No. 18: Because we might have developed a way to prevent AIDS.
More than 30 years ago, men began arriving in the hospital wards of every major city in the country with tumors and lesions marring their bodies. They were dying, and no one knew why.
For almost as long, Oregon Health & Science University researcher Dr. Louis Picker has been working toward a cure for the disease—which we now know as AIDS.
He may finally have found one.
In October 2013, Nature magazine published a paper with a humble title: "Immune clearance of highly pathogenic SIV infection."
But the paper announced a breakthrough. Picker and his team had used a radical new treatment to accomplish what no one else ever had: They'd cleared monkeys completely of the simian version of HIV. They hope to develop that treatment for use in humans, as both prevention and functional cure.
"What's unique about our vaccine," Picker says, "is the other virus we put it in—what we call a vector virus."
Little bits of the HIV virus that causes AIDS are inserted into another virus—cytomegalovirus, or CMV—a mostly harmless pathogen that already infects about half the population in the United States.
The treatment is like a vaccine with a megaphone. CMV is a pot-stirrer—it riles up the immune system and puts it on high alert, so it will seek out HIV and kill it.
Picker thinks the approach will work for other diseases as well. "We're catching up quickly with tuberculosis," he says. "We have hopes it'll work against malaria and in a therapeutic way with hepatitis."
What's exciting, he says, is "the unique properties of eliciting an immune system response that stays on for life."
Human trials on the HIV vaccine will begin as early as this year. And while Picker stresses there are no guarantees the success will translate to humans, he remains confident. So does the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently contributed $25 million to the project.
"Many ideas have been tried," Picker says. "All have either failed or been insufficiently effective. As far as primate data, ours is as good as it gets." MATTHEW KORHAGE.
No 19: …and cure hangovers.
Stephen Harris is a blue-eyed angel of mercy who will come to your house and with one prick of a needle, make all your mistakes disappear.
In October, the 38-year-old emergency-room nurse started Good IV, the first mobile IV hangover cure company in Oregon, with Dr. Richard Kozak, after seeing people come into the ER and wait for hours just to get fluids, pain meds and vitamins to make their bodies work again. Good IV comes to your house, takes less than an hour and costs $145, about the same as an ER visit with insurance.
Harris first experienced IV therapy—the practice of replenishing fluids and nutrients lost during a big night out with a "banana bag" IV—back when he was in the Navy, after hard nights of boozing. Similar operations have popped up in Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles, but finally Portland is part of the big leagues.
"There's no real science to hangovers," Harris says. But depending on the level of the abuse you gave your body the night before, there's a variety of things Harris and his team of more than 20 nurses and paramedics can do for you after a night of debauchery. The treatment includes fluids and "comfort measures," which are anything from a blanket to a glass of water. The $145 price goes up as you add on the real good stuff: Zofran for nausea, B-12 for energy and Toradol for pain.
At this point, Good IV has done about 50 treatments. The company is still figuring out the best way to promote itself. So far, it's experimenting on social media and wedding websites, and handing out fliers at beer festivals.
Although it's his business, Harris doesn't condone overindulging. He's a nurse, after all.
"You're still damaging your body," he says. "But it's the difference between laying sweating and wanting to vomit all morning and getting up and going to brunch with your friends." LIZZY ACKER.
No. 20: Because Portland is home to the worldwide knife industry.
Among a very select group of people, Portland is not known for beer, coffee, shoes, liquor or innovations in gluten-free living.
It is the knife capital of the world.
The Portland area, from the Columbia River to Wilsonville, is home to over one-quarter of the sport knife companies in the country. Eighty percent of the multi-tool knives sold worldwide are made by Portland-area companies.
It began in 1919—the year after the Great War ended—when Henry Brands started selling fillet knives to salmon fishermen out of the back of his Model T Ford, before also developing a special knife to mark trees to be cut down by lumberjacks.
The company he founded, Coast Cutlery, still owned by his family, became the first great knife company of Portland, where its headquarters still resides, on the banks of the Columbia River.
But Tigard knife giant Gerber—maker of the Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife, "the pinnacle of the Bear Grylls Survival series"—followed in 1939. Designers who've worked for those companies have gone on to found still more companies in the area, like Al Mar and Kershaw, whose former designers went on to found Columbia River Knife & Tool. Meanwhile, in Hillsboro, 17th-generation Yoshimoto bladesmith Murray Carter plies his trade in a forge at Carter Cutlery. Former Adidas designer Rick Maderis founded Burnside Knives last year.
As knife people will tell you, "Leatherman isn't really a knife company. It's a tool company." But the company nonetheless makes a shit-ton of knives—not only as part of the million multi-tools it sells each year, but in the folding-knife product line it began in 2005. And Leatherman's home base is right here, out by the airport.
Well-regarded Benchmade moved in 1990 from California to Oregon City, where it not only designs but manufactures all its blades. William Henry Knives also moved from California, to McMinnville.
"Part of it is that Oregon has laxer knife laws than California," says Benchmade spokesman Derrick Lau. "Here in Oregon, as a civilian, I can carry an automatic knife, a balisong, double-edged—anything that's not concealed." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
No. 21: Because this is the best place in the nation to be a cat person.
Last month, the imminent arrival of a masterpiece held the Portland art world in thrall.
It wasn't a rare Monet, or an artifact from the Romantic era. Instead, it was something like a 19th-century version of a Lisa Frank sticker sheet. Dubbed "the world's greatest cat painting" by no less an expert than Cat Magazine.
Carl Kahler's My Wife's Lovers—a 120-year-old oil painting depicting 40 or so velvet-swathed Persians and Angoras—arrived at the Portland Art Museum in early February, inspiring the hashtag "#meowsterpiece" and the creation of a permanent cat collection at the museum. Snobs might scoff, but you don't see Dogs Playing Poker getting that kind of treatment.
It's no surprise it played so well here. As much as Portland has a reputation for being a dog town, it's got just as much love for their furry foes. According to a 2015 Nielsen poll, we have the third-highest rate of cat ownership in the country. If you don't own a cat, we've got Purrington Cat Lounge, where you can pay money to hang out and drink beer among felines, and hopefully get tipsy enough to consider taking one home. We've got an annual cat show, where purebreds and mixed breeds are observed with austere seriousness. We're home to a goddamn cat rapper, Moshow, with 27,500 Instagram followers. Even our feral population enjoys a unique—some might say excessive—amount of protection. Portland's got cat-scratch fever, and the only cure is more cats. Bigger cats! Fluffier cats! Give them to me!
Excuse me. But in this feline-fetishizing environment, it was only a matter of time before my once cat-averse heart would grow as soft as a tabby's underbelly. So here goes: Hello, my name is Matt, and my cat's name is Louis. He's about the size of a reasonably hefty burrito, has an obsession with cheese and runs up walls like Bo Jackson chasing down a pop fly. I regularly tell him that he is my best friend. I am officially a cat person, and I am at home here. MATTHEW SINGER.
No. 22: Because our restaurants are fighting for wealth redistribution.
Portland restaurants are embarking on a grand socialist experiment.
It's been branded "no tipping" by some reporters, but because prices go up to account for costs, it's actually mandatory tipping designed, in part, to combat income inequality that a hike in the state's minimum wage would only worsen.
Here's the situation: In Oregon, all servers make minimum wage plus tips, which their employers have no right to touch. Unlike in most other states, Oregon restaurants cannot treat tips as a commission, subtracting some portion of employer-paid compensation.
So Portland has many rather well-off servers. Kurt Huffman, the restaurateur whose ChefStable group is behind projects like Ox, Lardo, St. Jack and Oven and Shaker, says some servers at one of his group's spots are making upward of $100,000—though he'd rather not reveal the name.
"I did an interview where I said this and named a place, and the servers at the restaurant who got named were furious," he says. "What's the big deal? They were like, 'We don't like people talking about how much we make.' Why not? There's nothing to be ashamed of."
While we're all very happy to see servers make a decent wage, there's a massive wage gap between front and back of the house.
At Huffman's restaurants, as at most restaurants that rely on skilled and experienced kitchen labor, the people making your food already make close to the proposed minimum wage. At Foster Burger, for example, the lowest-paid kitchen employee makes $14 an hour. It's Huffman's hope to get that up to $18 in the next two years. Meanwhile, with tips, some servers at the burger joint already make up to $65 an hour.
"That's the pay differential: $14 to $65," Huffman says. "And we're not even that high. You talk about restaurants like El Gaucho, these guys are walking with $500 per night. If servers aren't tipping out an adequate amount, this really becomes outrageous."
Which is why Huffman is part of a hardy group of restaurateurs looking to equalize things. Huffman recently traveled to Salem to testify in front of a legislative committee about the need to include a tip credit within the proposed minimum-wage hike.
"I explained that the unintended consequence of this bill is that it forces us to give a raise to our highest-paid employees, which actually hurts us in our ambition to pay people who need to make more money," he says.
The committee greeted Huffman with blank stares: "They just looked at me," he recalls. "They didn't even ask me any questions. It was like, 'Huh, OK.'
"Everybody's scared to shit of being the first mover on this. You do this [automatic gratuity], and all of a sudden you're losing your best people. But most of these restaurants are chef-run restaurants. In Portland, not a lot of restaurants are opened by front-of-house people, so they want there to be more equity." MARTIN CIZMAR.
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part I
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part II
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part III
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part IV
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part V
Reasons to Love Portland Right Now: Part VI