His Name Was Colin — Here Are His Papers

It’s finally here! Well, almost. Portlandia, the new short-form comedy series on IFC debuts tomorrow night. However, the first episode has been posted on YouTube – fo’ free!

(The first episode was pulled from YouTube yesterday. Sorry.)

You won’t have to travel far on this here blog to happen upon my love-hate relationship with Portland. Just when I was starting to miss ol’ Stumptown — the coffee, the rain, the bridges — Portlandia smacked me back into reality, reminding me of all the goofballs and poseurs who damn near drove me berserk.

How Metro Transit Can Boost Its Public Image

Metro Transit needs to aggressively position itself as an alternative to driving.

I came this close to balking on my New Year’s Eve plans this year for fear of getting safely to and from downtown Minneapolis.

I wasn’t about to spend $60 on a cab. (That’s what the neighbors above me paid.) I wasn’t going to have just a few drinks and chance driving home. Walking was out of the question, because it was godawful outside. So, how did we manage to go on with plans?

Public transportation — the forgotten ride.

After using public transportation almost daily in Portland, Friday night was the first time in six months I’d relied on Metro Transit. I drove downtown and parked at my office, where my girlfriend and I rode two miles to our destination for $1.00. Around 1:10 a.m., we hopped on another bus to catch a ride home. That was just $3.50. I cheated by leaving my car downtown, but I spent just $4.50 to get around town on New Year’s Eve. That’s ludicrous. You’d be lucky to find a bottle of beer for that much.

I’m working with a small sample size here, but my initial bus ride wasn’t the most pleasant. A group of teenagers piled up in the back and spent the ride shouting profanity, belting R&B songs and taunting the bus driver. Several other passengers yelped into their cell phones. The bus driver never once acknowledged the behavior. It made for an uncomfortable experience, but again, it probably wasn’t indicative of the average bus ride in Minneapolis.

It made me think about local attitudes regarding public transportation. We’re blessed to live in the land of parking lots, so for anyone with a car, you can drive just about anywhere. Buses are generally seen as transportation for those without a vehicle of their own. For a public transportation system to be great, that attitude has to change.

But, how does it change?

There were some similarly unsavory rides in Portland, but there was great self-policing among passengers and TriMet — the local governing body — included signage in every bus and light-rail car to outline proper rider etiquette. On top of that, drivers and conductors were quick to remove unruly passengers who were ruining the experience for others.

And that’s what Metro Transit needs to focus on — the experience. Riders should feel safe, enjoy the quiet, and worry simply about when to get on and when to get off. Buses and light-rail services should be seen as a convenient, affordable, stress-free alternative to driving for those who wouldn’t otherwise ride. That’s how Metro Transit ups ridership — by being viewed as an alternative, not a last resort.

I can’t say when I’ll use Metro Transit again. I’m lucky to avoid the major highways during rush hours, but I’m all for taking a bus to and from downtown on nights my girlfriend and I want to go out. I would encourage any Twin Citizen to do the same.

Portlandia: Portland Dream of the ’90s Video

This is exactly what I was writing about. Portlandia is a six-part original comedy short series premieres on IFC on Friday, January 21. I’m counting on creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein to nail the same absurdity that ran rampant while I was there.

I Didn’t Almost Die in the Portland Terror Plot. Neither Did You

Captain Jonathan Sassman, of the Corvallis Police Department, examines fire damage at the mosque where Mohamed Osman Mohamud worshipped while a student at Oregon State.

Over the weekend, I had this urge to write about the foiled terrorist plot in Portland, Ore. In case you’ve been stuck in a five-day tryptophan-induced coma, the FBI arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud on Friday after he attempted to detonate a car bomb nearby Pioneer Courthouse Square, where a mass had gathered for the annual Christmas tree lighting.

The catch: Mohamud’s explosives were fake. They were supplied by the FBI as part of an undercover operation dating back to August 2009. Feds swooped in to make the arrest after Mohamud dialed a cell number to detonate the explosives.

My first impulse was similar to anyone who lived and worked near Ground Zero on 9/11 or anyone who regularly used the 35-W bridge in Minneapolis prior to its collapse. I wanted to write about the what-ifs.

What if I had never moved and Beth and I had stayed in Portland over Thanksgiving and decided to se the Christmas tree lit? What if I had been on the MAX, passing by Pioneer Courthouse Square just as Mohamud’s car bomb exploded? What if I had friends and co-workers who were there? What if?

None of that matters. We can’t let it. The moment we start to ponder the hypothetical and let it affect our lifestyle, the terrorists have won.

All that matters is what did happen. Mohamud had been on the FBI’s radar for over a year, under careful surveillance, and no one in Portland was ever truly in danger, especially on Friday. Mohamud provided the smoking gun when he attempted to detonate the explosives, and and unless Mohamud’s public defender can successfully argue entrapment, I’m sure we’ll see a speedy trial resulting in a lifetime prison sentence.

Here’s something that absolutely did happen. On Sunday, there was an actual terrorist attack. An arsonist set fire to the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, which is 80 miles south of Portland. Mohamud occasionally attended the mosque while a student at Oregon State University. The fire was discovered in time to save the mosque, but an administrative office was severely damaged.

That’s what the War on Terror has brought us to, apparently — burning places of worship. Again, we’re letting the terrorists win.

I’m so sick of arguing with anyone who unequivocally paints all Muslims as terrorists. There are nearly 1.57 billion people on this planet who are Muslims. Not only is it stupid and unjustifiable to claim nearly 23 percent of the world’s population partakes in terrorist activity — it’s irresponsible.

And we need to quit thinking about all the times we almost died, when, as with any car accident or house fire or natural disaster, time and place dictated otherwise. It simply didn’t happen.

Maybe we had been in Lower Manhattan an hour before 9/11 or we had taken the 35-W bridge to work that day. Maybe we sold a car that was involved in a wreck the next day or we’d been in a hotel that caught fire right after we checked out or we just returned from a vacation in the Cayman Islands before a Category 4 hurricane came barreling through. It’s so plainly human to latch onto our mortality whenever it comes into question. (Read: My post from yesterday.)

Ultimately, two things matter: What happened and what didn’t. The almosts aren’t even worth entertaining.

What’s It Like Living in Portland, Oregon?

Four months ago, my girlfriend and I moved away from Portland, Ore. It was an easy decision at the time, but I’m getting to the point where I sort of miss it. Sort of.

Here’s the definitive Portland YouTube clip. (It’s actually pretty compelling. I mean, if I hadn’t lived there, this would pique my interest.)

Mug Shot Sites — Law Enforcement or Entertainment?

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Meet your newest Internet addiction — www.thepotshot.com.

You’ve seen those Just Busted magazines on convenience store counters? Each issue contains hundreds of mug shots with a short back story. The publications have received criticism because mug shots hardly tell the whole story and, in some cases, the accused may be found not guilty. But still, they’re entertaining.

The Pot Shot is in the same vein, except it’s much cruder and it includes personal photos alongside the mug shots. The website’s author goes by the pseudonym Trey Starrs and he’s come taken some heat for the site’s harsh treatment of criminal offenders.

Everything about the site is legal. Starrs shares public information, including height, weight, arresting agency, booking date and charges. However, Starrs also provides commentary that can go a bit overboard. For instance, in one post regarding a Portland woman arrested for hindering prosecution, Trey writes:

“Obviously Sherrie got caught covering for her boyfriend’s crimes but I honestly could care less about that. I just need to know more about that awe-inspiring Ginger mullet. I want to be near it, so I can bask in all of its gloriousness. I bet Sherrie has to spend hours each morning taming that wild mullet to the perfection that is on display in this mugshot. I’ve never actually made love to hair before but if it’s going to happen in my lifetime, it will be with Sherrie’s. If I were the King of Sweden, I would proudly wear this mullet as my crown.”

Let’s not get lost in the adjectives. Vile, insensitive, childish, defamatory, sophomoric. They all fit, sure, but most importantly, they all equate to one thing: Ridicule. At it’s core, The Pot Shot is about placing the village thief before the townspeople for a round of public ridicule. Any part of me that wants to feel sympathy for those targeted by The Pot Shot is persuaded otherwise by the fact these are people who knowingly broke the law. Perhaps society needs more negative reinforcement.

(I think my inner-liberal just died.)

Look, I can’t defend The Pot Shot’s lowbrow tactics. KOIN Local 6, the Portland CBS affiliate, is attempting to interview residents who’ve been featured on the site. Mr. Starrs has appeared on the local independent radio station PDX.FM. There’s a buzz around this site, but there should also be a discussion surrounding its value. At its core, The Pot Shot exists to deter crime. Right? Then again, the justice system and due process exist with the intent of maintain a dignity, no matter how woefully indignant the criminal.

What are you thoughts? Does a site like The Pot Shot help or hurt the legal process?

UPDATED: I won’t say who, but recently, I recognized a young woman charged with DUI whose mug was posted on The Pot Shot. The crazy thing? I recognized her from Mankato, Minn., where I used to tend bar and she used to routinely get booted for excessive intoxication. Looks like she brought her show on the road out to Portland and got caught for same old shenanigans.

Portland’s the Setting for New Comedy

Fred Armisen will star in Portlandia as a punk-rock chick. (So Portland.)

While I’m still detoxing from the 11 months I lived in Portland, I’m happy to see the city is making something of itself — providing the backdrop for a new sketch comedy called Portlandia, coming soon to cable network IFC.

Portland is a city full of archetypal weirdos, broadly painted with the hipster stroke. Under that umbrella, you can go anywhere, and Portlandia plans to. According to The Oregonian, “characters include the owners of a feminist book store, a militant bike messenger and a punk-rock couple (Fred Armisen plays the woman in the couple; Carrie Brownstein plays the man).”

Sounds authentic to me.

My hope is the show nails down Portland’s contrived counterculture, but also romanticizes some of its better aspects, like the omnipresent coffee shops, Powell’s World of Books and the food carts. As for all-vegan menus, Portland Timbers soccer and  provincial microbrew drinkers — it’s open season. Have at’em.


You know how I waxed poetic about Target Field yesterday? I entered to win four tickets for last night’s Twins-White Sox game through a local pizza shop, but a co-worker won instead. What did I miss? What some local sportswriters are calling The Shot Heard ‘Round the Warehouse District:

Of course, it’s even better watching the White Sox’s broadcasters go silent.

Very exciting sports day in Minneapolis yesterday. Today, Brett Favre is expected to announce he’s coming back to the Minnesota Vikings for another season. I’ll be on Nashville SportsRadio WNSR-AM with Jeff Thurn on Sports Xtra at 6:30 CDT. You can listen here.