Buy this: A used, Evel Knievel-style red, white and blue leather jumpsuit ($1,300, but can you really put a price on something that awesome?).
As adorable little gift shops go, Aster and Bee is pretty frickin' adorable. Opened in the Richmond neighborhood last year by artistic mother-daughter duo Heather Jackson and Alexis Jenssen, its bent is appropriately toward quirky parents raising quirky kids. The shop is full of books, toys, clothing and games both classic and kooky. On the mom-and-dad side of things, there are guidebooks for baby newbies, keepsake boxes and sanity-saving devices such as the task-delineating Wheel of Responsibility, which comes with the tagline, "Have fun! Stay un-divorced!"
Buy this: Attack of the 50 Foot Baby Stacking Blocks ($28).
In an unassuming green building just east of Southeast Clinton Street's main retail block, canvas artisans are crafting equipment advertised as "practically indestructible." Although the company hangs its hat (which we also assume is nearly invincible) on its outdoor products, its bags, suitable for air travel, a beach trip or the grocery store, make for a more practical gift. Made out of military-grade material, Beckel's camping gear might be serving the hardcore survivalist niche—the kind of folks who need to erect a freestanding outhouse inside their $624 14-by-14 tent, because conditions might be too dangerous outside—but everyone could use a piece of long-lasting, heavy-duty luggage.
Buy this: Around the Town bag ($87.50).
Hippie-phobes beware: One step inside this all-purpose, earth-mama nirvana will trigger an outbreak of hives. If you're willing to brave the aroma of incense and the shelf of natural body-care products that greets you at the entrance, however, Mirador has more to offer than just positive vibes, man—specifically, high-quality kitchenware. Adjacent to the beeswax candles and hemp shower curtains is a store-within-the-store stocked with bamboo cutting boards, clay "pomaireware" pots from Chile, dehydrators and rentable juicers. The book selection is predictably New Age-y, but if there's an urban forager in your life, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants is a slam-dunk gift. A post-shopping falafel from the Fat Kitty cart, which shares the parking lot, should help get the nag champa out of your system.
Buy this: Do-it-yourself cheese kit ($22-$29), soymilk maker ($99).
In contrast to the overwhelming clutter of East Burnside Street's Hippo Hardware, this vintage thingamajig emporium has the look of a well-organized mountain cabin. Antique sconces cling to wood-paneled walls; industrial light fixtures straight out of a Cold War-era interrogation room hang overhead. It's a utopia for anal-retentive antiquities fetishists: Half-century-old tin siding is treated like fine wine ("barn-aged to rustic perfection!"), the reading material is out of date by about eight decades (pick up a copy of the 1930 American Civil Engineers Handbook if you're planning to build a hospital that's disastrously under code), and every doorknob, keyhole and stuffed hyena (his name is Terrence; he's not for sale) is in its right place. Some things here are actually useful, others only to people designing future creepy abandoned country cottages (who else really needs an enameled stove from the 1920s?), but it all makes for fascinating exploration.
Buy this: Vintage fire alarm ($25).
As dog-crazy as Portland is, our canine infatuation runs counter to the city's weirdness-preservation aesthetic. Everyone adores a cute puppy; it takes a unique kind of animal lover to shower the same affection upon a Madagascan hissing roach. Located five blocks from Rose City Reptiles, the Tropical Hut could be considered part of Southeast's "alterna-pets" district. Bigger in size and broader in scope than its tiny westward competitor, the store—which relocated from Gresham to Division Street in 1976—sells not only snakes and turtles but fish (from common goldfish to bulbous black moors to glass catfish, whose skin is indeed translucent), rodents and, yes, even exotic roaches. It also carries aquariums, terrariums, food and accessories such as iguana harnesses, in case you know anyone who enjoys taking their lizard for a walk. And this being Portland, you probably do.
Buy this: Fancy rat ($14.95), kissing gourami fish ($4.98).
Buy this: A 2-foot-tall Chianti bottle shaped like an Arthurian knight ($28).