigger), both in CO, but they have winter like A2, so I don’t see an advantage.

So, you can see that we’ve got some conflicts. I’m being careful, per Canfield, to not see these differences as limits, they’re just two not-really-so-different phycomythologies responding to a small adventure in the forest adventurous – the hero’s journey plays out differently for each of us, even if you’re married to each other. In this case, I don’t think we’re that far off, I don’t want to commit to PDX either. It’s a near-miss and those always take some working out, which I’m learning to do. We want to stay together as part of each of our phycomythologies, so I’m confident that we’ll move forward.

[1] Snag is sometimes a personification of a piece of driftwood or a deadhead, the seafarer’s obstacles. Among the Haida, Snag is called Ttsaamuus, and he is an alternative form of Taangghwanlaana, the One in the Sea. Snag is also intimately associated with Sea Wolf, Sea Bear and Beaver. In Haida sculpture, Snag is frequently counterbalanced by Raven, who is a close relation. Snag below and Raven on top is a common arrangement on Haida poles. Citing: Cheryl Shearar, Understanding Northwest Coast Art: A Guide to Crests, Beings and Symbols, (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000), 98.