Portland: Where weird is even weirder

This post will be brief and nowhere near as captivating as it could be in the video/picture category for displaying the profound weirdness that is Portland – which is shame, because they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth avoiding literacy altogether.

So I am forced to attempt to make up the weirdness value in the written word vis-a-vis my hack writing. Sorry.

portland is weird

First, my sole intention of visiting Portland Oregon from Seattle was to shop for sales tax-free electronics to smuggle into Brazil to subsidize my trip (more on this in the future). I chose to visit Portland because Oregon is the closest state to Seattle, and the 4 other sales tax-free states people only visit if they want to make moonshine (Montana), set up a corporation (Delaware), drill for oil (Alaska), or be able to tell their friends they visited the state next to state that makes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (New Hampshire).

Many people say, my former self included, that people from Seattle and people from Portland are the same. We are said to be so similar we are like twins separated at birth. And maybe, by and large in comparison – one could go on a road trip through the USA  and reach this same conclusion. However, if we were to follow this analogy of being twins separated at birth a bit further down the road, then Portland is without doubt the scary sibling you lock up in the basement just in case the neighbors might see. Portland is Lars from the Goonies.

That step siblings you kept hiding

That step sibling you forgot to mention to your S.O.

I arrived early on Saturday morning and needed to kill some time before the shops opened to buy my tax free items for Brazil,  so I set my course to see what was open on a Saturday in Portland, taking care to weave in and out of downtown Portland’s streets like a game of Pac Man, attempting to avoid junkies and street kids who roam in packs with dogs and bother you to part with some coin. I believe they are dubbed ‘crusties’ by Portlanders. Portland, compared to Seattle, is wonderfully flat and seems brighter for some reason, which is great, as it makes it easier to spot and avoid the aforementioned groups and also makes for a dandy place to go on a impromptu pubcrawl (Seattle & Portland have a lot of microbreweries) without exerting energy that could be used in beer consumption.

Portland +1, Seattle -1.

Crusties in Portland

Crusties in Portland

 

I started adventure tour-du-Portland waiting in line at the famous Voodoo donuts.

The famous Voodoo Donuts

The famous Voodoo Donuts

Voodoo Donuts Portland

Turner confused, as usual

Turner confused, as usual

People wait in line for 20 minutes to over an hour to get their hands on these donuts. I had the time and wanted to see what all the kids were Instagraming about. The design/theme/brand of Voodoo is really well done, but I have a hard time understanding why anyone would be willing to wait in line for a donut. I had only two thoughts as I waited in line, surveying my fellow donut line waiters 1) everyone was way too excited for donuts 2) does the existence of this place make my ‘affordable’ healthcare premiums go up?

People really excited about donuts

People really excited about donuts

The nice guy at the counter asked me what I wanted and I simply said:

 Honestly dude, I don’t even like donuts, I just want to see what everyone peeing is themselves with excitement about.

I got you.

Then something with cream and bacon emerged.

I ate the donuts. They were nice. I ate much as I could – as the voice of my late grandmother sang in my head about “how kids in Ethiopia don’t have Voodoo donuts…”  – so I ate them all and felt sick and then fat and then sick again.

Then I said fuck it and went back in line and got a couple more.

*An interesting side note – For some reason, many of Portland’s establishments only accept cash because they are so anti-establishment, ie Voodoo donuts, which can be a pain in the ass if you live in the 21st century. However, don’t fret, they have an ample supply of ATMs littered across the least lit and raper-friendly parts of the city.

Looks like a project I made in elementary school

Looks like a project I made in elementary school

Nothing like a safe parking lot for an ATM

Nothing like a safe parking lot for an ATM

 

As you sit outside eating your donuts next to other excited donut eaters, Portland’s most famous local residents come by and ask for money. Street pandering in America doesn’t sound unusual – and it isn’t, but it is one of the must sees in Portland as I have never witnessed addicts people – who may or may not be under the influence of illicit drugs – display such levels of bravado and unabashed exuberance while at the same time expressing tremendous ease in their local stewardship. It is like watching crazy aunt Sally who has had too much to drink at her own party except with screaming obscenities and heroin.

Pure magic.

On Saturdays there is a weekend market. People from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, etc. love weekend markets as it gives them the chance to buy strange, overpriced local crafts that they don’t really need to feel superior to people who buy their shit from Walmart. There was a lot of weird stands and a lot of fairly typical stands one would see at a weekend market. They also had a great food market with ethnic stalls. They even had healthy options like this:

People love 'healthy' these days. I am super impressed with Portland's Chinese food stalls which can magically transform deep fried into artery savers

Saving lives one ‘asparges chicken’ at a time in PDX

Apparently adding asparagus and broccoli into the double deep fried mix makes Portland a progressive in the battle of heart disease in America.

Portland gets an ‘A’ for effort (see: effective marketing) and America gets an ‘F’ (see: fucking fat).

My favorite stand in Portland’s weekend market by far was this old man who made garden gnomes of your likeliness for your garden.

 

The perfect gift for mom

The perfect gift for mom

Yes please

Yes please

The perfect gift for your mother or significant other is to have your likeness hidden in their yard.

No need for a garden gnome, I hooked my mom up with this bad boy to remember her boy

No need for a garden gnome, I hid this in my mom’s garden to remember her little boy

 

On my way to the Apple store to complete my primary objective, I happened upon another store en route that caught my attention as it sold a large variety of swords. I went inside and remained there for far too long, engrossed listening to the conversation of two crusties debating what sword to add to their collection.

I find this to be the most terrifying of all.

Not sure what is scarier, looking at Voodoo donuts nutrition label or these guysYeap. They wanted one of these.Yeah. They wanted one of these.

 

I finally made it to the Apple store where a sense of normalcy at my white American privileged existence returned and the surreal-ness of Portland’s weirdness began to subside. That was until my Apple rep came over, who was super nice and friendly as Portlanders all seem to be, but wore shorts that were so short that they would result in a prison sentence or award winning show in 97% of the countries I visit.

Portland hijacked Austin Texas’s slogan of  ‘Keep Austin Weird’ with ‘Keep Portland Weird’.

Well Portland – you are winning this battle.

Now go back to your basement.

…but leave your donuts.

And microbrews.

Turner barr
turnerbarr@gmail.com

Hi, my name is Turner. I travel the world, hustle to find interesting jobs, and write about what happens when you read too many self-help books.

4 Comments
  • Samantha
    Posted at 10:39h, 27 May

    Haha no we Seattlelites are nothing like Portlanders! Granted we are both really quirky and hipster but Portland wins by a long shot. Have you seen Portlandia? You should check it out if you haven’t watched it before. Also we do love farmer’s markets but the ones in Washington are more for fresh and local produce than weird junk haha. We love supporting our local businesses. Although I have to say that seeing a store selling swords and stuff like that is pretty normal for me.

    If you think Seattle is hipstery, you should go to my hometown Olympia. Now THAT is a hippie city! Funny post, it’s fun to read what people think of WA/OR 🙂

  • Brad
    Posted at 22:38h, 30 May

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long ass time. Crusties walking around with freakishly long swords? No thanks. The magic must truly be in the hole. I’ll be sure to wear my virginity belt when I visit. I want to see a show on TV called city swap. Take a family from Orange County, CA and swap them with a family of crusties. That has DVR written all over it. Great read.

  • Suzanne
    Posted at 14:08h, 02 June

    Fun observations -sums up my first visit last year! I did same things as you plus a bike tour of city. I live in Philly so have seen my share of homeless but have never seen the “crusty” life so embraced as it is in Portland it was so sad. I missed the swords will need to look for that souvenir next visit!

    I’m also not much for doughnuts but did stand in line at 8am before the Amtrak to Seattle for a vanilla lavender donut plus a voodoo guy. Thankfully they don’t ship and my waistline, arteries and health insurance thank them for that.

  • Gran Canaria Local
    Posted at 15:20h, 02 June

    We’ve been wanting to go to Portland ever since reading Fugitives and Refugees. Now, we want to go even more. Thanks for further illuminating one of the US’ most intriguing cities.