April 15th, 2011
Arrival at the airport it was pretty empty. I knew I was on the right flight to Portland because at least two girls had multicoloured hair. Once we arrived the hippie had two others welcome her back, it was funny. Becca met me on the train and it was really good to see her. The way back was great, she explained the sights as we passed them from the IKEA down to the bridges and we arrived near the square I had to get some food. not just food, but food carts. we had a few selections which was pretty cool at the hour and ended up going to Tito’s Burritos. They packed such a huge wallop of spicy food into the bread, I think it lasted 2 days later.
After meeting up with Becca’s friend Steve and Burgess, we were ready to head out. We wanted to kick off the official 21st birthday with a shot and didn’t exactly have a plan of where to go. Walking around we passed a few quiet places but wanted excitement. I came across a camel cigarette spokes girl and we told her it was midnight and time to get partying. She asked what kind of music we liked but once we heard DubStep that did it for us. Right down the street was a place called The Crown Room. You could literally feel the bass thumping in that place. It was dark, grimy, red and sweaty and we couldn’t have asked for anything more. First shots then beers and we were off. The place had a decent crowd. Some performers dressed 80s style with mohawks & suspenders, the girl of the group with a giant Ironman light on her hand. We almost saw a fight break out here but security snagged that fast. We stayed all the way until then lights went on and even then the DJs kept it going.
The next morning my east coast body clock was ready to go at 8am. We had breakfast at a place called Fullers. It had the old Waffle House feel to it and amazing food. French toast there was perfect and the omlettes were good too. Walking around Portland was breathtaking. I want to take pictures of everything here because I’ve never seen such vibrant colours and architecture; the whole place looked like a bright painting. The train was right on time according to Becca’s app on her phone that tells if the arrival will be late/early.
We had to hit up VooDoo doughnuts. On a normal day this place would be so busy the line would wrap around the building. Today for some reason there were only 5 people in line. With such an extensive and bizarre menu i had no idea what to pick. Originally i wanted Oreo but then was offered peanut butter I couldn’t say no. Becca got the famous Maple Bacon Doughnut. While on famous landmarks, we passed by the Portlandia; a famous Neptune-like statue above a building and the place where the show Portlandia got its name.
It wasn’t all that cold but I had planned on doing some clothes shopping and Becca wanted a dress to wear out on her birthday. The stores where we went were amazing! First to Buffalo Exchange, I swear we spent nearly 2 hours there. Becca even offered that I can go to a coffee shop and wait for her but I was just as excited as she was to find so many clothes. We went a few doors down to find an even more bizarre selection at Red Light. Picked up a few shirts and a coat and Becca got some dresses. One section was hand-made by a local lady who fancied tutu-like dresses with all kinds of detail. She got at least 2 or 3 dresses from this area.
That night (yes this is still Day 1!!!) we met up with Kenzie, Burgess, Summer, Brianna, Katie, Pete, and Elly at Roadside Attraction. Elly had gotten there before us so she was already a few drinks in. This would mark the first time Becca and Elly met, despite Both moving from Atlanta to Portland the same year. They got along well, to say the least.
Portland, the strip club capital of America, our plan was to visit strip clubs but we had no idea how awesome these places would turn out. Starting at Sassy’s, we were able to get good seats and drinks. the place is relatively small with only two stages. As luck would have it one of Becca’s friends roommates was a dancer! I talked with another girl with a pink mohawk. Her and I shared the same BioHazard tattoo so i told her I was from Atlanta and she actually goes to DragonCon some times. Way cool!
From here we moved to Union Jacks. This place was about the same size with even more dancers. The one I got a dance from Chloe, had really cute Swedish-like pigtails. The fun didn’t stop there. Kenzie plotted for us to get Becca not one dance but two at once, at the same time, on stage! We all chipped in on this. We even got her on stage for this and to put a final spin on things, Burgess loaned the dancers his belt to get birthday spankings, it was hilarious! Kenzie was cool enough to be our DD that night so before we got anymore dances we probably wouldn’t remember, she drove us back home.
Everyone else was still tired that morning so I ventured out on my own, which is actually very safe in Portland and easy to find my way back as all streets are either numbered or alphabetically organized like a grid. I was told how amazing of a bookstore Powells was so that was my first stop. This place was huge with multiple stories at this place and a section for everything. Their Salvador Dali section was at least two shelves full. I wasn’t able to find the new Sasha Grey book Neu Sex, but they don’t really specialize in brand new titles for some reason. They say you can get lost in here and i know for sure i was there at least 2 hours. The foreign section was pretty impressive with a Russian copy of Horton Hears A Who and some bizarre manga titles.
When i got back, Becca was in pretty bad shape with her foot. Sometime in the night she had tumbled and pulled something. We decided to take a break today and watch some season 2 Buffy episodes. It was really funny to go back and nostalgia watch the episodes because we both grew up watching them when they first aired and amazingly remembered a lot, despite being more than a decade watching them.
Becca had not been to any of Portland’s breweries and the one she decided would be her first was Deschutes. We got pretty good seats here too, right by the window. Alexyn her roommate met up with us here and was really cool. We mentioned to him that I had planned on getting a tattoo the next day but wanted an artist concept on how we could spice it up a bit. I got him a beer and he went to town with ideas on what to get. The drawings ranged everything from a simple 13 to ninja swords, flying bullets, and cloaked men to form the symbol. The beer here was a complete K.O. Strong, dark, and delicious. Becca got Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale & I went with Elly’s recommendation Lagunitas IPA. Of course I’ve drank beer before, but a single pint and I was already tipsy. The beer here also comes with water which was convenient as it was midday and we still had lots to do tonight. The food was also pretty intense. I ordered Elk just to see what it was like and really, it wasn’t all that. They also brought out really outrageous sweet potato fries which lasted us until the next day.
Elly had plans for a burlesque show at the Northpoint Tavern. Her roommate and friend Dara would be there as well and we were told to show up early to get good seats, and I would have to say we got the best seats in the house. I had been to burlesque shows before both in Atlanta and New Orleans but I could not have prepared myself for this show. A midget striptease and another very well built lady doing airline stewardess and hawaiian look. We also met Luka here, coordinating the event, who said she was also a dancer at Lucky Devil where we would be going the next night. Another night gone, we headed back to the house.
Tattoo day! Becca had been working on a full colour sleeve and today she would be getting a fully coloured globe on her shoulder at Optic Nerve. While she got that done I was told Christy would be doing mine after hers. With 3 hours to spare I walked along the most artsy streets I’ve ever been to in my life. Not a single building on this street escaped either graffiti, paintings, or some shape or form of art to cover it. I stopped at Random Order and got the best pie of all time. It was a tough choice between the recommended Blackberry Apple and Old Fashioned Apple Pie but I had to go with the classic. It was good enough to finish the full thing, crust and all! The receptionist at the tattoo shop and I talked a little bit and she was really sweet so I bought her Mac & Cheese lunch. she had to decline, but I shared it with Becca and it was just as amazing. All of the food here is.
Come time for my tattoo, the original intention was for the XIII on my shoulder. Christy recommended against this, and for a very good reason. She showed me that her very first tattoo was the roman numeral II on her shoulder and pointed out that because of the large canvas on the shoulder that it leaves a lot of blank space and ill end up getting a lot more added because of that. I find it truly amazing that of all the parlors in all the world and all artists I get one as professional and cool as her. I went with my plan to get it on wrist, just big enough to see, but small enough to hide behind a watch or armband to be professional. We used the font from final fantasy xiii which she needed a picture reference from and then things began. To those who don’t know about my first tattoo incident, I completely white’d out mid-tattoo. I convinced myself I wouldn’t do it again and it helped by looking away the entire time and more importantly keeping distracted from the sounds of a needle boring into my skin. Becca did really well keeping my distraction going though it was mostly me talking to her and she just laughed. Around the roman numeral 11 I had broken into a profuse sweat and my hand was very clammy, I told Christy to keep going as I have no significance with any other number. This had to be finished even if I hit the blankout point. Once finished her words to me washed over like a cool breeze; “Would you like a tootsie roll?” It was great, I was done and my sugar levels needed a huge boost. She was professional about this getting me a rag and some water and letting Becca sit by me as I got my colour back (I was ghost pale). It was a rush and most likely my last for a good while!
Again back to the house Becca wanted to show me the bridge by her place. After shuffling up two huge flights of stairs, appropriately named “Staircase of Doom” we came to the most amazing sight, a view of Portland from both sides of the river. Words can’t describe the view from here, and on such a nice day too, which is rare this time in Portland. We talked about a lot of things in Portland on the walk. Just the overall mentality of people here and the happiness everyone gives off… the lack of obesity because everyone walks or does some form of exercise on a daily basis. How the lack of cars increases chances of meeting people on trains and buses and just walking the streets. Even the average girl here would be smoking hot anywhere else.
Lucky Devil night! Once again we got a huge gang together for this event. Not only would we be seeing Portland’s #1 dancer Elle, but we would get to see our friend Luka Bazooka as well. The place was again pretty small with a single stage but you can’t pass up free cover. Yes that’s correct; Free Cover…. at a strip club! This time we had some new friends Eagle (David) and Ninja (Jennilyn) with us which gave us a full two couches to chill on. This place not only had poles, but bars on the ceiling which gave the dancers a lot more tricks and acrobatics to perform. Becca got her birthday dance from Luka which was a great way to end the night.
Summer was nice enough to let me stay at her place that night. I got to see Brianna again and her friend Jake. When we got there they already had hookah going so we joined in. We talked about Atlanta, Portland, all kinds of things. Had even more amazing beer Hefeweizen and Pizza with Ranch. Watched some of Natural Born Killers, decided it was too dark so watched Invader Zim instead. Another great end to yet another great night here. Got a call from Atlanta the next morning and told Alex that I already had the feeling I want to move here. I say this as I look out to the highway on the second floor of a hillside apartment. Summer had work today which was cool because I get to see Becca’s job at Southeast Grind. They fixed me a nice coffee (Honey Latte) and I had a breakfast burrito, loaded with all kinds of stuff. I was still a bit uneasy about taking the bus anywhere but figured its really down to north and south here so it shouldn’t be too bad.
North and south proved to be tricky after all. While I was on the correct bus, I was going the wrong direction. I was looking for 6th and i was headed towards 36th. I asked the driver and sure enough I had taken the wrong bus. Luckily the tickets here can last all day so I crossed the street and got in the other direction. As many coincidences had already happened on this trip, here comes another. A girl with dark black hair, glasses and lipstick was a dollar short so I helped her out. McKayla I talked with me the whole way back. She had dual citizenship with US/Canada and was studying writing and tattoos, saying she used Oranges in practice instead of dead animals. In any other circle she’d be deemed a complete weirdo, but to me, she was my first bus friend. She got near the same place as me, even though I was still a good 4 miles away from Becca’s house. Taking this route proved to be very scenic and I got even more pictures walking down the road. I actually passed the first McDonalds and other commercial outlets in this area of downtown; something Portland doesn’t have a lot of. The rain came and went which got me soaked but made up for it with sunlight the majority of the way back.
Becca was up now and Kenzie was on her way to take us to a really nice French pastry place called St Honre Bakery. This place had the most beautiful women working here. I felt my jaw drop entering the store. A gorgeous red haired girl asked me what I wanted and I could barely remember what I chose from the vast selection of amazing treats. A little Korean girl working here too left me stunned to her beauty. Kenzie had a lot to say and she’s really funny when it comes to pop culture so Becca and I had a lot of entertainment while we ate.
This would be Becca’s final day of a week-long birthday vacation and she had to get up at 5am the next day so tonight I would be own my own around town. The original plan was to see Peelander Z, which wasn’t too big of a deal because I’ve seen them play Atlanta and AWA before. To my surprise they were touring with Anamanaguchi, my favorite chiptunes band and another artist Girlfriends. Even at 10pm at night the streets of Portland were completely deserted. No traffic sounds or even rain, just a quiet breeze. When I arrived there was a line but not a line of crowded fans, just a line to get in. I met a guy Chaz in line who was also a big fan but had never heard them live. Behind me in line were two Turkish ladies Hatice & Sule, visiting from Seattle. They had no idea what these bands were but were excited nonetheless. Getting in, we managed to snag a table right off in the corner in that we could see the band and still have a place to sit. It wasn’t crowded at all so I got my Southern Comfort and waited for the bands to come on. Hatice and I were talking about where we work and it turned out she worked in software like me. Not just any software; Microsoft! This amazed me to such a high extent because the one thing that would keep me from moving to a new place was a job. I often joked about how one day I’d bump into someone from some big software company at a bar and land an awesome job. Tonight was that night! Sule was also very friendly and while she didn’t understand the genre of chiptunes, she loved the beat and energy. Elly was here with Mike too and by the time Peelander Z went on, the crowd was all over the place. We had a pit of sweaty fans pushing all over and moshing, it was great! Everyone loved the performance they put on, this my favorite of all their shows that I’ve been to. Peelander Red even remembered meeting me at our DragonCon room party years back.
Ground Kontrol was next for us. I had heard of this place from a lot of people as an old school gamers paradise and that it was. Two floors of arcade games, the second floor entirely pinball machines. Each game was only a single quarter. The floor and tables here all lit up like Tron with a white glow, and in the center a live dj mixing music. They had everything from the original Super Mario Bros to the 6 player X-Men arcade game to Street Fighter IIIrd Strike. They even had a 4 player top-down Pac Man Battle Royale game. Even the bathroom floors were decked out in Pac-Man motif. Best of all, you could drink here, and every arcade game had courtesy cup holders for drinks so you can get smashed while smashing as Donkey Kong.
As I left Ground Kontrol I caught a girl looking for Tiger Bar. She seemed a bit lost so I offered to walk her there. A guy on the street had Google Maps up on his phone and told us Tiger Bar was right around the corner. Jamie told me two of her friend had just finished playing a show at this place. The girls were Paris & Delaney and they were in a band DP, Delaney & Paris. All three girls were gorgeous and I was having such an amazing night that I just opened up to them about how overwhelmingly happy I was. In Paris’s words “Life is beautiful”, it just made me feel even better hearing other people just as happy with life as I was at that moment. They were finishing up a large bottle of French Wine and the bar announced last call. I told them goodnight and headed back to Becca’s apartment. That night outside of her apartment I broke down in tears about just how amazing coincidences are and what led me here. I want to live here. Everywhere else I’ve been on this entire planet, nothing has made me feel so alive, so incredibly satisfied with life as I was at that very moment. I decided then no more kidding around; I would move to Portland and live the rest of my life here in this wonderful, wonderful paradise.
The next morning I couldn’t wait for Becca to come back and tell what a life-changing night I had. I watched some episodes of Melancholy of Haruhi Shizuma while I waited and when she got back I told her the story and me her and Alexyn watched a really good episode (Episode 13: Day Of Sagittarius). There really was no plan for today and we felt an urge to change that, we had to have a destination or plan. While looking through a week old issue of The Mercury, I noticed there was an ad for a store called Zimzim. The flyer went like this:
Proudly doing our part to help keep Portland audacious, one bacon chocolate covered mustache on a stick with a bird on it at a time.
I knew then and there exactly where we had to go. Becca had never heard of the place and said the location would take awhile to get to but this called out to us both and we had to do it. a quote from the movie Modern Living Through Circuitry goes “Its not the destination but the journey” and that couldn’t hold more true then the trip to get to this place.
The weather was great today for going outside. Trees in this area were like none I’ve ever seen before, shaped like hands or dancing figures. The vegetation completely overwhelming some buildings and even some flowers that I had never seen before in such vibrant colours I could hardly believe they were real. Art and graffiti here too was rampant and there was a lot to see. Becca had never been down these roads either so it was just as much wonder to her.
When we finally arrived to Zimzim we were greeted by a really nice lady. She had her mp3 player playing the most unusual music, some kind of bass jazz synth I cant even begin to describe. We mentioned we were both from Atlanta and so was she. She had moved to Portland over 14 years ago and worked in a store at little five points. Her question to me was when I planned to move out there. The store itself had everything, and I mean everything. Shot glasses, greeting cards, fake mustaches, t-shirts, even things with a bird on it! We had reached the mecca of kitsch here and spent so much time, it felt we joked about every single item in the store. While we didn’t buy much, we would be sure to come back to get gag gifts for friends. The owner, Carla, showed us some places near the store we should visit too and places to eat. Passing Ken’s Artisan pizza we really wanted to go by there.
Kens has more than 1 location and Becca had sworn to eat there, but hadn’t known about this location. Despite Portland being empty, this place was completely packed with people waiting outside to get in. we found a pair of stools to wait on, but like magic and great coincidence two people at the bar just left as soon as we ordered our drinks. The beer aside, this place offered “Spicy” Garofoli red wine which would go perfect with the pizza and it did. Even while we waited it was really cool to watch as they sliced the pizza up with a half-oval full blade with a quickness. The pizza itself was extremely good too, and filling. We still had some leftover from the meal and it was just spicy enough too with a few peppers on it. Took more pictures walking back and got a nice shot of the Courthouse, which nearly caused us to miss the train.
This was our final night here and of course went off with a bang. We began the night by heading to Ground Kontrol again and playing some videogames. I lasted a good twenty minutes on Pirates of Caribbean pinball and we actually got a full roster to play 4 player games like Pac-Man, Simpsons, and Rampage. From here we all headed to Dante’s Inferno. Dante’s had everything; full stage of burlesque show going on and dancers high above us, while there was a bar below. One of the dancers was our girl Luka, happy as always to see us for the third night in a row. As soon as we arrived i caught up with Paris & Jamie who had front row seats for the show. They began with a normal burlesque that moved into a magic act of two guys pulling things out of a shared pair of underwear like brooms, animals, and bowling balls. Becca and everyone else left early so i stayed until the place closed up. It was around 2am now and i was still looking for things to do. A cute asian girl mentioned to me that her friend Dallas was hosting a house party not too far from the place. I was up for a walk so I headed all the way there. It was a great walk, nearly 14 blocks and across a bridge. On the way I passed Union Jacks, reminding me of how far I had come on this journey. I stopped at Plaid Pantry for water, cash and directions and shortly after arrived at the house. Three girls who were also at Dante’s were outside smoking. One named Hannah was the 5th wheel of the night and left shortly after arriving, another one of them couldn’t finish her thin lady cigarette so she let me finish it. Dallas was really cool and told me it was $20 to get in with 4 drinks entry. His girl Emma the bartender handed me a playing card and asked if i wanted a double. Two parts of the card ripped, a really clever system. Met a few people that night and played a decent hand of poker. Jill and Ray won the poker game and while Dallas offered a cab, Jill offered to drive me back as it wasn’t too far.
Flying back, I knew what needed to be done. I would play this smart and make my move to Portland. Already offered two couches to stay on until I find a place of my own the only thing stopping me was to get a job which my work would be able to relocate given the right slot opening. Its only a matter of time now.
Becca and Elly I cannot thank you enough for pushing me to come see this place. Becca especially, thank you for hosting me on my visit there and while we both gave tours of the place to each other you showed me some of the best spots. Elly, you know this town well and all of the awesome events and a lot of the fun we had this weekend was your knowledge of things to see and do, thanks again! To everyone else I met, you’re all beautiful and very friendly people and I can’t wait to move there to see more of each other, its going to be a blast!
Finally, a YouTube of my adventure there: