On only the third airplane ride post Covid vaccination, it was across the country to Portland in two hops.

Queen Tibia presided at home in our absence.

Dulles was mostly empty on a Friday late morning.

The purple chair

An uneventful set of flights (through Denver) was marred only by the masks everyone must wear. We can’t wait for a vaccine mandate for air travel. It’s coming! HUGE KUDOS to united airlines for requiring all of their employees to be vaccinated. Smart.

In fact, Portland is a bit of a study in what is to come in the rest of the country. Vaccination proof is required in bars and restaurants. Even seedy little dive bars like the Jack London Review where we had an excellent time seeing mononeon. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First it was a quick run by Hertz to pick up a crappy rental car and head to the Kimpton Riverside. Well, it used to be a Kimpton. Now it is an IHG thing. We knew from last time to book room 325.

325 at the Riverside Portland has a fireplace


The living room


The bedroom with a view of the river and the park

The riverside has only two rooms with glass showers. We did not secure either. So we got this…

Horror of horrors! A shower curtain. We’ll give them a pass since it was fabric and not plastic.


Lauren Groff’s excellent new book The Matrix was apparently designed for this table

We had a negroni. We devoured some oysters. We saw old friends and their spunky ultra-intelligent progeny. We ended up at mononeon where we watched a show that seemed like a Prince show from the early ’90s. Less charisma, but just as much crazy energy and a collection of interesting cats including:

  • A black female goddess drummer with the biggest afro ever (she was the real band leader and a great singer)
  • Two white guys who played OK leads while hiding behind a pole
  • A DJ who started things off
  • Two rappers, one of whom was utterly obsessed with getting everyones’ hands in the air
  • A sporadically present trumpet player
  • A 20 year old lanky stripper who was having trouble fending off the lesbians in the front
  • A token white girl who came on late with a guitar she halfheartedly strummed while she sang (her hair was up in that Prince entourage kind of way and she must have been wearing lingerie)
  • Oh yeah, and mononeon himself who apparently convened this group and then got so high he forgot it was his show

Mononeon in his chair

The music was great, the dancing was contagious, and the most fun thing was watching the young one dance uninhibitedly.


That lasted until 3am EST which was way past everyone’s bedtime.  Super fun.

Then it was Saturday morning and time for a great breakfast at Cheryl’s.  The beignet alone was worth the wait.  We bought a Patagonia jacket while waiting because we heard that you can’t really leave Portland unless you buy one.

Then the highlight of the trip!  Three hours in Powells.  We bought 30 books, some bags to carry them on the plane in, and a shirt.  World’s best bookstore hands down.  MUST RETURN.

Every time

We love Powell’s so much.  Everyone in all of the other towns is very jealous of your book thing Portland.

24 (of 30) books

After a brief respite on the courtyard terrace, there was time left for the Saturday market (always worth a visit if your tie dye supply is low or you need a crystal).

Contemplating Portland traffic










Then it was time for dinner.  We chose Normandie, which was a bit green but good.  Hip and relaxed, this place needs to get its A game on.  Before dinner cocktails at Hey Love were better than dinner.  We both enjoyed a Loprinzi’s Mule:

  • .5 cynar
  • .5 amaro cio ciaro
  • 2 oz don q añejo
  • ginger syrup
  • tarmarivel syrup (tanarind paste, cinnamon, grapefruit rind, sugar)
  • soda in a collins on the rocks

    Loprinzi’s Mule at Hey Love














All of a sudden it was Sunday.  We started out late with a brunch at Olympia Provisions.  My vegetarian companion was not amused, but I was.  So we headed out to get some juice and ended up buying cabinet pulls for The Stick instead.

Portland has a huge homeless population, and it is evident all over the city.  Beater campers, tents with patches and multiple tarps, lots of garbage.  The United States has fallen short of many of its citizens, and you can see that in Portland first hand.  Late stage capitalism on the streets.

Don’t tell Romey, but these were actually really damn good

Next it was off to the Portland Art Museum, which frankly you can skip. Mediocre at best.  Plan to spend less time than you think.

Some shopping at Wildfang got us moving toward Japanese Gardens which were so crowded we bailed and drove straight to the Kennedy School to check in.  Room 113 is great.

Of course as hip and fun as it is, the Kennedy School still feels like 1997 in the rooms.  Time to update!  Especially please replace the beds.


We had a drink in the courtyard while working on our dinner plans.  Portland decided that two days without rain was anathema.  The rain came.  And it wasn’t kidding.  But we borrowed some umbrellas and headed back to town.

A visit to the Teardrop Lounge was fabulous as always.  (You don’t need a reservation, but you do need a great attitude.). A Raffles Singapore Sling was in the cards.

Then a fantastic dinner at Takibi.  Delicious, modern, and very Japanese.



A superb drinks menu

It was still raining on Monday morning when we got up early to prep for a business meeting.  It must be the rain that caused us to eat such a huge breakfast at the Kennedy School.  Surely.

After a rainy morning talking about ML and security, we enjoyed lunch at Southpark Seafood with some new friends who turned us on to Betsy and Iya, a fantastic boutique jeweler and clothier.  Hard not to get some stuff there!

Then the Japanese Garden in the pouring rain.  A magical place and far less crowded once the witches all melted down.

Finally it was back to the Kennedy School to catch Pig in one of the coolest places to see a movie anywhere.  We had burgers and watched the show.

Negroni in the hall


Our seats for the show


One more gigantic breakfast (yes it was still raining) and it was off to the airport for our quick flight to Dulles.

A fantastic visit to Portland.  Almost like the before times.

Four showerheads is the max for both Riverside Portland and the Kennedy School.  Does Portland even have glass showers anywhere?

After a truly delightful day pondering art, philosophy, concurrency, pointillism, and computer security, I find myself at the home of RJD.

The house is filled with books, art, and ideas.

The guest bedroom

The guest bedroom

Reading and writing are paramount here.

Reading and writing are paramount here.

The all important glass shower with quite the tile.

Glass shower.

Glass shower.

Painted tiles.

Painted tiles.

Dinner at Buck’s was great, mostly due to the conversation with FBS.

Kandinsky.  Improvisation 23.

Kandinsky. Improvisation 31.

Today was way off the scale on the good side. More days like this please.

After the nonsense that it took to get to Argentina, it was great to take a shower at the Bobo Hotel again in Buenos Aires. I am in room #5 at my request, and the shower still has the coolest port hole ever.

Port hole in the shower.

About the only thing that has changed here is the TV situation. There’s a flat screen TV on the wall now where there used to be a small LCD set in a nook (simulating a flat screen WRT wall placement). But who cares about TV when there is Argentina to be visited?!

The staff is great. The restaurant is very good (nothing like a steak and a malbec your first night in Argentina). The wifi is free. The neighborhood is cool.

Graffiti is everywhere in Palermo, but at least some of it is interesting.

I’m still casting about for mixology with my friends, but in the meantime the bar at the Bobo concocted me a Bonsoni last night:
1 oz Fernet Branca
2 oz Rosso vermouth
Shake over crushed ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

Fernet Branca is an interesting amaro originally from Italy and now more pervasive in Argentina than in Italy (go figure). The Portenos drink Fernet and Coke. The Bonsoni, from 1916, is very nice.

The hot tub and balcony through one of the many mirrors.

Five showerheads for the Bobo. This place is superb. See more pictures here and here.

Tuesday night began with a mixology visit to 878 for a cocktail. We all enjoyed a Juan Collins (invented in house by Julian Diaz) during “vermouth hour,” and then headed down to unik for an absolutely delicious meal. Juan Collins:
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz cynar
1 dash amargo obrero
1 dash hesperidina
1.5 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz soda
Delicious and well balanced.

Ironically, considering all of the 878 hype on the net, the drinks at unik were more interesting. In particular, consider the Ferrocarril 1922:
1 oz Pineral
.5 oz Hierro Quina
.5 oz dry vermouth
.5 oz sweet vermouth
dash of marischino liqueur
dash grenadine
shake. strain into cocktail glass. This is a delicious drink from Buenos Aires in the 1920s. [Cóctel famoso en Buenos Aires en los años 30, 40 y 50, fue rescatado del olvido por el barman e investigador argentino Guillermo Blumenkamp, ésta es la adaptación de nuestro barman Federico Cuco.]

Books in an adapted theater. Supremely cool.

Visited “El Ateneo,” a phenomenal bookstore built in an old theater. Eventually bought a copy of Cochteleria Argentina by Rodolfo Reich.

A business dinner at tegui was all it was cracked up to be. Superb meal all around. Drinks until 4am at Mundo Bizarro seems like the way to go.

Of course everything in Argentina is not all shishi. Here is where Ivan and I had lunch one day in La Plata.

Michelin? No. Goodyear? Maybe. Delicious pork tenderloin.

What is mixology?

March 17, 2012

Though this blog is mostly about showers found in various hotels around the world, it also has a sideline as a mixology blog. Some readers may not know what mixology is. Mixology is fancy pants bar tending and drink mixing with a focus on superior ingredients, careful measuring, fresh juices, and supremely interesting beverages.

I’ve been into mixology since I got the book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails for Christmas three years ago. I had visited a few great bars before that (namely the overly pretentious Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco), but it was the book that really got me going. Since then I have collected a complete library of mixology books (some signed by the authors) and even started an index book of my own with mixing notes on several new house drinks.

If you are at all interested in mixology, buy the Vintage Spirits book. I’ve given away multiple copies to friends and family residing all over the planet. It’s a great gift, because you always get superb drinks back later from the grateful people you gave the book too.

After several thousand dollars of expenditures, the bar at my house is now world class. (For a picture see the Coal Stove Sink blog.) I guess having a case of OCD is helpful sometimes.

There are mixology tidbits sprinkled liberally throughout noplasticshowers, including drink recipes, bar reviews, and other trivia.

My favorite two drinks are the Liberal and the Corpse Reviver #2. My favorite two bars are drink in Boston and the alembic in San Francisco. But there are more drinks and more bars, including Village Whiskey and Ezra’s Star elsewhere on the blog.

Poke around, it’s worth it.

Last time I visited the Kennedy School I was feeling generous and awarded a five showerhead rating. I suppose they can be grandfathered in? Then again the bathrooms do need some work.

On this cold and rainy November day, I was assigned room 101…aka “Jack’s Room.” I am pretty sure I have stayed in this room more than once in the past.

Welcome to Jack's Room (says the blackboard).

The very big bed.

Sadly, the bathrooms at the Kennedy School do, in fact, have plastic showers. Here is photographic evidence. These kinds of shower cubicles pervaded the planet in the ’80s.

The bathroom does need some lovin.

Plastic? Plastic.

I didn’t spend much time at the hotel this visit. Instead, I drove into Portland and spent a few hours at Powell’s Books buying a large (and heavy) pile of fiction/literature. Powell’s has to be the best bookstore on planet earth. Dinner at the Portland City Grill was sophisticated and very good. Their wine list is superb.

In the end, I think the bathrooms are enough of an issue to bring the Kennedy School rating to four showerheads. The hotel is a quirky, artsy, really fun counterculture of a place. You should definitely stay there if you can…just skip the shower.

The Columbia River Gorge outside of Portland, Oregon is one of those gorgeous places on earth where the land looks like an HO railroad set. Green, wet, majestic, beautiful. Incredible.

I’ve been to the Skamania Lodge for a number of Microsoft retreats over the years and the occasional DARPA meeting (back when DARPA spent more loot on venues for meetings). My company hosted a closed meeting of like-minded professionals in our space. Skamania was a perfect place for a meeting like that…just far enough off the beaten path that 80 or so participants disconnect from their work and connect with each other.

Room 421 is a very nice suite with two rooms attached. The suite’s living area is spacious with an incredible view.

Picture windows and a fireplace in the suite.

Looking into the kitchen/dining area.

The view itself (taken through a window).

The cloud filled vista somehow reminds me of Argentina.

My attached room, number 423 was nice, but dated. Seems like a time warp to the ’70s even though the hotel itself was constructed in 1993. There is something German about the functional nature of the architecture and the lines.

The bathrooms suck. No way around it. My shower was built over a fiberglass bathtub that squeaks and bounces as you step in and out. Bendy shower curtain rods and not enough space conspire to complete the suckage. Don’t come here for the showers…come for the view and the conference facilities.

The only way to capture the bathroom in bits is a through the mirror shot.

The shower. Not good. Mostly plastic.

On my way out here, I made a jag east to go to Powells Books. I’m pretty sure that Powells is the best bookstore on earth. Their fiction/lit section is incredible. If you even remotely like books, I recommend Powells.

Bottom line for Skamania is either a very low four showerheads or a very high three. Great place for a meeting, but not so great for a shower. Bring your own mixology.

I’ve been here before, but this time I plussed it up and spent way too much to see how well the Inn at Laguna can perform. Admirably well, but well enough? Hmm. The Inn at Laguna wants to be all shishi and upscale but somehow falls spectacularly short. The makings are all here—the pacific ocean, palm trees, sun, sand, babes in bikinis, and yet the property (though not shabby) lacks a certain something. Maybe it’s the plastic showers?!

My meetings are really not this far south from LAX, but who’s asking? Laguna is a quirky, quasi-artsy town with just a few too many wannabe hippies and skate rats hanging out with the tourists. If you twiddled the California dial between the LA and San Diego settings, you would likely dial in Laguna. Plenty of touristy shopping and a very good local bookstore that is sadly closing in August 2011. I think Laguna is heading in the wrong direction…like Britney Spears or politics in the United States.

Room 514 is a special room, probably the best one on the property. However, it is severely overpriced and slightly under decorated. Plus the fees (resort, popcorn, parking). Just give the the price straight please…do not nickel and dime me to smithereens.

The Inn at Laguna remains pegged at four shower heads, not because of their showers, but rather due to their environs. I’m hoping to find somewhere even cooler to stay down here. Here is why to stay in Laguna in the first place. Introducing…drumroll…the Pacific Ocean.

For dinner, I went a mile south to French 75 which is not awful but is basically overpriced and avoidable. Upon arrival, I ordered a French 75 (the drink from 1915) and had to let the bartender and wait staff know how it is made. It is never a good sign when the namesake drink is unknown. There were a couple of guitarists playing hits from the early ’90s. Youch. Food? Acceptable. Not going back.

For you budding mixologists, the French 75 Cocktail has many different variations. This is not at all surprising considering that the drink has been around in one form or another since 1915. Here’s the one I like.

French 75
1 oz. gin (Hendricks is what I call for)
.5 oz lemon juice
teaspoon of simple syrup
mix in the bottom of a champagne flute, add champagne to fill and garnish with a twist of lemon and a cherry.