All-Time Favorite (and Least Favorite) Trail Blazers

The release of Brandon Roy this week got me thinking about who my all-time favorite Blazers are. Of course, Roy is on the list. Now, I’m not saying these are the most talented players the team ever saw, and you’ll notice that none of them are before 1990 or so. I moved to Oregon in 1988, and started following basketball at the same time. Therefore, these are the guys whom I loved to watch play the most.

Starters
Terry Porter – Point Guard
Porter is, to me, the greatest shooter in Trail Blazers history. He was the kind of guy that had you standing up as he shot, because you felt like it was always going to go in (and it quite often did). He also was very smart, and his leadership was key to the two Blazers’ finals runs in the 90’s.

Brandon Roy – Shooting Guard
What more can be said about Brandon, other than that he was supremely gifted, a natural leader, and a top-ten NBA player when his knees finally gave out. He was deft around the basket, was unstoppable with his step-back jumper, and had an innate sense of time and place when it came down to the end of the game.

Clyde Drexler – Small Forward
It’s kind of a cheat, but I put Clyde at the Small Forward Spot. He can handle it. Clyde always had that incredible athleticism, and a “how’d he do that?!” kind of game. His shot was too flat, he could do nothing with his left hand, and yet he consistently made plays. He was also the kind of guy you’d love to hang out with.

Rasheed Wallace – Power Forward
Rasheed was a knucklehead, to be sure, but he was OUR knucklehead. The guy was so naturally good at basketball, that the game itself seemed to come easy to him. I always felt like no matter what, through all the technical fouls and other nonsense, that Rasheed cared about winning.

Arvydas Sabonis – Center
It’s been well documented that Arvydas was past his prime when the Blazers finally got him, but he was still mesmerizing to watch play. That flat, flip of a 3-pointer. Those no look drop passes to cutters. That scowl when he would bang against Shaq in big games.

The Bench
Wesley Matthews
Although he has the well-earned reputation as a grinder, the label belies Matthews’s impressive skill-set. I think he has grown as a player each of the years he’s been in Portland, even if his stats are fairly static. He’s a smart, witty guy, and I think that he brings that intelligence to the court.

Rod Strickland
Another polarizing figure for some, I always felt Rod Strickland was like watching lightning. He was so quick, and as a high school player, I would tape my fingers just like Strickland, and try to BE him when I played.

LaMarcus Aldridge
I love watching LaMarcus play. He gets bagged on at times for being “soft,” which is a label I’ll never understand. All the guy does is hit shots and rebound. You can’t name another player with his kind of shooting touch, who also bangs down low like Reggie Evans. It’s one or the other. I’ll take the really talented guy who can score in a wide variety of ways.

Cliff Robinson
Uncle Cliffy! Another dynamic inside-out big, Cliff Robinson was always so easy to root for, and not just for his trademark headband. When he stepped up against David Robinson in the playoffs his rookie year, without backing down, he won my heart forever.

Kevin Duckworth
With his weight struggles, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Duckworth was a two-time all-star in the 90’s, when the Western Conference was packed with talented centers. That sweet jump hook and push jump shot was automatic, and he always seemed like a guy you wanted on your side.

Ime Udoka
If you can’t cheer for a guy like Ime Udoka, then you probably have no soul. Obviously, the fact he’s from Portland helps, but he was really the glue to the transition year the Blazers had from the Jail Blazers era to the Roy-Aldridge era. He’s proof that you don’t have the be the team’s star to be the team’s leader. His corner three was deadly, and he was a lock-down defender. It’s no wonder the Spurs stole him away.

Damon Stoudamire
Another guy from Portland, Damon always got a bad rap from his hometown fans. I am not sure why they thought he’d be the same guy who averaged 20 points a game for Toronto, when he was never going to get the number of shots he did on those bad Raptors teams. I appreciated that Damon looked to be aggressive, not necessarily just for his own shot. He wanted to win more than anything else.

The Rest
Greg Anthony
Nicolas Batum
Mario Elie
Jarrett Jack
Fred Jones
Richie Frahm
Damian Lillard
Robert Pack
Martell Webster
Brian Grant
Jerome Kersey
Travis Outlaw

Least Favorite Blazers Ever
Looking over the list of past Blazers, I realized there are guys for whom I always hated to cheer. For most of them, it was their games on the court, not who they were as people.

Luke Babbitt
I’m sure he’s a nice person, but he’s useless on the court. I always feel like he’s not shooting to make the shot, but rather not to miss. The fact he can’t do anything else but shoot three-pointers makes him a liability. And let’s face it: he has kind of a punchable face.

Chris Dudley
Politically, he’s a carpet-bagging douchebag. But I disliked him long before I knew any of that. Wildly untalented, he was like watching a gangly JV center who you knew was someday going to grow into his body. The problem was, Dudley was fully-grown.

Raymond Felton
Donuts, donuts, donuts. Plus, I don’t know if you knew this, but his horrible play wasn’t his fault, or at least that’s what he’s told me.

Jeff McInnis
Another North Carolina point guard disaster. McInnis was the classic “all ability, no game” NBA player. He coasted by his whole life by being quicker than everybody else, but never worked hard to develop the skills to truly excel when faced with equally gifted players. I dreaded every missed open jumper and stupid turnover.

Darius Miles
Miles takes the cake for squandered ability. 6’9″ with a huge wingspan, Miles looked like he should have been good at basketball, but he wasn’t. He couldn’t shoot, and wasn’t smart enough to contribute in other ways. On the plus side, he did a really nice job acting in his cameo in Van Wilder, so you know, that’s nice.

What do you think? Who were your favorite and least favorite players?

Top Ten for 2011

It’s been a while since I posted anything, and I think part of that is because I’ve had such a good and busy fall. I thought I’d take some time to share some of my favorite things of the year. These are the things I experienced this year that made my year a good one.

10. Pizza Stone

pizza stoneMy in-laws got me a pizza stone for my grill last Christmas, and holy cow was it a great present. We made all kinds of fantastic pizza: pear and blue cheese, barbeque chicken, bacon and cheese, sausage and pepper, and more. Just put the stone on the grill when you fire it up, and when it’s hot, cover the stone with corn meal, roll out your dough, and top your pizza. The crust is crunchy, the cheese is gooey and smokey, and you can’t beat the flavor.

9. Captain America

Now, first off, I don’t think that Captain America is a perfect movie, but I sure enjoyed it. Part of it is sentimental. Captain America was my favorite comic book as a kid, so to see it on the bigscreen was awesome. I have some quibbles with it, most notably its lack of Nazis. The best part of the comic book as a kid was seeing Cap routinely defeat evil Nazi plans. In the movie, the Red Skull (the film’s villain) almost immediately breaks off from Germany to form his own evil organization. I think that was a big mistake, and a befuddling decision.

But that’s my only real complaint. I thought that there were so many awesome little touches, such as having Cap going around selling war bonds in that wool uniform. It just made me happy to see something I liked so much as a kid so brilliantly executed on the big screen.

8. Sushi Chiyo

I love the sushi train in all of its forms. However, Vancouver’s Sushi Chiyo takes the cake (of rice, topped with salmon) right now. Most sushi train places put only 2-3 pieces on each plate, with only simple items like California Rolls available. But Sushi Chiyo offers full plates, with 4-5 pieces, and it offers a wide variety of choices. I’ve had rainbow rolls, spider rolls, and the biggest pieces of salmon sashimi possible. Go during happy hour (2:30-4:30pm), and every plate is only $1.50, which is a steal.

Find it at: 13007 NE Highway 99 Vancouver, WA 98686

7. Four on the Floor Hamburger Challenge

I already blogged about this here, but the Four on the Floor Hamburger Challenge was awesome. It was my baby; I wanted to see if we could eat four hamburgers at four places in four hours. Turns out, almost all nine of us could. Read the blog for the details in all their gastronomic glory.

6. Los Gorditos Mexican Food

Los Gorditos is a taco cart on the corner of 50th and Division, and I think that their burritos are the greatest in all of Portland. The best part of Los Gorditos’s menu is free: their sauces. They have a great salsa bar. My favorites are their green sauce, their smoky chipotle, best of all, their peppery red sauce. The Stacy Burrito rolls up your choice of meat, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, grilled onions, cilantro, and that red sauce in an enormous tortilla. I always end up dumping at least 4 containers of sauce on it, too, resulting in a delicious, sweaty experience. The red sauce has one of those flavors that makes the corners of my tongue, where the muscle meets my jaw, start to cringe and salivate. Mmmm….

5. The Stormy Weather Arts Festival at Cannon Beach

Marisa and I have been going to the beach every fall since we first started dating 13 years ago, so for this trip Marisa had the great idea to go during the Stormy Weather Arts Festival, a weekend of art and wine at the town’s galleries. She got a great deal on a hotel, so we were able to stay 3 nights.

We went out on Friday and Saturday night, drinking wine and enjoying some interesting (and not-so-interesting) art. It was fascinating to see the different approaches the galleries had to their inventory. Generally speaking, I don’t think highly of the kind of art available at the coast, but I was genuinely surprised to see some paintings and sculptures I found interesting. It was good to see young artists with edgier style, instead of just the dowdy middle-brow fare usually for sale. I’ve had enough of sad Native Americans and paintings of Haystack Rock, and this year’s festival delivered new choices (not that we could afford any of them).

4. Hoops Tournament

For my birthday this year, I decided to throw myself the birthday party I’ve always wanted: a basketball tournament. I invited 18-20 guys to a gym I rented out, split them up into 4 teams, and played a big tournament. We had a clock and a scoreboard, and we played a round-robin schedule.
hoops tournament
I picked the teams, and tried to keep them even. I won’t lie: I stacked my own team. But honestly, I only picked guys with whom I enjoy playing, not just good players. My squad managed to win the whole thing. Happy birthday to me!

3. Brandon Roy Leads Miracle Comeback

When Brandon Roy led the Blazers back against the Mavericks in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen in sports. At the lowest point, the Blazers were down 23 points, and Roy single-handedly brought the team back and eventually ahead.

I was watching the game at home, and Marisa can tell you, I went from down in the dumps to screaming and standing by the end. Just thinking about the comeback gives me chills.

2. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Last year, it was Of Montreal. This year, it’s Neutral Milk Hotel.

I know, this album came out in 1998. But I only discovered it this year, so it counts, dammit! There are so many reasons that I shouldn’t like this album. The lyrics are reportedly based on the life story of Anne Frank, which sounds painfully pretentious. It’s sort of folky, and I generally don’t go for folk music. The singer, Jeff Mangum, has sort of a whiny, nasally voice.

And yet, I can’t stop listening to this album. The lyrics (about Anne Frank) are strange and beautiful. The melodies are gorgeous and catchy, and the raw-feeling production values are perfect. I think that the album makes you relate to something and someone in a situation seemingly impossible to really understand.

1. Paris and London

My wife would likely kill me if this wasn’t the number one thing on my list, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the best thing I did all year. Marisa and I took about two weeks during April to see Paris. The airfare was so much cheaper to go to London, so we decided to fly there and take the chunnel over to Paris.

I had never been to Paris, but Marisa had, and she was excited to show me the city. We rented an apartment for a week just half a mile from the Eiffel Tower, which was a great experience. We were able to take the Metro train wherever we needed, we ate cheese and drank wine everyday, and we saw a phenomenal amount of art and history.

I never thought I’d see Paris, and to actually get there was simply amazing.

There, that’s my list. What would be on yours?

Four on the Floor Hamburger Challenge

four on the floor hamburger challenge logo

UPDATE: PHOTO GALLERY ADDED AT BOTTOM OF POST!

Once every couple hundred years or so, the best and the brightest come together to collaborate, compete, and revel in the spirit of excellence. Saturday, June 25th, was one of those times. Or so I assume. I’m guessing somebody was doing something profound somewhere. My friends and I got together on that date to eat a lot of beef.

The premise is simple. Four hamburgers, four restaurants, four hours. We started with 18 people. Of those, nine were competing. Competing for what, you say? Mostly pride and satisfaction, but also for mastery over our bovine cousins. It’s like playing golf. Sure, you’d like to beat your buddies, what with their stupid shorts and condescending talk about “the plane of your swing,” but you’re mostly trying to improve yourself and master your own game.

The Legend

One evening, while talking about eating challenges, I wondered if I could invent my own. I thought that 4 burgers sounded achievable. My wife, Marisa, disagreed.

The Rules

It’s pretty straight-forward. Competitors had to eat the aforementioned hamburgers in the time alotted. They were allowed to remove one condiment of their choice, and were not required to eat fries or salad; this was all about the burgers. The rest of the gang was along to eat side dishes, drink beer, and laugh at our meat sweats.

The Restaurants

These were our stops, listed in the order in which we dominated their burgers. I selected these places because they all serve burgers, and they’re all walkable from my place.

1. Sckavone’s
4100 SE Division
Portland, OR
Website
2. Nick’s Coney Island
3746 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
Website
3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s
3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
Website
4. Dick’s Kitchen
3312 Southeast Belmont Street
Portland, OR
Website

The Competitors

Meet the Gang

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Our Journey

I asked all of the competitors to write brief summaries of their burger experiences, and after a few weeks passed, most of them did. A special thanks goes out to Brad, who served as our videographer and photographer.

1. Sckavone’s

Sckavone's

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This dependable and delicious neighborhood restaurant has awesome burgers, and that’s why I chose it to lead off; I figured that I’d enjoy the first burger the most, so it might as well be a really good one. Normally, I’d get the BBQ burger, which has loads of BBQ sauce and onions on it, or the California Chevre burger, with avocado and chevre. Today, however, it was the house cheeseburger, with blue cheese. The burger was delicious, with a sturdy bun and a healthy slathering of cheese. I also consumed my one and only beer. I didn’t want to fill up with liquid. Golden, delicious liquid.

Dan
A juicy delicious burger. Nothing complicated, but it went down quick and easy. The veggies were crisp and the patty was perfectly medium-rare.

Micah
The waitress was hot, the beginning of the burger challenge tension was palpable, I added cucumber to my burger and it was good. I remember it being a clean classic burger and at my hungriest state, I was very satisfied.

Colin
Tasted substantial, well-seasoned, a good size and was cooked well.

Kelly
I actually thought this burger was the best of the day. It don’t think it was just because I was hungry and it was the first. The meat was of high quality and the bun melded together nicely with the meat. A pleasure to eat and the staff did a great job in bringing out the team’s burgers in a fast orderly pace. I will go back to this place, maybe even for another burger.

Mike
This was a great burger. Granted I was hungriest here, but the salad was good, and thanks to Colin for donating half his potato chips for an extra topping. It was a good thick burger that washed down well with 2 Mirror Ponds.
(editorial note – Mike ate all his sides at each stop, which most of us did not. He was an eating machine.)

Kendra
This was one of the most amazingly delicious hamburgers i have ever had – and I don’t think it was just because I hadn’t eaten anything else for 2 days then exercised excessively to the point of delirium in preparation for this most monumental of events. and of not getting fat because of it.

Jon-Michael
Sckavone’s was awesome! Maybe it was because I was starving since I hadn’t eaten anything since 8:30 am, and it was about 5 pm when we got our burgers. I put fries on my cheese burger, which made it quite tasty. I finally figured out who our waitress was, after thinking she was some lady I saw in a band playing bass. She was a lady in the huge poster on Burnside advertising for the Timbers Soccer Campaign. I didn’t recognize her without her chainsaw. The burger was really tasty, regardless. Well sized and delicious.


2. Nick’s Coney Island

Nick's Coney Island

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As the name implies, Nick’s Coney Island is best known for its Coney Dogs, not its burgers. That said, Marisa and I have had their burgers and sliders a number of times, always with pleasant results. The burger itself reminds me of the kind you’d make on your backyard grill, only a bit greasier. You could definitely tell it was fried on a stovetop, not flame-grilled. That takes it down a notch in my book. That said, I did enjoy the burger. It was unpretentious and delicious.

Dan
Slightly greasy and perhaps not perfectly cooked, but still tasty. I ended up with some kind of tangy sauce on mine that brought it from mediocre to decent.

Micah
I like the classic diner atmosphere and the pinball, but the service was slow and unorganized. For this burger, I added coleslaw, and despite the refreshingly crisp taste of my addition, I was not impressed with the rest. The burger seemed thrown together with little love.

Colin
Smaller than I was expecting. It wasn’t bad, but it was kind of overwhelmed by the toppings for me. Given its name, the place probably does a lot better with hot dogs.

Kelly
I thought this burger was a bit unremarkable, but when I smothered it in hot sauce it felt nice going down. Next time I go back to Nick’s I will stick with the coney cheese fries. I think I may have ate this one in four large bites. At this point I still felt fine, just another day eating more than my fair share of beef, of which I have had plenty.

Mike
The most surprising burger for me. Thought it might suck, but it was just greasy enough. I had to add the chips myself on this one, and for my only strategy, switched over to 2 Bombay Sapphire and Tonics. Had to save some space.

Kendra
A perfectly average hamburger – like the kind you’d get at a state fair, or a bar-b-q in the suburbs, or a slightly better than average state campus cafeteria line. If an alien landed and said “show me the epitome of the average American hamburger”, that’s probably where I’d take him. Plus it was the cheapest.

Jon-Michael
Nick’s Coney Island was good as well. I ordered their regular burger, to which I added their very creamy cole slaw on top of the meat patty. Pretty tasty. I was pretty par for the course as far as stomach stretching went at this point of the competition. I was worried this burger would be the worst of the four places we would go to, but it was far from it. Surprisingly very tasty. I also became aware of the awesome power that both Micah and Sasha have on the ol’ pinball machine. They were masters of the flippers and royalty of the “four-legged ball flicker contest”! Unreal!


3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s

Back Stage

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This is one of my favorite hidden bars in Portland. Located right behind the Bagdad Theater (as the name implies), I can’t believe this place isn’t packed all the time. The ambiance is incredible, with its 4-story ceilings, beautiful bar, pool tables, and projection screen for sports. Plus, awesome McMenamin’s beer and the chain’s reliable food.

McMenamin’s burgers are generally best when you get one of their specialties, like the Communications Breakdown (covered in onions and peppers) or Dungeon Burger (mushrooms and swiss). Their regular burger is okay, if unspectacular. I do think they’ve improved it since last we met. The bun is now whole-wheat, which added a nice, hearty chew. It was after this burger that I felt like I might be getting into trouble. My stomach felt a bit bloated, but I was confident I could finish the challenge at our final stop.

Dan
Already fading at this point and struggling to enjoy the flavor of food. I think I ended up with blue cheese on this somehow, which I love, but I struggled to finish. The patty, as is often the case with McMenamin’s was a little dry, but still adequate for consumption.
(editorial note – Dan decided to quit here, but was talked back into the competition by Micah. Who says peer pressure is a bad thing?)

Micah
The group came in with low expectations but I enjoyed mine. This time, despite warning from my fellow competitors, I added on their famous tots and bit down on the sandwich with determination. The tots created the perfect texture change from the rest and I ignored my stomachs aches and pains.

Colin
The 1/3 pound size was appreciated and the pickles cut through well on this one. Overly greasy though, and that knocked it down a bit.

Kelly
I have never been a huge fan of McMenamin’s burgers, or their food in general. You know it is never going to be horrible but also never really that good. They tend to never ask how you want your burger cooked, and it always seems to come out overdone and a bit dry. This burger was no exception. I felt that I hit a bit of a wall half-way through this one. The last few bites were particularly unpleasant. My eating partner Kendra claimed that her burger had been infiltrated by horseradish, and that somebody must have played a trick on her because they knew she can’t stand horseradish. I chalked Kendra’s complaints up to paranoid over-eating-caused delusions, but Captain Nick confirmed the taste of horseradish as well. To be honest, I think there may have been a hint of horsey in the mustard.

Mike
No surprise this burger ranked last. As always with McMenamin’s, overpriced and flavorless. It probably didn’t help it that it was third in line, but no pity can be granted. Also with McMenamin’s, go for the beer, tolerate the food. The Ruby was the best part.

Kendra
There is only ONE food on earth that I cannot stand and that food is horseradish. Not only did this place surreptitiously sneak horseradish onto my burger, but they did it by mixing it into a “secret sauce” of grease and watery mustard which they injected into the bun. I have my suspicions that the waitress then wrung her dishrag onto it. . . But that might have just been mine cause I asked for happy hour prices 2 minutes after happy hour ended and I think that made her mad.

Jon-Michael
Bagdad Theatre… oooh boy. Worst. Burger. Ever. Soooo greasy I thought they used old tater tot oil as a condiment. There was a literal pool of grease under the burger and tots. Luke Warm as well. Disgusting. The patty was obviously previously frozen and machine shaped. I could taste the formaldehyde. It was that repulsive. I wolfed it down, just to get to the next round. I did add said Tater Tots inside my burger, just to keep the extra “Pat on the Back” points going. Man, that was a tough burger to get down, after having two already. I was still feeling pretty good though. I remember I had to do something similar when I was about 22. I went to a friends girlfriends house for Easter lunch/dinner. They were really excited about their Easter hams they had prepared. Apparently the person in charge of cooking the hams forgot to actually COOK the hams, as they came out nearly raw. We were all sitting around a table, where I had to eat the oinking ham, as to not insult them. I didn’t want to insult the purity of this burger challenge, so I did the same by eating this burger at the Bagdad Theatre. Let’s skip this place for next year, how about that?


4. Dick’s Kitchen

Dick's Kitchen

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I have to say, I picked Dick’s Kitchen because it looked good, and it was right where I wanted to end the night. I am really glad that this was our final stop of the night, however, because the food was amazing. The restaurant staff was nice enough to dedicate some tables to our enormous group at 7pm on a Saturday night, which is prime dinner time. I ordered the French Onion “Zizou” Burger, which was the only non-standard burger I got all night. It was fried with onions mashed into the patty, with a delicious gob of cheese melting on top. The burger was sensational; rich and flavorful, it was juicy without being overly greasy.

The owner, Dick, stopped by each of our tables to say “hello” and to explain his approach to cooking, which was really interesting. He has an agreement with a ranch that supplies all of his beef, and all of the cows we ate were grass-fed. Dick seemed like a nice guy, and he was clearly passionate about his burgers, which showed on the plate.

Dan
The only burger that felt gourmet, although I lacked the capacity to enjoy it in any way. The patty was clearly fresh ground and the flavor of the meat was perfect. I’ll go back sometime when I can properly appreciate it.
(editorial note – Despite urging from Micah to finish, Dan did quit in the middle of this burger, just a few bites short of burger immortality. As for actual immortality, he’ll likely die like the rest of us: with arteries clogged with beef.)

Micah
Despite my dangerously full belly, each bite gave me pleasure. The beef was just too pure and cooked to perfection. I added nothing to this one, party due to my fear of not finishing, but mostly because I didn’t need to do anything to distinguish it from the others.

Colin
I could really taste the beef quality. Good pairing of meat and bun. While it seemed a little odd to have a burger that wasn’t salted and/or peppered a bit before cooking, adding the pickles and pickled onions that came on the side made up for the lack of salt.

Kelly
The owner of this place is a Dick in name only. He was very friendly and went out of his way to talk about the high quality local beef that is used at his establishment. The burger looked good, but that’s were I have to stop with my praise. To be fair, I can’t say that my burger didn’t taste good objectively, but at that point my own subjective biophysical difficulties could not be ignored. Tasting, chewing, and swallowing another burger was just not what the doctor (or my insides) ordered. I SLOWLY got this one down and completed the challenge, but it wasn’t easy. I think Kendra and I were the final competitors to finish. Kendra put down a whole strawberry milkshake as well!

Mike
Although I’d like to denounce a burger that flaunts such froo-froo grass-fed nonsense, it was quite excellent. Especially being the last of the 4. It went down well with the Dry Hop Orange IPA. I was stuffed at this point, and couldn’t even attempt the cole slaw, though it looked excellent as well.

Kendra
This one’s kind of a guess. I have a feeling it was really good. Unfortunately, I was a little full by this point and everything was kind of a blur. Sitting by the kitchen and eating in 95% temperatures didn’t help, nor did the sight of the cooks with their abundance of body hair and shortages of hair nets. The strawberry milkshake was fantastic though!

Jon-Michael
Dick’s Kitchen was interesting. I got the lamb burger, but looking back I wish I had gotten the French Onion Soup burger, since it looked a little better than the one I got. I just can’t resist lamb when it’s available. It’s the curse I have to live with. Still pretty good burger. I added the “No-Fries” to it, thus completing my “Pat on the Back” extra credit points. I need to go back there and get the French Onion Soup burger to see what I missed. I do remember the owner of the place coming out and talking to us about how he runs the place. Seemed nice, but I got the feeling that I was being sold something. Perhaps more burgers for another time… He was wearing a shirt with Michael Jackson and E.T. on it, that read “Alien Vs. Predator”. That was pretty funny.

Summary

I had each person rank his/her favorites, and as you’ll see, Dick’s Kitchen was the winner. It gets moderately more interesting after that, though.*

Me
1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s
4. Nick’s Coney Island

Dan

1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s
4. Nick’s Coney Island

Micah
I highly enjoyed the event even-though I was extremely sluggish the next day. The group walking felt like a traveling circus and most establishments warmly welcomed us. I look forward to other food challenges in the future and would like thank the organizer, Nick Voll.
1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s
4. Nick’s Coney Island

Colin
1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s
4. Nick’s Coney Island

Kelly
1. Sckavone’s
2. Dick’s Kitchen
3. Nick’s Coney Island
4. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s

Mike
What a contest. Almost 24 hours later, I’m still not ready for another burger.
1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. Nick’s Coney Island
4. The Backstage Bar – McMenamin’s

Kendra
1. Dick’s Kitchen
2. Sckavone’s
3. Nick’s Coney Island
4. The Back Stage Bar

Jon-Michael
Afterwards, we went down to Swirl on Hawthorne to get some pallet-cleansing Frozen Yogurt, which hit the spot. After 4 burgers, I needed the variety. Delicious challenge! Looking forward to the sequel. Street Tacos? Waffles? Pitas? Kabobs? Pizza Slices?

*That was a lie. It was almost unanimous.
Nine competitors, eight winners. I’m glad Dan couldn’t finish, so that way we had at least one loser. It would have made me feel like less of a winner to not have beaten anybody. I know that’s not what I said at the beginning of this blog, but whatever.

Some competitors want extra credit for eating more, but I refuse to grant it. I will, however, give those who ate extra food a little bit of a shout-out. Mike, Jon-Michael, Kendra, Micah, and a couple of other people ate some of their side-dish options throughout the night. Most notably, Kendra drank a milkshake at Dick’s Kitchen, which looked so tasty we went back on the 4th of July to get one for ourselves (it was awesome). I will also give an approving head-nod to Mike and Jon-Michael for eating frozen yogurt at Swirl immediately after the competition.

I would definitely do this again, but at four new restaurants. I was really, really full, but I had fun, and I love hamburgers. There was talk of a taco or wing-eating competition later this summer, but we’ll have to see. I’m not sure if my arteries will be clear by then.

Oregon Zoo

Marisa and I headed to the Oregon Zoo on Sunday, braving rain and mammoth crowds to see some animals.  We first tried to park at the zoo, but it was full.  Then we went to the overflow lot to catch a shuttle, but the line was about 70 people deep.  We ended up parking downtown and catching the MAX in, which was the best way to go, as it was not crowded at all.

Overall, I liked the otter exhibit the best, because of how playful the the animals are.  Marisa had one chasing her hand along the glass at one point, which was really cute.  I was surprised by how much I liked the Pacific Northwest exhibition in general.  You go to the zoo expecting to see African animals, but the section that showed this area’s native creatures was surprisingly engaging.

Marisa meets a Sea Lion

Hello Sea Lion!

Orangutans are really big.

The trainer had the elephant bow down to his human masters.

After years of trying, I finally trapped Marisa in a cage at the zoo.

It was incredible how close this cheetah came to the glass!

The zebra (behind me) would only show us his rear end for this picture.

The giraffe was surprisingly graceful.

*Insert Crocodile Dundee reference here

Marisa had an unfortunate encounter with a bear....

Marisa feeding nectar to a lorikeet.

Look at how tightly the bird is holding onto her thumb.

New Bike

For the first time since I was about 13, I am the proud owner of a new bike.   I purchased this beauty at Target today:

My New Bike

It’s a 26″ Schwinn Gateway.  I got it for $180, but most of that was birthday money.  Marisa has wanted me to get one for a year or so, since she got a bike for her birthday.  We will go for our first ride this afternoon.

I’m a little nervous about riding in traffic, so we’ll see how it goes.  I’m not always a fan of Portland’s cyclists, since most of them seem to have the attitude that “sharing the road” is something only cars have to do.  But who knows?  Maybe riding around will give me a new perspective.

A New Personal Best

For many, Easter is a time to reflect on their religion, or spend time with family. For me, Easter is an opportunity to prove my dominance over the buffet at the Benson Hotel in Downtown Portland. This year was no exception.

Before you start thinking I’m a glutton, I should explain: I’m not simply a volume eater; I don’t count up how many plateloads I down. My focus is more sophisticated, my goal nobler. Simply put, I try to eat as many different kinds of meat as I can. I found an old blog entry from 2008, in which I ate 10 varieties. That’s certainly a feat to be proud of, but nothing compared to this time around.

This year’s tally: 17 meats. I know, it’s impressive.

The Rules:
The first rule is pretty simple: at least one bite of a meat makes it official. The second rule is a subject of debate between my friends and family. What constitutes a meat? Can one animal produce two different kinds of meat? In the end, we decided that eggs are not a meat (although I believe they should be), and that one animal can give us several kinds of distinct meat products. After all, can you say that bacon is the same as a pork chop? However, in the case of salmon, we concluded that there isn’t enough of a difference between smoked, baked, and poached, so I only got one check mark there. Alright, enough with the explanations, let’s see the list!

The List:

  1. Bacon – standard
  2. Sausage – breakfast
  3. Ham – standard
  4. Pork – 2 kinds: chop and roulade (but it only counts once)
  5. Lamb – chop
  6. Duck – breast
  7. Clams – steamed
  8. Chorizo – served with clams
  9. Oysters – smoked and on the half shell (but again, it only counts once)
  10. Salmon – see “The Rules” section
  11. Whitefish – smoked
  12. Scallops – smoked
  13. Tuna – sushi
  14. Eel – sushi
  15. Shrimp – cocktail-style
  16. Crab – legs
  17. Beef – roast

Lessons Learned:
When it was all said and done, I was quite full. Although I’m quite pleased with my meat consumption, there were consequences. Nothing unpleasant, I assure you, but consequences nonetheless. I stumbled into a bit of a meat stupor toward the end of the meal, but then again, so did everyone else. No, the main problem was that my single-minded pursuit of meat meant that I left some really delicious food on the buffet table. Blintzes, eggs benedict, cheese, cheesy potatoes, omelettes, and other taste treats went barely touched (by me, at least).

Questions still abound.  Can I top 17 meats next year? Is it worth trying? I guess we’ll have to wait until next Easter to find out.

Rip City Rhapsody

rip city rhapsody cassette tape cover

Cassette tape cover. Sorry it's so blurry


I went over to help my friend Chuck clean out his girlfriend’s deceased grandmother’s house recently (which sounds more complicated than it was), and I stumbled across a piece of my childhood: “Rip City Rhapsody” on cassette. To refresh your memory, this song was put out by Z100 during the Blazers’ run at the NBA Title in 1990. Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, and Danny Young help sing the chorus, and the rappers are the guys from the U-Krew. For Blazers fans, this is one of the touchstones of the early 90’s Western Conference Championship teams. For everyone else, it’s a ridiculously cheesy hip-hop song. I can’t believe this song came out 20 years ago. I’m so old. Below I’ve posted the original song, the instrumental, and a ringtone. I know the ringtone works for me because I have a memory card in my phone, but I’m not sure it will work for everyone. I can send you copies of any of these if you email me. Just click on the contact link in the menu. Also below: the video and lyrics, which were written by none other than Tony Martinez, the traffic guy from KPTV-12, who used to be a morning DJ for Z100.

Rip City Rhapsody
Rip City Rhapsody Instrumental
Rip City Rhapsody Ringtone

Rip City Rhapsody Lyrics

RIP CITY RHAPSODY, PORTLAND, OREGON USA,
RIP CITY RHAPSODY, WE’RE THE BLAZERS AND WE LOVE TO PLAY.

SLAM A JAM OR JUMP SHOT, BLAZERS BURNIN’ RED HOT,
RIP CITY REPEAT, WINNIN’ TO A NEW BEAT,
BIG AND PROUD IN THE NBA,
SACKIN’ HOT STATS EVERY TIME WE PLAY.

TEAMWORK, BOUNCE PASS, POISE, PRIDE, FIRST CLASS,
HOT SEATS COURTSIDE, BLAZER BUS FREE RIDE,
HALFTIME HOMETEAM GAME ENHANCERS,
TALKIN’ ‘BOUT PORTLAND’S BLAZER DANCERS.

FASTBREAK FLYIN’, KEEP ON TRYIN’, NOW WE’RE SMOKIN’,
NOW WE’RE SKYIN’, WE AIN’T MESSIN’, WE AIN’T LYIN’,
PORTLAND’S WINNIN’ SO STOP YOUR CRYIN’.

(CHORUS)

BIG PRESS FULL COURT, FOUL SHOT FALLS SHORT,
TIP IN, IT’S GOOD, LEATHER BALL, HARD WOOD
STEAL IT, SCORE IT, LICKETY BRINDLE,
THAT’S WHAT WE CALL SWISH AND SWINDLE.

DRIVE, STOP, PUMP, SHOOT, LISTEN TO THE HORN TOON,
BACKBOARD SNAP BACK, BE BLAZERMANIAC,
REF IS RUNNIN’, BLOWING HIS WHISTLE,
YA BETTER HANG ON, ‘CAUSE WE’RE FLYIN’ LIKE A MISSLE.

PORTLAND’S JAMMIN’, DRIVIN’, SLAMMIN’,
OTHER TEAMS ARE FAKIN’, OTHER TEAMS ARE SCAMMIN’,
LAY UP’S NICE, BUT WHY NOT CRAM ‘EM,
BLAZERS DON’T JUST WIN, THEY SLAM ‘EM.

(CHORUS)

LOOSE BALL, MAD DASH, INTO THE FANS CRASH,
JUMPBALL HALF COURT, ROUNDBALL’S A HOT SPORT,
DEEP FROM THE BASELINE, BALL IN FLIGHT,
CHALK IT UP TWO, RED, BLACK AND WHITE.

LISTEN TO THE FLOOR SQUEAK, PORTLAND ON A HOT STREAK,
POWER PLAY, HOOK SHOT, PARTY IN THE PARKING LOT,
RIMS ARE BREAKIN’, BACKBOARDS FALLIN’,
CAUSE WE’RE BLAZER BASKETBALLIN’.

PORTLAND’S CRUISIN’, BUSTIN’, BRUISIN’,
NO MORE SLEEPIN’, NO MORE SNOOZIN’,
I DON’T CARE WHAT ‘D’ YOU’RE USIN’,
PORTLAND’S GONNA LEAVE YOU LOSIN’.

(CHORUS)

LACIN’ UP A HIGH TOP, GONNA MAKE A BIG STOP,
PICK ‘EM OFF, PUT IT IN, THEN YOU STEAL IT BACK AGAIN,
EVERYBODY STOMPIN’, FEET AND HANDS,
AND YA GOTTA GIVE IT UP FOR THE PORTLAND FANS,

MOVIN’ ON A DRIBBLE DRIVE, SLAPPIN’ UP A HIGH FIVE,
AT THE BUZZER IN FOR THREE, WE WANT A VICTORY,
LIGHT THE BLAZE AND LET THE SCORE GET HIGHER,
BUT YA BETTER CALL THE COPS ‘CAUSE THE HOOP’S ON FIRE.

HUSTLE, SWAT IT, NOW WE GOT IT,
BLAZER FEVER, HOPE YOU CAUGHT IT,
TRUE BELIEVERS EVERY MINUTE,
YA KNOW WE WANT IT, COME ON WIN IT!

(CHORUS)