Monday, September 19, 2005

The $700 Pie

How Much Would You Pay?
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
If I am to believe the proprietor of Lear’s Restaurant in Enterprise, Oregon (pop. 1,940), there are people who would pay as much as $700 for the pie from which this wedge was sliced. What is it with Oregonians and their affinity for crappy-looking pies—awarding them ribbons at the State Fair and paying out megabucks for them at local auctions? What’s more, the people of Enterprise don’t appear to have money to throw around willy-nilly on substandard pies. I don’t get it.

The slice you see here (dispatched handily by B and me) was good, but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding. I’d certainly not pay $166.66 for it, and, thankfully, we were able to get it for the bargain price of (I believe) $3.50.*

Anyway. Eastern Oregon was full of surprises—the $700 pie being just one of them. I’m ashamed to admit that even though we’ve lived in Oregon for four years, eastern Oregon was basically a big question mark. It still is. And isn’t. A few observations. Whereas western Oregon has lush moss and Douglas firs; eastern Oregon has sagebrush, juniper, and Ponderosa pines. Cars in western Oregon sport Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers (still!); cars pick-ups in eastern Oregon sport “Support Our Troops” ribbons (often more than one—and a big ol’ American flag decal to boot). Western Oregon has Walmarts, Outback Steakhouses, McDonalds, Starbucks, Taco Bells, Jiffy Lubes, Rite Aids, Linens ‘n’ Things, Home Depots, Office Depots, and (shudder/cringe) Krispy Kreme Donuts. Eastern Oregon has none of these.

OK. I’m generalizing and oversimplifying and probably stereotyping. But I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to escape the withering assault of homogeneity for a short while.** In Baker City or Enterprise, there’s virtually no franchise/chain/corporate presence. If you need office supplies you head downtown to a stationer’s store. I’ll say that again—A STATIONER’S STORE. When was the last time you saw one of those? Here’s the one in historic downtown Baker City.

Stationer's Store in Baker City

Wouldn’t you rather get your photocopies made here than at a Kinko’s in some godawful strip mall? I would.

Wouldn’t you rather buy your groceries at this 100-year-old store and tavern in the practically microscopic hamlet of Inmaha (population: 22)? (Note the wooden Indians.)

Inmaha Store

Well, maybe not. But my point is—I think all these horrible chain franchises are bad for people. Bad like high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Unwholesome, overprocessed, and ersatz. They undermine the quality of life.

There is one thing (at least) on which western and eastern Oregon stand united and that thing is good beer. Enterprise, for example—small as it is—is home to the most excellent Terminal Gravity Brewery, which uses snowmelt from the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness as its water source. Terminal Gravity is also where locals who prefer tie-dyed hemp skirts to camouflage vests hang out with others of their ilk. After dark, staff members who also happen to be fire dancers and bellydancers perform in the field behind the brewery. Who knew? It's unexpected discoveries like that that really make a vacation memorable.

Terminal Gravity IPA

Terminal Gravity India Pale Ale—straight from the source!

So far, I’ve given a rather skewed impression of our trip to eastern Oregon. We did not, in fact, go there simply to guzzle beer and scarf substandard pie. It was a hiking trip; we hiked every day (and drank beer afterward). And it was awesome. More on that tomorrow.

*Now that I think about it, it is entirely possible that the owner of the restaurant was just trying to palm off an unsaleable (look at it!) slice of pie to a pair of gullible city folk.

**Even in Portland, which prides itself on supporting indy businesses and being noncorporate, these places are still present—especially in outer Portland and most certainly in the suburbs. I try to avoid patronizing them, but even passing them by in a speeding car has a negative effect on my psyche.


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