October 11, 2022

PORTLAND DAYS 0.5 & 1: son of a beach

I'm back, baby! Holy shit. There's no way I can fit this all into one blog post.

So, here's the thing. I have wanted to go to Portland for like 15 years. Like if you asked me to make a list of cities I wanna see before I die, it would be #1. I am a huge sucker for everything it represents, or at least what it represented in the late 2000s. Artsy, bright, weird, colorful, safe(er than, say, NY or LA), progressive, young but not a college town... I may not be the most outdoorsy person in the world, but dammit who doesn't like the AESTHETIC of being outdoorsy? It's Portland! I like hipsters! I can appreciate "twee"! Recycling is cool! I wanna see some kooky quirky shit! I live in Ohio, I just wanna know there are people somewhere out there wearing something that isn't biz-casual or basketball shorts! Give me a culture that's happy to be here!

So yeah, when my sister moved there and the rest of the family felt lowkey abandoned, I was just like "sweet, maybe she'll host Christmas!"


This was both a fantastic trip (the city) and sometimes a stupidly stressful one (family friction). Next time I consider a vacation with 9 people, smack me upside the head and tell me to love myself better. It is impossible to please everybody all of the time, and it's especially hard with a bunch of people who at least like to think of themselves as flexible. But I digress into a thorny thicket.

Seattle airport is very shiny and PNW. You can buy a Filson flannel shirt there, or a Caribou coffee. It knows exactly what it is.

Portland airport has an identity crisis every 20 feet. Are we an abandoned minigolf course? Are we a movie theater? Are we playing forest sounds in this hallway?? Okay??? Here's a broken automated walkway with neat guts:

When we get to the city, we pull up past a ton of big, juicy graffiti to our AirBnB, which looks a little less shiny than it did in the pictures. This is the case for every Portland home we go to-- I'm used to long ranch-style houses, and the rooms I met in Portland tend to be taller than they are wide, with small yards outside. Li'l bit claustrophobic for me. I don't remember ever seeing something I consciously registered as an apartment building, so I assume suburban sprawl works a bit differently there out of necessity. The houses made up for it by every other one being freakin' orange. Love that part.

Anyway, the AirBnB is pretty clearly a flipper house, with a combo of old bones and braindead cheap "modern" choices. The art was the best giveaway-- Banksy prints, funny animals in people clothes, Hokusai's Wave, an ad for Prada...? Somebody clearly got a back-to-the-dorms deal on Posters.com. Anything to avoid making any sort of statement.

The fireplace was decomissioned, painted neutral blue and had a giant TV stacked on top of it, safely above any human's line of sight. Every bed had the same black and white striped bedding. And the place was PACKED with double beds. Double bed in the basement. Double bed in the room with the child's playroom shutters that could be opened by anyone from the hallway. There were so many beds that I, by myself, ended up in a 4-person bunk bed that didn't seem safe to climb. I would later not feel even a little bad about eating fried chicken and waffles in it.

You could potentially sleep 12 people in this place, but there were only 2 bathrooms. And they both had showers with negligible privacy glass. That choice actually did have some personality to it, so points there. Pervert points.


Possibly the blandest home in Portland. Very clean, but used for evil. Can rehabilitate this ranking by selling it to a real family.

That said: I slept like a rock.

The next morning, my newly-native sister Jaq picked us up and took us to a little (actual!) hole in the wall called the Pie Spot!

I got an 8oz mocha and an apple brandy crumble pie. These pies come in a bunch of varieties and they all fit in the palm of your hand. They do not come with forks or plates, but you don't need them. The crust is firm enough to stay together, moist enough not to crumble everywhere, and pliant enough to not flake off and stab your mouth. I'm not a big pie eater, but this experience may have converted me. Everyone else enjoyed their stuff, too. Would easily go back.


I wish they sold milk!

The Pie Spot was next to an Oxacan restaurant, among other unusual ethnic fare I don't remember. I'm mondo curious. There was also a place that serviced JUST Volvos. An omen of the Portland to come.

Oh my god this city is teeming with cars I haven't seen anywhere since the 90s. And not a single Hummer! Interesting how the people who do the most stuff outdoors don't go for an urban assault vehicle. It was really neat taking this trip with a few car guys-- I just wish I understood half of what they were saying when they got excited.

Then we headed out to "the coast". I think it was all Cannon Beach? I guess they filmed some part of The Goonies here, but nobody would admit to having seen The Goonies.

Look at this fucking. Beach.

Jaq was so bummed that it was foggy that day, but honestly? I've never been on a misty beach before and really enjoyed the cozy/creepy factor. It was really surreal walking this huge barren strip of sand that we couldn't see the end of while thin waves washed toward us from god-knows-where.

She was mostly upset that we couldn't see the rocks near the shore clearly, since puffins sometimes like to hang out there. The only animals we saw were disembodied crab legs. Also this beached jellyfish with little sand fleas or something wiggling under it.

Fun tsunami map! Interesting how every house is fucked.

Then we drove to a different part and started hiking!

Now, when Jaq was organizing this thing, she asked for input. And one of the things I suggested was that we not do a strenuous hike on the first day. This will be important... later.

This place was so serene and lush and dramatic. Blew me away. You know when you get bored of opening your computer and seeing a beach, so instead you search "forest desktop backgrounds"? I'm like 90% sure I've used at least one photo of this place before. Everywhere I looked was basically the most perfect forest I could imagine.

Some people actually started coming up with scenarios about what we would do if a dinosaur showed up, haha. Everyone was in really good spirits, and can you blame us?

We only ACTUALLY encountered 3 types of creature, consistently and randomized like common area Pokemon: Wooly bears, giant hideous green slugs, and big black beetles.

Watch your step, probably.

Then we found... ANOTHER BEACH. Also some freaky bleached trees stacked up like a dam? Neato.

Lots of birds bathing on this end! We stuck around and watched them and talked for a bit.

I brought rocks back to make a Portland cairn at home. They were not small rocks. I lived to regret this.

In love with the Portland impulse to put stickers on any reasonable surface.

Crows hoping we'd feed them something.


One of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Going in was fine, going back even with a break was painful. I would love to practice my stamina here!

Afterward we stopped at Jaq's favorite pizza place, Ranch-something? This is where we got our first true sticker shock, because a full pizza with no toppings costs $22, and a quarter slice costs $7. The pizza was good, but the crust was like a french bread pizza, and they doled out mozzarella like a rich libertarian gives food service tips... so I wasn't sure where their overhead comes from, except for "paying rent in Portland". But then I saw how hard they loaded my brother's order:

Ranch shared a very hip food hall space with a brewery, a mini record shop, a mini arcade and A FUCKING ART VENDING MACHINE! I've always wanted to meet one of these!!!! I got so excited I swiped my credit card a bunch of times and scared my bank into freezing it, haha.

The only thing I actually managed to buy was a 2-pack of "fortune-misfortune" cookies. I gave one to my dad's girlfriend-- hers was something like "you'll find joy wherever you go", so I guess that was the "fortune" part. I got the misfortune, which said I'll fail to learn from the pandemic. VERY RUDE AND NOT TRUE. Though that's also something a person who doesn't learn would say.

The cookies were good. Thick.


Tasty and great atmosphere. They even have italian soda! But for the money, I'd be happier with something greasier and with customization options.

Then we got ice cream at a place with a little Covid counter. Jaq's boyfriend had a punch card that we filled the hell up. YOU'RE WELCOME AMIR. Really starting to notice the local progressive stances since every place has emphatic signs like that.


Love the wooden ball sculpture representing the size of the scoops. Points off for the "Brownie vs. Blondie" flavor skimping on the brownie AND blondie, and for calling a flavor "Vanilla AF".

Exhausted, we called it a night. But little did I know that something sinister was brewing within...

my knees.