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August 9th, 2006 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

Best of Portland: PORTLANDIA

     
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Portland Horse Project
Best Reason to Rock 'n' Pole

They popped up all over town this spring, like shiny black daisies: bargain-bin LPs, nailed to telephone poles, with poems inscribed around the edges in green ink. The artist behind the medallions—who goes only by an email address (pdxstreetmuse@gmail.com) and an accompanying MySpace account—told WW that the point of the project was to bring poetry to the masses and "to wake people from their somnambulistic daze." There are 111 different records scattered around the city, each bearing the work of a different poet, but none downtown, where the absence of phone poles left "street" with nothing to nail.

Best Horse of a Different Color

By now we've all seen the results of Scott Wayne Indiana's Portland Horse Project (horseproject.home.comcast.net): little plastic horses tied with steel cable to the historic horse rings that dot the curbs along our sidewalks. The project is approaching its first anniversary with astounding success. Not only are the horses now everywhere you look, but herds of pigs have been popping up as well (and, last we heard, Urkel dolls on Southeast Belmont Street). Maybe Indiana was inspired by the large horse outside Dazzle at Northwest 23rd Avenue and Irving Street. Owner Faviana Priola found the unnamed stallion in 1990 at an antique market underneath London Bridge and liked him so much she shipped him home from the U.K. Indiana's comment on the Dazzle Horse? "I think they should tie him to the nearest horse ring, so he doesn't run away, but maybe he's well trained." Shouldn't be a problem—Priola brings the horse in to sleep every night.

Best Illusory Representation of Stumptown

Prone to existential crises that make you wonder what the hell you're doing in this town? Fret not: Behold the beauty that is the Rose City at portlandground.com, a website created by Hollywood, Calif., transplant Miles Hochstein. The site is an online tour of Portland neighborhoods in 917 all-too-beautiful images. Using a professional digital camera and Photoshop, Hochstein assembles a mosaic of glistening streets, adorable storefronts, elegant homes and broad panoramas. And that's just in Montavilla. Subdivision or Northwest Victorian, Hochstein finds elegance in every nook and cranny of the city. Objective portrayal? Well, no. Inspiring? You bet.

Best Supply Closet for a Class Clown

Whether it's an Oscar party, Halloween or the annual St. Patrick's Leprechaun Gangbang, the Lippman Co. (50 SE Yamhill St., 239-7007) is stocked with enough reasonably priced decorations, trinkets and baubles to make any party. Greetings etc. magazine recently declared it best single-location party store in the nation—for good reason. The secret is the bulk bin. It's a wiseass's paradise—thousands of toys, from fake vomit and cut-off fingers to whistles, kazoos, plastic and rubber bugs, all sold for pennies. It's an armory for pranksters, ranging from coy to pants-crapping—plus, where else could you find a half-gallon of fake blood in August?

Best Up-and-Coming Persona Band

Portland loves persona bands. We've got pirates (Sunken Chest and Captain Bogg & Salty), banshees (Iron Maidens) and drag queens from hell (Sissyboy). Now ninjas are rising. Fist of Dishonor (www.fistofdishonor.com), a five-piece outfit of hooded, nunchaku-toting killers, churns out metallic pop about dirty fights and randy senseis while leader Missy Jitsu attacks enemies in the audience using "Rock Star Kung Fu" (watch out for the Pete Townshend Toosh-Over-Teakettle Defense). As guitar solos rip and the bodies of fallen enemies pile up (seriously), the sonic boom of a rock show blends with the violent fun of an assassin's tango. Think Kill Bill: The Musical.

Best Art Project for Getting to Know Your Neighbors

The always-intriguing Valentine's Cafe (232 SW Ankeny St., 248-1600) is home to one of Old Town's most interesting art-cum-sociology projects. Helmed by celebrated artist Harrell Fletcher and created by Portland State University students, the Three Block Radius Project (threeblockradius.org) documents the intersecting lives of Portlanders in the three-block radius that surrounds the cafe. TBRP-teers, whose "class" meets every Monday and Wednesday at 10:15 am, plan to collect their findings—gathered through impromptu interviews, street bartering and window displays—and publish it in their own free "newspaper." Now that's what we call free enterprise.

Best Tree Huggers

Yeah, yeah, we love trees. They give us shade and oxygen, and they're often much older than we are. But how do we stack up, as tree huggers, to the rest of this great nation? Only Baltimore can kill our buzz on this one. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Home Depot Foundation have teamed up to establish the Awards of Excellence for Community Trees. They split the honors between cities with populations over and under 100,000; Portland won runner-up honors of $25,000 in the large-city category for the successes of its Friends of Trees Neighborhood Tree Program (friendsoftrees.org). Between 2003 and 2005, FOT has recruited 2,100 volunteers to plant 5,671 trees in 52 neighborhoods. The awards are determined by a panel of stiffs who commend collaborations between public agencies and nonprofits. We all know Portland's green; now if only we could get running shoes, coffee and Gore-Tex to grow on trees.

Best Reason to Slow Way Down

In Seattle, bicycle activists set up mangled, white "ghost bikes" in areas they believe are particularly dangerous to cyclists or need serious attention. Neither Michael Jones nor the bike organization for which he volunteers, SHIFT (shifttobikes.org), claims official responsibility for the recent emergence of such bikes in Portland. But he says last summer was unusually deadly for Rose City cyclists, prompting many two-wheel enthusiasts to take action to raise public awareness about bicycle safety. Hence, the sudden appearance of ghost bikes—like the ones in Seattle, except with memorial placards—in places where cyclists have been killed (for a list of ghost-bike sites, check out bikeportland.org). Easy to miss at first, the white bikes are powerful in their subtlety once you notice them, and give chilling visibility to a serious problem as well as pay last respects to those who have fallen victim to it.

Best Inspirational (and Perhaps Overused) Business Name

There are multiple meanings for the word "baraka": a blessing or gift passed on to a person or place, or the essence of life or breath. It's also a French term for "luck" and a Croatian word for "shack" as well as the name of a popular 1992 film documentary. But locally the word has been the inspiration for at least three local business names: a Southeast eatery, Baraka Moroccan Cuisine (3203 SE Division St., 473-6606); a recently shuttered Northeast Alberta boîte spot, Baraka Bar (1824 NE Alberta St.); and a life coach center, Baraka Institute and Center for Creative Change (6200 SW Virginia Ave., 241-2200). So which "Baraka" lives up to its moniker best? Perhaps the Southeast Baraka: It has belly dancers to take your breath away every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Best Crossover Artist

Sharon Wood Wortman says she couldn't even name all of Portland's bridges when she began researching the spans for a 1984 Oregonian story. But what initially began as a casual project became a life-changing labor of love. Last year, Wortman, 61, led more than 2,500 people on bridge walks. And she just finished the third edition of The Portland Bridge Book, which will be published in October by Urban Adventure Press. Wortman takes groups into normally unseen sections like the "pit" beneath the Morrison Bridge that holds the structure's massive counterweight. But the real highlight of the tours may be Wortman's own experience and her enthusiasm for the bridges' history, technology and cultural significance. Find out more about Wortman's tours at bridgestories.com.

Best Gallery on Wheels

Four creative Portlanders looked at a beat-up, 1960s travel trailer and saw a new way to show art. The Nowhere Gallery (nowheregallery.org) was born. A team of local artists and designers (Mary Blankenburg, Brennan Conaway, Charissa Niles and Matt McCalmont) converted the trailer into a "nomadic gallery." Its exterior was fitted with display windows; its interior was finished with the smooth, white walls and hardwood floors of a classic art gallery. Nowhere's creators hitch up the avant-garde trailer and tow it to art events around town. Its monthly installations have been shown at the Pearl's First Thursday, Alberta's Last Thursday, and Southeast Portland's Last Friday. This fall, the hillbilly-chic contraption will be taking several road trips, and a tour of the Western states is planned for next summer.

Best Creepy-Crawly Coddlers

Tucked away on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, the six-person staff of the Xerces Society (xerces.org) might be Portland's least conspicuous environmentalists. The global society headquartered in P-Town is named for an extinct butterfly and works to protect everything without a backbone. That includes nearly the entire "gross" spectrum of the animal kingdom: worms, arachnids, insects. "They've got a bad rap," says Mace Vaughan, the society's conservation director, and the society works hard to overcome the stigma. To that end, Vaughan published a paper in which he estimated the economic contribution of invertebrates to the U.S. economy. His figure: $57 billion. Still, Vaughan's love of insects only goes so far. "Mosquitoes," he says. "I totally swat them."

Best Guilt-Trip Security System

If you steal CDs from Tower Records, you're shady. If you steal vintage vinyl from a struggling indie record store, you're a complete asshole. After missing some choice soul and hip-hop albums, Mississippi Records (4007 N Mississippi Ave., 282-2990) took action. The tiny crate-diggers' paradise can't afford to install security sensors at the door or hidden cameras in the ceiling, but they can guilt trip like a Jewish mother. A hand-written sign posted in the store reads "F**k you, shoplifter" (asterisks included) and bemoans the hypocrisy of stealing soul records that preach "brotherly love" and "respect for the community." It ends by warning the thief to "beware & be scared & listen to those soul records you stole & feel them." Did your mother labor for days to bring you into the world so you could be a rotten gonif? Ya breakin' my heart here!


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