It’s Best Of time, in the worst of times.

The irony is not lost on us. An issue celebrating all the odd, awesome and inspirational stuff that makes Portland special couldn’t be more out of step with the current civic mood if the Cascadia subduction zone had opened up and swallowed the city whole.

Do we even need to explain? A pandemic is destroying lives and ravaging the local economy. Police and protesters are clashing nightly, and now the feds have joined the fray. Plus, there’s a presidential election coming up, where the best-case scenario is a return to the status quo pre-Trump and the worst is another four years of…gestures broadly.

So, who’s ready to celebrate?!

To be fair, though, it’s not like everything in Portland was roses and homemade kombucha before, especially not in the last few years. If it wasn’t tear gas burning your eyes, it was wildfire smoke. If it wasn’t cops and demonstrators fighting downtown, it was opposing political factions. And if it wasn’t COVID-19 closing your favorite bar, it was a developer from California.

Even in the “best of times,” our Best of Portland issue has served as a brief respite from the chaos of the moment—the time each year when we pause even our own cynicism and remember what it was that drew us here and why we’ve never left. In that way, there might not be a better time for this issue to arrive than right now.

And, as it turns out, there is a lot to celebrate.

A city’s true colors show themselves in the darkest hours, and ours have been showing all over the place, whether it’s the artist designing protective bandannas for the houseless, the street magician giving socially distant performances outside apartment buildings, or the opera singer who brought a group of protesters to tears with a rendition of “Stand By Me.”

Our annual Readers’ Poll is itself an example of how this city steps up when the shit goes down: With small businesses in an unprecedented struggle for survival, thousands of voters poured onto our website to express support for the institutions that matter most to them.

And then, of course, there’s just the weird stuff—like the dude whose taxidermied dog became an internet sensation, or the couple who’s made it their mission to find loving homes for all the creepy toys of the world.

We should never forget the reasons why people are taking to the street every night, nor should we forget to wear a goddamn mask when we go out in public. But we should also remember that this, too, shall pass. And whenever it does, we’ll still have Portland—a city that’s at once playful and principled, ingenious and ridiculous, and unlike anywhere else.

—Matthew Singer, Arts & Culture Editor

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