Can I Break My Lease If The Bakery Next Door Affects My Gluten-Free Lifestyle?

I moved to Portland partly because of its friendliness to my gluten-free lifestyle. Unfortunately, my new apartment is near a bakery, and now that it’s windows-open season, the wheat vapors are inescapable. Can I invoke my health concerns to break my lease? —Sensitive Plant

Given the socio-dietary climate in the Rose City, Sensitive, I suppose I should be thankful you’re not asking me for advice on how to have the bakery shut down and branded a Superfund site.

There is no scientific evidence that the smell of bread alone can trigger a gluten allergy. That said, you’re hardly the first to voice concerns about so-called “second-hand gluten.”

While it won’t solve your problem, a bill making its way through the Oregon House of Representatives could keep the gluten haters of the future from winding up in situations like yours.

Under House Bill 4115, the Allergen-Free/Toxin-Free Neighborhoods Act, bakeries like the one that’s giving you grief would lose their zoning designation and be given five years to relocate. (Those willing to install HEPA-compliant ventilation systems, however, could stay put.)

The bill would ban food carts trafficking in high-gluten offerings like croissants or hot pretzels from operating within 1,000 feet of a school.

There’s many a slip twixt the organic kombucha bottle and the lip, however. Bill co-sponsor Rep. George L. Baker (D-Southeast Portland) admits HB 4115 has an uphill climb, particularly with skeptical downstate Republicans.

“We’re raising awareness,” Baker says. “This is a gesture to say, ‘Take heed, people; take heed!'”

As for your lease, you and your landlord should be able to work out an agreement. Your flat shouldn’t stay vacant long—some people still like bakeries.

Oh, and by the way, happy April Fools’ Day!

QUESTIONS? Send them to

It Used To Be Better

Udders hang from the rafters. They’re fake, fashioned from rubber molds, but the long-haired calf grazing in the corner of the gallery is real, and it’s pissing on the hay covering the hardwoods. It’s Saturday night, April 3, 2004, and New York artist Lindsay Bowdoin Key has transformed North Portland’s Haze Gallery into a simulated barnyard for her gonzo exhibitionAmerican Farm.

About 500 people—everyone from curators to Lewis & Clark students attending their first art show—have made the trek up to St. Johns. Some of them are out in the parking garage, tailgating with Gentleman Jack and eight-balls. Most have ventured inside, where a girl acting as docent holds court, outfitted in Daisy Dukes and a plunging checkered blouse. Artist Lindsay Key is circulating, explaining her drawings, paintings and video installation to viewers, some of whom struggle to connect the show’s whimsical visuals to its high-minded critique of the meat industry.

American Farm by Lindsay Bowdoin Key at Haze Gallery in 2004.

The cognitive dissonance is heady, as is the energy of a heterogeneous crowd swilling booze and processing big ideas. This was Portland circa 2004, at the crosscurrents of social and aesthetic synergy. It was fucking electric. Above the wafting scent of fresh hay and cow piss, you could almost smell the rocket fuel of an art scene flying fast and high, burning bright, very close to flaming out.

That was 11 years ago, almost to the day, yet the memory is fresh and even more poignant as I step down from my perch at WW to concentrate on three book projects. (I’ll still be covering Portland shows for ARTnews and other national publications.) It’s been a wild run. For 13 years, I’ve galloped through 146 First Thursdays and more than 3,120 exhibitions. I covered the Portland presence at Burning Man and Art Basel Miami Beach, and chronicled our art community’s trajectory during a period when Portland’s national profile rose precipitously. As I sign off, I’m sharing an old-timer’s perspective on how our visual-arts culture has devolved since I began in 2002 and what we need to do to get back on the right track.

ART APPRAISAL: Departing WW art critic Richard Speer working his beat at PDX Contemporary in August 2012.
ART APPRAISAL: Departing WW art critic Richard Speer working his beat at PDX Contemporary in August 2012.

First, the bad news. The Portland art scene is blander, more commercial, less experimental, and just plain less exciting than it was in 2002. Yes, there’s a chance this could just be the hindsight of a no-longer-dewy critic looking backward through rose-tinted glasses. But I don’t think so. I believe that the gentrification and Portlandia-fication of this town has seeped into our art scene. The same forces that closed Slabtown and Magic Garden and have driven up housing prices have created an aesthetic climate that panders to recent transplants who have lots of money and deficient taste. We see many Pearl District condos and fresh apartment buildings in Southeast filled with white walls that are either bare or hung with posters instead of original work by Portland artists.

In my first column for this newspaper (“A Critical Eye,” WW, July 31, 2002), I said that “to jolt the hipsters and somnambulant yuppies from their respective aesthetic comas,” we needed to cross-pollinate the First and Last Thursday scenes and spawn “the radiant love child of Northwest Everett and Northeast Alberta streets.” Little did we suspect that Alberta would essentially become Everett, replete with tony wine bars and shops for artisanal esoterica.

To give you a sense of how juiced up the art scene was in the early aughts compared to now, consider the year 2003. In April of that year, Mark Woolley Gallery put on what I still consider the best exhibition I’ve seen in the Northwest, Julia Fenton’s Devices and Desires, a virtuosic exploration of gender and sexuality. Fenton used pink feathers, polished steel, mirrors, asphalt, pubic hair and menstrual blood to create ravishing sculptures that simultaneously delighted and repulsed.

Untitled by Julia Fenton from the show Devices and Desires at Mark Woolley Gallery in 2003.

That summer, art impresarios Gavin Shettler and Bryan Suereth hatched the Modern Zoo, a bone-shattering knockout of a group exhibition that continues to set the standard for sheer curatorial cojones. With a bold but strategic lack of restraint, they invited more than 100 local artists to fill more than 100,000 square feet in the old Columbia Sportswear factory in St. Johns with every manner and media of artwork. It was a glut, a vomitorium, an expansively sloppy phantasmagoria. The spirit was best summed up by a sculpture installed by Chandra Bocci: Gummy Big Bang, a sunburst of gummy bears that perfectly captured the explosive creativity gripping Portland.

Gummy Big Bang by Chandra Bocci at the Modern Zoo in 2003.

That September, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art held its first-ever Time-Based Art Festival. ’Nuff said.

The following month, writers Matthew Stadler and Randy Gragg staged a series of 30 exhibitions all over town, collectively titled Core Sample. Unimpressed, I dubbed it “Snore Ample…one of the most important art extravaganzas ever to anesthetize Portland.” In hindsight, I realized it had been much better than I gave it credit for at the time.

The very next month, Haze Gallery opened in St. Johns and immediately became the “it” gallery of the moment. Founded by artists Jack Shimko and Leah Emkin and businessman Randy Calvert, Haze mounted ambitious, often outrageous shows such as the aforementionedAmerican Farm.

Haze also had a hedonistic scene. At one opening, VIP room guests were served pre-rolled doobies on silver platters. One big reason Haze had such an electric charge was Shimko’s rivalry with his frenemy and fellow art impresario, Justin Oswald, founder of the now-legendary Gallery 500, which was on the fifth floor of the Bullier Building downtown. For an entire year, Shimko and Oswald spurred one another on like Lennon and McCartney. Both galleries brought together first-rate exhibitions, youthful energy, and a mise en scène reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

At Gallery 500, Suicide Girls staffed a kissing booth one month, while revelers streamed into Oswald’s disco ball-appointed bedroom for conversation and cocaine, not necessarily in that order. A memorable art show featured New York artist Pinar Yolacan’s photographs of septuagenarian women dressed in garments made out of chicken skin, lamb and beef—one of those photos appears on the cover of this week’s issue. The energy created by Haze and Gallery 500’s competition between 2003 and 2004 hasn’t been matched since.

Finally, in November 2003, the gender-queer duo known as 2Gyrlz Performative Arts held its annual Enteractive Language Festival, a series of happenings in visual and performance art. In an enduringly horrifying event called “Porno-Social Ritual,” gonzo French provocateur Jean-Louis Costes stripped naked, drank his own pee, ritually cut a female performer’s labia, and flung feces into the audience. I literally ran out of the venue to escape the flying shit.

That was 2003: unruly, intense, unforgettable. It seems unimaginable today that so many groundbreaking exhibitions could have happened in a single year. That’s not to say the years that followed were lame. But as Portland-praising feature stories started popping up in The New York Times and elsewhere, the domino effect of new arrivals, the building boom to house them, and climbing rents gradually blunted the remnants of the city’s countercultural edge, which thrived on cheap space and a culture that rewarded the outlandish. Experimental artwork grew increasingly marginalized, and the work you saw in galleries began to look more and more interchangeable.

Dorothy Goode’s Homage Grid at Butters Gallery.

Which brings us to now—and some good news.

There’s a helluva lot going on. After a lull, the art scene’s picking up speed again.

Some kick-ass new galleries have just opened, run by people with formidable curatorial chops. One is Portland ’Pataphysical Society, at the Everett Station Lofts, run by former Disjectacurator-in-residence Josephine Zarkovich and her husband, David Huff. Another is Carl & Sloan Contemporary, in the Disjecta complex, co-directed by another husband-and-wife curatorial team, Calvin Ross Carl and Ashley Sloan. And Jeffrey Thomas’ eponymous gallery has a jazzy synergy with the other art businesses it abuts, Murdoch Collections and Katayama Framing.

Meanwhile, established galleries like Elizabeth Leach, Fourteen30, Froelick and PDX Contemporary are exposing Portland artists to international collectors at fairs like L.A. Art, Palm Springs Modernism Week and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Through their own initiative, local artists such as Eva Lake and Bruce Conkle have recently picked up galleries in New York City, which is a big deal. And artist, educator and curator Modou Dieng is connecting Portland artists with the world through his Worksound International program, partially funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation.

With all these promising developments, what needs to happen to kick this clutch into even higher gear?

First, the Portland Art Museum needs to replace recently retired chief curator Bruce Guenther with somebody who not only has great connections and can schmooze rich donors, but who also gets out of the museum regularly, hits First and Last Thursdays, and mingles with rank-and-file local artists. Otherwise, the museum may as well be an ivory tower.

Adam Sorensen’€™s Tabernacle at APEX in 2011.

Secondly, above and beyond the museum’s Contemporary Northwest Art Awards and APEX series, PAM needs to mount more shows featuring local artists—and not just late-career, blue-chip names who have one foot in the grave. It’s a museum, not a mausoleum.

“Our curators and educators are always searching for—and finding—new ways to connect people to art,” says Brian Ferriso, the museum’s executive director, who cites populist exhibits on bicycles, cars and Italian fashion as examples. He also promises engagement with local gallery owners like Elizabeth Leach to discover local talent. “Our next modern and contemporary curator will help the Portland Art Museum continue to be an institution of the city, state and region, and not just in it.” The museum’s next exhibit, in May, features work by Chinese artist and blogger Ai Weiwei.

Out in the galleries, we need more owners traveling to art fairs and getting our local artists into the national spotlight.

And newcomers to Portland need to deep-six the M.C. Escher posters they had back in Wisconsin, hit some shows at galleries and coffee shops, buy some original local art and keep buying it. We need more passionate, educated collectors. For far too long we’ve been in a doldrums where only a handful of people seriously collect—Jordan Schnitzer and Sarah Miller Meigs prominent among them—and when those people stride into a gallery, they’re besieged by artists and gallerists in a feeding frenzy of ass-kissing and genuflection. We need more collectors like Intel brand manager Bryan Deaner, who is known for actively collecting artwork by emerging local artists rather than sticking to Damien Hirsts.

West Coast Turnaround by Shelby Davis and Crystal Schenk at Disjecta’s Portland2010, March 2010.

As for our local nonprofits, Yale Union needs to clarify its mission. It’s a great, open, sunlit space, but its programming is an uneasy, unfocused hodgepodge of visual art, film and performance. YU also needs to start showing local artists, not just artists flown in from New York and Berlin. Unless it does that, it’s never going to connect with the Portland public. Finally, we need more cross-pollination among art lovers and people who love dance, theater and music. You hardly ever see art scenesters at the opera, Portland Center Stage or Doug Fir. Let’s mix it up!

Keeping Portland’s art community vital and growing is going to be a big challenge, but I think we can do it. The next person who covers this beat is going to have her work cut out for her as she reports and opines on what happens next.

As I sign off, I think back on that first column I wrote in 2002. In it, I said that although I was raised atheist, the world of art had become “my chosen church.” I still think art is the greatest religion. And I thank you for joining me in the pews these last 13 years.

Go here for Speer’s favorite Portland shows of the past 13 years.

Help For Her Friends

Last summer, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole  Smith pocketed a nearly 28 percent pay raise, bringing her annual  salary to $247,000.


At the time, most Portland School Board members said Smith deserved the raise after receiving only a 2 percent increase in pay during her first seven years in the district’s top job.

The decision by the board majority outraged many, who wondered why Smith was worth the steep pay hike as veteran teachers’ salaries grew at a far
slower rate and principals’ pay remained relatively flat.

Smith’s raise is being talked about again as campaigns gather steam for the upcoming School Board elections May 19.

It turns out hers wasn’t the only pay hike.

Since 2011-12, Smith has given generous pay raises to the PPS administrators around her as well, according to budget documents obtained by WW under the
state’s public records saw. In some cases, new hires have seen substantial pay boosts over what their predecessors received.

Lolenzo Poe, the district’s chief equity and diversity officer, saw his pay jump 20 percent, to about $135,000. Three other PPS officials—Yousef
Awwad, chief financial officer; Sean Murray, chief human resources officer; and the superintendent’s chief of staff, Amanda Whalen—saw their positions’ salaries increase by 17 to 18.5 percent.

The co-chairwomen of the PPS board, Ruth Adkins and Pam Knowles, urged Smith to raise salaries “to hire the best and brightest,” according to an
August 2014 memo. Murray, the human resources chief, says the raises are also necessary to keep administrative salaries ahead of teachers’ and principals’ pay.

Murray says his own salary is higher than his predecessor’s but in line with the person who came before that. It’s the same for Whalen, Murray adds,
noting that Jon Isaacs, the district’s chief spokesman, earns 14 percent more than his predecessor because he took on additional responsibilities.

An internal PPS advisory group is weighing whether to study salaries at the district’s headquarters. “It’s important to be able to explain this to the public,” says Mike Rosen, a PPS board candidate who is running unopposed to replace incumbent Greg Belisle. “It’s the responsible thing to do.”

The chart above shows the stark difference between pay hikes for people who work directly for Smith and the raises and salaries for high-school principals and teachers at the top of the district’s pay scales. 

WW intern Anthony Macuk contributed to this story.

Cheap Eats 2015

Photo and laser etching by IMAGE: James Aloysius with assistance from Kyle Key.

This was supposed to be the year the Portland food cart broke down. 

Last spring, our cart pods looked like they would all be tilled under by developers, from Hawthorne’s Cartopia to Belmont’s Good Food Here. At TechfestNW, phone-app entrepreneurs debated whether they were obliged to save the food-cart pods they love, because they caused the gentrification that put them at risk. (We’re in favor.)

That panic is suddenly a distant memory. Portland’s food-cart scene is now healthier than ever—as is our cheap-food scene in general. Both of those iconic pods escaped the mixed-use ax, while the new Tidbit Food Farm and Garden pod on Division Street is already one of the city’s favorite beer gardens. Our favorite
five new food carts
include makers of Pueblan mole, octopus balls from Japan and foie gras burgers made according to great-grandma’s recipe.

The almighty New Mexican green-chile cuisine and crispy-skinned Latin rotisserie chicken have suddenly exploded in Portland, and solid taquerias suddenly exist even in the central city. Even chichi Division Street gets an old-school rock-‘n’-roll pizzeria, and hangs on to the city’s best fried
chicken and jojos
. Beaverton Sub Station’s Chuck Wilson (pictured above) has been slinging his meat-stacked classic subs for 34 years, and they’re still delicious.

This Cheap Eats guide by Willamette Week remains, as ever, dedicated to the proposition that Portland has some of the best low-cost food in the nation. Amid the more than 160 restaurants featured here, you’ll find tofu and tempura-battered walnuts in a Chinese brewpub on the page after German sausage made to grandpa’s specs, both familiar comforts and a call to adventure. We
hope, with this guide, we’ve given you a to-do list for the whole year.
Happy eating.

—Matthew Korfhage, 2015 Cheap Eats editor.


Top 5 Food Carts of the Year |
African Food
American Comfort Food
Burgers and Dogs
Latin American
Middle Eastern/Mediterranean
Old World European
21 Delicious Bites For $7 or Less

Where to Get the Cheapest Beers in Town

The cheapest beers in town…

Sure, you’ve come to expect the $2 Pabst as your Portland birthright, even at restaurants with $15 corkage fees. But why stop there, when the beers get even cheaper? MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Cheap punk-rock cans

LoBu’s B-Side Tavern (632 E Burnside St., 233-3113) serves $1 Tecate, Rainier and Hamms tallboys to old-guard rockers and longtime regulars every day from 4 to 7 pm, under the watchful eye of a psychedelic portrait of “Tronicorn” that will—according to a Post-it note—”fuck your girlfriend.”

In a parallel northern universe, Alberta’s The Know (2026 NE Alberta St., 473-8729, throws down $1.50 PBR, Hamms and Rainier tallboys at the exact same time, to the exact the same people, in a bar with almost the exact same amount of graffiti.

The Florida Room (435 N Killingsworth St., 287-5658), meanwhile, offers $1 Olympias around the clock, under the glow of a sign that says, helpfully, “YOU’LL NEVER GET LAID DRESSED LIKE THAT.”

Old Town old men

Brave the Yamhill Pub (223 SW Yamhill St., 295-6613) and get your reward: $1.50 Pabst tallboys before 8 pm.

Ash Street Saloon (225 SW Ash St., 226-0430,, Lefty the One-Armed Guitarist’s favorite day-drinking bar for many years, serves $1.25 PBR drafts from 4 to 8 pm daily (11 am-8 pm Wednesdays).

Eastside lean-tos

With a marketing sensibility that’s either daffy or completely brilliant, Da Hui (6504 SE Foster Road, 477-7224) offers $1 Pabst and $2 well shots during three different happy hours, from noon to 1 pm, 6 to 7 pm and 11 pm to midnight. The Hutch (4606 NE Glisan St., 235-4729, also offers a $1 Pabst pint happy hour for its neighborhood regulars from 4 to 7 pm weekdays, but only if you pay cash.

$1 beer invasion

For a crowd mixing eager, penurious 21-year-olds with mildly annoyed regulars who’ve had their bar invaded for the night, marvel at the efficiency (pints in the fridge!) at the packed $1 Hamms night at The Standard (14 NE 22nd Ave., 233-4181, on Wednesdays. Witness a similar spectacle on $1 Pabst night at decor-free dive North (5008 SE Division St., 546-9973, on Wednesdays. Or, if you prefer, go to the Barmuda Triangle’s Bar of the Gods (4801 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-2037, for $1 Pabsts on Thursdays.

Pizza, pizza, beer

Order two slices at Brooklynized Baby Doll Pizza (835 SE Stark St., 459-4450,—just like Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing—and get a $1.50 Rainier instead of a street riot.

The invisible lakeshore

At Rae’s Lakeview Lounge (1900 NW 27th Ave., 719-6494,, where there is neither a lake nor a view, you can sip a $1 Rainier draft on the back porch every night after 9. And every weekend morning after 9, you can get $5 bottomless mimosas till 2 in the afternoon. Choose your poison, choose your meridian, and toast the parking lot.

Cheap fancy beer every day of the week…

Way back when, $4 pints were common in Portland. That was before the city became a relocation destination for out-of-work creative types from all over the nation. Luckily there are still a brave, lonely few who are keeping the dream of the ’90s alive with $3 craft pints available all day. EZRA JOHNSON-GREENOUGH

  • Monday: Wash down $5 nachos at Lompoc Tavern (1620 NW 23rd Ave., 894-9374, or $4 totchos at Sellwood’€™s Oaks Bottom Pub (1621 SE Bybee Blvd., 232-1728, with $2.50 pints all day. Other days of the week, you can get $2.50 pints from 4 to 6 pm and 10 pm to close.
  • Tuesday: Choose between $2.50 pints at EastBurn (1800 E Burnside St., 236-2876, with sensitive-minded bros or $2.50 pints at Lompoc’€™s Fifth Quadrant (3901 N Williams Ave., 288-3996, or Hedge House (3412 SE Division St., 235-2215, locations with unemployed regulars and middle-class, dog-loving families.
  • Wednesday: One of Portland’€™s best beer bars and bottle shops, Belmont Station (4500 SE Stark St., 232-8538, has a rotating $3-a-pint beer special, and they always have great stuff on.
  • Thursday: It’€™s Throwback Thursdays, a perfect time to look back at an era when Portland Brewing (2730 NW 31st Ave., 228-5269, was MacTarnahan’€™s and pints were still $2 after 6 pm. If you don’€™t feel like driving to industrial Northwest, then how about the inner-Southeast Pod Bar (5205 SE Foster Road, 853-3541) for $2.50 beers and $3 ciders among food carts and strippers on their lunch break from Devils Point?
  • Friday: Vintage dive bar Hannigan’€™s (2622 SE Belmont St., 233-7851), €”more lovingly referred to as €œthe Vern has a daily $3 microbrew pint special.
  • Saturday: Life of Pie (3632 N Williams Ave., 719-7321, has more going for it than just Ang Lee movie references; they also have $3 draft beers from 11 am to 6 pm, plus $5 margherita pizzas. It’€™s way better than being trapped on a small dinghy with a tiger. More into house parties? Alameda Brewing (4765 NE Fremont St., 460-9025, offers $5 growler fills.
  • Sunday: And the greatest deal of them all is at The Standard (14 NE 22nd Ave., 233-4181), which has $3 microbrews all day on Sundays. Capture the moment in their onsite photo booth.


Cheap Beer | Cheap Foodstuffs | Breakfasts Under $4 | Cheap Gas, Laundry, etc. 

Cheap Massages, Acupuncture and Haircuts | Cheap Gyms and Yoga 

  Cheap Fun and Games Cheap Movies  | Free Pool Tables

2015 Cheap Eats Guide to 165 Portland Eateries

Ladies First

Maddy Horn had a great season as point guard for her Wilson High School girls’ varsity basketball team, winning co-MVP. The senior says she and her teammates worked just as hard as the Wilson boys’ team and love the game just as much.

“We all are so committed,” she says.

But Maddy says Portland Public Schools hasn’t shown that her team matters as much as the boys’ team.

On the nights when the teams played at the same venue, home or away, the girls’ team always played earlier in the day while the boys’ team always got the headliner time slot.

“By always having us first, it seems like they’re saying, ‘We’re saving the best for last,'” Maddy says.

Wilson parents, including Maddy’s mother, couldn’t help noticing, either.

“It teaches everyone at school that girls are the opening act and boys are the marquee,” says Allison Horn, a shooting guard for Portland State University’s women’s basketball team from 1989 to ’93. 

The mission statement of Portland Public Schools’ athletics department is clear: “To build community, character and academic excellence through equitable athletic programming.”

But Horn and other parents say not only is PPS ignoring its own policies, it’s violating Title IX, the federal law that has ensured equal access to sports for
male and female students since 1972.

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in public schools. Athletic programs for boys and girls don’t have to be identical under the law, but they do have to be
equal. That means girls and boys should have equal access to “prime-time” games.

The Oregon 2014-15 high school basketball season ended March 14 with the state championship tournament for both boys’ and girls’ teams. But a formal complaint filed by Horn is pending before the Portland School Board. PPS officials, including Superintendent Carole Smith, have denied doing anything wrong.

Horn and other parents spotted unfairness in the schedule from the start. On Fridays, for example, the schedule had the Wilson girls’ junior varsity team playing at 3:45 pm, followed by the boys’ junior varsity team at 5. The girls’ varsity team would play at 6:30, and the boys’ varsity team would play at 8.

That was true at Wilson and the eight other high schools in the district.

“It wasn’t fair,” says Kiana Gilzow, a wing for the Wilson girls’ junior varsity team. The issue with the schedule isn’t just about making sure that parents and
fans can make it to tipoff, although that’s important.

For Wilson students, earlier games often meant the junior varsity girls had
to leave class an hour before school ended, cutting into their instructional time. The schedule didn’t affect the boys’ classroom time as much.

Title IX experts say Horn may have a case, especially given the bigger loss of class time for girls.

“That is clearly an issue,” says Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel and director of equal opportunities in athletics at the National Women’s Law Center in
Washington, D.C.  “€œIt raises a red flag, and it€’s something they should look into,” she says.€

Horn objected to the schedule in December. So did Mike Nolan, coach of Wilson’s varsity girls, and Suzanne Washington, coach of the Cleveland High School girls’
varsity team.

“I said it was sexist and that the only way I was in favor of it was if we alternated weekly who went first and second,” Washington tells WW in an email. “And I said it again at our last joint coaches meeting.”

Marshall Haskins, the district’s athletic director, didn’t change the schedule, despite the objections. Haskins didn’t respond to WW‘s interview request.

Horn, on behalf of six other Wilson parents, filed a formal complaint with PPS on Dec. 10.

Greg Wolleck, director of school programs, responded in a two-page memo Jan. 9. In it, Wolleck defended the system that always rewarded boys’ teams with the
later games, saying the league needed to be “consistent.”

He argued “prime time” was anything after 6 pm—not just the last game of the evening—and that the district’s actions didn’t violate Title IX.

Wolleck added that scheduling girls’ games earlier was intended to help boost attendance at their games.

“The girls benefit from the support of fans for their own games as well as the arrival of fans for the boys games,” Wolleck wrote.

Horn doesn’t buy it. “‘We are violating your rights, but it’s for your own good,'” is how she sums up PPS’s position.

Horn appealed Wolleck’s decision to Smith, the superintendent, on Jan. 22. In a Feb. 20 response, Smith said she agreed with staff that the district hadn’t violated Title IX. Smith said she supported a 2015-16 schedule that would give girls’ teams the chance to play twice in the final-game slot.

Smith also said she worried about the loss of instructional time for girls and said she would “direct the PPS athletics department to work with each high school to ensure that the bus schedules for the 2015-16 basketball season do not disproportionately require early dismissal for any team.”

Horn still isn’t satisfied. It’s not the bus schedule that’s the problem, she says. It’s the game schedule. She wants the district to pick the solution that’s been obvious from the start—alternating who plays first weekly.

The School Board has until March 29 to decide whether to hear Horn’s appeal and possibly overturn Smith’s decision.

Lily Brodrick, a senior, was the Wilson team co-captain and co-MVP with Maddy Horn. She says her team only wanted equal opportunity.

“They’re saying the guys should have more importance,” says Brodrick, who is also Wilson’s Rose Festival Court princess. “That’s what they’re showing us. I’m not sure it’s their intent. But if it’s not, then they should change it.”

The Lost Season

Back in January, I was itching to get past the slow start of the Oregon ski season. On the first Sunday of the new year, I ended up driving out to Mount Hood Skibowl for a cheap night on the mountain. We left after sunset, stopped at Arby’s in Gresham, and drove through the rain to the little ski area in the foothills of Hood. It was raining on the slopes, too. For two hours, I rode the old two-man lifts through sprinkles and skied through slush with about 10 other hardy souls. The mountain was all but empty when I finally retired to the old warming hut for a plastic cup of Pilsner Urquell and a few minutes by a crackling fireplace.

Rough start to the season, I remember thinking, but it’ll get better.

Well, damn if it ain’t March. That night was one of only 11 days that Skibowl has been open this season. Three days later, it suspended lift service until more snow fell. We’re still waiting. Skibowl’s upper bowl has yet to open this season, the only time that’s happened in at least the past 27 years.

“We have not given up yet. We are still hoping for snow to be able to reopen,” says Skibowl spokesman Hans Wipper. “Everybody thinks winter is over—it’s not yet, hopefully.”

He’s not necessarily being Pollyanna-ish. As Wipper points out, the Cascadian snowpack typically doesn’t peak and start receding until mid-April.

“One big storm can drop two feet, and that’s all it would take. We’d be back operating.”

But, until that miracle storm—skiers and snowboarders are the only people I know envious of Bostonians—the season will be totally lost. The current 10-day forecast shows temperatures in the 50s and rain in Government Camp. Either way, it’ll have been a brutal ski season for most of the Northwest.

Not for everyone, of course. Timberline, Meadows and Mount Bachelor have all kept their higher terrain open. Mount Ashland, which lost last season entirely, has been had a nice run this year. Anthony Lakes, a tiny resort near Baker City that has only 900 feet of vertical drop but sits at a lofty base elevation of 7,100 feet, tells me they’ve had an “epic” season.

Below 5,000 feet, the body count includes last weekend’s annual venture down the glade trail from Timberline to Govy, a benefit for Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum, which was moved up to the resort for lack of snow. Hoodoo, in the Santiam Pass east of Eugene, was open for only 11 days this year after a short season last year. The resort ignored several requests for comment, but has written a series of hopeful blog posts, the last coming in mid-February.

“While we’re bummed that we had to temporarily shut down operations until more snow falls, don’t think for one second that we’re sitting around sobbing with sullen faces. That’s not the Hoodoo way! We know that Mother Nature is preparing some truly awesome powder for us in the near future, and we can’t wait until all of that delightful, white, fluffy winter candy starts dropping from the sky.”

For Portland skiers and boarders, the main concern is Skibowl, a small resort which has some of the best terrain in Oregon. Owner Kirk Hanna—in 2005, Forbes profiled him as “the most audacious” resort owner in Oregon—bought it out of bankruptcy back in 1987. Rather than add high-speed quad lifts, he invested in summer activities, tubing and night skiing.

Now, 27 years later, that diversification seems especially wise. The tube hill has opened every week since Thanksgiving thanks to an investment in snowmaking equipment that piles up powder on clear, cold nights. They’re doing more guided hikes for people who booked cabins early. And they’re already getting ready for summer.

“Summer is increasing every year,” Wipper says. “Skiing is still the flagship, but this year summer will be more profitable than winter was. We plan for these times. It’s like farming—we’re farming snow. It’s all about the winds and the weather.”

Maybe he’s snowing me, but when Wipper says, “You gotta roll with the punches,” it’s calming.

Still, I’m glad I made that Sunday night drive back in January. Even in rain and slush, it was a fleeting treat.

Man Vs. Machine: A video poker machine dealt Justin Curzi a strange hand. Now he’s calling the Oregon Lottery’s bluff.

IMAGE: Jason DeSomer


Curzi, 35, had moved to Oregon in 2012 from San Francisco after selling a software company he’d helped found a decade earlier. He was fascinated with the games—the ubiquitous, flashing terminals found in bars, delis and even pancake houses—and he played occasionally when out drinking with friends.

On this day—Jan. 10, 2014, a Friday—Curzi paused playing video poker while a pal went to get a beer. He used the break to study his hand—a 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of
different suits. He was close to getting a straight, which would pay $5 on a $1 bet.

The game Curzi was playing, draw poker, allowed him to discard cards and get new ones from the dealer. He knew his best chance was to discard the 2 and hope the machine dealt him a 3 or an 8 to complete a straight.

But the machine suggested he do something Curzi thought strange: It recommended he discard the 7. He would get his straight only if he drew a 3. That would cut Curzi’s chances of winning by half—and he thought it was terrible advice.

“Hey, is this right?” Curzi asked his friend when he returned.

Curzi took out his iPhone and snapped photos of the screen and the machine’s serial number.

It was the first step to uncovering what he says is a $134 million scam by the Oregon Lottery.

Bad Advice

Here’s how the video poker hand Justin Curzi got on Jan. 10, 2014, led him to investigate the Oregon Lottery machines.

Oregon voters approved the state lottery in 1984, and today state-run gambling contributes about $550 million a year to Oregon’s budget, behind only personal income taxes.

The lottery encourages dreams of riches. But the games are engineered to take your money. “Everyone should understand that the odds in all our games favor
the lottery,” says Jack Roberts, Oregon Lottery director.

That’s why news reports two months ago that a Portland man was suing the lottery to recoup video poker players’ losses struck some as ludicrous. Who would sue over losing money while gambling?

But it’s not so simple. Curzi—who friends say is intelligent, analytical and obsessively curious—launched a personal investigation of Oregon video poker
machines that led him to conclude the machines were cheating players out
of millions of dollars every month. That’s why he filed a class-action
lawsuit against the Oregon Lottery in Multnomah County Circuit Court,
alleging fraud. Lottery officials deny Curzi’s allegations.

“Good for him,” says Les Bernal, national director of the advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling, based in Washington, D.C. “What the Oregon Lottery does with these games is create the illusion that you have some control, where in
reality you actually have far less.”

Curzi is aware some people might assume he’s suing to make money. He insists
he’s not. “The real reason I’m doing this,” he says, “is because it’s outright wrong.”

“Justin is not afraid to jump at things, he’s not afraid to question things,” says Rob
Steele, a friend of Curzi’s dating back to high school in New Jersey. “That is just catnip for Justin.”


Six days after his curious experience with the Jacks or Better game at Quimby’s, Curzi sent a polite and inquisitive email to the Oregon Lottery.

“Hello, my name is Justin,” he wrote on Jan. 16, 2014. “I’ve attached a photo of a hand that was given to me in one of your Oregon Lottery machines.”

Curzi explained how he believed the video poker machine should have given him the best advice. “This does not seem to be the case,” he wrote.

Draw poker is a game of luck, strategy and second chances. The dealer gives players five cards. Players then get a chance to discard cards in the hopes of being dealt better ones.

When you’re playing poker around a table in real life, you’re betting against other players in hopes of having the best hand.

But in video poker, you’re not betting against anyone. Each hand costs you 25 cents (or more, if you increase your wager), and you win money based on a scale of how strong your hand is. A pair of jacks might win you your 25 cents
back. A royal flush—the highest and rarest combination—would win you up
to $600.

Unlike slot machines, video poker gives the player a sense that strategy matters. In reality, if you play long enough, the machines are geared to eventually take
your money, no matter how many wins you record. Still, the sense that a
player can outsmart the game is part of its allure.

What caught Curzi’s attention was a feature on the draw poker games called “auto-hold.” The feature puts the word “hold” over cards it suggests players should keep. Players can reject the suggestions at any time.

But auto-hold has a second, less obvious function. It allows players to play faster, because they don’t have to stop to think about what cards to hold before
hitting the button to draw again. That’s important because faster play
translates to more money for the Oregon Lottery.

Before he got a response from the lottery, Curzi returned to Quimby’s, wondering whether the game’s bad advice had only been a fluke.

He shoved a $20 bill into a machine to play the same Jacks or Better game. Within 10 minutes, the game was again advising him to hold cards that cut his chances of winning in half. Curzi says he just wanted a simple explanation.

“I certainly didn’t think,” he says, “I would discover what I know now.”


Who Plays Oregon Lottery Games?

SOURCE: 2013 data, Oregon Lottery

Curzi grew up as a sports-focused kid in small-town New Jersey, the son of a prominent lawyer and a stay-at-home mom. Curzi—who played football despite his small size—also wrestled, played baseball and graduated near the top of his high-school class. He played wide receiver at Amherst College, where he majored in economics and history. That led him to New York City after graduation.

“I thought the only two jobs on earth were investment banking and consulting,” he says now.

He landed his first job selling investments. Working on commission, he’d
target an office building, climb to the top floor, then work his way down, knocking on doors. “I was 21, looking like I was 16, asking people to give me their money,” Curzi says. He soon climbed the monthly leader board. His boss told him he was one of the youngest salespeople to reach the top.

He wasn’t destined for a traditional job. A sticker on Curzi’s apartment door showed a group of people heading one direction, and one person walking the otherway. “Routine,” it read. “The enemy!”

In 2003, he moved to Brazil and quickly immersed himself in the culture, teaching himself Portuguese within months. “You feel like the guy has been there two or three years,” says Ken Barrington, a college friend who visited him.

In Brazil, Curzi met an American computer programmer working on a way to help accountants share QuickBook files. The two teamed up and sold the program, cold-calling potential clients from Rio de Janeiro on an Internet phone
line. “We must have sounded like we were speaking through tin cans,”
Curzi says.

They called the business Emochila—mochila means “backpack” in Spanish and Portuguese—an it blossomed to 30 employees. In 2011, Curzi and his partner sold the company to Thomson Reuters in a private deal; Curzi declines to say for
how much. But friends describe him as wealthy. “I’m not Elon Musk,”
Curzi says of the co-founder of Tesla and PayPal.

Curzi moved to Portland in 2012 with his then-girlfriend (and now wife), who grew up in Tigard, and now lives in a $565,000 Victorian in Northwest Portland. He consults for private clients, provides microloans to entrepreneurs through the website Kiva and drives a 1996 Isuzu Rodeo “whose crowning feature is where a dog chewed the back seats.”

Friends say they are not surprised Curzi—who’s just as likely to want to discuss North Dakota’s fracking economy as the business model for Purringtons Cat
—zeroed in on something as small and seemingly innocuous as a quirk in a video poker game.

“So many times in life, people just overlook the obvious,” Barrington says. “Justin has a knack for pointing those things out.”


SOURCE: Data 2013, Oregon Lottery

Oregon Lottery officials were slow to respond to Curzi. So on Feb. 3, 2014, Curzi wrote again. “[S]imply following up to see if you had a resolution for me,” he wrote.

Marlene Meissner, a spokeswoman for the lottery, drafted a response. Auto-hold, she wrote, “is based on optimizing the player’s opportunity to win the best
(highest prize) rather than simply increasing the odds of winning any

But, as Curzi later discovered, lottery officials guided Meissner to a different answer, so she revised her email before sending it. “In your case, the terminal did advise a strategy — granted not the only strategy — for you to have an
opportunity to win with the cards you were dealt,” she said in her email
to Curzi on Feb. 3.

In other words, the lottery was backing away from telling Curzi auto-hold offered the best option.

Curzi wasn’t satisfied. “I know your interpretation of the law is that you only have to suggest ‘a’ winning combination, but why not the best one?” he wrote in an email the next day.

The lottery’s response? “Crickets,” Curzi says.

Curzi turned to Jay Zollinger, a lawyer who had helped negotiate the sale of Curzi’s business. Zollinger suggested a public records request might turn up
some answers.

On Feb. 20, 2014, Curzi and Zollinger formally asked the lottery for documents concerning the Jacks or Better game Curzi played at Quimby’s, plus any correspondence, studies and reports about auto-hold. The lottery
responded on April 8, saying it would take 30 hours of staff time just to review the records Curzi requested. The lottery wanted a $2,350 deposit to cover its costs.

That fee would have stopped most people. But Curzi’s lawyer paid it. The total bill for records eventually came to $3,581.49.

Six months after his request, in August 2014, Curzi received the first of five batches of records.

By September, Curzi had hundreds of pages of emails, memos and spreadsheets. He made a copy of the originals, arranging one set chronologically and the second by topic. He took notes on his laptop in a file that grew to 4,800 words.


Curzi came across a Feb. 2, 2009, email with a spreadsheet attached—”Video Lottery Game Payout Percentage Report.” The document had come from Gaming Laboratories International, an independent auditor based in New Jersey that works with many state lotteries to test machines.

The spreadsheet listed all the types of Oregon video poker machines by manufacturer, the millions of games played in one quarter of 2008 and how much money players spent.

In one column, the document showed what various video poker machines, based on calculations of probabilities, were expected to pay out to players over time.

In another column, the document showed what the machines were actually paying out. Curzi thought the payouts should have been very close to what the game’s programmers predicted.

Some weren’t. Curzi discovered the game he had been playing at Quimby’s, the
Jacks or Better “Bluebird” terminal produced by WMS Gaming, was off by
quite a bit.

The spreadsheet showed Jacks or Better on average should be paying out 90 cents for every $1 players put into the machine. It actually paid out about 87 cents.

That 3-cent difference may seem small, but when multiplied by the huge numbers of video poker games played, it translated to about $1.3 million per year
that Jacks or Better wasn’t returning to players.

“This,” Curzi recalls thinking to himself, “is totally corrupt.”


He kept digging and made a second big discovery: Lottery officials knew about the discrepancy, and the auto-hold function on some machines was to blame.

“Due to the vendors’ auto-hold strategies, a few other poker games have actual payout percentages that are below theoretical,” Carole Hardy, the lottery’s then-assistant director for marketing, wrote on April 1, 2009.

Curzi discovered a survey of video poker players the lottery commissioned from Mosak, a marketing research firm.

“Across all player types, the overwhelming majority of players said they prefer the auto-hold feature in video poker games as it makes it more convenient
and easier to play,” a 2010 Mosak report said. “Players said this feature allows them to hold the correct cards, thus increasing their chances of winning.”

Curzi had only hoped to understand how auto-hold worked. He had instead discovered the lottery knew auto-hold sucked millions away from players—and players actually thought auto-hold helped them.

The lottery’s rules require “a close approximation of the odds of winning some prize for each game” and say those odds “must be displayed on a Video Lottery game terminal screen.€” 

Documents Curzi received show lottery officials debated whether or not they should tell players the actual odds if they relied on auto-hold.

In a memo labeled
“confidential” and dated Sept. 15, 2009, lottery officials reported they
had been studying their system to find video poker games that might be
making payouts that were too high. Instead, they found machines whose
payouts were too low.

“This triggered additional investigation regarding the integrity of the games,” the memo said. “Further, there was a question whether additional information should be provided to players to ensure they have accurate information regarding how video lottery games pay.”

The Sept. 15 memo also contained this nugget about WMS Gaming, maker of the
game Curzi played at Quimby’s: “WMS has confirmed that the auto-hold
strategy for all WMS poker games is set to pay out lower than the other products as a result of the auto-hold strategies WMS has implemented.”

Lottery officials, according to a separate 2009 memo, decided to put accurate
auto-hold payouts on the Web. But Curzi went looking online, even using
the Internet Archive search engine, to see if the lottery had ever made
public the lower odds. He found no evidence it had.

Over the next month, Curzi built a spreadsheet to estimate how much money the video poker machines, based on the odds, should have paid out, compared to what they actually did.

What he found startled him. Payouts to video lottery players were as much as
5 percent lower when they used auto-hold than when they didn’t. That translated to $134 million.

To Curzi, it was an outrageous discrepancy—especially given that players
believed auto-hold helped them, and the lottery knew otherwise. Buried on the lottery’s website is one disclaimer: “Auto-hold strategies vary by game, based on the particular features of a game and do not necessarily result in theoretical payouts.”

Curzi says that’s not enough. The lottery is supposed to be based on chance. “You can’t manipulate the game,” he says.

In October 2014, he sent the Oregon Lottery a letter detailing his findings and notifying officials he intended to sue unless the lottery reimbursed players within 30 days. On Dec. 4, a claims management consultant in the state’s Department of Administrative Services wrote back to say the lottery was still investigating Curzi’s claims.

On Dec. 31, Curzi took the Oregon Lottery to court.

ROBERTS          IMAGE: Thomas Cobb

Jack Roberts, the lottery director, took over the agency in December 2013, following years of controversy and accusations the agency wasn’t doing enough to address problem gambling. He had earlier served as state labor commissioner and ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2002.

Roberts says the lottery is fairly representing players’ chances. “Clearly the
odds favor us,” he says. “That’s what gambling establishments are about,
but we believe we’ve been honest in representing what they are.”

Roberts wasn’t around when the lottery introduced video poker and the auto-hold feature in 1992. “Our assumption has always been that on balance people who play auto-hold do better than people who don’t,” he says. “We don’t tell people that.”

He rejects Curzi’s allegation the lottery is intentionally misleading players. “I don’t think we’ve ever represented that the auto-hold gives you the optimal result,” he says. “The idea was that it gives you a good result.”

But records Curzi turned up show the opposite. “The machine recommends the
best possible cards to hold in order for the player to win and if the player changes the cards to be held, the possibility of winning will decrease,” the Sept. 15, 2009, memo marked “confidential” reads.

Today, the lottery is in the process of replacing all 12,000 video lottery
terminals in the state; it’s a routine technology update. But one consequence of the upgrade is that Oregon is completely phasing out the WMS Gaming “Bluebird” terminal on which Curzi played Jacks or Better.

Roberts says Jacks or Better is being phased out because it’s unpopular with players.

Roberts says the lottery is interested in finding out if more players are concerned about auto-hold.

“It gets complicated in the middle of litigation,” he says. “Any actions that we take might be interpreted as an admission that we don’t mean to say.”


Experts on lotteries and the law say Curzi’s odds of winning in court seem low. Rob Carey, an Arizona class-action lawyer, took on several state lotteries over the deceptive practice of selling scratch-off tickets after the top prizes had already
been awarded. Carey never succeeded in getting a class established for his lawsuits, but he did win payments for some plaintiffs and forced changes in state lottery practices.

He says Curzi’s case hinges on whether the Oregon Lottery’s public disclosures were adequate. “It really depends on what they’re telling the players,” Carey says.

The lottery could be safe even if the disclosures are vague. “You have to show the intent to defraud,” says I. Nelson Rose, a law professor at Whittier Law School in Southern California. “I don’t think they’ll be able to do that.”

Rose says it’s the machines’ manufacturers that should be worried.  “If the plaintiff were able to prove this was intentional,”€ he says, “that supplier could end up paying.”

Nevada-based Scientific Games, owner of WMS Gaming, the maker of the Jacks or Better game Curzi played, declined to answer WW‘s questions. “It is company policy not to comment on ongoing litigation,” Scientific Games spokeswoman Mollie Cole said in an email.

Curzi is undaunted. He wants players to recoup their money. He wants the
lottery’s auto-hold feature to give good advice, and he wants the agency
to give players honest information.

“It goes all the way back to that first photo,” he says of the photo he took of the video poker machine’s bum recommendation at Quimby’s last year. “I look at it and say, ‘That’s not right.'”

Timbers Fans, Mapped

I attended my first Portland Timbers game in 2001, when the pre-Timbers Army “Cascade Rangers” were about 10 members strong. We gutted the Seattle Sounders, 2-0. Because I loved the team and the game, and because my dad plunked down the money for season tickets, I have been privileged to observe as the stadium has filled to the brim and gradually stratified into various subregions. From an expensive seat at midfield that I don’t pay for, I eat free hot dogs and piss off everyone around me with my yelling. In that seat, I’m an outlier—and I know there are many like me—but I also know you can often tell where someone’s going to sit when they walk through the gates.




The loudest, angriest supporters, the section 102 Airborne, 103 Ballistic Unit, 104 Charlie Company and 105 Howitzers can typically be found screaming profanities at any idiotic player who chose not to be a Timber, or who chose to attempt a strong-side corner kick. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.



The traditional center of the Timbers Army is in the Woodshed, section 107, which divides the rabid Fighting 106 from their stoned, drunk, “no drama” sloganed brethren, 108’s Easy Company. Take note that the first few rows of each section are occupied by line lovers—those same people who leave Thanksgiving dinner early to stand in line for an off-brand TV.



Section 208 is the Del Boca Vista retirement community for the Timbers Army. Here’s where you find an Army Mommy and Daddy screaming profanities next to their John Deere-muffed little one. Mommy and Daddy trade off DDing, and the crowd is speckled with too-late members of the lower 108, who try to hide the weed smell from the little ones.



Older chanters want the same damn reserved seat every game, and this is where they had to buy it



Here’s where you find suburbanites who aren’t Multnomah Athletic Club members, couldn’t afford KeyBank Club tickets, and don’t want their son who plays for the Westside Metros sitting next to those raving buffoons in the Army. This is where 90 percent of the complaint letters come from.



The Southern Front, home to confused fans who got the Army end of the stadium wrong, and corporate Joe, who is only in the event section above the bleachers to network, and has never been to a game before…but still loves yelling at referees.



Why buy a ticket to the stadium when your ridiculously expensive athletic club has its own peeping Tom balcony? Meet the MAC club member who walked out of the steam room and thought, “Oh, is there some football on this eve? I suppose I shall imbibe.” Incidental fandom at its finest.



The KeyBank Club, where the main question—besides how many gratis hot dogs and cokes can be consumed by a young 20-something in one 90-minute sitting, because they got in free thanks to someone rich giving away their season tickets to go sailing—is, “What company are you midupper management of?” Others include, “Did you go to Stanford, too?” or, alternately, “Which player are you married/related to?”

b>GO!:The Timbers’ season starts 7:30 pm Saturday. Sold out.