Some geocachers are in it for the rankings, their user profiles boasting detailed personal benchmarks for the worldwide GPS-based scavenger-hunt game. But Portland's best geocacher was pleasantly surprised to learn of his ranking. Objectively determined by his sky-high score, that's 66-year-old Eric Glosenger. The retiree had no idea he held the region's top spot, with a staggering 26,496 confirmed finds as of press time.
In the eight years he has been an active geocacher, that averages out to a solid nine cache finds per day, although he said he usually hunts in spurts a few times a week. "I used to do a lot of walking, and golfing, but I decided that it was more fun finding things than losing things like golf balls," he says. Less of a gaming nerd and more of a naturalist, Glosenger has paddled Eel Lake in group cache-athons, trekked Mount Hood in various states of freezing, followed multistep caches to each of Portland's cemeteries and navigated miles within the maze of dunes along Oregon's coast. And he'll be the first to agree that it's been decidedly more interesting than finding himself stuck in the sandtrap at the golf course for the 26,496th time. GRACE STAINBACK.
BEST CAMERA MAN
Lance Bangs is a magnet for cool. Wherever he goes, it seems to enter his orbit, whether he's searching for it or not.
"I'd been making a personal documentary about a street in Los Angeles called Fairfax," says the 41-year-old filmmaker. "I started filming there, and these teenage kids, who were skateboarding up and down the street, being wild and doing surreal moves between cars in the middle of traffic, kept popping up in the background. I started talking to them, and it was teenage versions of Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator and Syd the Kid."
A few years later, that crew of skater kids, known collectively as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, would be the most talked about group in hip-hop, and Bangs would help them create their own TV show, Loiter Squad, for Cartoon Network.
That's just a recent example of Bangs' gravitational pull. Name a cultural phenomenon from the last two decades, and chances are it's on his résumé. Indie rock? He's directed videos for Sonic Youth, Pavement, the Shins and Arcade Fire. Standup comedy? He's worked on concert films for David Cross, Marc Maron and Dave Chappelle. Jackass? He barfed on camera while shooting the movies and the MTV series. Portland? He moved here in the '90s, where he met his wife, Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker. See? Dude even married cool.
Bangs, who's in St. Louis filming a Web series on regional music scenes for Vice, laughs at the suggestion that he's a magnet for the artistic vanguard. When he first picked up a camera at age 12, it was only to cope with the loneliness of being a military brat growing up in a state of constant displacement. As his career developed, though, Bangs admits he came to see himself as a champion for "the outliers." His heroes were the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel (whom he lived with in Athens, Ga.) and post-rock enigmas Slint (the subject of his recently completed documentary Breadcrumb Trail), and he felt they deserved to be depicted in a heroic light. After all, "Pavement weren't going to lionize themselves," he says.
Gradually, other, more recognizable creative cottage-industries—Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, even Kanye West—picked up on his sensibility, and hired him to bring that warm adulation to their own projects. It's not the career he imagined, but that's mostly because he never imagined his career at all.
"I never set out to be a professional filmmaker. I just had a compulsion to make things," Bangs says. "I just wanted to go to the places that seemed most interesting to me, and accept the invitations of people I respected who wanted me to jump in the van or go into the recording studio." MATTHEW SINGER.
BEST PENNY PINCHER
In an armored-car facility on the industrial prairie that is Swan Island, there is a windowless concrete room. Harsh fluorescent light bears down on visitors. The clang of metal on metal drowns out any chance of conversation. Spend enough time in here, and your skin grows coated with grime. Adam Youngs calls these 12,000 square feet "my little heaven."
Youngs—a 26-year-old with a baby face, closely cropped blond hair, a high-school diploma and an accent that belies his central Iowa upbringing—is a copper speculator. He prefers to call himself an entrepreneur, and as the founder of the Portland Mint, he's indeed a big fish in a niche market. Youngs buys up pennies in bulk, which he runs through sorting machines—they're responsible for most of that clatter and clang—that separate the coins into those made before 1982 and those made after. Unlike modern pennies, which are mostly zinc, pre-1982 coins are 95 percent copper—which means they're worth about double their face value.
Youngs then sells these pre-1982 pennies to his investors—he says he has about 10,000—who range from survivalist types to folks concerned about stock-market volatility to one guy who lives on a $16 million yacht. These investors buy 1,000 pennies for $186, or you can spring for a ton (yes, 2,000 pounds, in a sturdy polyester duffel bag) for $4,959.
But there's a catch with copper investment: It's illegal to melt active currency. That means these penny hoarders are banking on the day the U.S. makes the penny obsolete. Canada stopped distributing pennies last year, and Youngs hopes America will eventually wise up too. Until then, he'll keep sorting these cents—on any given day, the face value of the pennies at the Portland Mint is about $300,000—and packing them into those 2,000-pound bags. "You can easily fit 2,000 pounds under your bed," Youngs says.
And for those who doubt the wisdom of storing your savings where you sleep, remember this: 2,000 pounds of pennies are also pretty hard to steal. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST TAP-DANCING SAXOPHONIST
Inspired by Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Michael Conley dropped out of high school and lived off the grid for 17 years. He hitchhiked around the country, busking on street corners with his saxophone and harmonica. In New Orleans, he picked up tap dancing, and his vaudeville persona Shoehorn (shoehornmusic.com) was born. He met jazz hoofers like the Nicholas Brothers and Charles "Honi" Coles, who invited him to take his tap-dancing saxophonist act to 30 countries before he settled in Portland in 1993.
Shoehorn's act—catch him at Three Creeks Library later this month or at the Wanderlust Social and the Bite of Oregon next month—is a feat of coordinated multitasking, a musical patting the head and rubbing the tummy.
Shoehorn's tapping technique isn't formal—you won't see him doing any Maxie Fords or buffaloes—but he's devised his own method of toe and heel taps to accent his sax playing. He got the idea while walking and playing the harmonica, punctuating his tunes with his steps and shuffles in the street gravel. He's even invented a device called the Tappercussion, an electric tap-dancing platform connected to a MIDI controller that flavors his steps with keyboardlike instrumentals. Jazz is a hard sell these days, he admits, but that doesn't dissuade him. "It's not so much about being a tap dancing saxophone player," he says, "as it's about being yourself." AARON SPENCER
BEST BABY KIDNAPPED BY DAVID BOWIE
The first time Toby Froud met David Bowie, he peed on him. "I was 18 months old, though, so I think I got away with it." Froud played "the babe" in Jim Henson's classic Labyrinth. As the son of Brian and Wendy Froud, the visionary designers behind Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Froud grew up in a magical world that didn't end on the film set. "My house was always full of goblins and fairies…these creations have always been a part of me," he says. One of his first memories is walking in his family's garden with Jim Henson, who was trying to convince a 4-year-old Froud that he was, quite actually, Kermit the Frog. Now a puppet sculptor himself, for Laika Entertainment in Hillsboro, Froud creates his own version of the fantastical universe brought to him at such a wee age. His first short film, Lessons Learned, premiered in Portland in June and was commissioned in part by IBEX Puppetry, Heather (daughter of Jim) Henson's puppet-forward production company. GRACE STAINBACK.
BEST THRONE ROOM
Clinton Condominiums on Southeast Division Street look the same way Portland condos always look: a boxy wall of partitioned glass, some faux-industrial touches and a yoga studio downstairs.
But, in this place, empires are born.
Because starting in 2009, House Spirits' Christian Krogstad and Stumptown's Duane Sorenson lived just four doors down from each other. Pok Pok's Andy Ricker was two floors down. And all three brands went national: Stumptown and Pok Pok took over New York, while House Spirits got partnered with Joe Montana and cut a deal for coast-to-coast distribution.
One imagines war rooms, all-night drinking parties where they cackled maniacally about taking over the world. (Krogstad says no. Sorenson says that at any late night meetings, Krogstad mostly "talked with liquor.") But alas, the sun must set on all things. Sorenson is still in Portland, but has moved out of the condos to accommodate a growing family. Krogstad moved to Washougal this year. There's still some star power in his old place: he's renting the place out to Pink Martini singer China Forbes. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.