I had given up on making it out to Portland to see the Too Much Coffee Man opera. Airfare was hovering around $550 and I can get to Europe for that kind of dough. The day after I gave up, there was a sale. I rushed home and hopped on Travelocity and got round trip airfare and three nights in a downtown hotel for $440. My next door neighbor, degenerate EM, is an aspiring comic book artist and fellow TMCM fan so I offered to drag her along as company. She jumped at the chance.
So our departure date arrives and we hit the Atlanta airport at 6:30 AM
to jump through the latest “security”
hoops to get on the plane. A long trip with a layover in Minneapolis
later, we landed in Portland in the midst of gray clouds spitting sporadic
rain. Chilly, but not cold – archetypal Portland weather, from what I
"Portland is known as "The City of Roses" or "Rose City" — its climate
is ideal for their cultivation, and the city has many rose gardens,
including the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. Other
nicknames include "Stumptown" (due to early logging to clear land for
development), "Bridgetown" (due to its numerous bridges), "Puddletown"
(due to the rainy weather), "River City" (due to its proximity to the
Willamette and Columbia), "PDX" (after the city's airport code), and
We got a bite at a little Thai restaurant, splitting a delicious red curry tofu, then wandered the streets.
We landed at Powell’s Books, an entire city block taken up by a bookstore.
Powell’s mixes their used books in with the new, all sorted by category and mapped out for relative ease of browsing, so if you find a book you want you might even find it cheap. The store is amazing and honestly a little overwhelming. I can easily imagine stopping by every few days if I lived in the neighborhood.
Purchases in hand, we wandered out to find another couple of
bookstores, record store, consignment shops and more, all within a block
radius. We stopped in at Boxxes, a nearby bar showing gay porn all day, along with
movies and trivia on TV’s above the bar. $1 well drinks at happy hour
could’ve kept me there half a day, but the ban on smoking in this
particular establishment chased away nicotine-and-tar junkie EM after only
In the morning we got recommendations for breakfast from the hotel receptionist, a mistake as she was clearly paid to point us to upscale and/or chain restaurants.
We hit thrift stores and record shops and book stores and geez, I don’t even remember it all because Portland is riddled with such distractions. We found our way to Portland's Chinatown with the idea of visiting the classical Chinese garden. But degenerates that we are, $7 admission prices turned us away in favor of beers a Dixie Tavern down the block. Dixie has a faux Western/redneck ambience, serving beers in cans from selections labeled “lowbrow” – PBR, Hamms, etc., to “highbrow”, imports and microbrews. The bartender claimed the place would be hopping later, but in the early afternoon we had the room to ourselves.
We cruised through the park along the bank of the Willamette River, dodging countless cyclists and panhandlers, admiring a series of different bridges over the water.
Drinking fountains decorate many street corners, but for some reason they run constantly rather than having any sort of lever for operation. I had to wonder how much treated water was wasted with such devices. Some of these fountains even have four continuously-flowing spigots.
Having done very little research in advance, we were challenged when it came time to eat. We meandered for miles before settling on Roma Ristorante for dinner. I started off with a plate of salami, cheese and olives.
We split a bottle of Pinot Grigio and had a couple of fish dishes for the main course, good but not great.
For desert their tiramisu is excellent, even with my high standards for this particular dish after a brush with divinity in Italia.
More ramblings led us to a little bar full of neon, motorcycles hanging
from the ceiling as décor, a young white guy doing oddly bent acoustic blues to
a room full of hipsters. I don’t think I ever caught the name of the
place, and even if I had I probably wouldn’t have remembered it after half
a bottle of wine followed by several rum and soda’s. This is why I usually
take tons of photos and write copious, illegible notes, but this trip I
wasn’t in the mood to obsessively document. My brief stint at the Loafing
had me in need of a vacation from such efforts. The bar was a good
find for the downtown area, which is a little mall-like in terms of stores
and restaurants. But with the three hour time difference still lingering
in our biological clocks,
we ended up back at the hotel relatively early.
Perfect weather again. Were Portland like this more often, I’d be tempted to consider it as my next home, but no, it’s so far north it might as well be Canada in my mind.
Perfect dress acquired, we stopped at Blue Moon restaurant/microbrewery for some tasty beers and a plate of garlicky hummus.
The room was set up with tables in the front half, bleachers in the back, making half the audience appear as extras in the café in which the show takes place. The illusion was added to by clear plastic cups of Too Much Coffee Man stout, caffeinated beer the color of coffee sold by the bar downstairs. Brilliant.
I began giggling even before the lights came up as the outline of the
title character’s costume came into view. The opening number was painfully
funny and so well-acted I could’ve sworn the comic strip itself had come
to life. The three characters were perfectly cast and did fantastic jobs
with the material.
(I'd be happy to return to Portland to catch an expanded version of the show.)
I think it was called Yamhill Pub, an unexpected dive bar around the corner from our hotel, where we landed. Graffiti-covered walls, a decent selection of beers (by my standards. A paltry selection by Portland-beer-nazi standards.), attentive service and a boisterous crowd. We had a few, then stumbled back to the hotel relatively early.
Even still, the morning came too soon. We shivered in the pre-dawn chill, waiting on the Max train to haul us back to the airport where we sat and sipped coffee outside the security perimeter, making jokes about how anyone with a bottle of water was a terrorist.
Coincidentally, the first thing I read when I got to work the next day