In the last installment, we left our intrepid wanderer (that is, me) in his hotel room after a night of karaoke attendance. On Saturday, I awoke (too early... I can never stay in bed past 8), and began what proved to be a typical day of peterme-travel; that is, I walked all over.
From the Clyde, located downtown, I headed toward Nob Hill in the Northwest part of Portland. Doing so lead me through the Pearl District, Portland's "up-and-coming" warehouse loft neighborhood, filled with overpriced condos, modern furniture stores, and shiny-designy coffeehouses with exceedingly cool logo design. Which all seemed quite out of place in Portland, and, according to locals, is not filling up with residents as planned, because Portlanders aren't the type to blow wads of cash on warehouse living.
I met up with a FOAF, Genevieve, an acerbic Australian who works as a design ethnographer for Intel Labs. Kinduva dream job--travel the world, observing people, writing reports, and coming up with design ideas for various cultures.
She took me to the Cameo Cafe for a tasty hearty brunch, and then for a wander around the Nob Hill neighborhood, wherein a clash of various whitebread cultures is very much in evidence. The dominant vibe is one of Yuppie parents, the vaguely liberal strollers-and-dogs culture which you find somewhere in most cities, such as in Noe Valley in San Francisco. This is butting up against a just-out-of-school mild form of early 20s hipsterdom, as evidenced by the indie record store and the goth clothier.
We parted, and I ambled toward and into Powells City of Books, the one Portland establishment that everyone I talked to made sure I visited. It's the nation's largest single bookstore, taking up an entire city block, filled with new and used side by side. As I had limited time in the city, shopping Powells took heaps of willpower--book lovers are known to lose whole days, hell, entire weekends, in Powell's hypnotic grip. I emerged with relatively minor damage to my wallet, perhaps saved only by the thought of schlepping tomes back to San Francisco.
The wander continued in earnest, as I headed back downtown and toward the river. In a visit to Portland 4 years prior, I'd remembered enjoying the Saturday Market--an open air venue of food stalls and crafts--so I returned. Upon arriving, I beelined for the food court, which was oddly unappetizing. I settled on a falafel, and, walking around briefly, it became clear that the market was pretty much just an outdoor hippie gathering, and I couldn't for the life of me remember why I enjoyed it before. Did I change, or did the market? Probably a bit of both.
Making my egress, I strolled south along the river, and then over it via the Hawthorne Bridge. To visiting San Franciscans, the Hawthorne District is equated with the Haight and the Mission, the funky hipster part of town, with the requisite bars, coffeehouses, record stores, thrift shops, etc. It ended up being quite a trek, and along the way I stopped into one of those comic book stores that I HATE--every single item in the entire store was sealed in a Mylar envelope... As if this were some Museum of Comics (don't touch!) instead of a shop. It's obsessive dweebs like that what are ruining the industry.
But anyway, I had a late afternoon coffee at an adorable establishment situated in a converted house. After having walked for something like 8 hours, taking a load off was most welcome. After resting, I connected with Scott, another guy whom I'd met very briefly at SXSW, and he and his girlfriend, Corinn, tucked me into their car and drove us to Delta Cafe, a southern food joint nearby. Delta is very popular, so we waited at a bar down the street, which ran a $1 special on cans of PBR. When seated for our meal, I looked around, and was intrigued by the high hipster quotient--in San Francisco, there are no southern food or BBQ joints filled solely with the young and pierced. My fried oyster po' boy was tasty, though the jalapeno hush puppies were a bit on the WAY TOO SPICY side. I don't mind a little pain with my meal--but a constant tear-inducing sear can be a bit much.
Scott, Corinn, and I shot the shit over a variety of topics, and when the meal was finished, I asked if there were any ice cream stores to hit up for dessert -- trying locally-made ice cream is one of the many habits of my travels (along with drinking local beers, walking until my legs fall off, eating on-the-go, carrying too much crap with me at all times ("But I might find myself waiting somewhere, and I'll want to read, but I don't know *what* I'll want to read, so I better bring two books and three magazines, just in case")). The question stumped my hosts, so we ended up at the Ben and Jerry's on Hawthorne, and sat outside and chatted about all the too-much TeeVee that we watch (Corinn and I bonded over the hottie-ness of Lorelai on The Gilmore Girls).
Scott and Corinn turned in for the night, but I wanted to keep going, and had been intrigued by a band playing at the end of Hawthorne, whose CD I'd heard in the record store earlier that day. I also felt that seeing bands at a club would be a good traveler thing to do--what do the locals do at night? The headliners were the B-Side Players from San Diego, whose music was a combo of 70s funk, hip-hop turntablism, and some latin jazz. The venue was the Mount Tabor, a fairly standard Big Room with bar in the back and pool tables off to the side. Considering the music, I was surprised at how white the crowd was -- a testament, I suppose, to how white the city is. The attire and attitude were pretty straightforward Young Urban Type, perhaps not as cool and disaffected as you'd find in San Francisco, but definitely cut from the same cloth. The one surprise were the little group of definitely older and more made up middle manager types, folks from the burbs out for a night on the town, the men in Oxford shirts, the women with sprayed hair helmets, their attempts at dancing a little too boisterous, sloppy, "look at us, we're old, yet we're having fun like kids!". I wouldn't have minded them had they not repeatedly caromed into me in their joy.
The band played a selection of world-beat tunes, heavy on the African and Latin roots, that ended up not being my style. So I packed it in before the show broke, made my way to the bus stop, and took the 17 back to the hotel. After New York, Portland might be the most transit-friendly city I've ever been in, and I was pleased that I could get a quick, clean, comfortable bus ride at 1am.
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