Keep Portland Weird

P-Town, Bridgetown, Little Beirut, Stumptown, Rip City, The City of Roses, Beervana or Beertown, what is this all about? Let's see... it starts with the letter P, has a lot of bridges, protested the visits of the first President Bush so much that his staff compared it to Beirut, grew so fast that the cleared trees left stumps everywhere, had a play-by-play announcer named Bill Schonely who used odd phrases, has a lot of roses and a ton of micro breweries... must be Portland, Oregon.

So with all of these informal handles, how did the official name come about? How about a flip of a coin?

It's true, back in the 1840s Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine and Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts were co-owners of the land and each
wanted to name the new town after their old homes back east. How to break the deadlock?

Believe it or not, Portland was named in a best two out of three coin toss. The “Portland Penny” used to decide the matter is on display at the Oregon Historical Society. Wonder what would be on display if they'd used “rock, paper, scissors” method?

We decided to mount our trusty cycles for a tour of Rip City. The Willamette River runs right through Downtown and bike trails skirt both banks. Eleven (that's one more, isn't it) bridges connect the two sides of Bridgetown and supply great viewpoints for The City of Rose's landmarks.

We pedaled past The Rose Garden, no, not a plot of flowers but the home of the NBA Trailblazers, viewed the Aerial Tram from the Hawthorne Bridge and wheeled around the Historic District. While rolling through Chinatown we found the Chinese gardens, which DOES sport a collection of flowers,
displayed based on traditional Chinese landscape paintings. The design is from Suzhou, China during the Ming Dynasty.

As usual, it didn't take long for our thoughts to turn to food. When in P-town, a growling belly leads to a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts where “The Magic Is In The Hole.” Maybe their slogan should say Hole in the Wall, because this place defines the phrase.

Oddly, there were several hundred thousand dollars worth of Mercedes, Volvo and Porsches parked right in front of this tiny dive. The line for fried dough ran halfway down the block and consisted of everything from tie-dyed T-shirts to business suits. Looks like health food fans come in all shapes and sizes. The locals in the queue explained that this kind of crowd is business as usual at the Voodoo. What was drawing this strange blend of characters? We stepped into the closet sized shop to find out.

The décor is early punk rock teen bedroom with the music turned up loud. Real punk, serious angst filled I'll-cut-you punk -- no Greenday here -- we're talking Lou Reed, The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop and The Ramones. Needless to say, it's all take out, there's no place to stand, much less sit.

We ordered the famous “Voodoo Doll” with a pretzel stick through his heart, bleeding raspberry-blood filling and the equally illustrious Maple Bar with not one, but two strips of bacon on top. Our little chocolate frosted supernatural pin cushion was a-dough-rable and tasty to boot but the homely little confection of maple icing and hog won the day flavor-wise -- despite our initial revulsion. Turns out it's like when the pancake syrup gets on the bacon. Good eatin'.

While our deep fried sugar and dough appetizers settled we decided to take in the Saturday Market down by the riverside. Since 1974 Stumptowners have been gathering downtown to consider the offerings from local artists, musicians, chefs, bakers and candlestick makers. This weekly event has become America's largest open air arts and crafts market.

While browsing the booths we eerily felt that we were being browsed back by dozens of faces looking out from their perches at Toyu Ceramics and Life Masks. Beverly Toyu makes the most lifelike art possible. They are perfect replicas, molded in plaster from a living face then fired in clay from the molds. The expressions are completely captivating and the detail, down to the hairs of the eyebrows,

Moseying on, Doña Lola's stand caught our eye. A pause for a bite of Salvadorian fare wouldn't suck. We were immediately drawn to the pupusas, an item on the menu that neither of us had seen before. Pupusas are El Salvador's version of the tortilla, made from corn masa and thicker than what we are used to, similar to a gordita. Originated by the Pipil tribes, they are stuffed with meat, cheese or bean filling and pan fried to perfection. Muy bueno. Now to find something to wash it down...

In keeping with the Beertown title, a beer garden is right in the center of the Market. Weird and intriguing musical combos entertain under the tent while the assemblage samples offerings from some of Beervana's twenty-eight breweries. Ah, Saturday in the park.

All in all, we found Saturday Market the optimal place to embrace Little Beirut's unofficial motto "Keep Portland Weird."

Weird is good.

David & Veronica,

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