And yet! There were also reasons to brave terrorism, increase our spending limits (thanks, Citibank!), set the TiVo and get out of the house. We pounded the pavement (and the cheapest shots of Cuervo we could find) and learned something about Portland: There was a lot of very peculiar stuff going on in our cozy hamlet come nighttime.
Here's a Top 10 grab bag of 2003's most insane moments, strangest trends and mind-bending nightlife one-offs:
1. Shitty Clubs. We all mourned the loss of Blackbird, Satyricon and Jazz de Opus, but we also suffered from an epidemic of totally lame establishments opening their doors: Barracuda, Aura, McFadden's, Mixers, Moody's/Icon. One good club emerged, shining bright from the east side with its vast space, sexy lighting and inspired musical lineup. This year's one true thing is Holocene.
2. Craft Night. Not just an after-school program for drunks, Nocturnal's Craft Night made Wednesday nights matter again. The Delta Cafe soon followed suit with its own version, giving Reed students another reason to get all artsy-fartsy.
3. Porn Swap. If Craft Night seemed too wholesome, BarFly magazine teaming up with Northeast Portland dive the Lucky Inn for a monthly Porn Swap was just plain dirty. They asked us to trade porn with strangers, and we did--all the while watching the buck nasty on the big screen. For some, the now-gone swap became as religious a Sunday-night tradition as churchgoing.
4. Fleet Week. When thousands of sailors invaded downtown Portland as part of the Rose Festival, this town went absolutely batty. In a revival of an old local tradition, it seemed like everyone--from prom queens to drag queens--wanted to "Host a Sailor."
5. Tribute Bands. Cover bands came out of the woodwork this year. Girls singing Black Sabbath. Boys singing the Go-Go's. This town's folkie set even chimed in with entire evening programs devoted to Stevie Nicks, Elton John and Van Morrison. Doesn't anyone sing their own songs anymore?
6. Tribute Nights. A black cloud hung over this town's musical community for much of the year, with groups such as the Exploding Hearts and Spooky Dance Band losing members in car and bike accidents. In a show of support--not to mention a reminder that musicians ain't got no health insurance--tribute nights popped up around town to raise money for fallen and injured comrades.
7. Musical Bowling. Despite somewhat rocky beginnings--namely blown speakers, crybaby rock stars, substandard bowling conditions--Rock and Bowl is now a great success. With shows every Wednesday, the R'n'B team at Grand Central Bowl has even extended the brand with a heavy-metal lineup on Thursdays and occasional movie nights in the alley's underground parking lot. Brilliant!
8. Thirsty Thursday. A highlight of summer: PGE Park on a Thursday night was a mob scene of unbridled enthusiasm. And it wasn't for our only so-so minor-league baseball team but for those two-buck beers. The games were near sellouts every time. Trail Blazer bigwigs, are you listening?
9. Foghorn Squares. Forget tango lessons. Portland's hottest old-time band hosted the hottest dance lesson in town. In the gym of an old elementary school, no less. Eager dancers packed the Kennedy School gym on Thursday nights for these monthly lessons with caller Bill Martin. In the new year, look for more bands to contribute to the foot-stomping madness.
10. The Boat Floats. We can thank Portland's sexy diva Storm Large and her hefty backup band, the Balls, for this one. When the honchos at the Portland Spirit invited Storm and the Balls on board for a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the Willamette River, the people followed. The boat may have lulled some patrons to sleep, but other spirited one-night sailors danced and drank the night away.