I’m on a reclaimed double decker bus cafe called Tov Coffee. The trimmings are purple and gold. The upstairs has been transformed into a patio, complete with wicker chairs and those large obelisk style heaters. I’m drinking “Sounds Like Trouble With The Cops”, a vanilla latte with reduced rum. It’s smooth, sweet and delicious. In fewer than 24 hours, I think I’ve achieved peak Portland.
Yesterday was an adventure, and a lengthy one at that. When I finally got to bed just after midnight, I’d racked up a grand total of 1.5 hours of sleep since 7am on Tuesday. The excitement of the trip coupled with the responsibility of having to be conscious to make my flights meant the whole day was a slog. I met a collection of characters, because what’s an adventure without a stack of NPCs?
YYZ->LAX. I’d gleefully picked an exit row for the leg room and noticed not just the empty seat next to me, but the Guy Fieri looking motherfucker on the other side of it. A big dude with an equally big smile on his face. Bright orange shirt with spiked bleached blond hair. Age of 50+ by the looks of it. He thrust out a hand and introduced himself. Asked about my travel plans and told me he was headed to a big sales expo in LA. Sold custom home audio solutions. Computer based stuff, can do the localised audio in separate rooms, kind of thing. Huge installations. Then he was going on a three day motorcycle trip with his buddies. We had six odd hours and managed to fill most of it chatting. An American originally, he’d moved to Toronto at the age of 14. Was a single dad for a while, met a lovely Christian woman and they got married. Seemed an archetypal bloke. He talked about his marriage, how constantly in awe of his wife he was. How he and his wife loved each other so much, but also realised the importance of balance. They both worked from home and appreciated time spent apart, separate hoidays, etc, so they had more things to talk about when spending time together. He talked about his daughter. How proud he was of her for going to college like he never did. How the educational system doesn’t work for everyone. She was coming out of a commerce degree with no real idea of what to do. He knew she was an entrepreneur at heart, but felt that college had taught her to serve someone else. When it came to politics, it became apparent that we were on different sides. He liked Trump and agreed with his whole concept of Fake News “It’s all propaganda, right? Fake News is when you’re not getting the news, just the bias.” He explained. “Right” I replied “but if you’re saying that all news has a bias, then technically all news is Fake News.” He thought for a minute. “Yeah, I guess it is.” We talked about poverty and he lamented how people struggled. “Poverty is a mindset. If you think poor, you’ll always be poor.” I listened, then went into a basic explanation of the concept of privilege, social inequality, trauma and how these things make the playing field anything but level. I agreed that there was a mindset to it, but that things weren’t that simple. That someone who’s always had a roof over their head, access to food, education and a safety net isn’t the same as someone who’s had to struggle and deal with just trying to pull things together. If the difference is really only a mindset, how can you expect those two people to be on the same level playing ground? The person without worries has to work, for sure, but the struggling person not only has to do the same work, but has to overcome their struggles just to meet the base level of the other. He went silent for a small while, nodding. Processing.
I haven’t had much contact with the other side, politically. I live in a bubble of like-minded individuals. This was an interesting conversation for me. Privilege comes into it, definitely. I’m a white, educated cis male who comes from a supportive family that is financially well off. People are generally friendly towards me and don’t see me as a threat. Talking to this guy did reinforce something that I knew, but hadn’t really seen much evidence of first hand. This guy may have liked Trump, but that didn’t immediately make him into a monster. We chatted about societal progression, about ethnicity, sexuality, gender. About how society moves slowly, but it moves. About the difference in LGBT kids at school these days vs the 90s. How wonderful it is that people are feeling less like they need to hide who they are. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, who you love.” He intoned. “It matters what you do and how you treat the people around you. If you’re a good person, that’s all that matters.” Nice one, Guy. He loved hearing about my experiences moving to a new country and was impressed by my travel experiences. As the flight ended he turned to me and said “y’know Leon, I travel a lot for work. I usually get on a flight and plug in my earphones. This is the first time in about ten years that I’ve actually had a conversation on a plane. He may not have been left leaning, but he was pretty alright.
The flight got into LAX early, but my LAX->PDX flight was delayed. So more time to waste at LAX. Happy happy joy joy. I met some Aussie girls who were going to London, England for four days with no idea what to see. I told them about my trip last year and gave them some good places to check out. Honestly, I was pretty drained and the next few hours, flights and all were pretty unremarkable. I listened to the Portland Harmontown episode to pass the time and get excited.
While waiting for a bus on my way to the Air BnB I was approached by this gawky looking kid. Somewhere in the realms of 17-20. He talked. A lot. Very friendly, but after a day of transit and almost zero sleep, I wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. I politely told him as such. He kept talking. He told me he was a local artist, a musician. A rapper. Said his name was Moneyfishsticks. A self proclaimed big deal locally. He went on about how some multi Grammy award winning producer messaged him on Twitter and wanted to work with him. Make some hits. I said thanks and put on my headphones. I looked him up later.154 followers. Superstar. I can’t shame him for being friendly though.
The AIr BnB was exactly what I had hoped. A quiet place, well sized room with a single seater couch, reading desk and comfy double bed. A great shower with an anatomical skeleton shower curtain. The host was away in London but left a few pages of helpful info, local restaurants and cafes to check out and handy parks for scenic runs. I took a shower, changed and was out in under half an hour.
Pok Pok is a famed Portland institution known for it’s fabulous wings, but its sister restaurant Whiskey Soda Club is just across the road (and doesn’t have an hour and a half wait). I stopped in and ordered a plate of Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, extra spicy, with a dark vietnamese beer on the side. Unbelievable. The wings were hot, sticky and so juicy. The fish sauce paired with some kind of lemon and sugar made for a wonderful convergence of sweet and savoury. The best wings I’ve had in my life, no question. I was seated next to an awful tinder date heading on a downwards spiral and fast. The gal was awful. She kept complaining about everything on the menu and how difficult it was to pronounce. She continually professed her disgust for the presence of fatty and friend foods, of offal, of spices and unknown dishes. She complained that she didn’t wanna be a basic bitch, but refused to try anything more daring than chicken and rice. Then complained that the music (some kind of asiatic jazzy fusion) was weird and too loud. Her date was having very little time for her constant griping and proud ignorance. She kept talking about local gossip, to which he replied once or twice “that’s not even true and you know it.”. If she went off to the bathroom I was tempted to ask him if he just wanted to ditch the dateand hang out instead. The server was lovely and gave me a list of great dive bars to check out, so off I went.
My Father’s Place was underlined as “ultra divey” on his list, so I went right there. Perfection. A table at the front was stacked with free to play board games. I saw tables of people playing Settlers, Splendour and Betrayak at House on the Hill. I was tempted to ask if I could join in Betrayal, but saw they had a full table. They had double happy hours, one from 5-7 and another from 10-midnight. $1.50 PBR or $3 draft microbrews. I grabbed a Cascade Brewery Blueberry Sour for $3, which was just what I was looking for. Bright and refreshing, bold and tasty. I heard some Aussie accents and went to investigate. There was another room with pinball machines (Medieval Madness, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, etc) and two Aussie blokes seated at a table. I said hi and they told me to pull up a chair. One of them lived in New York, the other was on a six week holiday in the US. Both from Melbourne, originally. Really friendly guys. They’d just come back from Burning Man which they said was incredible. “There’s shit going on everywhere, so much to do and look at, plus you’re biking like 15km a day around a sand city.” We shot the shit for a while until they bowed out. I chatted briefly with one of the Betrayal players. She was interested in moving to New Zealand for a career in film post production and wanted to get some advice. It got close to midnight and I remembered that I had hardly slept in the past two days. I caught a bus home and collapsed into bed.
Day one done. I might be in love with this city already.