In Northeast Portland, I noticed a street-sign topper—the part that usually says something like "Historic Kenton" or "Pearl District"—that read "City of Maywood Park." I was still well within Portland city limits. Can a neighborhood call itself a city? —Street Hassler

You're not going to believe this, Hassler, but Maywood Park—all 0.17 square miles of it—is not part of Portland. It's actually a completely independent town, with its own mayor, government and laws.

Of course, what makes Maywood Park unusual is the fact that it lies wholly within the boundaries of another municipality. It's like Portland's answer to Vatican City, minus the cool outfits and the, you know, pederasty.

"But how can this be?" I hear you asking. "Can a neighborhood really secede from Portland? And if so, can I and my neighbors use this information to get out of paying the Arts Tax?"

Don't get your hopes up. In 1967, when this all went down, the area that is now Maywood Park was actually just outside Portland's eastern city limits. As residents of what was then unincorporated Multnomah County, its people didn't need permission from Portland to charter their own city. (You couldn't do this now—a state law passed a few years later prohibits would-be towns from incorporating on another city's doorstep in this way.)

Why go to all that trouble in the first place? Well, at the time, the denizens of Maywood Park hoped that by becoming an incorporated city, they'd have enough clout to block the construction of Interstate 205, which was slated to blast through the neighborhood atop a 30-foot berm, destroying around 80 homes.

As you may have noticed, I-205 ended up getting built anyway, and the houses in question are no more. The tiny city did, however, win some concessions from highway planners—plans were changed so the highway was constructed below grade, in a sort of manmade gulch, rather than on a berm, and a greenbelt was added to further shield the neighborhood from freeway noise.

For several years, Maywood Park was just another neighboring suburb—Portland didn't annex the land to the east, effectively surrounding the city, until the 1980s. This offered a roughly 20-year window during which the town's residents could have escaped. (Obviously, they're doomed now.)