Portland

July 3, 2008

With seemingly very little effort, Portland is undoubtedly one of America’s coolest cities. Everywhere you look, Portland exudes a cultural confidence often reserved for larger, older, more established locations. There’s probably plenty of people from Portland that would be the first to argue otherwise, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s unpretentious and unassuming. There’s also a ‘do it yourself’ attitude throughout the arts community which was great to document. One of our favourite sightings was a sign simply stating “Keep Portland Weird” located in the Laurelhurst district , home to one of our featured artists, Brittany Powell. We thought that summed up Portland and its joie de vivre quite nicely.

Streets lined with craftsmen homes dating from the 30s, Laurelhurst has on display a number of examples of its art deco building past; such as the Coca Cola plant, and the Laurelhurst theatre (one of Brittany’s picks, it shows repertoire films and serves beer. Very nice).

Laurelhurst Theatre, Portland

Laurelhurst Theatre, Portland

Coca-Cola building, Portland

Coca-Cola building, Portland

Home to a mix of interesting businesses from tapas eateries , funky barber shop (link and description), cozy pubs and unique dessert shops (a few selects from our host include, The Farm-a restaurant in a converted farmhouse, or “Le Pigeon”, an eclectic French restaurant) Le Pigeon is indicative of the tongue and cheek names of many Portland establishments. Others include: Le Happy, The Betty Ford Lounge, Lowbrow Lounge, Franks Alot Hotdogs, and Virginia Woof Doggie Day Spa. There are also some great examples of Portland’s art-deco architectural past in the Laurelhurst Theatre and the Coca-Cola building.

Franks Alot Hotdogs

Bettie Ford Lounge

We couldn’t resist checking out the Kennedy, an old high school that’s been converted into a hotel, theatre, and numerous restaurants, all housed in former classrooms. Restaurants on-site include “The Detention Room” and the “Honors” bar. Of course.

Kennedy School

A few short blocks from there, is Alberta Street, a vibrant community with a lot of cheap eats and authentic and interesting shops. Good people watching too. We met a guy on the street who was on his way to a bike polo match. Other locals we met told us that we had just missed the Alberta Street arts Festival.

Alberta Street

Alberta Street

Cafe on Alberta Street

Cafe on Alberta Street

Alberta Street Don Pancho Restaurant

Don Pancho Restaurant, Alberta Street

Alberta Street

Alberta Street

Plazm magazine founder, Joshua Berger, took us to a number of places of interest, including Portland’s famous burnside skatepark. Evidently it’s the main location for Gus Van Sant’s latest film, Paranoid Park. Next stop was the Voodoo Doughnut shop whose “magic is in the hole”, is certainly memorable with such items on the menu as “triple chocolate penetration” and the “blood filled voodoo donut”.

Voodo Donuts

Voodo Donuts

Voodo Donut's Menu

Voodo Donuts Menu

As we walked down Burnside Joshua regaled us with stories of Portland’s historic music scene and a few clubs that contributed to its making. We stopped in on Chloe at Reading Frenzy, an alt-zine shop located close to Portland’s famous Powell’s Books. This was one of Joshua’s picks, and the store is located along a popular block downtown near Powell’s on Oak street.

Joshua’s summation of Portland as a place that’s known for “beer, books and stripclubs” was duly noted and corroborated by a number of individuals we chatted with on the streets. And we love you Portland for all three of those wonderful things. Even the stripclubs.

One of our featured artists, Brittany Powell, recommended we stay at either the Jupiter: a very hip, renovated motel; The Ace Hotel on Stark St., or the Mark and Spenser hotel right across from The Ace. We settled on the latter, even though less aesthetically interesting than the Ace, only because they provided us with a better media rate. Otherwise, any three of those listed seem like good choices in great locations. The staff at Mark and Spenser were particularly helpful and accommodating. Convenient parking (although $16.00/night, less than the $20..00 the Ace was charging). The hotel has a lot of character too AND it was clean and roomy, as though those notions were foreign to each other from time to time. Which they often seem to be.

Ace Hotel, Portland

All in all,

Great couple of days in P-town (do they call it that? They should if they don’t. P-town.)