Saturday, June 30, 2007

Going Yard
Hired a couple of kids to mow the small lawn I've got in front of my house. These are guys I saw tooling around the neighborhood on their bikes the day I arrived—in fact, they offered their lawn-care services right then and there. I told them I'd get back to them. Today, I saw them riding by and I yelled out that I thought my lawn needed a trimming. The lanky one of the two said, "Yeah, I'd say it's beginning to look a bit tropical."

That was Josh, maybe 13. His sidekick is Brandon, whom I'm guessing checks in at 10. Befitting his elder status, Josh is the "manager of the lawn mower," except when it comes time to push it across the lawn, at which time Brandon is called to the fore. But if the little guy runs into a gnarly, knobby spot, Josh jumps in. I offered them five bucks for the job, which took them all of 15 minutes (including 5 minutes to get the mower over here). Turned out I didn't have 5-even on me, so I gave them a 20 and contracted for three more mows, every two weeks or so. I like stoking the fires of young entrepreneurs. I'll just assume the money isn't going for beer or tobacco.

A word about Portland lawns: I don't get them. They all suck. I'm wondering if this is a nature thing and just the way lawns grow up here, or if there's a law, or if it's by informal agreement or peer pressure (among the citizenry, not the blades of grass). In my short time in town I've walked and run through the tending-toward-hoity neighborhood of Laurelhurst, as well as the nice, dependable neighborhood Mount Tabor and several, shall we say, more mixed areas, including my humble 'hood. I've driven about a bit. I have seen exactly one well-trimmed, wholly green lawn of the sort that is standard-issue in California, the so-called Golden State. (I'm not talking about the less common but still plentiful lush, rich, deeply green spreads that suck up an acre-foot of water every summer month. Just your standard decent lawn.) Here, they're mostly brown and scruffy; you find some splotches of green, particularly around the edges, but even a cursory examination reveals that's just weeds. Dandelions abound. This doesn't bother me, mind you. In fact, it's great—it'll be no problem keeping my lawn looking just as "nice" as the neighbors'. Heck, after Josh and Brandon's work, I'm probably the shining star on this stretch of Hoyt Street. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. In the end, this might be the answer.
Go Blazers
I guess I need to rename this blog (in addition to reinvigorating it). But then again, Whine Country is nothing if it isn't a state of mind, right?

So, yeah, I moved to Portland, the Oregon version for those of you checking in from the Right Coast. I was a little disappointed not to receive any kind of official greeting, let alone a house-warming gift, from the city, especially after seeing the welcome that new kid from Ohio got. But I'll get over the hurt.

Portland is by declaration of pundits, magazine city-rankers, environmentalists, geeks, goofs and professors of urban planning the Coolest City in America. The other day, a fellow in the Wall Street Journal said it felt not so much like a major city, but an incredibly large college town. Or maybe that was the woman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's a good line. There are a few colleges around town, but Oregon's big universities are down the Willamette Valley, in Corvallis and Eugene. But Portland nevertheless seems overrun with youth, and it feels vibrant, idealistic and disheveled.

I don't know what all these twentysomethings and thirtysomethings-not-acting-their-age are doing here, beyond depressing wages. (I saw an ad on Craigslist for an editor with a college degree, 3-5 years' experience, a full range of technical knowledge and (of course) "the ability to think creatively and strategically." The salary for this exceptional package: $27,000. Maybe I've really moved to Bangalore.)

I like Portland, so far. Mount Tabor Park is a mile south of me. It's a weird and wonderful place, an extinct volcano and home to several strangely beautiful reservoirs. Plus, for my purposes, it's a great place to run. I found, too, an enjoyable, easy-to-navigate 20-mile bike loop right from my door. And the Montavilla Park Pool is a mile directly east on Glisan, with a lap lane that appears mostly not to be too crowded. So at hand that's good running, biking and swimming—almost everything a guy needs to stay sane.