Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Getting off the train and hopping onto my bike to leisurely glide along the Eastbank Esplanade was like a dream, crossing over and under Portland's famous bridges, each documenting the technology and style of a different era. I have visited the city before, so I was more interested in looking for Portland's modus operandi this weekend. I knew I could dispense with the formalities of cursory sightseeing and treat the city like a casual friend I hadn't seen in a while. Also, I was not only some hapless visitor here, I had friends getting married on Sunday, which allowed me to flatter myself with a sense of purpose of some kind.

I was immediately charmed by the Hawthorne Hostel, which is a small home in the hip Hawthorne District, the capital of Portland's obscure, artsy lumberjack scene. Entering through the big front porch, under their very wild looking eco-roof, I knew I could feel quite at ease there, especially when I was warmly greeted by Shawn, who not only directed me to the hostel's vast printed resources for every type of traveler, but also lent to me from his personal library and introduced me to the Independent Publishing Resource Center, now and forever the object of my most passionate devotion. I immediately procured some Trader Joe's muesli from the Free Food section (a propitious sign if there ever was one) scoured the weekly paper, the Portland Mercury, and decided to immediately attend a feminist film night at In Other Words, a local feminist bookstore and community center. We watched and discussed The Runaways, about teen aged girls losing their minds and becoming drug addicts and sexual objects all in the name of female liberation. There was free popcorn.

The next morning I set out to see what Portland was really about, which over the next few days I found is essentially coffee houses, obscure artistic pursuits, and independence from any structure outside of a cooperative farm/organic grocery/music venue/coffee roastery/and antique bike shop. I would highly recommend that anyone on their way to Portland not waste their time with the Saturday Market, once an interesting community event and now full of elderly new age hacks selling overpriced lavender bath sachets and the like while tempting you with the ubiquitous local confection they call an "Elephant Ear." It's not so appetizing as it sounds. Soon after that mistake I found myself in the IPRC, gleefully rummaging through beautiful artisan card stock and designing and mass-producing my new calling cards with the help of their charming volunteer, Joseph. I will attempt to post some sort of documentation of said products soon, if I can master any sort of technological feat.

Within the gravitational pull of Powell's City of Books, Portland's infamous enormous independent bookstore, I got lost in some sort of time warp and emerged 3-4 hours (days? weeks?) later with copies of The Old Patagonian Express and Democracy in America in hand, ready to soak up some of Portland's infamous coffee culture at The Pied Cow, a mysterious and dark old Victorian made into a sweet cafe with a huge garden complete with fire pit. I started reading The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux, a travel writer whose biting wit and condescension for all living things makes me look like the dullest and kindest observer to ever set foot in a train compartment. Thus far, I would highly recommend it.

To end my evening I met up with my two beautiful friends Peter and Lindsay, whose wedding I would attend the next afternoon, for some very important pre-wedding karaoke at a very behind-a-gas-station bar called "Ladd's Inn". Let's just say, I'm not providing a link to the establishment, and after a duo of Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" I graced the motley audience with my own solo rendition of The Spin Doctors' "Two Princes." Classic.


  1. Trains! Not just for coal and winos anymore!

    Luv it

  2. Thanks for your kind words!

    The Saturday Market is indeed played out, but it's almost de rigeur for any visitor to experience it at least once, and then never go back again. (It's the same way I feel about Vegas.)

    Elephant Ears are popular here (at least at things like Saturday Market), but we also had a variation of it Back East, so it's not exclusive to Portland.

    Glad you dug the IPRC!