|best band-geek revenge: MarchFourth Marching Band|
best tough guy with a soft center
You know the stereotype of thuggish garbage collectors? The bruisers who can be a little rough with the recycling bins? Larry VanDervort fits the mold. But the well-tanned, gold-chain-wearing strongman at Cloudburst Recycling also breaks it: The three-and-a-half-year veteran in the biz is also the teddy-bear trash man. It's hard to miss VanDervort when he's on route in Southeast Portland--he's the one with the stuffed Big Bird or Cookie Monster on the front of his rig. Bosses back at Cloudburst HQ report that Larry's so popular, he has a bit of a fan club, including a crew of old ladies who offer him soda pop and apples.
best bag boy
It's nice to know you can still get something for nothing. At fashion boutique Frock (2940 NE Alberta St., 595-0379), you get an original piece of art free with purchase. Really. Budding 10-year-old artist Herman Phillips uses brown bags as canvases for his playful, colorful and unaffected drawings, netting him 25 cents a pop from Frock's owner. Inspired by his surroundings, Phillips plans to use his imaginative sketches to someday launch a fashion line with "sexy and casual style." In the meantime, he does other odd jobs around the arty Alberta neighborhood, because he doesn't like asking his currently unemployed mother for money. He may not be able to tell you who Picasso is, but his work ethic and Alberta's enthusiastic support mean you better get an original Phillips while you can still afford it.
best street person
Maybe it's time we named a park after the guy who made the whole city his monument. April marked the death of one of the most prominent men behind Portland's street-level revitalization: Ernie Bonner, the city's director of urban planning from 1973 to 1978. Under his direction and afterward, when he was a prominent urban activist, Pioneer Courthouse Square and Tom McCall Waterfront Park were created and building restrictions were passed to preserve Portland's views of Mount Hood. Other plans Bonner had a role in include the introduction of MAX light rail and the re-introduction of streetcar service. To see Bonner's handiwork firsthand, catch an eastbound MAX from Pioneer Courthouse Square to the Old Town station. Walk one block to Waterfront Park and stroll along the Willamette. On a clear day, Mount Hood is visible on the horizon. Rest in peace, Ernie. After all this hard work, you deserve it.
best band-geek revenge
If high-school marching bands were as entertaining as Portland's boho high-steppers MarchFourth Marching Band, band geeks probably wouldn't be subjected to so much crap (not to mention stupid uniforms). Taking its name from the date of the band's first show in 2003, this mobile circus with rhythm has become a local favorite, thanks to gigs at the Oregon Country Fair, Waterfront Blues Festival, Burning Man and Portland's Time-Based Art Festival, among others (check out upcoming shows at marchfourthmarchingband.com). It's no wonder, with MarchFourth's wild mix of gypsy samba, big band, Afro beat, Mexican hustle and Mardi Gras swagger performed by an entourage of stilt-walkers, fire spinners and costumed freaks galore--the kind that don't invite a good ass-kicking.
best named extreme sportsters
Do not be fooled by their surnames: Julie Leasure and Virginie Calme are serious about kicking your ass. Calme, 34, is a French-born Portland teacher who has climbed Mexico and North Africa's highest peaks and is training with Team D.A.R.T. (www.dirtworld.com/races/team/ DART) for the Adventure Racing World Championship this August in Canada. Meanwhile, 33-year-old Leasure, a Nike product manager, is squeezing in twice-daily workouts for Team Oceanic's showing at September's Primal Quest challenge in Washington state, the U.S.'s largest adventure race (www.subaruprimalquest.com). Leasure's and Calme's teams must whip nearly weeklong rafting, trekking, trail running, rappelling and kayaking courses to win up to $250,000. Damn, that's extreme.
best traffic overlord
Portland State University professor Robert Bertini (bertini.org) has got his eye on you--or at least your car. Operating over 60 cameras in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and the City of Portland, the transportation aficionado heads PSU's Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory. It's a budding research center dedicated to improving transportation efficiency and safety by using road sensors and video surveillance to analyze traffic patterns. One of the lab's main projects is to develop a data archive cataloguing the number and speed of vehicles traveling on freeways, information that can be used to determine how heavy traffic is at any given moment. In the future, you could use this info to avoid gridlock and shorten your commute. So, the next time you're stuck in traffic, be consoled with the thought that Bertini and his lab are watching--and looking for a way to get you out of it.
best farm team
The official motto of Portland State University is some Latin spiel meaning "Let Knowledge Serve the City." A more appropriate and accurate slogan might be "Do more for less." Certainly, in a perpetually cash-strapped environment, the redheaded stepchild of the state university system has to achieve on a stingy allowance. Kudos, then, to the Portland State History Department. Despite having no funds to send scholars to conferences or pay for research, and unable to offer a Ph.D., PSU History has nonetheless won accolades from peers and grads alike. In January, the American History Association gave PSU high marks for producing master's degree students who then score doctorates elsewhere, comparing it favorably with similar schools. A "public history" program emphasizing urban oral history, a robust tradition of shipping grad students off to study at Oxford and Cambridge, and the well-regarded Pacific Historical Review add to the department's low-budget luster.
best wax application
So you're not rich, famous or in a boy band but still want to go to outer space? Good. The Portland State Aerospace Society has gained a national reputation for blasting 12-foot rockets into the stratosphere, and the group might just be able to use you. This innovative, ragtag Linux-loving brain trust aims to be the first group of its kind to blast nanosatellites into orbit, using a fuel made from candlewax. If this lights your fuse, go to http://twiki.psas.pdx.edu/bin/view/PSAS/ PsasHome for more.
best "egg" hunt
For the past three years, Easter Sunday visitors to Laurelhurst Park might have noticed something a little funny going on--and it wasn't a worn-out Easter bunny or candy-stuffed youngsters searching for eggs. It was teams of twentysomethings beating the bushes and brambles for beer. Organized by Portland transplant-turned-ex-resident Brian Slaughter (he's working on a dude ranch in Wyoming this summer), the Easter beer hunt sent two teams of hunters/gatherers around the Southeast park on a mission to find cans, bottles and 40s of brew painted like Easter eggs. The most decorated? Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course.
best local touch in a chain store
A lot of chain shops' ad campaigns feel about as personalized as a Mad Lib: "Come on down to (STORE NAME) for the best selection in (CITY NAME)," "Your (CITY NAME) Home Improvement Headquarters." But the Portland outpost of Kiehl's Since 1851 (712 NW 23rd Ave., 223-7676) kicked off summer with something truly city-specific in its window display: its take on Benson Bubblers. Coppery tubs of Kiehl's gourmet eye creams sat in little pyramids atop hip-high blue glass pedestals in an homage to Portland's temperance-campaign water fountains. If they weren't behind glass, you could almost bend over and take a drink.
best past-life dining experience
If breakfast at the Mallory Dining Room is like an early-morning shot in a Ross Hunter film with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, dinner and drinks at Wilf's (800 NW 6th Ave., 223-0070) is a noir set for a meeting between Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde over sirloins. The somber, gentlemen's-club wallpaper and paneling, wing-backed chairs, and plush velvet curtains, located within the historic Union Station, almost beg to be in black-and-white. Where else in town can one actually see Steak Diane prepared the old-fashioned way with a cart and flamer? It harks back to an age of mimeographs and letter-set presses. But what's a film set without a soundtrack (the one missing element at the Mallory)? At Wilf's, one can often find a cabaret singer crooning close by at a piano: Susannah Mars often pops up here with sheets of Gershwin and Porter under her arms. The perfect accompaniment to a deal, an assignation or the scene of your choice.
best band of warriors
Stovokor, formed in mid-2001 by Ward Young, stands alone against the federation of Portland rock. Portland's best (and only) Klingon band has been soundly mocked from all sides: considered a disgrace to true satanic metal by those who practice the black arts, and denounced by hardcore Star Trek fans who call the band a bunch of poseurs, ignorant of the full intricacies of Klingon. You can judge for yourself by listening to Stovokor's debut EP at purevolume.com/ stovokor or catching the band in the documentary Trekkies II, out this fall.
most excellent doctor
Thanks to Dr. Phillip Leveque, scores of Oregon's ailing enjoy the benefits of medicinal marijuana. Leveque estimates he's signed about 4,000 of the 7,500 total applications for state-issued cards--actions that contributed to the decision by the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners to suspend his license to practice as of March 4, 2004. "I think they called me an imminent hazard to all society," he says. Regardless of the state's decision, our very own Doc Doobie plans to fight the suspension with everything he's got. "They're not harming me," explains the 81-year-old. "They're harming my patients."
best martial-arts help from a mortgage broker
Karate black belt Britt Allen has a simple approach to teaching martial arts: ""I want women to ask themselves, 'If someone touches me, how can I fuck him up?'" All right! For around $20 an hour, the 30-year-old Allen will instruct you in the practical art of what he describes as "self-defense kick-boxing," right in your own living room or back yard (call him at 421-8580). But be warned: Allen likes to start early in the morning, usually between 5:30 and 9 am. After all, he has to get to his mortgage-broker gig at Precision Lending in West Linn. If schedules allow, would-be homeowners can become killing machines while sneaking in a question or two about current interest rates and property taxes.
best reason to give your balls a big whack
Leave it to a group of locals to update the age-old game of croquet for the PBR crowd. Mondo Croquet was born right here in River City in 1996, when a couple of local hooligans replaced standard croquet mallets and oversized billiard balls with sledgehammers and bowling balls. Stephen Peters, the city's go-to guy on this strangely satisfying sport, encourages ball busters in search of something "whacky" to join his posse in the North Park Blocks (in front of Powell's Technical Books at Couch Street) for impromptu games of "Croquet--American Style." Check for upcoming events at www.mondocroquet.com.
trashiest bluegrass band
Bluegrass is a genre with a hard-line view toward preserving its acoustic roots. Usually this means a fiddle, acoustic guitar or banjo. For Portland's Trashcan Joe, this also entails a downhome lesson in utilitarianism. The banjo is made from a trash can ("a 'trash-can-jo' if you will," says TCJ frontman James Cook), the bass is made from a washtub, and very often a violin or ukulele fashioned from a cigar box plays into the mix. Who says recycling can't be fun? Trashcan Joe plays every Wednesday night at the Moon and Sixpence (2014 NE 42nd Ave., 288-7802).
best expression of lunch as art
Performance art--it's not just for the Oregon Country Fair. Artist Kevin Gilmore exposed downtown denizens to the process of his painting in May, when he transformed Art Media's display windows (on Southwest 9th Avenue between Taylor and Yamhill streets) into a public studio. Slapping colors on his canvas from 2 to 3 pm each weekday, Gilmore created an abstract oil painting titled Lunch Break: A Work in Progress. Working in public seemed intense and a bit daunting, says the 26-year-old painter, but when a handful of voyeurs--ahem, passersby--gathered to watch, he felt "inspired to make good paint strokes." For a fascinating look at how the painting morphed into its finished form, check out the daily photos posted at www.kevingilmore.com.
best onscreen pat on the back
With the problems that Portland faces daily, from the effects of neighborhood gentrification to nasty roadblocks to gay rights, it's nice to receive a reminder of what does make us "the city that works." Just past the racks of whitewater rafting brochures and the TriMet ticket office inside the Portland Visitor Information Center at Pioneer Courthouse Square (701 SW 6th Ave., 275-8355), locals can get a cinematic ego boost with Perfectly Portland, the 15-minute mini-documentary that plays on the wrap-around screen inside the info center's cushy, air-conditioned, 50-seat Theater on the Square. It plays every half-hour from 9 am to 5 pm. With lush shots of Stumptown landmarks, history snippets and perky testimonials from locals like Gert Boyle (Columbia Sportswear), jazz trumpeter and teacher Thara Memory, and the McMenamin brothers (all jawing about why the Portland is, indeed, the most perfect city ever) the limelight never felt so warm or fuzzy. Now, if they'd just serve beer, well, that would make it really perfect.
Inside "Best of Portland 2004"