Keep Portland Weird / by laurel

This should be the epilogue to what is going to be a monumentally long post, but nonetheless, it serves as a precursor:

It was one of those days that sort of stands on its own in memory--a day that, when pushed against the terrifying whir of memories rushing right out of our subconscious every single second, sort of halts the process, and itself remains unchanged. I was on a boat passing under a looming bridge--a bridge whose bowels and organs were comprised of rusted steel--flat and intertwined. The day was so hot I could feel water evaporate from my skin like a griddle. The boat picked up speed for a moment and the air rushed over my face, pressing against my closed eyes. The 'captain' of the boat eased up on the throttle and spun the boat halfway around, creating a massive wall of white water. It pounded us, soaking us to the skin and even further still. It was so cold I gasped and sucked a gulp of air into my lungs. Jet boats on the Willamette River. I glanced at Portland, glittering and twisting and melting in the sun--102 degrees today. Probably the hottest day of the year. The boat picked up speed again and I closed my eyes.

I realize that I promised I would lay off the lists until at least April, but I feel that the pertinence of this list will forgive its premature presence on my blog.

I shall call this list The Hippies of The Field Will Clap Their Hands, or, Paradise Found In The Unassuming Form of Concrete and Rain.

10. Donald Miller mentions the Bagdad Theater & Pub in Blue Like Jazz: "I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music." Aside from the jazz on the street, the Bagdad is good for a few other reasons as well: movies cost a couple of bucks, and the theater serves beer and pizza so you can dine and watch at the same time. (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 97214)

9. After the movie, walk down to the Red Light (3590 SE Hawthorne, 97214) and dig through the vintage goods. An expansive men's section as well as women's, where I scored a pair of Chuck Taylor blue-on-blue high tops and a Dior top for twenty bucks. (Also in the vicinity is a rather large Buffalo Exchange and an American Apparel store if you have money to blow)

8. This actually happened. For my grandparents' umpteenth anniversary (50th? 70th? 10th? who even knows?), we acknowledged our German roots (I'm not sure there are any) by reserving a room at the Rheinlander (5035 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 97213). After noshing on fondue and that oh-so-heavy yet oh-so-good authentic German fare, our table was serenaded by one of the many strolling musicians. Not to be outdone by the accordion, my cousins reached under the table and pulled out their own instruments. Soon all the German singers and the accordionist were accompanied by a harmonica, a fiddle, and A CELLO. Even without the Von Trap Family Singers that is my family, you can still enjoy an authentic German meal at the Rheinlander.

7. This summer I reclined against a chair on the sidewalk and took a long, slow sip of my mojito. If heaven were a place you could walk to, and instead of harps you were given a dessert, Papa Haydn's would be on cloud eleven. You cannot visit Portland without eating dessert at the westside Papa Haydn's location (701 NW 23rd Ave, 97210. I'd recommend the Boccone Dolce: "Swiss meringues drizzled with semi-sweet chocolate, layered with fresh fruit and chantilly cream." Oh, heaven.)

6. Speaking of Papa Haydn's, the westside branch is located on NW 23rd Street. Tree-lined and usually dripping wet with rain, NW 23rd Street is a mecca for cool stores and even cooler patrons. For pre-dessert (otherwise known as dinner) stop by August Moon (405 NW 23rd) for Chinese. If there is a wait at Papa Haydn's, duck into Music Millenium and browse their selection of new and used albums--they boast a pretty extensive collection. It's no Amoeba, but it has the same vibe for those who like to "keep Portland weird."

5. This summer I went on what can only be described as a voracious book-buying-binge. My mind was a vacuous cavern that could only be satiated with the likes of Hemmingway, Keruoac, and Faulkner. The only place on God's green earth that could possibly fill the literary void of Summer '05 is Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside, 97209). Four floors. Sections color-coded for easy browsing. An entire city block of independent book-hawking, burning with literary knowledge (and titles--over a million) and packed from floor to ceiling with both new and used, paperback and hardcover. If Powell's doesn't have the book you're looking for, maybe you were cut out for TV.

4. Although my lineage is nearly as fragmented as an antique shop after an earthquake, I do know that lurking somewhere amidst the indeterminate Scandinavian origin is a shot of Irish blood. Even if you don't have a lick of Irish in you, though, you can still gulp down a pint of guinness and no one will think the less of you at Kells (112 SW Second Ave, 97204). In addition to the raucous atmosphere, Kells boasts a cigar bar and a huge selection of single-malt scotch and Irish whiskeys. (Another good option is Jake's Place--8039 SE 17th Ave, 97202)

3. I'm fairly certain that if the spectrum of the right brain/left brain was a flat plateau, I'd be teetering off the edge of the right-brained side, convinced that all science and math is gobbledegook dreamed up by evil tyrants who just want to keep the artists from succeeding. However, I'm also aware that I could be alone in this sphere of ideas, and if you're even just a tad more even keel than I am, you will enjoy OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave. 97214). Although it is geared toward kids (and as a kid, I was always convinced that the Zoo--4001 SW Canyon Rd., 97221--was more fun), pretty much anyone who ever enjoyed a science class in school could find something to do at OMSI.

2. Growing up, a trip to the coast (it's not the beach, crazy Californians, it's the coast, so just get the beach-talk out of your systems now) meant a few things. First, it meant a drive that wound through the coastal range: undulating curves flanked by trees that created a narrow slit of the sky, allowing just enough sunlight through to remind you that it wasn't nighttime at 1 in the afternoon. Second, it meant a romp in the ocean.

But this was not a bathing suit and towel sort of affair.

No, a 'romp in the ocean' meant taking off the boots (mine were generally some form of moon boot growing up), rolling up the jeans, popping the collar of the double-layer Columbia fleece and charging, face against the wind, into the water. After about twenty minutes, the tingling, stinging, altogether unpleasant biting cold subsided as our skin--now red and blotchy--was numbed to the temperature of the water. We would then splash and laugh and frolic while the rain assaulted our face and the wind whipped our hair into a matted whorl of sandy dreadlocks.

This is the real coast, and if you can take it like a real Oregonian, the views are breathtaking and worth the drive--if not, at the very least, to buy a bag of authentic saltwater taffy at one of the numerous candy stands dotting the coastline, or stopping at Camp 18 for a cinnamon roll the size of the moose head hanging on the wall. And if you're anywhere near a Mo's, God himself will strike you down if you don't stop in and have a bowl of their legendarily, scarily, ridiculously amazing clam chowder. (Camp 18, 42362 Hwy 26, Seaside, 97138, Mo's 657 SW Bay Blvd, Newport, 97365)

1. If the lush greenery, eclectic persona and small-town-in-a-big-city vibe haven't won you over already, then cram in the following to your itinerary and start looking up real estate and job listings on Craig's List. Kennedy School Theater & Pub (a renovated elementary school that is now a hotel, restaurant, theater and pub. 5736 NE 33rd Ave. 97211), Pioneer Square (Portland's outdoor living room--excellent for people watching and getting an authentic taste of Portland hippie culture. 715 SW Morrison St., 97205), and Waterfront Park (right along the river, 1020 SW Naito Pkwy, 97204).