Days 114 and 115
Portland is it! This place is where its at. I could easily make this place my home. We spent 2 jam packed days here. Here’s how it went down….
We pulled into Portland hungry. Parked in the trendy Pearl District Neighborhood, then stumbled upon a local hotspot, Hot Lips Pizza. It was located in this building that had an open mall like hallway with seating and a couple of restaurants and stores lining the hall but it was all art-ed out and hip. I felt cool just to be there. This will be a reoccurring theme. Everything in Portland is really hip. For instance, all the pizza ingredients are local, organic, bathed in holy water, blah blah blah, and there’s gluten free and vegan options. Total artsy farsty, leftwing neo-hippie fest. If you haven’t heard of the pizzeria, you may seen their bottled sodas around. They are freshly squeeze fruit juice, flavored with real sugar and lemon juice then carbonated. I remember seeing them in Brooklyn. The pizza was awesome, as far as west coast pizza goes (said in my snobbiest voice with my nose high in the air.) They also had these slammin long breadsticks covered in a mushy garlic spread. Jillian is still on this stupid fake ass diet that she’s been on for 4 days now and will abandon soon where she doesn’t eat carbs, so she had a salad rather then a slice. Weak. When it was time to throw my garbage away, I stood in front of the garbage cans baffled. There were so many garbage cans and so many rules, plastic, glass, compost, dishes, and landfill. I was so embarrassed standing there reading about my garbage options that I just threw it all in landfill, the NY way. I gonna need to study up on my garbage technique if I’m gonna survive here in the Pacific Northwest. Before we exit the Pizza place, while we are on the topic of pizza, let me just say that Portland loves pizza. There’s a pizza place on every other building. They’re not like the NY Italian style either. There are all type of styles vying for their “slice” of the market, wink wink.
So from there we walked around the Pearl Neighborhood a bit. It was a Monday afternoon so most of the galleries and boutiques were closed. While we walk the streets, let me take a minute and tell you about the city. Here’s a quick, at first glance, opinion. Portland is young. The average age must be in the 20′s. It looks like Pittsburgh, lots of bridges crossing a river, slightly industrial but homey, a small city but not a spread out city, modern technologies abound. Its also a lot like Austin as well, Hip, trendy, artsy, young, food trucks everywhere, shitloads of homeless, interesting restaurants, bars and stores. So it’s all that, with a Pacific Northwest mentality of liberal hippism and filled with white, middle to upper class, bohemian, art school, 20 somethings. That’s Portland in a nutshell. All this being said, I love this city. I could easily see me and all my friends moving here for good. It’s a very manageable city with a lot going on. I dig it. Climate might be the only issue. During our stay here it was NY cold, not Feb cold but defiantly Dec cold. Daily highs in the low 40′s and cloudy. Although unlike NY they hover in the mild 40-80 degree temps year round, so that’s a plus. Anyway, back to our walk. We accidentally stumbled on a place called Ground Kontrol. Check it out here The sign outside said “Arcade,” naturally we went in to investigate. It was a smallish place with 2 “levels”, wink wink, filled with about 100 classic pinball and arcade games and a full service bar. Its a lot like Barcade in Williamsburg but better, because where Barcade lacks Ground Kontrol picks up. Here’s the skinny, Barcade has most of the classic Nintendo and Atari games and is a legit bar bar. Ground Kontrol is an Arcade first (a priority for me) And unlike Barcade has Pinball machines and classic 90′s games as well. Can you say awesome?! This has always been my one complaint with Brooklyn’s Barcade. Portland’s bar arcade has classics like bubble bobble, ms packman, paperboy (with handle bar joystick), Qbert, donkey kong, tetris (I own one of these somewhere), burgertime, arkanoid, centipede, frogger and many more. Moving out of the 80′s in has mortal combat (Get over here), street fighter (saawuuukick), teenage mutant ninja turtles (Yes, the same one from the old Greenport laundromat, now sweet indulgences) Xmen, Dance dance, Tekken Tag, just to name a few. They have 30 pinball machines upstairs from Terminator 2 with pistol grip ball launch to Indian Jones(doctor Jones) to the Simpsons. I LOVE these places! Oh, and the biggest plus is that all games only cost 25 cents, except pinball cost 50, none of this bullshit dollar game inflation you see on Ms pacmans in bars across the country. We only spent 5 dollars/1 hour in here. We coulda and shoulda spent a lot more. I’m warning you now, friends and family, I WILL own and operate one of these Bar/Arcades. It will have every game from Frogger to Big Buck Hunter. So, SF, if your my future city then you will be home to Saetta’s Nerd City.
I was ready to get my snack on. We just ate recently and I didn’t get dessert. I ALWAYS get dessert. Life is for livin, you know? When in Portland there’s really only one place you should go when looking to get your sweets one, Voodoo Doughnuts. Yes, the famous Voodoo from the food network and travel channel. I’m sure you heard of its creations before. Like most places in Portland, the style of this place in unreal and their confection creations are outrageous. I got the “Old Dirty Bastard,” aka a chocolate frosted doughnut topped with a pile of Oreo cookie pieces and drizzled peanut butter. Shit was intensely delicious. Jill’s fake diet opted her out so she just had a taste. Go to this place!!! Check out the menu Here. They have a cream filled doughnut called “Cock’n'Balls” that’s shaped like a cock and balls. I mean, come on!
From here we took a walk over the Burnside bridge to another famous Portland landmark, well famous to men of my age with a similar skill set, Burnside Skate park. Underneath the bridge on the eastside of town is a fully cement skatepark. Its a big deal. I remember seeing it pop up in skate videos from time to time as a teen. We watched the kids skate for a bit (back in my day.) I wish I brought my board…..and a friend, incase we gotta beat up some kids. (skateparks can be territorial.)
We walked back arose the bridge and into the bum part of town. This is Portland for you: There’s a vacant lot that’s for sale, and rather then let it sit there’s a legit shanty community set up, that seems to be encouraged by the liberal hippie community. In fact I think they even helped build it due to the artsy look of the place. Let me just share a very insensitive opinion/observation about the west coast homeless. In NY we do “the homeless” differently. We separate them from us in everyday. We don’t talk to them, they don’t really talk to us (only to themselves) and we don’t allow them to be in our public places. Also, in NY the majority of the bums are legit crazies. The are homeless because they have schizophrenia and can’t hold a job, don’t trust anyone, and talk to themselves. That or they are just drug addicts that ran themselves into the ground. The West Coast homeless do include the drug addicts and the crazies, but there seems to be something else going on here. You know in the East Village that group of fake, choose to be homeless, midwestern, dirty, fake gutter punk, crying for attention, “look at me in a bum, because I’m a non conformist,” kids that hang around in Tompkins Square park? A big percentage of the West coast homeless is this. They’re not as hungry to seek attention like the NY kids. They’re more laid back and maybe to lazy to be. But I’m sure they’re are not desperate and fucked up as east coast bums. They don’t have serious drug problems nor are they fucked up in the head. They weren’t forced into street life. They are just lazy. It’s almost like some of them choose to live on the street. That being said, I’m all about people doing what they want but just leave me out of it. Don’t ask me for money! Especially certain amounts of money. “dude, do you have 75 cents.” Don’t talk to me! I don’t know you, we are not friends. I’m from the east coast. I don’t talk to people I don’t know, especially not the wanna be, intentional homeless. “So, are you taking pictures?” what the fuck do you think I’m carrying a camera. Get out of my face, and get a job! Go rent an apartment! I’m assuming that the nice weather on this coast has allowed these types to survive outdoors without peril. That’s probably another reason NY has different kind of homeless. You gotta be hardcore and dedicated to survive NY winters. Here there is a lot of pro homeless attitude, which is great for the true desperate but also allows a lot of Poser-ry. Like a homeless open door policy. In the cities like Austin, SF, San Diego and Portland there are Homeless shelters in the middle of downtown that are like bum landfills. It would be like setting up NY biggest homeless shelter in Union Square. So more then half of the daily population of Union Square would be homeless. Wow, I’m ranting big time. It’s just strange to me. Something I’m gonna have to get used to. I don’t really understand it yet. Sorry if I offended anyone.
Back to our regularly schedule program.
We hopped back in the car. Portland isn’t a very car friendly city. The streets in downtown are very hard to navigate, lots of one ways, bus lanes, bike lanes, no left turns, 2 way stop signs then a stop light then a 4 way stop, crosswalks, narrow streets. Its just fucked up. With time to spare before our night activity we found parking in a park (how do you like that), and I took a nap while Jillian stayed awake (how do you like that.) Dinner was at a cute little spot in another trendy neighborhood called Nob Hill. The weather was chilly and felt very much like the Pre-Christmas weather we are used to back east so we decided to get our Christmas on (tis the season). We went to the outskirts of the city to the “Festival of lights” at the Grotto Gardens. The Grotto Gardens are a botanical gardens type of nature park with waterfalls and little quaint garden nooks, that is religious themed. I had it on my “things to see in Portland” list as a maybe, but when we heard that during the holidays its covered in Christmas lights we made it a priority. It was very Christmas-y. We got hot chocolate and walk around for a bit underneath all the lights. It was pretty awesome all though we expected more for some reason. Jillian kept cracking up laughing, god knows why. She was in rare form.
From here we shot over to our last activity of the day, the Hollywood Theater. Its an old art house movie theater in Portland’s Hollywood neighborhood. If you haven’t figured it out yet from the rest of the road trip, I love old art house movie theaters. We saw Elite Squad. I loved it, Jillian didn’t.
The following day was less jam pack but still equally fun. We started off at a Walmart In Washington State. After sleeping in and stocking up on what would probably be the Great escapes last supply run, we headed east of Portland to see some of what nature has to offer. Just outside of the city is a 620 foot double waterfall. So beautiful, covered in wet Northwest flora.
We headed back into the city and drove around a bit, viewing Portland through the windshield. For lunch is was gonna be a change of pace, fast-food. Portland’s own fast-food restaurant Burgerville was the target. In true Portland, hippie style its not your typical fast-food. All the ingredients are local, organic, blahblah, and the of course there’s a 12 step garbage separation program. The food was delicious, tasted fastfoody with a little hint of health in there.
The last destination of the day was to a hotel called Kennedy School. Just like the name suggests, the hotel is actually a school, an old elementary school. Built in 1915, with declining population and a deterioration of the building, the school was closed in the 70′s. The neighborhood hippie-ed together and saved the building for demolition. McMenamins bought it and in 1997 turned it into a hotel/brewery/movie theater. This place was awesome! The classrooms are converted into hotel rooms with the chalkboards still up, the hallways are decorated in local school themed art, the employees dress like teachers, the cafeteria is now a fancy restaurant, the gym a movie theater with couches for seats, there is an onsite brewery and 5 bars, and all this is done in a very non cheesy, non novel way. We laid low in our number themed room complete with a chalkboard, and took showers. Then it was off to soak in the 100 degree outside salt water “soaking pool.” It was a crisp 40 degrees outside making the soak extra rewarding. After the soak we went to dinner at the ex-cafeteria restaurant. From there we walked the halls dipping in and out of the bars. There’s an “honors” bar and a “detention” bar (that you can smoke in), then there’s a bar that used to be the boiler room equip with pool and shuffleboard and decked out in plumbing fixtures. I originally heard of this place because of its “movie theater in an old school,” that’s why I booked it. On the night we were staying they weren’t showing any movies. They usually show new release indie films. Instead they were having geek trivia at 7:30. We both thought this could be fun and showed up in time to find out that it actually started at 7, and the place was sold-out full of Portland’s nerds. I usually show up early to things, like 30-40 min early, but tonight I didn’t. I figured we were in a far off neighborhood, on a Tuesday night, we were staying down the hall, it’ll be fine. It wasn’t fine. The place was chock full of nerds. There wasn’t one halfway cool person in the whole building. Every seat was taken. We were really looking forward to this so we were kinda bummed. Standing in the back of the room we listened to 10 questions and knew 2 answers. The question were well outside of our geek range. I guess it was meant to be. We were too cool for this place so we headed to the bar and played pool for the rest of the night. Jillian was on fire. Best pool I’ve ever seen her play. She had angles like a math teacher. I guess all those classes of wine brought out her swagger. Check it out HERE.
We finished the night off watching the Goonies in bed. Jillian needed to freshen up her goonie knowledge. Cuz tomorrow we go to the goondocks! (Hey you Guys)
Portland: Where young people go to retire
If you haven’t seen Portlandia you tube it. It’s genius
Next Stop: The Goondocks