So there I was, riding in the passenger seat of an orange SUV down a Portland street, headed towards a bar (typical) when I see it: a gaggle of about 15 cyclists pedaling in the opposite direction, each one entirely naked. I do a double take. A triple take.
Dear reader, that was a lot of unexpected penis.
"They must be doing a practice run for the Naked Bike Ride this weekend," said my gracious host and driver of the orange SUV. He was not phased by this show of boobs, butt, and dingles. He's a local. We'll call him Portland Peter Pan. He lives in a house with many different wall colors.
"I thought 'naked' really meant 'wearing Speedos'!" I said, staring a little too intently at the naked people gliding down the street, my eyes the size of dinner plates.
Clearly, I'm from a simpler place.
Yet, that simpler place I'm from (Alabama) has its influences on Portland, too; after sitting down to a dinner at the much-beloved Tasty n Sons on North Williams Ave, I discovered an interesting item on the menu: Alabama BBQ Chicken. How could I not order this Pacific Northwest homage to one of the reasons I used to be really, really fat? "I'm not sure if you know this, but Alabama is known for its white BBQ sauce," the Tasty Waiter informed me. Huh. No kidding?
So I put it to the test. It was a pretty good sauce interpretation, and along with the side dishes and chocolate potato donuts, I was fairly comatose the rest of the night. Well done, Portland.
While this was not my first trip to Portland, I still grappled with the idea that there wasn't really anything I could screw up here, besides getting lost inside the City of Books—which I did. Again. Actually, there's something nostalgic about Portland; as though someone took the best parts of living in the South (actual weather/food/happyish people) and the best parts of living in California (gorgeous nature, damn fine coffee, recycling), and rolled it up into one place. Things are green, not Cali brown. I could drink water and not feel epic guilt about the drought. The people are friendly—very few crack heads yelled in my direction (actually, zero). What is this Portland place doing to me, exactly, and where do I sign up?
So while I sit here and further contemplate the ways in which Portland seems to be throttling me away from California with its charms, here's some other valuable things I learned during my visit:
- There's no sales tax. So I bought all the dresses and all the coffee in Portland. Thanks, Portland.
- Astoria, Oregon, is an adorable town. The Goonies seemed to think so, too.
- Astoria's Columbia River Maritime Museum not only made me extra afraid of the ocean, but allowed me to channel my inner Zissou and explore a retired lightship. And to dress up like a bird.
- Sometime you find a vending machine filled with books, pregnancy tests, records, and candy. A one-stop-shop.
- Food truck pods are the wave of the future, and waffles can (and should) replace sandwich bread.
- The Portland/PDX airport is even a character of its own because of its carpet.
- Sofas are often abandoned on street corners. Sometimes those sofas have doilies sewn on to mask cat-destruction. (A later text from Portland Peter Pan tells me a lady with a flashlight was extracting these doilies from said sofa. Doilies are the copper piping of Portland?)
- While I'm kinda bummed they used one of my favorite songs for the theme in Portlandia, I still get Washed Out's "Feel It All Around" stuck in my head every other hour or so. I feel pretty conflicted about this.
- Drinks are potent/cheap in Portland. This is great! But terrible (just ask Portland Peter Pan). I'll leave y'all with that one. Here's some tourist-y photos.