Best Total Toolbox
You hear it on the news, or you heard it from Michael Keaton in Gung Ho: America just doesn't make things anymore. The cars and iPhones are all offshored or down-bordered, while the bombed-out factories stand hollow against the New Jersey sky. Well, here's some good news: At the brand new 10,000-square-foot ADX building (417 SE 11th Ave., 915-4342, adxportland.com), they make things. And they want you to make them, and they will teach you to make them if you don't know how. For membership plus shop fees—plus some real assurance you know what you're doing or are willing to learn—you get to play with all of their toys. And boy oh boy, do they have a lot of toys. ADX is basically a full wood and metal shop with all the tools of the trade, from hammers and band saws to MIG and TIG welders—plus some more esoteric fixings like laser cutters, a CNC router and an industrial sewing machine. Within a month of their opening on June 6 of this year, they already had 60 members signed on to use their vast workspaces. So, you want to make an engraved multistory birdhouse, a precision-routed door or a sculpture of your own head in tungsten? You do it here, among people who like that you're doing it, and leave your poor neighbors in peace. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
In the window of the pink-colored building that houses Northwest Portland's Peculiarium (2234 NW Thurman St., 227-3164, peculiarium.com), there are signs advertising its contents with adjectives such as "Bizarre" and "Shocking." The ones to pay attention to, however, are those reading, "We Promise Nothing" and "Not So Unusual, Actually."
Although it sounds like a knock-off of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, or the title of a kids' movie about a kooky museum curated by an eccentric collector named Dr. P.Q. Peculiarius, the Peculiarium is actually more of a parody of those kind of curio tourist attractions, featuring such exhibits as a cage of poisonous lizards from "Idiotsville, Oregon" and the true contents of Al Capone's vault, complete with a visually referenced Rickroll. It's an ongoing prank, perpetrated by Laika director Mike Wellins, but one pulled off with such enthusiasm you don't mind being tricked. MATTHEW SINGER.
Best Discount Bike Rack
In Portland, no Subaru is complete without an elaborate after-market system of bars and clamps to transport the boards, bikes, kayaks, skis, unicycles, kites and stilts that complement the Outback's corresponding bumper stickers. Recognizing this demand, ReRack (2240 NE Sandy Blvd., 875-6055, rerackpdx.com) offers racks for nearly every road-, snow- or watersport need. And all with a very Portland twist: The shop sells used racks and components (along with new models from Yakima, Inno and Swagman), and even accepts trade-ins when your rack needs to evolve. ReRack has accumulated a vast library of used clamps, clips and bars, and is happy to help customers cobble together a workable alternative to the far more expensive new racks. Apply the savings to a powder-coating or stilt wax. ETHAN SMITH.
Most people who've spent the better part of the year at a shopping mall have a sort of defeated air about them: They are second-mortgage shoe junkies, perhaps; goth-liner anemics; mall cop second-chancers; perfume-counter asthmatics. Up on the third floor of downtown's Pioneer Place Mall, however, it feels a little different. In one corner there might be a woman cutting up old letters from her mother for a wall installation, while a man nearby paints ink onto a massive polyester sheet; in the adjacent room, someone else is conducting a seminar on "leisure." Place Gallery (placepdx.tumblr.com) is "basically an arts residency in a shopping mall," according to Palma Corral, one of the gallery's three curators/directors. Perhaps it's a tax write-off, perhaps some retail executive's genuine notion of synergy, but Place (along with its adjacent counterparts "Store," "People" and "Vehicle") has existed there essentially for free since last September, aside from minor-league sales commissions and partial utility bills. So in one bifurcated 4,000-square-foot space there are constantly evolving installation pieces, in another room there's a gallery with work from local art students and in another there's an arts retail store. In a fourth, the art faces the unsuspecting street from two stories up. And as for the equally unsuspecting mall patrons who wander into the very contemporary galleries? "They ask a lot of very interesting questions," says Corral. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Best Rocking Bike Shop
Two cornerstones of Portland culture are brought together at WTF Bikes (1114 SE Clay St., 232-4983, wtfbikes.net), a repair shop by day and all-ages music venue by night. The fusion occurred organically (of course) over time as owner Tom Daly's in-shop parties gained Internet popularity and folks began stopping in to hear his band rehearse. After Boy Gorilla Coffee—operated in part by members of local musical institution Typhoon—parked its coffee cart outside the shop and joined forces to throw an epic New Year's bash in December, there was no turning back. Bands began calling up the bike shop to see if they could host shows and Daly kept bringing them in.
The recent Females Of Color Fest, which featured local crowd-bringers like Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Magic Johnson, Forest Park and Kusikia, kept the shop filled for two long and memorable nights. The party's coming to an end, though: The shop's future may be headed in the same direction as other eastside institutions that fall to the continuing wave of gentrification. WTF Bikes occupies only a third of its property, and the building's landlord, who has been losing money, posted a "for lease" sign to attract additional businesses. As Daly tells it, a member of the U.S. Forest Service biked by the shop, thought the whole building would make a great storage facility and made the landlord an offer. WTF Bikes will be forced off the property unless Daly can find a co-signer to share his lease. "Me and one other business owner could probably make this happen," said Daly in a recent phone interview, explaining that he has until December to find someone to share the building before he loses it for good. If any food-cart owners are in the market for a place to set up shop, the ultimate Portland bike-music-food tripartite could be in the works. For the rest of you: Stay tuned. NATALIE BAKER.
Best Place to Talk to Strangers
Step into Legare's (1532 SE Clinton St.) and you'll soon find yourself deep in debate with the crowd of regulars who congregate daily in the small cafe to drink coffee and discuss everything from global politics to motorcycle repair. Proprietor Jonathan Legare presides imposingly over the scene—he looks like he might tell you to fuck off, but is more likely to offer you a free sample of his guava cookies and introduce you by name to each of his customers. The menu includes bison, elk, alligator and something called a "man's plate" ("if you have to ask, it's not for you"), while a French press comes served on a silver platter with a paper doily. It's all tasty, but food isn't the real selling point: it's interesting people having intelligent conversations with total strangers. RUTH BROWN.
Best Community Garden
It's a typical Portland sight: a row of four new cedar raised beds, planted with a variety of crops and surrounded by burlap sacks to hold back the weeds. But this isn't your run-of-the-mill vegetable patch. In fact, some see it as the front line in a largely invisible battle in Portland: fighting the "hidden hunger" and malnutrition of the city's seniors. The squash, kale and tomatoes grown here will feed seniors at the Hollywood Senior Center, providing fresh organic produce to folks who regularly go without. Bob Reynolds, 78, a stooped and soft-spoken Tennessee native with a cotton-white beard, has lived in this modest yellow house for 20 years. Though he once loved to garden, his mobility and strength are too limited to keep it up. He spends most of his days inside, listening to the radio and practicing his singing. His yard had long been overgrown, and somewhat of an eyesore for neighbors. But Bob now has an attractive little garden again, thanks to a dedicated effort from Elders in Action, Multnomah County, Hollywood Senior Center, and a wide array of volunteers and businesses who built the beds and maintain the crops. That means Bob also has regular visitors to check in and chat for a bit, an activity he certainly enjoys. Bob's garden is just the beginning for the program. Organizers hope its example will spread among Portland's large senior population, many of whom have lots perfect for gardening but aren't able to do it themselves. Bob, who says in his soft drawl that he's thinking about becoming a vegetarian "because it's the best way to eat," is pretty pleased to have a garden again, and he's got some expansion plans. "I'd like to see more tomatoes," he says. "Maybe in the backyard. There's more sun back there." CRAIG BEEBE.
Best Economic Indicator
Always trust Portland to make its metaphors stunningly concrete. At the intersection of North Going Street and North Commercial Avenue—from a diagonal viewpoint, the sign reads simply "Going Commercial"—Going Street abruptly, well, stops going.
More to the point, it continues about 20 feet past Commercial until dead-ending into an undeveloped lot of grass covered over in dry hay. And so, at a frontier edge of the stalled gentrification of North Portland, three years into a real-estate free-fall, a wonderful reminder of the limits of hubris: The bold march of progress oversteps the threshold of the commercial and strands itself in a hayfield. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Best Way to Prepare for Any Kind of "What If?"
"Every generation thinks it's the end of the world," crooned Jeff Tweedy on a recent Wilco album. That may be, but with doomsday running rampant from solar flares to Planet X, there's plenty out there to give an apocalyptic-minded insomniac near-endless hours of anxious Internet surfing. Yet to Michael Knight, a bespectacled New Zealander who runs Portland Preparedness Center (7202 NE Glisan St., portlandprepared.com, 252-2525), the more prosaic disasters, natural or man-made, should be enough to keep Portlanders up at night. "What if?" seems to be the refrain the center trades in: "What if" an earthquake knocks out all of Portland's bridges? "What if" a simple wintertime power outage becomes a weeklong ordeal? Ultimately, Knight says, it doesn't matter what causes a crisis; the important thing is that you have what you'll need to survive—food, water, shelter and medicine. The Center aims to provide those necessities and much more to provide self-sufficiency for 72 hours, 30 days or (gulp) longer. It also publishes a newsletter on recent developments in "what-if"-ology, and offers classes in topics like edible plants, basic first aid, and concealed weapons handling. Knight can describe a lot of ways that things might go to hell, such as a recent uptick in global seismic activity implying we're in for something big. Whether or not that disaster arrives on schedule, PPC is prepared to supply Portlanders and Internet shoppers with everything from survival kits, MREs and medical supplies to full-on underground shelters (some assembly required). It may seem like a gloomy outlook, but Knight is remarkably even-tempered. "I'm absolutely not pessimistic," he says. "I consider myself a common-sense person." As evidence, he points out that he lives 100 miles out of the city, where he feels safer and more self-reliant: "I practice what I preach," he says. "What, Me Worry? I'm PREPARED!" the center's caution-yellow business card declares. Are you? CRAIG BEEBE.
Best Reason to Risk Breaking Your Legs
So that recurring dream, the one with hundreds of square feet of trampolines covering the floors and the walls, and a pit of foam beckoning from the side? It's real, my friend, and it's in Tigard. Sky High Sports (11131 SW Greenburg Road, por.jumpskyhigh.com), part of a national chain of trampoline gyms, is a gravity-defying paradise for the young and young-at-heart alike. If it's aimless bouncing you're after, the tramps are yours starting at $10 for the first hour and $7 for each additional hour. For the ambitious, AIRobics workout classes are $7 for 50 minutes of synchronized jumping, and for the bravest of bouncers, there are monthly dodgeball tournaments. Despite the safety pads covering the joints and springs, tramp-burns, achy knees and occasional injuries are a given, especially when you're trying to remaster that off-the-wall somersault. Mom always said those trampolines were an E.R. visit waiting to happen—but they're just so darn fun. STACY BROWNHILL.
Best Worst-Kept Secret
Maybe it happened to you once. You're walking along the lightly inhabited North Overlook neighborhood some brisk afternoon, and then you see it: the sun settling into the West Hills across the river, rich pink and orange spilling thickly back into the air. No one is in sight, save the fascinating whir of industry at the river's edge, far below your grassy cliff-top promontory. You have discovered the Best. Secret. Viewpoint. Ever. You tell a friend, and they smile knowingly: "Oh, the Bluffs?" they say, and they ruin your whole day. Because, of course, it's no secret at all. Once the weather gets warm and the sun dips low, they come: scores and scores of dreamy-eyed girls and T-shirted boy-men carrying nary an ounce of fat nor muscle—people who have seemingly transcended their own wispy bodies. They come, pretty much every day, to watch the light expend itself on the far trees. (The police and city, by the way, have discovered it, too; it is now, as of this summer, a regulated municipal park.) And yet once a week or so—because it was raining that day, cold or cloudy—the Skidmore Bluffs (2206 N Skidmore Terrace) are re-found by some latecomer who thinks it is theirs alone, and they call you up and whisper to you about the Best. Secret. Viewpoint. Ever. "Oh, the Bluffs?" you say, and ruin their whole day. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Best Affordable Housing Development
The American family system works this way: Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl have kids and then move to the suburbs. It's tradition, and it's also economically mandated—housing is more expensive in the city. However, one new Portland apartment building is giving families the option to stay at an affordable price. The Ramona (1550 NW 14th Ave., theramona.com), located in the Pearl District, was built using city, state and federal financing, which allows the building's operators to keep the rent low for 60 years. Developer Ed McNamara made sure the architects designing the building had young children, so they knew what features to include. There are more closets with shelves for storage and more bedrooms than usual. There are laundry rooms on each floor, with views of the courtyard, and space for children to hang out. Security was another priority, with access keys needed to enter the building and use either the elevator or stairs. There's even going to be a public school on the ground floor, beginning in the fall. The building was also built with sustainability in mind. McNamara says he believes that decreasing the building's environmental footprint with the state-of-the-art green engineering "was just the right thing to do." He reckons the air quality in the building is better than any other in the city. The building has only been open since March 15, and McNamara is already seeing the fruits of his labor. "I sit out in the courtyard in the afternoon and there are 15 to 20 kids roaming around. There's a lot of single parents, single mom and dads, and they're starting to get to know everyone on the floor. They have this network of support that they wouldn't have living in the suburbs, which was all they could afford before...I don't think there's another block in the city with 75 kids on it." ASHLEY COLLMAN.