Monday, May 14, 2018

The Commissioning of the USS Portland

I recently attended the commissioning ceremony for the USS Portland. I read about the event in the local paper several months ago and was intrigued enough to look for further information on their website. Fortunately, I was able to secure an invitation to the event by completing a request online and then corresponding via USPS mail, much like you would receive and respond to a wedding invitation. There were a limited number of civilian tickets available, all of which were free but first come first served. The maximum you could request were two per person, and even though I already knew that Greg would be out of town on that date, I asked for two anyway, assuming I could easily find someone to join me. That person ended up being my friend John Lovegrove, who is probably best known for his documentary PDX: Brew City and for visiting 77 breweries in one day.
military ship commissioning
This was the first ship commissioning I have ever attended. While I have been on military ships before, they have all been retired and therefore relegated to museums. My interest in this event was more about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be present at a commissioning and to observe the ceremonial aspects of putting a new ship into military service. As described on the event website: "The Commissioning Ceremony is one of the most important traditional ceremonial milestones in the life of the Ship, for it represents the acceptance of the Ship by the United States Navy and her entry in to the active fleet."
commissioning ceremony USS Portland
The weather in Portland can be hit or miss in the spring, but Saturday, April 21 turned out to be a glorious day for the commissioning. With abundant sunshine and the temperature in the low 60's, it was not too hot nor too cold and the clear blue sky made a nice contrast to the dull gray of the ship. John and I arrived at the Port of Portland, Terminal Two just after 8:00 a.m. The ceremony was not scheduled to start until 10:00 a.m. but the instructions included with our tickets requested guests arrive early. As it turned out, this was sage advice because we had to wait for over an hour in a line that spanned the full length of the huge parking lot to get through security.
long line
Once we finally cleared security we were given bottled water, the commissioning program, and an 8.5" x 11" souvenir book. We bypassed the vendor tables where t-shirts, hats, and other items were for sale and headed straight to the seating area directly alongside the ship. We managed to get seats with a clear view of the platform where all of the distinguished guests and speakers were seated, and then spent the remaining half hour reading the program and flipping through the souvenir book.
souvenir book program
Finally, most of the 5,000 guests (including relatives of the ship's crew of 384) were seated and the commissioning ceremony commenced. For the next hour we listened to speeches from the governor of Oregon, the mayor of Portland, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, and shipbuilders Huntington Ingalls Industries. The closing featured the most ceremonial aspects of the event including the breaking of the pennant, assumption of command, setting the first watch, and manning the ship and bringing her to life (for which the ship's crew boarded and assumed positions from bow to stern).
howitzer cannon gun salute
At the conclusion of the ceremony, they announced that ship tours would begin in about 30 minutes and that we could also attend the reception on the west side of the port. John and I immediately got in line for the tour but then had to wait over an hour before we finally got to board the ship. This caused us to miss out on what turned out to be a free lunch at the reception, which was not clearly stated anywhere on the program or in the speakers' remarks.
welcome aboard ship
Thankfully, it was worth the wait to have a chance to explore the ship. I had assumed since it was being put into service, there would be areas that were off-limits. This wasn't the case at all, and we were allowed to roam freely through the well deck and on the flight deck, "play" with the equipment, and then ascend and descend many ladder-like interior stairs to check out the navigation room, bridge, galley, sleeping quarters, and medical facilities.
military night vision helmets
It was after 2:00 p.m. by the time John and I decided we had seen enough. It was a long day of being on our feet for hours, but it was totally worth the time and effort to experience this unique event and explore a modern military ship.

The USS Portland (LPD 27) is now part of the Pacific Fleet and is stationed in San Diego, CA.

Here is the link to all of my photos and videos from the commissioning ceremony:

Here are some stats about the ship:
Cost: $1.6 billion
Type: San Antonio Class (11th in this class of amphibious transport dock ships)
Length: 684 ft
Displacement: 25,000 tons
Draft: 22 ft
Crew: 381 sailors and three Marines
Embarked Landing Force: 699 with surge capacity of up to 800
Mission: "The primary mission of the USS Portland is to embark, transport and land U.S. Marine Corps expeditionary forces while providing command and control communications, connectivity and medical services."

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Slice of Pizza A Day Keeps The Waistline In Play

The inaugural Portland Pizza Week was in April 2016. Close to 30 local restaurants participated in the seven day event. Organized by the Portland Mercury along with various partner businesses, Pizza Week was a natural addition to the annual food events calendar which already features the extremely popular Portland Burger Week

One of the great things about Pizza Week, besides having an excuse to eat pizza every day, is the opportunity to go to restaurants I haven't tried before. When Greg and I go out to eat, we usually choose a particular style of cuisine that requires more effort or specialty ingredients to make at home. While I love to cook, it's a solo event, so I thoroughly enjoy being pampered with table service plus unique and delicious food that I didn't have to labor over when we eat out.

While many of the restaurants that participate in Pizza Week do not offer table service, they do make an effort to create interesting, sometimes unusual, concoctions just for this event. For the consumer, it's a low risk, high reward proposition at only $2.00 per slice!
This slice from East Glisan Pizza Lounge was a nice balance of sweet and spicy.
I have been lucky enough to partake in the offerings during all three Portland Pizza Weeks. In 2016, I managed to try nine different slices in three days. In 2017, I tried at least six slices (possibly more but I only have photo documentation of six) in two days. This year, I made it to 11 participating venues in two days.

What's my strategy? I go with a friend and split one slice at each place or, I get a slice (or two) to go and share at home with Greg and then have leftovers for a few days.
Greg and our friend Jeremy enjoy Pizza Week slices in 2016.
A few of my favorites this year include (in alphabetical order with ingredients list in italics provided by the restaurants):

Atlas Pizza "The Smokey Kernel"
Smoked chicken thighs, sweet corn sauce, fire-roasted poblano peppers, roasted red bell peppers, red onion, Hatch chili crema, and scallion garnish.

Baby Doll Pizza "A Slice of the Balkans"
Cevapi, ajvar, kajmak, and minced onion.

Rovente Pizzeria "Dilly Mostarda"
Creamy mustard sauce, whole-milk mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and dill chicken.

I think I liked those three the most because they were the most unique out of the slices I tried.

The others I tasted were:
East Glisan Pizza Lounge "N Du Ya Like Me Now"
Hotlips "Chévre, 'Shrooms and Whips" (but feta was substituted for the chévre because they ran out)
Pizano's "Stuffed Green Pepper"
Pizzicato Pizza "The Chimichurri Verde"
Sizzle Pie "Out of Step"
Slice Pizza Co. "Nicky's Holiday Sausage with Portobello and Shaved Parmesan"
Straight From New York "The Big Apple"
Virtuous Pie "Jalapeño Popper"
An assortment of Pizza Week slices waiting to be consumed at home.
I waited in line the longest (15-20 minutes) at Pizzicato on E. Burnside and they ran out of the special Pizza Week slices just a few orders after us. My least favorite slice was at Virtuous Pie, which happens to only offer plant-based items on their entire menu. The crust (and all of the ingredients) were quite dry and flavorless. My second least favorite was from Pizano's. It was the only slice that actually resembled a store-bought frozen pizza. The toppings were plentiful and seemed pretty fresh, but the crust tasted like cardboard. All of the other slices were quite good-to-delicious and I savored every bite!

If you'd like to read more about the restaurants and slices for Portland Pizza Week 2018, just click here. Now, off to the gym! 😋