I arrived last night around 8:30 PM after pushing hard to get to Portland. I arrived just before dusk, and the city sparkled, as if it was expecting me. Steve and I stayed up into the early morning. We chatted about the business, my trip, his reinvention of himself into an attorney, family and people we knew. It was good to spend time with an old friend.
The morning saw Steve, his wife Abby and son Emmet take me exploring into downtown Portland. We wandered through the food stalls. It’s great to see how a city can embrace this phenomenon. Many cities are struggling with how to regulate food trucks and stands, but Portland has created spaces dedicated to them. It reminds me of the hawker centers in Singapore and has become a thread in the fabric of this great city.
Theres a lot of public art in Downtown Portland.
We hit Steve’s favorite coffee shop and I ordered a pour-over in his honor. I picked up a gluten-free vegan berry coffee cake, not because it was gluten-free or vegan, but because it looked damned good and Abby told me the bakery from which is came is legit. And it was. Abby has steadily built a business, and a reputation, as a local health icon. She runs a boot camp, and gives classes on healthy eating and detox. We went by a the Garden Bar, a local restaurant chain that even offered the Bliss Detox Salad on it’s menu, something she created for them. It’s become their most popular menu item. http://www.gardenbarpdx.com
As we strolled through town, a few things struck me. Not only had the city found a way to embrace and accommodate the food trucks, they’ve handled things many cities struggle with. Like parking signs. This one is so simple you can’t possibly mis-interpret it.
Unlike some of the sign combinations I have seen in San Francisco and NYC, where you need to be an attorney to decipher them.
They also have public pay toilets. Many cities have eschewed these for fear the homeless will camp in them, but Portland seems to have either solved this or not care.
There’s also a solid tiny house movement. This is something I think a lot about. As a culture, we have been driven to satisfy our need for happiness with material acquisitions. One of the goals of this trip for me, was to see how little I actually need to be happy. And I can tell you it all fits in a 15’ VW Camper. I guess I have a lot of shit to get rid of when I get home.
Speaking of acquiring stuff, we stumbled upon a fantastic store called the Boys Fort. It is extremely well-merchandised, full of artifacts from local purveyors and artists. I picked up a greeting card and a poster of the Solar System for Brendon. I spoke with one of the owners of the store, Rolfe. The store has an eclectic design. It turns out they started as a pop-up store, and it was so successful the downtown business association helped them find a space below a city-owned garage that would offer them a percentage rent deal. But they had no money to build the store. So they called everyone they knew, and they all brought what they had, and built a retail store in a couple of weeks, all on volunteer work and materials. The outcome is magical.
We checked out a local band called Fools in Paradise playing world music in a town square. Their instruments were all natural, they used xylophones with gourds for tone. They had a funky afro-beat sound, that certainly got this one guy moving. They were fun to listen to, even if their sound system sounded like it was blown.
We grabbed a green juice, and after strolling for a couple hours, we headed back to the house.
Steve cooked some salmon. “You can’t come to the Pacific Northwest and not eat salmon!” Abby made a delicious, and of course health, salad. After dinner, Steve and I stayed up as late as he could, before having to retire as he had an early day at the office. After saying my goodbyes in the morning, especially to my buddy Gumbo, I was off to the Apple Store in the morning to try to get my phone replaced.