Week 52: Portland

Locations: San Bernardino, CA; Mountain View, CA; Portland, OR


Dates: 8/10/97-8/18/97

Sunday we went to brunch at an untried restaurant, The Wild Rabbit, which turned out to be pretty good. (It turned out they didn't even serve rabbit.) Then Sarah and I got back in the car and headed north. We had dinner back at Iris'; back in Mountain View, I dropped Sarah off at her place and went to spend my first night in my new apt.

And found that the electricity was off.

Just as I was about to give up and go see if I could stay somewhere else, the apartment manager showed up and loaned me his big Maglite. Heartened, I decided to stick around and see if I could get things fixed. Luckily the telephone worked; I called PG&E. They said it was supposed to have been turned on the previous Friday; I agreed and asked them to send someone out to fix the problem. A guy arrived around midnight and quickly determined that there was something broken inside my meter; he either fixed it or replaced it, I'm not sure which, and I had power.

Which wasn't really entirely necessary, actually; the phone worked, and my PowerBook batteries were fully charged, so I'd been able to work on the column and would've been able to post it even without power. (It's the first time I've created a Web page while sitting in a completely empty apartment with no electricity...)

I spent the next few days dealing with various apartment stuff (and watching movies). For instance, it turned out that the telephone I'd bought before SIGGRAPH had a broken hook switch; you could plug it in and use it, but the only way to hang up was to unplug it. The Good Guys replaced it for me. (Though I like the fact that, unlike Fry's employees, Good Guys employees know something about their products, I have to say their computer inventory system is maddening. I ran into three separate instances of their claiming to have something in stock that they were in fact out of.) It also turned out that Pac Bell hadn't installed the second line I'd ordered, and hadn't installed call waiting on the first line, and believed that they'd connected my number for someone else a month previous, and in general displayed remarkable incompetence and inability to keep records or carry out requests.

SGI still hadn't gotten the paperwork finished to hire me; in all, Human Resources took something like three weeks to sort out various difficulties, even with three managers pushing hard on them to get things done.

I'd told SGI I would start work on Monday the 18th; they'd wanted me to start on the 11th, but I wanted to visit Portland again before the end of the Wanderjahr. Originally I'd planned to be in Portland from August 10 through August 24 (with a side trip to Seattle to see a couple of uncles I'd barely seen while I was up there), but I had a hard time contacting two of the people I wanted to see in Portland, and the third was very busy this week, and SGI wanted me to start ASAP, so I compromised and just flew up to Portland for a four-day weekend.

I left Wednesday evening (after attending another meeting at SGI; I think it was Wednesday that they finally sorted out my paperwork). Took Southwest; they were friendly as usual, but because I failed to explicitly ask, the guy I talked to a few hours before the flight neglected to inform me that my flight had been delayed. I think it was scheduled for 8:30 and eventually took off around 10. (There'd been a lightning storm at the airplane's previous location, preventing them from fueling it there.) What with various delays and then renting a car, I didn't get to Kristen's 'til about 12:30; she and her other guest, Jeff, were asleep. Fortunately she'd left the front door open and the couch in plain sight.

Thursday Kristen had the day off; we hung around Portland, running errands and doing nothing in particular.

Friday I saw Lisa for the first time in years—I hadn't managed to see her either of the previous two times I'd visited Portland. We chatted away the afternoon and made tentative plans to have dinner over the weekend.

In the evening I met Kristen at work and we went to another Omnimax film: The Magic of Flight. This one might better have been titled The Technology of Flight or, even better, We Think the Blue Angels Are Pretty Darn Cool, Don't You? Not bad as an ad for the Navy and McDonnell-Douglas, but not nearly as compelling as I'd expect an Omnimax film to be.

Saturday I hung out with Mykle, whom I also hadn't seen in quite a while. We spent most of the day wandering in the park (including the Japanese garden) and talking about how best to simplify one's life, whether that's a desireable goal, art, the Burning Man celebration, travel, happiness, the number of computer people intent on leaving the industry, and what various old friends are up to. In the evening we met up with Kristen and all went over to Lisa & Eric's for a delicious dinner of homemade pizza (and a chance to see their enormous garden, and their collection of wooden death implements).

We didn't leave until after midnight. But wait, you say, why aren't you starting a new page for the new week? Well, you may have observed that this page is called "Week 52." Does this mean I reached the end of my year while in Portland? Not quite; I originally left Mountain View on a Tuesday, so Week 1 started a bit late. (Oops—I've been telling people I left on Thursday 8/22/96, but really it was Tuesday 8/20/96. Ah, the fallible memory...) So I'm going to let Week 52 go on a couple extra days, to avoid the indignity of having a Week 53 in a one-year trip.

Sunday Kristen had the day off again. (She's on a weird 2-on, 1-off schedule of ten-hour work days.) We wandered around a street fair, talked with a couple of her friends (and saw the way cool masks that one of them makes), and eventually (after much discussion) had dinner at a weird little movie theatre that shows cheap second-run movies and provides tables to allow patrons to eat and drink during the movie.

Monday morning, after getting lost only a couple of times (despite consulting maps before leaving), I made it to the airport and got onto a plane. By 12:30 or so, two days short of a year from when I left Mountain View, I was in my new office at Silicon Graphics.

And that's it, except for a few final notes.

Movies, Books, etc.

Lives of a Bengal Lancer
I don't think I'd ever see Gary Cooper in a film before; I'm afraid I wasn't much impressed with him in this overlong epic of bravery, patriotism, and deceit in colonial India. I did, however, like costar Franchot Tone quite a bit (I always seem to like sidekicks, costars, and best-friends better than leads), and Sir Guy Standing was pretty good as the ramrod Colonel Stone.
Cooper is much better in this comedy, largely because he has the marvelous Marlene Dietrich (who I didn't know could be funny) to play off of. Superb movie, much funnier than I expected, with Cooper in a part that (for the first two-thirds of the movie) could've been written for Fred Astaire; also, much racier than I expect from old movies (I guess the Hayes Office hadn't been started yet in 1936).
The Hustler
Disappointing, but I had high expectations for it; a few marvelous scenes (and the best pool shots I've ever seen) don't save the movie from a plodding pace and several scenes that have no business being in the film. A classic, but dissatisfying nonetheless.
Operation Condor
Fun Jackie Chan James-Bondian fluff; not quite as good (or as funny) as Rumble in the Bronx, but worth seeing even if only for the scene in which Chan goes over a fence as only he can do. The female characters, alas, though fairly entertaining, have little to do besides standing around screaming for help (and coming undressed at strategic moments).

(Last updated: 23 August 1997.)

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