Did you know there is a thing called Portland’s Living Room? And did you know you can watch free movies there sometimes? And according to the website about it that I just found, it’s called Pioneer Square and 26,000 people visit it per day? Well, all these things are true. I would not mess with you. My sister and I happened across it our first night in Portland and were entranced by the spectacle of Portlandians gathering to watch a movie. Those people really looked at home and happy. As if they were in . . . wait for it. . . their own living room. After leaving on Friday night, we happened upon another public space that included an awesome kids’ wading pool and an area where a dude was teaching a wide variety of unintentionally entertaining people how to dance Bollywood style. This was so good that we pulled up chairs again to sit down and almost cried when it ended after only 10 minutes. After that, we knew Portland was going to be offering us treat after treat. We saw awesome people in restaurants, awesome people at the Saturday market. The next night we returned to Pioneer Square. Nothing was going on so there was just a light scattering of folk hanging out BUT a guy with some vaguely threatening biblical sign was commanding the stage area with his pet dog. That was pretty good, but the some hipster dude came up and started filming him. Even better. The sky was a magical shade of blue. My sister and I sat and soaked it in. Then a band with a huge horn section started playing across the street on the corner and we ran over to drink it in. It was a grand night in Portland.
The bullshit start to this could read (and probably has): “From street food to fine dining—Portland has It all!” Gross, right? But really, Portland does seem to have a lot of “it all” in regard to food. I would be glad to go back and eat even more.
My sister and I were pretty hungry by the time we rolled into town from Boise, Idaho—her hometown and the starting point of the now world famous “Sisters’ Roadtrip 2012”. We headed straight for a late lunch at a Lebanese joint called Nicholas, where my sister was hoping to get a Detroit-style chicken schwarma sandwich, but the reviews had led her hopeful heart astray. The schwarma was unusual tasting and not really all that bad, but it wasn’t what she wanted and even though I liked it, I have to admit: It was no Pita Cafe in the same way Dan Quayle is no JFK.That night I opted for a “light” dinner of French fries (truffle with harissa ketchup) and gourmet ice cream from a couple of delightful food trucks we stumbled across. Also on the menu during the trip were a maple bacon donut at Voodoo Donuts, some kickass Mexican street food (pupusas! tamales! horchata!), and a wondrous fine dining experience at Kin restaurant which started off kind of weird when our Russian waitress brought us water referring to it as “the essence of life,” which I misheard as “light.” However, the food was good and we grew to love her odd but charming ways. She was about the size of a small bird.
Seriously, this unknown forever song was the ultimate slow jam R&B song of all time. I was looking for a travel-sized Cetaphil while my sister scoured another aisle for Q-tips. The song caught my attention. The singer needed to spend some time with his lady and they were going to have a good time. I started dancing a little then made my way over to find my sis. We caught each other’s eye then started shimmying toward each other, our bodies slow jamming it out in sync until we were reduced to one of our terrifying (to other people ) fits of shouting laughter. You’d think nothing could top such a moment but almost immediately after we left my sister made an inarticulate squeal pointing her fingers in glee. Across the street were what seemed an immense herd of English sheepdogs. We started laughing again. “Run!” my sister said, scooting toward them. We joined an enthralled crowd, surrounding what turned out to be only four of the glorious beasts. The folks escorting them informed us they were part of a club and had been hanging out with 14 dogs earlier in the day. “She’s a princess” said a young gentleman stroking a pink ribboned female named Bill. A fifth beastie joined us before we finally tore ourselves away, openly acknowledging that we had just experienced the best moments of a great trip.
Trying to get out of Portland
1 star out of 4
We found out that our connector to the highway was closed the hard way—by circling around and trying to access it several times. First by the exact same route as directed by our GPS device and two phones, then by the old “let’s go south to get north” trick, which was what finally convinced us that the whole highway was shut down. About then was when we realized there was also a bike race going on as we watched crowds of bicyclists sailing past us on some of the inaccessible roads. “That’s awesome” I said.”I love Portland.”
We finally decided to stop and ask for directions at the rather inauspicious-looking J’s Smokes. Here we hit pay dirt in the form of the kindliest retail clerk of all time. She informed us that the connector highway was closed for construction, that no one could get around, and that another main thoroughfare was closed for the bike race. We secured written directions pointing us in the right direction. As we left the woman began giving a massage to another customer. We drove for awhile and began to doubt the directions given by our benefactress. But in the end she was correct. We found our exit at last only to find our way blocked by a long line of bicyclists dressed in fanciful outfits. We actually ended up in the bike race only to be impaled by glares. “They must be lost,” said a passive aggressive voice resoundingly. We turned off defeated. “Don’t look at me like that” my sister muttered to a woman wearing a stuffed animal strapped to her head. “You have a fucking dog on your head.” Finally we saw another car driving through the crowd of bikes and escaped in its wake. I exhaled in relief as we gained entry to 84, which was to lead us back to Idaho. “Thank god our relationship survived that.”