Best of Portland 2014: Best Civic Life



It's Tilikum Crossing. Yes, the hours after TriMet announced the official name of its $134 million transit bridge were filled with some unfortunate jokes about orgasms and the fluids thereof, as well as some far more sophisticated humor about how the name Tilikum was previously assigned to a murderous orca. (You're welcome.) But upon reflection, this is an awfully good bridge name.

For starters, it just sounds natural in conversation. "You take the Tilikum down to OMSI and catch the 6 up to Broadway," etc. It flows seamlessly into a recitation of PDX bridges: Morrison, Marquam, Tilikum. And its meaning—"people," or "gathering"—feels apt for a span that will carry groups in buses, trains and streetcars. It's like finding a cooler way to say "carpool."

But what's best about the moniker is that it's the first time in memory that Portland has utilized a language besides English. It's Chinook wawa ("wawa" means "language"), which grew from a blend of the tribal language of the Grand Ronde and the tongues of the fur trappers who arrived to wrest away the land. 

Tilikum Crossing is an acknowledgment of an undestroyed language that is, in and of itself, a gathering. Or, if you have to joke about it: This is a bridge over troubled wawa. AARON MESH.


When not spinning hot, new club mixes at Portland-area benefit galas, former Mayor "DJ Sam" Adams brewed his own beer. There's perhaps some symbolism in the fact that current Mayor Charlie Hales, a University of Virginia alum who enjoys tooling down the Pacific coastline on his sailboat, makes his own wine. In his Eastmoreland basement.

The city's most prominent home vintner has been winemaking since 2009—mostly pinot noir, with the occasional pinot gris. Hales and 15 pals, mostly veterans of the regional planning agency Metro, travel to Banks each year to pick grapes and turn them into mash. Hales makes about 200 bottles a year, which he labels "Amuse." "They do the first fermentation in one guy's garage," says mayoral spokesman Dana Haynes, "and the second in the Hales' basement." Then they drink it.

How's the product? The red's a bit fruit-forward, but the mayor succeeds very well in making a half-sweet white. Hales says the 2012 vintage is solid, "but I'm not giving up my day job." AARON MESH.


I stare dumbfounded at the menu dangling above the register: white Korean characters next to dollar figures on a red canvas. Seeing my confusion, the chef points me to a second menu, this one with helpful pictures. I point to stir-fried cuttlefish. He nods.

This isn't Seoul, but Beaverton. Out in the 'burbs—places like Waba Sushi and Grill, just across the intersection from Buffalo Wild Wings—stands the state's most impressive collection of Asian businesses, which feel far more like an ethnic enclave in New York or L.A. than anything in Portland proper. Here, within a mile and a half of the Beaverton Transit Center, betwixt standard suburban landmarks like Olive Garden, Dairy Queen and Izzy's, are nestled about a dozen Korean bars and eateries, from well-known restaurants like Nakwon and DJK, to divey spots where the Korean-born toast with big bottles of Hite and tuck into back rooms for karaoke.

At Waba, I was among five customers—some of whom sat with the chef for dinner—and the only one who needed English, or to be shown how to properly shake the white plastic bottle of Walmae Makgeolli. I had a lot more questions, but wasn't equipped to ask. JOHN LOCANTHI.


On the corner of Southeast Grand Avenue and Morrison Street sits a building that, by any account, is starkly out of place. It seemed that way back in 1928, too, when the 12 stories of the Weatherly Building (516 SE Morrison St.) towered above the rest of Southeast Portland, just as they do today.

From the rooftop on a recent morning, the Weatherly's unobstructed 360-degree view offered an unusually quiet, tranquil look at the city.

The building was the brainchild of the proud George W. Weatherly, local ice cream mogul—he sold ice cream to most of the state and held the patent on the first machine to produce ice cream cones—and prominent booster of the modest east side of town.

For years, the Romanesque Weatherly Building played host to its namesake's ice cream parlor, and was a crowning achievement of a push to make Portland's downtown bicoastal. But whatever momentum the movement to develop the east side of the Willamette had was stymied by the Great Depression in 1930. The grandiose Oriental Theatre, which Weatherly built next to the tower and made more opulent than any theater on Broadway, never found much success. It was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a parking lot. The tall, gray building next door survived.

Weatherly's tower has been stagnant essentially since its inception. Today, it's home to benign offices, a barbershop, a cafe and an athletic store. A bank takes up most of the first floor. It stands as a reminder that the east side has yet to flourish in the way Weatherly wanted. It's even rumored among employees that a ghost (George?) can be heard fidgeting around, perhaps plotting to convince developers to build on the east bank. ALEX MIERJESKI.


Drunk with #Animals of Southwest

Welcome to Portland, fresh-faced 20-something: It's time to drink! After your first boozy night downtown, you'll want to snap some appropriately weird shots with your new friends. Well, head to the blocks around Southwest Yamhill and Morrison streets near 5th Avenue, where bronze bears and sea lions frolic in cement pools.

Tea-bag that otter. Cause some beaver-on-beaver action. Lick the sea lion. Since their installation in 1986, Georgia Gerber's sculptures have, as intended, provided "a sense of the wild in the midst of a busy city."

Transplant #Brunch

You've made it. You've landed a room in a dilapidated house with a dozen other transplants and a part-time gig at a food cart. You had your birthday party at Sassy's. You're finally rocking the faux ear cuff purchased at your first Saturday Market—now it's time to tell the world you've arrived. Sure, a shot of your mug and a heart in cappuccino foam made with locally roasted beans would suffice, but you'll quickly learn that brunch is the most hallowed cultural tradition in the City of Roses. Whether it's a subtle smirk above a glowing omelette at Mother's downtown, or an effortlessly intentional candid at Jam on Hawthorne Boulevard, brunch makes the ideal setting for a transplant's social-media debut as a real Portlander.

Ironic Selfie in Front of a Tourist Taking a Selfie in Line at #Voodoo Doughnut

We've all seen the hundreds of Midwestern aunts in khaki cargos packed with Powell's memorabilia and rain gear, standing in line for decent doughnuts topped with stale cereal.

Duped by the manipulative renown of the pink packaging, they wait for hours in the Old Town sun, oohing and ahhing at every facially pierced passerby and the "Keep Portland Weird" mural. Little do these visitors know that while they capture duck-faced memories, locals are making an artful mockery of their misplaced patience. With a deft flick of the wrist, a skilled self-photographer can capture a flattering selfie while including a gaggle of tourists taking their own Voodoo queue selfie in the background.

Trapped by the #WorldNakedBikeRide

Watching a parade of nude bodies pass like a locomotive before your car may sound like cosmic fortune, but anyone trying to drive anywhere on the inner eastside on that fateful Saturday in June felt anything but #blessed.

Even if you're expecting the Naked Bike Ride, there's no way of plotting an alternative way home since the organizers don't disclose the route until the ride starts. Instead, naked bodies blocked every major thoroughfare from Mount Tabor to downtown. Bored policemen waved cars by as the wall of pale, Portland flesh obscured natural traffic flow. You should look bored too. LAUREN TERRY.


The Worst Day of the Year Ride was always something of a joke. For 13 years, the group bike ride had been held in early February, ostensibly on the worst weather day of the year. This being Portland, that meant everyone put on mittens and sweaters to frolic in the mist just long enough to get chilly-willy so they could properly enjoy hot cocoa with marshmallows. Tee-hee-hee!

Then, this year, it snowed. When the first flakes fell, organizers canceled the more challenging route through the West Hills for safety reasons, encouraging everyone to come out for cocoa, doughnuts and an easy ride around the flat streets of downtown. "Have no fear about the forecast," they said.

Mother Nature would not be so easily ignored. After 13 years of mockery, she answered the challenge, spitting sweet, icy vengeance on the bumptious and indolent outdoorspersons of Portland.

The snow kept coming. Then, freezing rain hit. More snow. With about a foot of snow on the ground, topped in some places by an inch of ice, organizers were forced to cancel everything—even the cocoa.

What did the newly humbled Portlanders do? They got out their cross-country skis, and skated down Burnside Street. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Best of Portland 2014 

Best Listens | Best Buys | Best Moves | Best Animals | Best Civic Life 

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WWeek 2015

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