Posts filed under 'Randomness'

Original New York Seltzers

I was feeling nostalgic recently for the best grocery store to ever grace McMinnville’s Hwy 99 during the 1980s. That would be Zupan’s Market, which only limped along for a couple of years before closing its doors for good. I don’t know why Zupan’s picked McMinnville as a place to locate one of their specialty grocery stores. The demographics for this chain definitely skews high in the education and income brackets. The fact that McMinnville is home to Linfield College and (formerly) a division of HP must have been a factor. Anyway, my mom use to buy this carbonated beverage called the Original New York Seltzer from Zupan’s. These drinks came in small glass bottles with a Styrofoam label. There were a number of flavors, including raspberry and black cherry which were two of my favorites. I just Googled the beverage last night and found out that the company closed in the early ’90s. Of particular interest was the president of ONYS, a one Randy Miller, who was a professional stunt man, animal trainer, and funny car driver. There is a great segment from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on YouTube that profiles Randy Miller during the brief boom years of the ONYS. I mean, where do you start when talking about this guy? The hair? The fact he kept jungle cats in his office? The way he fake punches his girlfriend while she tries to exercise? In 1993, the ONYS company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, marking the end of the road for this delicious drink. In a Los Angeles Business Journal article, the reasons cited for the company’s decline included distribution problems, increased competition, and a weak economy. I don’t know how much longer the company managed to operate, but I suspect it wasn’t too long after ‘93 when production finally stopped. Curiously, as late as 2007, people claimed to have purchased ONYS at the grocery chain Big Lots! (just so you know, not my exclamation mark). I guess the only ONYS available through Big Lots! were of the sugar-free variety, so I’m not sure what to make of this. Was this surplus stock from the early ’90s perhaps? If yes, is it safe for a major retailer to sell beverages over a decade old? Puzzling questions indeed.

So what happened to Randy Miller? He’s still around and has his own website. It seems he made a second career out of his passion for big cats. According to his website, he has lent his animal expertise to a number of film and television projects. Don’t know if he still dabbles in stunts or funny car racing, but I suspect he’s doing just fine running this animal business. So what are the odds ONYS will be reborn? There are various petitions floating around the Internet demanding the product be brought back to market, but those never go anywhere. Of course there are also Facebook pages dedicated to ONYS, but I don’t think those will really spur any business interest. Probably the only way a rebirth could occur is if someone started small scale production and sold it online. There is really no way a brand like ONYS can complete against big corporations like Coca Cola and Pepsi — it’s best to stick to the margins of the beverage market I imagine.

2 comments March 29th, 2011

More Hydro Tube Information

Some followers of this blog may recall a post from 2009 about Oregon’s lost hydro tubes. Since there was so much interest in the topic, I did a little more digging and found some Oregonian articles that were quite enlightening. Of particular note was an article from February 2nd, 1987 titled “High Costs Send Water Slides Down the Tube”. Some noteworthy tidbits from the piece include:

• “Hydro tubes” or “hydrotubes” was a generic term derived from a manufacturer’s brand name
• Hydro tubes had a very short heyday in Oregon, lasting from 1982 until about 1984
• The Oregon Health Division has records of seven hydro tube sites in our state during the ‘80s
• One hydro tube sites was located in Vancouver, WA (East Fourth Plain) and operated from 1983 to 1985
• The company Design Works built the hydro tubes at the Eastport Plaza, Washington Square, Keizer, and Eugene locations
• Hydro tube sites in Oregon cost between $650,000 to one million to build (in early ‘80s dollars)
• In 1983 at the Washington Square hydro tube location, 10 trips down the slide would cost you $3.00 on a weekday and $4.00 on a weekend

As far as why hydro tube operations failed, the article mentioned a couple of causes including:

• The high cost of construction
• High operating costs, including liability insurance
• Maintaining interest during non-peak season (peak season = summer and school vacations)
• Lack of variety in slides

Early investors in the Eastport Plaza hydro tube location got something like 50% of their money back during the first six months of operation, but other sites, like the one on Landcaster Drive in Salem, quickly failed despite heavy promotion. While there were a number of lawsuits against hydro tube operators, it’s unclear if any were ever successful. Mary Alvey, manager of Oregon’s drinking water compliance program in the late ‘80s, believed it was a lack of interest in the slides, and not lawsuits from injuries, that caused the hydro tube fad to fade.

I’m pretty confident this is a definitive list of former hydro tube sites in Oregon:

1. Eastport Plaza
2. Washington Square
3. Milwaukee (Holly Farm Mall)
4. Keizer
5. Salem (Landcaster Drive)
6. Eugene
7. Jansen Beach

And these sites were planned, but never built:

1. Bend
2. Seaside

Still looking for pictures to post. Maybe The Oregonian would be kind enough to let me snatch some images from their archives.

4 comments December 27th, 2010

New Party CD in Development

Hey, it’s never too early to start thinking about my next party CD, right? There have been some good suggestions, like Nigel’s idea of a compilation of early ’90s hip hop, but I think I’m going to mine an obscure musical genre: shoegazing. Unlike past CDs focusing on musical movements tied to a particular moment in history, like bossa nova or polynesian pop, shoegazing music is more elastic. Without a doubt, the ’90s marked the heyday of the genre, but there are still some great bands out there keeping the form alive. For those who have never heard the term shoegazing, it refers to music that has an atmospheric quality to it. How the shoegazing moniker emerged is somewhat murky, bit it probably referred to the tendency of shoegazer bands to peer at the floor during performances. Some suggested this was due to not wanting to engage with the audience, but a more likely reason is the attention the bands lavished on their chains of effect pedals between their guitars and amplifiers, which were the secret weapon to the atmospheric sound. The shoegazing phenomena took off with the release of the album “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine in 1991. The album was rumored to have cost 250,000 pounds and took two years to record, nearly sinking the band’s label, Creation Records. Here in the States, shoegazing was largely overshadowed by the mammoth popularity of grunge, but the movement managed to develop enough steam to take through the ’90s and inspire a number of band to pick-up the torch and continue making music in the same vein (often branded as nu-gazers instead of shoegazers).

For me, the challenge will be deciding if I want to stick only to music created during the shoegaze heyday, from roughly 1988 to 1996, or to include contemporary tracks from bands like Mallory. Alison by Slowdive is a must, but picking one track from MBV’s “Loveless” album will be a challenge. I think the CD packaging will be influenced by Vaghan Oliver, who was kind of the in-house designer for the 4AD record label. Anyway, more to come in future posts. Maybe even a draft playlist with links to the actual songs.

Add comment October 27th, 2010

Evolution Explained

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Add comment October 2nd, 2010

Reflections on MHS Class of ‘90

This last weekend I attended my 20 year high school reunion instantly dating me. There were numerous scheduled events between Friday and Sunday, but I only attended the Friday and Saturday night events. The Friday thing was at a McMinnville brew pub, like our 10 year reunion, and it was pretty well attended. I had a good time and all, but it was what happened afterward that left a distinct memory. As I left the parking lot of the brew pub, a Mac cop followed me. I drove down 3rd street and made a left turn on Baker (99 West). 5-O followed close behind. After the Baker/1st Street intersection, I made a change into the right lane. The cop immediately turned on his lights and I pulled over. He came up to my window and the following conversation transpired:

Me: Is there a problem officer?
Mac Fuzz: You made an improper land change
Me: I had my turn signal on
Mac Fuzz: Oregon law requires that you engage your turn signal at least 100 feet before changing lanes
Me: Are you serious?
Mac Fuzz: Have you been drinking?
Me: I had a gin and tonic about four hours ago
Mac Fuzz: I’m going to need your license, registration, and proof of insurance

So I hand the guy all my stuff and he goes back to the squad car and sits there for like 15 minutes. I rearrange the contents of my glove box to pass the time. He eventually comes back.

Mac Fuzz: There is a problem with your license
Me: What?
Mac Fuzz: Is this your current address? (points to license)
Me: I just moved to Kiezer, like, two weeks ago
Mac Fuzz: You have 30 days to change your address with the DMV or you’ll be in violation in Oregon law
Me: OK, thanks

And with that, I drove off for my hour long trip. Since I missed the last Wheatland Ferry run, I had to go through Salem, making my already long drive that much longer.

Saturday night was a much better experience. I spent pretty much the whole day putting together a video slide show for the evening, but I was having all manner of technical issues. Much of my computer stuff is still in boxes, so I spend a lot of time rummaging for correct power supplies or Firewire cables. And then I had all sorts of issues encoding the footage and burning the CD. All of this made me 30 minutes late to the Saturday event, but everything worked out fine. The video, while pretty rough around the edges, was generally well received. Later in the evening, I had a ton of great conversations. There were the standard conversations centered around where people lived and what people do for a living, but I enjoyed other conversations centered around the human condition. You see, when I was in middle school, I tended to get into a fair amount of trouble, as did some of my classmates attending this reunion. Nearly all of us got that waywardness out of our systems by high school and had left the delinquency behind us. For a few of our classmates, they never made that step forward and remained stuck in a cycle of alcohol and drug addiction. Some have been regular visitors to the inside of the Yamhill County Court House (or worse, the jail). I talked with a couple of my classmates about why we manage to make it through high school and lead relatively productive lives while some of our old friends floundered. One interesting insight a classmate had was that our troubled counterparts had virtually no interests outside of getting wasted all the time. I certainly liked drinking and smoking out during my middle school years, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do all the time. For some of our more troubled friends, the only activity worth participating in was one that included getting totally wasted. It’s like most of us outgrew that urge and moved on with our lives, while these old friends remain trapped in the past.

Add comment August 24th, 2010

My Australian Doppelganger

One of the reasons I signed up for Gmail a couple of years ago was for the chance to get a personalized email address, i.e. “ned.howard” instead of something totally random. But what I didn’t anticipate was email intended for other Ned Howards. I don’t get a flood of these misdirected messages, but they do hit my inbox from time to time. The highest volume appears to be intended for some fellow Ned Howard in Australia. My twin seems to be leading a far more adventurous, outdoor-centric life then mine, since I’ve received many messages from his friends offering photographic evidence of his many exploits down under. From the emails I’ve received, I’ve been able to deduce the other Ned appears to be young, well off, and an employee of the Australian government. Here is sample text from a recent email:

From: XXX XXXX <XXX.XXXX@development.tas.gov.au>
To: “XXXX.XXXXX@gmail.com” <XXXX.XXXXXX@gmail.com>, XXXX XXXX <XXXX.XXXX@fpa.tas.gov.au>, “ned.howard@gmail.com” <ned.howard@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Feb 8, 2010 at 6:23 PM
Subject: moula

Hulla hulla hulla,

Well well well three holes in the ground..

I’m back at work after a long weekend and it bites really.. Wishin for some muzza river loving, good aussie wine, workin’ hard at being lazy, no bite on the line.. my kind of paradise – a river and some bloody wine..

I’m not sure what “muzza river loving” constitutes, but the Aussie wine sure sounds good. Maybe this was a fishing trip? The rest of the message is related to car rental details that I’ll keep confidential (why don’t people use secure email?). It’s interesting to note my Australian counterpart is as often referred to as “Nedley”, which is funny because that’s the nickname many of my friends use for me. And just like Crocodile Dundee, these real life Australians say “bloody” a lot.

I should email all these people back and let them know I’m not the Ned Howard they’re looking for. But sometime these random emails are the highpoint of my workday and it would be sad if they slowly died off.

Add comment February 11th, 2010

A Bit of Roseway Christmas Cheer

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It’s been ages since I’ve had a real Christmas tree in the house. I thought it might be a nice change of pace to embrace the holidays this year, so I went to a neighborhood tree lot with Stacy this last Sunday to pick-out a modest sized noble. Of course it turns out I don’t have any colored Christmas lights back at the house, so this necessitated a couple of fruitless trips to some big box retailers. I don’t know what’s going on this year, but I had a really hard time finding basic mini lights. Guess retailers are playing it safe and keeping inventory low given the bad economy and all.

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Once I got the tree up and the lights on, the house was soon overflowing with holiday cheer. Just sitting on the couch and looking the decorated tree makes me feel happy. And the cats are just as jazzed. Clementine enjoys laying under the tree on the soft, snow-like base while sniffing the needles. Cholula is endlessly fascinated by the handful of ornaments on some of the higher branches. Neither has completely destroyed the tree yet, which is kind of surprising, since they can be so destructive with everything else in the house.

Add comment December 8th, 2009

New Party CD in the Works

OK, I guess it’s been a couple of years since I’ve hosted one of my “theme” parties, but I’ve finally got myself motivated enough to pick-up the torch again. For the 2010 party, it will be a celebration of late ’70s early ’80s British synthpop. The CD track listing has almost been finalized, the essay is in it’s final draft stage, and I’ve started the process of putting together the artwork for the jewel case. As far as food goes for the party, I’ll be looking into what was popular during the early ’80s. If dressing up is you thing, there will be plenty of options of you. I’ll do a blog post later on with some suggestions illustrated by period photos. But if you’re a guy, think of Depeche Mode circa “Speak and Spell”. If you’re a lady, consider the fashion sense of the female singers from The Human League circa “Dare”. The plan is to have the CD in the mail around March/April with the actual party in June.

Add comment November 14th, 2009

Dirty Harry & Enhanced Techniques

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I was watching one of my favorite films from the ’70s not long ago and that got me thinking about our use of torture to extract information from detainees during the dark days of the Bush administration. First, as kind of an aside, I have to say Dirty Harry is a great film. Wonderful music by Lalo Schifrin, beautiful wide angle camera work by cinematographer Bruce Surtees, and of course the iconic title character portrayed by Clint Eastwood. Anyway, back to the topic of torture: The Bush administration claimed its use was justified because detainees possessed knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks. This is the “Ticking Time Bomb” rational best illustrated by any episode of 24. You know the scenario, Jack Bauer has some terrorist tied to a chair and he’s going after them with a power drill and spatula in order to get a confession — usually involving the location of a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. And Dirty Harry used a similar tactic to extract the location of a kidnapped girl from the Scorpio Killer. But in the case Bush era detainees, there was never a documented instance of a ticking time bomb scenario. Detainees seemed to be interrogated at random, with torture tactics used in no discernible pattern. In some cases, contractors carried out the interrogations. In other cases it was the CIA. Some detainees were tortured, forgotten about, then tortured again weeks later — nothing suggesting an imminent terrorist attack was on our minds.

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I think the whole ticking time bomb rational is just barely justifiable from a moral standpoint. It’s on of those things where you don’t want to encourage or even publicly condone it, but I think we’re collectively willing to look the other way when it’s used by someone operating just a little outside of the system (like Dirty Harry or Jack Bauer). However, the torture used against detainees was institutionalized and authorized at the highest level of government. In fact, the FBI felt information could be more effectively squeezed out of detainees using conventional law enforcement style interrogation tactics instead of ad hoc torture methods, so it’s really strange the administration would just ignore the advice of those who had the most experience at the interrogation game. While I don’t necessarily think we need some kind of witch hunt to go after those who approved the use of torture, I do think we need to take steps to make sure we don’t do it again. The last thing we need is another Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib to weigh heavy on our collective minds.

1 comment September 18th, 2009

Lost Oregon: Hydro Tubes

During the early ’80s, a wonderful and dangerous fad swept our state: hydro tubes! These were fiberglass, fully enclosed water slides — commonly found at our better regional malls. I’ve had trouble finding online information about these long abandoned local attractions, but I believe they were located at Eastport Plaza, Washington Square, Janzen Beach, and Holly Farm (Oak Grove). Stacy also remembers a hydro tubes attraction in Keiser and chances are there were others in larger Oregon cities (Eugene had one at their Valley River Center). I don’t remember the exact location of the hydro tubes I visited for the first time, but it was probably Washington Square one since it would have been the closest to McMinnville. I do remember going back to the hydro tubes once for my birthday and the splash pool was located inside of a mall, so that might have been the Eastport Plaza location. I think I got one of those huge donuts at Rose’s afterwards. Why I remember details like that I don’t know.

In contrast to the fun of sliding down these heated tubes, they offered many dangers that would eventually lead to their downfall. I recall serious misalignment between tube segments, resulting in frequent scrapes and bruises. Why these defects were not resolved with sanding or grinding I don’t know. Maybe there was shifting problems after construction due to the weight of water and people? The other issue I remember was variable water flow. Sometime, halfway through a trip down a tube, water would suddenly disappear; leaving you high and dry only to get violently swept away once the water started flowing again and other sliders came barreling down. And then there was always the embarrassing prospect of losing your swim trucks from misaligned tubes. This was really more of an issue for girls than boys who had to contend with flimsy tops fashionable at the time, throwing into question the wisdom of having the splash pool open to public view (at least in the case of Eastport Plaza). God knows how many women experienced their first taste of public humiliation due to swim wear malfunctions.

I tried to dig up some newspaper articles detailing the decline of hydro tubes here in Oregon, but only found something from Eugene’s Register-Guard circa 1984. In that article, it mentions the State of Oregon’s Health Division issuing a warning about the risks for slide injuries. The article also cites instances of people being knocked unconscious and lacerations requiring stitches. I remember lawsuits as being the death of Oregon’s hydro tubes. By the time I was in college, most of the Portland locations had closed. By the late ’90s, I think all of them had been dismantled. Today, one can head north to Washington and find the offspring of our hydro tubes at Great Wolf Lodge, a huge indoor water park offering a more polished (and safer) version of the water slides I grew up with.

Despite all the dangers hydro tubes presented, I still have fond memories of them. The warm water flowing through these translucent tubes on a cold February night offered an exotic escape from the dull grayness of an Oregon winter that didn’t offer much in the way of excitement for kids. Do you have any hydro tube memories?

36 comments September 9th, 2009

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