Thursday, April 29, 2010

Said my goodbyes to the guys and left for the hostel – that house and the people in it are an embodiment of this entire city…friendly, mellow, creative, talented and full of beer. I’m going to miss them.
The last Thursday of the month is an art walk that stretches for twenty blocks – a dozen galleries are on the street as well, and they prop their doors open to participate. This early in the year it was fairly quiet, I’m told in the later months the street is packed with people and stands. It was still impressive though, plenty of metalworking and jewelery makers, along with the ubiquitous Portland food carts (the one I went to sold pork or vegan meatballs on polenta, quinoa or pita, with green chili or marina sauce and cheese. So good.) There were almost as many vegan cupcake/bake sale stands as there were artists. I wonder if any of them actually make a living off it, there seems to be a ton of competition.
Later that night, we (two American guys from the hostel and Aoba, a girl from Japan travelling with her mom. They were adorable. I had been telling them about Stumptown earlier and showed them the book I bought from Erika Moen, which meant an awkward few minutes trying to explain why there was a photograph of a stripper in it. I suspect her mom now thinks DAR is a guide to life in Portland. ) went to the nickel arcade. It’s a huge arcade set up in an old movie theater, I think they still do shows occasionally. Skeeball, air hockey, Resident Evil, racing, you name it. All the games ran off nickels – the most expensive used four, which is still cheaper than anywhere I’ve ever been. We stayed there until midnight, when they close, and it was awesome. You could trade tickets for candy and prizes at the front desk – Matt and Dave used theirs to buy a pile of party poppers, which are little pellets of gunpowder wrapped in twists of paper than make a sastisfying BANG and spark when you huck them at the ground. We walked the twelve blocks back to the hostel throwing handfuls of them and giggling like idiots.
Goodbye, Portland. I will miss you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I managed to visit the Oregon Zoo at the exact time as 300 students - the winning streak continues. The zoo is undergoing renovations but most of the rest is pretty damn nice - the most impressive part is the Pacific Northwest area. It's a series of bridges and walkways that give you the impression of being in a national park. Bears, cougars, bald eagles...really well done. I would feel embarrassed about the Valley Zoo but at this point we've all pretty much written that one off.
Decided to walk up to the Japanese Garden, since it was in the same park area. Attempted to take a shortcut through some of the park trails which turned out to not actually be trails and wound up smeared with mud, which did not get me as many awkward glances as I thought it would. Go go Oregon. The garden itself was less interesting than the trip there, so I headed back downtown and had lunch at an awesome cafe - fast food dumplings and bao. Nom.
I was smart enough to pack an umbrella, but too dumb to take it with me when the sky is covered in dark clouds. Because if there’s one thing the pacific northwest is known for, it’s the dry weather. Ate tinriely too many french fires – there is a food cart on hawthorne called the potato champion. At preston’s recommendation, I tried it out the fries with rosemary truffle ketchup and remoulade. From a street vendor. Oh city.
Spent the afternoon at the Chinese gardens – it turned out they were right beside the train stop. It’s not a large space – basically a single block, surrounded by a high wall. But the inside is beautifully laid out – it would be easy to spend over two hours just looking at the garden areas. There are three or four small pavilions which have little mini exhibits – currently they were running an exhibit on kites, though sadly I missed the kite making class. There is also a teahouse, and…yeah. The guy running the counter was some kind of tea sommelier – the menu was almost entirely composed of tea varieties and descriptions of their fragrance, tone, afternotes, etc. Chilled there for a few hours, drinking puer, eating almond cookies and reading. It was soothing. If I lived there I would probably buy a membership.
Headed back to the house and helped move a piano and organ. One of the guys' mom drove up from California to visit and made chicken tacos. Stayed up burning pallets in the fireplace for warmth, drinking and eating MnMs. Best house ever.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hiked up Mt Taber this morning, after Preston generously offered to give me the tour. He also made breakfast which gave me an excuse to wash the mountain of dishes I’ve been eyeing all weekend (on a side note, I have become my mother.) Mountain may be stretching the term – it’s a small volcano, supposedly extinct although I’ve been told it’s scheduled to erupt in a century or so, Greenland-style. Like everything else in this damn city, it is green and lush and absolutely beautiful. It’s covered with trails – on a weekend it’s probably fairly busy, but we only saw a handful of people.
Attempted to find the Chinese garden in the afternoon and failed miserably. I did, however, find the homeless shelter.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stumptown, Day 2

There's a kind of energy to Stumptown that's incredibly uplifting. It wasn't nearly as crowded as I expected, which was kind of a nice surprise - you get to actually have conversations with people, and they're actually happy to see you because they haven't been burned out from lines of fans demanding sketches. There is something about being in a room of super talented and creative people who love what they do and and the people who are enthusiastic and supportive enough to let them do it full time that makes you hopeful.
Due to my getting horrifically lost and taking an unexpected tour of Portland's north district (this city is sort of like a bigger and better cousin of edmonton...Hawthorne Blvd. is Whyte, downtown is offices and upscale shops, west is the zoo, north is rundown residential areas and warehouses), I only made it to one panel. Luckily it was the Beaton/Meconis double header, in which they discussed how to cheat with reference photos, the Tesla revival, being internet famous, and the relative sexiness of historic figures (Spinoza was a dreamboat, I guess).

On a side note, Kate Beaton hardly has an accent at all, I don't know what the hell Jeffrey Rowland is on about. He should meet someone from Newfoundland.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stumptown, Day 1

Stumptown was amazing. Only my lack of funds and the knowledge that whatever I buy has to be carried is stopping me from loading up on pretty pretty comics. Went to a panel hosted by Aaron Diaz on digital painting. It was fascinating. Even scribbling on the tablet to demonstrate how to use brush tools and blending and create layers, he winds up with this awesome robot house set against mountains. Because that is how he rolls. Bought a set of animal prints from Dylan, then accidentally reminded her that she wrote Bite Me in high school so we could both feel old. Introduced Hank the gerbil to his creator. Mostly I am proud of the fact that I managed to avoid throwing myself at anyone like a terrifying stalker to tell them how much I love them. Tomorrow Kate Beaton and Dylan Meconis have a panel on making history awesome, which I am stupid excited for.
From portland

Shaenon and Hank

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stumbled on Voodoo Donuts while trying to find a western union. Later that afternoon, found the portlaned art gallery while trying to find the library. A few hours ago, found Powell’s Bookstore while looking fo rEmbers. All of these were places I wanted to go to eventually though, so it worked out. Tomorrow I’ll try to go to Stumptown and end up at the zoo.
From portland

Voodoo donuts is a tiny hole in the wall – the easiest way to find it is to look for a surprisingly long queue and the smell of frying sugar. They have dozens of different donuts with names like Old Dirty Bastard (broken oreos and peanut butter over a fritter) Gay Bar (vanilla glaze with fruit loops and rainbow sprinkles) and the infamous bacon and maple donut, which doesn’t need a catchy name. The walls inside are covered with graffiti and with framed obituaries of famous people . It is fantastic.
From portland
From portland

The art gallery was deceptively bigger than it looked from the outside. They have five floors, each with a different style or time period. They also have Monet’s Waterlilies, which is both much larger and more beautiful than pictures make it out to be. To balance this out, they also have a few pieces by some jackass which consist of a)a shiny black cube b) a shiny red rectangle and c)an aluminum circle that I thought was a light fixture until I saw the plaque. This is why people hate modern art.
It turns out the guy whose house I am ocuchsurfing at is only a few blocks from the hostel I stayed at last night. I’m currently in a tent on the third floor – the inside is mostly gutted bare wood, rooms are divided by sheets and tarps. There are about seven people living here, most of whom are in a band. The ground floor is packed with recording equipment, keyboards, and guitars. Right now they’re trying to record some demos – they’re pretty good. It’s a kind of drifting indie rock, no vocals that I”ve heard yet. There is a huge bunch of cilantro sitting in the kitchen, this is a good sign.
The Portland Central library is the oldest library on the west coast - it was built in 1903 and is suitably majestic. The facade is carved with the names of famous authors, and the foyer is supported by half a dozen marble columns with a double staircase leading to the reference section. Most importantly, they have free wifi.

From portland

Downtown Portland is a mix of super trendy shops/restaurants and office buildings. There is a parking lot ringed with portable food stands, everything from korean bbq to gelato, currently packed with people in suits on their lunch breaks. The city centre square is also full of people on break. It's a big open amphitheater-style thing, the center of which is currently occupied by a man in a dress shirt with a bull terrier giving some kind of sermon. I'm not sure whether he's trying to stir the populace into action against the government, telling them about Jesus, or arguing against the ban on bulldogs. No one else knows either. The phrases "rise up", "might", "light" and "American Staffordshire people's terrier" keep getting used. A dozen others are watching him with mild interest; I'm hoping this is some kind of regular noon entertainment.
From portland


Thursday, April 22, 2010

boarding the failboat; Homeland Security in action; Portland!

So after managing to lose my wallet before leaving the country and missing my flight due the the amazing efficiency of US customs (it took six manned booths an hour to move three people through. The staff outnumbered the passengers. Presumably everyone else was there for moral support It took them ten actual minutes to process me once they got around to it, most of which was spent trying to explain the concept of backpacking. Trust me, I don't plan on staying here.), and wandering downtown Portland for three hours trying to figure out where the bus stops were (it's like if whyte ave was the size of sherwood park), I made it to the hostel half an hour before lockout. On the plus side, I had a pretty good conversation with a boisterous bloodshot man on the train about Terry Pratchett and Ving Rhames' stylishness. I'm going to call it a draw. Onbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

The hostel cat, Sheba, has planted herself on my lap and keeps trying to help me type. It is comfortingly familiar.