24 November 2021

A vanGogh Watercolor Pocket Box

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Whether or not I actually get round to using them, I'm a sucker for pocket watercolor paint boxes. 

VanGogh, a brand of Royal Talens has a selection of good ones. They've curated a few themed sets; they have a 'vivid colors' box, a 'muted colors' box, a 'pearlescent and interference' box (stylish, in black) and a 'general selection'.

I got the general selection because I just play at watercolor at present. Here's what it looks like opened up:


The arrangement is a very nice size; there's pocket in my canvas shoulder bag it fits exactingly and satsifyingly. Ten colors, plus Chinese White for tinting and Payne's Gray for shading.

The little included brush is an interesting one. It collapses like many small brushes of that type, and the end of the brush has a sort of bevel that makes it resemble the end of a woodwind. This edge fits into a notch on the right side of that mixing tray, making it easy to pop it out to provide access to the one big mixing area in the lid. Otherwise it snaps in nice and tidy.

The quality of the paints can be seen in the following picture.


The quality seems comparable to Winsor & Newton's Cotman line of student/amateur grade colors, which means this is a good choice as well for amateur dabblers and those getting started in watercolors, who want more than a Prang box but don't feel confident enough yet to lay out the big bucks on professional grade paint.

They say you should buy the best you can afford, and I won't argue with that, but I'm sure I'm not the only aspiring artist who got sticker shock when we priced those paints. I mean, Bob Ross Inc. makes their video content next to free and widely available, but it's when you price paint and supplies when it dawns on you where that sweet sweet revenue comes from. I believe you should decide for yourself where the line between what one can afford and what one feels comfortable using, and buy as close to that line as you can get. I do think one shouldn't settle for less than student grade; you won't go broke that way while learning confidence with real big-kid art supplies.

The colors in the vanGogh general selection box span the primaries, with biases: Permanent lemon yellow/Azo yellow medium, Permanent red light/Madder lake deep, Ultramarine deep/Cerulean blue (phthalo), Sap green/Veridian, also the ever-dependable earths Yellow ochre and Burnt sienna, plus Chinese White and Payne's gray rounding out the set.

I also got a Niji medium water-brush pen, which was the first time I've ever used such a thing, and was quite a liberating experience. 

The Persistence of Vision, The Home Game

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Who said Dali was just imagining it?


This was on one of the shelves at I've Been Framed-Art Supply Center, and it didn't have a price tag on it, but I imagine it was for sale. We just don't have a place in the house to display it, not really, but if I go back and it's still there, I just might figure out a place.

Bike City Art Store

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I'm betting your art supply store isn't as au courant as mine.

Looking out onto SE Foster Rd from the watercolor section of IBF, three days ago.


Don't you wish your art supply store was hot like mine? 

The Current Painting: PaintWorks 73-91733, "Summer Farm", Plate 3

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The progress has placed, now, a charming and nifty rock wall in the forefront of the painting. This took more than an evening because, first, there are so many little tiny regions to cover, miss, remix paint and return to, and second, I embrace this because it is very much a healing meditation.


It is, as all PaintWorks projects do, shaping up nicely, no?

Also want to mention that Princeton Art & Brush's "Snap!" value-priced line of brushes is the aspiring-artist-on-a-budget's best friend. Oh, I've said that before?

Well, it still holds true.

I finally got me a van Gogh pocket watercolor box and an water-brush pen for doing watercolors. It's a bit late, though, so I'm going to hold off on that until tomorrow. 

21 November 2021

The Current Painting: PaintWorks 73-91733, "Summer Farm", Plates 1 and 2

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We have been getting back into painting, and PaintWorks' PBNs are always, always ready to go and great fun and much detail.

I've started one titled "Summer Farm", number 73-91733. 

This is plates 1 and 2 of progress on the bucolic scene.




The old truck emerges from the horse pasture it's abandoned in and doing all that foliage painting is great fun, very therapeutic. We need much therapy around here in the art way.

The Face of a Minstrel

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There was an OryCon this year, OryCon 42. And they're taking a year off, a 1-year hiatus isn't a big deal when you consider 42 years without a break, including Pandemic Year, when it was virtual.

This made this our last chance to do a thing until 2023; seeing Alexander James Adams do his thing, which is a good thing.

The performance this year was a mild comedy of errors; filker Cecelia Eng and Alec appeared to be scheduled for the same space at the same time. In the spirit of full-speed-ahead that characterizes Pacific Northwest fandom, it kinda became an hour of Alec and Friends, and was no bad thing. Now, Alec lets us take pictures of him as he performs, which is totally generous. 

I got this:


This is not Alec mugging the camera. It is not posed. I happened to be pointing the camera his way and squeezed he shutter at just the right moment, and it's important to point this out because it expresses the way he approaches his performances and his life as a musician; all-in. Alec has an act, be he himself is not the act; that's real enjoyment, real emotion, 100% authentic; the expression of someone killing it at what they were born to do.

We've been listening and seeing Alec when we can for more than 30 years now. Watching him grow and develop during the years, even in our desultory way, is and will be the dearest of dear memories, for as long as we have lives to live. 

17 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 50: The End of the Road

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The corner of Winter and Gaines Streets in north Salem ... That's the trip, my friends, those of you who have followed my string of babble and photos on this meagrely-read blog, I'm grateful to you.

For me, and for all I know, for my wife as well, a trip to the Coast and returning to the Valley have a certain bittersweet despair to it, and for me, it always has. You're back inland, it was cool and bracing and it's now warm and a little stultifying; such is the contempt that familiarity brings, and the northern half of the Willamette Valley is the literal ground from which I sprung, some patches of that dirt I literally know as well as parts of my very own body.

So, here it is: a picture of a modern street sign on a corner in sleepy residential North Salem, just a few blocks away from the house my wife lived in when I met her (an area she can still find her way about blindfolded, I'm sure)

It's still a damn fine place to spend ones' life, this part we know today as a part of northwestern Oregon, but compared to the Oregon Coast, everything seems a little lacklustre, at least for a while.

And so it goes.



16 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) part 49: Another View Down 12th Street Hill

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This is a picture I've taken before, but I can't resist taking it again when I've the chance.

Coming north on 12th St SE, heading from the South Salem hill toward the city center, as one passes Madrona St SE one will notice the hill. A long, straight hill that connects 12th Street on the hill to its lower-elevation leg. It gives a great visual angle.

And, also, one pleasant trick of Salem geography is that a few streets look like they lead right up to the Capitol but don't actually go straight there. Center St NE is one. And 12th St SE, from this point, is another.


This angle also shows off one of Salem's most seductive aspects: so covered in trees that one has to get a pretty high vantage point in much of the town to actually perceive a town. Salem is all about trees, and that's one of the most beguiling things about it, but unlike Oregon's other big cities, it doesn't like to brag. It ... and its populace ... just enjoy what they have there. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 48: One Of The Most Interesting Street Blades In Salem

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As proven elsewhere in this prolix chronicle, a road trip to me isn't complete without bagging a few street blades. And we were just happening to cruise down South Commercial into the hilly, forested demesne known as South Salem where two important local roads come together.

One, of course, would be Commercial St, SE or, in the local parlance, simply South Commercial. The other is the end of what seems to be 12th St SE, but not technically so. If one follows 12th south from the city center one will note that near that south end the street bends southwesterly to intersect with Commercial. While this directs all 12th Street traffic to a merge with Commercial, this street has actually changed its name. 12th St SE's name is extended straight south into the neighborhood immedately east of that; the diagonal road's name, reflecting its function in connecting 12th to Commercial via the path of least resistance is 12th Street Cut-off, SE. And the signs reflect this.

A further cut-off ramp reaching a little north on Commercial looks like this, omitting the directional SE:


Meanwhile, across the street, a severe angle with the intersection of Ibsen St SE put both streets on the same placard, as it were:


This sign is more in keeping with the general design grammar and logic of the average Salem street blade, while giving the eye an interesting thing to look at by enlarging the ST abbreviation to the visual precedence of the rest of the street name. 

However one looks at it, the blade for this Salem street has to do a lot of work, more than most, and makes the display of one of the more interesting street names in any town I've known just that much more memorable. 

12 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 47: At Salem

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After all this rambling and ambling, we pass through the Salem City Center.

You can't help it, really. There's only one way to go if you don't know the area, and that's it.

Salem's a funny burg in this way. Currently, the population within the limits of Salem is about 175,000. It lies on both sides of the Willamette River, as do Portland and Eugene, but unlike Portland and Eugene (and especially Portland), there are only two bridges connecting east and west banks, and when you view the Marion and Center Street Bridges as two sides of one highway, there's only one real road over it. 

And if you don't hit the river crossing there, you have two choices; the bridge at Independence or the one at Newberg, which get you to countryside locations that are 10-20 miles distance. 

The inbound side of Hwy 22, which ends its westbound approach as a riverfront expressway bypass separating downtown West Salem from the river, becomes Center Street Bridge and comes to ground on the east side in downtown at Commercial St NE. As one crosses that bridge, this is view from the car window:


It's quite a beautiful riverfront these days, and a world's difference from when I was a teenager and a early twentysomething here. What amounts to high-rise buildings in downtown Salem can be seen here, too; one can quickly surmise that my old hometown is a pretty modest place. Salem always has been fairly modest about itself. Makes a rather lovely place of it, I can see now (in all honesty, I did not always see this. Perspective makes you consider things differently)

If one scans in from the left side, the first tall building one sees is the Capitol Tower. This is an 11-story high-rise at the corner of State Street and Liberty Street, and is about 151 feet tall as far as the building structure itself goes. This is the tallest office building in Salem, and the third-tallest structure in town after the First United Methodist Church (whose spire tops out at 188 feet) and the State Capitol (the coif of the Oregon Pioneer being 176 feet above street level). There is, alas, no observation deck (in that way, Portland and Salem have a common thing). 

The only other tall building you can see there is a 7-floor condo silo down on Front Street. That was a bit of surprise for me ... there's apartment towers in downtown Salem now. My little home town is really starting to grow up, I guess.

Here's another experiential landmark:


This is the Equitable Center at Center and High Streets. It tops out at a modest 7 floors and was built back in the 1970s and, like certain other tall buildings I can think of, is named for a financial institution that no longer exists as such (or at all) but, palimpsest-like, the name lingers on. Quite a stylish example if the day, I always thought (as I came home from school in the evenings on the Cherriots bus). 

And, no matter where you are in central Salem, you're never far away from this modern monument:


Why didn't I ask The Girl to pull over on Court Street to snap some update pictures? Well, you know that point in your trip where the pull of home is very strong? We were there. 45 minutes down Interstate 5 and we'd be back. 

We did a little loop around town (I have a few more pictures to share) and then headed back. And there must always be a reason to come back to town because few opportunities seem to present themselves these days, and reasons for follies such as these must always be at the ready.

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 46: Hwy 22 West Of Salem

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This is kind of a continuation of the feeling I started in the last post, but with a different angle of incidence. How things were to how they are.

After passing the junction of Hwy 22, Hwy 223, and Hwy 99W that has developed over the last 40 years to enable you to bypass the intersection burg of Rickreall so well that you don't have to go through it even if you are trying to get to Dallas from Salem, the highway bents from NW-SE to dead-on E-W and begins the first part of the final approach into Salem from the west across the flat farmlands that dominate the area between there and the edge of the Eola Hills that define West Salem. 

Just like many things I comment on in my roadworthy experience, this was not so remarkably as it is. That is actually a banal observation overworded because I wanted to, but no less true: the interesting thing about Hwy 22 coming into Salem from the west is how it's evolved. The only similar highway I can imagine in form and function is Portland's own Sunset Highway, but that was laid down at one more-or-less fell swoop. It's a full-on freeway. Hwy 22 started out as a local road and evolved that way, and it hasn't finished its evolution. 

Dig, if you will, this picture:


This is along part of that length I mentioned before. Straight on like an arrow from Rickreall to the Hwy 51 junction just west of Eola Bend. Less than a mile to the right as this angle has it, there's a local road called Rickreall Road that winds close to the namesake creek, intersecting 99W just south of 22 at the namesake community. This road used to by Hwy 22, and was bypassed by the road in the picture above, which went in around 1970, give or take a couple of years. 

At the time and for many years after the verges each side of the road were treeless, giving unobstructed views of the fields and farms on either side and the rail line it passed over, but at some time during the intervening 30-plus years succeeding the 1980s someone got the idea to plant these trees, and I did rather enjoy the feeling of going down a tree corridor as we passed through this part of Polk County approaching the metropole. 

The next picture is taken from the car window at a place I like to call Eola Bend: the historic townsite of Eola still exists here and this amounts to the business district. It's the extreme western edge of the incorporated area of Salem, and it's where Hwy 22 finally comes up against the Willamette.


The name on the building reads Eola Inn, because that's what it was as a business and what it is as a landmark. It's been a roadhouse, middle-to-upperbrow supper club, and a outlier to the Rock'n'Rogers chain of un-remarkable painfully-50s burger dives. 

It now appears to be the central building of an awkwardly-arranged used car lot. Never saw that one coming. 

11 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 45: The Long View Down 22

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Just a nifty long view down State Hwy 22, which comes down as a diagonal until you reach Rickreall and it straightens out for a direct east-west approach to the Capital City:


The wavery watery look reminds me very well of the somewhat-unwelcome feeling of warmth of the inland areas this day ... it was in the eighties. Back at the coast, it was still in the sixties.

That's one reason why Valley people assault the Coast during summer, anyway ... not-gonna-Oregon-lie about it. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 44: Farms of Polk County

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Salem and Portland are similar in that the metropolitan city has a west-side county that's still greatly rural that the main coastal route runs through but that's about it, really.

Polk County is no Washington County. It's more like Yamhill County but it doesn't take itself as seriously as Yamhill sometimes does. And there's certainly no sprawling western suburbs, no Silicon Farmland. 

Here's one of the farms we saw off OR 22 that day:


And here is the collection of buildings ... including no less than three grain elevators ... near Rickreall:


Hwy 22 is increasingly becoming a freeway as you pass through the farmland east of Salem but we don't sprawl here in Oregon. Development has not shot rhizomic tendrils out into that area, and it still produces the crops. And the fields all but abut the western city limits of Salem, which is a city of nearly 170,000 (the second ... or third ... no, second ... check back later ... city in the state).

It's timeless and sweet, not everyone's can of beer but for those who love the country, you don't have to go very far out of town to find it, here in the Willamette Valley.

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 43: Hwy 22 Through The Coast Range

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Like I said earlier, there's a certain 'gateway' feeling, like passing through a door, when you take a certain path away from a place going to another place. This is a powerful feeling when you're a child of the Willamette Valley in any way, because if you're leaving Lincoln City you begin to fell inland as early as Neotsu, and certainly by the time you hit Otis. 

These two locations are within three miles of the Pacific beach, Neotsu in particular now actually existing within L.C.'s boundaries, but if you're headed home, and home's the Valley, the Ocean may as well be three hundred miles away instead of just three. You're going home, and the beach is nowhere near it, and that's all you feel from there on out.

The journey eastward from L.C. to the Valley took us along OR 18 which handed us off to OR 22 as we passed through the Grand Ronde Valley which straddles the boundary between Yamhill and Polk Counties. Passing by Spirit Mountain Casino is hardly the event one expects; It's just a big resort hotel, really. Just past this, across the floor of the Grand Ronde, just after OR 18 receives OR 22 from the north at Valley Junction, the highway has become an expressway of sorts, the sides of the highway separated by long string of Jersey barriers, and one fully-separated expressway interchange (Fort Hill Road, which is EXIT 25, despite being the only such exit along 18 or 22 in the Coast Range, because giving exits a number based on a milepost is a standard now in Oregon). 

As the combine highway leaves the Grand Ronde, OR 22 splits to the right. This is how you come back into the Valley, bound for Salem.

Now, I'm going to be a little sacrilegious here, or at least sound that way, but OR 18 and 22 crossing the Coast Range is a bit of a paradox. It is beautiful, Oregon Beautiful. It is simultaneously dreary. It's the same beautiful up and down the pike, all the way, and it's a longish drive, so you begin to yearn for some city (unless you're a country mouse, in which case, you don't have to go to West Virginia for Almost Heaven; it's right here). The VanDuzer Forest Corridor, which you drive through over the Coast crest (a clever thing; they harvested trees only to within a half-mile of the road, so the clearcuts remained tastefully out of sight and mind) is a beauty; you leave it, and farm land clings to the road here and there. Eventually, the view from the car looks like this:



This is 100% full-on Oregon countryside, the ones the colonists came to farm. As perfect a modern farmland idyll as can be had on a road trip; it seems as though a great deal of it has never changed and never will, and is as distant as can be.

07 November 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 42: The Beach at Roads End

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I've alluded to Roads End before.

To recap, it's a community at the north end of Lincoln City; if you're leaving L.C. on the north side, Hwy 101 curves inland towards Neotsu, the Hwy 18 junction, Neskowin and points north. Just at that point where it curves away from the beach, a road, Logan Road, strikes northward further but into a cul-de-sac of a residential district where L.C.'s highest-numbered streets can be found. Blocked in by a headland literally just north of the city limits, one must turn around to get back out; ergo, road's end. 

It's a charming little neighborhood with a very accessible beach access. And that's where we went.


 It's also very very popular. Parking was easy to get to and hard to actually find. But we did, and had our reward thereupon.


The wind as mas macho this day and spray coated our glasses and we had to take time and wipe 'em; I nearly lost Birthday Hat for good, pretty close. There was a fellow there who did two things simultaneously that Oregonians do when they go to the beach: fly a kite and board the waves. The photo, back before this last one, shows him; he leapt and soared but came back down quickly each time, and looked quite exhilarated.

Actually, here, we came back. We were intending  to finally strike out for the Valley, and home, but after we got just past the Hwy 18 turnoff, the Girl turned round and we went back; north of that, 101 did its inland thing and we both wanted to see a bit more of the ocean, feel the breeze, hear the surf.

And why not? We could. That's the beauty of being grown ups. When you're kids on a trip to the coast, you're driving away from the beloved beach and you have to go along with that. But if you're a grown-up and you're behind the wheel, you want one more good look at the Pacific, then you get it. It's your call.


We got what we needed, in this grace-note last look. Stiff breeze, the smell of the sea, the roar of the surf, people enjoying the beach in that Oregon way (down jackets, kiteboarders, the freshness of the air), the clouds coming down to touch the water ... and we left when we were good and ready.

Adultness has its burdens, and life is finite in span and constrained in possibilities, but we do have this and, for the time being, it kind of makes it all worth it. 

I love Lincoln County. 

31 October 2021

Pearlescent Russellville Sunset

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Nothing special about this, except tonight was a sunset day for pearlescent fire-clouds which were most gorgeous.


This, looking west from the corner of SE 103rd Dr and Stark Street, bustling downtown Russellville. 

Don't Be A Menace To A Good Night's Sleep

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I was hoping for a picture of the mountain itself as I wended my way home tonight but the sun was down too low. But I did see this rendition of it on a truck parked in downtown Parkrose.


The coinage Beds In The Hood actually only intersects with the idea of Mount Hood awkwardly, at best, but it, along with the rough-and-ready rendition of Wy'east, does suggest a certain O.G.-ness when it comes to selling mattresses.

The price of entry is certainly for you, me, and everyone. They'll get you in that bad boy for just $29 down. 

This almost feels like a Tom Peterson's ad now. 

25 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 41: Lincoln City Street Blades, In Passing

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As we came back through L.C., I got me some street blade pix. 

You know. How I do.

The street grid in Lincoln City holds endless fascination for me, as I've said before. I'm coming up with an article that I'll submit to a blog of a fellow I very much respect exploring it. For now, it's only necessary to know this: for directional prefixes, the city is quartered by US 101, L.C.'s main street, and the "D" River into NW, NE, SW and SE quadrants. 

The average L.C. city street blade looks more or less like this:


There are a few obvious observations that one can make from this, and they aren't outre at all. L.C. follows a standard and predictable design logic which renders an easily-understood design grammar: the directional and the specific are of a lesser size which cause the actual street name (or number in this case) to be the star of the design. The ordinal, in the case of the numbered street, is appropriately sized.

The blade that's very oblique in this view can be seen a bit clearer, though smaller, in the deep background, at the corner with NE 18th Pl. It simply says N HWY 101. South Hwy 101 is called out in identical style on the other side of the "D" River.

The fascination in L.C. isn't so much in the simplicity of of the design but it the way it's actually somewhat inconsistently applied. Not too far from this corner, we found this:


This gives a good view of the standard named blade in town, and a very oblique view again of another. Here one can see that the generic ST doesn't line up with the directional like on the top blade, rather, it's centered. The impression given, when compared with other L.C. street blades, is a bit of casual sloppiness. 

There are other blade sets which come off as kind of avant garde, such as this one:


Here the layout is followed faithfully, but the font jumps out at you. I'm pretty sure that that Helvetica-esque font isn't an MUTCD standard, it looks atypical for street blades and, except for the capital "I" in the street name Inlet, there are no majuscules anywhere, and it's used in a very consistent way on the blades. 

It's a bit of a wonder, really.

And that concludes our little tour of the street blades of Lincoln City. 

17 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 40: Late Afternoon, The Deco District

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This was a picture that was taken late in the afternoon the day before those I just posted at Beverly Beach. I wanted to drop a comment on this area of Newport before I moved on.

There's an area of Newport they locally call the Deco District. This also happens to be Newport's official downtown. The heart of it is the block of Coast Hwy between SW Hurbert St and SW Alder St. Specifically at Coast Hwy and Alder there are a School District admin building, a historic theater that's a church at this point, and the old Newport City Hall, which now houses a branch of the Pig 'n' Pancake Restaurant empire. They're all toward the end of this block you'll see in my picture:


Taken as is in this shot, late on an afternoon in the latter part of August during the long tail of the Covid pandemic, it seems a bit forlorn. But the Deco-styled tower front of the theater should be unmissable.

Google Street View of the corner, sharked by me just a few minutes ago, looks like this:


The type on the buildings forms an underpinning to the Art Deco visual grammar which unifies the awareness across the two buildings. I understand there's a mural with the Pig 'n' Pancake pig logo in Deco style as well. I regret now not taking a few more minutes, what we had, to take a few extra snaps, but we'll go to Newport again. 

It's a very charming touch to a very charming town. I've always loved Newport. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 39: Beverly Beach and Otter Rock

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Now, we're on the northbound leg out of Newport on Hwy 101 and the going-home energy is gathering. I didn't know it quite yet, but it was there.

There are a number of just-offshore rocks along the beach just north of the Yaquina Head promontory. They're visible as you tool past on 101, and a good place to look at them is at the state recreation area just in that area, Beverly Beach.


This is a beach access I know of from little-kid time, and it has changed greatly. Yurts didn't exist then, it it has one; we walked past it after we used the toilet. It looked comfortable. Oh, and public toilet there? Immaculate. Highly recommended. 

Coming into the area, you roll up to a manned pay station and sort of a gatehouse. The day-use area is, however, free and that's where we were here. There's a little arched bridge, totally Oregon State Park style, over this small stream, which is called Spencer Creek. Getting to the beach is quick and easy as going under that McCullough-esque bridge you see in the picture above.

I took the opportunity to zoom in on that rock just off-shore through the bridge arch.


That little mesa out there just beyond the surf is the eponymous thing that eponymed the adjacent community of Otter Rock - that is to day, it is Otter Rock. 

I didn't find if there're any otters on it that day, though. I was pleased just to be able to look. 

14 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 38: The Coast Guard Station At Newport

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Another shot as we were getting our get-out-of-Newport (sad as that is) energy together, a true local landmark.

Not only is Newport a major place with NOAA, it's not unimportant to the US Coast Guard. Here, on SW Naterlin Drive, just up from the Bayfront, is the Newport Coast Guard Station. It is a terribly charming nautical thing in a town that's brimming with terribly charming nautical things. 

Alongside of it there is a retired motor lifeboat, CG-36503 Yaquina Bay, and it stands as a memorial to those who died doing their duty on the sea and three CG sailors are named particularly. Full information on that can be found at the link you visit if you click on these here words.


The building itself is very cozy looking, rather rustic in that seaside-town way. A small serrated edge is put on the charm by the Department of Homeland Security tag on the sign, but that is, alas, the planet we live on now.


A cute family tale:

Way back in the long-ago, when my late mother-in-law was but a young woman, she lived in Newport, which was where the family first came to rest in Oregon after leaving Montana (as I understand it). She worked as a cocktail waitress down in Waldport, and while coming home, as they reached the north end of the Bay Bridge, her car's muffler gave out with a bang.

Taking the car off the main drag for, I presume, safety's sake, meant turning down Naterlin Drive past the CG station. The bang on the bridge and the rumble of the car woke the personnel there, bringing the young Coasties out to investigate.

I don't know how the rest of that night worked out, but I imagine a young woman suffering car trouble in the middle of the night in a small town could have worse things happen than a group of hunky young service men in little more than skivvies coming out to see if they can offer an assist.

Calendars get made with less of an excuse than that. And so it goes.

13 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 37: How Not to Die After An Earthquake At Agate Beach

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I'd say the biggest change since I visited the beach as a kid is the constant awareness of whether or not you're in harms' way about a tsunami.

No, not biggest ... most fundamental, maybe would be better coinage. When I was a lad, earthquakes happened in California, not here, and what we then immaturely called tidal waves only happened in Japan. Oregon had volcanoes, but there had been no eruptions during my lifetime (until that time) or my parents' or grandparents', and nobody really talked about that until about 1970 or so. Cascade volcanoes were called dormant, and by dormant then we meant yeah, they erupted once but they don't do that any more, they've learnt how to behave LOL. 

Geologically, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest was a pretty boring place to be and we liked it that way. Now, of course, we know that Cascadia is quite almost all the time except when it isn't and then we probably all gonna die, enjoy your IPA, have a nice day, live it like it's your last ... aaaand anyway.

Tsunami awareness is not an offical Coastal Fact Of Life, and you see it in a great many places. Perhaps the scariest is the way they paint the boundaries to the hazard zones right on the pavement, which makes my mind start scripting a disaster movie with me and The Girl as the stars, but then, I just enjoyed the hell out of the disaster film Greenland, so there's me for you.

But a little knowledge is power, and it's provided accessibly and for free, because at almost every public beach access, you get a geology lesson, or at least you get this:


A color-coded save-your-ass guide to seeing the beach. Local streets and landmarks or clear and prominent, as well as the quickest way to high ground. Also note that there is more than one level of doom here. The buff color, which only encompasses the beach itself plus a little across the road, is the tsunami danger area for a distant quake. The light green is for when it gets serious, like if Cascadia Next actually happens.

Man, that takes in a bunch of ground, don't it?

Thankfully, the way to high ground isn't far, but ... well, you know how vacation drivers are. 

We still might be goners.

12 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 36: Burgers at Agate Beach

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Hamburgers.

The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.

They're even more nutritious when you eat them with this view:


Nothing like this place anywhere near this place. This, then, ought to be the place. Word.

Agate Beach is just north of the central part of the city of Newport, and the way to get there is follow a local street creatively named NW Oceanview Dr. If one gets the feeling that this was the old Coast Highway, one would not be wrong about this, and at the place it bottoms out, there's a state wayside parking area on the inland side of the road, and a wide turnout on the shore side.

There's also a unit of the once-titanic Arctic Circle chain in Newport (yes, we miss these). We came armed with a couple of sides, fries and cheese curds, and nature's perfect food ... the hamburger (well, cheeseburgers). And we ate and just basked in the Coast air, and at this pint, eating burgers at the beach is pretty much peak Us. 

A few words about Agate Beach itself; it is so-named because it does indeed have agate tides. Latterly they are much fewer and far between than in our dimly-remembered past. An article online at Oregon Coast Beach Connection puts it thusly:
Long ago, Agate Beach had plenty of agates. They were hugely abundant. But according to Oregon coast agate expert and author K.T. Myers, the beach stopped being productive as long ago as the ‘60s. This came about when the jetties in Yaquina Bay were elongated, and dredging equipment also began dumping their sand load right off Agate Beach and Nye Beach. Winter storms could no longer cut through the 20-plus feet of sand dunes that grew in the area.

So, there's that. Sic transit gloria agates.

It's still lovely, and quintessentially Newport. So, there's also that.  

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 35: The West End Of Bay Boulevard

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Just one more of the Newport Bayfront before we move along ... and, moving along from Newport is very hard to do. It's an absurdly easy town to fall in love with.

At the west end of SW Bay Blvd, the view looks like this:


There's that extraordinarily lovely bridge again. It feels a little different in person than it does in picture, but there's a feeling of space in the way the arch of the main span of the Bay Bridge towers over the district there. It feels like a historically-great place, this corner of Newport. 

This happens at the extreme western end of SW Bay Boulevard. to the right, a single block of SW Bay Street connects you to SW 13th St, which leads you to the neighborhood between US 101 and the harborfront, there, or SW Naterlin Dr, which takes you directly back to 101 and the Bay Bridge and points north and south.


This part of Newport is tourist-trappy, but in the good way. These little colorful shops were browsed in at length by the Brown Eyed Girl, as she is wont to do, for two things: a tchotchke, to hang from her considerable keyring, and candy. 

The Oregon Coast is a place for candy shops. 

The one there on the right, Republic of Candy, and on the left, Brandy's Bargains. The narrow blue storefront in the middle is vacant, and I figured out why: noting some of the public notices posted thereabouts and the near-term plans of the shopkeepers, that segment of buildings is to be redeveloped. Brandy's moving to a place up on US 101, I think it was, and the PM of the Republic of Candy was going to re-orient his business to more upscale consumers, probably selling online, both reasonable and prudent stances to take, given the context of the times.

Brandy was a charming woman, and the Republic of Candy held many imports, not the least of which was an authentic English Mars bar (price: $3, and presumably worth it). They were both very conversational which was also expected: our experience held true, that few people like to talk about the work they do more than a merchant on the Oregon Coast.


11 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 34: The Street Blades Of The Bayfront

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Newport has, unusually so for a town of its modest size, a number of themed districts, each with its own branding. 

The Nye Beach district, with its center in the lower Northwest part of town and along the beach, is one of Newport's two historic town centers; the "Deco" District, along US 101, is Newport's current 'downtown' business district, stretching from the intersection of US 101 and Olive Street in the direction of the Bay Bridge. And, as I've touched on previously, there's the Historic Bayfront.

Of the three, the Historic Bayfront is the only one I saw that had fully-designed street blades to extend the sense of place. Here's one:


They're pleasing, but have issues. The follow are just my opinions, and can be taken any way one wants, or not taken at all. I mean, at least they cared enough to design a charming design for thies.

The real issue with this is the wild-west-style font used. While it suggests historic Western US rusticness, it seems an awkward fit; more Tombstone than seaport. And that's a artistic style point that is wholly academic, but on a practical level, it does affect readability. A street blade should communicate clearly, and this font encourages you to dawdle on it's artistic detail, which is not an optimal thing for a street blade. The thick slab-serif style may give problems to anyone whose vision is perhaps not at youthful optimum. The 'arabesques' bracketing S.W. BAY BLVD. also muddle things; are they trying to communicate that Bay Blvd runs both ways from the sign, or are they just decorations?

My suggestion would be to use a clearer font with less affectation. An example I'd cite are the blade sin the Old Town and Chinatown sections of Portland; they use the regular weight of Friz Quadrata, which works perfectly as a display font in this case and is visually attractive but not so much that the artistic part of it makes it unclear. 

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) part 33: Boats On The Bay

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The charm of the Yaquina Bayfront is, in a great way, derived from the fact that it's a working harbor. Commercial charters, commercial fishing boats, scientific missions from the NOAA dock on the other shore: the Yaquina Bay is a busy place.

And, just like any good port town, you can see the boats, up-close. 


Newport crams a lot of harbor city experience in a short distance. It's charming and pretty and I find it exhilarating.

That hatbox off in the background, near the left side of the frame? That's Newport's LNG terminal and I've always found it a bit offputting; it's a dangerous thing. I think it was built back in the 80s, though; they filled an area of the Sally's Bend flats, just east of McLean Point, and put this thing there. It's been there quite a while, however and seems to be running just fine and safe, so maybe I just worry too much.

10 October 2021

Sur La Mer (our 31st Anniversary) Part 32: Fleet Base Newport

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This is a view of Yaquina Bay from the street that goes down to the Bayfront from the end of the Bay Bridge. I think the name of the street is Naterlin Drive but it's featured on no street signs.


That dock with the three vessels parked along side and its support buildings adjacent is a very important part of our national infrastructure. It's NOAA's Marine Operations Center-Pacific ... essentially speaking, NOAA's US West Coast headquarters. It's NOAA's Pacific fleet base, and a very important thing to Newport, not to mention a rightful point of pride.

NOAA defines it thusly:

MOC-P supports five ships, including vessels homeported in California and Alaska. The center and ships are part of the Silver Spring, MD based NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians and NOAA Corps officers. 

The ships in NOAA’s Pacific fleet collect data essential to protecting marine mammals, coral reefs and historic shipwrecks, managing commercial marine fish stocks, understanding climate processes, and producing nautical charts that help keep mariners safe. NOAA ships also deploy and help maintain buoys that gather oceanographic and weather information and warn of tsunamis.

The Newport facility also houses the Marine Operations directorate, which oversees the Pacific, Pacific-Islands, and Atlantic marine centers and all NOAA ship operations.
Very important and vital.

I remember hearing a while back that NOAA was thinking of moving that facility out of Newport but our federal politicos Did The Thing That Had To Be Done and kept it based on the Oregon Coast. They have a lease running through 2039. 

Something every Oregonian should be proud of, I think.

Still Life With FATE

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Another pic from the inside of I've Been Framed, this from the top of what was once the sole display case from the vintage art-supply "Museum":


I call it Still Life With FATE.

This number of the legendary pulp icon was curated with wit and cleverness. Of course, some of us know what they mean by this: synesthesia. Sometimes we joke about trying to smell the number 7, but this is a reality to a synesthete, who, due to a sort of neurological cross-talk, get real physical sensations delivered with their perceptions of visual input. Some people say they can taste words, for instance, and I've read many accounts of people who feel sensations and textures associated with colors. Some see sounds as colors.

I fancy I have a mild tendency for this: various colors bring textures to mind. I've never been tested, and it's entirely possible that it's my over-active imagination at work as the sensations I think I experience are little better than wispy hints. But it's a fun thing to think and it just may keep me a little connected to my art, who knows.
 

06 October 2021

A Palimpsest On Tenth

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This scene still exists within a block of the monolith I maladroitly complained about in episode 4014. 

It's a block of SW 10th Avenue, just before you get to Taylor Street and the block containing the Central Library. It gives an echo of what this entire district used to be like.


With the Park Tower West (in the left background) and the Fox Tower (in the right background) peering down at it, this feels like a pocket of downtown Portland trapped in a little bubble of reversed time, not yet as shiny and chromed and spiffed and upmarketed like the rest of downtown.

The building in the center is called the Medical Arts Building. We can I think safely assume that, back in the day, it was an office building devoted to the private practice of a number of doctors, dentists, and the like. I dimly recall seeing into some of those windows from an adjacent building many years ago. I saw dusty, abandoned medical spaces, some equipment. I don't think anyone's been in the upper floors of that building for years, a decade or more maybe. 

across the street from it there's the parking garage, identified by the faded painted sign on the wall at its back. There used to be parking structures all over downtown like this. Our beloved Pioneer Courthouse Square used to be one. That one even had a gas station in it. 

There are a few little corners of Portland like this ... and they're getting fewer by the years. Redevelopment and shiny new money will come to this corner eventually. 

It's the Portland way.

It Rises Over Tenth Avenue

4014

You have no doubt heard of the Ritz Carlton being built on the block bounded by SW Washington and Alder Streets, and SW 9th and 10th Avenues. We drove past it on our way to Powells, and before we left, I took some pictures of the ziggurat in process.

It's not dreadful, I guess. It doesn't exactly move me to excitement, though.


This is what you might see if you stand on the corner of NW 10th and W Burnside and look south. One more tall building that we couldn't really afford to patronise and wouldn't if we could. Gentrification of a place is a thing of whiteness in more than one way; it's driven by white people's money, white people's values of luxury and success, and it turns a place with interesting color just as bland as dreadfully boring as it can be.

So, it's there, and it's being built, and it replaced a famous block full of famous Portland food carts, and I guess it is what it is.

The blanding of Portland continues.

05 October 2021

It's What We Used To Do Every Week, Only Now, It Feels Awkward

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... but we will adjust. We always do.


The hours are slightly different but coffee's coming back. 

We can't have the same world we did before. But we will try and make the new one kind, if we can.

Just The Ends Of Watercolor Pencils

4012

I didn't get this in whole because I was distracted by else the last time we did IBF, but I did this time. 

This is simply just the end of the stock of inexpensive watercolor pencils. Rather entrancing.


That's it. That's all.

Coming Soon To Powell's: The Sworn Enemy of Florin

4011

One of the biggest, straight-up, sheerest heartbreaking disappointments of the plague time was the total unravelling of the weekly date-night I loved to call Book Church.

The scene, as I've hinted at elsewhen, was the Coffee Room at Powell's City of Books. Such a wonderful thing they had there; coffee, people browsing over the cool books they found, coffee, the occasional visit with and by Arnold Drake World, the paper flower guy, coffee, the weekly "Go" playing crowd, coffee, the Brown Eyed Girl, and coffee. And soooo many books. It was a kind corner of the world and in it we lived our best lives. 

I know Powell's just thought of it as a corner of their building. Sure, Powell's, you do you. 

Anyway, with the coming of the pandemic and the contraction of business everywhere, even Powells closed up tight. No place to go on our date-night. No place to soak up the city life, drink coffee, enjoy good books. Barren? You bet.

The pandemic, in its way, is still with us. Maybe we have, collectively, acclimated (not that it's become less lethal, mind). The commercial world seems to have been evolving back toward some semblance of what it once was, and this last weekend was the closest we had to a Classic Weekend in nearly two years: 
  • Time at the library
  • Time shopping for art supplies (IBF!)
  • ... and time spent in Powells.
Now, at Powell's, even the Pearl Room, one of the many rooms of my personal temple, is open again. I need to browse Aisle 940 even if I don't wind up buying anything. Part of my soul lives there, it must.

And, soon, coffee will be available in the Coffee Room again, for this is what it looks like, now:


The mystery and suspense novels, whose shelves are still there, are separated by a temporary wall from the area being redone.


Did I want to push through that door? You bet. Just to get a glimpse. The exterior windows are papered over too, so no joy to be had there.

A sign on the wall going in, you'll see it if you refer the first picture above, tells you the intended tenant. I've mentioned it before here, I thing. Guilder Cafe. That's Guilder, as in The Princess Bride, as in THE SWORN ENEMY OF FLORIN. They have a website here, and it's purest Portland. At the end of the "About us" page they state "We want you to consider it your second home, and welcome you into our extended family and hope to be welcomed into your family." which bodes well for something we hope to make into a regular destination.

And, at the end of every page on their website, the simple declaration:


It sure seems like a good fit.