Outlaw Tales of Oregon by Jim Yuskavitch

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Over the holidays a friend gave me book entitled Outlaw Tales of Oregon: True Stories of the Beaver State’s most Famous Infamous Crooks, Culprits and Cutthroats by Jim Yuskavitch. I must say I looked at it with a jaundiced eye since it looked like one of the books that you give children that has a sterile, sanitized version of history, somewhere between Paul Bunyon and George Washington cutting down an apple tree.

I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. The stories were interesting, well researched and well written. They covered the nitty gritty of what the criminals did and made no excuses or whitewashing their actions for them.

The 12 stories covered a wide range of topics from vigilante gangs, range wars, mass murders, train and stagecoach hold ups and more. There are criminals that even the most casual reader wandering through the pages would recognize such as Black Bart and Butch Cassidy, as well as many that would only be familiar to a fan or Oregon history.

One of the stories that I really enjoyed was entitled Dave Tucker: From Bank Robbery to Redemption. It was about an embittered young man who robbed a bank, was captured and did time. But when he was released he reformed his life to such an extent that decades later he was made president of the bank that he had once tried to rob.

The author mentions some myths, such as one robber was reputed to be the first to say “Hands Up” during the commission of his crime, and then usually dismisses the myth. He has a fine eye for detaiuil noting one criminal was jailed three years for stealing $8, that Oregon had one of the first State Penitentiarys and that one character later committed the first train robbery in Canada, at the relative late date of 1904.

Another nice feature for me was that it mentioned so many cities, counties and areas that I was pretty unfamiliar with I got my map out and followed along to see where much of the action took place. Some of the town names are near where I live in Portland, and yet I had never heard of places such as Goble.

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It is interesting to see that it appears that there is an entire Outlaw series covering a range of states and I might get a few others to see what happened in a few other states, Alaska seems to be one that could be ripe with interesting crime, as does Montana. Interesting that the Montana cover closely resembles the Oregon cover.

Winterhawks Hockey

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I went to a Portland Winterhawks game the other night, and aside from the horrible parking due to a Portland Trailblazers game taking place next door at the same time had a very good time. The home team won 4-3 after a sloppy start that saw the team trailing 2-1 at one point. There is obviously bad blood between Portland and the visiting Tri-City Americans as there were a lot of fights. The quality of play improved as the game progressed, and the number of fights declined until the end. With the Americans pulling their goalie the last two minutes were frenetic and the gloves dropped a few times, as they did at the final buzzer.

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The Winterhawks are a Western Hockey League team, basically the minor leagues for the NHL and has mostly high school kids playing for the teams. While it is obviously not pro caliber the games are usually very enjoyable and you have a chance of seeing a future NHL player on his way up

I used to be a huge sports fan and at different times have had season tickets to the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants, and the San Jose Sharks. As my brother is wont to observe-“It’s obvious you are single.”

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Over the years that interest has faded a bit. In at least one case (49ers) its team ownership and the belief that things will not get better soon. However I think one of the main issues is that I grew up reading about sports in newspapers and it is not the same thing for me on the Internet.

Another of course is cost. It now is more expensive, by a factor of 2x, to park at a 49er game than a seat cost the first year I had my tickets. Food and beverages are sky high and it is increasingly hard to bring food into a stadium.  When I started going to Giants games at Candlestick you could sit in the bleachers for $2, so I have seen probably hundreds of games from that vantage point.

Time is also an issue in some cases.  For a pro football game you have to basically dedicate your entire day, if you are not there early no parking, long lines thru security and then the confusion of getting back on the road post game. The impact of television time outs on the pace of the game is very obvious live, when at home you can change loads in the laundry, fix a sandwich etc…

I am also a cord cutter and so do not get live sports on my television anymore. In some ways I miss it a lot and in others it’s amazing how much more free time I have.

Since moving to Portland I used to see the minor league baseball team the Beavers but lack of support and other issues lead to their departure. I have just not gotten into the Hops, the new minor league team in Beaverton. The town has the Timbers soccer team and I enjoy soccer but rarely go to their games for some reason. I don’t root for either of the major college teams in the state but do enjoy PSU football and now attend one or two a year.

Sadly one of the other issues is probably the fact that the friends that I grew up with, and who rooted for, or in some times against my teams, have spread to the four winds. While I have a fine group of friends now, it’s not quite the same. The inside jokes are gone. The years of building on the same jokes has no meaning to new friends and falls flat when you explain it to them.

The City Of Books

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One of the best bookstores that I have ever visited is Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Or. The place, the headquarters of the local chain, bills itself as a city of books, really is and is the world’s largest independent bookstore. You can get a map of the place, which is helpful because it is a multistory building, and while it would be incorrect to say it is a maze, it is easy to get a bit confused.

There are huge sections of books, on a breathtaking array of topics. There are computer terminals located all over the building to help you see if a specific title is available or orderable. You can also check online for books and get them moved from one facility to another so you can look at the book or simply purchase it over the internet. Trying to remember your Latin or Greek? It has the Loeb Classical Library in all of its glory. Books on polar explores? Check. It goes on and on, as well as shelves of current best sellers and lots of quality books at a good discount. However it offers much more. On the chalk board in its coffee shop is a list of events for the month that covers both site specific as well as interesting events, literary as well as others, which are happening in the city. There are regular book clubs and author signings almost daily as well as children story time.

One thing I like is that they buy back books. Aside from my own books relatives and friends often unload books on me as well and there are only so many bookshelves you can have in your house. I do no one friend that cannot use his fireplace because they have three stacks of books in front of it. There are books that I know I will never read again, although sometimes I am mistaken. One funny thing that happened to me a couple of years ago was that I bought a book that looked interesting on the US Cavalry at Gettysburg, only to find that not only had I read it years ago, this was the actual book that I had owned and had sold to the store.

They issue a pseudo credit card with the amount you receive from your sales and you can use that card not just at the huge downtown store but at the other branches including happily the airport. If you want, or need, they also will pay cash, but it’s at a lower return rate. Also don’t be disappointed if they do not buy all of your books, there are only so many copies of Twilight that they need.

There have been other stores that bring back fond memories. The first that I can recall regularly going to was a Books Inc. in San Jose, I will always remember buying a book and then losing it while playing in a nearby orchard. I don’t remember the book but the loss always irks me. Since then I have left books on planes, trains and (intentionally) in bed and breakfasts in Europe. San Francisco’s Green Apple Books has long been a favorite. It has many of the say characteristics of Powell’s, only usually harder to park near. Friends once took me to a store in New York, maybe 30 years ago, and I remember loving it but have no idea what its name was. I recall that it had lots of first editions.

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Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise

The most famous bookstore, probably in the word, is the second edition of Shakespeare and Company on Pairs’ Left Bank. I visited but did not run into any aspiring writers, at least none that declared themselves as such. I purchased a used copy of Zorba The Greek and after I had finished the book I put a note in the cover asking people to drop me an email about where they picked it up and where they left it. I then left it at a train station in Dublin. I later received two notes as it made its way to the south of France.

Where The Beers Are Strong And Your Knees Are Weak

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The 21st annual Holiday Ale Festival launched yesterday in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. This is the one beer festival in the Portland area that consumers have to be very wary. It seems that every year the average alcohol level of the beers slowly inches up, so while you are drinking two ounces of beer at a time, and you can get full eight ounces glasses (or is it ten?), it really sneaks up on you.

I am meeting my buddy Josh there today around two and then hopefully meeting up with Steve and Susan up from Half Moon Bay as well as Andy and Cindy from cross town. Of the group I have probably the weakest beer palate.

That is often not a major issue at this event since many of the beers are just so over the top in flavor that subtle flavor is not part of the conversation. Still it always puts you at a disadvantage when someone says how X type hops always comes through on this type of beer and you sit there with a blank look on your face, basically my default look at this event.

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At the festival it is always best to look for the limited release beers first. These are vintage beers that have a limited supply. The festival staggers their release over the first days Wed-Sat, so that when you arrive will determine which ones are available. Many are only available as a single pour and all cost two tickets. One that I am looking forward to is the Widmer Collaborator Sullivan Stout, a homebrew contest winner that is then created at Widmer.

Then there are the Standard Release beers. There are over 50 of these and they are expected to last the full event. Some have been at the event for years while others are new, and in some cases so are the brewers. For the fans that attend on Sunday there is the aptly named Sunday Brunch Beers, usually rare or vintage releases and which require a separate admission.

The event is a great place to people watch as well. From Hipster Santa to everything that Portland has to offer. However with both the food pre and post event as well as all of the beer  I am glad I followed the fall tradition of setting my scale back ten pounds as the holiday season arrives. May have to ask Santa for larger clothes!

Thanksgiving Football

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It seems that everybody has their own Thanksgiving traditions. Family bickering, eating too much and sleeping on the sofa after the meal is pretty much a given these days. However there are others as well. When I was growing up it involved football, and not planting ourselves in front of the idiot box and watching endless ads occasionally punctuated by football. No in high school and college and even for some time afterwards it meant playing football.

Call it the mud bowl, the turkey bowl and or just your everyday pickup football game a number of us would gather and play, regardless of the weather. As we grew older, and the pains took more than an afternoon to pass, and we all started lives and moved away, the tradition waned. As I have worked over the years I discovered that this type of tradition is pretty common.  For many it was often an extended family affair where they could work off grudges, many of which emerged from the previous year’s game.

So this year my friend Hans attempted to restart the tradition. Having realized that maybe tackle football was not a great idea he opted for two hand touch. Now keep in mind that the average age of the invitee was probably in the mid-40s, and that a number of them had probably not touched a real football in a decade (nerf footballs with your kids do not count.) About a dozen expressed interest, but interest faded a bit due to a number of factors. It rained two inches two days prior to game day, which was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The annual Oregon vs Oregon State football game was actually going to mean something, at least to OSU fans, and probably a good hard look in the mirror also created doubt to playing ability.

So as game time rolled around there were only five players. It was decided to play, with a set quarterback and four downs to score. I should mention that I was honored with the position of head (and sole) referee. I also suspect that no one want to haul my carcass off the field if I suffered a major heart attack. The teams rolled up and down the very sloppy field, played near the upper baseball diamond at Gabriel Park. A number of joggers, dog walkers and people working off the leftovers paused for a moment and pondered what they were witnessing before going on their way scratching their collective heads.

Sadly the game ended early as each team had a player suffer a debilitating injury, with a potentially reinjured ACL on one side and a pulled or torn hamstring on the other. Everybody decided that a few ice cold beers would cure the injuries so we all hurried out to The Ship. I suspect the effort will be attempted next year, hopefully with less injuries and more players.

Pre-Thanksgiving Wine Tasting

 

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The weekend prior to Thanksgiving is always my favorite weekend to go out and wine taste. The crowds that will be descending on the wineries the following weekend are not present, making it much more pleasant to get around. The big bonus in my mind however is that  many wineries have the wine makers present so that you can hear them talk about the current vintages as well as the ones that they are currently pouring. Also a plus is that many of your friends can go, while the holiday weekend is usually filled with family events and is much harder to get away.

This year we visited three wineries, Patricia Green, Soter and Ken Wrights, and each had a very different offering available.  We started at Patricia Green, situated a bit off the beaten path on Ribbon Ridge, and she was pouring a wide range including her first chardonnay in over eight years. What I particularly like about visiting is that she had one offering that just typified wines grown on volcanic soil and one sedimentary. This enables you to compare them side by side and can experience the difference in basic flavor profile as well as in their nose.

Second up was Soter, and its sparkling brut rose is almost always the standout at the winery. I think that its chardonnays are really a strong offering now, where in the past my preference leaned more to its pinot noirs. Now it is probably a dead head. Situated on a hill just outside of Carlton it has a great view looking north, and in stormy weather it is fantastic.

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Last but not least was Ken Wright in downtown Carlton. This tasting was very unlike the previous two in that it included barrel tastings from the 2016 vintage. While my palette is no where good enough to really tell where the wines are going, it is always interesting to taste wine that is that young. He was also [pouring some of the wines that were already in bottles from previous vintages. This enabled you to try the 2014 Carter in the bottle and the 2016 in the barrel and what a world of difference. The tasting was in the barrel room rather than the tasting room and in the past I have only seen that room when it was being used to produce wine and it was a loud, messy place. It looked like a harvest festive was going on last weekend. What a difference!

Possibly the best part of the trip, aside from Dan offering to drive, was that I resisted buying any wine. However that was mitigated in part by my picking up wine I had previously ordered. Well you cannot win them all.