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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   you cannot lock your keys in a Prius
Tuesday, July 10 2012

location: northeast Portland, Oregon

This morning Gretchen and I picked up Gilly at her workplace (an increasingly-marginal non-profit working to save the salmon of the Columbia watershed) and we all all went to the Red and Black Café, the queer-positive, homeless-friendly, cop-free, worker-owned vegan restaurant not far from Gilly's workplace. Two years ago, the Red and Black was recovering from some incident involving the Portland police, though this time they had a problem of a more existential kind: an absence of funds. According to their website, their employees were working without pay until their various financial problems could be fixed. These included being in arrears with their mortgage and needing to replace one of their windows, which some fool had broken.
When we arrived, the Red and Black seemed to be perfectly functional. I was able to order chili and a poor boy (they don't use the term "po boy," as it mocks a minority dialect) containing bacon-flavored tempeh, and all the materials were on hand. There was also Invasive Species IPA on tap, and I had a pint of that as well (it's not all that good). The only problem was that the food we ordered took a very long time to be prepared, perhaps because of the breakdown of kitchen equipment.

After returning Gilly to her increasingly-dysfunctional workplace (it looks like a level II hoard in there), Gretchen and I went shopping in the nearby "vegan mini-mall." I needed a belt, as I seemed to have lost my old non-vegan one (though all my overeating was perhaps cutting into the urgency of getting one). There's a very convenient health food store in the mini-mall with prices similar to what one finds in a Hudson Valley supermarket.
Later Gretchen and I returned to the Mississippi neighborhood, this time so Gretchen could get a haircut at an outlet of Bishops, a hip new hair salon franchise started by one of Allen's friends (supposedly he knows nothing about hair, but he knows a lot about starting a Portland business). Part of that Portland business savvy was on display the moment we walked in. The staff offered Gretchen a beer while she waited. The story behind that beer helps to highlight the interconnectedness of hip, guerilla marketing, and cut-throat capitalism. Supposedly Bishops used to get their beer from Pabst Blue Ribbon (the original hipster beer, whose national resurrection was supposedly propelled by a cult following of Portland pizza delivery guys). But when Miller High Life offered a better deal (throwing in cobranded advertising along with free beer), Bishops switched. So that was the beer Gretchen would have gotten had she said yes. But she didn't want a beer. Unlike for me, for Gretchen a free beer is not necessarily a good thing. Actually, I could have had that beer instead, but I wanted to go across the street and get an IPA at Amnesia, where I'd had my first pleasant experience at a semi-outdoor brewpub. I sat at a picnic table next to someone's leashed Boston Terrier and drank a meh IPA while surfing the web on Gretchen's Droid. When I was done with that, I wandered back to Bishops, but Gretchen was still getting her hair cut, so I wandered around the block, passing through a new neo-Bauhaus condo development resembling something one might see in pre-crash Iceland. I noted that its courtyard came with a built-in barbecue grill.
Though her hair was still being worked on, I went into Bishops and waited in the waiting room. I also turned down the offered beer because, maybe for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like drinking one (also, it's hard to follow up an IPA with a watery hipster beer). As for Gretchen's haircut, it was still wet so the jury was still out. But she'd been somewhat alarmed by the slowness of her hair care professional, who'd been something of a chatty catherine. But she'd given Gretchen an idea for somewhere to visit while in Oregon: a place called Sauvie Island.

This evening Gretchen, Gilly, Allen, and I all piled into the rental Prius and drove to Portobello, Portland's fanciest vegan restaurant. There would be no sandwiches and fake meatballs and the prices would remind us maybe not of Manhattan but perhaps the Hudson Valley.
Gretchen and I had been sitting in the back seat with the keys, while Gilly had been driving. (There is no keyhole for a key in a 2012 Prius; they simply need to be somewhere within the car.) When we got out, Gilly and Allen instinctively locked their doors and flung them shut, but Gretchen hadn't retrieved the keys from the backseat. She let out enough of an shriek that Allen caught the door as it was closing, so it latched with perhaps an eighth inch of space remaining. With that partial exception, all the doors were locked while the keys lay irretrievably in the backseat. Ruhroh!
Gilly managed to find a coathanger at a nearby brewpub (they're at least as common as convenience stores), which I unfolded and I snaked into the narrow gap in the partially-locked door in hopes of giving the unlock button a poke. Meanwhile Allen was using his smartphone to do a Google search on the subject of locking keys in a Prius. According to a post on a messageboard he quickly found, locking keys in a Prius is "impossible." Evidently there remained a difference between theory and practice.
Making a spectacle of trying to break into your own car is a surefire way to break down the usual barriers between yourself and strangers. We soon had a number of onlookers giving what they took to be helpful advice. And then this young heavily-tattooed young man wielding his own unfolded coathanger materialized, looking for all the world like he'd set out for an evening of car stealing. He had the air of an expert on the matter, so I let him give the Prius a few pokes along the edge of the window into the guts of whatever is inside a Prius door, but it was to no avail, and I didn't want him marring the paint on the car (which had only had 200 miles on it when our rental began).
Time was ticking and we had a reservation at Portobello, so Gretchen decided to call Enterprise and see if they could fix the problem. They told her they could fix it, but it would cost $59. At that point I executed something of Hail Mary on the chance that the car was smart enough to unlock its doors if they were all completely locked. I pushed the partially-locked door shut, giving up that eighth-inch gap forever. The car made a beep and there was a pause and then another series of beeps and I heard the sound of solenoids actuating. I tried the door and damned if it wasn't unlocked! Gretchen immediately resolved to spend that $59 we'd just saved at Portobello.
My main dinner entree was a fra diavolo pizza made with some sort of nut cream instead of cheese. Though it was third pizza I'd had since coming to Portland (which isn't really known for a pizza), it was precisely what I wanted.
Back at Gilly and Allen's place, I took two Waldryls (a generic form of Benadryl) and went to bed. But I'd somehow been exposed to enough of Eleanor the cat's dander to cause an allergic reaction, this time in my lungs. I found myself coughing so much that I realized I needed to get out of that house. So I went out to the rental Prius and ended up sleeping in the passenger seat. It turns out that, like a Rambler, a Prius seat goes back all the way. The main thing I lacked was a blanket, but I couldn't trust that anything from the house wasn't contaminated with more Eleanor dander.

Gilly and Gretchen at the Red and Black Café.

The Red and Black Café maintains a number of toys for future anarchists currently in the peckerhead stage of development.

A sticker on a newspaper vending machine reads "Fuck the Police" while an angelic Portlander posts bills.

It's not just vegan, it's bike delivered. At a health food store in the vegan mini-mall.

Water collection for a community garden in the Mississippi neighborhood of Portland.

A locomotive visible on our way to Portobello.

I don't usually like to take pictures so obviously posed, but here are Allen, Gilly, and Gretchen at Portobello. Gretchen is making a fuss about vegan tira misu.

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