Yesterday I left work early for a tour of the shadowy past of Portland’s “Shanghai Tunnels.” Shanghaiing was an illegal maritime practice where able-bodied men were kidnapped and sold to sea captains who forced them to work aboard their ships for no pay. Portland was unique because trap doors known as “deadfalls” were used to drop the unsuspecting victims into the “Portland Underground,” where they were forcibly held in cells until the ship was ready to set sail. Supposedly, a network of tunnels crisscrosses under much of the old city, terminating in the basements of hotels, theaters, bars, and the waterfront.
I was excited about tour, and had daydreams of walking down narrow labyrinthian passageways, hearing the echoing drips of water, ending up in unexpected places, popping out of rain gutters and sewers, finding skeletons or treasure, and much more.
Expectations were not met. Our guide, M. Jones, looked like a cross between a porn star and a mole, inspiring the nickname “Shang Jeremy.” He was a charismatic storyteller, obviously passionate about the tunnels and just creepy enough to maybe be a Shanghaier himself. But his tour was obviously pathetic, and his tales had the tone of a huckster in that they were light on facts and heavy on mood and shock value. Part of the problem was that they tour only covered a limited space, maybe the distance of 4 buildings. He explained, plausibly, that a lot of the tunnels had collapsed and that it is unfeasible to excavate them. Beyond that, I’m sure that it’s hard to go traipsing around under privately owned buildings, especially getting permission to dig. Including the effect of road repairs, waterfront reshaping, earthquake foundation retrofitting, and lack of public money, the Shanghai tunnels end up being more interesting in the mind.
If it wasn’t known that the tunnels were real, than the tour would have nothing more that wandering around dirt floored basements. Not that that’s a bad way to pass time.
In other news,
I am in cooking mode again. After last weekend’s Thai dinner party at C.’s house, I decided to start cooking Thai food. And by destiny, there is a corner market two blocks from my apartment that not only has the produce I need, but most of the sauces and seasonings too. Last night I made pad thai, but I had forgotten to buy fish sauce and sugar. So I substituted salty water for fish sauce and rootbeer for sugar. Surprisingly, it ended up tasting fine. Tonight when I make green curry, I’ll be sure I have everything I need in advance. Except kafir leaves, I don’t know where to get those. And unfortunately, I have to substitute jalapeño for rat shit peppers.
Also, this is the Vespa I want but do not really need: