Oregon 2014: Art, ice cream, everything.

The title for tonight’s post was originally going to be something to the effect of “The Trauma of Leaving Portland and Returning to Phoenix will Never be Forgotten”, but hey – I’m a pretty positive person! Let’s celebrate the day’s events, shall we? After all, it was a good day, and I feel it brought the Odyssey to a close beautifully.

I knew the day was off to a good start when I had my second complimentary breakfast in a row from the Country Inn near the airport. While the location certainly wasn’t ideal (I spent most of my day on Portland’s east side, several miles away), it was a really comfy and great place to stay for the evening and I was pleased. I set out to explore two culturally eclectic areas of Portland: Mississippi Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street.

Mississippi Ave.

The story goes that Miss Ave went from “grungy to trendy” nearly overnight. Speaking as someone who’s only seen the end result, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by this little strip of wonder. I parked up at Fremont Street (Mississippi’s main drag seems to run from Fremont to Shaver, or about three blocks) and made my first stop at Reading Frenzy, a white-washed indie bookstore filled with every little literary oddity you can imagine. Like some of the other bookstores in Portland, they also had some cute art prints available and other trinkets crafted by local artists. I picked up a few things for friends and, as I was walking down the street, noticed something unexpected: Control Voltage, a store entirely dedicated to electronic music apparatuses!

For a solid twenty minutes, I made my rounds in the room and tried out Moogs, Korgs, and even a theramin! I even got to chat with the store employee about electronic music and felt even more inspired to eventually get into this craft. This was probably my favorite stop in this section, so I recommend going here immediately if you’re at all interested in music (and especially making it!)

My final stop led to Fresh Pot, the street’s well-known coffee shop. They brewed up a fabulous americano for me, so I felt energized and ready to face more sunshine.

Overall, Mississippi balances an intimate, bohemian feel with a bit of historical Portland. It’s got quite a bit in a small amount of space and, like Portland as a whole, has something for anyone. Nonetheless, I truly feel that it embodies the “real Portland” and would probably make a great place to live for someone who’s truly interested in immersing themself in the culture.

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Side note: This taqueria, called Por que no?, was PACKED by the time I was leaving Miss Ave. Highly recommend you check it out if you’re passing through.

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Alberta Street

Feeling hungry and eager to begin my anticipated visit to the famous Alberta Arts District, I headed out and landed at Cafe Hibiscus, a tiny Swiss restaurant located in a aesthetically striking corrugated aluminum building. I was fortunate to make it in RIGHT before closing and was immediately sat by my gracious host and server, Tammy. My meal consisted of Swiss barley soup and emince zurichoise (pork sautéed in mushroom cream sauce) with a side of spätzli. Both were just delectable; in terms of comfort food, this is about as good as it gets.

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What’s additionally cool about this place is that due to its original roots extending to the Hawaiian islands, the food is entirely Swiss but set amidst a background of both Swiss and Polynesian decor. Breathtaking views of green fields spotted with edelweiss are juxtaposed with tropical sunsets, making the scrumptious lunch all the more captivating.

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While I could hardly resist Hibiscus’s mouth-watering dessert offerings (helloooo, chocolate torte!!!), I had had my heart set on the famous Salt and Straw Ice Cream for my final sweet-fix since I first stepped off the plane. But first, as I began the small trek over I just HAD to capture the little ad below and the optics store. Babiators? You’re killin’ me.

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This was the line for S&S:

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It took about 30 minutes of low-grade agony, but I got this, so it was worth it:

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Top: honey lavender; Bottom: Pear and Blue Cheese

As you can possibly infer from the above picture, S&S is mainly known for their unusual (but heavenly) flavors. Other examples included Salted Caramel Cupcake, Strawberry Balsamic with Cracked Pepper, and even Olive Oil, which I sampled and, amazingly, loved. They also source their ingredients from local, organic farmers, giving their ice cream an exceptionally smooth and rich taste. Or hey, maybe it’s all in my head.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. This is a fine example of a Portland staple that rises above any touristic connotations it has. Simply fantastic.

(Note: There was an art gallery right near here that looked incredible, but I didn’t get to see it other than a cursory glance from outside while waiting in line. It’s called Screaming Sky and it’s chockfull of anything a Japanese-culture fanatic could ever want, not to mention awesome art. Take a trip and I’ll live vicariously through you, thanks!)

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Unrelated to ice cream, but also fantastic.

I next moved onto the fairly new vintage shop, Zig Zag Wanderer. While I did get to buy a fabulously floral old blouse from the 70s, I think this place had a particularly nice selection of African- and Native-American-inspired articles. I nearly bought a small dish but resisted due to the potential heartbreak that would occur from it breaking in my overstuffed suitcase on the flight back. Nonetheless, it’s a great place and would also highly encourage a stop here.

Next stop was Ampersand, a larger, more gallery-focused version of my earlier romp in Reading Frenzy. The artist currently on display there, Matthew Fisher, had several works being shown on the walls that immediately whooshed me to the front counter to inquire about print prices. Only a cool 600. Dang. I WILL find a way to own a Matthew Fisher someday, though – you can count on that.

As the time to return my rental car drew nearer, I landed at my final stop, Townshend’s Tea. This place not only serves an overwhelming amount of teas, but also has a great selection of little pastries and an awesome garden to sit in in the back. With my mini Milk Oolong pot, I camped out in the garden for a solid 30 minutes, basking in the glory of the day.

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Although I enjoyed the serenity of the garden in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of bittersweet course through me at that moment. I looked up at the sky and realized that in just a few hours, I’d be headed back to familiar territory. I caught myself, though, and realized that this great adventure had not only been enjoyable, but had taught me a great deal about embracing my experiences in the company of only myself.

I’m a bit tired, though, so I’ll delve into that tomorrow.

Looking out the window as the plane took off, I fawned at the glimmering green with the biggest smile on my face and even in my eyes. From city, to sea, to mountain, I had made this journey entirely my own. I had rolled in the sand, danced in the crowd, and glided through the snowy hills. I had seen, I had done, I had conquered. I had met people, I had been entirely alone. I had seen beauty all around me that continued to caress my mind and inspire my thoughts. That’s something nobody can ever take from me.

– H

Thought of the day: You are the supreme ruler of you.

Oregon 2014: Return to Rip City

While I’d rather not think of today as such, the end of the Odyssey is nigh. Looking back on everything I’ve done this last week, it’s pretty amazing to recount all my experiences…but I’ll save that for another post.

Yesterday yielded another long drive from Bend to Portland. I was helped greatly by the free breakfast provided by the Days Inn, which might I say was FANTASTIC for an inexpensive little roosting point like that. If you’re in the area and looking to save money, the Days Inn is probably some of the best value you’ll find in terms of central location, cleanliness, and of course, free food, so snatch up a room to rest your weariness after the plethora of activities you’ll end up doing in Central Oregon.

I landed at Multnomah Falls around mid-morning, finally feeling my inner, kitschy tourist bones stop shaking. My internetting had informed me that a bridge leading to the stop was temporarily closed; a chunk had been taken out thanks to a rogue boulder sending itself over the edge of the falls. I’m sure it lived a good, long life. Anyway, this resulted in the normally 1.8-mile hike to the top being cut short to around a quarter mile. Ah, same thing. As evidenced by the photo below, no amount of regret was had for taking the time out, and there was no shortage of people visiting the falls to stare mouth-agape at the 600-foot wall of awesomeness.

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Before rounding out the rest of my “Portland outdoors” experience, I next headed to what I lovingly call my “alternative tourism” activity for the day…

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Voila, the Portland office of my beloved home of employment, KPMG! No, no, I wasn’t working. With all due respect to my adoring coworkers, that was not on the agenda. I simply forgot to submit my time and had to use a loaner computer located at the office to do so. Obviously on purpose, because I wanted to see the Portland version of where I work, duh!

My day’s journey next took me to another touristy activity, the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Much like the favored Japanese Gardens, this one boasts to be the most authentic garden of its kind outside of its originating country. I’ll take that at face value for now. Although the garden is smaller than you’d expect and a little more architecturally-focused (as opposed to nature-focused) than the Japanese gardens, it was still a beautiful side trip into a royal courtyard of 1600s China.

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The best part about this place is the tea house, which serves an overwhelming amount of fine teas along with some light tea snacks. This place is known to be crowded during peak season, but I was pleasantly surprised to find just a few other pockets of patrons and have a table to myself. I enjoyed a flight of three different Oolong teas and a mung bean moon cake (delicious) for about 45 minutes while listening to an older Chinese gentleman play the erhu. Flowing and delicate, the music provided the perfect atmosphere for sitting and enjoying my tea while looking out at the muted building colors, the fruit blossoms, and the little bit of sun that was peaking through.

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Moon cake and tea – the cake bearing the signature “Haley bite” prior to photography capture.

Still thirsting for nature, I eventually bid farewell to the Chinese Garden and headed to another Portland staple, Forest Park. It’s hard to believe that a large-ish metropolitan area can be in possession of something like FP, but Portland is and its citizens boast it proudly, as they should. FP contains over 70 miles worth of trails and gives a multitude of options to everyone from the “my friend dragged me to go hiking today” neophyte to the ripped hardbody who can mountain-bike a straight mile uphill. It’s also extremely pet-friendly, and I was able to meet a flurry of furry friends on my journey.

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Feeling refreshed and blessed for the connection with nature I had made today, I took a turn for the urban and had dinner at Ox, the Argentine-Portlandese fusion restaurant known for two-hours waits, woodsy-rustic smells, and delicious…tripe!??! I was intrigued from the moment I did a preliminary “Nearby” Yelp search, and I knew early on I’d be in for a treat.

As expected, the decor was a splendid setting for a delicious meal – clean, beechwood-colored counters and tables, rich brick walls, and an impressive silver-plated wood-fire oven. Untrue to the anticipated wait time, I was immediately sat at the bar, which is probably my favorite place to sit at restaurants anyway. Being that it was 7:00 pm on a Friday night, the place was poppin’ and full of locals enjoying empanadas and red wine galore. Taking recommendations from my bartender, Dylan, and fellow bar patrons, I went as big and as Argentinean as I could: buttery, smoky bone marrow clam chowder, a juicy lamb shoulder chop, and even a glass of Malbec! I indulge in a glass of wine maybe 5-6 times a year in the company of family and extremely close friends, but I felt this was well worth the punch in my Wine Card.

Per recommendation of my new chef friend sitting to my right, I took my adventuresome tastebuds to their edge. While I pride myself on being able to eat almost anything, I am wary of anything remotely spicy – a hindrance for me with respect to some of the hearty genres I love like Southern, Mexican, and South American food. The clam chowder was perfect in its creamy, mouth-melting goodness, but came with a few slices of jalapenos. Against my will, but at Tom the Chef’s insistence, I swirled the jalapeno into my soup, took a sip, and felt the flavor infuse my mouth and enrapture my senses. WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING ALL THESE YEARS!?! It became evident to me that the ancient use of spices truly does have a purpose, and that the phrase “spice of life” really was so apt. Needless to say, the soup you see below was finished in its entirety. 

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The lamb chop, too, was cooked all the way through and made me have a greater appreciation for fattier cuts of meat. Topped with the chimichurri raved to me by my leftside bar-neighbor, I felt temporarily transported to Meat Heaven. Shockingly, I didn’t even feel the need for dessert after dinner due to the level of satisfaction I was feeling afterwards. I slowly finished everything and hung around talking with the “bar-borhood” before trekking to the nearby Doug Fir for a show.

Being at a music show from approxmately 9:00-1:00 last night, I felt like I was actually in my early twenties for the first time in a couple weeks. This was the latest night I’ve had while on this trip, which I felt was completely appropriate being my last night in Portland. After all, I like to go out with a bang.

Let me start by saying that the Doug Fir is an absolute must-see for the full Portland cultural experience. While it’s obviously the only music venue I’ve been to while here, I can imagine it’s probably the coolest and one of the nicest, based on my conversations with locals. Once a dilapidated and nondescript motel, the place was drastically refurbished within the last decade (I believe) and now resembles a mid-century modern log cabin that perfectly embodies “swanky” in every way. With spherical lights, mirrored bathrooms, outside fire pits, and-oh-a glass-blown moose hanging up next to the bar, I was immediately intrigued and impressed by the level of emphasis on design placed here. The show venue downstairs also had a nice bar and allowed for adequate room to enjoy music and music-related activities.

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Billy Jean or Boogie Nights?

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Now…the music. There were three bands that played: first up was the jumpy, alt-pop and occasionally synthy Thumper. While it took just a little while to warm up, I couldn’t have been more pleased with their hand-clappy, catchy, almost chillwave-esque “Dancing’s Done”. Their last song was amazing too, but I had my first major fail of the night by neglecting to take the name of it down. Very upbeat with great guitar, though, so I’m sure that narrows it down for you if you happen to look ’em up. 😉

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Thumpers thumpin’ it out.

The next band, Pattern is Movement, was probably my favorite, so much that I was too enamored to even take a picture, apparently! With elements of Beirut, Pinback, and even James Blake, they run mostly on drums and crazily-tuned, layered vocals for their sound. Speaking of drums, the drummer’s faces were so classic that I deeply regret not capturing them during his performance. While everything was outstanding, the crowd went absolutely wild for the cover of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel?)”. And I can say this: NEVER have I witnessed such impressive vocals in person, ever. To Spotify I go to add these gems to my fabled collection!

The final band and main headliner was Yellow Ostrich. As soon as they appeared onstage, I instantly noticed the swag of the lead singer – an integral component to a great performance. The Brooklyn-based outfit was classic, raw indie rock that brought in some of the atmospheric vocal layering reminiscent of the previous act. Needless to say, the harmony worked and I found myself a fan of them as well. All in all, I left thinking of my ticket as the underpriced key to my beautiful musical dream.

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No late night out is complete without food, so I joined a new concert-friend up at the restaurant part of DF for a scrumptious, warm, seasonal berry crisp. Not bad food and memorable service from one of incredibly entertaining servers (young guy with a beard – literally, you need to ask for him; sure that really narrows it down for you in Portland). It was a late night and an early morning, but I’ve never been happier to be tired in my life.

While I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of IC, the day is happening and I MUST seize it. Today brings journeys to Portland’s east side as well as another blog entry written from the air. Anything to counter my depression from leaving this exquisite state. 🙂

Enjoy the day!

– H

Thought of the day: Put yourself out of your comfort zone to find where you’ll be the most comfortable.

Oregon 2014: Just around the river, Bend

(Author pre-warning: the Internet is abysmal at my current place of lodging. As such, I was not able to post any pictures into this entry yet. Regardless, you can still check out my photos from today on my Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/haleyobryan/. Fellow accounting nerds might find it easy to view the words on one monitor and pictures on the other. In any event, pictures will be embedded tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!)

SO…SORE…CAN’T…MOVE!

That’s how you know it’s been a real adventure so far.

I looked out this morning and saw the primeval forestry that surrounded my hotel. No doubt, the gorge-ous (heh) Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest are spectacles to be seen and are the places to be during winter in Oregon. But at that point, I realized that I had been looking at green things for five straight days. From the both-literally-and-figuratively-green Portland, to the woodsy Coast, to this endless forest that had now swallowed me up, my inner compass was pointing south – and south I headed.

I set course for today’s main event, the Smith Rock State Park, around 9:00 am and made my way down highway 26. About 20 minutes into my drive, I hit light snow that gradually become a bit more of a driving obstacle. Honestly, today was the first time I felt genuinely nervous on the road. I held onto the confidence of my tire chains and cat litter stuff and stayed strong, despite truly not being able to freaking see at times.

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It wasn’t long before the frosty, tree lined mountains turned into a dry, grassy, high-desert climate. I breathed a sigh of relief at this and stopped to take pictures of the incredible white-capped Cascades juxtaposed with this comparatively summery landscape. It was pretty breathtaking.

I stopped in the tiny town of Warm Springs to get myself caffeinated at the Eagle Crossing Restaurant, but ended up leaving with way more than I intended. I feel this establishment, of all that I’ve experienced on my trip, probably deserves the most special mention – not just for the delicious food, but for the absolutely incredible couple working there.

As I walked inside, I was immediately greeted by Brenda, who had me choose a seat in the spacious dining room surrounded by windows. Let me start by saying that any restaurant that gives me an entire carafe of coffee automatically gets at least 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

As the menu choices were vast, ranging from huckleberry pancakes to elk steak, I knew that I was in for a special treat. I ended up going with eggs and buffalo (my entry yesterday was only half-sarcastic – I really am a fan of unusual meats) and was not disappointed. When I overheard Brenda telling another customer that her husband and co-owner, Randy, homemade the delectable-looking cinnamon rolls at the front counter, I knew I had to jump on that immediately. When reviewing a restaurant, I normally take pictures of the food I eat, but my elation and excitement got the best of me. Rest assured, it was delicious, and I am enormously tempted to stop by again on my way back to Portland tomorrow.

Aside from the delicious eats, my favorite part about Eagle Crossing was getting to talk with Brenda. To put things into perspective, Brenda and her husband run the restaurant, a water sporting business, a farm, and a tax preparation business, essentially by themselves. Brenda also has a degree in fashion and has helped teach girls form underprivileged families make prom dresses. Okay, okay…I’m being a complete weirdo and telling someone’s like story whom I met 12 hours ago. That should tell you how much of an impression was made on me today!

Please – if you are EVER in the vicinity of central Oregon, or anywhere in Oregon, I implore you to come here. Great food, awesome people, and a little bit of central Oregon history in reading the newspaper clippings on the tables. You will not be disappointed.

I made it to SRSP shortly thereafter and spent about 2.5 hours hiking the cardio-blasting Misery Ridge and the leisurely River Trail. I don’t think I could have picked a better time to visit, because the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was PERFECT for some slightly strenuous hiking. I don’t necessarily recommend doing this, but I made it the entire time without a bottle of water in my hand and never feeling too hot or too cold. The hike itself was vaguely reminiscent of Arizona, but with a different treescape and far less sand.

All in all, this place is true to its reviews in that it has something to offer to everyone in terms of hiking length/difficulty. What’s most notable about the park is not necessarily the hikes, though, but the mountain climbing – mon Dieu! This is truly a rappeller’s paradise. There are unbelievable amount of smooth, red rock faces just prime for climbing, and climb people did. I managed to snap a quick shot of one such climber, below.

After my fun in the park, I finally made my way over to Bend – but not before at least attempting to stop by two local attractions that were alas, closed: Newberry Volcanic Monument and Tumalo Falls. While I had simply failed to Internet correctly while researching Newberry, Tumalo’s closing was completely out of nowhere. I was bummed, and had even trekked through a super-muddy path to try and get there, so I almost felt cheated. Nonetheless, all was not lost, as I was able to take a short segue from my would-be Newberry excursion later on to visit the awesome Benham Falls! While not necessarily as dramatic as Tumalo, I still felt that the brief hiker over (about a half-mile from where I parked) was well worth it.

My day ended with a trip to Bend’s Main Street for the best sushi in town and arguable central Oregon, 5 Fusion. Recommended to me by my cousin, Corey (thanks, cuz), I once again had an outstanding dining experience. The decor wasn’t terrible, either. I have to say that from what little I saw of Bend, it seemed pretty dang cool. Almost like a smaller, warmer, slower-paced Portland. It’s definitely on my list to explore on my next journey back to this great state.

I ordered the Spider roll, the chocolate cake, and approximately three pots of green tea. Since I sat at the bar, I met a few colorful characters and enjoyed the atmosphere immensely. I was at the restaurant for over two hours, chatting it up with Jim, the architect; Jane, the bartender; and occasionally Ian, the eccentric young man who introduced himself by offering me a piece of spicy edamame. The bar-sat populace seemed generally perplexed that I had recently celebrated my 24th birthday. For some reason, the fact that I was venturing out into the world alone at this age was shocking to them. I responded by telling them that this was my own personal method of “finding myself”, as every other 20-something that ever existed is constantly trying to do. I then posed a pivotal, serious question to my bar-neighbors, two of whom were around mid-forties and one of whom was in her late-twenties:

“Does it ever get easier?”

To sum up the responses, not at all – but you get a whole lot tougher.

Thought of the day: See above. Get back to me in 20 years RE above.

– H

p.s. My legs still hurt.

Oregon 2014: Girl in the Hood

This morning was the first of the Odyssey that required an alarm. The extra sleep was perhaps beckoned by my calves, which are still absolutely burning from yesterday’s adventure for some reason. Or maybe I did ballet lifts in my sleep last night. Either one is plausible.

I set out this morning for my longest drive yet: the trek from Seaside to Mt. Hood. My morning began by dropping over $40 on snow-ready equipment (namely tire chains and “get-out-of-the-snow-salt-stuff”) that I didn’t end up using at all. I’m definitely in the “better safe than sorry” camp, though, so no regrets were had.

Most of the drive was beautiful and there was literally no traffic – not that there would be in the middle on March on a Wednesday in western Oregon, but still. Being from Southern California, this is a serious point of culture shock to me.

The below photos are terrible, but I don’t feel like I’ve posted enough dangerously taken photographs of my distractingly beautiful drives while here, ya know?

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But remember what I said yesterday about it taking forever to get places here because you’ll eventually have to stop for something beautiful/funky/interesting? Well, I thought this morning that I would be able to satisfy my craving for kangaroo jerky. The minute I woke up, I knew I needed some and I secretly hoped I would find a kangaroo jerky peddler on my way to the Mountain. My hopes were dashed when I found a store that not only sold kangaroo jerky, but my other favorite, alligator jerky – but was CLOSED! Needless to say, I’m still recovering from the devastation.

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What could have been.

The drive up the mountain on Highway 26 gradually introduces snow into the landscape beautifully. I was bummed that Mirror Lake was closed (no luck from November till end of April, sadly), but continued on up and was still wowed, particularly when I passed this mini-valley of snow that opened up on each side of the road. Again, picture’s terrible, but I’m still alive:

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The one downfall of traveling alone is not having a personal photo-taker who a) can do this for you while driving and b) is generally a far superior photographer to you.

After reaching the Main Parking lot of Mt. Hood Meadows, I got situated with my rental gear (extremely easy process, by the way – I have to give a special shout-out to the Meadows staff for being awesome) and began my ski activities like any safety-conscious, risk-aware adult who skis once, maybe twice a year would: by starting out on the Blue Lower Face lift. FYI, this serves mostly-black diamond skiiers with hints of blue squares and a charity green circle towards the end. I felt pretty confident for the first 2 minutes until while mid-pizza down Ridge Run, a ski went bye-bye. The ski then decided to go off about 20 feet downhill from me. Fabulous. Mind you, it was snowing and visibility was getting poorer by the minute. At my first attempt to single-ski my way over, I ended up falling more downhill. At this point, I looked great and felt even better. “Come on, I can do this”, I thought. After reuniting with the ski, I converted the hill into my own private sledding party and made my way down the hill to flatter ground. It only took about 10 minutes for me to get my other ski on, much to other skiier/snowboarder amusement. I finally got it on and proceeded to find my way into off-limits ski areas galore (what IS it with me and getting into random areas?!), before finally making it back onto Beaver Tail. The rest of the run went smoothly, if you can call it that. Let’s just say I packed the equivalent of 200+ squats into my thighs with that first one thanks to my continuous “pizzaing” down 80% of the run.

Ego interlude: I mean, honestly guys, I’m NOT a terrible skiier. I skiied when I was little, took a break for snowboarding from 10-23, quit snowboarding because falling hurts, and then went back to skiing this year. The last time I went skiing, I was doing blues and occasionally diamonds by the end of the day. Key word: END of the day. I’m capable, it just happens slowly, dang it. Ego interlude complete.

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We’re off to a great start.

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It’s getting cold in here, so put on way more clothes…
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Frozen, bruised, and stuck on a hill at this point. Still happy.

Amazingly enough, after sticking to the Daisy and Easy Rider lifts, I found myself snapping right back to my “warmed up” level and enjoyed myself immensely. It finally became freezing around 3:00, so I did my last run and headed out to my hotel.

It took me about 30 minutes to land at my Welches, OR stopping point for the night, The Resort at the Mountain. I had book it pretty unassumingly, as I just needed a decent (and decently-priced) crash pad for the evening after a day in the snow. My, was I surprised! This place has a cute, refurbished mid-century modern/rustic northwest look and is a neat little spot.

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I spent a couple of hours touring the nearby grounds, including the empty golf courses. The Foxglove course was particularly nice, and even offered a giant, random rock to climb on, which I totally did.

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I came, I saw…
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…I conquered (taken from the top of my rock. Yes, MY rock!)

What was so cool about this place was that everywhere I went led to another mini-adventure in its own. While I started with the golf courses, the courses led to a creek.

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The creek led to trails.

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The trails led to more tree-lined streets with gorgeous homes of lucky people. But first, I found deer!

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I ended my journey by stopping at another nearby golf course to swing on the swing set while listening to music. As I looked out, I could see the vast green of the courses, the massive wall of green and white that was the mountains, and the lush forestry in between. The air smelled like a mixture between grass and a campfire. I could feel how fresh the air was on my skin. I was honestly the only human being out there at that moment, and I truly felt like I owned the world.

I returned to my room refreshed and ready for an early night.

If we’re giving themes to these days, I’d have to say that today taught me about tranquility. Whether it was during my mid-storm mountain debacle or my smooth-running bound through the forest, a tranquil state of mind is what made me feel the best. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a whole lot of beauty today, and I’ll never discount that. My eyes are smiling and thankful for what they’ve been given, and the world is all the more gorgeous to me now.

So, what does tomorrow bring? It’s a weird one. Oddly enough, tomorrow is the only night that I have no set plans and no lodging prepared. But I still have two full days here in Oregon that are in my hands, and I intend to make the most of them. What tomorrow brings may be a mystery, but I know the outcome will be amazing regarless.

Man, I’ve pretty much spoiled the thought of the day, haven’t I? Oh well, here it goes anyway…

Thought of the day: Despite everything that’s happening at any given moment, it’s a beautiful world out there. The beauty you seek could be right around the corner, so don’t be afraid to explore for it.

– H

Oregon 2014: Coastal Cruising II – Seaside to Cheese-side

You know it’s been a good day when you’re having trouble remembering the billion things that happened during it. Allow me to dive in and let my memory jog itself!

I worried about not waking up until 8:00, but that didn’t stop me from hitting everything on today’s list and more! The day began with an impromptu journey to Astoria, about 25 minutes north of Seaside. While I had initially intended to skip it, I couldn’t be happier that I made the journey. Astoria’s personality is much older, more historical, and more “nautical-industrial” than that of Seaside. Highlights of the trip include the Astoria Column and the house from the 1985 masterpiece “The Goonies”, which I made an effort to cheerfully truffle-shuffle towards. Yes, if there’s something nerdy within a 50-mile radius, I must do it at all costs. The house is privately owned, so I felt like an extreme creeper snapping photos of it so closely. Photos are allowed, however, so the owners must like weirdos.

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After my dork moment, I headed back down south for the Ecola State Park region. While I did attempt to have a short hike, it was a little too muddy, so I took the lazy route and drove to Indian Beach. Rest assured, the mud will be back in the story. Anyway, pictures do more justice than my lame words ever could, so here are a couple views of Ecola/Indian Beach!

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I didn’t save any of the “beach” for some reason, but I thought this part was rad!

Now, just to fully christen my Oregon Coast experience, I had to visit Cannon Beach. The town itself is actually really cool looking – very green with a ton of small, wooden Cape Cod-esque architecture. I would have happily stayed there. Haystack Rock, the giant rock in the middle of Cannon Beach, is just that – a giant rock. There is something pretty magnificent about it, though:

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Maybe because it’s not just a giant rock, but a giant rock with a hole in it!

Now, as you can probably tell, distractions abound when you’re driving down the Oregon Coast – which I trollingly refer to as “the OC”. There are so many beautiful beaches, sites, and towns, that it’s hard to get too far without spending the whole day exhausting your camera or phone battery with picture taking. This isn’t a bad thing, but it was almost 3:00 pm by the time I got to Tillamook, where my beloved cheese and ice cream awaited me!

But believe it or not, the greatest thing about my Tillamook journey was not the actual cheese factory itself, but the incredible Air Museum that I completely stumbled upon while trying to find the Tillamook Cheese Factory! For those of you who aren’t aware, I am in the process of getting my private pilot’s license and have had a growing fascination with aviation these days, so how I didn’t know about this astounds me! The Air Museum is an enormous hangar built in the 1940s during WWII and is a former military blimp hangar. It even contains pieces of the Hindenburg, which was awesome to see. Due to its sheer size and the incredible pieces of aircraft it houses, it is one of the few things I’ve seen in my life that truly intimated me with awe. I won’t nerd out too much here, but here’s an example of an old plane housed there. Pretty awesome.

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Subsequent to this marvelous experience, finding the Cheese Factory was more of an ordeal than I’m willing to admit, lol. I will say this: Apple maps works about 98% of the time, but do not discount that 2%. While my idiocy is more than likely the root cause for me not finding it, I swear they have the address wrong in there, dang it!

In any event, the Cheese Factory was so-so, quite honestly. It was cool to see the cheese being made, particularly because you don’t often see a true “factory” in action anymore. Moreover, I was more than thankful for a few tidbits of free cheese, as I was on the verge of passing out by the time I finally got there. However, the museum itself is fairly small and there’s nothing really interactive or engaging about it other than what I mentioned. My lunch consisted of ice cream, which was, I’ll admit, EXTREMELY good. 🙂

After Tillamook, I made my way over to Cape Lookout, which had been recommended to me by my bartender friend in Portland. This was by far the “dessert” of the day. Huge Sitka spruces, cascades against obsidian-like cliffs, and glassy sand make this little sand spit a total 10 in my book. Naturally, I got excited when I saw it. Maybe a little too excited. I was halfway down a small hill to get to the beach when suddenly, WOOP!–oh, hello, ground!

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Pleased with the comedy skit they witnessed, a young couple with a dog gave me a mini-ovation, to which I rightfully bowed. Much to another hipster couple’s amusement, I proceeded to sit in the middle of a “river” dividing two sections of beach to wash up. But it gets better. After I fangirl’d the heck out of the place and took the pictures below, I figured it would be appropriate to head back. I must have missed my original entrance though, because I literally had to wade through uncharted territory to get back to my car. While I may have fallen into a few marsh pits and I might be sporting a few scratches and bruises, I’m clearly alive. And that, my friends, means it was a perfect day.

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On the way back, I made a few scenic stops to take photos (see Flickr) and landed at a bar in Manzanita for some good old fashioned pub grub. While the bartender looked a little amused at my drink choice (Earl Grey tea), she was extremely warm and friendly like almost everyone I met while hear. It was cool to be there because it was clearly a local place and the food wasn’t bad at all. My cheese pizza was pretty gourmet! Truly, I had never seen a bar who made their own pizza crust and sauce, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Alright, I’m beat. While writing may be significantly less strenuous than everything else I’ve done today, it is mentally taxing. After all, my aim is always to write something that will both entertain and inform you, my fair Readership! That being said, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for the Coast, as I experienced a LOT of it today and consider myself at least a yellow belt in it at this point. 🙂

Take care and sweet dreams!

– H

Thought of the day: It’s not a real adventure until you get a little muddy.

Oregon 2014: Sea change

“This reminds me of when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and ferns covered the whole planet and stuff.” – Me (re. the Hyde Arboretum)

“Yeah, I remember that like it was yesterday.” – Heidi

The amount of planning and thinking and doing on this trip is absurd. I’m enjoying myself immensely, but I almost feel like I have to work to keep the good times rolling. Am I crazy? Yes, but perhaps moreso than I thought. In any event, I have tomorrow mapped out and I’m thumbs-up.

Today was beautifully varied. It was so unbelievably cold this morning that I took about an hour to FINALLY get out of bed after waking up. When I stumbled into the breakfast room at 9:00 this morning, it was the perfect throwback to my high school days – minus the attitude and hating everything before the day began, of course. I cheerfully enjoyed some Italian wedding soup crafted by Kip, one of the people who own the house, and felt ready to take on the day. Little did I know that I would be joined by my fellow housemates/AirBnBers, Farukh and Heidi!

We began the day by trekking (yes, this is accurate) to the Portland Japanese Garden. Alas, this was closed until 12:00, so we knew we needed to find alternative entertainment until such time. Protip about Oregon (and possible everywhere else): always check what time things open! Our first stop was the Hyde Arboretum, a neat little sanctuary of various trees (duh) that yields trails ranging from ridic-easy to pretty intense. While the late winter/early spring climate is mostly just making the entire place green (very apt for SPD today), there was still a lot to see and it truly captures the beauty of pac-northwest foliage.

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We next ventured to one of the quintessential Portland sites, Pittock Mansion. As I was previously unfamiliar with Oregon’s history, it was actually really cool to see this and to learn the little tidbits about the Pittock family. While I couldn’t personally imagine living in a house with 10 other people (oh wait…), the sort of arrangement they had made the livin’ pretty easy. My favorite part? Either the Turkish smoking room or the music room that just screams Louis XIV:

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While the beauty of the place was immediately apparent, I’ll never forget setting eyes on the little gem upstairs in Henry Pittock’s bathroom. Seriously, I don’t even want to post the picture I have of it, because a) I’ll ruin it and b) it’s hilarious; you just have to see it for yourself. Let’s just say that I’m thankful for modern bathing devices that don’t look like something out of the Saw series. The whole Pittock outing took around an hour, so bear that in mind if you go visit.

We finally ventured back down to the Japanese garden for about 45 minutes of pure awe. This is probably the most picture-heavy section I’ll have in this entry, because I just can’t explain it any other way. This boasts to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan – I guess I’ll just have to go to Japan next year and do a little comparison! 🙂

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Now, you can imagine after all this beautiful scenery-overload that we were pretty hungry. As my new friends and I needed to go our respective ways for the afternoon, we decided to first give Portland a last hurrah with a scrumptious meal at Tasty ‘N’ Alder, another downtown hotspot. With a trendy, Scandinavian-modern-meets-pacific-northwest decor, I could see why it fit into downtown so well. What was unique about this place is that it’s entirely family style. In addition, our menu was brunch-based, so I pretty much starting doing cartwheels at that point. As such, my friends and I ordered three dishes, all for sharing:

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Haley’s Choice: The Whole Toad – baked egg bread pudding
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Farukh’s choice: Tasty ​Steak & Cheddar Eggs – beef ​with cornmeal pancake & jalapeno butter
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Heidi’s choice: Cast Iron Frittata ​with cauliflower, olives, carmelized onions, feta & sundried tomato coulis

Either I’m a terrible food critic or I hit the jackpot once again, because each one of these things was fantastic. I have to say, however, that I was a bit biased towards my own dish. I had never before heard of egg bread pudding, but I’m fairly certain that it’s the food of the gods.

After saying a bittersweet farewell to my new friends, I made an easy afternoon trek to the town of Seaside, approximately two hours away.

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An excerpt my controversial gallery show, “Responsibly Taken Landscapes”.

With an ethereal, chillwave soundtrack and literally zero traffic, this was easily the most enjoyable driving experience I’ve ever had. I ended up at my adorable rental condo that sits 100 feet from the beach around 5:00 pm. It was windy and California-Cold, but I managed to snap a few shots of the coastline. Far-reaching and a bit solemn, the seaside coast in late spring has a significantly different feel from any other beach I’ve visited, even others in the north. Maybe it’s the goldish grass that grows. Maybe it’s the ever-churning, heather gray waves that always seem to be crawling to the sand. Maybe it’s the misty cliff that hangs over and the end of the promenade. It’s almost haunting.

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Tonight’s meal was a bit quieter – I took the easy route and simply went with the recommendation given to me by the owner’s of the complex I’m staying at: Maggie’s on the Prom, situated in a skinny little inn right on the 1.5 mile “Prom” that Seaside is known for. The food was great and certainly put a great ending to a day of transitioning to another chapter of this journey, my Oregon Odyssey. At least 75% of this was due to the fact that I got a free bananas Foster dessert.

I will say this about Seaside: as I’m not seeing it in its full-swing, summer-outing phase, the town has an almost dormant feel. It’s definitely a tourist town, and the energy it has is probably entirely derived from this activity. Is that to say that I’m not happy to be staying here? Not at all – it’s a mere observation. If you’re planning on visiting the O-coast to see new and uncharted things, this is not it, Lewis and Clark. That said, it’s worth a see, especially since it’s not crawling in other “mes” (tourists) until the summer. I’m excited to get a full experience of Oregon’s northern coast tomorrow – which, by the way, requires sleep. Which I’m going to take now. 🙂

For good measure and accountability, I am posting tomorrow’s agenda on here. Honestly, who knows what of all of this I will hit. Maybe all of it. Hopefully more than it. For your viewing pleasure:

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Oh, and I’m not doing these 1:00 am entries any more.

– H

p.s. I have actually started a Flickr photostream, yayyyyy! Every picture I take while in Oregon will be located here. Please note that I am not a photographer and some or all of the pictures may suck horribly. But guess what? They’re mine. If you don’t like them, better motivation for you to go see it for yourself!

Thought of the day: Find something that makes you almost obsessively-focused when you’re doing it. That may be the answer. 

Oregon 2014: Pigeon party!

My dear amigos, I am tuckered. Exploring the reaches of a city that I’ve never visited is even more of an adventure than I anticipated. However, the events are fresh and I am primed to regale them.

I found myself ready for action around 5:30 pm. I came dangerously close to falling asleep on my bed, but I soon realized that I, the ever-running engine, just needed a little fuel in the tank. I decided that my second dinner in Portland would step it up yet another notch. Enter Le Pigeon, the crown jewel of East Burnside:

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While small and set inconspicuously in the industrial district, this place really is truly top notch. It’s got that fancy Parisian flair sans snob and has incredible food – so much that I will NEED to walk you through each thing I got.

Appetizer: Eel pie – broccoli ice cream, radish, grilled broccoli

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The broccoli ice cream that led to my delectable pie was like a mini scavenger hunt of complimentary tastes. Salty, crunchy broccoli combined with sweet and tender ice cream was a flavor combination unexpected, but powerful. Topped with thin and subtle sheets of radish, I pretty much had all taste types covered. When my fork hit the butter crust, it withered down like a sand hill being stepped on. Perfectly flaky and even more perfectly flavored. The pie has two types of eel in it and with this amazing crust, made the perfect savory culmination. While I normally dispose of everything my mouth touches in its entirety, I HAD to stop 3/4ths of the way through to ensure I saved room for my other courses.

Entree: Duck confit – goat cheese hummus, radish, avocado, cilantro

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I pushed my boundaries a bit for this one. While it’s common knowledge that I LOVE my eel, my octopus, and my bone marrow, the more normal things tend to get me. Avocado? Not a fan. Cilantro? Eh, I’ll pass. But tonight, I went with my server’s recommendation and just launched into this one, despite the disturbing amount of green things on it.

I was pleasantly surprised. The cool tones of the radish, hummus, and cilantro helped balance the strong umami of the duck. The avocado even pitched in a bit by neutralizing the radish spice. Overall, it was scrumptious. I probably would have omitted the cilantro, but hey – I’m not a food snob or anything. 🙂

Dessert: Creme Brûlée – seville orange pot de creme, burnt honey meringue, cinnamon rugelach

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I don’t think I can ever have creme brûlée ever again after this. There’s just no possible way that any other can compare to this one, ever! I don’t know if it was the orangey-marshmallow-esque thing on the side, the mini cornetto it included, or the hot dish of Heaven itself, but MAN, did this thing pack a punch! It was like all of a sudden I was sitting in a fluffy dream world with nothing but my dessert and I, floating in the air…PERFECTION! Needless to say, this dish spoke for itself, and I couldn’t have been happier. Another dessert gone excellently.

Overall, I cannot recommend my friends at LP enough. Is it ridiculously expensive? Yes, it’s easily the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten on my own. But is it good? In my opinion, it’s well-deserving of the praise it gets. Moreover, it’s super cool to see the chefs in action – other than a Japanese teppan restaurant, you’re not going to be able to get that intimate. The staff are also incredibly attentive. Plus points for the exquisite 80s music playing during my meal (Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds, OH MY) That, in my opinion, does a perfect restaurant make.

Now for the rest of the night. This is where it gets interesting. I’m comfortable with admitting that tonight I essentially “bar hopped” alone. Mind you, I’m not a drinker and I frankly know little about drinking and drinking accessories. I do, however, admire the craft involved in beer and wine making. As such, I make it a point to visit breweries and wineries whenever possible. After all, effects aside, it is extremely fascinating.

Stop numero uno was a wine bar in southeast PDX known as ENSO. I have no idea what didn’t possess me to take a picture of the decor, but it was spectacular. Again, a true throwback to the enotecas of Italy, particularly the one that my mother and I went to in Roma. It had a classic feel, with stone walls, dark wood, and dim lights. The front, however, was a large, glass garage door…eh, I’m telling you all this, but you should just Google it.

I spoke with the bartender for a good hour and occasionally got to talk to the other patrons. The most interesting points of our conversation were those around where we grew up. I have a certain perception of Oregon as an incredible outdoor paradise, and Oregonians seem to think of California as largely the same. I reminded my conversation buddy that there is PLENTY more to my SoCal city than meets the eye, good and bad. We may have perfect weather near year round, but we are stockpiled with chain restaurants, have horrible public transport, and have a disjointed social framework. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely adore where I’m from. But like everywhere, it has its minuses. My buddy went on to say that Oregon is removed from things, is rainy way too often, and has high regulation. I’ll take not being able to pump my own gas over cold stares any day, personally.

My next stop was, in a word, “perplexing”. I decided to head to Lightbar nearby for some, er, “ambient electronic music” being performed. If by “ambient” and “electronic” they meant “dissonant” and “pots and pans”, then alright, they nailed it.

Set to the sound of "PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo"
Set to the sound of “PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo”

While the bar was cool to see, and the displays on the walls kept me somewhat awake, I definitely put in my courtesy half hour and bailed thereafter. Weirdo trash music aside: these experiences, my friends, are what make some nights the best nights.

It’s now 1:00 am and good gosh, am I ready to turn in. As I said earlier, tomorrow is the road less urban. And hopefully, less expensive. That being said, I regret NOTHING about today – I have conquered the city and will conquer even more of it tomorrow. Before I get too Alexander the Great, now is the time for rest.

– H

Thought of the day: It’s okay if not everything goes perfectly. What’s funnier: smooth sailing, or a sail breaking and knocking someone clean off the boat?

Oregon 2014: The City of Roses – Not a thorn in sight!

As a fair warning, this first entry will NOT be brief, as it is meant to capture not one, but nearly two days of the Oregon Odyssey. I’ve already gotten a scrumptious taste of the city (literally and figuratively, as you’ll see below), and I feel my first 24 hours in Stumptown is definitely worth sharing for your reference.

After an unbelievably smooth travel experience from my PHX gate to the door of my sweet new whip for the week (a Nissan Altima with a black LEATHER interior), I hit the road and high-tailed it to food, in this case found at Andina restaurant in the Pearl district. Now, this place had me at the hostess saying that she’d seat me somewhere special because I “seemed like an awesome person” (I love you), but I was in for even more of a treat than I expected.

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I mean, that chocolate thing came outta nowhere.

With wooden pillars, splashes of spicy Incan reds and oranges, and a big, open square that channels a classic Spanish tapas bar, Andina was a truly great throwback to the amazing times I spent in Peru with my family back in 2010. The place was poppin’ and the servers were like old friends who kept stopping by just to say hi. I solicited advice from one of my servers, Heather, who recommended to me the yyuca rellena (“Peruvian comfort food”) and ceviche. The plates, as suggested by my earlier reference, are small-plate, tapas style and are best made for sharing and tasting. While I’d like to say that I got pretty cozy with the older couple sitting next to me, I was riding solo, which meant these plates were all mine. Both of these dishes were fantastic, with the yuca being my ultimate favorite. But come on, it’s not even fair – it’s made with cheese, and cheese will conquer all.

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You know it’s good if I had to take a bite before taking a picture.

I ended the dining experience by asking my other server, Raul, what he recommended as a dessert item. I ended up going with the chocolate-cake-that-probably-has-a-cool-name-but-I-forgot-because-I’m-silly-and-didn’t-write-it-down. And my, was that that delicious! If you love chocolate, love dark chocolate, and love chocolate in moist cake form, I’d say you’re set for life. Washed down with a toasty cup of Stumptown Coffee, my second love, I’d say the meal ended on a perfect mocha note.

After leaving my Peruvian paradise, I took to the streets to explore a bit before landing at the house I’ll be staying at for the next couple of days. While I didn’t get much time in “the Pearl”, I did hit one scenic spot, Tanner Springs Park.

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Meant to simulate the wetlands that existed in Oregon in the days of old, this little gem delivered way more than I expected when I first entered “parks in Pearl district” on my Apple maps app. You can see the cool, industrial walkway that traverses the marsh, but regrettably I did not capture the rusted, metallic “reeds” on the side. Those were sweet! The best part, though, was perhaps the visual of Fremont Bridge in the background. Overall, it was a pretty stunning cityscape – so much, that you can probably see the embraced couple at the end there if you look closely enough. D’awwww.

I made it around 8:30 to the house I am staying at in the Sellwood-Moreland district. Sellwood’s personality as a cozy, idyllic, and slightly old-fashioned little section makes it an absolutely perfect place to stay. 99% of the houses are beautiful and were probably built in the late 19th- to early 20th centuries. Trees line every road. You’re one scenic bike ride away from either downtown or the east side, which I’ve yet to explore. Better yet, the people I’m staying with are off the charts amazing. As it type away in my comfy room, I feel like I’m undoubtedly in the company of long-time family friends. Did I mention that the first thing I see when I walk out of my room is a series of four Miyazaki film posters?!?? Needless to say, I knew immediately that I hit the jackpot. I ended the evening with a trip (by myself, mind you) to the Oak’s Bottom Public House. Even coming here, it was like saying hi to people I knew. I think this is just how it is here.

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I’ll be brief about today’s downtown excursion, since I’ve failed to be so about everything else. I saddled up in my bike and took the Springwater Corridor to downtown. While I intended to hit downtown for no more than an hour-and-a-half or so, I ended up being there from around 11:00 until 3:30. Most of my time was spent walking around the Saturday Market (that extends through Sunday…why can’t they just call it the “Satunday” market or something, dude?!?) and purchasing things for my friends. I made it a point to at least SEE Voodoo Donuts and Powell’s Books, though I bought nothing from either. The line at Voodoo’s was out of freaking control and I decided that 600+ calories worth of offset to the exercise I’ve achieved today was not worth it. Dang, did they look delish though. Photos were not taken of these, unfortunately, as me getting too close would have caused me to forcibly steal from people’s boxes/hands.

Two words: Eff. That.
Two words: Eff. That.
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New friends from the Corridor!
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Hawthorne Bridge: The Gate to My Destiny

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The coolest things about today thus far were threefold, the first being the lunch I had:

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In ancient times, grease on a napkin signified higher-ranking food choices.

What’s that, you ask? Why, it’s a french toast sandwich from the Brunch Box, which is most likely THE best food concept of our generation! Indeed, anyone who’s a fan of breakfast, quick bites, and a little bit of grease will fall head over heels as I did. They also serve award-winning burgers and you have the option to customize anything you order. Pair any of their selections with their amazing coffee and you’re set!

The second rad thing about today was the happenstance adventure I experienced at the Multnomah County Library. The library itself is a must-see, and I just like books, so when I walked in, my intention was literally to do that: see books. What awaited me was unexpectedly awesome, though, as I happened upon a live opera show on the top floor! Singers from the Portland Opera displayed their skills with emotion and passion and captured the mind of everyone in the place. It was truly spectacular to see, and it inspired me to want to actually go to a show in the near future.

My last stop before heading back was Floating World Comics on Couch Street (LOL, great street name). Walking in here immediately made me even more happy than I was before, as a wall of Adventure Time comics was one of the first things I noticed about the place. I ended up branching out and getting a few random things. While I normally read manga, I wanted to invest in some American literature to get me started. I think I made out nicely!:

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Alas, I made it back home simply to recharge a bit and FINALLY finish this entry.

That being said, tonight will bring plenty more, friends. The evening is extremely young; there is food to eat, people to meet, and things to see. On tonight’s agenda is an electronic music showing at Lightbar, hopefully joined by my gracious hosts! And I promise, I will write about it tonight, and I will take plenty of pictures. Until then, mes amis!

By the way, I’d like to ask my readership if there is anything in particular you would like me to see or document. I’ve gotten a good bit of offline feedback, so hopefully my recounts thus far have not disappointed. Tomorrow will bring a great deal more “outdoor”-type things, but the urban vibes are not to be overlooked. Thanks for reading!

– H

(Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures in here. I am working on a photostream that I can attach so that you guys can get the full sense of what I’m seeing whilst here. For now, I hope you enjoy the few that I did put up!)

Thought of the Day: Don’t be afraid to do stuff alone. It’s like, really, really fun. 

The 5 Benefits of Audit Busy Season

It’s come to my attention that you, Reader, probably aren’t familiar with what I actually…you know, do. While I’d like to think of myself as a magical-adventure-taking, funny-story-peddling, shutter-happy eccentric, I have this other job to support such behavior. That “other job” is working full-time at a Big 4 accounting firm.

If travel is the wind beneath my wings, my profession is the weight that keeps me from pulling an Icarus. I mean that in the best way possible, of course. Now, with this little job-o-mine comes a thing called “busy season”. Heard of it? Yeah, take the title of this article with a grain of salt. Busy season in auditing, particularly on a public client, is no joke. I’m helping out on a client that filed just yesterday (YAY!!) and I am weathered from the experience. Bear in mind that I am working at a reduced schedule compared to the rest of the team (auditing is actually not my coded job – I’m just helping other teams out right now, so I get a little leeway). Needless to say, it can be tough. My hope with this entry is that I can find you, my lovely auditors, and provide you with some solace and comfort for the next couple of weeks. After all, busy season has its perks, including…

5. Free food and lots of it.

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Groceries? Don’t stress, you won’t have time to cook. Cringing when you see you’re spending $10 a day on lunch alone? Fuhgeddaboutit! These are worries that drift away when you’re working on an audit 12-16 hours a day. I reckon that between snack drawers, group lunches, and dinners, you can pretty much eat almost entirely for free. Some teams even do a weekly (or more often) Starbucks run. I don’t hate it! There’s also…

4. Having an excuse to not do things you don’t want to do

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Okay, this one’s a bit mean, I’ll admit. But seriously, everyone finds themselves occasionally not feeling entirely up for things, even if these things are with friends or family they adore. Maybe it’s that Southwestern art festival your uncle wants to go to, or maybe it’s that chick flick you’ve been hoping your girlfriend would not notice is in theaters (random Haley fact: I HATE chick flicks). The nice thing about busy season is that the majority of people completely understand that issuing a company’s financial statements is, uh, kind of a big deal, and they don’t mind waiting a couple months if they have to in order to see you. Don’t forget about….

3. Getting to know people who are potentially epic life-buddies (and finding humor in the ones who so aren’t)

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This one’s a bit of a freebie that everyone who talks about busy season uses, but it’s true. If you spend 12 hours under difficult circumstances with someone, you get to know quite a bit about them. Hopefully, there’s going to be at least one person you like, and they may end up being your archery buddy, your next roommate, or the gem who breaks open your door for you when you guys come back come back from a night out and are locked out of your apartment. Who knows, you may meet someone you end up liking a lot. Yes, I’m talking about Aud-Love! While workplace dating is usually a tenuous subject, many-a happily tickmarking couple have been formed under these circumstances, so don’t rule it out! Let’s talk about…

2. Finding humor in the silliest/smallest things

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There comes a point during an audit where people are literally sleep-deprived to the point of degraded functionality of motor skills and the most basic common sense. That’s when the fun REALLY starts! From falling asleep on your monitor to writing review comments that make not a lick of freaking sense to possibly forgetting pants, every day kinda becomes a free comedy scene of sorts. People do funny things because they’re tired, and you find it infinitely more hilarious because you’re exhausted, too. Being detrimental to your physical health rocks sometimes! Last but not lease (yes, I just wrote “lease” – Freudian slip???!), we have…

1. Getting to pat yourself on the back at the end and say, “I did it. I survived busy season.”

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There’s nothing quite like finishing up an audit. I thought finishing a six-course meal was ceremonious, but this takes it to a whole new level. Think about it: finishing an audit means that you just finished evaluating a company’s entire financial backbone and then contributed to the publishing of that backbone for the entire world to see. Pretty amazing, huh? No matter what part you played, you have to feel pretty good about that. The busy season experience is so much more than CPA credit, a resume boost, or a way to learn more about accounting – it’s a challenge that YOU faced and that YOU conquered with a powerful (and possibly carpal-tunneled at this point) fist. Be proud of yourself, man. You owned that.

There you have it. For those of you still suffering, I encourage you to read the above, over and over again. More importantly, know that this is finite experience that will strengthen you for the rest of your life. The pain is temporary, but the rewards last forever. If all else fails, I am but a short internet hello away, and am never too busy to respond to an questions you have – oh, the benefits of being really uncool. 🙂

Thought of the Day: No matter what you think of your job, hold onto the benefits you get from it. At the very least, you can call it a learning experience – I promise!

-H