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January 1, 2004

Snow Day! (And a plea for help with a mystery)

Posted by Mike on January 1, 2004 8:44 PM

Update: Make sure to check out the comments. As b!X points out, we're supposed to send money to Iran (not "Tran"), and it turns out that Dolly the Misfit Doll is psychologically scarred. I think it ought to be clear to all and sundry that less time spent nipping at the brandy bottle and obessing about the Tran controversy is probably in order. Thanks, b!X! -mph

Not the most eventful night last night: Alison's not digging moving around much right now, so we spent the night in watching John Malkovich turning Tom Ripley into Hannibal Lecter and going through stored up "South Park" and Buffy episodes on the TiVo.

When we woke up this morning, it was to a Portland blanketed in snow, and this vaguely weird sign on the neighbor's door:

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It reads "Send Money to Tran."

There's a Tran in our neighborhood. He owns the garage right behind our house, which is the source of much dissent among the homeowners because he has the nasty habit of parking derelict vehicles on the street, and because the VW Microvan that's been gathering moss there for some time is periodically the home of people drifting through. When we first moved here, my Volvo got a ticket because I'd let the Virginia plates on it expire, and a neighbor called it in thinking he was spiting Tran.

Here's Tran's:

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I guess on the "eyesore scale," Tran's isn't very pleasant to look at if you've recently spent the money some of these people are spending to move here, but under fresh snow it doesn't look so horrible. I'm still not clear on the message, but the neighbors are out today so I haven't been able to go over and ask. The last person who lived in their house fantasized to me that she wanted to buy Tran out and open a trendy soup restaurant and coffee shop. To the extent my wireless access point is about fifty feet from Tran's back wall, I'm relieved she didn't: WEP kills throughput.

We decided to go for a walk down to Laurelhurst Park (home of the notorious Tres Geocache) to see how it looked. Not many people out except the occasional bleary-eyed 20-something with a wallet chain and a chipped "scored this for $.35 at the Salvation Army" mug. Movie Madness was open and doing some business. There were joggers.

At the park , there were a lot of people out. Some kids had taken the wheels off of their skateboards so they could snowboard down the sidewalks. The usual collection of duck and geese feeders were there, blithely ignoring the signs that point out that feeding the damn things will eventually kill them.

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Ever since a traumatic day 16 years ago, when I told a visitor to Yellowstone that the bowl of sherbet his wife was feeding a marmot would probably harm the animal and earned an angry "mind your own business" for my troubles, I've backed off being a wildlife scold. When I've got a kid old enough to ask why we aren't feeding the ducks, I'll probably take advantage of the opportunity to loudly tell him "Because we don't want them to die, son, but those mean people over there do!"


Save your outrage. It's either that or teaching him to key Hummers when the coast is clear.

While we were at the park, we noticed several snowmen (and more than a few balls of snow rolled up to about waist-high before being abandoned).

Interesting thing about Portland snowmen. They're either fairly abtract:

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Or they're freakishly representational, with many of the ones we spotted today including not only facial features, but bits of pine branches and needles for hair:

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I've never lived anywhere else where people have included hair on their snowmen. Alison suggested it might be because there's an abundance of pine with which to make the hair. I think it's because they only get this much snow once every eight or ten years and just don't have a real body of lore on the matter and don't understand you don't put hair on snowmen. Whatever. So much else is nice here that I can live with their confusion on the matter.

Once outside the park, we noticed that the snowman situation improved a little, with this fascinating Janus-like, two-faced snowman.

(click each for a larger image)

Note how it manages to both capture the traditional requirements of the snowman form with the nose of real carrot, while also complying with our neighborhood's boho aesthetic by presenting features from found objects like a sparkplug or a corncob skewer.

At the same time, there were also more artsy expressions, like this snow goose, spreading little wing stubs as if yearning to fly:

(click for a larger image)

And there were a lot more with hair, too. The more I thought about it, the more it creeped me out. Imagine if a snowman came to life and had the features its sculptor had included, only real. A snowman with hair coming out of its head would be unsettlingly organic. Yick.

One more mystery came up when we stopped in at the Shell on the corner of 39th and Belmont:

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You might recognize her as the doll from the Rudolph Christmas special. She lives on the Island of Misfit toys along with the square-wheeled train (problematic) and the jam-shooting squirt gun (less problematic: what kid wouldn't want one of those?). But what's the problem with her? She seems pretty normal. Anyone with an answer based on the text itself (and not wild assertions about her sexuality or assorted emotional issues) is welcome to contribute some clarification.


Am I just being dense about a joke, or is it that you don't realize it says Iran, not Tran.

Posted by: The One True b!X at January 1, 2004 9:25 PM

As for Dolly, see here:

and all will be revealed.

Posted by: The One True b!X at January 1, 2004 9:28 PM

It's either that or teaching him to key Hummers when the coast is clear.

Nonsense! It is morally imperative that you do both. :-)

I've been in trouble for being a wildlife scold, too. I keep meaning to carry a supply of signs that say "A Fed Critter is a Dead Critter" so that I can simply tack one up next to the culprits.

Posted by: sennoma at January 4, 2004 11:42 AM

Oops, on rereading your post I see that the signs don't work. I need a new plan. Maybe I could carry a gun and shoot the critter being fed, then shrug and say "My way is faster and more humane than yours".

Posted by: sennoma at January 4, 2004 11:47 AM