Friday, June 30, 2017

Keep Portland Weird vol.3

Volume 3: Last week I made my second pilgrimage to my home away from home, Portland OR. Land of the hipster, the weird, the accepting and the best artisanal/multicultural food in the United States, I hope to live there some day and took this trip to get a little more used to the place before making the jump.

Check out Volume 1Volume 2, and Volume 4 here.

In the last episode of Keep Portland Weird, I visited two awesome studios (Magnetic North and Studio Noyes), biked around using Portland's bikeshare program, and visited the international rose test garden.

After walking and biking a total of about 65km in two days, I was ready to kick it on the bus for my third day in Portland. The bus is only $5USD for a day pass, less than half the daily bike fee, so it was very affordable. I took the bus from NE Alberta Street down to SE Belmont Street to bum around for an hour before visiting Makelike. Unfortunately at around 10:30am on a Friday, not much was open. There was a food truck open in a nearby pod that had delicious breakfast sandwiches (see below picture) but not much else was open. I opted to sit on someone's beautiful stairs to their house because did I mention Portland has NO BENCHES ANYWHERE. Not even when you're waiting for the bus in some places (like the main terminal in downtown, for example), just these dumb things to stand/lean with your butt half off the thing. Anyway.

It had some kind of funny name that I can't remember. Avocado, pepper jack cheese, peppered bacon and a perfectly fried egg MADE TO ORDER on a toasted english muffin.

Makelike is a studio and shop owned and run by Mary Kysar and Topher Sinkinson, creating all sorts of wonderful things including lovely wallpaper and textile patterns (mostly for architectural and interior design finishings).

Mary showed me around the building she owns (which houses their studio and shop, a store next door, and tenants upstairs), and we flipped through a beautiful wallpaper specimen book.

Rolls of wallpaper!

Mushroom guyz.

This is the building. I would have visited the other store, but they're on vacation right now (like me!)

I like that their work is a bit more broad than that of Studio Noyes, and that while their work spans various media, it all carries a lovely charm to it. I mentioned in an earlier blog post about their lovely branding for Pok Pok and their drinking vinegar bottle labels, one of which I personally own!

Thanks John <3

Outside a cool vintage store.

This is a bong!

This store smelled amazing.

After bidding goodbye to Makelike, I made my way one street south to SE Division Street. I had visited the wonderful food pod the day before and wanted to get something delicious to eat. So I got off a number blocks away so that I could explore and walk westward toward the food truck pod and eventually hop on a bus and continue to Fuzzco in about two hours.

SE Division Street is kind of a smaller, hipper version of SE Hawthorne with some vintage shops, gift shops with cute little artisanal gifts, an art supply store, and a cool pizza place. I figured I had room for food trucks and pizza so I got some pizza.

There are arcades everywhere in Portland. Deal with it.

PBJ special. Love it.

My cheese pizza basking in the sun. It was SO OILY.

I also walked by the original Pok Pok, which was hella busy and had a big line. I remembered actually visiting this place with my mom in 2013 as well as the one in NE, so I felt less guilty for not eating there on this trip (which I didn't get to do in the end).

Jillian of Fruit Salad Club had told me to visit a stationery store called Little Otsu, which happened to be right across the street from Pok Pok. It was small but lovely, and also had art books and prints. It kind of reminded me of a cross between the stationery section at Muji and Magic Pony in Toronto. I was not surprised to find a version of Aaron Draplin's Field Notes 3-pack in a Portland flag theme. I didn't buy them but I was very tempted.

From there I took the bus to Fuzzco, and heckit I would have been on time but the Hawthorne Bridge was up (the first of two times it would fuck me over) so I ran up the street and was out of breath, sweaty, and five minutes late for my meeting. Not a great start. I also think I disrupted the open-concept office when I barged in bantering apologies and panting. Yeah, I'm really classy. Anyway Ann Kaufman, the office head, account director and strategist, granted me a productive 30 minutes even though the office seemed to be extremely busy and laser-concentrated. She intimated that the design scene in Portland is somewhat segregated by trade (advertising and big players on the NW side, smaller boutique shops on the SE side).

I left the office with a cool Pocket Art Director, which will be quite useful when working on projects in Toronto.

After Fuzzco, I bussed from SE back to N Mississippi Drive to check out all the cool things that had been closed when I visited the night before. The buses in Portland will definitely get you from A to B, but they take really weird routes. The area I wanted to go to was on the same side of the river that I was already on, but the bus route travelled west across one bridge, north, and then east along another bridge. There was no way I could have biked up that dang hill from SE to NE, so I had a nice relaxing bus ride through some interesting neighbourhoods. I passed the People's Pig barbecue restaurant but just wasn't hungry enough to warrant a bunch of heavy barbeque food.

My first stop along Mississippi was at a lovely Home Renovation Center, the likes of which I had never before seen. It was a warehouse the area of two small city blocks, filled from front to back with secondhand fixtures of all kinds. Some vintage, some new, all perfectly useable. Everything from windows and doors to knobs and brackets to full bathtubs and cabinets, and even the kitchen sink. Many of them.

Ergonomics! Reminder to self to stretch at work.

I am six years old.

I also visited (by chance) a world-renowned female-positive sex shop that I had read about in many a Savage Love column. It's called Shebop, and it's small but has a lot of merchandise.

Around the corner in a laneway were a couple more shops, including a tearoom with two floors. It was so cool and interesting inside that I immediately climbed the stairs to see what was on the top floor. A lady was pouring tea in a Chinese ceremonial style with real leaves for three men sitting at a bar. I decided to sit with them for a while and have some tea. Something about the place was really magnetic to me. I spoke with the lady, Diana, and the other guests while sipping hot tea in the heat (not actually as weird as it sounds). It was really cool and honestly not something I would take the time to do in Toronto. When I left I think I felt just a little bit different in some way I couldn't quite figure out. I know it sounds crazy but it was slightly transformative!

I walked up the street into a cool comic book store and then wandered into a Blue Star Donuts for my second helping. The cashier, Daniel, was really nice. We got talking and out of the kindness of his heart he gave me two donuts for the price of one. The first one was so amazing I had to give the other one away.

Blueberry bourbon basil glaze, oh my!

From there I continued to a beautiful plant nursery and store. The ladies in there know everything you need to know about plants. If I ever needed to have a menial job to support my creative work in Portland, this is where I would hope to work.

Then I went to check out the lightbulb store from the evening before.

The lady at the front desk was a bit grumpy at first but then we got talking about using lights for cycling safety, and we brainstormed about creating some sort of lightweight vest that could be inlaid with tiny string lights to make cyclists more visible (and to look hella cool obviously).

I continued shopping in all the interesting little stores.

All the ATMs on the street look like a version of this.

Across the street and walking south down to where I started, I found a food truck pod that actually sold more beer and cider than food. It was a really cool little garden space to hang out and sip on a craft beer.

A beer tap fountain!

So many taps.

I found this amazing store full of deadstock with such cute little things.

Bought a Yellow Submarine notebook for Larissa.

There was a street artist pasting the side of a box in a store. So cool.

Back where I had started, I wanted to grab a bit of food before I took the bus back to SE Belmont for the Magnetic North art show. There was an extremely busy taco restaurant with food that looked amazing, but I just didn't have the time to wait so I went next door to a basically empty taco place - apparently rated the best taco on Buzzfeed. Sounds dubious, right? Well, look at this taco.

It's pork and mango, and it was freaking amazing. After reading reviews comparing the two places, I realized the sign did not lie. I hadn't tried the tacos at the busy place I suppose, but this taco was life changing.

On my way to the bus, I found another place I would love to work: a laundromat. Hear me out. It's called Spin and it's a landromat/board game cafe/bar/arcade that also projects movies on the wall. Literally what more could you need? This was a cool spot and honestly, a perfect way to get people to visit. Just give them everything they need in one place. The pinnacle of efficiency! Now if only they could include a gym whose workout machines would power the laundry machines. Then they'd be cooking with gas.

I told you everything has an arcade (see the balcony).

View from the balcony.

I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the cafe/bar area. Oh well. The bus back to SE Belmont went back across the bridge (twice) for some inexplicable reason, and I also had to transfer in SW, but at least I was able to get where I wanted to go. And where I wanted to go was Magnetic North to see some sweet Collaged Lasagna.

Yeah, the appetizers were Airheads. So what. They were like real life lasagnas!

Vania Vananina's work is really cool. As a new addition to the Magnetic North cohort, she said that the first collaged lasagna she made was on her first day at the workspace. She loved how it turned out, so she continued with her series. All of the paper is either found, handcrafted, or hand-drawn by her, so each piece is completely unique.

From there I walked down to Hawthorne and over to the wonderful food truck pod I had visited with my mom in 2013. It's veeeeeery different from last time, basically three food trucks on a gravel parking lot has now become an oasis of garden tiles, picnic benches, flowers in planters, bonfire pits, and a canopy over the whole thing with Edison bulb string lights. And did I mention there are speakers blasting indie music in every corner? Quite the night life.

They let me try all of them >:)


I went to Potato Champion just like last time, but this time I got a peanut satay and cheese curd poutine. I sat down to eat it and ended up chatting with a bunch of students visiting Portland now that school was over for the summer at the university in Eugene.

Peanut Satay Poutine from Potato Champion and a La Croix flavoured sparkling water that is sold everywhere and everyone loves it but I only think it's ok.

After that I was so full that I decided to walk around Ladd's Addition (mentioned in the post from the day before) to make more space for food. It's a truly beautiful neighbourhood with a lovely rose garden in the middle of diagonal streets all pointing toward the center. I sat and looked at the lovely roses, almost as beautiful as the ones in the international rose test garden the day before.

From there I went into Burgerville to see what sort of fast food they have, and was surprised to see they had a special on Oregon Strawberry desserts. I got a sundae which was okay, and decided I would get a real dessert at one of the food trucks.

Someone actually freaking drew this comic with chalk. Even if the marketing team sent out guides to follow, this still probably took an afternoon and a half.

Somewhat real-ish?

As I was waiting to cross the street, I realized I was right in front of the terrible pothole from yesterday, and in that same moment a girl's bike jumped over it and she lost her bike light. She came back to get it, but looked more shaken than I had been. Another cyclist going by told me he rides this street every day and knows about the pothole but sees people fly over it all the time. I wish they would fill it in.

I got a milkshake from the crepe food truck, which had walnuts, honey, cardamom and coriander in it. Very very very good.

I only remembered to get a picture of it on the bus home, which had some strange purple lights going on. From the bus I walked home along NE Alberta Street and reminisced about a Thai restaurant my mom and I had tried on our first night. That was the first place I tried Thai Iced Tea!

As I reflected on the day, I was happy to realize my tummy was finally starting to expand to allow me to eat more food. This was good because the next day was FILLED with food. In the next episode, I visit the famous Portland Saturday Market, eat ramen straight from Japan, try some Okonomiyaki Tater Tots, visit Nucleus Portland and of course witness the amazing World Naked Bike Ride. Stay tuned!

Check out Volume 1Volume 2, and Volume 4 here.