In this post I round up a bunch of the ridiculous and strange things you should do... or try if you ever find yourself in this part of Oregon, culturally speaking- Portland is a strange city indeed, and perhaps one of the strangest places I've been to yet!
I found myself recently on a trip to attend a wedding for a childhood friend of my boyfriend Jake, and we both knew we needed a vacation from the restaurant work life. We were fortunate enough to be picked up and taken around on the first day by a friend of mine that moved here from Oahu a few years ago, as they gave us a list of some of the places we should check out.
Powell's City of Books
No, this isn't a post about the fabled Red Rooms of the deep web, where one can pay online to participate in live torture streamed throughout the net. Have you even used Tor? It is reaaally slow, basic text pages take minutes to load. You're better off watching your murders live at that point. LET'S MOVE ON!
This is the Red Room in Powell's City of Books, which was quoted by Times Magazine to be "the largest independent chain of bookstores in the world". With a few in Portland, this one located in the Pearl District being the largest. Hearing about this got me excited until I was like; "Oh that's it?" It wasn't actually that big. I didn't realize how enormous it actually was until Jake left to grab coffee.
If Powell's is a Bitcoin, then your local Barnes & Nobles is only a Satoshi! I came across this sign when I got lost... and realized I had only seen one of the many rooms/ floors.
If being a giant bookstore wasn't great enough, this store sports it's own printing press- so you can self publish your own books while you shop. If you are a collector, there is an entire room dedicated to extremely old and rare books as well. Religion, cultural Mastery, Children's folklore, and banned books are abundant in here.
Dive Bars and Pubs
This bar is literally called Beer O'Clock, and is located in Downtown Portland. With an impressive line of lableless draft taps, they specialize in many craft beers that can be found in the state. It may get easily overlooked, but there are a number of strange things for sale in their vending machine, including mushroom jerky. Since all beers are unique, it is a common practice to sample different ales until you find one you want a glass of. Everytime is drinking time out here, go nuts!
Another good place of mention is Tryst, also located downtown. Along with a nice selection of craft beer, they also sport a comprehensive house cocktails list, you name it Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, and Rum, a page for every spirit in an ambient bar atmosphere.
Our friend who was showing around was dying in the heat as our bartender showed us an old trick of holding an ice cube at the under-side of your wrist. Akin to chefs with a cold, wet towel around their necks, the gesture is said to cool blood circulating in the quickest manner! We sampled some beers here too, it was glorious! You will definitely find a bar you like down here, some come equipped with billiards, darts, or even video slots- keep an eye peeled!
Arcades and Games
If you are a die-hard arcade game enthusiast, then you may be pleased to know that there are two major arcades out in Portland, and of course- I visited them both. Ground Kontrol in the Pearl District was up first, and yes- their sign is a Galaga ship.
The icing is that these arcades also have bars, and at this one- every cabinet has built in holders for your drinks, all games coin op. Many of them one quarter a play. You want a retro mind-fuck? This is your man. Games of mention include; Galaga, Bust A Move, Bubble Bobble, Metal Slug, and Area 51. WELCOME TO YOUR CHILDHOOD. Good times. Although I am not the most knowledgeable on pinball cabs, you'll find a good number of them at both arcades. The generation of one coin warriors will shed a tear, as they show off their skills once more in a bustling 80's/90's atmosphere.
The other arcade we had visited was aptly named Quarter World located on the outskirts of the Hawthorne District and many of the same games were not to my liking at 50 cents. A few great mentions though, as this arcade does have some games not at Ground Kontrol and not the other way around. I almost cried that I got to play Samurai Showdown- Rimururu is my favorite character and I'm not to sure which version the game was, but her sister Nakoruru has a wolf in this one, instead of the hawk! Being a big Taito fan as well, I had never gotten to play on an actual Arknoid cabinet until now, complete with a dial instead of a joystick. Nextdoor there is a Mario themed Bao Chinese restaurant called Baoser! Still a good arcade, but considering it's distance from the main districts, this is an out of the way quest that should be done if you plan on staying in Hawthorne that day.
Walking to a Different District
During the summer, you are looking at hot temperatures during the day, staying in town or going the Uber/Lyft route may be the best, but we decided to attempt the trek from Hawthorne to Downtown, and some weird stuff happened along the way. In Hawthorne there were A LOT of thrift stores, so if you are looking for trendy clothing, which we weren't, you might actually want to stop here for some shopping. Small stores, antiques, and healthy food go on for many many blocks here. Be warned, it's hot.
After walking towards town quite a bit, a Poke shop in Hawthorne caught our attention. It was called Poke Mon. What made this place stand out to us, was after a day in downtown we were deterred from eating at one of the many Poke places downtown the previous day when Jake (sushi chef boyfriend) discovered that they were serving frozen tuna. Poke Mon in terms of quality seemed a bit more legit.
Although we decided not to eat Poke on our trip in advance, we were able to note several ways this place earned brownie points for being more authentic in this Hawaiian comfort food then other places. The first thing we noticed was that Kimchee Tako was listed as a menu item. Kimchee marinated Octopus is delicious on another level, but is far from being a common type of poke. I've only seen it in Hawaii, and even then- a lot of poke places at home don't have it. Another good indicator was that tuna on this menu was listed as Ahi, which is the Hawaiian name for Tuna. In Japanese, it's called Maguro by the way! They are the same thing, but you are more likely to see the name Ahi in a Hawaiian restaurant, and Maguro/Chutoro/Otoro (grades) in sushi restaurants. The other great thing we saw were the sauces used on the menu, Yuzu and Ponzu are staple sauces back home in sushi, and Yakiniku (grilled meat) culture.
Over the past year, Poke has caught national attention in being another super food along with Acai and Kale, and although Oregon and Washington have done a great spin on this food- we were surprised to see a place going above and beyond to study the culture behind this strange dish.
We got somewhat lost when we reached the major freeways and waterways separating us from Downtown right over the bridge, and stumbled upon a store that seemed to be an oasis in the middle of nowhere.
I could only capture less than half of the store in this picture. But daaaaaaaaaaamn, you want it- they literally have it. Expansions for Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, Bears vs Babies and any number of sided dice in varying styles you'll need for whatever D&D or board game you set your heart on. If you like Indie/TCGS you will find more cards and board games than you'll ever know what to do with. Honorable mentions include Vanguard, and various Pokemon peel off promotional cards. In reality, this is one of the best hobbyist stores I have ever seen, and we would not have come across it if we were not walking. A fun mention other than tournaments a plenty, they have a 21+ section where you can buy beer and go play your favorite games with your buddies in the store.
Eating Stuff From Trees
After Guardian Games, we got lost in the sketchy part of town, walking to a dead end on a side street under the bridge. Homeless camps seemingly everywhere, not many people walking on the street, and were curious if any Lyft drivers would even pick us up from here.
Earlier when we were walking past some bushes I had jokingly asked Jake if he has ever eaten leaves as a kid. Y'know, pick a leaf off of a bush, and think hmmmm this looks tasty, and eat it. He looked at me like I was crazy. So here we are, completely lost and Jake starts to get sketched out, I ask him what's up. He clearly explains that two sketchy guys are eating stuff off of a tree right next to us. To my surprise, they looked like trendy city teens just chilling. I walked up and asked what they were doing. They were picking Blackberries and eating them off of the tree, in the middle of nowhere, no joke. Now you know, you can literally eat things randomly growing out here.
For the record, they were pretty good.
If you want to see more of my adventures please upvote, follow, and resteem! A lot of things got interesting on this trip and if this post receives enough interest, I'll be posting part two- covering districts, and darker topics such as law, weapons, stripclubs, clubbing in general, substances, and medical/recreational marijuana and a bonus on restaurants and food trucks!