Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays Around Here....And It's Arctic Death Storm 2008

I love Portland more than a lot of things, but one of the insane phenomenons that exist here is how snow affects the town. Because we have a lot of hills about town, when there is the slightest bit of snow around, it can make for an adventure driving. And since we have a lot of different weather affecting areas (Beaverton and all points west are higher up, while Gresham gets frozen like a Popsicle with the east winds, etc), the weather isn't the same anywhere in town. But what adds a element of insanity to the mix is our local television station's almost non-stop obsession with reporting the weather. It can go on for hours and hours of pictures of snow about the area, followed with the obligatory reporter stations of Sylvan hill (high point in town) and the Troutdale truck stop, where some rookie reporter slides around on the ice while talking to truckers that can't figure out why people driving certain cars feel the need to drive 80 miles an hour in a driving snowstorm without chains.

The Portland Mercury gets the whole situation right, courtesy of their news list. Even Fark has video of our adventures in trying to drive up a hill covered in snow. The area is down near John's Landing, and yes, it's amazing that nobody got into an accident. That's almost as good as some video they got last year of cars sliding around PGE Park taking out cars. What amazes me is that friends of mine that live in other areas and people that live out here can't imagine why this town goes nuts when the seemingly smallest amounts of snow fall on the ground. Gee, we can drive in this stuff in Minnesota, but why here when there's an inch of snow, the town literally shuts down.

Well, it's really simple. We have something called elevation to deal with, and there's lots of hills around town, and they might not be very big, but get a little snow on them, shake it with some ice and not have any sanding crews come near it for a while, and it becomes a regular sledding hill. We also have a lot of inattentive drivers, who don't realize that you can't drive as fast in the snow as you can on bare pavement, but I think these are some of the same people that freak out when it rains and then have to slam on the brakes because they can't stop as fast with water on the road. Personally, I find our fascination with snow endearing, as I love seeing the white stuff come down, but I could really do without the long TV coverage about it. But I suppose it's one of the things about here you just get used to.

The MLS Dog and Pony show came winding through town last week, as the commissioner and other officials toured the city and met with various personnel about the MLS bid. Merritt Paulson did some talking, the MLS folks did some talking, the city officials talked, and the task force set up to study stadium options asked a lot of questions. Some were pretty good, others not so much, but at least the group is trying to understand all of the challenges and positives about bringing MLS to town. Merritt has a good plan in place to bring MLS here, and is trying to learn from the mistakes of renovations past , while a lot of sports writers are asking simply what will MLS do if it comes to Portland? Even John Canzano has been talking about soccer, and if you can get him to talk about something, you've done your job well but get him to be positive about it, and you are really accomplishing a major feat.

Look, MLS will work here, and I can cover the thoughts in a few sentences. The MLS plan is backed by bonds purchased by the city, so there's no affect on city services. The bond payments are made by collecting taxes from team sales, ticket revenue, and salaries from the players. $85 million for an upgrade to PGE for MLS and getting a minor league ballpark for the Beavers is less of an investment that what would be required to bring any other major sport here. NFL and MLB require large stadium investments with a larger corporate support in town, and while the Rose Garden is suitable for the NHL, that won't happen unless Paul Allen either buys the team or supports the idea because he owns the arena. Yes, there's lots of details to be worked out, but when the MLS commissioner says "We want Portland in our league", that's a pretty clear indicator that they want our city there because they know what we have here, even if we are a little obsessed with the snow.

I've never done much traveling during the holidays to points that didn't involve seeing family. I've done all night Greyhound trips, flown in some of the worst weather possible over the holidays, even drove to some rather remote points just to end up with family for the holidays, and so this year, I'm actually doing something different. Girl, her mom and I escape to Las Vegas for a few days before Christmas to relax. I've been to Vegas a few times in the past few years, and it's a rather fascinating mix of hotels, debauchery, buffets, and entertainment 24 hours a day. I'm actually going to enjoy going somewhere to drink a bit, gamble a bit, and just get away from the day to day insanity around here. Wait, you are telling me the snow is there too? Maybe there is something to this snow obsession.

Finally, I've been listening intently to my local radio station who has been counting down the 94 best alternative albums ever as voted on by the listeners. The list is available here, and I'm not terribly surprised about who won. It was a rather unusual album when it came out, and it showed a generation that music could be dark, raw, unpolished, and yet extremely powerful. But I can't help but thinking that Nevermind isn't my best alternative album, and I probably would put it top 10 but maybe farther on the list.

Look, if this was a question of the most influential alternative album, it wins easily as it totally changed the face of music during the 90's. But Nevermind has some weak tracks intermixed with some great songs, the album can wear you down upon repeated listenings, and I think that Nirvana immediately gets more cred and attention simply because of Kurt Cobain's death. Yes, they are talented, but a lot of their tunes talk about some bleak topics. If that's all you want to listen to, well, I guess that's your thing, but for best alternative albums, I'd choose Weezer's Blue Album, Depeche Mode's Violator, Radiohead's the Bends, U2's Joshua Tree, or even Pearl Jam's 10. All five of those have a tight track set, varied track types, and even the more obscure songs bring something to the album. There's even some more obsure music by the Dismemberment Plan, Self. Futureheads and Hum that I would put up against this and call it some of the best music I've heard

But I suppose this is why stations put together lists or put up voting to get opinions. If anything, you get a lot of discussion about albums, and talking isn't such a bad thing. As long as it's not about snow, we should be Ok. Wait, it's lightly falling down here, I need to go watch the news about Arctic Blast 2008...

Before I go, here's some wonderful Christmas music for you to listen to. Enjoy!!

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