The Most Un-Traditional Xmas Eve

14 Nov

Prologue

If you happen to find yourself on Xmas eve, as an adult, without any family, nor a spouse and/or children such as myself your holiday may be a little non-traditional.  My holiday began to be less about family dinner and gifts the year after my mom died.  My family has always been small.  It was just me, my dad and my mom.  We were estranged from many of our extended family, for good reasons.  The bad thing about having such a small home is that you can find yourself losing it all so much easier.   Mom passed away in September of ’01.  I was 22 years old.  Clearly not a child anymore.  My father’s heart was permanently broken, and couldn’t bear to face the holidays any longer.  Rather than face both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he chose to leave for Reno on a gambling trip with a friend of his who was also without family.  He never asked me if I was okay with this, but I suppose I was.

Mom died in September of that year, and Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I went to our usual gathering at my mom’s best friend’s house.  This group of people were not blood related to me, but I knew this group as family.  I had known them my entire life.  I called members of it “aunt” and “uncle”, “cousin”, etc.  I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, like I always would with my boyfriend in tow.  It was awkward.  Mostly because I was awkward.  Also because no one knew what to say to me or how to act.  This is a normal reaction.  I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to interact with me.  If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t know either.  Most asked me how I was doing, and all wanted to share stories about my mom and how much she’d be missed.  It was too much for me.  To be in this very familiar setting I’ve known my entire childhood made her absence and my loss all the more obvious.  I felt strangled by everyone’s sympathy and the ghost of my mother clinging right behind me.  I pretended to take a phone call and left without a word.  It was all too much, too soon.

Soon after, Xmas rolled around.  Dad appeared in my doorway the first week of December and told me he would be out of town for the holiday.  He was near tears when he told me this, and I knew he was dealing with his own journey with grief, one I couldn’t possibly understand.  He went out of town every year after that for both Thanksgiving and Xmas until he died too.  I began my own traditions. My favorites are doing anything non-traditional like seeing a horror movie and chinese food with a friend.  Any time a boyfriend would talk me in to doing a traditional xmas with his family, it would nearly make me sick.  Of course its unavoidable, but personally I prefer to skip those holidays all together.

Xmas-Eve Pool Party

Ross is very much all about the traditional holiday.  He misses his family and home, and he especially feels it on those holidays in which one would normally be amongst both.  Through this relationship I have been forced to concede and celebrate these before blacklisted holidays.  I do so half-heartedly, but I do it nonetheless.  On this last Christmas, I would be cooking my usual “transplant dinner” on the afternoon of.  Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since I’ve lived in Portland, I cook a large and traditional dinner for all of us living here that are away from family to attend and enjoy.  I do it for everyone else, not because I particularly require it or enjoy the ritual.  I also do it for the challenge.  I love cooking and pushing myself to my very best culinary ability.  There’s also something really fucking satisfying about pulling off a gorgeous holiday feast that can feed 20 all by myself (or maybe thats years of domestic brainwashing talking).  Christmas eve, ross was depressed.  His family wanted us to come home for the holiday, but of course I couldn’t, being a retail manager.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money at this time, so we couldn’t afford a tree.  He was very sad about this.  I was personally relieved.  Not only am I incredibly allergic to xmas trees, I find the entire tradition strange and wasteful.  I really didn’t want to acquire one, vacuum up the needles, then have to dispose of it.

Ross was clearly in a funk, and I couldn’t help but have sympathy.  I can see how hard it must be to be away from your family on the holidays.  I wanted to cheer him up.  We didn’t have any money for a tree, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be festive.  I spent $5 at Dollar tree and created a tree.

Push-pins, fishing line, box of ornaments.
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Of course it didn’t really cheer him up.  That shit took me FOREVER, though.  His parents had sent us gifts, and I positioned them under our “tree”.

It took quite a bit of convincing, but I finally talked him in to going out on Xmas Eve.  Portland is a town a lot of people move to, therefore many won’t be doing anything for Christmas day, so tons of people go out on the eve and drink.  I was excited to experience this.  There were actually quite a few events going on around town that sounded interesting and it was going to be hard to choose the right one.  I also had to pick something that Ross would even be in to joining.  Most of our friends that we’ve made since moving here are actually from Portland (rare) and have family activities to attend.  This means I would not only have to convince him to a) go out when he’s depressed  b) go out without the incentive of hanging out with our friends.   Challenging.  Finally, I saw it: Christmas Eve Pool Party.  It was perfect for me.  Completely non-holiday related.  no fucking Santa hats, no damned stockings, probably no Xmas tree.  Even better, a newly-acquired friend of ours was hosting the event.  After much convincing, he agreed to go.

It was free to get in, but you were supposed to wear bathing suits.  It was snowing in Portland at the time.  Also, when you move to the Pacific Northwest your body changes.  I achieved a new shade of pale that year.  I was literally as white as a glass of milk.  You also spend about 99% of your time here covered from neck to toe in usually many layers.  The thought of being in no more than a bathing suit is bizarre.  Still, I was determined to enjoy my non-traditional Christmas in the company of like-minded individuals for once.  This would be no depressing Christmas!  I refused to spend it crying in bed.  Not this year!  This year would be fun, silly, and hopefully drunk.  Ross was skeptical of the dress code.  He brought up a good point:  What if we show up and no one else is dressed up?  What if we go and we’re not having fun and want to go somewhere else?  he opted to wear normal clothes, but bring his trunks to change in to.  I was in a quandary.  How was I going to feel okay about being in a bathing suit?  I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be putting on a fucking bikini.  NO WAY.  I had recently purchased a size large, gold lame one-piece at a yard sale.  I decided that this would be my best option, as it wasn’t too clingy and provided a lot of coverage.  It was backless, though.  This means, I couldn’t wear a bra, reasonably.  I tried it on with one on, just to see.  I looked like I was doing Momma’s Family cosplay.  I opted for two sets of 5 band aids in a Red Hot Chili Pepper logo pattern.  That’ll have to do.  Now there was the issue with my legs.  They were so pale, they were see-thru.  I decided I needed to wear a pair of tights with my suit.  Trouble is, all of my hose had those shorts built in (women will know what I’m talking about).  None were sheer to the hip except a pair of flesh-toned patterned ones I got on clearance and never wore.  They were weird, but my only viable option.  I eyed myself in the mirror.  I knew full-well that the weird tights would appear to look like some sort of psoriasis in bar-lighting.  Fuck it.  I didn’t want to be sexualized anyway.  That’s right creepers, I have scaly-skinned legs.  I threw a dress on over this combo and we headed out.

The streets were deserted and dusted with snow.  It was unavoidable to realize that is was Christmas.  Ross drove us in silence.  The event was held at a venue in a location that I passed regularly, yet had never been to.  it was called The Grand, and sat right on the corner of a busy intersection.  We parked and saw people standing out front, having a cigarette in beach attire whilst donning leis.  I smiled.  Ross got into his trunks in the car, I ditched my dress and we headed in.

When you enter The Grand, there is sort of a hallway, leading to a podium where the doorman will check your ID.  Tonight, said doorman had on nothing but a speedo and intense back-tattoos.  This put me way at ease.  Clearly, I will be conservatively dressed if this is the standard inside.  He let me know that all ladies in bathing suits tonight get free vodka-soaked gummy bears all night.  Hell yes. We checked our coats and walked in.

The door guy.
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Best use of a speedo to hold a cell phone.
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Upon entering, it wasn’t very crowded. There were maybe 15 people inside. There were 3 women in the building wearing bathing suits that included myself, and two other girls. They looked a LOT different in their suits than I did. I ran to the bar to get a drink and claim my bears. Dudes at the bar were fucking leering.  This was clearly one of those things that sounded way better in theory than actually doing it.  I sped from the bar with my drinks and was glad to see Ross chose to sit at a back booth far from anyone or anything.

There were guys in various versions of suits.  The only bad thing was they could easily throw a coat over it and look completely normal and covered.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I wasn’t exposed at the booth with the large table in front of me in the dark corner.  The gummy bears were surprisingly good, and considering there were only three of us that showed up in the theme dress, they would need me to eat more than my fair share of them.  Our friend, Paul came over and hung out with some of his friends.  Everyone was friendly, and having a good time. Ross was actually having fun.

Me, Paul, and a new friend. Horrible tights and all.
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A lighter shade of pale.
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There turned out to be musical performances. First up were the girls in the suits. They had a little two-person band, and were really funny. All their songs were comedy-themed and totally crass. They were enjoyable to watch and kept us laughing the entire time. During their act, we saw the crowd growing. I noticed that there was a stairwell leading down to a basement. There was a sign above it that said Andrea’s Cha Cha Club. Apparently this large space held a second venue, that was having its own event down below. It must have been “creepy old man” night down there, as within 15 minutes of Paris and Delaney hitting the stage the floor was filled with straight-up creepers. Dudes sipping their beers slowly, while eyeing the stage like they were at a sex-show. I shuddered. It was when the girls were singing their last song, charmingly about venereal diseases, I had to pee. I had felt like I needed to go for a while now, but it was becoming urgent. I knew I was going to have to stand up and use the restroom. My coat was inaccessible, therefore I would have to just march across the room and find the bathroom. Let ’em stare. The absolute worst they could do to me is leer. Yes, Ross should have escorted me to the bathroom. Those of you that know Ross, however know that he is far from knowing what the proper thing to do is. I stood up to go.

Cute.
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As if I were wearing a spotlight around my neck, all of those creepy dudes turned their heads to look at me the minute I stood up. I looked around the space. I couldn’t see any obvious area for the restroom. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk around and look for it. I darted to the bar, leaving my gold lame ass completely exposed to the crowd. I asked for the bathroom. The bartender explained it was actually downstairs, in the “Cha Cha Club”. FUCK ME.

Sleazy.
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I walked to the stairway. It lead into complete darkness. This may be the only basement I’ve ever ACTUALLY feared in my entire life. I made my way down the stairs. I could hardly see what was in front of me, and I was clinging to the rail to not take a header down and crack open my skull.  Two black dudes in their mid-40’s passed me en route. I heard a remnant of their conversation. One guy said to the other that he heard “bitches in bathing suits are upstairs”. They looked at me, shocked. Then instantly fanned out to block my passage down the stairwell. They started picking up on me, clearly so drunk they were swaying back and forth. I was vulnerable. Suddenly, a male voice came booming up the hallway for the guys to “get the fuck out of my way”. The guys jumped to march single-file the rest of the way up the stairs, craning their necks to look and leer back at me the entire way. After they cleared the stairs, I saw a second doorman, sitting on a stool and the base of the stairs. Oh thank God.  

“You okay?”  he asked as I descended the last few steps.

I let him know I was fine, but also let him know I was relieved to see him there.  I looked into the entrance of the Cha Cha.  It was absolutely packed with what appeared to be mostly middle-aged men.  Salsa music was blaring.  The few women that I saw in there were in tight, tacky dresses bumping and grinding against various men while the crowd watched.  Yikes.  I went to the bathroom and made my way back up the stairs.  I would make it a point to not need to go again.

Paris and Delaney had just left the stage, and the upstairs was still filled with the overspill creepers.  I wanted another drink, but refused to cross the floor to the bar.  I sat back down with Ross and made him go.  The next act was two white guys spewing really good hip-hop.  It was ironic, and funny.  Thankfully, this act managed to clear out all the weird creepers and force them back down to the basement.

Can’t imagine why the pervs weren’t into this act too.
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Ater this act, it was karaoke time. How fun. Ross absolutely loves doing karaoke. I like watching, not doing. I helped myself to more booze-bears and watched folks belt out their best Steve perrys and Stevie Nicks. There were a few kiddie-pools sitting in the middle of the dance floor filled with balloons. I wondered what these were going to be eventually filled with and when that part of the night was going to happen.

The crowd was definitly loosening up at this point.  Folks were running up on stage and singing in groups, as well as dancing and cavorting around the swimming pools.  Ross and I decided we needed to kick the party in high-gear by getting up and doing a little R. Kelly.  Don’t worry guys, I set up the video camera right before going on stage:

Clearly, I’m just up there as the “hype-man”.  Ross was asked to stay on stage after that and sing whatever he wanted.  This ranged from Luniz to Neil Diamond.  I took pictures, danced with whomever, ate gummy bears.  I’m lucky I didn’t barf in the pool.

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Finally, the pool got used. No liquid required.
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We covorted until last-call. As the evening wound down, I was pleased that it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It was so nice to not have to think about it for even a minute. We sat, finishing our last drinks with our friends in the back booth. I was reviewing pictures on my camera memory. One picture caught my eye. Somehow, I had taken a picture of someone’s vagina. At one point, I was shooting a picture of a crowd of people dancing on the stage. Some girl was bent over, not wearing underwear, and I caught a perfect shot of her bare vagina. I showed to Ross. The other members at the table looked on. One of the girls at the table asked to see the picture. I handed her the camera. After looking at it for a minute, the handed the camera back to me. She had deleted the picture. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to do anything with it anyway.  It was just funny that it happened.  Perhaps I missed my calling as one of those sleazy paparazzi trying to catch crotch-shots of celebrities climbing out of their cars.

We payed up and headed off into the night. Tomorrow, it would be Christmas. I would have to open gifts and cook a traditional meal for our friends. I would do my best to not feel sad. I would try and not think about painful memories and drink too much.  This night was weird, the right kind of weird.  Not sure what this year will hold.  I am certainly NOT making another one of those ghost trees again.  EVER.

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The Cat Circus

22 Aug

Readers, I must admit that this may hands-down been the greatest adventure I have yet to go on.  It will be difficult to top this one.  I may have to retire the blog because anything I write after this post will be boring in comparison.  On a random Tuesday night, I drove to the middle of nowhere and got to see a cat circus, complete with a cat rock n’ roll band.  Allow a minute to take that in.

I remember reading about the circus in the paper last year.  I wanted to go when I saw the ad, but couldn’t make it due to financial strains.  Suddenly, that magical time was upon us again.  My finances didn’t really look any better, but lets face it-I really couldn’t let this one go by again.  The Mercury did a pretty big ad for the show.  They usually don’t stray me wrong.  It was unfortunately $20 a ticket.  That’s sort of a lot of money.  That’s what kept me away last year.  Interestingly, the show had RAVE reviews on the internet.  I couldn’t find one negative review anywhere.  That’s saying something.  Anyone who goes on to Yelp can attest to that.  Someone’s always gotta bitch about something.  Literally not one bad review.  Now the difficult part:  convincing anyone to pay $20 to come with me.  Somehow, I managed to get Ross to agree to go.  That is a miracle unto itself. We both had Tuesday off, which was the last night of their week-long run in Portland.  It was perfect.

The show started at 7, and we already promised ourselves we would be drunk for the show (obviously).  We hit up a happy hour with amazing snacks and had some drinks on a patio.  It was magical:  Champagne, sun, delicious Szechuan food, the prospect of seeing trained cats just a few hours away.  During drinks, it dawned on us that we had never heard of the theatre that the show was at.  We had no idea what part of town it was in.  We decided to Google it, and head to that area of town and have pre-show drinks at whatever bar was nearest.  I was giddy.  I brought an amazing vintage dress befitting of a cat-lady to change into for the occasion.  Ross was planning on swinging by our apartment and donning the bubble-gum pink cat t-shirt I picked up at the cat show we went to earlier in the year (see post Cat Show).  We were delighted to see that the venue was actually near our apartment.  That was astounding in itself, as there is jack-shit near our apartment.  Literally.  We were grinning from ear-to-ear.    Everything is working out better than expected.  As we were paying our tab, I suddenly noticed that there were tons of internet posts in regards to the event that it was sold out.  SOLD OUT??  My heart literally sank.  I called the venue and got a sad voice recording that “The Amazing Acrocats” has sold out.  I became so sad I didn’t feel like I could get out of my chair.  I thought Ross would have to carry me to the car.  I mean, what the fuck?  I planned my whole God-damned day off around this!  I bragged to my friends!  It never occurred to me that it could have a possibility of selling out.  I mean, its some obscure, expensive cat show on a Tuesday night!  My depression was palpable.  Ross tried to soothe me by saying we’d drive to the venue to see if there were any extra tickets, cat show scalpers, anything.  I didn’t speak the entire drive there.

Although near our apartment and off of roads we knew, we still had to Mapquest the address which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end street that we’ve never heard of.  We drove though a residential neighborhood, then onto a gravel strip (the street) that ran parallel to a railroad track.  There was no parking lot.  The only way we knew we had arrived was we saw a tour bus parked alongside a wooden shack.  The bus was covered in murals of cats.  This was clearly it.  The shanty-venue had a piece of fabric tacked to the outside proclaiming “Headwaters Theatre”.  I searched for a door and let myself in.  There was a girl setting up a table with cat-merch, donning a pair of purple vinyl cat ears.  She was flustered, setting everything up “just so”.  I asked her if the show was sold out, extreme urgency in my voice.  She said that it was.  I asked if there were any extra tickets.  She asked me for how many, clearly distracted and under extreme duress.   I said for two and gave her pleading eyes.  After nervously pouring over a list, she said she would sell me two tickets.  THANK YOU CAT GIRL!!!  Rainbows shot out of my eyes as I received my tickets.  As I turned to leave, a tiger-striped cat with the most beautiful green eyes parked himself between me and the door.  He looked at me and mewed most earnestly.  I blinked, frozen for a few seconds.  I didn’t expect cats to just be hanging out.  I uttered some nonsense in the vein of “kitty kitty” and reached out to pet him.  A gentleman appeared just then from behind a curtain and said “Oz!  There you are!”  He regarded me and then with a deep bow said “escort this kind lady to the door.”.  HOLY SHIT.   I exited the “ticket booth” and skipped to Ross who was posed outside smoking a cigarette and let him know we were in.  It was 6 pm at that point.  The ticket girl said that the bar opened at 6:30, doors at 7.  Bar?  What’s that you say?  This barn has a bar?  Of course it does.  We’re in fucking Portland, after all.  You can get a beer at the museum here.  Rather than leave, we decided to kill 30 in the car.  I changed unceremoniously into my dress in the front seat.  There was no one around, nothing but train tracks surrounding us on all sides. Not a soul in sight.  Good.  That means we’ll get front row seats.

Nothing but trailers and dirt.
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The view from he theatre’s front door.
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The “street” and “parking lot”.
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The venue.
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The Tour van.
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Glorious cat-girl that made this night possible.
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At 6:29, we left the car to hit the bar.  It was a hot, sunny day.  We stepped put into the blazing sun and snapped some pictures of the van.  We decided that cameras probably weren’t allowed so we were going to try and sneak shots on Ross’ iphone.  We again marveled at our surroundings.  what the fuck is this place?  As Ross was finishing his smoke, a lone man walked up out of nowhere.  He was in a sun hat, long explorer-style khaki shorts, carrying a walking stick.  I also noticed a couple that appeared to be homeless digging in the theater’s dumpster.  Are they here for the show?  No.  That’s crazy-talk. These are clearly vagrants. I then noticed that Mr. Walking Stick had long, pulled up socks with pictures of cats on them.  Upon further inspection, Mrs Dumpster had a purple sweatshirt on with an orange cat on the front.  Oh hell yes! They were here for the show.

Cat socks.
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We were the first ones in, and got our drinks at the “bar” which turned out to be a wooden slab with a single bare bulb hanging over it.  A dark-haired girl with a distinct voice poured my wine and told me a little about the theatre.  It had regular performing art shows there.  She tried to entice us to come to a modern dance performance in a few days in the future.  We politely smiled and took in our surroundings.  There was a lot of raw wood, dark corners, and harsh lighting provided by single-hanging bare light bulbs.  It was hot in there. Unbearably so. Sweat started rolling down our foreheads and my dress was sticking to my legs. Wow. This was unreal. It was cooler outside, and it was 98 degrees. The girl behind that bar explained that they usually roll up one of the walls (like a garage door) but because of the cats, they couldn’t risk having it so open, should one run away. After remembering the cat that chased me to the door, I felt that was understandable. Sucks for us! We sat in chairs and watched the other ticket-holders trickle in. Eventually, a line to get in began to form.  We got distracted by the weird merch on the entrance table, so we weren’t the very first in line. That’s ok.  We were number 2.  Not too shabby for two people who talked their way into a sold out show.  We stood behind a couple that was right at the entrance.  The crowd was not what I expected.  I thought there would be a lot of hipsters there for the “weird”.  Quite the opposite.  It was all “cat people”.  That can look like many things.  As the folks piled in, the music in the “lobby” began.  Ill let the video speak for itself.

Pre-show anticipation.

Me in my cat-lady dress.
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Merch.
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The lobby and the bar.
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The ticket holder’s line.
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The music continued. All various songs about cats.  I made small talk with the couple in front of us. They were friendly. Very Oregonian, natural couple.  The wife was nice to talk to and made excellent eye-contact.  She told me she owned show cats, and toured the circuit.  I told her about my blog on such subjects.  I wanted to ask her so many questions.  The music played on and we stifled our laughter. Everyone else there was dead-serious. It was unreal.  I pushed Ross ahead of me in line, knowing he was intrinsically more aggressive by nature, therefore would almost guarantee an excellent seat.  After a very hot, unbearable 20 minutes, they opened the curtain and let us in. We forced our way to front row-center. VICTORY! We got the best seats in the god-damned house at a sold-out show! The nice couple from the line sat next to me (I think we actually cut them off when we were jockeying for our position. Whoops. Oh well, we were technically there first).  The stage remained dark for the next 20 minutes.  The cat-themed music continued to play and my nose was met with hot air laden with cat-piss.  Just the right amount.   I continued to small-talk with the couple from the line.  I think I could have picked her brain for hours. I knew after these conversations I could really cut loose at this show and she would absolutely not judge. 

As we waited and sweated for the show to start, the man that wrangled the cat from my exit path weaved his way through the crowd selling a cigarette-girl’s tray full of various cat ears.  I’m no going to lie, they were tempting.  He had a humorous spiel, and he continued to cavort among the crowd.  The anticipation was painful.

The stage.
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Over-the-shoulder view. Filling up.
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Amazing.
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Lights on, show begins!  Everything is decorated in silver and purple.  I am instantly struck with what a home-made operation the entire thing is.  I’m in love.  This was not some angry, militant cash cow where the cats were mistreated and miserable.  Nay! This was a woman and her friend (not quite sure the nature of their relationship) that genuinely love cats and took the time to train them with positive reinforcement.  They begin the show in their tramp-like costumes, describing how they train, who they are, and where the cats come from.  Turns out all the cats in the show were at one time rescues.  Also the training is all reward-based, with treats made from salmon and chicken made by the handler herself every day.  She joked that the cats eat better than she does.  I’m guessing that’s probably true.  The entire stage is charmingly DIY, as well as the outfits.  I imagine that they are lovers, the trainer and her younger male counterpart.  I dream that they both have a deep love for cats, and they live in their tour bus, going from state to state performing.  I imagine that they make just enough to live, but they are doing exactly what they want and therefore are totally happy.  I imagine them on their down-time, in sweats drinking wine and watching their magnificent trained cats roam their tour bus without a care in the world.

The show begins magically.  I instantly ascertain that I simply do no have the mental capacity to watch this show and and take pictures.  It absolutely isn’t possible.  Ross had to take over.  *Official disclaimer:  Ross isn’t the “best” photographer.  Sorry about that.  The cats really are trained to do tricks.  Of course not every trick is executed flawlessly, and not every  cat is focused and doesn’t get distracted.  We were warned at the beginning of the show that if a cat were to become distracted and wander off stage, we were not to touch them or pay them any attention so that their focus can be redirected to the task at hand.   Do you know how hard it is to NOT pet a cat??  Without a hitch, when the kitty that met me at the door, Oz first came on to stage he recognized me immediately.  He looked right into my eyes with his beautiful green ones and mewed.  He sniffed my heels with mild interest and mewed at me again.  Holy FUCK.  Urge to pet cat RISING.  When I payed kitty no attention, he eventually went back to the stage and carried on.  I now know how drug addicts must feel.

*Disclaimer: You’re just going to have to ignore my chortles and squeals in the background of these videos

Tuna starts the show…barely.

Cat after amazing cat came on stage and did a little bit.  All were rescues-no pure breds.  She even had trained kittens!  Can you imagine how hard it must be to train a kitten??  That’s like training a snake, or a spider.  I have to mention that the show also featured a trained groundhog that drove a car in a tutu, rats that wore sparkly red top hats, and a chicken?  All of this unfolding 2 inches away from my toes.  It was the best god-damned $20 I ever spent.  Seriously.  I squealed, shrieked, laughed, even cried with the audience that night.  The best part?  Every time I uttered some sort of guttural- glee noise, everyone in the audience was right behind me, “ooh”-ing and “ahhh”-ing right along with me.

Cat rolls on a tube

Kitten runs obstacle course.

Cat on a skateboard.
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Cat on a ball

Kitten trio.
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Cat runs into a tube, stretches.

Cat hurdle.

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Cat high-five.
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His name is Gizmo.
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Its a groundhog.  
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Getting his costume on.
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Fancy!
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Being pulled by a RC car in a wagon.  Why not?
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Chicken on a tightrope.
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Mice in top-hats.
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Cat bowls a strike, chicken looks on.
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Refusing to perform.
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Seeking treat crumbs.
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We were THIS CLOSE!
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Chubb the cat.
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Cat turns the pinwheel.
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Coming towards my feet again!!!
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Leap!
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Its a cat pushing a shopping cart.
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Through the hoop.
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I can’t recall how long the actual show was.  1 hour?  Maybe 2?  Time pretty-much stopped all together.  Kittens balancing on platforms, cats jumping through hoops, a chicken and a cat engaged in a bell-ringing contest…too much good stuff.  The grand finale of the show, was of course the “Amazing Rockcats”.  This is where certain cats in the repertoire hop up on a musical stage and play the various instruments they are trained for.  Sometimes not.  Tuna, the star of show, graciously played the cowbell, as the entire audience chanted “More cowbell, Tuna!”  Joining this star-cat, was a sassy calico on chimes, a chicken on tambourine, a fluffy white cat on sticks, a cat that refused to play the guitar, and a pretty legit keyboardist.  This cacophony of sound creates the first-ever cat only rock band.  I must add that it really wasn’t the worst band I’ve ever sat through.


The Rockcats, featuring a chicken on tambourine.

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After this grand finale, You are invited to take as many pictures as you wanted and pet the cats.  This was the element I was missing during cat show!!!!  Of course by this time, the heat had become absolutely intolerable.  I think you can see that on our faces in the pictures.  We got our photo, quick-pet a kitty, then literally ran outside to meet the glorious breeze.  Oh shit.  Outside was as glorious as the show.  Sweet release.

Ross and the star of the show, Tuna.

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Me awkwardly crouching with my dress stuck to me on all sides, chicken pecking my hair.Photobucket

The lady of the show, helping make my picture more awesome.Photobucket

Heat aside, that was a damned good show. I’ve never laughed so much, squealed so loud, or clapped so vigorously. It took all my power to not snatch a cat and run away with it.

Joining the seamy underbelly of the horse track (or how I won a prize with a hat)

21 Jul

This has been going on for months, me hanging out and having a drink with Jockeys.  Not just Jockeys, but people involved in all aspects of running and maintaining of a working horse track.  I looked forward to sitting at the bar and hearing interesting stories from behind the scenes, unruly race patrons, and the intricacies of training a race horse.  None of these things I knew shit about.  The closest I’ve come to a horse race is attending the once-annual at the fair in my home town of Fresno, Ca with my dad when I was about 6.  Like all things done in Fresno, it was half-assed and completely forgettable.  I knew about as much about racing as I do about horses themselves.  I’ve neither rode a horse, nor even physically touched one. I had the opportunity to pet a horse once.  Said horse pulled away from my hand in disgust so I didn’t press it.  Horses are big, muscular, and frankly they scare me just a little bit.  Something about their eyes.  They just seem very smart, and I would feel bad riding one.   How did this all begin, me hanging out with the horse-folk and eventually at the track?  Its all Ross’ fault (of course).

Ross chose the apartment that we currently reside.  It’s far from anything, inconvenient, and impossible to get to without a car.  This poses a real challenge when we both work full time, on opposite ends of town, and share a car.  If I get off before him, I usually will take the MAX from downtown in which it drops me off not too far from his work where the car will be waiting.  On occasion, I arrive about an hour before he’s due to get off work.  Not enough time to realistically drive home and back, too long to sit and wait in the car.  One such day as I was walking from the MAX, I realized simultaneously that I had to pee and was starving.  I really couldn’t wait to appease either.  My choices were a Burger king, a chinese restaurant , and a mexican cantina.  Burger king was automatically out.  The other two were a gamble.  Both looked really “white” and not authentic to either’s respective cultures AT ALL.   Both offered booze, so it was between whether I was willing to pay for bad chinese or bad mexican.  The chinese place was nearly windowless, so I couldn’t tell what kind of vibe I’d be walking in to.  I noticed some shady-looking gentlemen by the smoking area engaged in what clearly was a drug deal.  I looked over at the cantina.  It was painted in bright, cheery colors with a sign boasting a typically racist picture of a mustached man in a sombrero.  Honestly, I’d much rather prefer to choke down bad mexican rather than bad chinese.  I mean, there’s always chips and salsa…right?  Turns out, I made a wise choice that day taking a gamble with The Burrito House.

I entered a very dark bar with only 4 other people inside.  3 older men were at the bar, 1 woman behind it pouring drinks.  It was oddly soothing and serene inside.  I sat at the remaining empty bar seat, ordered a salty dog and some tacos.  Soon after, we were all engaged in conversation.  We talked about all sorts of subjects, but mostly horses.  They all worked at the Portland Meadows in varying capacities. The Meadows loomed large, just a stone’s throw from the cantina.  I was always curious about it.  I would see the huge structure every day from the freeway on my way to work.  I thought it would be an experience to visit.  I mean, a working horse track with live races has to get weird, right?  The jockeys knew the town I was from (because of the Fresno Fair races) and were fascinated that I knew so little on the subject.  I quickly discovered that this bar was the official watering hole of everyone who worked at the Meadows.  The regulars had posted framed photos of themselves with their racehorses behind the bar. As people introduced themselves to me, they pointed to their respective pictures and told me their horses names. The conversation was honestly fascinating and by the end of it I had resolved that I would use my next day off to go to the races and see what it was all about.  The men themselves were polite in the sort of way that most men aren’t any more.  Classy gentlemen who treated a lady like they would back in high-bred social society in the 50’s.  They called me Ma’am, and lit my cloves for me.  The jockeys were very small in stature, but dressed to the nines in turquoise and silver.  Decked out in cowboy hats, crisp and pressed wrangler dress shirts, and ostrich leather boots that probably cost more than my laptop, their appearance was as pleasant as the conversation. They urged me to go and see them ride and check it out. I discovered the live races are only a few short months out of the year, and only on two days a week. With me working full time, I knew it would be tough for me to get there. I marked it on my calendar and decided to make it a priority.

Probably skip the food, order a drink instead.
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The most “Mexican” thing here.
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I now consider myself a semi-regular to the Meadows. That first time we went, Ross and I had no idea what we were doing. The place was massive. Beyond massive.  We spent the first hour simply walking the building and the grounds trying to figure out how it all worked. We sat in front of one of the machines in which you could place bets and googled terms.  Soon, we sort of figured out how to bet.  We tried our hand at it, won a few small pay outs.  I was most interested in the other people that were there.  We went on a dreary Wednesday afternoon in October.  the place was sparsely populated, or so it just seemed due to how large the space was.  Its massive square footage could easily dwarf a crowd of hundreds to seem like a ghost town.  I noticed a man sitting by himself at a betting station, papers spread out before him.  He was furiously punching numbers into a graphing calculator and recording statistics into a large ledger.  It was apparent that this man gambles on horse races full time and probably as his major source of income.  I slowly sipped my greyhound and watched in awe of what he was doing.  After a little while, he noticed me watching him.  He glared at me and slammed his note book shut.  He gathered all his papers, briefcase, pencils, etc and moved to a far table while muttering under his breath.  Clearly, he didn’t want me to discover his secret strategy.  If only I were that astute.  I still count on my fingers, dude.  This shit is WAY over my head.  If you noticed, I said that this first visit was in October.  The Meadows is gloriously equipped with a fully-enclosed observational deck.  You can go out and stand by the track, or not.  Watching the horses race was interesting.  They were beautiful and seeing them race to cross the finish line with people cheering was exhilarating.  I had to get over any hippie girl notions deep down inside of me that felt like this whole affair was cruel and barbaric.    That voice was screaming out.  I had this conversation with the horse-handlers at the cantina and they assured me it isn’t.  I chose to relax and try and enjoy the experience and trust what they’d told me.

The observational deck.
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Finish line.
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Winner. 
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The Meadows opened in the 40’s. It was destroyed in a flood in the 70’s and rebuilt. I doubt many renovations have been done since then. The place isn’t shoddy or run down at all. Instead you walk in and enter another time. Its like being on a movie set. Its one of the few places I’ve been where I feel classy and trashy all at the same time. I feel that same way in Vegas. Its like stepping into another world. Whenever I go, I feel compelled to dress up and to pleasant surprise others feel the same way. I love going, walking around and seeing the white-haired regulars in their best suit watching the races with an old-fashioned in their hand. The ladies are almost always in some amazing vintage dress paired with white gloves. The trashy element comes through with the chronic gamblers. My mother was a gambling addict, and I know the look of one. That obsessed look in the eye paired with sadness and desperation. It literally turns my stomach and is the reason I refuse to gamble in any capacity. Ross will, but I won’t participate. Usually when I get in the Meadows, as soon as I see one of those poor souls I run to the bar for a drink to soften the edges around unsavory memories of my mother.

That first day we went, I saw some of my Burrito House regulars there in their element. They were excited that I made it and let me know which races they’d be riding in so I could watch. How fun. It wasn’t crowded that day so I got to stand right up at the finish line and see the race up close and personal. It was interesting to see what kinds of other people go to the horse races on an October weekday. There were all sorts, even little kids. Shouldn’t they have school right now? I suppose its none of my concern.

The glittering exterior overlooking the track.
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Our vast winnings.
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Lady-jockeys.
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We went a number of times after that time.  We took friends who had just moved here and went just for a fun, cheap thing to do on a day off.  I drank at the Burrito house waiting for Ross to get off work more.  Go, have one drink, chat with the regulars-some of them more colorful than others.  Sometimes I get a drink bought for me, sometimes I get asked out on a date, usually a too drunk regular will pledge to “watch out for me” and that “he doesn’t fuck around”, other times I hear interesting things about horses that I would have never guessed to be true.  I’ve chatted with an Alaskan fisherman, a former playboy bunny, a man who builds casinos, even a guy who owned a farm in Fresno!  Always interesting conversation over chips and salsa (which is really more like marinara sauce, but that’s the Pacific Northwest for you).  Once I saw a Craigslist “Missed Connection” about a young girl writing in a laptop at the Burrito House.  Considering I’m the only one I’ve ever seen in there under the age of 45 and definitely the only person who’s ever drug a laptop in there, I’ll go ahead and assume it was for me.   I should have saved it to my hard drive for y’all to read, because it was super weird.

SUMMER OPENING

For the first time in its history, The Portland Meadows chose to do summer live races.  Its kind of a big deal.  Previously, as I mentioned before it was only open in the dreary months, creating a sort of desolate and bleak background.  Suddenly, for whatever reason they chose to open up for summer.  A fantastic business decision, in my opinion.  The thing about Portland is during winter, people either hole up in their neighborhood bars or they hibernate all together.  Summertime is a magical time where everyone goes out and enjoys everything.  Every bar patio is packed, streets are flooded with bikers (both motor and ped-driven), the city really comes alive with activity and excitement.  When I heard there would be a July opening day at the Portland Meadows I knew it would be awesome.  I also saw that there would be a hat contest for ladies.  For those of you that know me well, you’ll know that I fucking LOVE contests and I will enter any that cross my path, regardless of prize.  This is especially true if the contest is based on a craft.  I have a certain gift of crafting, and I like to compete with it.  The contest rules were simple:  Show up on opening day, while wearing the best “Kentucky Derby” style hat-win money.  ITS ON.

As luck would have it, I was scheduled the opening day off from work.  It was clearly a sign, as it was on a Sunday and folks who are retail managers such as myself never have a weekend off.  Ever.  I convinced my friend Kyle to go with me.  He wouldn’t be wearing a hat, but assured me he would don his finery for the occasion.  The day before the race, I bought a floppy hat that was on clearance at my work to use in my craft.  It wasn’t necessarily my favorite, but I didn’t have a lot of money and it was cheap so I HAD to make it work.  I set my alarm for 10 am (when Dollar Tree opened) and planned on hitting up the store for supplies and creating my hat while drinking my morning coffee the next day.  I have to admit, I had reservations.  Once upon a time, back in fresno I entered a “best pet costume” contest with my dog Ham.  I had the perfect idea:  Create a giant Ham for her to wear.  I went to the craft store, invested $20, and created a pretty badass outfit for my dog.  I stood back, looked ant my handy-work and thought I had it in the fucking bag.  I looked around at the other contenders.  True, some other people’s dogs were purebred and I suppose “cuter” than my dumpster pound dog, but only one other person and myself actually hand-crafted a costume for their pet.  Everyone else just slapped some store-bought, generic thing on their pooch and called it a day.  People were going crazy for my dog’s outfit.  The newspaper came and interviewed me.  Some guys in a local band took her picture and said they were using it for their album cover.  Holy shit!!  The year’s worth of free dog food prize is fucking MINE!!!  My dog seemed to know it too.  She wore the totally cumbersome costume with a sense of pride.  She was grinning with doggy glee, and nearly wagged her tail off her body.  Come judgement time, I was dumbstruck when we didn’t win.  We didn’t even place.  The other dogs that won just had target, store-bought costumes that anyone could go and buy.  Clearly, it was rigged.  What the FUCK?  We won nothing.  Ham and I slinked away, heads hanging in shame.  How did I not win?  I’ve been in doubt of my craftsmanship ever since.

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We had gone out the night before, so of course I slept though my alarm on race day and fell behind on my schedule. I woke up, darted to Dollar Tree and quickly shopped for supplies. Thank god for Dollar Tree in general. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used it as a resource. The hat I bought posed some challenges, aesthetically. It was blue and black striped. I knew I didn’t want to make a tacky hat. I wanted to make a hat any woman could feel beautiful wearing. Something glamorous. That’s kind of hard to do when we’re discussing hot-glueing Dollar Tree crap to an ugly clearance hat. I used what I know about color theory to choose my accents and headed home to assemble. I drug out my craft box and within 30 minutes created a hat. I looked at it. It was good, but I thought to myself that it wasn’t a winning hat. It hit all the points I had wanted to achieve as far as attractiveness goes, but I felt it was too safe. Didn’t stand out enough. I resolved that I probably wouldn’t win, but it will still be fun to dress up and participate. I was so behind in time, Kyle showed up at my place while I was still in pajamas and the gold spray paint on my hat was still drying. He appraised my work. Yay. I raced to put a dress on and get going.

All dolled up
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A close-up of my handy-work.
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Before we go any further, I feel compelled to remind you guys that my very nice Nikon is in the shop. This forces me to either use my shit 3GS iphone camera on my phone or shoot with my ancient film camera. I’ve been opting for the latter. In addition to this, I have a stock-pile of film I never used that is about 15 years old. Being someone who used to be very “into” photography, I am fully aware that the quality of that film has degraded with time and the temperature in which it was housed. I choose to use it anyway for that vintage feel that those instagrammers are constantly striving for. Considering where I was going and the look and feel of it, I felt that damaged film would be perfect to shoot with.

When we arrived, I was overwhelmed with how packed the parking lot was. As I’ve already mentioned,the usual season was super dead. This summer grand opening was POPULAR. I was eager to get inside and register with the hat-folk and see what others had made. I soon realized that no one else was wearing any sort of elaborate derby hat. Shit that’s awkward.  I pulled up the facebook page for the Meadows and double-checked.  Yep.  Says right there that there’s a hat contest.  Man, were people staring.  Oh well, I figured I’ll have a glass of red wine and own that shit anyway.  Yes, I totally have 7 pounds of crap on top of my head and I’m wearing it with pride.  I registered, got my wine, and hung out while Kyle and Ross placed some bets on horses.

Ross’ lunch.  Incidentally, they only had two kinds of soda for sale that day:  Doctor Pepper and Mountain Dew-the white trash faves.
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A dapper Kyle placing a bet.Photobucket

Turning one dollar into 8
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I always order from the upstairs bar, not sure why.
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After betting a little and eating some food, we decided to mill around and people watch. Also watch each race, which posts about every 20 minutes or so. While watching a race, often times someone will come and stand next to you and try and educate you on the race and the stats.  They probably assume we’re some douchebag hipsters there for the irony.  I guess that may be why we went there the very first time, but we keep coming back because in some way we belong there.  I like to hear them tell me about the races anyway, even if I already know the information.  Its fun to hear someone talk about something they’re passionate about.

I don’t know what any of that shit is.
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Getting ready to race.
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Finish line
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A handsome day at the races.
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Horses are pretty.
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Crowded.
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Collecting winnings.
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The other bar.
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If you’re a lucky girl a jockey will flirt with you here. Its all about jockey groupies.
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Because I wasn’t sure if the film in my camera would ultimately be useable or not, I asked Kyle to take back up pics on his iphone just in case.  The film ended up working fine, so the extras he shot weren’t necessary.  Even still, I thought I’d share a few highlights from his camera roll with you:

This guy actually played Eye of the Tiger on that thing at one point.

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Some butts for you.
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During our day there, many random folks wanted to take their picture with me and my hat. A woman from The Oregonian came and interviewed me. I was getting a lot of attention for the hat and at that point I had really wished I had put a tiny bit more effort into my hair and makeup. Oh well.  Another glass of wine will probably make me stop worrying so much about that.

EPILOGUE

I wasn’t there to hear my name called, but I did in fact win the hat contest that day.  THAT’S FUCKIN’ RIGHT I WON THAT SHIT!  The Facebook page said that the prize was cash, which I desperately needed.  Everyone had left for the day, so I was unclear as to what the actual prize was.  All I knew is that I had to go to a hat store called Goorin Bros that sponsored the contest during business hours and claim my prize.  I wasn’t really that concerned about what the prize was.  I was just pleased with myself that I won and that I finally redeemed myself for that shit-show that was the dog costume contest.  Kyle and I giggled with glee and went to get the best fried chicken in Portland to celebrate.  This chicken is so good, its a prize unto itself.

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After slipping into a pleasant chicken coma, I knew there was only one place to go to celebrate my victory.  I donned my prize-winning hat and headed to the Burrito House.  My jockey friends were there, and cheered when I came in.  I had a drink and heard everyones stories about their wins and their losses that day and which number horse they were riding.  It was a really good day, one of the best I’ve had in a while.

The photo used in The Oregonian.
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Gothic Memorial Day

20 Jun

I had the day off work on this last Memorial day.  It was a typically gloomy Portland May day, so “normal” memorial day activities such as barbecuing or being outdoors in the sunshine were out of the question.  I checked the paper for any interesting indoor activities to do that day.  Low and behold there indeed was something interesting to do:  An annual tour and festival at a historic mausoleum and crematory.  There was to be vintage cars, food, crypt tours, music and refreshments.  Holy crap.  PERFECT.  I also remembered seeing this place as one of the top weirdest things to do in Portland on some website I looked at when I first moved to city.  I also knew from the website that the facility was only open to the public a few times a year.  I knew exactly who to call to join me on this strange activity.  I called up one of my oldest friends and asked her if  she would like to go.  Hell yes, she did.

There was a slight problem.  As you know from my last blog post, my camera hasn’t been working properly.  After it totally let me down while I was trying to shoot a family wedding, it needed to go to the shop for repairs.  There was no way in hell I was going to this event without a camera.  I mean, what’s the point?  The camera on my half-broken iphone 3 wasn’t going to cut it either.  The camera on that thing has less clarity than a homemade pinhole camera made from a shoe box.  I decided I would stop and get some disposable cameras on the way there and use those.  They suck, but its something.  Then I had a moment of clarity.

What do all goth kids (and most first-year film students) do?  Shoot black and white pics in a graveyard, right?  Well this is like the ultimate graveyard and I just so happen to have my old film SLR and 2 rolls of black and white film in my house!  YES.  HELL YES!  Don ye black clothing, wear extra eyeliner, and light a clove-we’re going to do goth-tivities today!

It’s probably time for you to press play and enjoy some background music for your reading

It took us forever to get there.  I wasn’t familiar with the area it was in at all.  My GPS on that afore mentioned crap phone I own was little to no help.  After driving up and down the same street 5 times and after falsely entering a posh country club (a blog for another time, perhaps) we finally pulled in to the parking lot.  Quickly we discovered that this bitch was PACKED!  Seriously?  Other people wanted to spend their memorial day looking at crypts?  I was honestly surprised.   The facility was also big.  Big enough we really didn’t know how to get in or where to begin.  We followed the crowd and entered one of the main buildings.  Bianca led the way, and soon yelled back for me to get out my camera.

A portion of the outer building
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I’ll take take this moment to mention that I’ve only been in a funeral home two times in my life-once when mom died and the second when dad did.  They all have a certain look and feel to them, and the mere sight of one turns my stomach.  No one has ever been happy about being in a funeral home waiting room, and you can feel it the minute you walk in.  It seem like these places saturate the misery held by its visitors into its walls.  I did not realize that was a open facility and was still accepting people for burial.  When we first entered the main building, we had to pass through the lobby of the funeral home to get to the other parts.  The beige carpet, potted plants, and sad drapes and chairs made me almost throw up when I saw them.  All that driven home by the multitude of Kleenex boxes dotting tables and counter tops in equally sad, beige colors.  Bianca hurried me past this personal horror and into the historic portion.

It was open for business in 1910.  I had never seen anything like it.  Creepy statues, stained glass, wall engravings, seating areas…it really is hard to describe.  It contained every type of way to bury someone imaginable-coffin, urn, fancy or meager.  Because they just kept adding on to the existing structure, the layout was totally bizarre.  Twists, turns, staircases going up and down everywhere you looked.  Some areas were very modern and sterile in design, whereas the older ones were creepily elaborate.  I’m not sure if I even need to mention this, but yes this place was spooky as SHIT.  It doesn’t even matter that it was daytime, and crowded with people.  This was an inherently creepy place with creepy looking shit everywhere you looked.  it was obviously the more antiquated wings of the facility that raised the most goosebumps.  Even if you’re a person that doesn’t believe in ghosts, such as myself, you really can’t help but be struck with the overwhelming magnitude of the graves contained within the structure, as well as the prolific history.  I must say, I’ve become fascinated by the way humans feel a need to honor the dead.  Seeing these elaborate memorials piqued this interest immensely.  We began to wander.  We didn’t see any maps, and we both began to feel a concern that getting lost in there was a very real possibility.  Bianca asked me, “What time does this place close?”  I told her the event was over at 4.  She then said, “We’re going to want to keep a real close on eye on the time.  I sure as hell do not want to get locked in here.”

NO SHIT.

She wore black, but kept it light with a hot pink beanie
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One of the memorial enclaves. The entire nook contains a family lineage buried in the walls
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The majority of the wings were very well-lit. Curiously, others were very dim and in a few cases, completely black.  I’m not joking.  I get that this is a very large building, thusly costing plenty to light and maintain.  You’d think, however that only being open a few times a year they’d go ahead and splurge on lighting the whole thing.  I’m not really sure why entire hallways and wings were open and pitch black.  They were neither roped off, or populated with on-lookers. We walked through all of them, taking in the atmosphere.  The graves went floors below ground level, as well as spiraled stories high.  Every time we found a staircase, we explored it.  Every turn was something unexpected and visually stunning.

Floor-to-ceiling graves.
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One of the scariest things we saw…an open grave ready for a fresh coffin.  The engraved marble plaque was propped up against a wall.  behind the curtain was a gaping black hole.Photobucket

An overhead view of the modernized wing. Blackened hallway off in the distance.
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The modern portion of the building was built in sort of a spiral.  The center of the building, at the ground floor held an impressive water fountain, adorned with cherubim.  The floors above and below were built around this so that when one looks up or below when standing in the very center, the fountain is visible.  When we stumbled upon the level in which this fountain is meant to be viewed head-on, it took our breath away.  Yes, it was also fucking creepy-looking.

What pairs well with a mass-grave? How ’bout evil-looking angel babies?
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We felt irreverent for taking this picture.
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How dark were these unlit portions? This fucking dark. Who’s a scaredy-cat now?
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Time for a new song, I suppose.

Each of the upper floors had a chapel and a grand statue.  Why is her tit out?Photobucket

The view from the upper floors is spectacular.
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Most of the crowd there that day were elderly people. Not just older folks, but people that were near their own ends. It was a little morbid to see these people shuffling along looking at graves.

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A note left on a grave with baby toys, clothes, shoes, etc.  possibly the saddest grave in the building.
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There was one area of the mausoleum was more awesome then the rest. It was in a portion for cremated remains. Rather than just the glass cases containing various urns, the family had turned the space into a little diorama of their loved-ones lives. There were hundreds of these, and each one was filled with trinkets, photos, even ashes housing their beloved pets. Each little glass case told a story about who was in there and what decade in time they lived. You guys can see to it that this is how I’m memorialized. Put Ham in there with me.

One such diorama. Me in the reflection.
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The massive mural that adorns the outside of the building.  You know here in Portland someone had to “put a bird on it”
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You can see Oaks Park from the windows. A cheerful view from our side, making their view from the ferris wheel quite bleak, I’m sure.Photobucket

As we got to the very top floor, it was obvious how high up we were in a very old building.  It was hot, stuffy, and overall very hard to breathe.  Bianca kept saying that it smelled like dead people in there.  I knew what she meant.  The dead flowers on the gravestones, the lack of air circulation, the elderly folk…  it was time to get some fresh air.  We agreed that we needed to get the hell out of there.  We began a hurried descent down about 6 floors, though endless hallways and corridors.  Luckily, exits were clearly marked and there would be no chance of getting lost and trapped in there.

Graves are everywhere, even in the stairwell.
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Not to forget, this is a festival after all! Just after you come out of the large portion of the main building, you are met with the anachronistic shock of a cheerful refreshment stand. Somehow touring a crypt doesn’t make me want a hot dog and popcorn. Oh and also eating food isn’t very goth.

They had donut holes too.  Surprisingly enough, no red wine.
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A historian giving someone a tour of some famous graves. No one sounded familiar to me.
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The large chapel. Dim as fuck.
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Me, in front of one of the older graves.
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In addition to the elderly that were there, there was also a good handful of goths there. Some total mall-goth kids, but a few serious ones as well. We walked past a young girl dressed in full-on victorian garb getting her portrait taken in front of one of the stained glass windows. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only irreverent asshole there to take pictures. I desperately wanted to get a picture of the mall-goths for you. It just didn’t happen. Film camera in a low-light situation doesn’t bode well for quick, candid shots.

Seriously, why is it so dark in here?
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Bianca, bravely leading the way
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She told me she wanted to buy a plot to be buried here.  Shit got real.
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The flower room. Around the corner, a man was talking to one of the graves.
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Well put.
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Vampire movie-style graves. With the big marble slab top and everything.
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Cremated remains
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Outside view of one of the older portions of the building
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‘MERICA!
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After our tour, we were exhausted. Being goth is hard work! Frankly, there was a lot of shit to look at in there. Even though we covered a lot of ground, we probably only saw about half of it. There were way too many hallways and hidden staircases to explore it all. We decided we had enough. We also decided we needed lunch and I needed a drink.

Nothing celebrates life more than a big plate of mexican food. (We really wanted fish & chips, but couldn’t find a place that was open)
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Confronting all of My Deepest Fears at The Enchanted Forest

18 Apr

I saw it for the first time on one of my drives up to Portland from California.  You can’t see the actual attraction from the freeway, but you can see a sign adorned with castles and a waving psychedelic humpty-dumpty.  I pointed it out to Ross and said that it looked like it would be interesting.  I had forgotten about it until recently the Dandy Warhols played a show there.  I couldn’t make it to the concert, but I put The Enchanted Forest on my list of shit I definitely had to go see.  I had to wait, as all the best things to do in the Portland area happen in the good weather months.  Finally the day came, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Our friends who live here have all been before, but I didn’t ask them any questions regarding what it was like outside or whether or not it was worth the trip and the entry fee.  I wanted it to be a total surprise.  I expected it to be a lot like a little attraction we had in Fresno called Storybook Land.  It kind of was like that.  It also was kind of one of the most terrifying places I’ve ever been.  Not the kind of terrifying in the sense that shit looked creepy (it did that too) but more so terrifying in a deep, psychological manner.  I was forced to confront nearly all of my fears that have been deep-set in my psyche since I was a child.  Also, that was possibly the best $10.50 I’ve spent in a while.  

The Enchanted Forest is about an hour’s drive south of Portland.  We arrived, and the parking lot was mostly deserted save a few cars and a punk couple making out on a motorcycle.  It was up on a sort of hill, with a giant facade with a castle painted on it.  You can’t see past it, so I still had no idea what it was like or even how big it was.  As we shut the car doors, we were instantly met with the sound of ear-piercing children’s screams from behind the facade.  These screams carried on for a long while and Ross and I just stared at each other.  We noticed a burning fire across the highway with clouds of smoke billowing in the air.  Is this some sort of ominous sign?  I took my Nikon out to snap a picture of the fire, but it started to act up.  It wouldn’t shoot a picture on most settings, and when it did, the colors were strange.  It had never really done that before.  I finally got it to take a picture, but I am mentioning it so you can excuse the following pictures.  They kind of go along with the general experience of being there:  blurry, strange colors, bizarre perspectives.  I decided I will use them anyway.  

The entrance
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We walked up to the ticket booth and were handed a little hand-drawn map.  It listed the main attractions you could buy tickets for and do.  There was a roller coaster, log ride, haunted house, and something called “The Challenge of Mondor”.  I know you’re thinking that the screams we heard upon parking can be attributed to the rides, but nay they were situated at the very back of the park and could not be heard or seen from the entrance.  Just beyond the ticket booth, there was a sign that directed us to the start point-the castle.

STORYBOOK LANE

This portion of the park is very much like Storybook Land…at first.  You walk along a path and look at little scenes from childhood stories.  Quickly we noticed that the faces of the statues were noticeably creepy.  Some of them had real hair and those baby-doll eyes that have the moving lids.  Enter the first of my fears:  Creepy dolls.  As a child, I had an Aunt who made very expensive ceramic dolls for a specialty shop in San Francisco.  Once a year, she would send me one for Christmas and my Birthday (my bday is in January.  I was one of those poor kids who would get the combo gifts).  My parents built a special case for them in my room.  I secretly hated them.  They were pretty, and I appreciated the gesture but at night while I was laying in bed the eyes on those things would freak me out.  There was this crack of light that would shine from the top of my bedroom door down onto the case and illuminate their faces ever so slightly, those sightless eyes glimmering.  I get an ominous feeling every time I see a little girl toting one around by the hair.  Needless to say, I don’t care for dolls.

The moat surrounding the castle. Ross threw a penny in and wished the camera would stop wigging out
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The castle
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While looking at that last photo, I realize there was a staircase leading down to something. We didn’t notice it at the time. I wonder what else we missed? Just like a good platform video game, the Enchanted Forest has many hidden things to explore.

Fake Plants.  Totally bizarre for Oregon which is so lush and green.
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I should take this time to mention that Ross and I were completely sober coming here. We don’t do drugs of any kind, as you probably know but we also didn’t have any drinks either. I think we really should have.

Welcome to your nightmare
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The camera was really acting up but I think you can see here that creepy doll appearance. Real hair, blinky eyes.
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The path leads you through the structures
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Upon entering the Hansel and Gretel house, I was struck by how dark it was inside. Along the left-hand wall there was a large glass window. Inside was a scene acted out by animatronic robots of the witch trying to coax Gretel (who looked like a creepy doll. P.S.) with a bizarre soundtrack playing. We stood dumbfounded, looking at it for a long while. It was seriously scary as shit.

Pleased to see other races than white depicted (this was the only instance).
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We enter the Alice in Wonderland Area.
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Just like the Lewis Carroll novel
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Heres where you can crawl through the rabbit hole.
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We were presented with a curious hole you can crawl through, simulating the famous rabbit hole. I asked Ross if he was down to check it out. He was hesitant, and expressed fears that it might get smaller and smaller and we would get stuck. Allow me to introduce my next, crippling fear: Claustrophobia. This is a new fear to me. My mom always told me she was claustrophobic, but I never experienced the feeling until recently. I’m not sure if I developed the phobia heretically or if my mind produced it in a way to be closer to my deceased mother-my therapist said both scenarios are possible. Either way, this phobia is brand-spanking new and I have no way to cope with it. Regardless, it was a sunny day and this park is for children, after all. It will be silly and in no way sinister. I got on my hands and knees and proceeded to crawl in. A very hesitant Ross decided to follow me. The tunnel made a sharp turn to the left, plunging us into utter and complete darkness. I couldn’t see ahead of me. Pitch fucking black in a tunnel 3 feet wide. Holy SHIT. I turn my head and hear Ross heavily breathing behind me. I bring up the camera and take a picture.

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We both felt a little better at that point, to see the light. I scurried down the tube. It was a little intense, I won’t lie. Finally, there was another sharp turn to the right and I could see the daylight. I crawled out, sweaty and breathing heavily. That prickly feeling of panic tingled my fingertips as I realized that the tunnel that I just scooted in was under poured concrete. If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, that won’t have any meaning to you. If you do, than that probably made your skin crawl a little.
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As we exited, we were greeted by Alice herself.  

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Look how stoned this guy looks.
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Surprise! A maze!
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This maze was quite disorienting. It instantly conjured up an old memory of me getting lost in a funhouse maze when I was 6 at the Fresno Fair. It was a maze of mirrors, and I got lost and confused. I went in by myself because my grandma took me.  I thought it would be silly and funny, but it quickly became a lesson in anxiety.   I couldn’t get out for nearly an hour. I had resorted to sitting down and crying, waiting for someone else to come along so I could follow them out.  This one wasn’t nearly as intense, but it tricked us at least a few times.  Ross tried to just climb over the wall at one point.
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seen from the curving path:

The Enchanted RV Park
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We came upon the next area-Snow White.

Evil Bunny
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Seen through the little windows of a cottage
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Why squirrels?
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Behind the cottage
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The Mine was dark and cramped. When I say dark, we’re talking impossibly dark. Like, how is this acceptable for public safety? A few times we had to use our cell phone lights to see our next step. Christine’s next fear confession: I’m a little bit afraid of the dark. Not intensely, but I definitely don’t like being put in situations where I cannot see where I’m walking in to and cannot see what’s coming up behind me.
Ross stooping down to get in, and also removing his sunglasses to see.
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Inside the cave-a psychedelic wonderland
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The only light in the cave
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A window with animatronic elves.
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The next attraction. Holy CRAP.
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Inside the Witch’s cave
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A slide to get out
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LOL
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A diorama featuring what appears to be Dendrophilia
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Moving on, to the house of the three bears.
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Goldilocks is scary as shit!
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Next we encounter the crooked man’s house. Ross had never heard of this nursery rhyme. I only know it from seeing it at Storybook Land.

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Upon entering, I instantly became dizzy and nauseous, to my utter surprise. More so than when I visited The Mystery Spot outside of Santa Cruz as a child. I was 100% sober, and suddenly got the spins when I crossed the threshold.  The house is on a slant, and painted with psychedelic  paintings to heighten the effect.  My stomach began to lurch, and I had to swallow a thousand times to keep from throwing up.

Ross was unaffected.
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Admit it. The art in here is pretty good.
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Like, WOAH
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Happy to be out of the stomach-churning crooked house, Storybook Lane ended with a few homages to some classics.

That wolf is fuckin’ scary.
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Ross didn’t know this one either. Creepily enough, I was able to recite the entire thing off the top of my head.

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Western Town

Suddenly, the path lead us away from story land and into WesternTown. It was interesting how the park flowed into themes.

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It looked a lot like the Western town in Disneyland, by appearance. Upon closer inspection, it was a little strange. The crux of the entertainment was weird little wooden structures with strange little scenes inside of windows.

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This is really disturbing to me. Tiny head, giant body. Bigger gun.
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In the museum.
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Me, taking the bull by the horns.
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The boat-driving game.
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A shooting range-one of my favorite things.
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The last attraction in Western Town was The Indian Caves. They featured two of my fears: Claustrophobia and Darkness. Ross and I both entered the cave. Immediately, we were presented with 3 choices of routes. He chose one, I another. I wandered around the incredibly dark labyrinth. Suddenly, I was aware of not knowing where I was in reference to the entrance or the logical exit point. I figured I’d run in to Ross, but I never did. There were a few children roaming around the cave with me , soundless adding to the overall creepiness of the attraction. Eventually, I came upon a wall with holes in it to the outside. I passed it, and saw Ross standing outside of the cave. I pushed my head into the hole and called his name. He said after the rabbit hole, he couldn’t take being in there. I completely understood, and just wanted out. I milled around the tight tunnels like an ant. A little girl jumped out at me behind a wall and scared the living shit out of me, thinking I was her sister. After that, my feet picked up speed and jogged around the faux rock walls until I finally saw sunlight. I ran out and hugged Ross, chest heaving with anxiety.

The only reason you can see is because there’s flash.
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I would have ran into that faux stalactite had I not shone my cell phone light first. How is this safe?
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One of the possible exits out of the Indian Caves is a crawlspace. It tunnels under the caves, under the attraction in pitch darkness yards and yards until it empties out of a teepee across from the entrance. After the terror I experienced in the rabbit hole, I didn’t even check this one out. Even the little kids I encountered in the tunnels whispered not to go that way.

The exit.
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The English Village

Suddenly the path lead us into an area that was medieval themed.  It was an odd flow, I’ll admit.  It seemed it should have come after the castle at the beginning, but there it was, after Western Town.  There were more facades, featuring a little village.

The cheery towns-folk.  Meant to be fun.
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Merlin’s Cottage. If you look in this window, you’ll see a moving kaleidoscope, amplified by mirrors
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Da Vinci’s workshop
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The only attraction in the village is one labeled “Pinnochio’s Playhouse”. We climbed the spiral staircase behind a handful of excitable children.

Puppets from around the world.
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We next came upon a funhouse mirror. I think its necessary to mention that Ross tried to pull his wiener out to see the awesome effect of this illusion before I stopped him. I dare say many of you would have done the exact same thing.

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The train display. There were trains powered by buttons you push along with houses that light up. Photobucket

The scariest Pinnoccio scene EVARRRRR. Look at that fairy godmother.
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After the Pinnoccio area, we stumble upon a theatre that featured a creepy animatronics show that was packed with silent children in awe. I couldn’t even watch one of these shows, because the theatre was full both times we peeked in. It seemed eerie, from what I saw.

Look into the blackbird’s sightless face
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The Haunted House

After seeing the sheer awesomeness and horrific wonder that was the rest of the theme park, we decided we would buy tickets to do two attractions.  We would have probably done more but we were on a budget.   The haunted house was my choice.  I thought it would probably be super lame, one of those coaster rides where silly ghosts and ghouls would pop up on air-pressured hydraulics scaring no one.  Truth be told, there hasn’t been a haunted house that has scared me since I was 12.  Well, that is until this one.  

We entered, and I quickly discovered it was as dark as the caves.  Also, we would be walking through it.  

After the door to the entrance is shut, you see this
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Seriously? Holy fuck. The Haunted House literally looks like a house. It plays on fears that keep a confident adult up in the night. It is pitch black, with subtle acoustics piping in slight whispers to set one’s hair on end. Down endless dark hallways, smoky black mirrors line the walls. Some reflect back your own barely lit reflection. Others contain a horrific scene or containing a hologram with a slight apparition floating by to play tricks on your eyes. Whoever designed this haunted house knew what the fuck they were doing. We were scared-legitimately. Neither of us wanted to go first, nor bring up the rear.

Enter Christine’s next deep dark fear:  Mirrors in the dark. I went to Catholic school growing up.  With that came much paranoia, myths, legends and fears based on the faith that was being sold to us on a daily basis.  The schools also are not government funded, therefore unique in their own rights.  One afternoon when I was in first grade, two friends and I were in the bathroom.  Suddenly, the door was shut by an unseen classmate and the lights turned off.  The door and the light switch were inexplicably on the outside of the building, making this nightmare possible.  My friends and I were trapped, total darkness facing the mirrors above the sinks.  One of my friends started saying it:  Bloody Mary…If you are in catholic school, Bloody Mary is like the fucking ballsiest, fucked up shit you can do.  The other friend that was trapped with us went ape-shit at the first utterance of those words.  She began screaming and pounding on the door.  I began crying as the other friend kept chanting.  Ever since this incident, I am seriously afraid of dark mirrors.  This haunted house was full of them.  

The only reason you can even see this much light, is because the shutter is open on long exposure.  This bitch is dark.
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Ross, being brave and leading. I couldn’t have done it.
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This hologram was actually on the ceiling. It was of a serial killer with an axe looking down at you
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Everywhere you looked there was a floating face.
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Really? I’m supposed to bring little kids here?
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We left the haunted house in one piece, but we both agreed that it was hands down the only haunted house that was actually scary. As we were leaving, a very little girl with one of those backpack-leashes on staggered behind her mother crying. Indeed, Mija. This is a truly fucked-up place.

The Challenge of Mondor

We wanted to do one more attraction, but it was a very hard choice.  Both the roller coaster and the log ride looked awesome but something about an attraction with the name “The challenge of Mondor”  kept drawing us in.  We decided to choose that one.

The roller coaster-a mini Matterhorn.
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Twin Peaks-the ride!
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Challenge ACCEPTED!
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To challenge Mondor, you sit in a moving train while shooting creatures with a laser gun. Yes, it really is that awesome. Scary as shit creatures pop out at you, while you shoot at them with a laser gun as many times as you can. The hits are recorded on a screen in front of you. Ok, so these targets were just seriously fucked up. Some were silly, some scary, others satanic-looking. We were shooting these creatures of the damned for most of the game. It was basically like getting to shoot things in a 3D bad 80’s heavy metal video-minus the scantily-clad broads. Trolls, creatures, leather-wearing hooded figures…I mean it was pretty fucking epic. At one point, my laser gun had to be put sown to take these. It was so dark and everything was moving, I had no choice but to use flash.

funny
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AAUGGGGHHHH!
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Seriously? How are Christians not protesting this place?
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After the challenge, we knew we were spent, emotionally and mentally. It was time to go. We followed the path and found the food area. There was an outdoor eatery, as well as one indoors attached to the “water theatre”. You had to enter to leave. Admittedly, it was pretty neat.

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We literally had to exit the Enchanted Forest through the gift shop. Our experience was exciting, scary, and emotionally exhausting. I was glad we came, but I was glad to leave. I can’t help but wonder what a child’s perspective of it would be. Does it only seem fucked up because I have a lifetime of trauma to judge it by? I suppose I won’t know.  All I know is a maniacal genius may or may not have designed the Enchanted Forest.  Whether or not children like it is debatable.  

The Greatest Bar. EVER.

21 Mar

I have officially been to the greatest bar in all the land.  Of course, this is a personal opinion, as it is void some elements that a lot of you look for in a great bar such as titties.  Despite lacking that one element, this bar has everything else you could ever want and more.  So much more.

After my adventure to this bar in the middle of absolute nowhere, I debated with myself whether or not this was worth writing about.  After looking at the pictures, I decided it was a pretty fucking epic place.  I suppose I’ll let you guys decide .

As every great adventure here in Portland, this one began with Jed.  Jed is a friend of mine who has lived in this town for a very long time and knows every place that is here, used to be here, and sometimes will soon be here.  He’s the one that sent me on my adventure to Roosters, so you know he’s legit.  He told me about this bar that he likes to go to a lot called The Safari Club, that is a few towns east of Portland.  He said that it had taxedermied animals as part of its decor and that it was one of his favorite spots.  One day I had really nothing better to do, so I decided to go check it out.

It was no easy sell to get Ross to go here. The bar is located in Estacada, OR which is about an hour’s drive. Its not near anything else awesome, so literally the drive was just to go to this bar.

Near the set of Deliverance
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During the long drive, I looked at the map to see if there would be any other points of interest along the way. I noticed a cemetery on the outskirts of Estacada called The independant order of odd fellows Cemetery.  I got really excited, thinking it was some sort of bizarre cult’s burial ground and a brand new adventure was forming.  After some internet research, I realized it was disappointingly not.  I mean, why would a bizarre cult’s cemetery come up on Google Maps?  Not sure what I was thinking.

Ross was incredibly put out by the distance we were driving, and he was definitely letting me know that this bar had better be worth it.  Damn.  No pressure or anything.  I was really hoping this wouldn’t turn into a “Geraldo and Al Capone’s vault” situation.  When we finally arrived after getting lost once and driving on a few back-wood winding dirt roads, the bar was unassuming from the outside.  I could feel Ross’ glare.

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Then there was this in the window next to the doors.
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We walked in to a mostly deserted space. The bartender was friendly and liked that we were there to check it out and take pictures. He let us know that all but 3 of the animals are real.  At first, the bar looked quite small with just a few taxedermied heads dotting the walls. Shit, what a bummer. I went to find the restroom and discovered the place was absolutely huge with display cases similar to a museum filled with animals staged in various scenes and battles. Holy. Crap. Out came the camera.

I photographed 1 of the 3 fakes.  Try and guess which one
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The cases even contained little birds, squirrels, rodents…  everywhere you looked you’d see something newPhotobucket

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I mean, this is a bar people.  It feels like you’re having a cocktail at the Natural Museum or something.  We ordered mini-tacos and looked at all the animals.  Each one had a plaque below it stating the date, country, and specifics on the expedition on which it was acquired.   I soon noticed that all of these animals were hunted by the same man.  One guy.

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Almost immediately after arriving, a man sitting at the bar approached us.  He sat down next to me in the booth so close he was somewhat sitting on my lap.  About two inches from my face he asked me if I’d like the tour.  Everyone in the bar seemed to know him.  He told me he had been here 30 years.  Was this one of the owners?  He was clearly very intoxicated.  Not the kind of intoxicated you get from drinking too much one night, nay the kind of intoxicated one gets from being drunk for years.  I couldn’t help but think of the first time we went to Astoria and found ourselves checking out Mary Todd’s Workers Bar in which Mary Todd herself stumbled up to us, fell into my lap and asked us for a ride across town.  He asked me again if I wanted the tour.  I didn’t want to offend him in what could be his own bar, so I said sure and drug Ross with me.  

The tour begins
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He walks us to the first of the large cases, points to certain animals and proceeds to tell us what they are.  Around the time he labeled a caribou as a California deer, we knew this guy wasn’t the owner of anything except possibly a rusty shopping cart full of cans.  We kept trying to shake him, but then he would reappear.  There wasn’t really anyone else in the bar, and he wasn’t going anywhere.  He also kept touching me.  He asked me if I wanted to come take pictures of him “dropping trees”, also of a piece of property owned by a lady he knew with coyotes running loose on it.  Tempting…

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He told us that the bar was built specifically to house the owner’s collection.  Mr. Park would go on hunting expeditions all over the world in the 60’s and 70’s and have his trophies stuffed.  Obviously this man had an obsession.  When he passed away, the family sold the bar, animals and all and it became a chinese restaurant.  During this time, the place fell into disrepair.  He said that most of the restaurant was closed off and became filled with trash.  He also described some shady shit occurring in the back rooms of which I interpreted as a possible brothel.  Recently, the bar was purchased by a local who absolutely loved the place.  She cleaned it up, restored the animals as best she could, and re-opened it.  Hooray.

He also told me that the bar can be quite spooky at night when he’s closing up and there, alone in the dark.  He said that this animal in particular gave him the creeps the most at those times.  He said it gave him the willies that this little guy wasn’t full-grown.  Indeed.

Forever young
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while I was hearing stories from the bartender, “Tour-ey McGee” was regaling Ross with tales of his illustrious military career.  He said that he didn’t want to offend us, but it is a fact that he was born to kill the world.  He said that at 16, he was the youngest man in military history to drop a nuclear bomb.  He went on to explain the eerie coincidence that his social security number and his military ID number are the exact same, only switched around.  He seemed surprised that we didn’t recognize him, as he’s been on the news 6 times for homeless advocacy .  They must have a lot of slow news days in Estacada.

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The Nukeist, possibly plotting ways the world should be killedPhotobucket

KlassyPhotobucket

If there ever was a place Big Buck Hunter should be…Photobucket

My personal favoritePhotobucket

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Yes, its a honey badger.Photobucket

I deemed this scene as “most dramatic”Photobucket

He’s holding my purse because we thought the tour guide would help himselfPhotobucket

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Again, that thing is BADASSPhotobucket
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After our guided tour, The derelict sat at our table and asked us if any of us were writers.  I said that I was, and he said that he would allow me to write his story.  I politely declined, and he laughed at me.  He let me know I was making an epic mistake, and he’s been getting offers from famous writers his entire life.  I was passing up a grand opportunity.  As he moved on to tell us that the VA hospital was going to remove his shoulder in two days, a silver-haired woman in a Budweiser sweatshirt appeared at our table as well.  “Get a load of this!  This girl doesn’t want to write my life story”  he says to her.  She looked at him and laughed.  She then turned to me and shook her head, with an apologetic look.  She took a long sip off of her Rainier and told him to shut the fuck up and leave us alone.  Lady, you are boss.

(The elephant head was fake)

Cat Show

2 Feb

Last Saturday, I attended “The official International Cat Show”.  I didn’t just attend, I planned in advance to go.  I requested the day off work, hyped it up to my friends and colleagues, and made sure my camera battery was nice and charged.  I was this excited about it because I actually went to this event last year.  We went just for fun, not really knowing what it would be like or if it would even be enjoyable.  It was more than enjoyable.

This year’s event was held at the Holiday Inn, out by the airport.  It cost $4 plus two cans of cat food for admission.  The cat food went towards needy cats.  The event was also benefitting an Oregon Food Bank.  This I didn’t know, or else I too would have brought bags of creamed corn like the others.  As I purchased our tickets and pulled cat food out of my jacket pockets, the gentleman noticed my camera outfit, and cautioned me about using my flash inside the building.  He didn’t want me to temporarily impair any of the cats’ visions or the judges’, as they both had serious work to do.  We were given ballots to vote for our very favorite cat.  The fan favorite would be receiving a $1,000 cash prize.  A little girl standing behind me in line turned to her brother and said, “It smells like Grandma’s house in here.”  I cast her a sympathetic gaze.  She looked at me and explained, “I hate going to Grandma’s house.  It stinks like cats.”  Indeed, little girl.

Upon entry, I was overwhelmed with how much more popular the event was this year.  Granted, last year’s cat show fell on Superbowl Sunday but I didn’t really think they would share the same audience.

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So what goes on at a cat show? In the center, there are rows and rows of cats that are entered in the contest, their handlers, and their owners. On the perimeter, there are vendors selling cat-related wares. There is also a wall of judging areas. Throughout the day, cats are called to the judging areas where they are inspected for their appearance, perfection within their breed, agility, and friskyness. That’s my assessment, anyway. Spectators are invited to browse the cats and watch the judging process. Cats are kept in special corrals with clear plastic fronts so that they are seen but not touched. Don’t go to a cat show expecting to pet any. In fact, the people that own the cats honestly don’t even want you there. They merely tolerate you. I think they instilled the “fan favorite” angle just so the cat-owners would be slightly more personable to the spectators that actually fund the event.

There are two categories you can enter your cat in.  One is for the purebred cats with breeds officially recognized by TICA, the other is the “housecat” category.  Cats in this division are considered either long-hair or short-hair.  That was pretty much all the info I could gather about the judging process.  You had to have a cat entered in the show to get one of the offical programs outlining the rules.  From looking over other’s shoulders, it looked like each of the purebred cats entered got to have a page all to themselves in which it showed a professional photo of the cat, and included his breeding lineage and his/her awards.  I really wanted to get my hands on one, but there were none laying around unattended.

The judging process.
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How you can hold something that cute and not smile is beyond me.
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As you walk from booth to booth among the vendors, there are two types of merchandise being sold:  products for cats, and products paying homage to cats.  There were cat beds, cat toys, food, litter, and grooming products.  There was also jewelry, clothing, art, and even air fresheners designed to rid your home of that cat-box smell (see, little girl!  Your grandma problem, solved!)  The most popular booth was one that sold “teasers”.  Teasers are long feathers and long sticks with danglies on the end to play with both your cat at home and the cats in their cages here at the show.  I could see why this booth was so popular.  With the “no touching rule” in full effect, it was literally the only way you could interact with all the amazing cats.

One booth’s wares.Photobucket

A woman spinning homemade yard on a loom. I’m pretty sure its made from cat hair.
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Um, fuck YES.
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For the most part, the cats are all held in their carriers for the entire day, except when they go up to be judged.  The only time you get to see a kitty in person is when they’re coming back from the judging station.  Again, there is strictly no touching.  Its a “look with your eyes, not with your hands” deal.   If you’re lucky, you can pretend you’re press and snap some pictures like I did.

Cat fancy.Photobucket

This guy made artisan rugs.  I’m not sure how it related to cats, but they were amazing and he made them right then and there to order.Photobucket

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The cat station is something unto itself.   According to the online rules, each entered cat gets a “pen” of some sort, either cage or kennel not to exceed certain dimensions.  Next to that, each entry gets a personal “grooming space” to brush and pamper the cat for judging circle readiness.  After grooming, its customary for a cat to receive a special treat to arouse them, then to be played with using a teaser so that they will be perky and frisky for the judges.

A Bengal’s pen, adorned with stuffed animals.Photobucket

She just came off the judges circle a winner.  Obviously.Photobucket

SO.  FLUFFY.Photobucket

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Chillin’.Photobucket

All my favorite things.  Photobucket

So, I’m sure you’ve seen “Best in Show”.  The movie shows different people and their journeys to get their dogs to the world’s largest dog show and what it takes to get there.  I’m a huge fan of that movie, as you probably are as well.  The cat show folk make that look like bush league.  These people live and die by their cats, nay they ARE their cats.  Cat people seem like they’re part of a secret club, only understood by others that are members.  As I browsed the rows of cats, I would find owners and handlers simply staring deep into their cat’s eyes.

Her baby.Photobucket

This cat was a true professional.  When he saw my camera, he looked right into it and posed. Photobucket

Coming off the winner’s circle.  A proud owner and his cat.Photobucket

A cat being teased.Photobucket

One of the cat stations.  This cat’s name is LCF Eragon of Silkenthunder. Photobucket

A kitty becoming frisky for judging.Photobucket

A typical grooming station.Photobucket

People who tour cat shows don’t really make their money from prizes.  Nearly every cat entered has kittens for sale.  This is where the big money comes from.  You can buy kittens sired from an award-winning cat for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.  Each cat owner has a glossy business card featuring their cat, awards listed, often with an entire website devoted to why you should purchase a “designer” kitten.

She had a few cats entered.  I became mesmerized by this cat, and couldn’t help myself but reach out to touch it.  I received a lecture on communicable diseases among cats at cat shows.
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Kitty-cuddles.Photobucket

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Why the long face?Photobucket

Getting frisky.  How does this cat even move its legs?Photobucket

Grooming.Photobucket

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Browsing the wares.Photobucket

I’m totally buying a shirt before I leave.Photobucket

C’mon kitty.  Photobucket

Big business at the cat tree booth.Photobucket

Showing cats is fucking exhausting.    Photobucket

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Beauty is pain.Photobucket

It was crowded.  Lots of people brought their kids.  For the record, this is no entertaining place for children.  You can’t touch any of the kitties, too many people, nothing to do.  At one point, a little girl ran past me, crying.  “I just want to pet a cat!”   Me too, mija.  ME TOO.Photobucket

Another hairless baby.Photobucket

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A hand-quilted cat station.  Photobucket

Spectators gathering for a judging.Photobucket

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Kitty-hugs.Photobucket

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The day was drawing to a close.  I reached in my pocket, and realized I still had my ballot for “Fan Favorite”.  How to choose?  There were so many beautiful cats, making it hard to pick which was the best.  In the corner, by the exit there was a humble booth featuring cats from a no-kill shelter. There was a kitty there, up for Fan Favorite that had a costly nasal surgery to save his life. He only had one nostril now, due to the removal of a life-threatening cyst in his breathing passage. The owner of the shelter let me know the prize money would go to helping all stray cats have food and shelter should the kitty win. I put my face up to his cage. He stood up and came towards me, sniffing my breath. Kitty, purred and brushed himself against his bars back and forth. Obviously, this kitty had my vote.

This is my fan favorite. He’s cuddling with his roommate.
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I knew I wanted to buy a souvenir. I was torn between earrings featuring a siamese cat in a regal, Egyptian queen setting and one of the T-shirts hand-made by the “cat lady” herself. After going back and forth, I think I made the right decision.

Perfect for a night in, whilst eating my feelings.
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