Posts Tagged ‘woodworking’

In memoriam

1 March 2011

Todd and I testing out the then new to me pick-up truck on Haeckel Hill near Whitehorse, Summer 1996.

Seven months ago, on July 28, my best friend Todd Hardy died at the age of 54 after a long battle with leukemia.

Last March, I described how my friend Rómulo, the musician I met in Panajachel, Guatemala, got me to donate money to build tables for a school for special-needs children. We eventually found a carpenter by the name of Ricardo who agreed to make the tables and chairs for the school for the amount I had agreed to donate. Well if you go back to that blog entry, you will find that Ricardo turned out to be a drunk. (A drunk is just someone who is too poor to be an alcoholic.)  Nevertheless, he was apparently a very good carpenter.  He was supposed to have the tables done within a couple of weeks. They were nice children sized tables and he said he would also make chairs. He started on the work but eventually gave up.

When I got back to Whitehorse in May, I wrote to Marvin, the president of the society – and also the husband of the teacher – asking for pictures of the tables which were supposed to have been done by then. He told me they were having considerable trouble with Ricardo, who had not finished the work and who wanted more money. He wrote that they were looking for somebody else to finish the work and that it had been a big mistake on Rómulo’s part to give him the work. In any case Ricardo eventually built the tables and here are the pictures.

I had asked Marvin, actually I gave him a piece of paper with a dedication stating that the tables should be built in honour of my friend Todd Hardy who at the time was dying of leukemia. The dedication should have read: “In honour of Todd Hardy carpenter, union activist, member of the legislative assembly of the Yukon, and founder Habitat for Humanity Yukon.” In Spanish “En honor de Todd Hardy, caprintero, sindacalista, diputado y fundador de «Habitat for Humanity» en Yukon, Canadá”. Marvin emailed me that he had lost the paper and asked me to write dedication again. In the meantime Todd died. So here are the pictures Marvin sent me of the tables and of the dedication which is now in memory of Todd rather than in his honour.

Praying for world revolution? or a new Lee Valley Toys handplane?

The tables are made out of pine and the top is covered by white Arborite (Formica or high pressure laminate to all you non-Canadians) so the kids can write on it. Part of the chairs is also visible. They are quite simple and also made out of pine. But I hope they will work well and I think they are a fitting memorial to my friend, who was first and foremost a carpenter. Our socialist politics might have brought us together, but the love of wood and of woodworking glued up our friendship.

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En la playa de Pana

13 March 2010

Rómulo and his son Elder playing at the Bistro

The first night in Panajachel (Friday, March 5th), we went to eat at the “Bistro” after a recommendation from the hotel staff. I had asked for a typical Guatemalan restaurant and this one turned out to have an Italian menu. We looked around for something else more typical and then decide to go to the Bistro. There was an absolutely fabulous singer guitarist, Rómulo, playing and singing there. I left him a really good tip, telling him that artists are never paid enough. This entry’s title is from one of his songs.

On the way home we ran into a procession. A brightly lit statue of Jesus carrying the cross was being carried by a group of men towards the Panajachel church. The float was followed by a wire leading to a generator that provided the power to the lights.

The next day, we met Lars for lunch. He suggested going to the Bistro again where I had a great filet mignon and Marilyn had chicken. That night we ate at the Sunset Bar on the waterfront where the food was all “genuine” Mexican, supposedly just like in Mexico according to the menu but actually mostly Tex-Mex. The band played some rock classics including Marilyn’s favourite: Stand by Me. But they were nowhere as good as Rómulo. On the way back, we passed by the Bistro where Rómulo waved at us.

On Sunday, following Lars’ suggestion, we went to the famous market in Chichicastenango (a.k.a. Chichi), about an hour away by twisty road: half an hour uphill, 5 minutes on the highway and an hour down and then up twisty roads. Yes, that’s an hour away, but it took us an hour and a half to get there. I immediately bought a rather dandy straw hat for 50 Quetzales (about six or seven dollars) without bothering to bargain. I needed it as my head was starting to feel sunburned.

In Guatemala, the custom is to bargain, and not only for tourists. The sellers usually ask for about double what they want and one tries to beat them down. On the other hand, I still refuse to bargain with artists and artisans for their work, and if it’s double what they really want, well, good for them; they’re underpaid anyway. The market was overwhelming & I forgot what Marilyn bought. We had lunch at the fancy Hotel Maya Inn where the waiters wear a traditional costume that costs almost a thousand dollars.

Marimba players at the Hotel Maya Inn

That night we went to yet another place, called the Circus Bar. Italian food yet again: I had home made potato gnocchi with tomato sauce and Marilyn had tagliatelle with shrimp and cream sauce. There were some musicians playing there, but they were not that great and passed the hat after their set. The place was decorated with many circus posters from Latin America and Europe, some very old, as the founders of the place were former circus people.

On the Monday, we went on a boat (lancha) tour around the lake with Juan, the brother of Timoteo our hotel clerk. Marilyn & I were the only passengers on this tour. We went to Santiago Atitlán as well as San Antonio Palopó and Santa Catarina Palopó.

In Santiago, after visiting the church where the saints were all dressed in different colour cloths, we went to visit Maximon (pronounced Ma-shi-mon), the Maya deity protector of the people. The Maximon is portrayed as a man with a suit and a hat usually smoking a cigarette or a cigar. At the shrine we went to, there were four women kneeling and asking favours of the Maximon: one had a stomach ailment, the second was opening a new business and the other two needed help with passing their exams. A Mayan priest was reciting incantations to help them while everybody else was chattering, smoking & drinking. We had to pay for our entrance and for each photo we took. The money went into Maximon’s pocket. Marilyn did not want to enter the shrine or chapel as it was way too smoky.

Luigi in Maximon shrine in Santiago

Maximones at the Nim Pot store in Antigua

In San Antonio, we saw some weavers at work and Marilyn was happy to see that the fabric she liked a lot and bought a lot of was actually made with a pedal loom rather than by machine.

We then had lunch in Santa Catarina, where I also took some pictures of the perfectly safe scaffolding. (NOT!!!) It is amazing with what workers will put up with when they are poor and powerless: people spraying paint with only a handkerchief over their face, no ear muffs in sight when using jackhammers, and speaking of sight, I have yet to see any safety glasses in Guatemala. But the hardware stores are full of Satanley (sic) tools.

That night (Monday) we went back to the Bistro but Rómulo was not playing. However, he was there and we did talk to him. We arranged to meet the next morning at the hotel. At breakfast he told us about a project he was heavily involved in: building a school for special needs children. I went to the school with him.

Martha and Rómulo in the school showing one of the displays. The curtains in the background are the "doors" to the toilets.

The school was fully operational with 32 kids and two teachers, despite still missing interior doors and windows and having little furniture. They are responsible for 52 kids, but the others are in the regular school system; for example they got fitted with a hearing aid and can attend regular school. The school was built within the precinct of a kindergarten in Panajachel.

Martha, the teacher, told me that it would be ideal to have another six small tables so the kids would have a place to work. (Hint, hint Luigi!) I asked how much a table would cost and she figured about 500 Quetzales each (about $65 dollars). I asked about chairs and she said it would be great to have some too, but right now the parents were asked to bring chairs for their kids to sit on. I got sucked in and agreed to get the tables made to a maximum of 3,000 Quetzales.

Canadian peas for Soupe aux pois.

I was happy to see that the school got assistance from a Canadian organization in Montreal and from Spain. They also had bags of pasta, gummy bears and dried split peas donated by a Canadian parish, but they did not know what the peas were. They thought they might be lentils, but I told them they were not and that they were used to make a traditional French-Canadian soup. I later looked it up in a Spanish dictionary and Rómulo now knows what they are called (guisante, alverja, or chícharo).

Planer and jointer in wood storage and planing area

Anyway, Rómulo and I head to the carpentry/cabinet making shop where they are already building some lockers for the school with money Rómulo raised. The owner is not there, so Rómulo and I agree that he is to look for the guy and call me after he talks to the owner.

Table saw

I go off shopping with Marilyn and I call Rómulo around 5 PM or so since he had not called me yet. He tells me the owner wants 675 Quetzales per table. I think, shit, he’s going to hit me for more money. Anyway, around supper time, Rómulo calls me to ask whether we would come to the Bistro for supper, I am ready to say no more money with Marilyn supporting me in my resolve. We sit down with Rómulo, and he tells me he found a cabinet maker in another village (San Pedro, IIRC) who is ready to make the six tables, and six chairs as well, for 3,000 Quetzales. I am truly relieved and maybe have been unjust with Rómulo who had every intention of respecting my boundaries. I owe him an apology for my misjudgement of his intentions. Anyway Rómulo does his gig which we truly enjoy, throws in a line about amigos de Canadá in his Playa de Pana song. He calls the president of their association, Marvin Quinoñez, who happens to be married to Martha the teacher and works as speech pathologist. I hand him half the money so he can pay the cabinet maker when the work is finished, and I am to pay the first half tomorrow directly to the cabinet maker so he can buy the materials. I also ask Marvin to look into the possibility of my getting a Canadian tax receipt for my donation. I tell Rómulo and Marvin that the tables are in honour of my good friend Todd Hardy, carpenter, unionists, former leader of the Yukon NDP and founder of Habitat for Humanity in the Yukon. Todd is dying of leukemia.

Ricardo at his workbench

We have every intention of leaving the next morning, but I want to go see the woodworking shop first. Rómulo shows up at the hotel and tells me he found someone in town to do the work. Ricardo shows up after a while and we go to his shop to discuss design. He already has some sketches done, and he intends to use round tenons for the chairs and regular mortise and tenon for the table. His shop is really simple; a small metal table saw, and a workbench and a bunch of hand tools in the yard.

Ricardo's table saw

Anyway, Rómulo says he can’t make a decision about the design, he has to ask Martha. We go to the bank and I hand Ricardo 1,500 Quetzales and go with him to the lumber dealer to buy the wood. The pine lumber to be used for the table is sold in 12-inch wide planks, 8 to 10 feet long at about 65 cents (5 Quetzales) a board-foot. Cypress is a little more expensive at 8 Quetzales per board-foot. Ricardo picks his planks and some 2X3 rough material for the table legs. He tells me to be at the entrance to the callejon (alley) near his house at 2:00 PM to help unload the lumber.

Ricardo slecting wood for the tables

I show up at around 2:10 and Ricardo has a box on his shoulder and is obviously weaving. The man is totally pissed. I think to myself, “Uh oh! We have a problem here.” He insists on carrying the box back to his place. Luckily the alleys are quite narrow and the walls help keep him staggering in the right direction. He is quite proud to tell me numerous times that he has bought the glue, contact cement, varnish and screws needed, which are in the box he is carrying. I get to his place and meet his wife who is rather shy and maybe a little ashamed. He hands her 400 Quetzales and to my relief she tells me he has already paid for the wood. I call Rómulo, who had been there before when no one was there and I tell him that Ricardo seems to have had quite a liquid lunch.

Rómulo shows up, tells him he expected more professionalism from him. Ricardo excuses himself. We decide to go get the wood. Ricardo and I walk there and Rómulo goes on his bicycle. Along the way, Ricardo alternates between being my best friend and ashamed of himself. He had to stop to relieve himself along a wall on the main drag of Panajachel. He meets another guy along the way who wants him to do some work. I introduce myself to him and he tells me his name is also Rómulo. I ask him about Ricardo. Rómulo No. 2 tells me he is a very good worker but has an alcohol problem. No shit!

Cypress & pine planks at Sebastiano's lumberyard

Anyway, we decide to get the lumber delivered the next day as the alleyway is currently blocked as workers have dug it up to install a water main. Ricardo later told Rómulo that he gets really happy because he got a job. I told Rómulo that allegro (alegre in Spanish) also means happily drunk in Italian. Anyway, Ricardo is obviously a drunk, as he is too poor to be an alcoholic.

We decide to stay in Pana one more night, go have a light supper of ceviche and salad at a waterfront restaurant. We then go to the Bistro to see if Rómulo is still there, but he has already left. I also happen to see a place where they make housecoats, but they don’t have any my size (Surprise, surprise!). I start walking away, but then I ask them if they could make one for the next morning. The tailor says he can have it for nine in the morning, so he takes my measurements and I put a deposit down.

The next morning, I call Rómulo to let him know we are leaving. He tells me he is going to Chichicastenango. Since it is on our way, I offer him a ride. I tell him to meet us at 10:15. We are late as we are doing some last minute shopping (I need to get my housecoat, Marilyn wants to buy me another shirt, I need to get a map of Honduras and we decided to buy some Huehue coffee which just came in from Mike at the Crossroads Café). Then off on another adventure with Rómulo.

Anyway, we’ll see if we can get Rómulo up to the Yukon to play in one of the music festivals.

California is the place I oughta be, loaded up the truck and drove to …

1 December 2009

Fort Bragg. OK, not as sexy as Beverly Hills. California! Where it seems so many things in our western culture get their start: Hollywood and stars and celebrities, Disney and Mickey and Yogi, surfing, expressways/freeways/motorways and the automobile culture, blondes in convertibles and hot tubs, fast food and McDonald’s, Haight-Ashbury and hippies and massive recreational drug use, Berkeley and the peace movement, fern bars and sushi and fusion cuisine, varietal wines (the point that now even the venerable burgundies are putting “Pinot Noir” on their labels, as if they could be anything else), JPL sending us into space and Silicon Valley into cyberspace, etc.

27 November, Highway of the Redwoods to Fort Bragg

Got up fairly early & drove down the curvy and twisty Highway of the Redwoods to Crescent City on California’s coast, not without occasionally stopping to admire the big trees.

I stopped at a Home Depot to buy a crescent wrench for the propane tank and took a look at the lumber. I was appalled: “construction quality” doug fir full of loose knots, waney edges, rot pockets. I won’t speak of the unspeakable “Whitewood”. That stuff should have gone into the chipper to make ass-wipe or termite puke board, not construction lumber.

I had a bad smoked salmon omelette in Crescent City and continued along the curvy and twisty coast road.

View from Crescent City dock

Vista from Crescent City dock

I managed to piss off quite a few Californicators in their sports cars with my slow driving. Par for the course, revenge for these Californian old farts in their bus-sized RVs who are always slowing us down on the Alaska Highway and who don’t bother to pull over. Maybe we need signs like they have in California telling slow traffic to pull over at pull-outs to let others pass.

I got to Fort Bragg around 4:00 PM. Lymond Hardy took me to the College of the Redwoods http://www.crfinefurniture.com/ woodworking school where I met a number of his fellow students as well as Brian the man responsible for their amazing stash of wood. For those not familiar with wooddorking, the woodworking school at the College of the Redwoods is probably the best school in North America and notoriously difficult to get into, so it is quite an accomplishment for Lymond to just getting accepted. The school was made famous by its founder and inspiration – http://jameskrenov.com/ James Krenov – who died recently. While I am not a particular fan of his designs – they look spindly and unbalanced – I recognize Krenov’s incredible workmanship.

Lymond and Brian

Lymond and David Welter

Lymond is making a blanket chest for his first project: coopered sides and top, held together with dovetails. Its mass and solid look make it decidedly un-krenovian and respects Lymond’s style: he is into mass.

Lymond's chest

Lymond's chest

Both of us were to tired to cook that night, so after drinking the bottle of bad lambrusco and some even worse Sangiovese (which will get turned into vinegar, shouldn’t take long), we went to a French restaurant where we had the mushroom tasting menu and crab cakes. It was OK, not bad, maybe even pretty good but we were nevertheless disappointed.

28 November, Saturday, Fort Bragg & Mendocino
Finally, sunny t-shirt weather! Well over 10 degrees Celsius! I am in California!!

After a lazy morning, we drove to south to Mendocino where we bought a bottle of California sparkly to celebrate Louise’s (Lymond’s mother’s) birthday. They were having a party back in Whitehorse. We also visited a furniture gallery full of furniture made by graduates and teachers at the college of the Redwoods. Nothing really grabbed me except for an Ash chair made by a woodworker who is to teach next semester. We also went into a place that has massive wood slabs, mainly of local reclaimed wood (redwood and cypress),  some of it old growth.Luigi with curly redwood slab

We had lunch outside in the sun where I actually started sweating even though a guy next to us had a fur hat and quilted jacket and most people wore jackets. We Yukoners are tough!

We then went to a winery right on the coast: http://www.pacificstarwinery.com/ Pacific Star. Lymond had previously met the owner, Sally Ottoson, and talked about me and how I was disappointed in the quality of the grapes I was getting and the wines I have been making in the past few years. She said she wanted to meet me and might help in finding grapes.Pacific Star winery

Anyway, there were a lot of people when we got there and Markus, her partner who used to be a chiropractor, was hard-pressed to keep up.

Pinot noir on the shore

Pinot noir on the shore

We did try a number of wines and she does use a couple of grapes I have never heard of: Roussanne—a white from the Rhône—and Charbono—a red from Savoie but also used in the Val d’Aoste. The wine is also aged in barrels which are left outside, to be exposed to the sea air. And it is aged in barrels for a long time, like up to 8-9 years. This is pretty impressive, I would be very fearful of barrels going bad in that time.

The wines I really liked were a white Viognier-Roussanne, the Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel. I have to note that Lymond is a bit of a Zin addict: he started drinking wine when he was about 10 or 11 when I fed him my Zinfandel cut with ginger ale. So he has been more than partial to Zins ever since.

As there were still a lot of people, we got a bottle of 2002 Pinot Noir and went to drink it by the sea. I also had a piece of cheese I had bought in Seattle: a cheddar with the consistency of Port Salut. So we cut off the mould and had that with the wine. I also lent a sweater to Lymond as the wind made us decide to give up on our northern tough guy act. The Pinot noir was quite disappointing when we first tasted it, but it greatly, massively improved with time, so that by the end of the bottle, it was excellent. It needed time to air out. I finally got to talk to Sally after almost everyone had left, and jokingly complained that she should have opened the Pinot Noir a couple of hours before we got there. She got us to try a Charbono-Barbera, which was excellent. I then remembered I had some Vidal ice-wine in the camper, so I went to get a couple of 200ml botlles. We tried one and it was disappointing, not as good as I had hoped. I think I’ll have to let Lymond in our wine cellar at Christmas time and bring Sally back a really good bottle of ice wine.

For those not in the “know”, ice wine is quite appropriately a Canadian specialty made with grapes frozen on the vine. The grapes have to be harvested when it’s at least -10 or -12 Celsius and immediately pressed at low temperatures to extract the freeze-concentrated juice. It was originally a German thing, called eiswein, made in special years when it got cold enough. But in Canada, we can do it consistently as it always gets cold enough.

After that we went home where Lymond cooked up an excellent meal: abalone wrapped in prosciutto, battered lightly and deep fried. Superb! I also had some raw abalone, equally excellent. But it does require a serious beating. Lymond had invited two friends, Doug a colleague at the College of the Redwoods and Jennifer, his girlfriend.

29 November, Fort Bragg to the Central Valley.

I took it easy in the morning, updated the blog and had a few cups of coffee. Tim, Lymond’s roommate, came back from visiting his family in Marin and we went out for a coffee.

Lymond and Tim

Lymond and Tim

I got ready to leave and needed to get some stuff in the back of the camper. A total mess! One of the hatches had opened and a bottle of olive oil had spilled all over. Yuck!!! I had to go buy a mop with Lymond and cleaned up the camper. The floor is now cleaner than it’s ever been since Marilyn last went at it. Lymond made lunch of home-canned albacore on toast. Excellent as usual, his room-mates sure do appreciate his cooking. He gave me a can of albacore and I gave him a pound of Yukon Midnight Sun coffee and a can of my sauerkraut, which he had never tried.

Finally got going around 1:30. Drove through southern Mendocino and northern Sonoma county on highway 99. The countryside reminded me very much of Italy, with low hill, vineyards and the narrow autostrada, except that the cars were going at 140kph. Not surprising that Italian immigrants found the place so congenial. The pictures I took through the windshield don’t do it justice.

Got stuck in traffic around San Francisco. I really wanted to spend time there, but I do have to get to Cancun to meet Marilyn and time is getting short. Continued south, stopped for a subway sandwich and then went into a Best Western Motel Apricot, where I crashed out after quick call to Marilyn.

30 November, San Joaquin valley and LA traffic.

Had breakfast at the Apricot restaurant, French toast smothered in apricot syrup with canned apricots on the side. Went down the San Joaquin valley, which reminded me very much of central Spain: the dry almost desert flat plain with the Sierra Nevada in the background. Saw a number of signs on empty fields saying “Congress created this dust bowl”. Apparently, there is a shortage of water due to some smelt in San Francisco Bay or the delta of the San Joaquin/Sacramento Rivers. The one farmer I talked to was slightly incoherent ranting about environmentalists. While we can blame politicians for any number of things, I don’t think dustbowls are one of them. They are usually caused by farmers planting inadequately drought resistant and inappropriate crops.San Joaquin valley view from hotel

One thing I found interesting in the San Joaquin was the intensity of plantings: fruit trees 10 feet apart, intensively panted vegetables all obviously dependent on massive irrigation, next to fields of sagebrush and other desert vegetation. What clinched it for me was seeing pear cactus growing at the end of an orchard. When I drove through Spain many years ago, the fruit tree and vine plantings were much further apart and adapted to the amount of water available.
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Anyway, I bought some fresh fruit at one roadside fruit stand (persimmons and grapes) where I got to speak Spanish, and mandarin oranges, almonds and pistachios at another. The fruit and nuts were my lunch. I was surprised to see a skiff of snow at the Tejon pass, near LA, which went up to 1,400 metres according to my GPS.

I got stuck in traffic twice around Los Angeles, and probably wasted a total of four hours. I got there around noon and did not get out of Riverside until 5:30. I then stopped at the Best Western Date Tree Hotel in Indio, just past Palm Springs, in the desert, where I am writing this.

T-day: It never rains in California

29 November 2009

26 November, Thanksgiving Thursday , Dayton OR to Grant’s Pass to California.

Today is the most important American Holiday. Just a four day weekend spent eating Turkey, giving Thanks and Travelling. No gifts, no commercialism until Black Friday (the US equivalent to Boxing Day, but they start shopping at 6:00AM). The day is spent with family and friends, and maybe watching football for the guys. Much more significant than our early October Canadian version, where we get a long weekend and eat turkey, maybe.

As Americans cannot stand the thought of anyone spending Thanksgiving on their own (much to their credit), I got two invitations. The first was from Larry Jaques in Grant’s Pass, Oregon and the other by Lymond Hardy’s friends in Fort Bragg, California. I ended up accepting Larry’s invite just because it was more likely that I would get there in time. And I also wanted to finally meet a wrecker friend for the first time in person. For those of you not in the know, wreckers are participants in the rec.woodworking Usenet group. It’s also available on Google Groups. I have been participating in this group since 1995, and have made many virtual friends, including Larry “C-less” Jaques (never spell the name with a “c” – he gets annoyed – which is very difficult for us with a francophone background; it’s even worse than spelling Georges without an “s”). Larry and I, among many others, have been trading barbs, quips, and ocasionally actual woodworking information and insights and all kinds of other information in the rec.woodworking group. We two go back to 1995 in the internet’s infancy.

I-5 in the Willamette Valley

So I had to get to Grant’s Pass by 1:00 PM. Larry had also asked me to get an apple pie, preferably sugarless for his diabetic neighbour’s father. I left at 7:00 AM in the rain. It cleared up eventually in the southern Willamette Valley. I stopped in Eugene to try to find a pie. I found a nice bakery, but their pies had sugar. They directed to another bakery and a grocery store (Market Choice). I found sugarless apple pies there and also some organic Bonaterra wine that Marilyn had like in Whitehorse. Oh, and a bottle of cheap Riunite Lambrusco. Riunite, which was made by a Communist cooperative in Italy, was the best-selling wine in the US in the 80s. I like fizzy reds, must be genetic.

On the way, there were hardwood forests that looked like oak, but all the trees were covered in moss. Larry had warned me about fog and the possibility of snow in the passes before Grant’s Pass. I told him (I should say wrote) that I did have some experience driving in snow. It started raining again as I gained altitude, but no snow.

It stopped raining by the time I got to Grant’s Pass and i finally met my first wrecker in person. I embarassed myself by not reccognizing a maple in his front yard, thinking it was an oak, but all the bark was covered in moss. Larry also has a giant tree in his back yard which i first took for a cedar, but it’s actually a coast redwood. My first view of a real redwood, I should have taken a picture of it. It’s unfortunate that it, along with its doug fir neighbour will have to come down as they are destroying his foundation.

We eventually had our birds, yams, salad. I contributed some pickled beets I brought from home and the apple pie. We also had long talks about woodworking, our current lives, the US health care system, and totally disagreed about climate change.

Larry

I left around 6:00 PM to try to put on some miles so I don’t get to Fort Bragg too late. Raining heavily most of the way on the Highway of the Redwoods, US199, a curvy narrow road with giant redwoods on both sides of the road. I crossed over into California and finally found a campground in the Smith River National Recreation area.

In Portland’s clutch

28 November 2009

24 November, Tuesday, Portland Oregon

Slept in and after posting the blog entry and consuming the hotel room coffee, I headed out to another Stumptown on 3rd Avenue for a cappuccino and a blueberry-cranberry scone.

Just walked around on 3rd and then went up Burnside. Lo and behold, I saw Powell’s technical book store. Well I went in, found a manual for 1990 Chevy trucks as well as a used copy of the Joinery book by Gary Rogowski from Taunton Press and some other discount wooddorking books. I tried paying for them and getting them to keep them until I could pick them up later, but they wouldn’t do it On the other hand, they were perfectly willing to put the books on hold for me if I did not pay for them. Go figure!

I walked a little more and decided to take the streetcar to 23rd Avenue, known as Nob Hill; an upscale shopping and restaurant area with most stores in old Victorian era mansions. Interesting street full of shops and good restaurants. I had an excellent piece of halibut at Jo Bar and Rotisserie, then a salad with warm squash. I also went for a gelato & coffee further down the street.

Then I took the streetcar right to the other end of the line, hoping to go to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). There was the Aerial Tram, which I took to the top and took a number of pictures. I couldn’t get to OMSI by foot from there, so I went back to the hotel.

Mount St. Helens?

Mount Hood

By that time, it was almost time for supper. I settled on going to a French restaurant. When I got there, it no longer existed. I then went to Dan and Louis Oyster Bar on Ankeny Street. Great oysters and good beer. I forgot my credit card there, but retrieved it the next day. The server also prevailed on me to translate the text a t-shirt for her boss. It was in French and was about the Rolling Stones. She was going to do it using a word-by word translator on her cell phone. She did give me a free drink She also suggested that I go a bar at the top a building nearby (the Portland City Grill, at the top of the Big Pink) and enjoy the view. Reminded me too much of the Altitheque disco in Montreal of my younger days, including the crowd. I was starting to feel pretty tired and went back to the hotel room.

Musings US toilets.

I observed a custome in all those American Cities and Townes through which I passed, that is not used in any other country that I saw in my travels, neither do I thinke that any other nation of Christendome doth use it, but only the United States. The American, and also most strangers that are commorant in the United States, does alwaies, at their aisance use a circular strip of paper to cover that part of the seat that their arse doth touch. This form of shitting I understand is generally used in all places of the United States, their seat covers being for the most part made of paper. The reason of this their curiosity, is because the American cannot by any means endure to have his arse touch the same place other men’s arses have touched,  seeing all men’s arses are not alike cleane.

On the other hand, not a bidet to be seen anywhere, to the disgust of most Italians and Frenchmen. If arses are not washed, I guess one needs to cover toilet seats.

Now I don’t want to rest, I want to pee, take a dump and certainly wash after either one. So why call them restrooms? What’s wrong with calling them toilets or washrooms? We do wash or do our toilet in there, but unless you’re really weird, you don’t rest there.

November 25, Wednesday, Portland to Dayton, OR

Woke up late and then drove to Powell Technical books to retrieve my purchases of yesterday. I also looked for a “Car Toys” store to see if I could buy a Mexico map for the GPS. The store was no longer on its older 9th Street location. By coincidence, Nerissa Rosati had suggested that I go visit Gary Rogowski, who is in Portland. So after a bad piece of Pizza and another Stumpcity cappuccino, I headed across the Willamette to Gary’s studio and schools (The Northwest Woodworking Studio). Gary was not there, but I had an interesting conversation with Joe,

Joe

who is one of the mastery students there and then checked out the shop.

Aircraft Carrier

Gary came back, had a short talk with him as he was quite busy and I bought a t-shirt that reflects my philosophy about building. The quote from John Ruskin is: “When we build, let us think that we build forever.

I then went to http://www.woodcrafters.us/ the woodcrafters’ store for a good drool. I did buy Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s book on power tools, on sale for $19.95 from $40.00 ($65 in Canada).

. I had tried calling the dealership, but my cell phone subscription had run out of money. Headed out to Russ Chevrolet, stuck in traffic most of the way, it took more than an hour on US99. The . truck was almost ready. I had a coffee while the mechanic took it for a test drive. Finally back on the road with my Koolatron smelling bad because of the milk not being refrigerated fro three days.

So I went to another Car Toys store not far from the dealership on US99W. They did not have the maps, but did carry cell phones. As the Chinese lady in Seattle had warned me, they could not sell me additional time, so I had to get a new phone number and SIM card and got $50 worth of time at 10 cents a minute in the US. It took the woman at the counter over an hour and she could not get through to AT&T to validate my amount. I would have to do it later as either their system was down or screwed u in some fashion. She also showed me how to use the camera on the phone and I will post her picture as soon as I figure out how to download it.

I looked for a campground/RV park along the way and found one in Dayton, in the Willamette wine country. I headed there, got my site and looked for a restaurant. I found a “Cielo Blu” restaurant on the GPS, so I figured let’s go for non-ethnic food. The restaurant no longer existed, but there was an entry for the Joel Palmer House . Well, it is clearly one of Oregon’s best restaurants and the best meal I’ve had so far.

It started with a little amuse-gueule of porcini-truffle risotto every bit as good as the one I make using Italian porcini and Umbria black truffles. Except this was made from Oregon boleti and truffles picked by the chef’s father. I had a somewhat disappointing truffle in Seattle, which the chef explained was due to commercial pickers harvesting them before they are ripe. Unlike Italy or France, they do not use animals (pigs or dogs) to find them but just rake under Douglas Firs and sell everything.

I asked the server what her favourite wine was and she brought a wonderful Pinot Noir, Willakenzie Estate Pierre Leon 2006. It was so good I had to buy a bottle. I also tried a Pinot gris, which was too much like the Italian Pinot grigios for my taste (thin and acidy), and a chardonnay which was pretty good but nothing to write home about. The first course was the chef’s incredible version of won-ton soup: a mushroom consommé with shrimp broccoli and two wonderful meat-filled wontons. After that An absolutely perfectly and flawlessly cooked piece of fresh halibut, the meal crowned with a piece of flourless chocolate cake, an espresso and a shot of Muscat grappa. It sure made up for the bad piece of pizza I had for lunch. Off the bed at the campsite as I had to get up early to be at Larry’s for t-day at 1:00 PM.

From Seattle to Portland

21 November 2009

November 21

I couldn’t leave Seattle right away, I had to go back downtown. I was going to the cell place in Chinatown but it did not open ‘til 10:00AM, so I went downtown to look for a camera first, and bought a nice little Nikon coolpix. Works a lot better than the old POS. Here is a picture of the sales clerk who sold it to me, the very first picture I took with it. I should have gotten her name.

I then went back to the Pioneer Square area to check out the Woodworking coop I saw yesterday. Some pretty amazing pieces at the (Northwest Fine Woodworking ), and it’s nice to see they manage to sell them at decent prices.

<rant>which might seem very high to all you non-wooddorkers at $1k per chair, but if you know the amount of time and effort and love that goes in producing one of these  rather than the cheap Chinese-made Ikea/Sauders termite puke (i.e. particle board) crap that ends up in the landfill in no time but not before it has had a chance to spew out copious amounts of formaldehyde and other pollutants in the meantime. </rant>

Fine Woodworking Coop Store

Fine Woodworking Coop Store, Jackson Street, Seattle

They also have an annual box-making contest that anyone can enter. Because of the depression, they have had to lay off some of their staff and they haven’t been able to put up all the pictures. Anyway, I voted for a box that looked like to old leather-bound volumes, done in different veneers. Beautiful work, but there were a lot more examples of beautiful work. We’ll see who wins on their web site.

Then I went to the cellular phone place in Chinatown and got a WiFi capable cell. The current number, while I’m in the USA is 206-390-8104. Please only use in case of emergencies. It will change when I get to Mexico.

A couple of final observations about Seattle: there is little traffic downtown: I can cross most streets easily and can find parking spots relatively close to where I am going. I don’t know whether it’s Seattle or the depression. One thing that is clearly a result of the depression is the number of people– mostly young men of all races: white black and oriental – who accost you begging for money or a meal. It is pretty shameful for a country that is supposedly the richest in the world. And supposedly is also the most religious and Christian of all the advanced economies. So much for the Sermon on the Mount and Christian charity.

Drove to Portland and arrived immediately after 5:00 PM. The tourist information office had just closed. I looked for a wine store & tried out a number of Pinot noirs (5 actually). None overly impressed me, but I bought two bottles of the one I like most (2007 Cameron Ashleys Leap). Maybe I should get some for David Ashley.  I then drove back to an RV park on the Columbia River.

Tomorrow the Willamette, tonight the risotto with porcini and truffles.

//

Sleepy in Seattle

21 November 2009

November 20

Woke up around 8:00AM despite the late night. Had the two coffees from the room coffee machine. Only one guess for what the brand of coffee was.

Went to get my new glasses, had a really good coffee and muffin at the shopping centre where the eyeglass pace was. Went back to the Pike Street Market, has a prosciutto & parmiggiano sandwich for lunch. Boy, I love that place!

Luigis placeI went to the RV park in Bellevue, signed in ($25.00) and had a long nap. Woke up around five PM and drove downtown to Pioneer Square where they have Seattle’s underground. Walked around the area but most places were closed, despite it being a Friday night. Had an Italian supper at Luigi’s place. The waiter did not want to give me a discount because of my name. I had a so-called piadina, which was like a small pizza cut in four. This is not the real piadina from Rimini, which is more like a calzone or pocket filled with yummy stuff.

wooddorkers store

Wooddorkers' store

Got my tickets at 7:00 PM for 8:00 underground tour. Walked to Chinatown and found a cellular place that I need to investigate tomorrow morning. Another place to check out is a furniture place catering to local craftspeople.

Just one bit of oversharing, but I won’t get into graphic details: it’s nice to have a camper when you can’t find a public washroom. J

The underground tour was replete with references to prostitution and drugs, especially around servicing and fleecing the Klondike Gold Rush hopefuls. On a more historical note, I had not realized how important the Klondike was to Seattle. In the words of the tour guide: “It put Seattle on the map. Before that, Portland and Tacoma were more important.” Imagine, if it wasn’t for the Klondike, we wouldn’t have Starbucks and Microsoft.

Camera is, as we say in Quebec, complètement fuckée. It won’t close or take pictures.  I’ll have to buy one today.

Then on to Oregon and the Willamette.