Monday, May 05, 2014

Welcome to the Hotel Canyonville

I’m staying at a casino resort hotel for a work conference right now and it’s the weirdest experience. I feel like I’m having an acid flashback, but that could partly be due to the shitty food that’s been poisoning me. The shitty food issue is actually part of a more pervasive issue in our society with people willfully eating processed food infused with unnatural chemicals. I seriously have to write a whole other blog post on that topic because bad food and not having access to good food is a huge huge problem for humans. So many people (and many who I care about) eat fast food, junk food, and all-around bad food; microwave garbage, genetically modified foods, horribly processed cows and chickens—the sins of our humanity and the variety of the afflicted go on and on.

I firmly believe that from continually ingesting those chemicals over time, we humans are altering ourselves in ways that work out to be a disadvantage. We are deprived of true nutrition, and do not give our cells the ability to successfully engage in development and respiration. From the cellular level the effects spiral out, on and on.

Anyway—I digress. Back to the casino:

We had this dinner award banquet tonight and I like to randomly sit at tables with people I don’t know. Tonight I sat with the Workers Compensation field investigators and a couple of representatives from the Preferred Worker Program (putting employees injured on the job back to work). These people were interesting and funny to say the least. They had this really involved discussion as to whether or not it would be considered workers compensation if one of the Portland Trailblazers got hurt during a game. Because this was their area of expertise, they got really detailed in their answer about what the employer’s workers comp premium would be, circumstances around the player getting injured, and a million different “what if” scenarios. The whole time everyone was asking, they were drinking alcoholic beverages and getting more and more animated about their analysis of this topic. It was all very entertaining to me, and by the time the program ended I felt I knew these people very well. One guy in particular sat on my left and revealed that he is a former cop. He retired from the force but still wanted to work, so he decided to become an investigator.

The view from my seat at the banquet
People think staying at a hotel is cool but it isn’t always what it seems like it could be. This hotel is weird, cheesy, and seems cheaply made. I hate the lighting everywhere (stupid bright LEDs) and it’s really fricking cold! The AC is jacked way up which makes no sense; it’s like 50 outside anyway. It’s a casino hotel which means people are smoking cigarettes everywhere. I think cigarettes are gross; I know I used to smoke and that makes me sound like a hypocrite. It’s also pretty loud in my hotel room; someone above me has been banging around for at least 5 hours now. I’m not sure what’s going on up there. Maybe a large active dog and the owners are downstairs in the casino getting carried away? The people on my left must be deaf because their television is turned wayyy up. Even louder then my neighbor’s TV and she is going deaf for real. I’m also guessing that this hotel is pet friendly because I hear an intermittent “YIP” coming from somewhere on my right. My room is on the first floor, which is dumb in my opinion because who wants to stay on the first floor? My window opens to a busy parking lot so obviously I can’t open the curtains.

I am pretty sure my eyes are burning from the smoke. The conference part of why I am staying here is indoors but across the expanse of the hotel, and they make you (of course) cut through the games to get there. They are hoping (and are probably successful) you stop on the way and play a game or ten. The Workers Comp guys at my table were way into the games. The retired cop on my left was up $50 when he had to come in for our dinner.

This hotel is really weird. From a distance it looks like it’d be a nice place, but upon closer inspection it’s apparent that cheap materials were used to build this place; marble-looking plastic counter tops, cheap metal fixtures on hall lamps, lower quality carpet, just obviously sub-par materials. But it’s not obvious to people, and I’m not sure why. There’s this big weird eagle carved out of wood in the front that everyone is very excited about. The valet gave me a free pamphlet on the eagle (I haven’t read it yet).

There are a lot of weird old people here. I recognize that I keep using “weird” as a modifier and don’t mean to be so vague or general. I just can’t think of a better way of explaining it. Weird as in: not familiar or comfortable, seemingly wrong but unable to put my finger on exactly why (or maybe I can). Maybe alien pod people like that movie “Cocoon.”  They seem to alternate smoking cigarettes and taking hits off of their oxygen tank. They seem to set up shop at a slot machine and settle in for a while—cigarettes, ashtrays, drinks, wallet handy...there’s a whole set-up going on. It’s quite involved. I know there’s a whole die-hard faction of bingo players too but I haven’t been brave enough to venture over there. Those seniors would eat me alive.

The couple next door with the loud TV are having a loud conversation across the room with one another. It’s kind of comical, actually. It sounds like they are having a serious debate about where to go for breakfast tomorrow—there’s two restaurants serving breakfast in this casino resort, and they are literally right next to one another. I am pretty sure they share the same menu and the only differences is in the d├ęcor or theme of the place you are sitting.

The upstairs neighbors are still stomping around. What could they possibly be doing? I miss my own bed and the peace of familiar expectation. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

the serendipitous bagel

I have this friend named Suzie that I get together with every now and again for lunch. We both work downtown-ish and have had the pleasure of eating at many awesome restaurants. Yesterday we met up at this place called Kenny & Zuke's over on 10th and Stark. If you haven't been there and are visiting downtown Portland, I implore you to check it out. They are the Jewish deli that you've been searching for! Fresh, hand-made boiled bagels daily, pastrami, pickles, noodle kugel, latkes, any kind of sandwich you can think of and more!

We have eaten at Kenny & Zuke's before but not in a long time; this place is known for it's really good food, especially their house-made pastrami. I'm trying to eat less processed food (like bread) so I got a giant salad laced with their pastrami goodness. Mmmmm. It's not that I have anything against bread but I can easily eat a ton of it and am just trying to eat in moderation. My friend Suzie ordered a bagel with lox and capers--her dish looked just as great as mine!

While we were eating, we noticed a woman with a fancy camera in the restaurant. She got a bagel with some sort of schmear on it, and took it over to the table behind us and began to photograph it. I think judging by the size of her camera she wasn't instagramming this--these seemed like professional photos. Suzie and continued our conversation for a while when the photographer approached us with the bagel on a plate. She asked if either of us would like the bagel. "it's perfectly fine," she added, as if she might have secretly licked it. "uhhh no thanks, I have a ton of food here," I replied. Suzie explained that she is eating a bagel and doesn't want a second. (I thought I read somewhere that eating a bagel is equal to eating 5 slices of bread. Can you believe that? I can. and I can totally eat 5 slices of bread. Not that wonder bread embalming fluid shit, but like tasty Grand Central Como bread or maybe their olive rosemary. On a somewhat unrelated side note--I live just a few blocks from a Grand Central Bakery, which is both a blessing and a curse. If the wind blows in the right direction the scent of fresh baked bread wafts into my apartment).

Back to the bagel--my friend Suzie asked if the photographer could just give it to a homeless person, like the guy out in front of the deli. "Him?" the photographer sneered and replied with disdain. "He's been scamming people there all day for drug money, I'm not giving it to him." Okay. My social anxiety kicked in right about now so I explained I work in social services and offered to take the bagel to give it to someone in our lobby. I'm sure the people I know don't meet her definition of bagel worthiness but hey, I'm trying to be less judgmental and more barrier free. Our waitress got me a small bag for the bagel and after we finished eating, I left with half of my uneaten pastrami sandwich and the donated bagel.

It's been raining a lot lately, which isn't unusual for where we are living or the time of year. It's interesting in spring that heavy rain and hail showers move through our region. If you time it right, you can manage to move between showers and stay dry going to from appointment to appointment. Some people, especially the people I'm working with don't have the luxury of an indoor job (any job) or an apartment so they spend most of spring pretty wet and cold.

When I got back to the office, I asked our receptionist if she would hang onto the bagel and give it to someone that would want it. I disclaimed that it's a Nova Lox schmear (not everyone likes that flavor) and she enthusiastically agreed to give it to someone in need. I went back to my desk and forgot about the bagel for the next couple of hours.

When it was almost near time for me to leave, I went back through the lobby when the receptionist caught me. "You know who got that bagel? Johann* and he really enjoyed it. He said thank you!"

Johann is homeless and has been working with us to get into a safe, dry place. He has some health concerns and experiences food insecurity. I know Nova Lox and a bagel isn't the most nutritious thing to eat, but it's certainly not top ramen or 7-11 hot case crap. We also have coffee in our lobby so hopefully Johann was able to relax for a few minutes, dry off and enjoy the bagel with a hot cup of coffee.

*On the off chance that someone I know is actually reading these posts, the names and some of the details have been changed to protect confidentiality.