Does It ALWAYS Rain in Portland on the Fourth of July?

It seems that over the past few years, it’s become fashionable for Portlanders to complain that it always rains on the fourth of July. In fact, this whining has become something of an epidemic. Nobody wants to make plans outside for Independence Day because of the possibility of rain.

But is it true? Does it really always rain in Portland on the fourth of July? I’m a life-long resident of the area, and I have to say: My memory tells me that Independence Day is usually hot and sunny.

Because I’m tired of arguing about the weather, I dug into the data from the National Weather Service to prove my case. I looked at temperature records and precipitation records.

Here’s climate data for July 4th going back 25 years. What conclusions can you draw from this?

1969: 73/54 (.02)
1970: 88/60 (---)
1971: 70/54 (---)
1972: 97/57 (---)
1973: 81/59 (---)
1974: 76/57 (.06)
1975: 92/53 (---)
1976: 76/59 (.03)
1977: 63/48 (.01)
1978: 65/55 (---)
1979: 75/61 (---)
1980: 66/56 (.05)
1981: 88/61 (---)
1982: 69/54 (.02)
1983: 82/50 (---)
1984: 86/60 (---)
1985: 87/63 (---)
1986: 69/52 (.16)
1987: 69/57 (.02)
1988: 69/51 (---)
1989: 74/52 (---)
1990: 83/59 (.07)
1991: 80/55 (---)
1992: 68/60 (.16)
1993: 73/55 (---)
1994: 67/51 (-T-)
1995: 82/61 (---)
1996: 72/54 (---)
1997: 94/61 (---)
1998: 66/57 (.21)
1999: 67/53 (.14)
2000: 65/54 (-T-)
2001: 84/56 (---)
2002: 70/56 (---)
2003: 80/54 (---)
2004: 77/55 (---)
2005: 84/57 (---)
2006: 77/57 (---)
2007: 90/60 (---)
2008: 72/61 (.01)
2009: 92/59 (---)
2010: 67/53 (---)

As you can see, it doesn’t always rain on Independence Day. In fact, over the past 42 years, it’s only rained fifteen times — and only four times with real conviction. What’s more, over the past twelve years (including today), Portland has only received one one-hundredth of an inch of rain on July 4th.

I’ll admit, however, that I’m wrong when I say the fourth is always hot and sunny. It’s not. There are indeed cool days now and then. But the mean high temperature in Portland on July 4th is 77 degrees Fahrenheit and the mean low is 56. The mean rainfall is two one-hundredths of an inch (though the mode is zero rainfall).

So, there you go: It doesn’t always rain in Portland on the fourth of July. In fact, rain is uncommon, and real rain is rare. The next time somebody complains about rain on Independence Day, you can point them to this page! Somehow, though, I don’t think it’ll change their mind.

Waiting for Spring

This has been a long, wet, cool spring. We’ve had a lot of wet, cool [name your season] in Oregon over the past few years, probably because of global climate change. Whatever the case, it’s really taken a toll on my psyche. I’m an Oregon native, and I love it here, but even I get fed up with this weather eventually.

Over the past week, things have begun to improve. We’ve had some sunny days. (Or days that were sunny for part of the time, anyhow.) It feels very much like it ought to — if this were the middle of February. Basically, it’s as if our weather cycle is two months behind.

I’m not the only one who’s complaining about the weather, of course. Everyone I talk to is unhappy that temperatures are running about five degrees (centigrade — nine degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than normal. Kris wants to be out in the yard, for instance. And so do the cats.

Max and Simon have been spending more time outside, but they’re not happy about it. They want the rain to stop. They want the air to warm. A lot of the time, they just do this:

Waiting for Spring
Max and Simon are unhappy with the weather.

Yesterday, the morning was gorgeous. I had some errands to do, but I planned to work in the yard during the afternoon. Hahaha! It turned cool and rainy, and I wasn’t going to work in that again. No thank you.

This morning, it’s gorgeous again. The sun is out. The sky is (mostly) clear. I’m not going to make the same mistake. I’m going to go pop some dandelions while the popping is good. And maybe I can convince some cats to help me.

“When I Root, I Root for the Timbers!”

For thirty years, I’ve waited for the Portland Timbers to return to the top flight of American soccer. Over the last couple of years, I’ve attended several Timbers matches as they’ve played at the nation’s second level. This year, at last, they’re a part of Major League Soccer, the country’s 15-year-old professional league.

On Thursday night, Kris and I braved the cold and the wind and the rain to catch the home opener at the newly-remodeled Jeld-Wen Field. Naturally, I shot some video:

When I bought season tickets last summer, I thought I’d managed to snag a pair that straddle the midfield line. They don’t quite but, as you can see, they’re close enough. (When I took Michael to see Sunday night’s game, he said, “These seats are fantastic.” And they are.)

After some pre-game festivities, the teams took the field. The Timbers scored quickly, but the goal was called back for some reason I’m still not clear on. No matter. They managed to tack on two more goals in the first half.

They tallied a third goal at the start of the second half before Chicago managed to find one of their own. (Actually an “own goal” from the Timbers — meaning, one of our guys knocked it into the net.) The Timbers held on for a 4-2 win.

Though Kris was cold and cranky at first, I think she warmed up as the match progressed. I may even convince her to join me for another game.

Sunday’s game was just as exciting. The Timbers dominated FC Dallas for most of the match, jumping to a 3-0 lead midway through the second half. But then Dallas seemed to find a spark. They fired home two quick goals — in the 83rd and 86th minutes — leaving the Timbers rattled. The entire park was on edge during the last few minutes of the game, but the Timbers managed to hold firm. Final score: Portland 3, Dallas 2.

The quality of play in these two matches has been outstanding. I loved it. So much better than last year. (Last year’s play was often sloppy, and I thought the coaching was terrible.) I’m eager to catch more games as the season progresses. The Timbers may not do very well this year, but that’s okay. I’ll have fun watching them anyhow.

Arnold Thomas Sandwick, Jr.

When Kris and I moved to Oak Grove in 2004, we were surprised by the neighborhood. We’d just come from Canby, which seemed like a proto-typical small town. Yet we barely knew our neighbors there. We smiled at them and waved hello and helped each other with small tasks, but we were never what I’d call friendly. Our area never felt like a neighborhood or a community.

Our street in Oak Grove felt like a neighborhood from the start. People were welcoming. They chatted with us and shared vegetables. We talked about the cats and the druggies down the street. We exchanged baked goods at Christmas and watched each other’s homes. This has never felt intrusive — just friendly.

Tom, the old man next door, was perhaps the best of the lot. He liked to stand at his fence and chat about our gardens or our cats or the history of the neighborhood. He shared advice on growing fruit trees. Once, while we were holding book group outside, he brought over a wheelbarrow full of old photography magazines to give to me. (And later gave me a bunch of darkroom equipment.) Tom was a Good Man.

Tom died last Saturday. I never thought I’d devote an entire blog entry to mourn the loss of a neighbor, but I’m doing so today. As I say, he was a Good Man, and it somehow seems wrong that there’s no digital memorial to him. Well, Kris and I attended Tom’s funeral service this afternoon, and the program contained a fine biography of the man. I’m going to preserve it here.

Arnold Thomas Sandwick, Jr.

18 September 1927 – 08 January 2011

Arnold Thomas Sandwick, Jr., was born 18 September 1927 at Terrebonne, Deschutes County, Oregon, and went home to be with his Lord on 08 January 2011. He was the first of five children born to Irene Beatrice Deach and Arnold Thomas Sandwick. Tom was followed by Andy, Anitra Van Matre, Carmen Olsen, and Eric.

Tom and his first wife, Mildred, also had five children: Carl, Jean, Karin, Kristen, and Judi. After his divorce, Tom married Roberta and gained two more children: Clifford Sandwick and Catie Elrod. He was predeceased by his parents and brother, Andy.

At 17, Tom graduated from Redmond High School, and whiled away the summera as a railroad section hand pounding spikes into a rail line under construction. After he turned 18, he joined the Navy. He served a partial tour of duty at the end of World War II on a submarine. He was called back up during the Korean War and served on a seaplane tender.

Tom spend the years between and immediately after his time in the Navy continuing his education. He attended Powellhurst Bible Academy, Whitworth College, Oregon State, Western Seminary, and Denver Seminary. He had a degree in civil/structural engineering from Oregon State and became a registered professional engineer in 1961. When structural engineering became a separate discipline, he successfully applied for dual registration under the grandfathered application process. He did not renew his license in 2007, although he was willing to brainstorm engineering problems after that time.

Tom’s engineering career was complex and varied. He designed the marine park at Kalama, Washington and worked on the Bull Run water source for the city of Portland. He was involved in the ramps on the Morrison Street Bridge, the sewer system in Oak Grove, and a now-abandoned chip loading facility in Lake Oswego. These are just a few of the many projects he was a part of as a problem solver or designer. On a personal level, two projects stand out. The first was the house in which he raised his children. His favorite was his last project, the house in which he spent his retirement.

As a young boy, Tom was entranced by airplanes. He read about them and built model airplanes. Much to his grief, he was never able to fly due to very poor eyesight. Tom learned to develop and print his own black-and-white photographs while on the submarine at the end of World War II. Photography was one of his pleasures. A collection of his prints is scattered through the second house. He had a very good eye. Tom took great satisfaction in growing a significant portion of the household fruits and vegetables. He was also an immense help in putting up the surplus for winter use.

Family was always at the center of Tom’s life. He worked very hard to be a responsible parent in a single-income household. At times this spread his resources very thin, but the results were worth the effort.

Tom seriously considered a life in the ministry, but decided that he was just not cut out for the pastoral role. He valued greatly the education at Powellhurst, Western, and Denver. He applied this education to all aspects of his life.

Tom usually had some deep thought wandering around the back of his mind, even at the very end. Shortly before he lapsed into unconsciousness he said, “This is ridiculous.” When asked what “this” was, he answered, “The whole concept — yet it’s perfectly plausible.” Perhaps he meant that the idea that man was in charge of anything was that which was ridiculous. That would be consistent for a man who said “love” was not a big enough word to encompass the emotion he was experiencing.

I only knew Tom for six years. He and I would stop to chat when we saw each other in the road. (When he was setting out to feed the neighbor cats, for example, or when I was walking up the hill to my office.) I didn’t know Tom well, but I liked him. I wish I had known longer and better.

Tom Sandwick was a Good Man.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Meals

Kris and I had lunch with my cousin Nick today. He wanted to take us to Sushi Kata, a Japanese place in a strip mall not far from our house. But Sushi Kata isn’t open on Sunday, so we scrambled for a replacement. “Let’s go to Ohana,” I said. “I eat there all the time.”

Playing favorites
Because Kris and I eat out fairly often (especially in the winter), we develop favorite restaurants. My favorites are those that are both cheap and good. (These are harder to find than you might think.) Ohana is a Hawaiian joint located in downtown Milwaukie. It’s not super cheap and the food isn’t great, but the prices are fair and the food is consistently good. Does that make sense? In other words, it’s not a bargain, but it is a good deal.

So, about once a week, I walk (or ride or drive) the 2-3/4 miles to Ohana for lunch. The guys there know me now. They don’t give me a menu, and they just wave for me to take any seat I want. They do check to make sure I’m ordering the usual (the Huli Chicken, which is basically just a flattened, salted chicken breast, with greens — two slices of lemon, no dressing — and a cup of rice), and to see what I want to drink (water or diet soda or, rarely, some sort of juice), but then they just leave me alone for an hour or two while I write. I like it.

I’ve probably eaten at Ohana more than any other restaurant this year. And I’ve probably had their Huli Chicken more than any other dish. Which got me to thinking: What are the restaurants and dishes that we’ve loved most over the past couple of years?

A few of my favorite meals
Thinking back, Kris and don’t know if we actually had regular restaurants before 2007; we just rotated around instead of picking favorites. But in late 2006 or early 2007, Amy Jo introduced us to Gino’s, a local Italian joint. For a variety of reasons, Kris and I fell in love with the place. It’s not always great — but it usually is. (I say that Gino’s is great 80% of the time and lousy 20% of the time, but those are odds I’m willing to play.) For most of 2007 and much of 2008, Gino’s was our go-to restaurant. We ate at other places, but mostly we ate at Gino’s. (Which was an expensive habit.)

Original Leipzig Tavern
Doesn’t look like much, but Gino’s is usually awesome. (Photo by vj_pdx.)

On 25 March 2008 (my 39th birthday), we tried Pok Pok, which serves “street” Thai food. Instantly, I was hooked. So, for the next year, that became my go-to restaurant. Because it’s open for lunch (and Gino’s isn’t), I conducted many business lunches at Pok Pok, as some of you know from experience. It’s rough to conduct business while eating the messy (but tasty) fish sauce wings, but I make it work.

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
My favorite meal of 2008. Spicy, tangy, and amazing. (Photo by roboppy.)

I’m not sure that Kris and I had a favorite spot in 2009. We ate a lot at Gino’s and Pok Pok, but we also enjoyed the local diner, Sully’s, and I ate many lunches at Cha Cha Cha, a Mexican joint in Milwaukie. But nothing stands out as the place we had to eat in 2009.

This year, however, there’s no question that my favorite restaurant has been Screen Door on east Burnside. We actually ate there for the first time in the summer of 2009, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I became obsessed with their fried chicken. Screen Door serves southern food (I’m not sure how authentic it is), and boy is it good! Their boneless, batter-fried chicken is fantastic, especially when served with mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Yummy Fried Chicken
This is my favorite meal of 2010. Delicious beyond words. (Photo by trustella.)

Which restaurant will be our favorite in 2011? There’s no way to tell. We did have a great dinner at the Doug Fir Lounge the other night, though, and we both agreed we should go back there more often. We’ve eaten there a few times before and liked it, but for some reason, it never occurs to us to go back — probably because Screen Door is just a few blocks away.

Keeping score
To summarize, here are my favorite restaurants and dishes from the past few years:

  • 2007 — Gino’s, where we always order the clam appetizer with two extra sides of bread.
  • 2008 — Pok Pok, where I love love love Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings (spicy) with a tamarind whiskey sour.
  • 2009 — No stand-out.
  • 2010 — Screen Door, where I order the crispy fried buttermilk-battered chicken with mashed potatoes and ham gravy. (Ohana‘s Huli Chicken wins for lunch.)
  • 2011 — Who knows? Maybe the Doug Fir Lounge? (Kris says they have the best brownie sundae she’s ever tasted!)

In any event, there’s no question that Kris and I like to dine out. We’re not doing it as much as we used to (probably only once every couple of weeks instead of once a week), but that may be because I’m eating out for lunch about once a week. I’m the one who really likes restaurants, I think.

We look forward to exploring Portland’s vibrant restaurant scene for many years to come!

Coffee with Lord Vader

Oak Grove was once — long ago — a thriving community. Back when the trolley line ran through the “downtown” area, the neighborhood supported a number of businesses. Many of those storefronts still remain, but since the trolley left in 1959, Oak Grove has struggled to keep the businesses around. Folks head out to the Superhighway (as 99e was once known) or into downtown Milwaukie.

Kris and I like to support the handful of businesses that do try to make it in downtown Oak Grove. I’m a too-frequent customer at the convenience store on the corner of Arista, where the owner Joe and I chat about books and politics as I buy my diet soda and sugary candy. And Kris loves the Oak Grove Coffeehouse, the neighborhood’s only real business of character.

Jason started the Oak Grove Coffeehouse a couple of years ago, and though business seems tepid at times, it seems to be enough to keep the doors open. I think it helps that Jason and his staff have become sort of community hubs. The coffehouse puts on “open mic” nights, hosts art shows, and more.

For reasons that are opaque to me, the Oak Grove Coffeehouse hosted a fund-raiser last Saturday. Okay, the fund-raiser part I understand; it’s the type of fund-raiser that baffles me. On Saturday, the OGCH held a Star Wars-themed barbecue. Seriously.

Kris and I didn’t stop by, but because we’re fans of the store on Facebook, I was able to see photos of the event, including this one, which cracks me up:

Such a hilarious photo. I’m not sure how Darth Vader is going to get that coffee through his ventilator, but it sure looks like he’s going to try!

Timbers Army

It’s been an intense couple of weeks around the Roth-Gates household. Kris and I don’t fight often, but we’ve had a couple of rows lately, which should give you some idea of the stress level at Rosings Park.

Why so tense? Well, Your Money: The Missing Manual is finally in bookstores, and the public-relations push as begun. Between the PR, writing my personal-finance blog, and trying to squeeze in Real Life, there just hasn’t been much time for anything resembling a normal life.

Fortunately, the worst is behind us. Last week, I was a guest on 17 radio stations around the country, and I gave a presentation at Powell’s Books. (About 50 people came out to hear me, which was awesome. Thanks, everyone.) There’s still a bit of work ahead of me, but for the first time since last September, there are days at a stretch with nothing scheduled. Woohoo!

So, Kris and I are now much more relaxed. We’re able to spend time together working in the yard — and watching The Amazing Race.

I’m happy, too, because I can start hanging out with friends again. I knew this day would come, so I planned ahead. Though I’ve never done anything like this before, I decided to purchase two season tickets for the Portland Timbers, Portland’s pro soccer team. (The team will move to the MLS, the top U.S. soccer league, next year.) I’m hoping that I can rope one friend per match to join me.

Last Saturday was the first match of the year as the Timbers faced the Rochester Rhinos. (Say what? Are there a lot of Rhinoceroses — Rhinocerii? — in New York?) For this first match, I was joined by Michael Hampton and his nine-year-old son, Ethan. We met early to dine on pastrami and root beer at Kenny and Zuke’s, and then walked about ten blocks to the stadium.

There, I briefly said hello to Rich M., who first took me to a Timbers match back in 2008. (We also used to play soccer together as part of the woeful FC Saints.) Then Michael, Ethan, and I met up with Sinan and Nadir, who had saved seats for us in the midst of the Timbers Army.

Part of the fun of a soccer match (at least in most places around the world) is the fervor of the crowd. The folks who crowd the north end of Portland’s Civic Stadium do an admirable job of recreating this fervor. They chant and cheer and curse and sing. They wave flags and blow horns and set off smoke bombs. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, actually. (Sinan, who is from Croatia, loves Timbers matches.)

This photo from Oregonian photographer Thomas Boyd captures some of the fun:

I’m fairly certain this photo was taken in the 85th minute, after the Timbers scored on a penalty kick. Portland won the match 1-0, which was a lucky result. Though neither side played exceptionally well, the Rhinos were the better team, especially in the second half. But during the last ten minutes, Portland mounted a series of attacks, and finally found the back of the net after a Rhino hand ball.

And if you look very carefully, you can actually see me in the midst of these 15,418 fans. I felt very conspicuous in my rust-orange sweater Saturday night (Timbers fans dress in green and white), but it sure makes it easy to spot myself in the upper-right corner of the photo:

Anyhow, this was a perfect end to a tense week. And now I’m looking forward to a summer of Timbers matches with various friends. If you’d like to join me, drop me a line. I’m booked through the end of May, I think, but open for the games in June, July, and August. The only caveat is that you have to be ready to stand for 90 minutes, and you can’t have any compunctions about singing rowdy songs.

A Beautiful Day

I turned in the manuscript for Your Money: The Missing Manual on Friday, January 15th (the one-year anniversary of Paul’s death), but that wasn’t the end of the work. No indeed. Right away, I dove into a marathon ten-day editing session. One by one, I’ve gone back over each chapter, polishing the prose and eradicating errors.

As part of this process, I called an emergency meeting of the Woodstock Writers Guild. Though our group hasn’t met for a couple of years, the fellas were kind enough to pitch in last Wednesday, each person critiquing three chapters.

Dave happened to draw the debt chapter, in which I have a section about the dangers of compulsive spending (something with which I am very familiar). “You want to be careful here,” he told me. “It’s almost like you’re giving psychological advice. Besides, do you really know that compulsive spending is a psychological disorder?”

This sort of threw a monkey wrench into the chapter, something I’d have to fix. I put the chapter on the backburner to deal with later.

Then, by a stroke of great fortune, on Saturday I received e-mail from Brad Klontz, a psychologist in Hawaii. He was pimping his new book, Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health, which includes a section on compulsive spending. “Let me know if you are interested and I will send you a copy,” Klontz wrote.

“I’d love to see your book,” I wrote back. “But I need it today.” I told him instead that I’d head out to pick up a copy at Powell’s.

I didn’t get up to Powell’s on Saturday — I was too busy editing. In fact, I’ve basically lived in this damn office for the past month now. And for the past week, I’ve been working non-stop to finish my edits. (I have a hard deadline tonight at midnight, though I’m sure my editor would like to have all the chapters before that.) I’m down to my last two chapters now, including the chapter about debt, for which it’d be nice to have a copy of Klontz’s book.

So, late this morning, I managed to squeeze in a trip to Powell’s. I drove up, sunroof open to the blue sky, parked by the Bagdad theater and dashed across the street. Alas, Powell’s wasn’t open. They were closed for inventory until noon. No problem. Since it was only 11:51, I decided to grab a bite to eat.

The Hawthorne district is packed with funky restaurants, most of which I’ve never visited before. One such place caught my eye today: Nick’s Coney Islands. “A hot dog sounds great,” I thought, so I crossed the street to give it a try. The place was perfect: No nonsense, just coneys, burgers, and fries. I sat at the counter and ordered a coney dog and a diet coke. (I’m pretty much living on diet soda today; I need to stay awake to finish my book!)

While I ate, the waitress chatted with me. “It’s a beautiful day,” she said, pointing outside at the sunny streets.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s gorgeous.”

“It makes me wish it was spring,” she said. “I’m from New York, so I’m used to winter weather, but days like this make me wish spring was here already.”

“Me too,” I said.

Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” came on the radio. The waitress belted it out, paying no mind to me or the other customers. I tapped my foot to the beat.

“Have a great day,” the waitress said as I left. “You too,” I said. I left her a big tip.

I just missed the light at the crosswalk, so I had to wait. “Wanna sign my petition?” asked the kid on the corner. He looked like a beatnik or a Bolshevik. “It’s to stop off-shore drilling.”

I don’t normally sign petitions, but it was a beautiful day. Plus, I had to wait for the light, anyhow. I filled out the form. “Hey!” said the beatnik. “You live on Lee?!? Me too!” That seemed odd since Lee is a very short street. He told me which house he lived in, and I told him which one was mine.

“Thanks,” he said, as I crossed the street. “Have a great day.”

In Powell’s, I picked up a copy of Mind Over Money (along with the new edition of The 4-Hour Workweek and a book about budgeting, all last-minute research material). As I waited to cross back over to the other side, I realized that the man in the sunglasses standing next to me was actually my new friend, Chris Guillebeau.

“Chris!” I said. He looked at me for a minute, trying to figure out who I was. (To be fair, I’m very very scruffy today: Unshowered, unshaven, slovenly dressed — the usual.)

“Hey!” he said as his bus pulled up. “How’s it going, J.D.? What are you doing up here? I’ve gotta catch the bus, but I’ll see you Wednesday night, right?”

“Yup!” I said, smiling as he climbed on board.

Altogether, it was a slightly surreal hour, but fun too. It’s strange how all these connections tie together sometimes.

But now I need to get back to work. I have eleven hours to finish editing my book. I think I’ll do it, but just barely. And if I do, I’ll be able to say today was a beautiful day.

Willamette Valley Weather Rules-of-Thumb

When I got out of bed and came downstairs this morning, the floor was cold. I opened the door to let the cats in, and the air outside was cold. I started run my bath, and the water was cold. “It’s that time of year,” I thought. “As soon as Thanksgiving has passed, as soon as we hit the first of December, the cold sets in.”

I think the same thing every year. In fact, as I soaked in the hot tub, I realized that I have a bunch of “weather rules-of-thumb” that I’ve developed after 40 years of living in and around Portland:

  • The rain sets in about October 15th. Late October and early November are soggy.
  • November can be windy (though this really hasn’t been true over the past decade).
  • The cold sets in around December 1st and lasts into early February. (Though it’s intermittent until early March.)
  • If we’re going to get snow, it’ll usually be during the six weeks running from just after Christmas to the first part of February. (This has been blown away in recent years, though, as we’ve had heavy snowfall before Christmas and random dustings in mid-March.)
  • There’s a high chance of snow during the first week of February.
  • By mid-February, we get some nice days. By early March, we’ve got meteorological spring: It’s warm and wet.
  • Average lost frost is around April 15th — but to be really safe, you shouldn’t plant out your tomatoes until May 1st.
  • The rain lingers until about June 15th. (That gives us an eight month rainy season, if you’re scoring at home.)
  • June is lush and gorgeous.
  • The first hot days come at the end of June, around Kris’ birthday.
  • Late July and early August are hot. The heat lingers until Labor Day.
  • September and early October are warm and dry.
  • The rain sets in again around October 15th — and we do it all over again.

Okay, Oregonians. Which of these do you agree with? Can they be refined? What rules of thumb do you go by when considering the weather in your area?

In Praise of Local Business

“Do you know what my wife usually orders?” I asked at the Oak Grove Coffeehouse this morning. I wanted to bring her a surprise. Kris stops there once or twice a week, but I don’t go in very often. I don’t like coffee. I guess I should know what Kris orders (since she orders the same thing every time), but I don’t. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to guess.

Jason, the owner, thought for a moment. “She orders a medium latte extra-hot,” he said.

“Who’s your wife?” asked the kid behind the counter.

“Her name’s Kris,” I said. “Long red hair. Works for the crime lab.”

“Oh, Kris,” he said. “I love Kris.”

“Yeah,” said Jason. “CSI Milwaukie.” Everybody laughed.

“Do you want anything?” the kid asked as he took my money. The coffee was $2.75, but I left $1.25 for a tip.

“Nah,” I said. “I don’t like coffee. Besides, I just walked up the the grocery store, and I have donuts and chocolate milk in my bag.”

I love this sort of thing. I love local businesses owned by community members. (I bumped into Jason a couple of weeks ago as he was leaving his home to go to the coffee shop. I was walking down the hill as he was walking out his driveway to go up the hill.) This is the precisely the sort of thing I want to support over shops like Starbucks, etc.

And yet I rarely frequent the Oak Grove Coffeehouse myself. As I said, I don’t like coffee. I’m not a fan of their hot chocolate. It’s vastly superior to Starbuck’s hot chocolate (which basically tastes like muddy water), but it’s still made the same way: add some chocolate syrup to milk and heat.

All the same, I could be giving the shop some of my trade. At lunch, they serve sandwiches. Also, they have a few breakfast croissants every morning. And they carry Mexican Coke. I’ll bet they have bottled water, too. It’s important to me that Jason and his family are able to make a profit from their shop, yet I don’t do much myself to support them. In fact, I’m sort of a drain on their income.

Today, for example, as I was walking out the door, Jason stopped me and gave me a lemon pastry. “Take it,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s from yesterday, and I’ll just have to throw it out if you don’t take it.” Jason’s given me stuff in the past, including free drinks. I’m grateful for this, but I feel bad. I want to be adding to his income, not taking away from it.

I guess maybe I should make a point of eating lunch at the Oak Grove Coffeehouse once each week. I wonder what sort of sandwiches they have…

Addendum: Kris and I had lunch with Susan this afternoon, and she pointed out that I forgot to end the story. “Were they right?” she asked. “Did they get Kris’ drink order correct?” Indeed they did. Kris orders a medium extra-hot latte.