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Another Portland Blog

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Just another day in Portland

I rolled out of bed on Sunday not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Within a few hours I was trapped in a vortex of ordinary-ness unparalleled. It was as if I had drifted into a travel show profile on the City of Roses. While I did what I could, there was nothing I could do to escape. I had to see it through to the end.

1:30 PM: Eat lunch at a McMenamins. In a sacrilegious mood, I ignore the beer menu and buy a "draft root beer" to go with my Big Mc. The staff serves it with no ice and it tastes just like A&W. The bill arrives. $3.50?!! I could have purchased a pint of Terminator for that price. What a fool I've been.

2:55 PM: The sun is shining. The birds are doing bird-type stuff. It's a lovely little spring day. Must heed the call to go downtown.

3:10 PM: Drive into downtown through the West Hills, passing a series of million+ dollar houses with no signs of life. The lawns are kept immaculate but the curtains are always closed and the lights are always off. Especially freaky is the large, white mansion on a hill overlooking the city near the Vista Bridge. There's always a "for sale" sign outside of the place. It has to be haunted.

3:30 PM: No parking, anywhere. Ditch the car in the Powell's parking lot next to the Doc Martin's outlet. "Two hours of free Powell's parking"? Suckers.

3:35 PM: Actually go into Powell's. Offer the Street Roots guy standing outside the Burnisde entrance a polite smile and a shake of the head. Immediately feel guilty as hell about it afterwards.

3:40 PM: Who's idea was it to move the graphic novels into a tight corner at the back of the Coffee Room? To make way for manga? MANGA?!! Manga's for nerds! The manga shelf, with an enormous amount of browsing room, is completely vacant. Meanwhile, the graphic novel section is packed and there's no room to move. Emily, when you take over your father's business, please move all the "funny books" into the Blue Room. No one reads Hemingway. In fact, take all the "H" literature authors and stick them in the Coffee Room. Honestly, no one will notice.

4:00 PM: Hide my purchase in a backpack and walk past the Street Roots guy again. Polite nod this time, slightly less but nonetheless immediate pang of guilt follows.

4:15 PM: Take this photo in Chinatown. While fumbling with the live view function, a scary, no-good-nik wanders up. "Say, that's a nice photo." Not camera, photo. He peeks over my shoulder and continues up Burnside. Guess my camera isn't worth a shakedown.

4:25 PM: Ground Kontrol is in the middle of a full-fledge hipster infestation. Ironic t-shirts and gel galore. A girl with a green mohawk attempts to film a band on stage (at this hour on a Sunday?) but her hair keeps banging into the archway in the pinball lounge. Back downstairs, Zangief rips apart Ryu in 30 seconds flat. I can never beat that commie bastard with Ryu. Blanka though? No prob. Break out the electric force field and Zangief's got nothin'. But Ryu?

4:45 PM: Wander up to Rich's Cigar Store. Flip through the latest issue of Portland Monthly. The cover story is on Oregon road trips. $300 hotel rooms in central Oregon and wineries?!! Does anyone else remember when Bend was urban cowboy country, not yuppie vacation home country?

4:50 PM: Walk past Pioneer Courthouse Square. A church field trip is waiting for the Max. One girl loudly proclaims "DOWNTOWN SMELLS LIKE STUFFED ANIMALS!" What could that possibly mean?

4:52 PM: Pause at the old Meier and Frank's. Shed a tear, spill malt liquor on the sidewalk and continue on towards Waterfront Park.

5:00 PM: A few dozen punks in leather, metal belts and black t-shirts are gathered outside the Paris Theater. Asking for trouble, I attempt to circumnavigate the crowd in Birkenstocks. One guy won't get out of my way and another falls off his skateboard after I hold up traffic. Despite his Misfits shirt, he apologizes to me. My karma bank has dropped to zero. I'd better buy a copy of Street Roots before the day is over.

5:10 PM: Waterfront Park is littered with carnival rides and trailers for Cinco de Mayo. A trailer with a really creepy clown is parked north of the US Merchant Marine Memorial. Should have taken a picture...

5:15 PM: Now I'm in Saturday market. Do I need any paintings of wolves? Anything weaved or made of clay? Any dried flowers? Nope, nope, nope and nope. If only they sold video games, beer or some other vital item I can't live without. "Elvis" is sadly nowhere in sight.

5:25 PM: Back at Powell's. I use the bathroom. I'm pretty sure it's the closest thing to a public restroom in the Pearl District.

5:30 PM: One last walk past the Street Roots guy. So much for karma.

5:35 PM: Homeward bound up Broadway. The Portland sign at the Schnitz! Sex and City wannabes with Nordstrom sacks! The promise of a brand, new Abercrombie and Fitch that I don't care about within a block of the old Abercormbie and Fitch that opened a few years ago! That really ugly PSU walkway over Broadway! 7-11! Billboards! Portland! Yeaaaaah!

7:15 PM: Ah, the Old Spaghetti Factory. I've been coming here since before I was born. A Portland institution that started a worldwide franchise and what gets all the press? MCMENAMINS! A travesty, I say. Sure, the beer and hippie art are neat but what locally-based franchise started the "let's take over an old, weird building and turn it into a magical dining experience for the whole family"?

THE OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY! Can you get a plate of pasta, bread, minestrone soup, iced tea AND spumoni ice cream all included in the price of your entree at a McMenamins? While sitting at a table in an old streetcar on fake antique furniture?


If you've never been, now is as good a time as any. Portland's location can be found at 0715 SW Bancroft St, within meatball-lobbing distance of Ross Island and the South Waterfront district.

Ok, so I didn't once set foot on the east side or in Washington Park, ride a bicycle, tie a dog to a bike rack, drink a microbrew, sign a petition, buy organic vegetables or protest anything (but I did fulfill my daily required allowance of indie rock). Maybe it wasn't such a cliched Portland day after all....

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