returning to new york city from a wedding weekend in portland was rough: sunday evening in northern oregon was a charming windswept grab bag of sunshowers and summery northwestern gusts, and last monday morning in line for a taxi in queens was like stepping into an elevator full of trolls. 75% of portland is painted the color of our bedroom, so spending time there was like getting the best room service ever (though i'd never eat in bed, i'm not a monster). it felt good to find a place that made me want to want to leave manhattan, even though i'm years and years from really and truly having that kind of yen.


blue star donuts (shop). i'd probably have toddled down to the massive line wrapping around voodoo doughnut in the absence of expert guidance; it's part of just about every portland-adjacent food show i've ever seen, and it's smack in the middle of old town, so those of us with questionable senses of direction tend to circle the vortex like doomed sailors. those of us who also have a bespoke map from rachel, now—we get to start the day at blue star, where the front of the line is four people away, there are seats facing the street, and the old-fashioned donut chock full of locally-sourced goodness will make you cry just a little bit into your stumptown coffee (we also bought a meyer lemon donut filled with key lime curd, a blueberry-basil-bourbon donut, and a tres leches cake donut with hazelnuts; they were all excellent). i congratulated the guy at the counter on how pleasant it was downtown. "the streets are clean," he said, "but the people are dirty."

boxer ramen (restaurant). late-morning weekday downtown portland is informative and exhausting, for every shopkeeper will tell you about the last three west coast cities in which he or she lived and explain the intricacies of the local public transportation and give you gentle hints about where to eat without actually disparaging any of the places at which you probably shouldn't eat ("wait to have one of their burritos until you've had time to temper your expectations of what a burrito should be, maybe"). we heaped praise on blue star donuts to a kind and gregarious man selling selvedge denim and were directed to a ramen place owned by the blue star guy just a few doors away—perfect, as we were inexplicably hungry again. boxer ramen is goddamn adorable, its vegetarian curry is mild but delicious (and a mere $10), and if humming along with mid-'90s r&b in a mostly-empty air-conditioned room with a bowl of noodles, the missus, and a $4 beer isn't happiness, well.

floating world comics (shop). part of floating world's record-store vibe is the fact that it actually is a record store; it's also a gallery, a publisher, an art and design store, a cheerful zine-buyer (portland must be our nation's mightiest producer of zines), and an utterly magnificent repository of both mainstream and indie comics, and while i'm used to that kind of well-groomed enthusiasm from places like rough trade's new music store/venue in williamsburg, it, i don't expect it with my serial art. my (huge) mistake.

grassa (restaurant). by the time sunday night rolled around, we'd followed the 12hrs hipster guide across the river and back, powered down fancy corn nuts to soak up tiki drinks before tricia lockwood's reading, taken selfies over fancy wedding dinners, and eaten tater tot nachos on elephantine leather sofas underground while messi lost to germany in the world cup; our last group dinner didn't need to be great, it just had to be uncomplicated and pleasant. it was uncomplicated and pleasant, team! as the aforementioned denim guy said, the nice thing about portland is that you don't have to work yourself into a fomo-lather over must-sees and must-dos and hype or backlash; you can follow hunches when things look appealing and be reasonably confident that you'll enjoy yourself. at grassa, you order items from a chalkboard menu, pay up front, take a seat at one of the long communal tables, then tuck into fresh homemade pasta and a glass of local wine. mine was modest, comforting, and perfect for the end of a long weekend.

hand-eye supply (shop). THING I PURCHASED AT HAND-EYE SUPPLY, UNQUESTIONABLY THE FINEST ARTISANAL HARDWARE STORE I HAVE EVER SEEN: safety glasses which are now in rotation with my regular sunglasses, even though they were packaged in an airless plastic bag and are going to smell like feet for a while. THING I VERY NEARLY PURCHASED: a bar of otter wax for the brass otter i found at hippo hardware. THING I SHOULD HAVE PURCHASED: the clampersand. a clampersand, i said! i'm not sorry i got the smelly glasses, but with the smelly glasses and a clampersand i'd really be going places. a ferocious shower kicked up just as we were leaving hand-eye supply, and the friendly gal behind the counter rooted around in her storeroom until she found a plastic bag big enough to protect all of the posters and zines and david lynch art books i'd just purchased at floating world comics. gal, you were good to me.

hippo hardware & trading co. (shop). if i knew more about rebuilding vintage doors or was responsible for a full-body house rehab like jen's, i could have burned a few hours admiring the fancy knobs and swapping this old house quotes with the kind woman downstairs at hippo hardware. as i would surely be the worst contractor ever and had only five minutes to shop before heading back across the willamette for a big pre-wedding brunch with our friends, i merely bought a brass otter from the brusque woman upstairs. where did it come from? "from a supplier," she growled. "they supply us with brass otters."

portland saturday market (sprawl). i sing of east-to-west jet lag that pries me from bed at weird hours and flings me at coffeehouses and street fairs! on saturdays in new york i'm rarely wearing pants at noon, but on saturday in portland i'd scorned questionable ceramics, bought vegan black licorice lip balm (hey!), and tasted local hard cider (meh?) before ten. the saturday market felt like a cross between one of the summer street fairs that pop up on avenues in manhattan in a burst of mozzarepas and tube socks and the corner of the union square greenmarket where the farmstands start mixing with guys selling novelty tees; i wish it had been a bit farmstandier, as the buckets of wildflowers were, as rachel predicted, gorgeous and nearly free, but i will apply my lip balm and keep my gripes to myself.

powell's books (shop). while i can't know for sure that i'd happily swap new york's strand with powell's even if my first visit to the latter hadn't been for tricia lockwood's friday-night reading and it seems kind of mean-spirited to pit independent bookstores against one another—i treasure all of them except for san francisco's city lights, which can suck it—i sure would like to swap for powell's. it's more comfortable and navigable than i'd have thought a store of that size was capable of being, its displays are intuitive and dynamic, it managed to trick joe "all digital all the time" s. into falling in love with a big-ass book about soviet architecture, and it programmed a hot poetry event for the one weekend i'd be in town. i went back half a dozen times before we left portland on sunday night. please shop at powell's instead of on amazon.

rum club (bar). knowing of my and joe's love for laid-back bars and tiki, rachel sent us to meet the giant wooden bear with a shriner's fez at rum club in the industrial district; "the wallpaper is also amazing," she noted. she's right, and as always, she steered us true; daiquiris here are rarely that good, and they're never that cheap. our evening plans on the other side of the river kept me from establishing a scandalous all-night cocktail fiefdom at our little collection of tables, but i dream about it still (rachel's full portland and eugene write-up is here). that gossipy late afternoon with our friends was one of this summer's best.


Woodland Parker said...

While I have no particular love for it, I wonder what City Lights did to inspire your ire. Do tell!

lauren said...

circa '00-'01, i was trying to buy a copy of lawrence krauser's lemon. i myself worked in an independent bookstore in san francisco at the time, but we were unable to order directly from mcsweeney's, so i thought i'd throw some business city light's way. i called them up and gave them as much information about the book as a human with access to bookstore databases could possibly have given them, up to and including descriptions of krauser's ancestors and what the ink he'd used to decorate his book's covers might have smelled like, and the guy on the other end of the phone wandered off, pretended to look for the book, and came back and told me to piss off, more or less. he'd never heard of it and it probably didn't exist.

i was walking through north beach later that week and saw lemon in the window at city lights. i wish them ill.

uncle paul said...

That is the times! Even if all I did for a year was blow like a leaf up and down Burnside. When we have fantasies about finally giving the middle finger to Technotopia-on-the-Bay, Portland of course tops the list of elsewheres, but my main contact up there tells me things aren't so much cheaper these days.

LPC said...

When my children were very little, and I was overwhelmed, for some reason I used to say I wish I could go to Portland and hide for a week in a motel. I'd only ever visited once, but I suppose I felt what was to come?

lauren said...

paul, for years my impression of portland was shaped mostly by your story of explaining segways to stephen malkmus over veggie burgers at someone's backyard barbecue - which, give or take a baby marsupial, is as charming as most anecdotes get - but i was pretty blindsided by the charm i had yet to experience. probably the cheap-by-new-york-standards food and drink aren't a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground, and the thought of having a car gives me pause, but...yeah. i had impure thoughts.

lisa, these days i'd recommend the jupiter or the ace. a good bug-out plan, i think.

theRachel said...

Next time...the Saturday Market at Portland State University is a must (way better than the one by the river). Sorry I didn't provide this information beforehand!

lauren said...

i shall use this as an excuse to go back as soon as possible, rachel.

Rachel said...

You guys did it right!

I'll admit I had Portland pangs while we were there (although to be honest, I have pangs frequently while traveling. Apparently I'm fickle). More surprisingly, D had pangs, which almost NEVER happens. All that relatively cheap, delicious food/cocktails just kind of lures you right in. Maybe in another decade we can pool our money and get one of those double level Victorians and just be very relaxed people?