Thursday, I was craving a break from work, so I decided to take myself out on a date. Lunch and a movie in downtown Portland. All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy, and I needed desperately to get out of the house. Before you say Hey, wait a minute, Mark is unemployed – what’s all this crazy talk about needing a “break” from “work”? the ironic truth, even though I’m technically unemployed, I’ve been working much harder at freelance writing than I ever did when I had a “real” job. The articles I was assigned this week took a lot of work. There was research, and writing, and rewriting, and keeping track of keyword densities. Fortunately, while my first one took some four hours to write, I managed to knock that time down to a little over an hour by the time I finished the last one. Whew. I was working for below minimum wage in the beginning! Hardly the road to self-sufficieny and financial security.
Anyway, like I said, yesterday my brain was feeling a little fried, so I ventured forth unto the Rose City for a fun little outing. My first stop was Little Big Burger, a new “gourmet fast-food” joint in the Pearl District. They’re Portland’s answer to In ‘N Out Burger, with a similar concept – a small menu specializing in just a few items. There are hamburgers, cheeseburgers (with a choice of 4 different cheeses), fries, and beverages. Everything is local and organic. I’m a firm believer in doing one thing and doing it right, and Little Big Burger definitely does burgers and fries right! Their burgers are a little larger than sliders (hence the name) and served on freshly-baked brioche buns sourced from a local bakery. I ordered mine with chevre, a soft goat’s milk cheese that was tangy and creamy and elevated the burger to something unique…and utterly delicious. And the fries? Almost indescribable – they are seasoned with sea salt and a dash of white truffle oil, and are perfectly crispy and tasty. Considering that Little Big Burger is right across the street from my favorite place in Portland, Powell’s Books, the chances of a return visit are hovering around 100%.
Satisfied after a great lunch, I made my way to the Fox Tower cinema next. I’d been wanting to see 127 Hours since it first came out weeks ago, but for some reason it’s been in limited release. The only place I could find it playing locally was at the Fox Tower in Portland, which is considered an art-house cinema of sorts. This was pretty obvious considering the trailers they showed before the movie – foreign films and indie dramas I’d never heard of. But the seats were leather-padded and tilted backwards, so I was more than happy, even though ticket prices cost an arm and a leg these days.
Yes, that’s my attempt at humor, because if you aren’t familiar with the film, 127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber whose arm became pinned by a boulder in a remote Utah canyon and only managed to escape, five days later, after amputating his trapped limb with a dull pocket knife. It’s an intense and moving tale, wonderfully acted by James Franco. The scene where he severs his own arm is so bloody and agonizing to watch that some moviegoers have apparently fainted while watching it. Even though the arm is of course fake, I don’t blame them – it looks real enough, and it’s a tough thing to watch! I kept telling myself it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie during that scene, but then my brain reminded me that it really happened. I nearly had to look away from the screen, and I’m not generally a squeamish person.
Here’s the part I don’t get. At the end of the film, there are photos of the real Aron Ralston, and captions that tell us he is still an avid mountain climber and continues to go canyoneering on a regular basis.
Umm….really? No offense, but hasn’t this guy learned his lesson? There’s an old axiom that goes, if you fall off your bicycle, get right back on it. Well, you know what? If I fall off my bicycle, the last thing in the world I want to do is climb back on. If I did that, I might fall off again, and all I can say is – ouch! I’ll stick to scooters or cars or trains, thank you very much. If you touch a hot stove and burn your finger, chances are you won’t be clamoring to touch that hot stove again anytime soon. Likewise, if you are hiking in a canyon and you end up amputating your own arm after it becomes trapped beneath a boulder – why would you want to go anywhere near a canyon again? And don’t say “because it’s there.” That’s just stupid, and I blogged about a similar topic once before. It’s like that surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark – and then decided to keep surfing after recovering from the accident. I’m sorry, and excuse my language, but WTF? Did she not learn her lesson the first time? Surfing could be my overriding passion in life, but the moment I was attacked by a shark, I would chop the board into a thousand little pieces (no, wait, I couldn’t do that – because I’ve only got one arm! I’d ask for help, though) and never dip a toe in the ocean again. Hell, I might get rid of my goldfish, too – just for good measure. Anything even remotely fish-related would creep me out, and besides, one can never be too cautious.
But I digress. Like I said, great movie, as gruesome as it is. Afterwards, I walked around the city for awhile, reveling in the sounds of the season – every street corner was filled with a musician (most of whom were probably homeless) playing Christmas carols on guitars or plastic buckets or spoons for spare change. And then I passed a one-legged guy – I’m not kidding; his blue jeans were tied in a knot at his right knee and dangling emptily underneath, flapping in the breeze – and nearly screamed, just because of where my mind was.
I hope the poor guy didn’t notice the look of horror that flashed across my face, albeit briefly. I would have given him a dollar or two, but he wasn’t performing or anything – he was just standing there (I’m not trying to be funny this time) talking to one of the street musicians. Slipping him a buck would have made it seem like I felt pity for him, and I do, but I don’t want him to know that!
Being PC these days is a fine line to walk, let me tell you.
- ‘127 Hours’ premiere: Don’t faint! It’s just a James Franco movie (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- 127 Hours: Survival Instinct (time.com)