The weekend began a little early. I had been skipping my lunch breaks all week so that I could leave at 2:30 to go to Portland for Scot's birthday road trip. The Brunswicks picked up Brugos and then swung around to get me. Before long, we were on I-5 south, heading to the Amsterdam of the Northwest.
After a pit stop at the DQ in Lacey, Brugos and I went into an ice cream coma for pretty much the rest of the trip.
We pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot around 6:30, so that Brugos and I could check in. Why were we at the Holiday Inn in the Rose Quarter while EVERYONE ELSE was at the downtown Hilton? Well, that's a question for Priceline. Which I asked. And got a very snippy response about agreeing to their terms and no guarantees etc. It's all well and good, I suppose, but we were still 2 miles away from the rest of our party in a rather industrial area of town.
So we grabbed what we would need for the night and hopped back into the Brunswick’s car to go to the Hilton and meet the party.
Everyone arrived around the same time. It took a little time for everyone to get settled into their rooms and motivate for the evening. Meanwhile, I was getting pretty hungry. By the time we decided to eat at Mary's, the first strip club on our list, I was quite low in blood sugar and therefore cranky.
Getting 9 people to walk anywhere together is somewhat frustrating when you're starving. Since our party kept stopping along the way and waiting for this and that, Brugos and I decided to plow on ahead and scout out Mary's for a table. Trouble was, neither of us knew where it was. Brugos thought he knew, but it became apparent, after about 15 minutes, that he didn't. Eventually, we called the others, who were already sitting down at Mary's, and got directions. By the time we arrived, it was 9:00 and I was ready to eat pretty much anything. Luckily, their food didn't look that bad. They had a full Mexican menu. I ordered a Chili Relleno burrito and we got a round of drinks. It was time to relax. We had food, those who smoked could smoke, and in front of us, strippers danced to some choice selections.
One girl had an amazing contortionist routine. She bent her body like rubber and used her feet like a monkey, grabbing people's glasses and lighting cigarettes. She also used her feet to smoke with her butt. She got all my dollars. And that was BEFORE she chose to do part of her routine to The Final Countdown.
While the other girls didn't have any special tricks other than, you know, bare breasts, they did all have great taste in music. One girl favored the soul classics. Another danced to the Electric Six. But after seeing each girl twice, we were ready to move on.
We went back to the Hilton for a little break and then hopped in cabs to Union Jacks (the Suicide Girls-style bar). We'd gone to Union Jacks the last time I was down and I'd liked it. We'd been there early enough to get a good seat in the back and before the irritating Roller Rink style announcer started his shift. At midnight on a Friday, it took forever to get a drink, the cheeseball played the SAME PART of the SAME SONG in between each act. I also found myself filling with rage toward a guy who was sitting at the stage with a HUGE stack of ones (must have been 4 inches high), who would only put out a dollar or two for each dancer and only when she came right over to him and stuck her tits or crotch in his face. I know stripping isn't exactly the suffragette movement, but you should still have some fucking respect for the girl. She's there to dance for everyone. And while there is some crossover, stripping is not prostitution. That's why they have those rules about no touching. It's for guys like that.
ANYWAY, there was one REALLY cute girl at Union Jacks. She was in red frilly underpants and had 40's hair and big false eyelashes to match her 40's pinup girl curves. She was in stark contrast to the majority or Portland strippers with their 20 inch waists and A cups. And there was nothing fake about her body (apart from her eyelashes). She danced with more spunk than any of the skinny tattooed chicks, and she managed to make a dance to the “Inspector Gadget” theme sexy as well as funny.
Around 1:00, we were done with strip clubs for the evening. Since we were cab distance from both hotels, we decided to go our separate ways. Brugos and I returned to the Hotel/Motel.
The forecast was for mid 70s and sunny and we'd packed accordingly. So, of course, it was raining. Hard. I was kind of PSMy anyway, so I was pretty cranky on the walk from the Rose Quarter to downtown, as my left sleeve, the one sticking out under our shared umbrella, got wetter and wetter. Eventually, the water soaked through to my sweater. My inappropriate shoes let water in and my feet squished in my shoe puddles. Brugos, ever the gentleman, kept offering to let me have the entire umbrella but I refused to take him up on it until we were almost to the hotel. By then, my hatred for being drenched took over and, too late, covered my whole body.
After some Starbucks Chai therapy and use of the Brunswick’s hair dryer, I was feeling slightly better. Better still after two mimosas. The rest of the party was already several mimosas in. We made plans for the day. Roxy was going to hang out with a local friend. Emily and Nikki were going shopping. Andy was going to the arcade, Ground Kontrol, but not until after he met up with a local friend of his own. For lack of any better ideas, Jon, Rocko, Brugos and I decided to get a head start to Ground Kontrol.
On our way there, we were harassed by fundies who had taken over Pioneer Square with their terrible Christian rock. As we passed by, they waved fliers in our faces and asked us if we were to die today, would we go to heaven. All too late, Brugos thought of the best response. “Are YOU gonna be there?”
Ground Kontrol was awesome. In Seattle we have Shorty's, which is cheap but the only games I like there are the pinball games, and Gameworks which is incredibly expensive. No game costs less than a dollar a play and you can't just run in there and pump some coins into a machine. You have to covert your $ to a play card which is sold in odd amounts that make sure there are always worthlessly small amounts of credit left. This sends you into a vicious “topping up” cycle from which you can never escape. Ground Kontrol uses old fashioned quarters. Most games are 50 cents but many are only 25. And they have my best game of all time: DOCTOR MARIO.
In college, Faye and I kept our old skool NES around JUST so we could play this game. We were both pretty good. Faye was better, but I could definitely hold my own. We triumphantly beat many a male gamer over and over, sending them into a frenzy. Some boys spent hours trying to improve their Doctor Mario skills enough to beat us as a game for which we obviously had some freakishly (mostly impractical in the real world) natural talent.
So it's been at least 5 years since I've played Doctor Mario. I have it on my Game Boy, but it's not at all the same, and even then, I haven't touched my Game Boy in at least 3 years. I thought for sure I'd be pretty rusty. I put in a quarter and started to play.
An hour later, I was on level 11. Rocko and Brugos were watching me. Things were tense on Doc Mario land. The Good Doctor was flinging pills at me and the viruses filled the screen. I couldn't keep up. The viruses won. In my prime, I could get up to level 14, so I wasn't all that rusty afterall. Especially since I'd apparently managed the high score on the game. I've never had the high score on any arcade game in my life. It felt pretty good. But my wrist and poking finger were tired, and the boys had long since finished playing so we went out in search of food.
There are a lot of cool bars in the area that serve lunch. But apparently none of them are open on the weekend. Eventually, we found a big blinking sign that said “BAR” and went in. They had lunch. It was nothing fancy and the waitress seemed kind of annoyed to be waiting on us (she wouldn't tell my my dressing options for my salad, instead making me, with a shake of her head, list my favorite dressings in descending order until I named one that received a nod) , but it did the trick. We were full. Rocko and Jon decided to return to the hotel for a rest. Brugos and I had no such luxury, as our hotel was too far out, so, instead, we met up with Andy and his Portland friend at…Ground Kontrol.
I hadn't gotten any DDR in the first time and Brugos and I needed to burn off the fried Mac and Cheese Bites we'd consumed, so we played a couple of games. Then I watched Brugos expertly flipper one ball for 20 minutes on the Pirated of the Carribean pinball game. He wracked up over 55 million points.
Feeling sufficiently warmed up, I wanted to play some head to head on Doc Mario. Turns out that's NOT the most cost effective way to play in an arcade. One quarter on single play can last you a long time, but on two player, you have to put in a new quarter after every round. After a very expensive tournament, we decided to see how far we could get on one quarter, taking turns on levels. Once again, I found myself playing the 11th level and dropping the, er, pill. Still, we managed to beat my (hour) old high score together. So now the high score on Doctor Mario at Ground Kontrol in Portland belongs to BB(heart).
We returned to the Hilton in the hopes that people would be able to motivate for sushi. This doesn't sound like much, but there were three factors making this is a difficult prospect. 1) There were 9 of us. 2) The sushi restaurant we wanted to go to was far away. 3) It was the most popular sushi restaurant in town. The reason it's the most popular sushi restaurant in town is because it's incredibly cheap, incredibly huge and incredibly delicious. These are also reasons why we HAD to go there.
After the concierge organized a van cab and a regular cab for us, we were on our way to Saboro's to put our name on the list and wait at least an hour for a seat. This was how you had to do it. There was no other way. And everyone we talked to said it was totally worth it. Even our cab driver who was dressed in bleached army fatigues, hasn't seen a shower in several days and grumbled like a Vietnam Vet.
When we arrived at the restaurant, there was indeed a huge group of people standing outside. We found the sign-up sheet on the door and Brugos put us down for a table of 5 and a table of 4. He leafed forward to see how far down the list we were. We were at the very bottom of page 2. It was going to be a while. But it was 7:15 and the place closed at 10, so we still had a chance to make it in.
We went around the corner in search of a bar called “Limey's” that our concierge, Dan McCloud, recommended highly. All we could find was a restaurant called “The Limelight” that had as much atmosphere as a waiting room, so we waited for the party van to arrive and then chose a nice, comfortable, divey looking place.
We snacked on tater tots and yams fries and became steadily drunk, as we waited for our names to move up on the list. An hour later, there were still 20 names ahead of us, but a lot of people, it seemed, were giving up and leaving so we had a decision to make. Should we wait it out and hope more people gave up, or should we stick around. We put it to vote. The first 5 people voted to leave. The next 2 said they didn't care. It came to Brugos. He gave an inspiration speech about how far we'd come and how good that sushi was going to taste. There might have been a flag waving behind him. We stayed.
Time goes by faster when you're drunk anyway. Brugos swigged from a beer he'd snuck out of the bar. Roxy kept challenging people to shimmy up a pole. Roxy hid Brugos' beer inside her sweatshirt and swigged from it. I took pictures. Before we knew it, it was our turn. And somehow, they'd managed to fit us all at the same table.
Everyone had warned us not to order too much. “The rolls are huge” our 'Nam Cabbie had said. “Don't order more than you can eat.” I ordered 3 rolls. It was probably going to be more than I could eat but it was only $6 worth of sushi so I couldn't not. We ordered tons of sake. Then they brought our the sushi.
Huge was an understatement. It was novelty-sized. My Tomago roll was like an omelet on a bed of rice. Andy's Unagi was an entire eel. Ann's hand roll was the size of a Subway sandwich. It was ridiculous. But delicious. And worth the wait. It really was the best sushi I've ever eaten. And even though I did order WAAAAAY more than I could eat, I took my leftovers with me.
We headed back downtown to meet some of Roxy’s friends at the Shanghai Tunnel. There's wasn't anywhere to sit though, so we got a table at a neighboring bar outside. Brugos and I set off to find the Vietnamese karaoke bar we'd gone to the last time we were down. Apparently, it had gone out of business. This was probably due to the PACKED bar across the street that boasted karaoke. We thought we'd check it out, but it was $2 to even get into the bar and it was after midnight. If half of the people in bar had songs in, we'd never get to sing. We returned to our friends and hung out outside for a while longer. Eventually, some of us decided to check out Magic Garden up the road.
In Magic Garden, everything is in slow motion. Compounded by the fact that the lighting is all red, it feels really strange to be in there. Dancers don't dance. They move like sloths at half speed no matter what music is playing. We recognized one of the dancers from Mary's. At Mary's her slow movements had seemed out of place. Here, it's par for the course.
A drunk girl in front of us kept whispering and laughing and pointing toward us. I'm not sure what was so funny. Later, she spilled her drink all over the place. Magic Garden was making me sleepy and our mandatory drink was making my stomach hurt so I was glad that people seemed to be winding down. Brugos and I got a cab and it was back to the H.D.
This time when we awoke, it was blindingly sunny outside. A nice day to walk to the Hilton. We checked out and strolled in the sun, past the giant Barry Manilow billboard that was our beacon, and over the bridge to downtown.
We met the Brunswicks on the street on their way to the Doc Martins store and they gave us their room key to hang out until they got back. Then they checked out and we hit the road in search of breakfast.
The others had already found a place, and by the time we got there, there was a 45 minute wait for a table, so we said goodbye and ventured out on our own. It was Easter Sunday so a lot of places were either closed or packed. In the end, we found ourselves back at the BAR that had saved us the day before. It was actually called Kelly's Olympian and they had breakfast all day.
We walked back to the car which was parked in front of a large building (I think it's a post office) with big ornate golden doors. It reminded us of the bank in Mary Poppins, so we all started dancing and singing and doing our best Van Dyke's. Brugos' Van Dyke involved accidentally elbowing me in the nose and teeth. I was fine, but it would have made for a funny black eye story.
We contemplating jetting out of town right then, but Roxy got a call from her friend and they wanted to meet at The Avalon, which was, allegedly, a nickel arcade.
I know it's probably for novelty's sake, but I don't think it's right to call yourselves a nickel arcade, and still accept only nickels when your games all cost FOUR OR FIVE NICKELS. That's $25 cents. There's a whole other coin for that.
No matter though. They had skee ball and pinball (but, regrettably, no wack-a-mole) and the ability to collect tickets which cost several dollars to acquire and then spend them on nearly worthless trinkets and waxy candy. It was pretty fun.
We were now ready to hit the road.
For some reason, there are two places that always seem like a good idea on road trips. Dairy Queen (which we'd visited on the way down) and Taco Bell. So, once again in Lacey, we found ourselves at the Taco Bell. While Rocko was in the bathroom, Roxy predicted what Rocko would want to order. The Grande Meal: 10 tacos, or burritos for $8. We laughed and made jokes about taking so many years off your life with 10 tacos just to achieve “value”. But when Rocko came out of the bathroom, lo and behold, he told Roxy he was thinking about getting the Grande Meal. After the teasing, he decided to cut his taco intake in half. I got a “quesadilla” (their interpretation of which is nacho cheese inside a tortilla) and their version of the “Apple Pie” the “Empanada”. While we ate, Brugos and I noticed an odd fellow lumbering through the restaurant. He was tall with an Eraserhead head of gray hair and an ill-fitting gray suit which was busting at EVERY seam. His ashen face wore an expression of world-wearyness. He was definitely on his last thread. Perhaps he was on some kind of wacky road trip to get home to his family by Easter, but nothing was going right. Perhaps his carefree (hilariously tubby) traveling companion of convenience was in the bathroom. Or perhaps he was a zombie risen from the grave with an insatiable craving for the one food that gave him comfort in life. Whatever his story, he was not happy. He read his newspaper in the seat with both hands on his forehead. Unfortunately, the Brunswicks had their backs to him. They didn't see him. Maybe he was a shared hallucination for me and Brugos from too much artificial cheeze. I'm just glad we saw him. This is the appeal of Taco Bell. It's not the Challupas.
Back in the car, we finished out the rest of the trip with me and Rocko taking turns selecting individual songs on my ipod. I have a 60GB ipod and it's full of music. There are no videos taking up needless space. This is great because I have all my music with me at all times. But it is also extremely overwhelming at times. So it's refreshing to have someone else go through your music and pick out songs. His choices gave me ideas and we fed off each other, playing DJ the rest of the way home. We sang along at the top of our lungs. It's an incredibly fun way to listen to your own ipod.
The Brunswicks pulled into our driveway at 7:30. There was no league that night on account of Easter, but we'd planned to go bowling anyway. We were too tired to lift a ball. We said goodbye and Brugos and I spent the evening vegging on the couch instead. Great trips are always completely exhausting.
Pics from Portland here!