Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Keep Portland Weird vol.1

Volume 1: 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 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 here.

My first day in Portland last Wednesday actually began late on Tuesday night when my (new) friend Carrie picked me up in her Portland-Orange Prius. I was so lucky to stay with her and her three pups Lina, Angel and Smokey in Northeast off Alberta St. Portland is basically four and a half different quadrants in my mind, those being Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast. Northeast is so large that it's actually divided further into North and Northeast. And all the streets are prefixed with a letter that denotes what quadrant they're in. Got all that?

Last time I went to Portland in 2013, I actually stayed really close to where Carrie lives, so I remembered a lot of stuff around the area. After petting the doggies a bunch, I prepared for the next day of exploration - all on foot. 

Yep, bright and early at 8am, I walked from NE Alberta Street going south all the way to E Burnside Street to check out the Burnside Skate Park. On my way, I passed by Voodoo Doughnut (the less busy location) in NE to get a fancy schmancy doughnut. I think this one was chocolate-coconut-peanut butter.

Of course they have a food truck!

Then onward to the skate park, which is in this really cool industrial-chic area that has huge warehouses converted into cool hip offices and vintage furniture stores. Tons of murals, too. It's actually right under the Burnside Bridge, which is a little weird/cool, and you have to jump up a huge ledge to get into the park...which seems somewhat unfriendly to handicapped people - yes, they do exist!

Since I was there at like 10:00AM on a Wednesday morning, there were only a couple people there, and they were watching this amazing twelve-year old kid shredding it like a pro on his skateboard. It was wonderful. His parents told me they brought him from Wyoming, so that he could try out his skills at specifically this skate park. Heartwarming.

From there I walked along the topside of the Burnside Bridge which I guess is the most famous(?) because it has a lovely westward-looking view of the famous White Stag sign. I later found that that sign is a huge tourist icon and they put it on everything.

From there I found the World's Smallest Park, which is really small. It has a plaque and everything.

And then on to the Portlandia Statue, just to get all the touristy out of the way.

Kinda hidden by the trees.

Now it was time to get into the real hipster stuff. Next stop: SE Farmer's Market. There is a Farmer's Market somewhere in the city literally every day of the week. Some days have two!

I got the most delicious vegetarian tamale.

After that, I wandered to the gift shop of the Portland Art Museum, since I knew I wouldn't have time for the whole museum on such a short trip. And from there, it was a lot of shopping around and exploring. There were some cool sculptures outside.

In the gift shop:

Fake koi fish because why not!

A copy of Atlas Obscura - what I use for all my vacations - hiding in the background of a cool mug I wanted.

I went into the most beautiful Goodwill I had ever seen, which I found to be lovingly hand-curated by the owner and the only one of its kind. I found this really interesting sort of pavilion of handmade goods, including an artisanal candy shop called Quin with weird candy flavours and a leather store with kombucha on tap for customers. And every store had such wonderful enamel pins!

A store called Crafty Wonderland - where I got my postcards from:

Another store called Boys Fort:

From there, I went into the famous Powell's Books for a stroll through the shelves and picked up a cool tote bag that served me quite well on my trip.

I checked out a lot of stores, including the famous McMenamin's Crystal Ballroom which I would someday like to tour - featuring a bar/restaurant on the first floor, a brewery and a new dance floor on the second floor, and the restored main ballroom on the third floor. The main ballroom features a mechanical "floating" dance floor, thought at the time of its building to be the only one on the West Coast, and is potentially the only one still in existence in the United States.

Across the street from the Crystal Ballroom is an awesome record store called Everyday Music. It's so big they actually have two storefronts; one for records and one for CDs. Like many stores in Portland, they require you to check your bag at the front desk, which was actually a godsend because I was carrying everything I needed for each day with me. Anyway, lots of cool posters and things in there, including a copy of a free punk rock newspaper that I picked up to read later.

After that I wandered over to a brewpub called Deschutes to have a sampling of the amazing craft beer scene in Portland. I got a flight of six beers, which to be honest was a lot for me. But hey, vacation.

From there, I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat from Portland's biggest food truck pod. The pods are probably the best thing about Portland - big parking lots filled with food trucks - most of them permanently there. It's a great use of space and so lovely to get a cheap bite without the environmental footprint of a whole restaurant. This particular pod in SW was huge, with about 40 food trucks encircling the perimeter of an entire city block (the inside is a metered parking lot), facing outwards so people can check out all the stalls while walking around the block on the sidewalk.

I got some fresh rolls and potstickers from a lovely Vietnamese fellow who told me that he left a job as an engineer at Nike to open his food truck. Like him, many of the people I met who now live in Portland are not originally from there. I actually really appreciated that fact, because so many people make the deliberate choice to be there.

I ate my fresh rolls and walked across the Steel Bridge toward the NE quadrant where Fruit Salad Club is. My walk included a detour through the only truly 'commercial' thing I could find in Portland, which was the Lloyd Center mall. The area surrounding it and along my walk toward Fruit Salad Club is pretty nondescript and actually reminds me of more of a common suburb than the weird wacky ways of the rest of the city. I would actually find later that NE has some of the weirdest spots in Portland.

Fruit Salad Club is a wonderful little gallery/workspace/design studio run by Libby Landauer and Jillian Barthold - two young creatives in Portland. They actually bought the space and converted it from a crusty old tobacco shop, and ran a lovely little drink-and-draw party out of the space that I was luckily able to attend. Their studio is really cool inside, with lots of great art on the walls for sale and plants with googly eyes on them. I had a lovely time sketching, drinking wine, eating dehydrated fruit, and learning a little about the arts and culture scene in Portland.

They sell enamel pins - of course I got one!!

And now I'm a member of the club :D

After that, I had had quite a long day and decided to walk home. Wednesday isn't the party day anyway. Walking northbound on the east side of the city is quite a feat because it's pretty steep uphill and the streets meander off the grid in some places. I got a little lost a few times, but saw some nice houses and gardens while I did so.

That being my biggest walking day, I did over 30,000 steps and 23km!

My roommates for the trip - Lina, Angel and Smokey all hanging out with me!

In the next episode of Keep Portland Weird, I visit two awesome studios (Magnetic North and Studio Noyes), bike around using Portland's bikeshare program, and visit the international rose test garden! Stay tuned.

Check out Volume 2Volume 3, and Volume 4 here.

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