Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Portland

A Portland institution: Mary's strip club
I had a little business to do in Portland, Oregon so I spent last night here and I'm heading back to Seattle tomorrow on the Bolt Bus. I've been to Portland, Maine many many times but this is my first trip to Portland, Oregon. Last night was a good introduction to the city, I got in late at Union Station and walked to my hotel through rain sodden streets filled with hipsters, indigents, tourists and a large variety of drunks/lunatics. After I checked in I went back out immediately. You can't help but fall in love with Portland on a cold November night in the rain as you walk from microbrewery to microbrewery and doughnut shop to doughnut shop. Marijuana fumes emanating from the locals mingle with kerosene and spices from the dozens of dodgy looking kebab, taco, Thai and curry stands. By midnight the only other pedestrians are people on their way to downtown Portland's surprising number of strip clubs and one or two crazy people who crossed the street specifically to be crazy in front of me. 
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Portland disappoints a little in the daylight. It's a city like any other with an ordinary downtown, some impressive trams and a lot of good high bridges from which to commit suicide into the chilly looking river. The famous Powells that I've been looking forward to visiting for decades is just another big bookshop. In my mind Powells was a kind of book nirvana like a massive version of The Strand or Foyles filled with cute Indie girls reading Sylvia Plath (or whatever cute Indie girls read these days) but actually the only person in the poetry section was me and they didn't have any poetry books by Christopher Logue (which is one of my tests to see if a bookshop is real or fake). The travel section was all right and I guess they have good events (Zadie Smith was just here) but book nirvana if it exists at all is not to be found in Portland. 
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North West Portland was more fun to walk around this afternoon. There every other guy had a beard or a piercing or a face tattoo and I felt suitably square and old. I walked the length of Kearney and helped a guy with a moustache lift a fridge into a truck outside the Theosophical Society. He asked me if I knew what Theosophy was and I said that I did and had already dismissed it as bollocks when I was in high school. After Kearney it started to rain - hard - so I retreated to the Deschutes Brewery where they have a cask conditioned real ale that was pretty darn fine (if a little too chilled). I sat in the window seat and ordered another pint and listened to Redshirts by John Scalzi until it was time to head back to the hotel and type this.