No. 1: Because we're (probably) hosting the trial of the century.
Portland is a politically woke city that hasn't produced a nationally relevant political moment since…well, it's hard to recall. Maybe when the "Little Beirut" protesters screamed obscenities at President George H.W. Bush? Or the time then-Gov. Tom McCall distracted anti-Nixon demonstrators with a groovy hippie slumber party in a state park?
When not enlivened by graft, Oregon's one-party state is righteously boring. The Democratic presidential primary—that rolling thunder revue of microaggressions—won't arrive here until Hillary Clinton has finished shipping all the Bernie Bros to Guantanamo. The Portland mayor's race features two front-runners competing to see who can find beds for homeless people faster.
Just when we seemed doomed to progressive irrelevance, here come the Bundys.
Ammon Bundy and his seditionist followers believe that God gave the West's high desert to ranchers for cattle grazing, and that jailing those ranchers for arson is tyranny. They believed that ideology enough to use guns to liberate a bird-watching sanctuary. One of them believed it enough to die, bullet-riddled, in an Eastern Oregon snowbank. Nine others sit in jail—because the federal government believes their actions amount to a criminal conspiracy.
Their trial will almost certainly be held in Portland—a left-coast Gomorrah that welcomed the militants to town with a doughnut decorated to show Ammon Bundy behind bars.
The defendants are out of a Coen brothers script: a man who calls himself "Captain Moroni," a 300-pound tattoo artist who fabricated his military career, and a guy who rode around the bird refuge on a horse named Hellboy (he then implicated himself by posting on Facebook: "yep its me…and my horse Hellboy"). The witness list will likely include the members of a traveling homeschooled family gospel band.
Yet this case may be the closest Portland has come in two decades to taking part in a national conversation about personal freedom and civic responsibility.
The Bundy trial thrusts Portland into the mad heart of American politics: The "Don't Tread on Me" paranoia, the right-wing all-night radio jocks, the welfare cowboys awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, the right-wingin' gun-clingin' Palin-cheerin' autodidact constitutional scholars of Obama's America.
And they'll have to come to Portland—a town filled with all their liberal nieces and nephews, who came here to avoid them, stop eating meat and ride bicycles until the planet cools down.
This is a city where a generation moved to avoid conflict. Now we have to host the Sagebrush Show Trial. It's going to be great. It's going to be like living in America.
They better not ask for a change of venue. AARON MESH.
No. 2: Because we're building a bicoastal skyline.
When builders go big, they go West.
This has been true in Portland since the construction of the three-story Odd Fellows Temple in 1869.
Portland has 27 buildings that stand 250 feet or higher—and all but two of them cast their shadows from the west bank of the Willamette. Meanwhile, the eastside putters along quaintly at mostly six stories or fewer, rooftops half-hidden by trees.
But that's all about to change. Portland is soon to get a brand-new skyline—on the east side of the river. Among the 12 tallest buildings Portland just completed or plans over the next year, six are on the eastern shore.
At the edge of the Burnside Bridge, Skylab has designed a 21-story glass-and-steel knife to pierce the heart of the sky. In the Lloyd District, Oregon Square will ascend to become one of the 10 tallest structures in Portland—325 feet or more—a mixed-use middle finger wagging joyfully at Vancouver, next to two new buildings almost as big. And just down the street, the Hyatt Regency Convention Center hotel will ascend to heights as yet unknown.
Whatever the merits of each building—whatever each one means to the new world of skybound apartment dwellers—they will change Portland's shape forever. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
No. 3: Because PDX keeps getting even awesomer.
In most places in the world, going to the airport is a miserable ordeal.
Portland International Airport–voted the best airport in the U.S. three years in a row by Travel + Leisure magazine–not only has all the airport stuff locked down: fast lines, friendly TSA agents, easy pickup and drop-off, but it has better food, drinking and shopping, both before and after security, than many midsized American cities.
There's the old standbys: a Powell's Books with a selection of new and used books you might actually want to read, a Pendleton store, a Nike store and a bunch of great bars. And as of last summer, PDX has a Country Cat for your brunch needs and a Henry's Tavern for your brewpub needs, if the Rogue and Laurelwood varieties already there didn't suit you. There's free Wi-Fi, natch. And PDX still maintains a strict no-price-gouging policy, maintained by the Port of Portland, which actually sends spies out into the city to make sure airport outposts aren't jacking up their prices.
That's all awesome. And yet, Portland International Airport keeps getting awesomer.
At PDX, TSA employees have no interest in stopping anyone from bringing weed through security. And come this spring, Portland's airport will have a teeny tiny outpost of Hollywood Theatre, which will show short films to people waiting for connections. Will Quentin Tarantino show up there, like he did at what will now be called the flagship Hollywood? Probably. Because our airport is the best airport in the whole goddamn world. LIZZY ACKER.
No. 4: Because we're still No. 1 in semi-factual superlatives.
NO. 1 BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN THE COUNTRY
NO. 1 BEST BEER CITY IN THE WORLD
NO. 1 FOOD CITY IN AMERICA
NO. 1 GODLESS CITY IN AMERICA
NO. 1 LEAST FAVORITE CITY IN AMERICA OF GLENN BECK
NO. 1 DOMESTIC AIRPORT
LARGEST CITY IN THE NO. 1 MOST MOVED-TO STATE IN AMERICA
NO. 1 IN NATION'S LARGEST HOME PRICE HIKE
NO. 1 MOST RACIST
NO. 12 MOST CONGESTED
NO. 1 MOST GENTRIFIED
NO. 1 MOST PREPARED FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
NO. 1 MOST ORGANIC
NO. 4 LOWEST VACANCY RATES (PORTLAND SUBURB VANCOUVER, WASH., WAS NO. 1)
NO. 1 CHEAPEST CITY IN AMERICA
NO. 1 FASTEST-SPEAKING STATE IN THE U.S.
NO. 1 U.S. CITY WITH MOST SEMI-FACTUAL SUPERLATIVES
No. 5: Because Japan is trading us its best ramen in exchange for novelty doughnuts.
Portland and Japan have what diplomats call a "special relationship." We send them doughnuts, and they send us ramen.
Needless to say, we are getting the better end of that deal.
Blue Star and Voodoo Doughnut made headlines in 2015 by sending their doughnut shops to Tokyo, where Blue Star owner Micah Camden swore he could have bought used undies in a vending machine if he really wanted to.
But in exchange, some of the biggest ramen shops in the world are coming to Portland—direct from Tokyo.
When Shigezo placed its very first North American outpost in Portland in 2011, with smoky ramen and tender pork, we glowingly declared it the spirit of suburban Japan. Shigezo followed up with a ramen cart called Minizo, now sadly gone, and a second outpost across the river called Yataimura Maru, each one serving up its own version of pork noodle soup.
Like a forest trail blazed first by gentle deer, more have followed. Three different Tokyo ramen chains arrived this past year, or announced plans to do so.
First came multinational ramen house Kukai at the very edge of Beaverton, home to marrow-rich tonkotsu. It expanded to the Portland area last winter after first touching down in Seattle.
The chain is changing its name to Kizuki, however, before it can expand further: Apparently, "kookai" is both the name of a French fashion chain and the Hawaiian word for a turd.
And this month, Tokyo ramen-ya Marukin will follow Kukai and Shigezo to Portland. They will open not one but two ramen shops here—their first locations in America—serving up pork and chicken tonkotsu at the new Pine Street Market downtown, and also next door to Nong's Khao Man Gai on Southeast Ankeny Street.
And if liquor-license applications are to be believed, Afuri will come too. Afuri is the ramen shop to rule them all, pioneers of fish broth and masters of chicken, 10 years old and still stacking lines out the door in trend-chasing Tokyo. If five years ago we acquired Shigezo—Japan's Applebee's—now we get its Apizza Scholls. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.