I. So it’s fall out here, right? And I get kind of romantic about the cooler seasons. I walk out of the record store last night, and the sun’s starting to go down, and it’s getting a little chilly, so I’m thinking some apple cider would really hit the spot. And lo! There’s a Starbucks about 4 blocks down the street. And I’m not really expecting the world, because it’s Starbucks after all, but I’m still kind of excited about some hot mulled cider.
Do you know what the Starbucks version of Apple “Cider” amounts to? I watched the guy make it: it’s heated-up apple juice with a couple squirts of caramel sauce –basically a half-hearted attempt at a liquid version of a caramel apple on a stick. That’s…actually not cider, you guys. Where’s the cloves and cinnamon? Where’s the nutmeg? Hell, there’s a giant rosemary bush outside; rip a sprig off and throw that in there. Use a goddamned Swiss Miss packet, even; I don’t care. But this $2.50 sham you have just handed me is a child’s drink disguised by a classy paper cup.
So I guess I’ll be making my own cider from here on out. Any guesses how long it’ll be before I get lazy and start squirting some honey into a glass of Mott’s and throwing it in the microwave (caramel sauce would involve walking to the grocery store)?
II. I feel a little weird having a discussion about a consumer product on here, because that’s not really what this blog is about.
On the other hand, this blog is also definitely not about hard-hitting journalism or saving the pandas, so it’s not as though I’m compromising its purity. Self-indulgent rambling can’t really be tainted by consumerism, you know? It’d be like trying to pollute a nuclear waste site with styrofoam plates. But I’m sorry if I let any of you down with my Starbucks beverage discussion.
III. Fall excursion went on as planned. The UHaul car-share thing is nice, except that the vehicle I booked had a huge dent in the left door so you couldn’t open it, and it made this awful grinding noise every time you put it in gear.
But it was a good day drive. Salem is less than an hour from here, so it seemed a little silly that I’d never been, even if it’s not exactly the most exciting place in the state (Dig the flatness and grayness of Portland and Eugene? Turned off by all of the culture and vibrance? Your kingdom awaits you in Salem.)
I took the back route: rather than driving straight down the 5, I went east, and curved into it on 213. 213 starts out as Trash Mecca 82nd Avenue, and then it sort of rims (Not like that. Ew.) the edge of the valley, so the landscape’s got a nice roll to it, and you avoid all of the interurban buildup along the freeway.
Somewhere off 213 between Oregon City and Molalla.
Silverton is surprisingly well put-together, and has not one but two Thai Restaurants on its little main street.
Salem. It’s one of those cities like Charlotte (albeit much smaller) that have an intriguing facade, but are still waiting for that nebulous spark to ignite the urban life that will fill the cool buildings and public spaces.
Point-in-case: the tenants on the block pictured above were an insurance company’s branch office, a shitty Chinese restaurant, and some other nondescript crap I can’t remember. None of them were open, and this is in the heart of the central city. The only thing that was open on a Sunday afternoon was the shopping mall. By contrast, both Thai restaurants in tiny Silverton were not only open, but busy. Just about all of the population downtown was concentrated in the shopping center with the TJ Maxx and the Walgreen’s. Our fair capital’s not going to be giving Olympia a run for its money anytime soon*.
I was pretty impressed by the Capitol, though. I like how it’s not just a cheap facsimile of the Federal one, like a lot of state capitols are. The bone structure’s the same, but the uh…flesh, if you will, is sculpted in a different way. The lines are cleaner, and it’s just less busy. (It’s Art Deco, according to Wikipedia. I don’t know enough about architecture to be able to tell you what the style of the Federal one is. Is Gothic Cluttered an architectural style?)
It was also pretty cool to see the Willamette snake through Salem. It’s weird to think that this is the same river that starts in Portland, 50 miles down the line. It’s sort of like a small-scale version of living in Minneapolis and then seeing the Mississippi in Memphis for the first time.
* In the interest of fairness, I should probably point out that Olympia has a large state school within its borders, which is largely responsible for its reputation as a cool town. Salem has only a tiny liberal arts college. In the interest of my own deep-seated opinions, I should probably also point out that I dislike this version of America where University towns get to be the only thriving cultural centers outside of large cities.