Friday, 29 July 2016

Goodbye July, Goodbye

I'm glad I stayed for the last Thursday of the month. Each last Thursday of the summer, Alberta Street in Portland puts on a street festival that is part open streets fest, part explosion of homemade crafts fair and part busker fest. There was "invisible ice cream" being sold for $1 with a cone, home massages, some people gathering a capoeira-sized crowd to bet they could jump over four kids, adopt-a-gnome painting, vaudeville bus troop playing with devil sticks and many, many drum routines.

Now I know why there's a book making fun of the weird things Portland does that says that drivers seem to come to a halt and are too nice. At first, as a pedestrian, I was annoyed that there weren't any 4-way stop signs and how could you ever cross to the other side if there's constant traffic and no stop lights, either? Then as the days went on, I learned to cross using the zebra markings. Instead of a stop sign, cars had to look out for these markings and to look for pedestrians and would, most often than not, stop for the pedestrian. No need for those overhead blinking lights, no stop sign or lights needed. An example of this was when I was waiting at a temporary bus stop (because of the Last Thursdays on Alberta thing) that was stationed next to these zebra markings. Even though I was quite away from the curb, not looking out to the street, and was just there, 75% of cars stopped to see if I was crossing. This would never happen in so many other places! This is what I call can still exist, they just have to not be so menacing as in like other places where many times they literally don't see you.


My time is coming to an end here in Portland. I'm going and finally sleeping in my own bed again! Many other cities have quirky bars and good baristas and arts festivals. What will stick with me after I leave (oh, I also went to Cannon Beach, which was amazing), is the way that they pronounce Couch St being "Kootch", and the many bridges, all of them different styles, crossing the Willamette River. I think there's 12 bridges. Makes for iconic commuting journeys were I to live here one day. Which I am glad to say that I do not.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


From today:
I blend in here pretty well linguistically, no one suspects I'm from elsewhere and my accident sounds the same despite the "Yups" instead of "You're welcomes" (which I still think is rude after noticing it decades ago) and the strong twang on some accents. And also people from elsewhere who studies accents always think I'm American.

Anyway, I haven't said how hipster Portland is yet so I have the perfect example from today to demonstrate. Anyone who reads this probably knows that I collect business cards, that I'm a latte (and jerk chicken) snob and that I like to keep a list of best places/must tries and I look this up from fora online. Well.

There's Nob Hill neighbourhood with a bunch of shops. One recommended is The Meadow full of chocolate, spreads, salt licks and salt flakes (flavours like black truffle and Icelandic lava included). I thought the whole thing was pretentious with a few flakes costing $6-8. Anyway, I asked for a business card and the clerk said they didn't have one but he could make one up on the spot. He proceeded to grab a sheet of paper. He then placed the paper in a typewriter on the counter and typed down the address, cut up a square of the paper with the address on it, and handed it to me. Yes, I was quite in shock. I've had people stamp me a business card because it's a stamp shock, but not type one up on a typewriter. Something that came out of the show Portlandia.

Then I went to Barista a few doors down. I also asked them if they had a business card. Again, no, but there's a website. The cashier didn't know the contact email address. He said, "I think it's info@...." he then asked his colleague, who didn't know either. The great sell was when he covered it up by saying, "We actually don't know anything. We just know how to make coffee."


Notes from yesterday:

I went on a walking tour yesterday. One of the many nicknames of Portland, Stumptown, came about because clearing trees (because there existed the mentality that forests existed for clearing) was really difficult walk and there were stumps left all over the place.

I also read that settlers here tried to form companies but couldn't compete with the Hudson's Bay Compnay (The Bay) and also a few French Canadians settled around here. And of course labourers from China.

There a sign that I will add on soon that says "Long live the wildcards, misfits and dabblers" splayed all across new condominium developments. Just across the bridge are many missions - homeless shelters, salvation army, etc. and I couldn't help but think how very contradictory that sign was because the actual wildcards, misfits and dabblers of the city were given very clear signs that the city doesn't want them to live very long, and those who the sign presumably called to are the people who think they are W, M and D but are actually dandies and are consumptive misfits because they discern themselves through taste. All this to say that gentrification is happening for sure.

The city is very much spread out. Even the downtown core seems spread out and beyond downtown, there are dots of establishments where crowds seem to flock to surrounded by both used and empty warehouses. Very carcentric though. Not really good for walking.

So disoriented. I always think West is North because first I came southbound into the city then I came northwest bound looking for Powell's and now I'm usually walking southwest.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

"Come to Seattle next time, it's much better"

This weekend two of my cousins living in Seattle drove down to Portland.

We had brunch at Broder, this Scandinavian-influenced place and I think we waited 1 hour for a table, one hour for service and then a half hour to eat. Yum?

We went through confusing pathways in my cousin's SUV Jeep to find the Saturday Market, wandered around there for a bit, walked to Voodoo Donuts and decided that the line was too long for donuts, then went to Washington Park where the Japanese Garden and Rose Garden are situated.

My cousin (the one who just came back from Hong Kong and not the one with the SUV) caught 75 Pokemon in Pokemon Go that day.

Then we went to Pok Pok where the wait for a table was 2-21/2 hours!! We had takeout instead. It was decent food, but not worth the wait!!

I then had horrible sleep at an AirBnB place and in the morning we set out for the Multnomah Falls hike. There was a really cool view at Vista House which reminded me of Yangshuo in China.

When we got to hiking, I felt bad because they are both regular runners/hikers (I had warned them of this beforehand) and felt that I kept on slowing them down. I think my last more than one-hour hike and up more than 500 ft was back near Charlevoix during the summer of 2009! I mean, I like hiking, but I like to go at my own pace, which is called "Very Slow" for most other people, and I usually go hiking in groups, so I actually hate hiking because I always feel both rushed and guilty at the same time. Anyway, after many waterfalls we got a quick bite to eat (at McDonald's in Troutdale) and after many annoying roads, they dropped me off and rushed back to Seattle. Before getting back into the car, they said, "Come to Seattle next time, it's much better. We're Seattle snobs now."

Well, I guess it's because of the roads, and I guess Portland isn't that special, but I think it's not too bad. Except for the lines.

I am now here at a reconverted factory/hotel in downtown Old Chinatown. It's really weird because I'm the only Chinese person here in this white-owned hotel yet they are advertising aspects of Chinatowns. I am sitting on a rooftop patio typing this.

RIP City, the place of lines

Everywhere you go is a lineup here in Portland. You line up for brunch, for donuts, for the bookstore at Powell's, for dinner, just about everywhere.

There are street signs that say "This neighborhood is within 1000 feet of a school" and many streets are one-way streets that split off into two or three directions after a certain intersection that takes you through many a winding road.

The hard rain here is more like a misty drizzle and there are dogs and dog owners everywhere.


Now, for some things:
a) There is gentrification in which the downtown is increasingly owned by whiter/richer people moving in and people of colour and poor people being pushed out to the suburbs
b) The hip zones of Mississippi and Alberta used to be populated by black people and artists until the city kicked them out and set up their own brand of ultra-cool
c) There are probably more Asian-styled restaurants and stores with Totoro paraphenila owned and operated by white people than anywhere else (while in Phuket I heard that there are more burger joints than anything else)
d) There were sundown laws excluding non-white people for the longest time
e) There's this article and Kamau Bell's expose/interview with Portlanders.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

blog PDX

Downtown Portland is a nondescript city with an abysmal traffic at rush hour (single lanes out of the city, anyone?).

Its square parks remind me of Montreal or Quebec City and its fairly dense, low high-rises remind me of San Francisco.

Powell's books is fairly non-descript, but large. It is what World's Biggest Bookstore would've been. It also has a lot of independent cinemas for the population it holds.

One thing it has going for it is its tri-transport system of streetcars, buses and light rail. BUT I first went downtown the second day that the city had installed bike rentals all over. The program had been a long time coming because city didn't want taxpayer money to fund it, and they were waiting for a funder. Then Nike did.