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March 21st, 2007 WW Editorial Staff | News Stories
 

WELCOME TO THE 'COUV

     
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Remember the recent news story about the 39-member task force that agreed to study construction of a new bridge to Vancouver? Did you sleep through that, or flip over to the Food Network? We thought so.

We almost did, too, but not before wondering: What the hell is going on in Vancouver, that strange land to the north, anyway? Where are those 130,000 vehicles that traverse the Interstate Bridge going each day? What do they do up there? We don't mean to be snooty, but isn't Vancouver just where you go to buy better fireworks?

Thinking it'd be good to know our little-respected neighbor, we sent a fleet of reporters to the 'Couv. And guess what we found: one of the nation's fastest-growing cities over the past 20 years. In fact, Vancouver could soon become Washington's second largest city after Seattle.

We also found good (fast) food, live music, a small but thriving gay softball scene, high-tech theaters, and even a home for pagans. A city with a higher crime rate than Portland—in some categories—but one that's also got a mayor who makes Tom Potter look like a shrinking violet. Ultimately, we found a city that—through its own suburban landmarks and customs—helps Portland be Portland. Will we move? Hell, no. But we might head over that new bridge now and again.

Safety Valve

How Vancouver lets Portland be Portland.

BY MIKE THELIN mthelin@wweek.com

You know how Vancouver is thought by many to be an urban lamprey, one of those jawless, eel-like parasites that suck the blood out of the fish they attach to?

C'mon, admit it. You've often thought that Vancouverites leech off of Portland. They drive over here to buy toilet paper without paying sales tax, use our roads and parks, then drive home to their Clark County nests where they not only pay no Oregon taxes but no state income tax either (Washington has none).

Yep, those 'Couverites live close enough to benefit from Portland's infrastructure without having to spend a dime on it.

Well, here's a novel thought: Is it just possible that the reverse is true? That Portland sponges off of Vancouver? OK, maybe "sponge" is too strong a word, but isn't it at least possible that Portland couldn't be Portland without Vancouver?

Think we're crazy? Well, consider this: One of the signature characteristics of the Portland area is our rigorous land-use laws and our urban growth boundary, or UGB, the invisible belt within which all development must occur. Outside the UGB, no growth. Inside, growth.

Those laws and the UGB have become marvelous tools for increasing density, preserving farmland, reducing commutes and limiting strip malls, or so say their advocates. "The UGB makes it more likely you'll have good transit, local governments that operate with efficiency, and lower taxes because the infrastructure won't be as spread out," says Bob Stacey, executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Opponents of the UGB, however, have suggested that it limits economic expansion because it artificially inflates the price of land and housing. "Trillions of dollars in capital circle the globe looking for regions with low taxes and favorable regulatory environments to invest. Portland is not one of those places," says Cascade Policy Institute director John A. Charles.

Yet, Portland tops economic lists in many categories. It was recently named one of the best markets for office investment by real estate giant Grubb Ellis. The Urban Land Institute calls Portland one of the more robust commercial markets in the country. Business Week points out that the number of highly coveted 25-to-34-year-old college grads in Portland increased by 50 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Job growth has been solid for the past several years—despite layoffs by Intel and other large companies. Lynne Boussi, project coordinator at the Portland Development Commission, says many companies are interested in doing business in PDX: "Things have been ramping up in the past year and a half...we're very busy."

But.

What if the region's success at controlling growth while still maintaining one of the nation's more robust economies is because of...Vancouver? Or more specifically, because Vancouver has fewer land-use laws and limits on growth? Has Vancouver become a convenient place to handle Portland's overflow, for those who wanted to live, work and play in the area, but who also wanted a bigger yard, lower taxes and a house on a cul-de-sac? All this so Portland could build its light rail, trams and condo towers.

In other words, has Vancouver become our safety valve? Consider this: While Portland has grown respectably and gradually since the booming 1990s, Vancouver has exploded. Clark County's population nearly doubled from 238,000 in 1990 to more than 400,000 today.

Portland Planning Bureau supervisor Bob Clay says the difference is that Oregon plays by tighter rules: "Overall, there's less flexibility on the part of counties in Oregon than in Washington to govern land-use decisions...laws are stricter...our UGB is more of a hard line separating uses." (Vancouver adopted its own version of an urban growth boundary in 1994, but it's less restrictive.)

Planners on the other side of the river say it's more complex than that. Vancouver business development manager Gerald Baugh concedes that the majority of job growth during the tech-heavy '90s occurred in Oregon, but the most substantial housing boom occurred in Clark County, primarily due to a larger supply of housing and buildable land.

But this climate may be shifting. Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder repeats what Vancouver officials and others are quick to note: that it took years for Oregon's land-use laws to have their desired effect, and that Vancouver's future vision now looks more similar to ours, with denser downtown development and urban infill. "The history was that you could get land for a cheap price in Vancouver," he says, "but this has changed."

GREAT MOMENTS IN VANCOUVER HISTORY

1806: THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION CAMPS IN THE VANCOUVER AREA. Lewis writes that it is "the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains."

1825: FORT VANCOUVER established as a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post.

1852: ULYSSES S. GRANT SERVES AT FORT VANCOUVER.

1857: THE CITY OF VANCOUVER INCORPORATED: Town limits cows to two per household.

1890: THE COLUMBIAN NEWSPAPER ESTABLISHED.

1917: INTERSTATE BRIDGE OPENS: Motorists can finally drive from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Highway without ferrying.

1922: FIRST BURGERVILLE OPENS.

1923: PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING RECEIVES 30 POUNDS OF CLARK COUNTY PRUNES FROM VANCOUVERITES: Dies one month later of food poisoning.

1956: WILLIE NELSON MOVES TO VANCOUVER, where he makes his first recording, "Lumberjack." The country-music legend was a radio announcer and nightclub singer for several years before moving to Nashville in 1960. His classic "Family Bible" was written in the 'Couv.

1962: STEAKBURGER OPENS.

2002: SLANG TERM "THE 'COUV" IS ENTERED INTO URBANDICTIONARY.COM: This lends the city much-needed street cred, weakening its former designation of "Portland's bastard brother."

2007: VANCOUVER CELEBRATES ITS 150TH BIRTHDAY.

What do 'Couv residents call themselves? Sources in The Columbian newsroom, after some debate, said "Vancouverites" is most common. We here at WW believe that "'Couvers," "Vanners" and "Vancooters" are also socially acceptable terms. The worst thing you can call a Vancouverite? "Canadian," the reporters replied.

Us vs. Them

Stumptown and the 'Couv aren't as different as they seem. Here's a list of things that bridge the gap between the two cities. PAIGE RICHMOND.

Portland Vancouver
The same name as a city in Maine The same name as a city in British Columbia
Nike World Headquarters Nautilus World Headquarters
West Hills Old Evergreen Highway
No sales tax No income tax, low property tax
Southeast 82nd Avenue Northeast Highway 99
Thirst-quenching Benson Bubblers Slutty parking meters

The first McMenamins

(Barley Mill Pub, 1629 SE Hawthorne Blvd.)

The first Burgerville

(307 E Mill Plain Blvd.)

Joan of Arc statue Capt. George Vancouver statue
Riot Cop Hammered Grunts

To be the world's greatest athlete you need more than just Air Jordans. Get ripped with a Bowflex, a home gym sold through infomercials and built by Vancouver-based Nautilus Inc.

Portland may boast the coolest public water fountains ever, but in Vancouver, even the parking meters hold a sexy secret. Give the handle of most downtown 'Couv parking meters one full turn prior to inserting your coins, and—booya!—20 minutes of free parking time. You, sir or ma'am, just saved yourself a quarter.

These two baby-faced punk-rock outfits both love to hate cops! Sure, Riot Cop's "War" is a bit more thoughtful than Hammered Grunts' "VNC Pig," but then, who said punk had to be thoughtful?


Royce Pollard

Last time you saw Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard was probably on the nightly news, smashing Starbucks mugs. When the coffee chain started selling souvenir Portland mugs at its Vancouver, Wash., stores in 2005, Pollard—mayor since 1996—called reporters to watch him break a few in protest.

Last week, Pollard took WW for an hourlong drive around the 'Couv. A 67-year-old retired Army officer, Pollard backs bringing MAX to Vancouver and jokingly says he'd consider annexing Vancouver into Portland. But he's also ready to defend his city, no matter Portlanders' opinion of it. JAMES PITKIN.

WW: Think Vancouver gets enough credit from Portlanders?

Royce Pollard: I tell my friends in Portland that Vancouver is the second-largest city in the state of Oregon. Because it is. We're part of the [Portland] metropolitan area. People need to get over that.

Vancouverites need to get over that?

Yeah, I think a lot of people do. We can't afford an OMSI, a professional sports team. But we have them. They're right over there [points to Portland].

What are the bad points?

People who think we're only the bedroom community of Portland. We're not anymore. Portland doesn't recognize that.

You once bragged that you've never set foot in the Pearl District.

That's just a filthy rumor.

You never said that?

Well, I did.

But isn't Portland the model for your downtown redevelopment?

We've learned some great things from Portland. And people seem to object to that. I don't. My grandfather told me, watch people. What they do well, you adopt that.

What do you think Vancouver has to teach Portland?

We're a great example for people who wnt to treat business in the right way. We get a lot of businesses from Portland who have moved to Vancouver. Yeah, there's tax reasons—there's tax shelters, there's waterfront condos you can buy.

But you're losing a lot of young people.

Yup, and one of our challenges is our young people complaining that they don't have a lot for them. But we're working on it.

What about those Starbucks mugs?

A lot of people in Portland don't understand why I did it. Vancouver has an image we're trying to create. We tried to tell Starbucks; they didn't pay attention. It kind of caught on, and this city got a lot of publicity. A friend from Vermont called me and said, "Hey, fat boy, I saw you on TV!"

If you lived in Portland, what would you be doing?

God, probably selling life insurance. I don't know.

You don't think you'd be mayor?

Probably not. Portland is too big.

Ever think the two cities will join?

I'm happy in Washington. But if Portland were the one to annex, I'd be happy to talk to them.

What's the bottom line on Portland and Vancouver?

Treat us like an independant city, or you can find us very difficult to deal with.

Sounds like a threat.

It's not a threat, it's a promise.

Vansportation

How do the carless get to Vancouver? Your best route up north is via TriMet's No. 6 bus (trimet.org). You can catch the 6 downtown or on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and rock it all the way to downtown Vancouver (see map for 'Couv bus mall location). It's usually about a 45-minute trip from downtown Portland (last bus back to P-town leaves around 11:30 pm).

Once you're in the belly of the 'Couv, you'll have to rely on C-Tran—Vancouver's answer to TriMet, found at c-tran.com—to get around. That means a $1.25 fare (in inner Vancouver, awesomely named "the C-Zone") or a $2.25 all-zone fee for each bus you take. Despite its rad logo, C-Tran does not give out any transfers unless you buy a day pass ($6, won't get you to Portland on C-Tran, though a TriMet bus driver I spoke with said they do accept C-Tran day passes to get you back to Portland).

Need to get the hell out of the 'Couv in a hurry? C-Tran totally understands. Weekday Portland "Express" routes cost you $3 (last bus leaves at 6 pm) but splits travel time in half and drops you right in the middle of downtown Portland. Amtrak (amtrak.com) will also take you over to Vancouver, if you don't mind totally wasting your time and paying too much. It'll cost you $7 to $9 to hop a train to the 'Couv. While the purported travel time is only 15 to 20 minutes (the most romantic 15 to 20 minutes of your life!), that figure doesn't consider passenger loading times and, you know, the fact that an Amtrak train has never gotten anyone anywhere on time, ever.

Going to the 'Couv by bike? Wheeling over either bridge (the Interstate or the 205) is scary, but if you'd rather not bike between two lanes of traffic, try the Interstate. Your best bet might be throwing your two-wheeler on the front of a TriMet or C-Tran bus before pedaling through relatively congestion-free Vancouver. CASEY JARMAN.

In search of vanculture

Go searching for the arts in Vancouver and you may find yourself a part of them. "Make some of your own," Leah Jackson of the Sixth Street Gallery instructs on a Sunday afternoon, as she seats visitors to create "artist trading cards" (2.5-by-3.5-inch mini-collages) as part of the gallery's Cut & Paste show. Likewise, a Wednesday-night trip to local blues venue Cascade Bar & Grill could find you rockin' with the somewhat misleadingly named open-jam host, Jam Band PDX. Much like Portland, the prevailing mood of arts and culture north of the Columbia is lo-fi and DIY. Whether it's the Cut & Paste show, cheering on a band at downtown staple the 15th Street Pub or getting sauced at luxury movie theater Cinetopia (where the wine flows like beer—out of a tap), the opportunities are...well, not exactly endless, but more than the small-burg reputation suggests. AMY MCCULLOUGH & AARON MESH.

? Sixth Street Gallery (105 W 6th St., 360-693-7340): An airy, wood-floored exhibition room in the front—and Kool-Aid dyes, bags of wool and rock radio in the back. As much a collective as a gallery, Sixth Street features juried shows ranging from "National Fiber Arts" in August to "Ladies Don't, Women Do..." in October. DIY, indeed.

* Cinetopia (11700 SE 7th St., 360-213-2800): To hell with popcorn! Here they have full meals (with wine and beer) served on swiveling seat trays while we watch Wild Hogs in digital super-high definition! Oh, and did we mention the wine on tap?

* Main Street Theatre (606 Main St., 360-695-3770): The home of Arts Equity Onstage, which this spring produces plays by Eugene O'Neill and Steve Martin. And if you can't afford the $8 ticket, there's a pawn shop conveniently located next door.

* Kiggins Theatre (1011 Main St., 360-737-3161): In 1936, Vancouver Mayor J.P. Kiggins unveiled a downtown movie palace, a grand hall where the citizenry could take in Hollywood's finest spectacles. (Or, as was the case on the theater's opening night, they could watch Claudette Colbert in She Married Her Boss.) The mayor's legacy lives on, as the Kiggins screens second-run movies for $4. And they have Red Vines!

* 15th Street Pub (109 W 15th St., 360-693-8528): Vancouver's premier lounge, pool hall, dance club and rock venue, the 15th Street Pub—where the bartender actually said, "Welcome to the country of the 15th Street Pub," on a recent visit—offers a variety of live music and DJs regularly. And the pub sits right next door to a burrito shack—perfect for late-night booze-sopping! (For more, see page 28.)

* Studio 704 (704 Main St., 360-773-1515): In the proud tradition of clubs that name themselves after their addresses, Studio 704 is the sort of outpost that hosts "Bacardi parties" and features stretch Hummers outside its doors (seriously!), but the music mix is eclectic—acts range from party-fueled reggae-rock bands to local blues and even house DJs.

* Cascade Bar & Grill (15000 SE Mill Plain Blvd., 360-254-0749): Far from the 'Couv's charming downtown waterfront and into strip-mall central, a slightly older, fun-loving crowd of blues fanatics can be found at the fortress-looking Cascade Bar & Grill, which features live music nightly (beginning at 9 pm) and, these days, the sad declaration on its marquee that "Paul deLay will be missed."

* Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (4505 E 18th St., 360-695-1891): Even the long-bearded old-school folkie set can get its musical kicks in Vancouver; once a month (every third Saturday), the Washington Old-Time Fiddlers' Association holds a jam session at which string-shredders can hone their chops in prep for the WOTFA's annual fiddlers' contest in East Wenatchee!

Queer in Vancouver

To those who think Portland is the Northwest's gay mecca, we dare you to strap on your seat belts (and your dildos) and venture across the Columbia into "Vancooter," Wash. While the political climate is predominantly conservative, the knowing traveler will discover a city where the drag queens come in droves and the annual Lesbian Community Project Women's Softball Tournament of Choice, a three-day hoopla of camping, dyke-alicious dancing, naked slip 'n' slides and lots and lots of softball, has been held outside the city every August since 1985 (lesbiancommunityproject.org). See right for other queer hotspots. ANIKA SABIN.

Moe's Barbershop (1904 Main St., 360-693-8048) A queer-owned hotbed of friendly gossip and community.

Beige Blond Salon (909 Main St., 360-693-3283) About more than just lopping off locks, the ever-grinning Brett Allred's salon even hosts a well-attended fashion show each year.

North Bank Tavern (106 W 6th St., 360-695-3862) The oldest, and well, only, gay bar in Vancouver, North Bank is half cosmopolitan cabaret, half rural dive. But glamour pervades all: a moosehead is bedecked in pearls, dingy carpets are strutted upon by glittering goddesses and the NASCAR-centric TVs are ignored in the face of fierce karaoke and cabaret. While lacking in lesbians, you won't be there long before someone will offer to buy you a drink and—in jest—threaten to flash their man tits.

Each Fourth of July, Vancouver hosts a fireworks display near Fort Vancouver that draws many people to the city. The display, which typically runs for 45 minutes, is the largest boom west of the Mississippi River. In addition, the St. Joseph Vancouver Sausage Fest is held annually in Vancouver, drawing attendance upward of 100,000 over three days. The city also hosts the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival, the largest jazz fest in Southwest Washington.

24-hour party in the van

[Ed's note: WW sent night owl Jason Simms to the 'Couv to discover the city's most vibrant nightlife opportunities. Here's what happened.]

Know this: There is no "table hopping" at the 24-hour Shari's on Northeast 76th Street. If you try to sit down and drunkenly share your pie with some people who were just dancin' at Club Zoo, you're going to get thrown out.

Luckily, Shari's (11717 NE 76th St., 360-260-8094) ain't the only 24-hour joint in town—though some locals will tell you it is. Fat Dave's (1511 NE 99th St., 360-573-7431) will serve you up a stack of flapjacks you won't finish for $4.25. The entire "city" is also dotted with the 24-hour Mexican havens of Muchas Gracias (see "'Couvsine," page 29, for more on these eateries). You're going to need these pit stops for a night on the town because shit is spread out, man. Phrases like, "Right over on 112th" aren't uncommon.

But you can almost hear the rock 'n' roll echoing across the river from the 'Couv's best live music venue, the 15th Street Pub (109 W 15th St., 360-699-0828). A smorgasbord of people congregate in the well-muraled space, comparable in size to our own Tonic Lounge. Metalheads mingle with preppy blondes and big dudes who drive Neons like sports cars. However, if you follow the latter type of gentleman to an afterparty (like I did), there's a chance he'll be pulled over and arrested (he was) and you'll never make it (this we know from experience).

The best dive bar in town is close to the Columbia River, too. The windowless Elbow Room (1800 Broadway St., 360-694-3552) is like a more lucid Sandy Hut—oh wait, that's just because there's no smoking in the 'Couv's bars. And there are no titties to be found, either—Washington's statewide ban on strip clubs was ruled unconstitutional a few years ago, but one has yet to open in Vancouver. Oh, and last call is at 2 am.

Sadly, when you ask where you can find some trouble—or fun—Vancouverites will refer you to Portland. If, after being booted from Shari's, you actually decide to return to the 'Couv for another visit, check out Club Zoo (9310 NE 76th St., 360-254-8607). You'll find it packed with frat types bumping and grinding. Don't ask too many questions of the clientele—you may be mistaken for an insurance inspector. Just stick to the club's basketball arcade game (with real balls!) and dancin' cage and you'll be just fine. That is, unless you're recognized from the Shari's incident and are forced to hightail it again. JASON SIMMS. For a special Vancouver edition of "Friendly, Friendly World," check out WW's LocalCut.com on Thursday, March 22.

You can't be rich and smart: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Portlanders are more educated that Vancourverites, but household income in Vancouver is slightly higher than in Portland.

'Couvsine

It's a culinary conundrum: Vancouver's the land where strip-mall eats, ethnic treats and fresh farmers-market wares meet (see map for most locations). The city's most famous culinary contribution is the original Burgerville, USA (307 E Mill Plain Blvd., 360-693-8801), where lunch-break truckers devour Tillamook cheeseburgers ($3.19) and listen to sock-hop tunes in the parking lot. This is not to be confused with the family-owned Steakburger (7120 NE Highway 99, 360-694-3421), a burger joint and mini-golf course in one. For less than 10 bucks, you can get 36 holes ($5 adults, $3 children), a corn dog ($1.50), soft serve ($1.85) and kid-approved instant gratification. Traveling South of the Border with ham quesadillas ($3.60) on the menu, Muchas Gracias (3300 E Fourth Plain Blvd., 360-906-8481, and other locations) is the 'Couv's greasy Mexican staple for non-Mexicans. However, these 24-hour concrete huts are the more Van-cultural alternative to the city's ubiquitous fast-food fare—California-based Del Taco, the all-American Applebee's or the deceivingly non-German Wienerschnitzel.

Authentic ethnic flavor is sprinkled along Fourth Plain's bevy of strip malls. Taquerias like La Michoacana (5406 E Fourth Plain Blvd., 360-694-4661) offer entrees spelled with actual tildes, while Restaurante 4 Caminas (3503 E Fourth Plain Blvd.) cooks up tacos al pastor ($3.50) with chorizo or spit-fire pork, sliced and grilled on the spot. Thai Little Home (3214 E Fourth Plain Blvd., 360-693-4061) is great for its chile-intensive lunch specials. Vancouver is also home to a growing Russian population—evidenced by the busy Anoush Deli (6808 NE Fourth Plain Blvd., 360-693-4359), a market and cafe offering freshly baked Easter breads and summer sausages—and Hawaiian transplants, who have invaded the 'Couv's rainier pastures with their massive plate lunches, served at restaurants like Patrick's Hawaiian Cafe (316 SE 123rd Ave.).

During the summer, frat houses relocate to Who-Song & Larry's corporate cantina (111 E Columbian Highway, 360-695-1198) along the river, while downtown the formerly sun-starved flock to Uptown Village eateries (along Main Street) and the Farmers Market (505 W 8th St., 360-737-8298), which overflows into the sidewalks of Esther Short Park. Note: In the winter, the daily indoor market supports less perishable and more artisan goods like bagel-shaped doggie biscuits and token boho-tapestried satchels. JESSICA MACHADO.

Dangers of Vancouver

Newcomers will hardly recognize the name Westley Allan Dodd.

But for longtime Vancouverites, the name still sends chills down their spines—a reminder of the quiet town's high-profile brush with one of the country's most infamous serial killers and sexual predators.

Originally from Richland, Wash., Dodd committed a series of gruesome murders in the Vancouver area in the late 1980s, around the same time Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy regularly made national headlines and COPS ratings were fast on the rise.

The Seattle Times reported in 1993 that, since age 13, Dodd had molested or exposed himself to almost 100 children in the course of his lifetime. And he kept meticulous and twisted journals of each incident, with detailed accounts of his violent fantasies.

Dodd's most notorious crimes were the molestation and stabbing deaths of 10-year-old William Neer and his 11-year-old brother Cole in Vancouver's David Douglas Park in 1989—followed by the murder of 4-year-old Lee Iseli of Portland. In a 1999 retrospective, WW quoted a detective who termed Dodd "the ultimate all-star homicidal maniac."

Authorities eventually caught Dodd in 1989 after his failed attempt to abduct a 6-year-old boy from a men's room in a Camas, Wash., movie theater. After a hefty legal battle, Dodd was hanged in January 1993 at Walla Walla State Prison, the first court-sanctioned hanging in the state since 1963.

MORE DANGERS!

N In 2005, Portland had a higher per-capita crime rate than Vancouver for robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft, BUT...

N Vancouver had more per-capita rapes (70.63 vs. 60.14) and murders (5.1 vs. 3.7) than Portland. Whew!

Houses are cheaper in Vancouver—but not by much. According to recent RMLS figures, $275,000 was the average sales price for a home on the Oregon side of the Portland metro area, $30,000 more than the average in Vancouver.

Faith in vancouver

The Rev. Tom Tucker, president of the Greater Vancouver Interfaith Association, says his city is home to more churches than bars. But for our money, the most interesting religious organization across the river is not a church or synagogue: It's the Mystic Arts Gathering and Information Circle, or MAGIC, Vancouver's premier pagan organization.

The word paganism has come to represent any number of religions outside the Abrahamic group of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It's believed that as militant Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the term became derogatory slang for peacenik civilians who preferred their traditional beliefs to joining the Christian crusades.

High priestess and MAGIC president Sienna Newcastle is a short, friendly woman who changed her name from Susan Ujvary in 1992 because her original Hungarian handle was too difficult to pronounce. She says there are as many as 5,000 pagans in Vancouver—from voodoo, ayurvedic and Native American practioners to wiccans, shamans, Hindus, Buddhists, Kabbalists and ceremonial magicians. And while many churches help members get into heaven, Newcastle says MAGIC helps them rely on themselves for their own psychological needs, offering classes on Tarot card reading, meditation, magickal activism and one of the most popular pagan arts, tantric sex.

Yes, tantric sex—which, according to MAGIC's website, is a way of utilizing "sexual energy as a means to boost one's consciousness on the path to enlightenment."

Newcastle spreads this joy by attending three to five pagan-oriented festivals around the Northwest and erecting a bright yellow military parachute filled with rugs, blankets and pillows, where mature adults can experience safe, consensual "enlightenment" away from the ears and eyes of fellow attendees. Also inside this tantric temple, otherwise known as the "Golden Nipple," is an altar, incense, wine and snacks, as well as bowls of assorted condoms, lubes and baby wipes. And all the Catholic Church can offer is rosary beads!

Newcastle, who was raised pagan, is two months away from completing her bachelor's of science in psychology from Washington State University and plans to pursue a master's in clinical psychology from Portland State University. She says most of her clientele are women who come to her seeking a non-patriarchal spiritual connection.

Newcastle does her best to live at peace with Vancouver's religious community. She says her unwillingness to patronize the Holy Grounds coffee shack up the street—which offers drinks called Luke's Latte, Malachi's Mocha and the Jericho chocolate shake—is not because it's a Christian business, but because "their coffee's just not that good."

But with so much Jesus everywhere, Vancouver's pagans do occasionally find themselves faced with conflict. In 2000, Newcastle threatened to call the police on an elderly Christian proselytizer for trespassing. "She was just totally floored that somebody would dial 911 on her gray granny ass," says Newcastle, who highly recommends the YouTube video Keep Your Jesus Off My Penis. KYLE CASSIDY. The Golden Nipple's next public appearance will be at the Spiral Rhythms festival in Klickitat County, Wash., the first weekend in June. See spiralrhythms.org/magic for more information.

A river runs through it

Monika Korsnes, 23, and Tristan Bouilly, 27, have been dating for over a year. They are happy together—solid. But there's a rift in their relationship as wide as the Columbia River. In fact, it is the Columbia, flowing between Portland and Vancouver, that keeps them apart. This is a love divided, a cross-Columbia affair.

Monika is a caregiver who lives in Northeast Portland, Tristan an elementary-school music teacher in Vancouver. They alternate nights at each other's houses, but both admit to spending more time together in Portland. WW interviewed the couple about the challenges of sustaining a PDX-'Couv romance.

"It's doable," says Tristan. "In some ways a little distance can be good for a relationship."

Their first dates (and first sleepover) were in Portland, but Tristan's teaching job keeps him in Vancouver a lot. Monika remembers how Tristan got her onto I-5 and across the great divide one Sunday afternoon. "He tricked me up to Vancouver promising cafes with wireless Internet," she says, laughing. "Everything was closed. Downtown is like a ghost town on Sunday."

Consequently, the couple conduct most of their activities in Portland.

"If we want to go out to eat, we come to Portland, even if we sleep in Vancouver," Monika says. "When we're in Vancouver, it's more of a night in. We've gone to bars a few times, played basketball—suburban stuff."

Tristan defends Vancouver: "I think it gets a bad rap from people who don't spend a lot of time here," he says, adding that he likes the suburban feel. "It's quiet here, slower, a little more homey."

By far the greatest challenge of the relationship is timing rush hour in either direction.

"If there's no traffic, it's 7 minutes to Tristan's house," say Monika, "But traffic is a huge concern. You can't leave Vancouver before 10 [am] and you can't leave Portland after 3 [pm]. It's just not worth it."

"I spend a lot of time on the road," Tristan agrees, but he says things will get better with a new bridge and MAX line. "It would make the commute a lot easier."

The couple have considered moving in together, but both say they value living apart. Monika dreads moving to Vancouver: "I don't want to move to Vancouver if I can help it, but my fullest-time job and my boyfriend are both up there." Monika says she doesn't really mind the commute; it's Vancouver itself she dislikes: "It's not necessarily that I wish [Tristan] lived closer, just that there was more to do where he lived."

But she is aware that Tristan is a little sensitive about where he lives. "I think he feels he has to defend [Vancouver] to me," she says, "but he gets frustrated with where he lives."

"Sometimes I wish I lived in Portland," Tristan admits, "but I like it here, too." ISAAC KAPLAN-WOOLNER.

Rumors abound that Vancouver has no arts or culture of its own. In truth, the city has been home to the Old Slocum House Theatre, a nonprofit theatre company, since 1966. Vancouver also boasts a full symphony orchestra.

I braved vancouver

The following are some of the reasons real, live Portlanders have used to justify trips to Vancouver:

"Poverty forced me to the 'Couv—I took a crap job there when my bank account hit the magic number ($10). I had to arrive by 7:30 am to sit under fluorescent lights like a plant. Years later I went back to buy a motorcycle via Craigslist." —Becky Ohlsen, Lonely Planet correspondent

"In 2005 I went up there to attend the Northwest Pigeon Fanciers-sponsored Western National All-Age Show (formerly Western National Young Bird Show) at the Red Lion. I purchased a hearty American Roller YC [ed's note: YC stands for "young cock"] who proved to be a great bird until he met his fate in the clutches of a Cooper's hawk. Damn you, hawk, I hope your eggs get eaten by a crow. R.I.P., Mr. Brownstone." —Zac Christensen, motorcyclist, GIS analyst, pigeon fancier

"I think one attraction for Portlanders is getting Sudafed over the counter without a prescription. The Clark County fair is awesome. The Fort is kind of neat, too—they have old people doing stuff like blacksmithing, working in the store that trades in beaver pelts, etc. Lewisville Park is nice, too, and Wintler Park on the Columbia, to watch the airplanes. My mom and sister like to eat at Joe's Crab Shack. I like Hudson's. Those are the only Vancouver positives I can think of." —Susan Wickstrom, PDX freelance writer

"The last 10 times I've gone there have been strictly for odd sex. Other than that, I went there once to see if gay men did in fact use the train depot as a hookup spot." —Anonymous intellectual barfly, Portland resident

—Compiled by Becky Ohlsen

 
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