What comes to mind when you think about why you love Portland? Powell's, beer, strippers, third-wave coffee, food carts, weird doughnuts, water fountains that don't stop running, plastic horses tied to metal rings...
Sure. But this week, we'd like to point out a few other, more personal and idiosyncratic reasons this city still wows us—whether we've just moved here or been taxpayers for decades. Such as having the world's most entertaining basketball bloggers, and the fact you can go to any restaurant in town wearing flip-flops.
OK, this idea isn't original. The city magazine in a little burg 3,000 miles away has made an annual tradition of cataloging their mayor's gym habits and the continued existence of the cronut. But that's hardly a big deal—we have Pix's macaronut, and it didn't even make our list.
Here are 26 things we're excited about right now, starting with our city's role in creating the world's most used cryptocurrency, and making the dream of Cool Runnings a reality.
BECAUSE OUR VIRTUAL MONEY IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD
But even if you haven't yet figured out that popular Web-based currency, it's already Grandma's cryptocoin. Litecoin, Quarkcoin and Peercoin are equally outré. You might as well be paying for your sandwich in Mariah Carey CDs.
The new king of virtual money is Dogecoin, which IBM programmer Billy Markus invented in Beaverton three months ago. On Jan. 14, it overtook Bitcoin as the world's most popular cryptocurrency. Currently, $2.5 million in Dogecoin changes hands every hour. And thanks to a Dogephile who took it upon himself to raise funds in the currency to send the Jamaican bobsled team and the Indian ski team to the Sochi Olympics, it made international news outside Wall Street Journal think pieces. There's even a Dogecoin ATM in Vancouver, B.C., which consists of a tablet computer glued to a briefcase.
Thing is, it started as a joke. In November, New Zealander Jackson Palmer tweeted, "Investing in Dogecoin. Pretty sure it's the next big thing." A "doge," if you've been hiding under your dad's barbecue apron for the past year, is a ridiculously versatile Web meme—a shiba inu who speaks charmingly lobotomized English.
"I thought, 'Ha!'" says Markus. "That's pretty funny. I should just make this." So he did. In four hours, hopped up on caffeine, on a Friday night, he cloned Dogecoin off another Web currency and showed Palmer his work. By December, Dogecoin was born. Every Dogecoin in existence now totals about $51 million.
Instead of E pluribus unum, the JPG-coin's rim says "wow much coin how money so crypto plz mine v rich very currency," around a pic of a shiba inu.
Its popularity spiked on the social network Reddit, where commenters tipped each other in Dogecoin—valued at a hundredth of a cent—for charming or helpful comments. Within a month, the currency gained enough traction that Dogecoin fundraisers were able to exchange it on a Chinese marketplace for tens of thousands of dollars to fund Olympic teams' travel.
Palmer says he's been offered $500,000 for the currency, but that accepting money would be against the spirit of Dogecoin. Instead, he supports a foundation for service-animal charities. "You know what I'm going to tell my grandkids?" he told the blog Techly.com. "I'm going to tell them that we paired service dogs with children in need, off the back of a fucking joke."
Nothing could be more appropriate to our fair city: A world-beating virtual currency, based entirely on social capital, used for the whims of well-meaning people who aren't sure whether what they're doing is a joke.
"It's completely unregulated," says Markus, who stresses that people should not invest seriously in Dogecoin. "It's the wild west." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BECAUSE WE'RE NO. 1 IN SEMI-FACTUAL SUPERLATIVES
Movoto real-estate blog, Dec. 2013
BusinessWeek, March 2009
Popular Science, Feb. 2008
Bicycling magazine, 2012
Movoto, Oct. 2013
Travel Leisure magazine, May 2013
OkCupid dating site, Aug. 2011
livability.com, Sept. 2011
vocativ.com, Nov. 2013
2010 U.S. religion census,May 2012
tuscl.net, May 2012
Willamette Week, Feb. 2014
BECAUSE YOU WILL SOON BE ABLE TO GET A JUG OF BEER ON EVERY CORNER
The new Growlers Hawthorne has a lot of competition. Up the street in the 3800 block, the Fred Meyer grocery store added its own taps a week before Growlers. In the 3700 block, the Bagdad Theater fills growlers with Hammerhead and Terminator. In the 3200 block, Bazi Bierbrasserie has filled growlers since it opened two years ago. The Safeway at 2800 also fills growlers, as does Lardo at 1212 and Lucky Lab at 915. Meanwhile, in the 4100 block, Hawthorne Hophouse has 24 taps available for beer to go, and in the 4700 block, Apizza Scholls fills growlers to go for $10 with the purchase of a pie.
And that's just one section of one street. Restaurants, bodegas, beer bars and grocery stores all over Portland are now filling jugs with fresh, ecologically responsible kegged beer to go. More are coming every day. At this rate, they'll soon be on nearly every block. MARTIN CIZMAR.
BECAUSE STEVE NOVICK IS AMERICA'S MOST ENTERTAINING CITY COUNCIL MEMBER
One year into Steve Novick's first term in the first elected office he's ever held, we can't tell if the city commissioner has the diligence to make significant reforms in the operations of Portland government.
Here's what we do know: He makes it infinitely more entertaining.
Bearing no small resemblance to comedian Patton Oswalt in both physical manifestation and online presence, Novick has seen his election as an opportunity to become the city's blogger-in-chief. He launched a campaign against DirecTV for charging him for football games he didn't want. He wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation funding. He was recently in a prank war with talk-radio host Lars Larson that involves plastic flamingos.
All this whimsy carries the risk of reducing Novick to City Hall's comic relief. But in recent months, his jokes have taken an intriguingly combative tone. He's begun questioning city spending platitudes. His suggestion that the Police Bureau could save money by abandoning the War on Drugs—a "failed national 40-year effort"—is radical and substantive.
Most famously, he has declared his own war on The Oregonian's right-wing editorial board, using Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's notorious rant as a springboard for his own jeremiad. "We're the best City Council in the league," Novick wrote in January. "And we're not going to be bullied by some sorry Orange County right-wing publisher."
In that screed, Novick nicknamed his colleagues the "Council of Boom." But it's Novick who could make real noise. For the first time, he's using his natural likability to upend the status quo. Keep it up, and he could demonstrate that the pun is mightier than the sword. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE WE'RE UNWITTINGLY FOMENTING SECESSIONISM WITH SOCCER FLAGS
Presumably, Major League Soccer didn't absorb the Portland Timbers to foment secessionist unrest. It would take a lunatic to suggest that.
It's a fact, though, that the banner of the Cascadian Independence Project had been around since 1994 and yet was obscure before the Timbers joined America's top soccer league in 2009. For the unfamiliar, the project is an effort to gain political or economic independence from the United States and Canada for the Pacific Northwest. It blends lefty environmentalism with libertarian freedom-loving.
Before the Timbers entered MLS, Elmer's Flag & Banner in Portland was the sole manufacturer for the Cascadian flag, known as the Doug Flag, and it wasn't selling many. All of a sudden, people started pouring in for it, said former Elmer's owner Mike Hale.
"I was surprised," he said. "I was saying, 'What do you want that for?'"
Now dozens of the banners wave in the stands at every Timbers home game, including occasional section-sized versions. All of which can't help but increase awareness for the secession movement that inspired the flag.
No one's saying soccer is just a cover for bringing down the government, but if it ever falls, we'll be able to blame the Timbers. ALEX TOMCHAK SCOTT.
BECAUSE MOVIE THEATERS WITH BEER WILL SOON OUTNUMBER MOVIE THEATERS WITHOUT
Entering a Portland movie theater that doesn't serve alcohol feels like finding a dry county in Nevada: alien, disappointing, even disconcerting. But what has long been an integral part of moviegoing in this city—get your ticket, get your popcorn, get your pint—is about to hit a tipping point. Provided three pending Oregon Liquor Control Commission permits go through, cinemas with booze will outnumber those without. Very soon, beer will flow at 14 of Portland's 24 movie theaters.
We're already lauded as a city for movie lovers—movoto.com recently ranked us No. 1, thanks to all our film societies and festivals and repertory theaters. But we have beer lovers to thank for the fact that we're drinking stout instead of Sprite at the cinema, whether at a French art flick or revival screenings of Die Hard. Back in the early '80s, the alcohol industry, led by the McMenamin brothers, lobbied the state Legislature to change a law that prohibited breweries from selling beer on the premises. That cleared the way for such McMenamins theaters as the Bagdad, the Mission and Kennedy School.
But it's not just at the second-run theaters or indie arthouses—Hollywood, Cinema 21, Laurelhurst and so on—that you can enjoy some medicated moviegoing. Living Room Theaters will pour you a flaming Spanish coffee. You can sip a glass of syrah at downtown's Regal Fox Tower, and Regal also has pending applications at Lloyd Center and Pioneer Place. (When a Regal outpost in Little Rock, Ark., sought a liquor license, the state alcohol board scolded the theater's managers.)
Look south to California for comparison: There are nine cinemas in the entire city of Los Angeles (pop. 3.9 million) licensed to serve alcohol. New York recently rewrote its laws banning the sale of alcohol in movie theaters, but so far, only a few cinemas in New York City offer booze, and they're required to have tables at each seat. Portland, of course, got rid of those dumb rules 30 years ago, and we've been tipsy during penguin documentaries ever since. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BECAUSE WE'RE TEACHING THE ARAB WORLD HOW TO BELLY-DANCE LIKE US
"You can look at a dancer and say, 'She's definitely from Portland,'" says Claudia, a prominent local belly-dance instructor. "We get hired to teach this style around the world."
Badawia is long retired, but students of her students are now exporting Portland-style belly dance to India, China, Japan and even back to the Middle East.
Last year, Claudia—who learned from world-renowned dancer Aziza, herself taught by Ruby, a star pupil of Badawia—was hired to teach belly dance in Turkey, often considered the wellspring of the art.
"I did not expect the audience to go as crazy as they did—they were crying, talking to me after," Claudia says. "The float move we do across the stage is definitely something Aziza brought. That drives crowds wild. That and the tail spin."
Claudia says Portland style is defined by an emphasis on emotional expressiveness and improvisation—fewer of the shimmies and pop-and-locks that give a dancer the jiggles, and more use of veils, finger cymbals (called zills) and expansive arm movements borrowed from another emerging strain of West Coast belly dance: tribal style.
"With travel and the Internet, everyone's fusioning," Claudia says. "But you can't run away from your basics. Badawia taught Ruby, Ruby taught Aziza, and Aziza is teaching the world." RAMONA DeNIES.
BECAUSE—SORRY, AUSTIN—THE STATS SAY WE'RE THE REAL CAPITAL OF LIVE MUSIC
Austin, Texas, has never forgiven us for stealing the "Keep Portland Weird" motto from them. Well, hate to break it to our unofficial sister city, but we've jacked their other claim to fame: Based on statistics, Portland is the leading city for live music per capita in America.
The numbers are complicated, but according to the concert-industry trade publication Pollstar, we've got more claim to the title. Six Stumptown venues—Roseland Theater, Wonder and Crystal ballrooms, Aladdin Theater, Hawthorne Theatre and Doug Fir Lounge—finished in the top 100 for ticket sales in 2013. Austin had only two venues on the list. Altogether, the listed Austin venues sold 150,000 fewer tickets than the Portland venues.
Sure, one can argue those figures don't reflect the fact that Austin hosts three major music festivals during the year, but is touting an exponentially devolving shit-show like South by Southwest really something to be proud of?
Don't worry, though, Austin: Your barbecue is still pretty good, we guess. MATTHEW SINGER.
BECAUSE MIDDLE-CLASS PEOPLE RIDE THE BUS
Not every bus ride in Portland is so convivial, as a quick glance at the #TriMet hashtag on social media will prove. Yet for all the hostilities the regional transit agency has accumulated, one fact makes Portland a happy anomaly: People ride the bus because they want to.
TriMet's official ridership numbers, last compiled in 2011, show that an astounding 84 percent of passengers are "choice riders"—people with cars who decided to take public transit—as opposed to "captive riders," who have no other option. Even if these numbers are generous (and even if the dichotomy is false), it's clear the stigma of taking the bus simply doesn't apply in this town.
The result is that riding the No. 6, the No. 77 or the No. 14 is a journey into the most diverse rooms in Portland—on wheels. You'll meet a cross-section of people who want to be there, people who don't, and people whose desires are both louder and more mysterious. Everybody's getting home. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE OUR AIRPORT PROVES THE COMMAND ECONOMY WORKS
Let's say, God forbid, that you're stuck at Sea-Tac Airport, in the exurban wastes of Seattle. The seats are slimed with Microsoft. It stinks of Frasier. You need a beer more than you've ever needed a beer in your life. You'll end up at a crappy, corporate "Seattle Taproom," and you'll pay $8.75 for a craft beer, and you'll say thank you, because you can't go anywhere else.
But at Portland International Airport, that pint of Laurelwood costs a mere $4.75, same as at the brewery on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. Why? Because since 1998, the Port of Portland requires that retail and food shops at the airport charge the same price at the airport that they would in the big, beautiful world beyond the security gates. According to port spokesman Steve Johnson, the airport actually sends out street teams to verify that pricing is the same at PDX as it is in Portland proper.
The Port of Portland apparently doesn't read Forbes magazine. Because if it did, the port would know that fettering the free market's ability to price-gouge captive airport customers would lead directly to food riots and stabbings. Restaurants would fail one by one until the food desert spanned the concourses, causing laid-over travelers to resort to eating each other's tender, meaty thighs. Presumably, Moda Center concessioners understand this, which is why a Laurelwood beer in a plastic cup there goes for what the market will bear: $9.
Not at our pinko airport. And PDX fliers nonetheless spend $11.61 per passenger on our mostly local concessions, 64 percent more than the industry average for airports.
Just like Winston and Julia, you will learn to love Big Brother. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BECAUSE NO ONE DIED ON A BIKE IN THE CITY LAST YEAR
In the past decade, there have been 23 cyclists killed on city streets in Portland. In 2012, there were two deaths, same as in 2011.
But while Portland's streets aren't as safe as they could be—six pedestrians have been killed crossing streets in the last three months—not a single cyclist died on city streets in 2013.
Bike advocates hope the city can keep that streak alive for a decade. Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, says it's possible. "We know we can create separated facilities for bikes and streets," he says, "[and] work toward better driver-education classes and DMV tests."
That means more projects like the $4.7 million South Waterfront Greenway approved by the City Council on Feb. 5. According to a recent city-commissioned survey of 800 Portlanders regarding the city's transportation budget, a whopping 64 percent said they favor a city transportation package that includes protected bike lanes or off-street paths. KATHRYN PEIFER.
BECAUSE IT'S NOT AS WET AS YOU THINK
February has found Portland suffering torrential downpours. In the last two weeks, the city accumulated 3.62 inches of rain.
But, as it happens, that's more rain than we got in each of the months of October, November, December and January.
Despite our damp reputation, Portland is not among the wettest cities in the country. It's not even the wettest Portland. Here is the average annual precipitation in a number of notable U.S. cities, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
BECAUSE OUR FOOD CARTS SELL FOOD FROM GUAM, BELIZE, MAURITIUS, TRINIDAD…
….and Ethiopia, Argentina, Brazil, England, Scotland, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, China, Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Egypt, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, the Philippines, Fiji, Peru, Canada, Uruguay, Romania, Thailand, Turkey, Portugal, Vietnam and Australia.
SEE: PDX 671, Love Belizean, Chez Dodo, Trinidad Doubles, Emame's, Argentina PDX, Brazilian House, London Pasty Company, the Frying Scotsman, Pupuseria la Flor, El Pilon, La Arepa, Beijing House, Kargi Gogo, Taste of Poland, Tabor, Perierra Creperie, Altengartz, Ramy's Lamb Shack, Momo, Tiffin Asha, Batavia, Caspian Kebob, Saaj Baghdad, Gonzo, Burrasca, Minizo, Koi Fusion, Lebanosh, Elmasry, Lindo Michocan, Gamila, Viking Soul Food, Inasal, Taste of Fiji, La Sangucheria, Potato Champion, PDX Empanadas, Delicios, Run Chicken Run, Istanbul Delight, Eurotrash, Saigon Food to Go, and Jaffles and Wraps.
BECAUSE THE MOST UNDERRATED BAND OF THE '90S IS STILL HERE
I am talking, of course, about Everclear.
A lot of people in Portland are dismissive of Everclear. These people sneer as they voice the name Art Alexakis. They dismiss Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow as pop-punk novelty records that killed time and brain cells between Dead Moon and Typhoon.
These people are idiots.
In fact, the two aforementioned albums are the most emotionally vulnerable and melodically clever recordings released by any Portland artist not named "Elliott Smith." And they rock harder. They offer the big, blunt catharsis that will always be described as "dumb" by people who have never had the joy of a welfare Christmas.
Everclear is the band that rattles the bones of a damaged, dismissed city beneath the cheese shops lately built atop it. The band carries with it a rollicking sadness that will never be respected. It will always be weird inside. It will always be lame. Forever and ever, amen. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE CITIZENS WILL GO TO THE MAT OVER HORSES, SWIMMING POOLS AND POT FESTIVALS
Here are a few of the items that Portlanders have argued about during public hearings in City Hall over the past two years:
• Protecting the city's water supply from the fluoride chemicals found in nearly every other city's water supply.
• The number of parking spaces each apartment building should have.
• Police riding horses.
• The possible end of funding for a swimming pool in a basement.
• Which city park should host a marijuana festival.
Yes, this list exposes the Portland citizenry to a certain amount of ridicule. (A lot of ridicule.) But it also betrays a laudable tendency to fight to protect a way of life that would disappear without vigilance. The Buckman Pool does not protect itself, and water does not naturally remain unfluoridated. These things require NIMBYs.
We should be earnestly grateful to the characters who protect this city's characteristics. Without them, we'd just be Seattle. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE THERE'S NO RESTAURANT WITH A DRESS CODE
Portland's finer restaurants have come up with a lot of ways to encourage you not to wear a hat, hoodie, holey jeans or sneakers into their refined environs. "Smart casual," they say, or "business casual," or "casual sophistication."
And yet, no public restaurant in Portland dares tell patrons what to wear. We know, because we hit the best 100 in town for our annual Restaurant Guide and because we are—we've been told—sloppy-ass slouches. Oh, we'll button up from time to time, but, for the most part, I drop $200 on dinner for two dressed in the same hoodie and ball cap I wear to work. And everywhere I go, I'm treated quite well.
Some restaurants get close. Two chefs ago, Genoa had a soft dress code, and it's still partial to nattily dressed diners. Earlier this month, a waiter at Departure, the retrofuturist Asian fusion joint atop the Nines hotel, asked my colleague Matthew Korfhage to remove his cap. Mr. Korfhage politely declined and the matter was dropped. MARTIN CIZMAR.
BECAUSE OUR AIRPORT IS AN UNWILLING BASTION OF FREE SPEECH
Last month, Portland International Airport welcomed tourists to the "Home of the Clear-Cut."
The ad was a protest by Oregon Wild. Despite the group offering cash, the Port of Portland, which runs the airport, never wanted the ads displayed. But thanks to arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and the December ruling of Judge Pro Tem Eric J. Neiman, the ads were shown on a rotating video display above the escalators leading to the airport's baggage claim.
As visitors arrived in Portland, they were greeted with photos of mountainsides stripped bare of trees by rapacious and under-regulated logging. It's as if LaGuardia showed dioramas of garbage trawlers, or Cleveland Hopkins' arrivals gate suggested visiting "the river that caught fire." In short: It was a showcase of the perverse glory of free speech, and a reminder of our shame that should make us proud.
Having proved its point, Oregon Wild stopped paying for the ad, which has been taken down. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE WE HAVE SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST BIZARRE BASKETBALL WRITERS
In the beginning, there was FreeDarko, and it was weird.
FreeDarko was a blog. FreeDarko was named after Darko Milicic, a former NBA player who was not talented at playing basketball. FreeDarko was the brainchild of Bethlehem Shoals, a Wieden + Kennedy copywriter (real name: Nathaniel Friedman) whose analysis of the NBA was often interrupted by digressive fantasias such as "If Dirk Nowitzki Was a Chair, What Kind of Chair Would He Be?"
Shoals' fusion of avant-garde comedy and incisive basketball analysis has garnered him a lot of imitators. Few have taken his model to quite the extremes as his hometown colleagues at the Portland Roundball Society—who concentrate on the Trail Blazers in ways that usually involve several references to dragons. A recent recap by Joe Swide of an otherwise unremarkable Blazers win over the Minnesota Timberwolves started with a long paragraph focusing on the possibility that Timberwolves star Kevin Love missed the game because he was up all night holding open a barf bag for a teammate vomiting raw goat.
These are, it goes without saying, the best Blazers game recaps in the city. AARON MESH.
BECAUSE EVEN OUR CITY FATHERS WERE PROTO-HIPSTERS.
This year, Portland's original hipster hangout is celebrating its centennial.
That, of course, is the Pittock Mansion, the 22-room West Hills estate built for Weekly Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock and his family.
Finished in 1914, the mansion-turned-museum sits on 46 acres just north of West Burnside Street. Take a tour, and you'll learn about Pittock, his wife, Georgiana, and their children. One thing becomes quickly apparent: These pioneering Portlanders shared many of the same interests we do today, including bicycling, ecologically responsible permaculture gardens, hiking and crafting.
"It's not as if they were the only people in their time who were doing these sorts of things," says Marta Bones, executive director of the mansion. "But they were very enthusiastic about them."
Cycling, for starters. Pittock, who wore a thick goatee and locally made wool clothing, was known to take long rides on his fixie.
"He took it up later in his life because bicycling wasn't really a thing until the late 1800s, so he started bicycling when he was a senior," Bones says. "But he would bike all over."
Sometimes Pittock rode all the way to his paper mill in Camas, Wash.—a 23-mile drive on modern roads.
Pittock was also an outdoorsman, ascending Mount Hood four times. His love of the wilderness extended to his own garden, which favored local plants in a naturalistic setting. "There were plans drawn up for elaborate gardens—terraced, manicured flower beds—and he didn't do any of that," Bones says. "He said, 'I like the forest how it is.'"
Georgiana favored sewing and gardening. "You can think of her as a crafty, hands-on person," Bones says, "between all the rose gardening she did and the sewing guild."
The Pittocks also liked to fiddle with then-modern devices: The mansion had lines for both of Portland's rival telephone services to keep the couple on top of news and trends.
"He was always working hard to find out the news early, so he was constantly trying to be aware of what was going on locally," Bones says. "They wanted to be able to communicate with anyone they needed to, in the way we might have an iPad and the best, fastest Internet connection." MARTIN CIZMAR.
BECAUSE WE'RE ABOUT TO FINISH THE ONLY BRIDGE IN THE COUNTRY THAT CARRIES TRAINS, BUSES, BIKES AND PEDESTRIANS BUT NO PERSONAL CARS
BECAUSE WE HAVE FAT VEGANS
Veganism has the tendency to be a scary cult of consumption. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of well-rehearsed, horrific details relating to the meal you're trying to eat, contentious vegans might just leave you facing a real moral dilemma. Only if, however, those facts were being delivered by someone obviously faster, stronger or prettier than yourself.
Fortunately, Portland has fat vegans.
You don't have to worry about whether someone might be a vegan; as the Facebook meme goes, they'll tell you. Here in Portland, though, the quickest way to spot one in the wild is to visit a Voodoo Doughnut and look for any individuals breathing laboriously and breaking a sweat from standing on their tiptoes to see the vegan offerings of the top shelf. This is apparently the proper position to assume when working to demonstrate the superiority of their diet for the economy, the ecology and personal health.
Our fat vegans serve as proof there are no hidden paths to happiness. They show us that morality doesn't arise from that which is best for other beings, but rather that the true meaning of life is about justifying one's own desires and indulging without remorse before ever having to deal with the consequences of those actions. And that even vegan fare can, indeed, be all too delicious. RIAN NIELSEN.
BECAUSE WE ARE NOW THE OFFICIAL ARBITERS OF GOOD COFFEE
Portland has long claimed to be the nation's best coffee city. Since October, when the Alliance for Coffee Excellence opened an office here, we're actually the official deciders of the world's best beans.
"We're in the mecca," says Anna Abatzoglou of the ACE. "Portland very much treasures quality, and our program is about quality coffee."
The ACE is a global not-for-profit organization that owns and operates the "Olympics of coffee," known as the Cup of Excellence. It was founded in 2002 in Missoula, Mont., and still maintains its headquarters there. But, as it expanded, the organization wanted to open an office in a city more accommodating to coffee-world dignitaries and a large base of serious baristas.
That was neither Seattle nor San Francisco. "It was definitely always Portland," Abatzoglou says. "I think Portland has a spirit, a vibe going that is conducive to what's happening in speciality coffee."
The Cup of Excellence involves coffee-bean farmers from 10 countries in Africa and the Americas. Their beans go through a three-week competition where thousands of samples are cupped using a ceramic glass and a bowl-shaped spoon, with scoring based on acidity, sweetness, flavor and aftertaste. "You want to get the proper extraction from the coffee, and there's this very strict protocol for cupping, especially for Cup of Excellence," Abatzoglou says. Once the winners are chosen, the coffee is priced and sold at auction. Sisters Coffee Co., Nossa Familia and Nordstrom Cafe currently serve Cup of Excellence coffee in Portland.
Abatzoglou says the farmer who produces the superior beans is given roughly 85 percent of auction proceeds. The remaining 15 percent goes back to the country coordinators of Cup of Excellence. "Portland really cares about traceability and cares about a sustainable infrastructure," Abatzoglou says. "The coffee is the best coffee in the world, but it's also a win-win situation because it is the farmers who get rewarded."
BECAUSE QUESTLOVE IS OBSESSED WITH US
The Eagles may have robbed Chip Kelly from the state of Oregon, but that's still a lopsided trade, considering that, long ago, Portland stole of the heart of Philadelphia's coolest son.
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson—drummer for rap's greatest live act, the Roots; walking music encyclopedia; Afro enthusiast; Time's Coolest Person of 2013; and, as of last week, the new Tonight Show bandleader—grew up in the city of brotherly love, dog-fighting quarterbacks and winging batteries at Santa Claus. But if his current job didn't require him to stay in New York, he'd be kicking it in the land of craft beer and roses.
"My All-Time Favorite City In The World!" Thompson tweeted last June, when he dropped in to DJ at the Do Over, a hip-hop day party at White Owl Social Club in Southeast Portland. That's not an empty platitude of the sort rock stars use to get cheap applause: He's been shouting out Stumptown for years. Back in 2008, when Rolling Stone asked him about the places he'd most like to live, he said Portland tops his list "because of its record stores—plus it has the most strip clubs in America per capita." Three years later, in Philadelphia magazine, Thompson reiterated his infatuation, ranking us above Austin, Tokyo and, yes, even Philadelphia, adding Nike headquarters and our "awesome throwback '80s arcade" to his reasons for loving Portland.
The tourism bureau might as well shred every livability study and whatever else it uses to sell the city to outsiders: When a guy who's jammed with Elvis Costello, Jay-Z and President Obama is envious of our ability to play BurgerTime whenever we want, what other testimonial do you need? MATTHEW SINGER.
BECAUSE PORTLAND IS QUICKLY GOING CASH-FREE
You'll be telling your grandkids this story, and they won't believe you. In 2010, if you wanted a homemade Bosnian pita from a trailer in front of the Governor Hotel, you had to pull wadded-up fabric—laden with disease and cocaine—out of a strip of cow leather. And the lady at the cart would actually trade that filth for delicious beef burek and phyllo bread.
Well, thank God, that's almost over. Since the addition of point-of-sale card readers such as Square, it's gotten to the point where you can count Portland's cash-only restaurants on 10 knuckles. Lazy Portland has been a ridiculously enthusiastic adopter of credit-card readers.
In 2012, our city was No. 1 in per-capita Square usage nationwide. Today, we're still among the leading cities, while also using scrappy, local card-reader startups like Ulutu. We currently count 75,000 of those little Square readers among the city's merchants. That's one for every nine people in town. You can buy fresh raspberries with your debit card at the freaking farmers market. You can use cards to pay for parking. Just this year, Escape From New York Pizza backed down from a 30-year cash-only policy. Beulahland, Dots Cafe and the Slammer Tavern now take credit. Even the vast majority of food carts have little readers on their phones and iPads—although notably not Burrasca, our newly minted Food Cart of the Year.
We offer, humbly, a very tiny hit list of brick-and-mortar holdouts, in no particular order: Voodoo Doughnut, Boxer Ramen, Fuller's, Taqueria Los Gorditos, Roadside Attraction, Lemongrass Thai.
Just wait, in five years there will be protests at their doors. It'll be 1968 all over again. It'll be Apple's "1984" commercial. Watch out. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BECAUSE THE HOOLEY REATTACHED SOUTH PORTLAND TO THE CITY
I moved to Southwest Portland's Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill neighborhood 40 years ago, just before Willamette Week published its first issue. My house—heat, water and electricity included—totaled $90 a month.
Back then, CTLH—which officially shortened its name to South Portland in 2006—was a hippie haven home to the city's biggest LSD manufacturer. It has everything I want: great neighbors, modest Victorian houses, a grocery store across the street, easy access to I-5.
That last item created the neighborhood's one major drawback: The Willamette River lies just a few hundred yards to the east, but it's been largely inaccessible since the freeway severed the neighborhood.
But, a few years back, the city hung a tram on Pill Hill. With it came a sop to the neighborhood in the form of a 700-foot steel-box girder bridge across I-5 for pedestrians and cyclists. That bridge—officially named for former U.S. Congresswoman Darlene Hooley but often mistakenly called the Gibbs Street bridge—has changed the way my neighborhood relates to the city. Suddenly, we're connected to the waterfront parks, the new Sellwood Bridge, the Hawthorne Bridge, the Esplanade and the streetcar line that will soon be a complete loop between downtown and the east side. In a year or so, it'll be possible to bicycle from my house all the way to Gresham while riding only a few blocks on city streets.
What could be better? RICHARD H. MEEKER.
BECAUSE ROBIN LOPEZ IS THE COOLEST GUY IN THE NBA
Portland has a habit of falling for the wrong Blazers.
There was our fling with Rudy Fernandez, who briefly enamored us with his exotic Eurotrashiness before whining his way out of the league and back to España. Patty Mills was sweet, but he was a certified towel-waver. Channing Frye was certainly charming, and he reciprocated our feelings, but his favorite restaurant was the Buffalo Gap in John's Landing—major red flag.
What we have with Robin Lopez is different. He's different. He's a lot like us. He loves comic books. He's obsessed with all things Disney. He uses Twitter and Instagram to make references to Boy Meets World and The Goonies and crushing on Emmy Rossum. He plays Bruce Springsteen deep cuts as his pregame warm-up music. In a city of overgrown man-children, the Blazers' starting center is the biggest kid of all. If he didn't look like a walking oak tree and speak in the rumbling baritone of an orc standing guard over a medieval castle, he wouldn't appear out of place hanging on a porch in Southeast Portland, ranking Harry Potter characters and arguing the merits of traditional cartoon animation versus CGI.
These are not things NBA players are supposed to care about. Professional athletes are celebrated for having a single-minded focus on the game—see the media's exaltation of near-sociopaths Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose. When Lopez and his twin brother, Brook, were at Stanford, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times wrote profiles gawking at their love of video games and Michael Jackson. But Robin has never played up his outside interests for marketing purposes. He isn't trying to brand himself as the NBA player non-basketball fans can relate to. He's just a 7-foot, 255-pound rebounding machine, who also happens to rock a big reddish-brown 'fro and have strong opinions on wizards.
Lopez doesn't seem to know why any of this makes him cool—which is precisely why he's the coolest guy in the league. And as long as the Blazers keep winning with him in the middle, he's ours. May this relationship live long and prosper. MATTHEW SINGER.
ˆ[This article previously listed the wrong location for the Do Over hip hop party. This has been corrected.]