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February 26th, 2014 WW Staff | Cover Story
 

26 Reasons to Love Portland Right Now

lede-00-scroller_4017IMAGE: Mary Contrary

What comes to mind when you think about why you love Portland? Powell’s, beer, strippers, third-wave coffee, food carts, weird doughnuts, water fountains that don’t stop running, plastic horses tied to metal rings...

Sure. But this week, we’d like to point out a few other, more personal and idiosyncratic reasons this city still wows us—whether we’ve just moved here or been taxpayers for decades. Such as having the world’s most entertaining basketball bloggers, and the fact you can go to any restaurant in town wearing flip-flops.

OK, this idea isn’t original. The city magazine in a little burg 3,000 miles away has made an annual tradition of cataloging their mayor’s gym habits and the continued existence of the cronut. But that’s hardly a big deal—we have Pix’s macaronut, and it didn’t even make our list.

Here are 26 things we’re excited about right now, starting with our city’s role in creating the world’s most used cryptocurrency, and making the dream of Cool Runnings a reality.


NO. 1 
BECAUSE OUR VIRTUAL MONEY IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD

You’ve heard of Bitcoin, the mysterious cryptocurrency that can now be used to buy a Whiffies fried pie or a lap dance at Kit Kat Club.

But even if you haven’t yet figured out that popular Web-based currency, it’s already Grandma’s cryptocoin. Litecoin, Quarkcoin and Peercoin are equally outré. You might as well be paying for your sandwich in Mariah Carey CDs.

The new king of virtual money is Dogecoin, which IBM programmer Billy Markus invented in Beaverton three months ago. On Jan. 14, it overtook Bitcoin as the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. Currently,  $2.5 million in Dogecoin changes hands every hour. And thanks to a Dogephile who took it upon himself to raise funds in the currency to send the Jamaican bobsled team and the Indian ski team to the Sochi Olympics, it made international news outside Wall Street Journal think pieces. There’s even a Dogecoin ATM in Vancouver, B.C., which consists of a tablet computer glued to a briefcase.

Thing is, it started as a joke. In November, New Zealander Jackson Palmer tweeted, “Investing in Dogecoin. Pretty sure it’s the next big thing.” A “doge,” if you’ve been hiding under your dad’s barbecue apron for the past year, is a ridiculously versatile Web meme—a shiba inu who speaks charmingly lobotomized English.

“I thought, ‘Ha!’” says Markus. “That’s pretty funny. I should just make this.” So he did. In four hours, hopped up on caffeine, on a Friday night, he cloned Dogecoin off another Web currency and showed Palmer his work. By December, Dogecoin was born. Every Dogecoin in existence now totals about $51 million.

Instead of E pluribus unum, the JPG-coin’s rim says “wow much coin how money so crypto plz mine v rich very currency,” around a pic of a shiba inu.

Its popularity spiked on the social network Reddit, where commenters tipped each other in Dogecoin—valued at a hundredth of a cent—for charming or helpful comments. Within a month, the currency gained enough traction that Dogecoin fundraisers were able to exchange it on a Chinese marketplace for tens of thousands of dollars to fund Olympic teams’ travel.

Palmer says he’s been offered $500,000 for the currency, but that accepting money would be against the spirit of Dogecoin. Instead, he supports a foundation for service-animal charities. “You know what I’m going to tell my grandkids?” he told the blog Techly.com. “I’m going to tell them that we paired service dogs with children in need, off the back of a fucking joke.”

Nothing could be more appropriate to our fair city: A world-beating virtual currency, based entirely on social capital, used for the whims of well-meaning people who aren’t sure whether what they’re doing is a joke.

“It’s completely unregulated,” says Markus, who stresses that people should not invest seriously in Dogecoin. “It’s the wild west.” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


NO. 2
BECAUSE WE’RE NO. 1 IN SEMI-FACTUAL SUPERLATIVES

NO. 1 AMERICA’S 10 BEST CITIES

Movoto real-estate blog, Dec. 2013

NO. 1 AMERICA’S UNHAPPIEST CITIES 

BusinessWeek, March 2009

NO. 1 AMERICA’S 50 GREENEST CITIES

Popular Science, Feb. 2008

NO. 1 AMERICA’S BEST BIKE CITIES

Bicycling magazine, 2012

NO. 1 AMERICA’S BEST CITIES FOR MOVIE LOVERS

Movoto, Oct. 2013

NO. 1 AMERICA’S BEST BEER CITIES

Travel Leisure magazine, May 2013

NO. 1 AMERICA’S TOP 10 CITIES FOR CASUAL SEX

OkCupid dating site, Aug. 2011

NO. 1 AMERICA’S TOP 10 CITIES FOR BOOK LOVERS

livability.com, Sept. 2011

NO. 1 AMERICA’S TOP 10 PET CITIES

livability.com

NO. 1 AMERICA’S BEST CITIES FOR PEOPLE 35 AND OVER

vocativ.com, Nov. 2013

NO. 1 AMERICA’S LEAST RELIGIOUS CITIES

2010 U.S. religion census,May 2012

NO. 1 AMERICA’S MOST STRIP CLUBS PER CAPITA

tuscl.net, May 2012

NO. 1 AMERICAN CITY WITH MOST SEMI-FACTUAL SUPERLATIVES

Willamette Week, Feb. 2014


NO. 3
BECAUSE YOU WILL SOON BE ABLE TO GET A JUG OF BEER ON EVERY CORNER

IMAGE: Emma Browne
Earlier this month, a new 40-tap growler station opened in the 3300 block of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Its floor is painted like a green bike lane, its shelves lined with 64-ounce brown beer jugs.

The new Growlers Hawthorne has a lot of competition. Up the street in the 3800 block, the Fred Meyer grocery store added its own taps a week before Growlers. In the 3700 block, the Bagdad Theater fills growlers with Hammerhead and Terminator. In the 3200 block, Bazi Bierbrasserie has filled growlers since it opened two years ago. The Safeway at 2800 also fills growlers, as does Lardo at 1212 and Lucky Lab at 915. Meanwhile, in the 4100 block, Hawthorne Hophouse has 24 taps available for beer to go, and in the 4700 block, Apizza Scholls fills growlers to go for $10 with the purchase of a pie.

And that’s just one section of one street. Restaurants, bodegas, beer bars and grocery stores all over Portland are now filling jugs with fresh, ecologically responsible kegged beer to go. More are coming every day. At this rate, they’ll soon be on nearly every block. MARTIN CIZMAR.


NO. 4
BECAUSE STEVE NOVICK IS AMERICA’S MOST ENTERTAINING CITY COUNCIL MEMBER

IMAGE: Tom Oliver

One year into Steve Novick’s first term in the first elected office he’s ever held, we can’t tell if the city commissioner has the diligence to make significant reforms in the operations of Portland government.

Here’s what we do know: He makes it infinitely more entertaining.

Bearing no small resemblance to comedian Patton Oswalt in both physical manifestation and online presence, Novick has seen his election as an opportunity to become the city’s blogger-in-chief. He launched a campaign against DirecTV for charging him for football games he didn’t want. He wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation funding. He was recently in a prank war with talk-radio host Lars Larson that involves plastic flamingos.

All this whimsy carries the risk of reducing Novick to City Hall’s comic relief. But in recent months, his jokes have taken an intriguingly combative tone. He’s begun questioning city spending platitudes. His suggestion that the Police Bureau could save money by abandoning the War on Drugs—a “failed national 40-year effort”—is radical and substantive.

Most famously, he has declared his own war on The Oregonian’s right-wing editorial board, using Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s notorious rant as a springboard for his own jeremiad. “We’re the best City Council in the league,” Novick wrote in January. “And we’re not going to be bullied by some sorry Orange County right-wing publisher.”

In that screed, Novick nicknamed his colleagues the “Council of Boom.” But it’s Novick who could make real noise. For the first time, he’s using his natural likability to upend the status quo. Keep it up, and he could demonstrate that the pun is mightier than the sword. AARON MESH.


NO. 5
BECAUSE WE’RE UNWITTINGLY FOMENTING SECESSIONISM WITH SOCCER FLAGS

Presumably, Major League Soccer didn’t absorb the Portland Timbers to foment secessionist unrest. It would take a lunatic to suggest that.

It’s a fact, though, that the banner of the Cascadian Independence Project had been around since 1994 and yet was obscure before the Timbers joined America’s top soccer league in 2009. For the unfamiliar, the project is an effort to gain political or economic independence from the United States and Canada for the Pacific Northwest. It blends lefty environmentalism with libertarian freedom-loving.

Before the Timbers entered MLS, Elmer’s Flag & Banner in Portland was the sole manufacturer for the Cascadian flag, known as the Doug Flag, and it wasn’t selling many. All of a sudden, people started pouring in for it, said former Elmer’s owner Mike Hale.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I was saying, ‘What do you want that for?’”

Now dozens of the banners wave in the stands at every Timbers home game, including occasional section-sized versions. All of which can’t help but increase awareness for the secession movement that inspired the flag.

No one’s saying soccer is just a cover for bringing down the government, but if it ever falls, we’ll be able to blame the Timbers. ALEX TOMCHAK SCOTT.


NO. 6
BECAUSE MOVIE THEATERS WITH BEER WILL SOON OUTNUMBER MOVIE THEATERS WITHOUT

Entering a Portland movie theater that doesn’t serve alcohol feels like finding a dry county in Nevada: alien, disappointing, even disconcerting. But what has long been an integral part of moviegoing in this city—get your ticket, get your popcorn, get your pint—is about to hit a tipping point. Provided three pending Oregon Liquor Control Commission permits go through, cinemas with booze will outnumber those without. Very soon, beer will flow at 14 of Portland’s 24 movie theaters.

We’re already lauded as a city for movie lovers—movoto.com recently ranked us No. 1, thanks to all our film societies and festivals and repertory theaters. But we have beer lovers to thank for the fact that we’re drinking stout instead of Sprite at the cinema, whether at a French art flick or revival screenings of Die Hard. Back in the early ’80s, the alcohol industry, led by the McMenamin brothers, lobbied the state Legislature to change a law that prohibited breweries from selling beer on the premises. That cleared the way for such McMenamins theaters as the Bagdad, the Mission and Kennedy School.

But it’s not just at the second-run theaters or indie arthouses—Hollywood, Cinema 21, Laurelhurst and so on—that you can enjoy some medicated moviegoing. Living Room Theaters will pour you a flaming Spanish coffee. You can sip a glass of syrah at downtown’s Regal Fox Tower, and Regal also has pending applications at Lloyd Center and Pioneer Place. (When a Regal outpost in Little Rock, Ark., sought a liquor license, the state alcohol board scolded the theater’s managers.)

Look south to California for comparison: There are nine cinemas in the entire city of Los Angeles (pop. 3.9 million) licensed to serve alcohol. New York recently rewrote its laws banning the sale of alcohol in movie theaters, but so far, only a few cinemas in New York City offer booze, and they’re required to have tables at each seat. Portland, of course, got rid of those dumb rules 30 years ago, and we’ve been tipsy during penguin documentaries ever since. REBECCA JACOBSON.


NO. 7
BECAUSE WE’RE TEACHING THE ARAB WORLD HOW TO BELLY-DANCE LIKE US

CLAUDIA
IMAGE: Will Levenson
In the late 1970s, a mercurial Jordanian belly dancer named Badawia thrilled sell-out crowds at downtown Portland Greek nightclubs like Athens West. Her unique style—oh-so-gradual veil removal, a floor-writhing sequence interpreting childbirth, an emphasis on “snake arms”—was wildly influential locally, leading acolytes to create a new form of the ancient dance. They call it American Cabaret, Portland-style.

“You can look at a dancer and say, ‘She’s definitely from Portland,’” says Claudia, a prominent local belly-dance instructor. “We get hired to teach this style around the world.”

Badawia is long retired, but students of her students are now exporting Portland-style belly dance to India, China, Japan and even back to the Middle East.

Last year, Claudia—who learned from world-renowned dancer Aziza, herself taught by Ruby, a star pupil of Badawia—was hired to teach belly dance in Turkey, often considered the wellspring of the art.

“I did not expect the audience to go as crazy as they did—they were crying, talking to me after,” Claudia says. “The float move we do across the stage is definitely something Aziza brought. That drives crowds wild. That and the tail spin.”

Claudia says Portland style is defined by an emphasis on emotional expressiveness and improvisation—fewer of the shimmies and pop-and-locks that give a dancer the jiggles, and more use of veils, finger cymbals (called zills) and expansive arm movements borrowed from another emerging strain of West Coast belly dance: tribal style.

“With travel and the Internet, everyone’s fusioning,” Claudia says. “But you can’t run away from your basics. Badawia taught Ruby, Ruby taught Aziza, and Aziza is teaching the world.” RAMONA DeNIES.


NO. 8
BECAUSE—SORRY, AUSTIN—THE STATS SAY WE’RE THE REAL CAPITAL OF LIVE MUSIC

Austin, Texas, has never forgiven us for stealing the “Keep Portland Weird” motto from them. Well, hate to break it to our unofficial sister city, but we’ve jacked their other claim to fame: Based on statistics, Portland is the leading city for live music per capita in America.

The numbers are complicated, but according to the concert-industry trade publication Pollstar, we’ve got more claim to the title. Six Stumptown venues—Roseland Theater, Wonder and Crystal ballrooms, Aladdin Theater, Hawthorne Theatre and Doug Fir Lounge—finished in the top 100 for ticket sales in 2013. Austin had only two venues on the list. Altogether, the listed Austin venues sold 150,000 fewer tickets than the Portland venues.

Sure, one can argue those figures don’t reflect the fact that Austin hosts three major music festivals during the year, but is touting an exponentially devolving shit-show like South by Southwest really something to be proud of?

Don’t worry, though, Austin: Your barbecue is still pretty good, we guess. MATTHEW SINGER.


NO. 9
BECAUSE MIDDLE-CLASS PEOPLE RIDE THE BUS

IMAGE: Ben Waterhouse
On the second night of the recent snowfall, a police squad car pulled over the No. 15 TriMet bus near Jeld-Wen Field. What seems to be the trouble, officer? The cop wanted the driver to know that a would-be rider was stumbling through the powder, trying to catch a lift. The driver waited—then refused to charge the latecomer a fare. “Everybody’s getting home!” she bellowed. “I’m not filling out any paperwork tonight!” The passengers cheered. A woman passed around a bag of peanut-butter cups.

Not every bus ride in Portland is so convivial, as a quick glance at the #TriMet hashtag on social media will prove. Yet for all the hostilities the regional transit agency has accumulated, one fact makes Portland a happy anomaly: People ride the bus because they want to.

TriMet’s official ridership numbers, last compiled in 2011, show that an astounding 84 percent of passengers are “choice riders”—people with cars who decided to take public transit—as opposed to “captive riders,” who have no other option. Even if these numbers are generous (and even if the dichotomy is false), it’s clear the stigma of taking the bus simply doesn’t apply in this town.

The result is that riding the No. 6, the No. 77 or the No. 14 is a journey into the most diverse rooms in Portland—on wheels. You’ll meet a cross-section of people who want to be there, people who don’t, and people whose desires are both louder and more mysterious. Everybody’s getting home. AARON MESH.


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