“Finding the Others” and The Life-Changing Magic of Talking to Strangers

If you grew up in the late 80s and 90s like I did (and probably before,) your parents warned you not to talk to strangers. Strangers were strangers. They could be anything or anyone. They could hurt you, or steal from you. They could follow you home.

Then we grew up, and we quickly found that strangers are friends you haven’t met yet. They can also lead you toward your next great steps in life.

The author in a green face mask waiting for his sandwich at House of Banh Mi
Waiting for the best Banh Mi I’ve ever had.
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Review #19- The Bellwether Bar

WHERE: 6031 SE Stark St.

By all accounts, Caldera Public House should have been my preferred local bar.

It was walking distance from my house in a historic building, had an eccentric vibe, a beautiful back patio, decent food, and hosted live Celtic music? I have even have an amusing memory about the place. Before we got married, I came home from work one day and heard Emily in the bedroom. I said “hello,” and she called out “Oh… you’re home already? Um… I’m trying on the wedding dress.”

“Ah… gotcha.” I promptly walked down to the Caldera and got a seat because, before our marriage even began, I’d been kicked out of the house and sent down to the pub for an hour.

All the same, I rarely went to Caldera Public House, and chose other bars that were closer to work or run by friends. The food at Caldera was good, but never very good. The beer list was underwhelming, and I’m rarely a “fancy cocktails” guy. Above all else, the place was just not comfortable for very long. The live bands were good, but loud. You couldn’t sit at the actual bar because there were tables in the middle of the main room, and a small reading nook in the middle of the building had the most comfortable seats, but it was frustrating to read, eat, and drink there at the same time.

When Caldera closed up even before the pandemic, I was sad but not surprised. Then, when a new sign was hung outside the door about a month ago, I wondered if someone was trying to be the neighborhood bar Caldera struggled to be.

They were, and they are.

The exterior of the Bellwether Bar
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My Portland

If anyone was to ask me where I’m from, I’m immediately proud to say “New Jersey.” Several times in my life, when people first meet me and ask where I’m from, they tend to assume England for some reason. I’ve never been able to explain why except for the joke response that when I was little my parents let me watch a lot of Monty Python and that I tend to be very polite. Dropping a few F-Bombs seems to clear it up though:

“Oh, I thought you were from England or something.”
“The fuck made you think that?”
“Okay, THERE’S the New Jersey, I hear it now.”
… Thanks, Sopranos.

Of course, I don’t live in Jersey right now. For the last six years, I’ve been happy to live in Portland, Oregon. Maybe you’ve seen it on TV or heard about it from your hipster friends. You might even have some ideas about what life here is like from the news of the last few years. Words like “war zone” and “anarchist jurisdiction” were thrown around a lot. For the rest of my life, I will remember riding in a bus around Walt Disney World in March of 2019. Sitting across from Emily and I was an elderly couple, and we started talking about what every tourist at Disney does after the heat, food, and bugs:

So where are you visiting from?”
Portland Oregon! Yourselves?”
The old man visibly bristled and scoffed- “Oh yeah, I hear that’s a great place to live.”
“Oh it is! Beautiful nature, amazing food and beer- you should visit sometime!”

I have never seen a man deflate so fast. Pro-tip: if someone’s looking for an argument, the easiest way to win is not to play. That said, when my little sister and her partner came to visit a few weeks ago, they expressed interest in seeing my Portland. Not the hellscape creatively described on Fox News or the goofy version on Portlandia. They wanted the Portland that a local loves/hates. A few years ago, I wrote a little post for people that wanted to move out here. Consider this a more-experienced addendum, and a helpful guide for anyone who wants to visit but is afraid of running afoul of roving bands of Nazis and/or anarchists.

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“No More Eulogies”- What’s Left of a Food Capital

Some people complain about doing anything with a mask on. For these folks, the idea of exercise while wearing one is dangerous, stupid, or just unthinkable.

The biggest annoyances regarding masks for me are 1. Having to hear these people whine about it, and 2. My glasses fogging up when I go on my runs around Mount Tabor.

As such, I didn’t really notice the first couple times I was hustling down Belmont and saw glassware lined up for sale in the window of The Cheese Shop. The third time, though, put a rock in my gut and stuck with me for the remaining three miles of the run.

Glassware for sale at a restaurant means “The End is Nigh”, and another food industry eulogy will need to be written.

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