Go Deeper

5 Things I’d do in Portland, Oregon this summer if I were home

Posted June 4th, 2010

Hi, my name is Ellen, and I’m so happy to be spending my summer in sunny Philadelphia writing for the Festival blog! Usually I go home to Portland for the summer (I’m a student at Haverford College the rest of the year), but maybe you can take a vacation in my stead? Well if you do, perhaps you’d like to know the following:

1) PDX Pop Now!

For one wild-and-crazy weekend every summer 50+ of Portland’s best bands play a 100% free festival! Artists range from Pitchfork noteworthies to high school headbangers because in the months leading up to the fest they let anyone vote online for the bands they want to see. I’ll admit, I’ve stuffed a ballot or two, but it’s paid off–I’ve seen some of my favorite local bands Starfucker, Eskimo and Sons, Breakfast Mountain, and Typhoon play at past PDX Pops. The zillion people who show up (on what always seems like the hottest weekend in Portland) wander in between the indoor and outdoor stages and chow on drunk-munchies from the food carts. You can keep your Bonnaroo.

2) Sauvie Island

At the risk of sounding like a travel guide plugging Portland, the city is a mere car-ride away from practically all forms of natural beauty–Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helen’s, the Oregon Coast, pine forests, even deserts. My favorite spot is Sauvie Island, an oasis of farmlands and beaches in between the Willamette and Columbia rivers. After consuming enough U-pick berries to give myself hives, I relax on the sand, watch giant ships from Japan go by, and try not to gawk at the naked geriatrics playing bocci ball (especially when they bend over) a few yards away on the nude beach. This place is so great that my all-time favorite band, Kickball, wrote a song about it.

Interested in edible mac and cheese sculptures? Click more.

3) Mac and cheese sculptures

Montage is a bistro/Creole/American restaurant tucked under a bridge, decorated with taxidermied puffer fish and a mural re-imagining The Last Supper set at their restaurant. They have some crazy shit on the menu–alligator jambalaya anyone?–but everyone I know always gets the “spold” macaroni and cheese. It’s a blend of their “old” and “spicy” versions of the dish. You want to eat the whole thing, but it’s essential to take some home because the waiters wrap up your leftovers in tinfoil sculptures. The best one I’ve ever gotten was an aluminum Atlas holding up the earth.

4) House of Vintage

Hands down the best thrift store I’ve ever been to. They call it a house but it’s really more like a warehouse, with a labyrinth of seemingly endless rooms barely containing racks and racks of vintage clothing, house wares, pornographic velvet paintings, etc. I’ve never paid more than $12 for anything, plus my friend swears that the owner cured her spider bite using only “energy.”

5) The best bike ride ever
Portlanders (Portlandians?) are so used to sharing the road that cycling almost anywhere is a breeze. My favorite route starts in South East where I grew up. From there you ride down through the swampy Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, past the rinky-dink Oaks Amusement Park and a creepy mausoleum, and continue along the Eastbank Esplanade–a trail along Willamette waterfront where you have to jostle for room with other bikers, joggers, and people cruisin’ on Segways. Then cross the Hawthorn Bridge to Portland’s West side (not as cool as the East side!!) and relax at the end with an iced Americano from Stumptown, the city’s most hyped coffee empire that recently expanded to NYC and Amsterdam. Now if only there was a cure for helmet hair…

–Ellen Freeman

Photos courtesy of the proprietors.