Josh Play Gay motss.con.xxii (Portland, OR)

The following is my motss.con.xxii con report, or my experiences of the 22nd soc.motss.con (held Jun 25-29 in Portland, OR). If you don't like such things, feel free to not read it. It won't bother me. Much.

Thursday, June 25

Travel day! I woke up at 5:30am (before the alarm), so I showered, finished packing (toiletries, laptop, and CPAP), and was at the airport in plenty of time to check the big bag and still clear security and get to the gate before the gate agents. Our plane was late in arriving from LAX so we departed about 23 minutes late and lost another 5 minutes in the air despite going up above the turbulence for a smoother ride.

Got my luggage from the baggage claim and caught a light rail train off to con.central, the Mark Spencer Hotel. I got there just as my room was ready, so I went upstairs to unpack. It's almost a studio apartment, with a queen bed, tiny four-burner stovetop with oven, small sink, and full size fridge. Ran out for a quick lunch at a local chain (Big Town Hero), then came back to the hotel to run into Chris W, Mike (), Sim (), and Stephanie, then headed into the library to see Chuk () and David () and Kathryn (). I wound up schmoozing in the lobby and library as most of the rest of the motssisti arrived, including Jack, Ken (), Lars, Ned, and Rod. Mack and Tim arrived soon thereafter, as did Max () and Steve and Penny Lane. I got my con.packet and my lovely t-shirt, munched some complementary cookies (for afternoon tea, daily 3-5pm), then headed upstairs for a quick disco nap instead of going to the once-a-month Alberta Street Fair.

Early in the evening (and after the aforementioned disco nap), I got dresed in my finery and met up with Robert () and John (), who missed their original connecting flight and got in later than planned, and Jack and Ken to join the rest of the dinner contingent (which now that I think of it was everyone who'd made it to town thus far except Chuk and David, two thirds of our hosts; only Alan and George aren't in town yet) at Sel Gris. Dinner was wonderful. The bread was fresh and had just the right hint of sea salt in the crust. I started with the Bibb lettuce salad with crispy lardons, Rogue Creamery blue cheese, radish, hazelnuts, and garlic crouton; I sampled some of Stephanie's asparagus salad of spring asparagus, whole grain mustard aioli, smoked trout, sieved egg, crispy prosciutto, and Champagne vinaigrette, with a Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 2007 Mont Louis sur Loire wine. My entrée was the lamb two ways, a grilled rack (which was good) and a braised shoulder (which was superb) of Cattail Creek Farms lamb, served with fava beans, braised chick peas, root vegetable purée, and Oregon black truffle jus, with am Antica Terra 2007 pinot noir as the wine. For dessert I went with the chocolate and pistachio pavé, with a pomegranite and banyuls reduction and pistachio florentines; I also got to sample one of the napoleons with (locally-grown) strawberries, creme patissiere, and strawberry coulis. Service was excellent; water and wine glasses were never left empty, food delivery for the 18 of us there was reasonably timely (though it did seem to take a while for the salad course to arrive), and they managed separate checks without blinking an eye (and without our explicitly requesting them as far as I recall).

A short drive back to the hotel (thanks again, Ken!) and I crashed shortly after 11pm local (2am biological).

Friday, June 26

As is unfortunately typical for my first night in a strange bed, I slept poorly — in this case, for no more than six interrupted hours — despite being tired (after being up over for over 20 hours) and very mellow (after 4 glasses or so of wine). I caught up on work email (for the most part) and started writing up this trip report so I'd have a chance of actually posting it before, say, August.

Most of us read the schedule correctly and headed out at 9:00am for Vista House at Crown Point, where we toured the facility and took the first big group photo. We then did the waterfall tour, visiting Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Multnomah Falls (with hiking to the falls at the first two; the third is much more touristy and most of us were tired and hungry so we didn't hike it). We then headed out to have lunch at Char Burger (decent-enough if overcooked burgers and mediocre pie), followed by a visit to the Bonneville Lock and Dam where we got a tour of the power station and got to watch various fish swimming upstream. We made it back to the hotel by 5pm, only about 90 minutes behind schedule.

I dozed on the lobby sofa a bit until the pizza arrived. Then Ned and I went up to my room to grab the beer, wine, and soft drinks out of my fridge so we could take them to the Welcome Dinner, which was catered through Pizzicato Pizza. I enjoyed the sausage, goat cheese, and artichoke pizza with basil pesto and shredded basil, as well as the half bottle of Riesling I had with it. (And was quite tipsy when that hit the muscle relaxant I took before dinner. Whoops.) Headed off to bed to collapse.

Saturday, June 27

Slept much better Friday night (better sleeping through chemistry!) and stil managed to be more or less awake and functional in time to grab a muffin and banana from the hotel's continental breakfast and then to head over to the Portland Farmer's Market at PSU for some browsing. I had a yummy breakfast (of a fresh buttermilk biscuit with bacon, fried chicken, cheese, and a thick and spicy sausage gravy), nibbled on some fresh blackberries and strawberries (which tasted so incredibly sweet you might think they had been marinating in sugar syrup for weeks), sampled some Rouge Creamery smoked blue cheese (fabulous, though I'm not convinced I'll spend $26.49/lb for it), then hiked to the streetcar to head over to the Saturday Market down by the waterfront. Saw some neat stuff and a lot of stuff in which I am completely uninterested.

I hiked back to the hotel with George, Jack, and Rod in time to head out to lunch with the Segway tour crowd — me, David, George, Jack, Ken, Mack, Max, Mike, Sim, and Tim — at Burgerville (yummy). We all then headed off to the Undisclosed Location (a parking lot by a warehouse) to fill out liability waivers and credit card slips and initial condition reports for the Segways before heading out to the river, along the east bank, crossing on the Steel Bridge, then up the west bank to a resting point before taking the lead in the return trip. I didn't watch the speedometer, but Sim tells me we were up above 12MPH (yay!). We got back to the hotel a little after 5pm, where I discovered that I hadn't applied enough sunscreen to my face and arms (oops).

At 6:30pm, we met down in the lobby to head to dinner. I went to the Farm Café, a localvore restaurant, with Chuk, David, George, Jack, John, Mack, Mike, Robert, Rod, Sim, and Tim. As a table we shared a bunch of appetizers (roasted garlic; farmhouse cheese ball of 3 cheeses, parsley, horseradish, and spices, rolled in toasted hazelnuts; crimini mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, white wine, and butter, with tarragon and Herbs de Provence; rosemary-roasted hazelnuts in the house recipe with brown sugar and Tabasco; fried cheese-stuffed rice balls) and had that with the Anne Amie rosé. My entrée was the special roasted half-chicken from local farm Rain Shadow El Rancho, on top of couscous with summer vegetables (asparagus, peas, tomatoes, grapes, red onion, fennel, and a basil pesto) and the Patricia Green DOllar Bills Only pinot noir. For dessert I had the sunken chocolate soufflé with coffee ice cream that was just heavenly.

Got back to the hotel and hung out for a while in the outdoor basement courtyard until 11:30pm or so, before heading up to bed to take the evening drugs (including another muscle relaxant and some ibuprofen since the left knee was acting up after being immobilized for 3 hours at the dinner table) and crash for the night.

Sunday, June 28

I slept in until almost 8am (when the noise from nearby room 118, where breakfast was served, woke me), caught up on email (both personal and work (except I'm not bothering with the daily per-server security stuff; that can wait 'til I'm back), browsed some of the photos going onto Facebook and Flickr and the videos on YouTube. Sunday's scheduled events began with the traditional dim sum meal at Legin Restaurant, so we met in the lobby at 10am and headed out.

$14 (per person with tip) later, we were well and truly stuffed with shrimp and pork and beef and vegetables and rice and dumplings and shu mai and so on and so forth. Food coma in the hotel library!

We returned to the hotel for some serious vegging out before heading off first to the Portland Japanese Garden, which was very tranquil and pleasant, and then the International Rose Test Garden, which was nice but less tranquil and had more people in and around. We hiked back to the car and drove back to the hotel, where I freshened up a bit before heading out to a tapas dinner at Navarre. Immediate seating for the 16 of us (though there were only 15 places set, oops). We nommed on all sorts of food, including bread with a fruity olive oil, duck breast, farro salad with salami and mustard greens, pork stuffed with sage and gruyere, trout in parchment, fois gras on toast (see below), kohlrabi, lamb roulade, mustard greens, and rabbit in mustard sauce. We had several (three?) bottles of 2 different rosés and five bottles of Cortecillas rioja. (And the whole thing was for less than $40 per person even with the alcohol.) They did run out of five things before we even sat down and later ran out of two (the fois gras and the crab cakes) before we could get served. When the owner/manager-type came by and asked us how things were, we bemoaned that they'd run out of fois. He noted that they'd made more, but it wasn't really ready and needed to sit for another couple of days, but if we wanted it he'd be happy to get it to us immature and on the house. We said "Hell yes" and so we got 16 pieces of slightly underpressed fois gras on toast.

We walked a few blocks down to the gelato place whose sign said they were open until 10pm only to find that they closed at 9pm. Kathryn managed to buy four pints of gelato (chocolate, vanilla, cherry chocolate chip, and strawberry), and Alan swung by Voodoo Donuts on the way back to the hotel, so we all — except Tim and Mack, who bailed early in the morning; George, who caught a 6:15pm train; Max and Steve, as she had class in the morning; and Ken, who'd headed off to Eugene for the night to get a jump on the ride home — desserted in the courtyard on gelato and donuts and champagne for Stephanie's birthday.

I bailed a bit before 11pm to pack, check in for my flight, pay to check the bags (thank you Northworst), and print the boarding pass. And so, to bed.

Monday, June 29

And so endeth the con events. It's sad to go (since it's been such a delightful con; thanks to Chuk, David, and Kathryn!), but I admit I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. I woke up, washed up, finished packing up, checked out (but left the bags behind), and headed off to the Stragglers Breakfast at Kenny and Zukes across the street. I had a delicious pastrami and swiss omelette with rye toast (though she didn't bring jam until it was mostly gone) and breakfast potatoes, and said goodbyes to those who made it up in time (Chuk, David, Sim, Mike, Robert, and John). Hiked to the MAX stop (to watch a Yellow Line then a Blue Line train go by before I caught my Red Line to the airport). Got to the airport, where both Northwest and Southwest overflew their boundaries. I managed to get checked in and through Security to get to my gate only to find the DTW and MSP planes swapped (adjoining) gates, to the confusion of many despite the announcements. Bah. Surprisingly, PDX has free public WiFi at the gate areas, so I was able to check my email one last time before boarding.

The flight was uneventful and on time, though we did have a screaming unhappy baby on the descent into Detroit Metro. Got off the plane quickly and hiked to Baggage Claim around the crowds of tourists (including what appeared to be a youth group whose counselors decided "Stand Right, Walk Left" didn't apply to any of them and advised the kids to disregard the posted signs by standing left on the moving walkway). I got my bag reasonably quickly relative to when the bags started coming off the conveyor (a 12-minute wait), got to the car, and got home 31 minutes later without speeding much. Got (but haven't processed) the postal mail, e-mail, and voice mail (at home and on the personal cell phone).

Last update Apr27/10 by Josh Simon (<>).