February's snowpocalypse brought an especially giddy form of chaos to Portland.
Sure, the snow and ice forced the cancellation of some events—notably, the Polar Plunge and the Worst Day of the Year Ride, both predicated on bad weather that wasn't expected to actually come. But it also allowed something far more rare and precious: the Stumptown Birkebeiner (stumptownbirkebeiner.org), a cross-country ski race through downtown that happened for the first time in six years on Feb. 7.
"I had been away the previous weekend," says race organizer Win Goodbody. "When I came back and saw how much it was supposed to snow, I thought, 'Oh, my God. It's happening.'"
Goodbody had one day to pull the race together. He created a website detailing the game plan: Skiers would meet at Powell's City of Books at 9 am and ski down snowpack-covered West Burnside Street. Word got out, and dozens of people showed up, some in hot-pink and cow-print ski suits, some holding Scandinavian flags, some wearing traditional Nordic garb. They spent the day racing through the white streets, from Northwest 23rd Avenue and Johnson Street to Southwest Montgomery Street, making a pit stop at the Salt & Straw. The next day, they did it all over again—this time adding a few sprint ski races at Wallace Park. "On Northwest Johnson, you could look behind you and see skiers stretching all the way from REI," says Goodbody. "It was awesome."
The only other time this happened was in 2008, when Goodbody commemorated this tradition with seven or eight others. As for the next Stumptown Birkebeiner? Don't get your skis waxed, it might be a few years. KATHERINE MARRONE.
BEST 0.9 SECONDS
As told by those who watched Damian Lillard's shot fall on May 3, 2014.
Brian Wheeler, Trail Blazers radio play-by-play announcer: "Point-nine remaining. 98-96 Houston. How 'bout a 3-pointer to win it and end all the suspense?… This would be an awfully tough way to lose this game. Terry Stotts telling his team to come on over; Mo Williams talking to [referee] Bill Kennedy. That's not going to help anything now. It's 98-96 Houston, as Chandler Parsons' first two points of the second half end up being potentially the biggest of the entire game, unless the Blazers can have an answer here in the final 0.9 of regulation.… The Blazers have one 3-pointer in the quarter, that was by Batum. But Nic's gonna inbound; I don't know if there's enough time for him to get it back. This time they put Jones on Batum, and Howard is defending Aldridge so in case the Blazers go for a two to their best player, Howard is defending it. Batum throws to Lillard, a three for the game…BAAAAAAAAAAAANNNG!"
Joe Swide, Portland Roundball Society: "Of course I remember where I was: in Los Angeles, running through the house of my very Lebanese and very not-a-basketball-fan aunt, screaming who knows what about the fine city of Portland. I'll remember that forever, and I couldn't care less that the Blazers lost in the next round. Moments like that shouldn't be retroactively contextualized. Let them feel how they felt. When the shot dropped and the running and screaming commenced, no one in that moment was thinking about the future, and the best part, no one was thinking about the past."
Matthew Korfhage, WW staff writer: "I wasn't watching the game; I was walking down the street. First there was a tense guttural sound from six different houses, and then six different houses erupted in wild cheers. They couldn't hear each other in the different houses—they didn't even know the other people existed—but from where I stood they were all cheering together. It was terrific. But if I didn't already know what was happening it would have scared the hell out of me."
Casey Jarman, managing editor of The Believer, who was in the Moda Center: "It felt like hitting the water after the highest high-dive. No one would leave. They kept watching the replay over and over. Hugging each other. Jumping. The longest continuous scream I've ever heard, like no other sound. Outside, fans hugged each other and chanted. Fans hugged security guards and cops, and I saw tears in their eyes, and it felt like complete temporary insanity. I was having trouble understanding why I cared. And then I knew why I cared. Because in one second, 20,000 people can become linked for the rest of their lives by watching all sorts of minor miracles—redemption of the downtrodden, the birth of a superstar, the bite of the underdog—all snap together. I wandered around in a daze, trying to pinpoint how I knew this feeling of mass purpose blended with a touch of hysteria. And then I saw myself in 1999, surrounded by people chanting and singing and crying, walking through clouds of tear gas, in downtown Seattle. Maybe that didn't matter, either, I don't know. But those stories of where you were come to define you. That shot entered the five-minute montage of what defines Portland, and I was happy to be there." AARON MESH.
In high school, Emily Corso got her varsity letter as a member of the speech and debate club. Now she's a professional cage fighter.
Corso, a petite 26-year-old with shoulder-length blond hair and chipped coral nail polish, picked up mixed martial arts as a freshman at Reed College. Non-athletic and out of shape—she took a swing dance class for P.E. credit—she enrolled in a self-defense course.
The first night of her class, she caught the eye of the coach. "I was hanging onto another girl's back like a koala," Corso says. "The coach was yelling and yelling, so excited that I had gotten to her back, which is one of the better positions in jujitsu."
The flyweight, originally from Sitka, Alaska, went on to post a 9-1 record as an amateur MMA fighter, and this past spring she turned pro. In May, she traveled to Montana for her first two fights, which she won, taking home nearly $2,000 in prize money. (She has one more pro fight scheduled this month.) Corso says her favorite move is the rear naked choke: an elbow-around-the-neck hold from behind, like what hostage takers do in the movies (minus the revolver).
Her nickname in the ring? "The Mantis Shrimp," an animal she first discovered in the Web comic The Oatmeal.
"It's a rainbow lobster that is incredibly murderous and destructive," says Corso, who initially planned to study math or science at Reed but wound up majoring in religion. "It can see ultraviolet light, and it moves so fast it causes cavitation bubbles that heat the water around it to the temperature of the surface of the sun.
"It dismembers you faster than anything can see. I like the idea of this whimsical but dangerous creature. I feel like that's me." REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST NBA ILLUSTRATOR
Basketball is often compared to jazz, but in the hands of Patrick Truby (patruby.com), it's more like New Wave—specifically, A-ha's "Take On Me" video. His animated NBA GIFs, created using a similar technique called rotoscoping, essentially trace live footage. By stripping each play to its essentials—the ball, the hoop, the players—Truby's scenes capture the game more vividly than any plasma screen.
"I'm mostly drawing what I see, so a lot of my lines will be based on how a player moves," says Truby, a copywriter for Fred Meyer by day. "James Harden moves much more smoothly than Allen Iverson did, so my James Harden animation has much more solid, flowing lines than the Iverson animation, which has a lot of visual noise to it."
A Seattle native, Truby took an eight-year break from visual art while pursuing a creative writing degree at Emerson College in Boston. During the labor dispute that threatened to cancel the NBA's 2011-12 season, he went online with an ultimatum. "I made a joke on Twitter that if the lockout ended today, I'll start a blog of NBA drawings," he says. "That was the day the lockout ended." His work has since appeared on Deadspin, a few official NBA blogs and even Inside Stuff on NBA TV. He spent this year's playoffs illustrating highlights for Turner Sports, including Kevin Durant's falling-out-of-bounds 4-point play against Memphis and Vince Carter's buzzer-beater versus the Spurs. He moved to Portland a year ago, and his illustration of Damian Lillard's series-icing 3-pointer against Houston was an instant classic.
"As soon as it happened, I was like, 'Oh, I need to do that,'" Truby says. "There's no way to really describe how big of a deal that was, and how awesome it was." Luckily, he didn't need to. MATTHEW SINGER.
BEST WRESTLING CHURCH
Portland's Wrestling Church has only a few basic tenets. Respect the masks. Know your poison-mist varietals. Never cheer for the Orange Goblin (that'd be Hulk Hogan). Most importantly: Don't stop believing.
A spinoff of Portland Organic Wrestling, which put on live matches at Satyricon in the early 2000s, it is less an evangelical organization than an appreciation society—or, as co-founder Jack Maraglia puts it, "a welcoming group of men and women who love human goddamned chess."
Every Sunday, the congregation would meet upstairs at Billy Ray's Tavern in Northeast Portland, sharing footage from around the world and cheering as if the Blazers had just won Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
After a few years of dormancy, the church was resurrected this past Easter at Jack London Bar downtown, with a service that included entrance music "hymnals" and a shrine to fallen warriors. As for the sermons, there's only one that matters: Keep the faith, and "geek the fuck out." "It's still real to us," Maraglia says. Amen. MATTHEW SINGER.
At the Wind and Oar Boat School (windandoar.org) you won't learn how to sail or row. They build boats here, but neither is it a place where you'll get lessons on building your dream yacht or completing that rotting half-finished canoe in your garage.
The school's motto: "It's not about the boat."
Instead, the mission of school founder Peter Crim is to make a difference in the lives of young people. Crim, who spent his Connecticut youth around wooden sailboats, worked for years as an engineer at KPTV before launching his own businesses.
But after a summer taking classes at the WoodenBoat School in Maine, Crim, 63, returned inspired to create a place where youth who have struggled with school can see firsthand how basic skills such as math, science and design play out in the real world. The school finds a sponsor who wants a boat built, and the students take on the project, often skiffs or small sailboats. Last year, though, the school launched a stunning 16-foot gaff-rigged sloop built by 10 students, most of whom had not finished high school.
When they finished, Crim says, "Each one could point to a part of the boat and say, 'I built that.' We're teaching responsibility and skills, but the idea is also to give hope." BRENT WALTH.
Mascots, as a rule, aren't meant to inspire fans. For every bolt of cosmic synchronicity that blesses a Timber Jim or Joey upon a grateful crowd of devotees, there are a dozen avatars born from marketing guidelines and rigorously focus-grouped to entertain the most lethargic in the audience.
We don't really know much about Blaze the Trail Cat. He likes T-shirts and trampolines and, presumably, basketball. He doesn't seem to mind us, though we're never quite sure. He is, after all, a cat. He's zoned out, chasing his own bliss.
Even if you're to allow that "Blaze" was named by accident, there's no mistaking the intent behind Barley, mascot of the Hillsboro Hops.
Since supplanting Boomer, a plushie Yakima Bear, shortly after the Class A franchise moved to Hillsboro for the 2013 season, Barley has exploited every opportunity to hang out and spread positive vibes.
Barley, in other words, would like to be our bud. Our kind bud.
He's pretty chill—active within the community, quick to speak out against bullying and neg energy in general. And he does, we suppose, technically resemble a shaggily flowering batch of hops. But other resemblances could also be inferred. The only clues in his bio are banh mi cravings and a passion for all things Nike. JAY HORTON.