Best Wearable Skateboards
With its strong skateboard community and creative populace, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the pre-eminent maker of recycled skateboarding jewelry in the world calls Portland home.
About a decade ago when MapleXO started, no one had ever thought of fashioning earrings, necklaces and bracelets from discarded skateboard decks. The Portland company has been often-imitated since. Founder Lindsay Jo Holmes began repurposing skate decks into earrings in her living room on Southeast Division Street in 2006. At barely 5 feet tall, the blond skateboarder may not look like she knows her way around power tools, but over the years she's honed her skills to become the best.
"When we first started MapleXO, the goal was to save as many skateboards from landfills as we could," Holmes says. "The copycats were really discouraging at first, but now that it's been so long and we're still at the top of the skateboard jewelry food chain, they're kind of just helping us fulfill the mission that we set out to do."
The current MapleXO operation can be found at 2925 NE Glisan St., in the Mill Shop and Co-op. The space is shared with high-end bike maker Ascari, renowned tattoo machine maker Seth Ciferri, and several professional woodworkers. The storefront location is open whenever someone is available to staff it, displaying merchandise from several Portland artists. MapleXO is still a small operation, with only two full-time employees, but it's a staple in the skate community. MapleXO recently collaborated with legendary skateboarder John Cardiel on a record adapter for 45s, and created custom ramps for skate events throughout the city.
Portland skaters still help make it all possible. "We show up to the shop, and there's a stack of broken skateboards on the porch, with no note or anything," Holmes says, laughing. "It's so Portland." BROOKE GEERY.
You wouldn't be wrong if your gut reaction to seeing a yellow envelope in your windshield wiper was to crumple it up and walk away. The parking crunch is one of Portland's many growing pains. But make sure to check the date on that ticket before throwing it on the ground in disgust. If it's April 1, it may be a voucher for a free slice from Sizzle Pie. Getting punked with free pizza would seem like an odd April Fools' joke under usual circumstances, but there's nothing usual about this hesher metal-themed pizza chainlet known for blasting Motörhead while serving up pies with names like "The Ol' Dirty" until 4 am. Since 2012, Sizzle Pie has issued windshield-wiper "citations" from the "Circuit Court Pizza Office" every April 1 that look exactly like a ticket from Portland parking enforcement, except for the fine print: "You have been found guilty and sentenced to one free slice of pizza from Sizzle Pie." The street outside Willamette Week's office was littered with them by midafternoon this April 1, leading us to believe our neighbors in the Nob Hill district either didn't get the joke or were above the idea of chowing down on a free slice of "Napalm Breath." Their loss was our gain: We snatched up the strays and ate like kings for a week. PETE COTTELL.
Best Blazers Streetwear
The art of Trillblazin (trillblazin.myshopify.com) is not an exact science.
"One thing we have going for us is we play off each other really well," says Ira LaFontaine, who co-founded the Portland streetwear brand with friend Keith Kunis. "We start just brainstorming and…'"
"What he's trying to say," interjects Kunis, "is he comes over to my house, we turn on Netflix and watch our favorite TGIF shows from the '90s, and we go, 'That could be a great shirt idea.'"
He's joking, but it's funny because it's sort of true. The Trillblazin aesthetic crosses millennial nostalgia with an adoration for the Trail Blazers, hip-hop ("trill" being the Southern rap term for "keeping it real"), and the iconography of Web 2.0. So far, the duo has yet to incorporate Urkel or Balki into any of their gear, but they've turned Rasheed Wallace into a Simpsons character, lifted fonts from Kendrick Lamar and N.W.A, and appropriated logos from Tommy Hilfiger, FUBU and the Portland Timbers.
"We never thought it was going to be a full-on clothing company," LaFontaine says. "We went into it thinking we wanted to create something that's not out there right now."
LaFontaine and Kunis met in high school, bonding over sneakers, Internet tomfoolery and, especially, the "Jail Blazers" teams of the early aughts. One of Kunis' fondest teenage memories is the time he exchanged a dozen or so words with Wallace while flipping through CDs at Sam Goody in Lloyd Center. "He was wearing gray Blazers sweatpants with a giant gray hoodie," he says. "At the time I was like, 'That must be like 10 XL he's wearing.'" LaFontaine started an Instagram account in 2013 as a repository for his online collection of photos of former players. On Instagram he developed Trillblazin's social media "voice": all-caps, lots of emojis, absurd photoshopping.
Without much of a concerted push, the brand went viral, attracting more than 10,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter. The shirts followed. Nearly every piece of apparel they've produced has sold out. Its most popular so far is the "Trillard," a jersey-style design playing off the "Keep It 100" emoji. (The only dud so far? A similar design emblazoned with "L-Smooth," LaMarcus Aldridge's childhood nickname.)
LaFontaine and Kunis have since expanded Trillblazin into the offline world, hosting shoe events and Blazers-themed art shows. They plan to continue throwing quarterly parties, and might even launch a line of baby clothes. That last part may be another joke. But, as Kunis says, "Everyone wants Trill Babies." MATTHEW SINGER.
Is there any torture more keen than biking next to a cool, glittering river in triple-digit heat, with no way to get to the water?
Enter The Dock, the public strip of planks extending into the Willamette's otherwise inaccessible waters just south of the Hawthorne Bridge along the Eastbank Esplanade—at the end of one of the city's most-trafficked streets, with ample parking and public transportation, all within easy walking distance of OMSI, Bunk Bar, Noraneko and Water Avenue Coffee.
Leave aside the occasional shallow controversy between day drinkers and dragon boaters—there's room for everyone. The Dock may just be the most important 10 feet of shoreline in all of Portland. A perch there gives you just about the only place in the central city where you can dip your feet in the newly clean waters of one of the mightiest north-flowing rivers in the nation. Strip off your shirt and gaze at the sweltering city, which now feels yours more than ever. With a bathing suit and beer in hand, you are a king or queen of Portland.
But even more than a king, here you are truly a member of a citywide community. As the de facto downtown beach—where even more beach is being constructed with $300,000 of city money—there's the chance to high-five a wide cross section of the people with whom we share this river town. You will share the Dock with boaters, skateboard dads, and pretty party people alike. It's your Dock, but it's everyone else's Dock, too. Say hi to your fellow sweaty city dwellers, and stay cool. ADRIENNE SO.
Best Craigslist Ad
Some people like to stand on the shoulders of giants. Others ride on the backs of giant, freaking dinosaurs.
In June, the monster appeared in the rear recesses of the Internet. It was a harnessed skeletal beast, with teeth the size of shinbones and seemingly built for speed, with wheels on its feet and tail. The creature was being ridden by a dude with an outfit straight outta Out of Africa.
"She's a bit difficult to handle," read the accompanying copy, "but she's never attacked anyone in the crowds that form whenever I take her out of the warehouse where she lives. I labored for many months on this act of creation but now find that I'm not the right rider for this beautiful creature."
At the top, in Times New Roman, are the following words: "T-Rex Art Bike—$2,000."
The mighty Tyrannosaurus rex is the property and the invention, as it turns out, of Willie Hatfield of Eugene, a bike engineer whose very first pedal-powered project, 10 years ago in Michigan, was an underwater bicycle shaped like a torpedo. "Back in college, I made a human-powered submarine for a competition," he says. "That was as part of a team. We were only down 40 feet. It was like a drag race. We ended up winning that one."
He built the dino bike three years ago for a kinetic sculpture race in Corvallis. "It's fine on the road," Hatfield says, "but for kinetic races you're supposed to go in mud and sand and water. I was trying to climb a sand dune and I ended up breaking its back, and I had to reconstruct it."
The dinosaur has since healed, but Hatfield has outgrown him. He and his partner will travel the world by boat with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, helping porpoises and dolphins. They will ride bicycles they built on each berth where they wash ashore.
And so the young dino must find a home. Hatfield says he's gotten plenty of interest, but for now the baby dino is still an orphan. "In general, people are really excited about it," he says, "and then people realize they don't have space for a 12-foot T-Rex." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Best Victory for East Portland Equity
The road to Powell Butte is not promising. The lost highway of outer Southeast Powell Boulevard steers through promises of lap dances and bowling parties—a neon mirage accessed from bike lanes that get more use as sidewalks. The biggest one-time investment of Portland dollars here at Gresham's edge is $80 million for the city's new underground drinking-water tanks (a construction job despised by defenders of Mount Tabor's open-air reservoirs). Yet at a stoplight marked only by a gas station, a new road rises from past failures into cleaner pine air, arriving at Portland's most breathtaking public park since…well, Mount Tabor. Powell Butte Nature Park (16160 SE Powell Blvd.) acts as a form of reparations to the Portland citizens shoved to the eastern fringes of the city. A visit means negotiating with the teens grimly vaping in the parking lot; they are, in their way, welcoming you to wonderland. The city's easternmost Benson Bubbler water fountain (and another one for dogs) leads to paved, wheelchair-accessible trails that tangle into forested glens, grasslands where swifts whirl and dive, and a 360-degree lookout that showcases Mount Hood burning the color of a cherry Slurpee in the sunset. (Other awards this place deserves: best moonrise, best lover's lane, best spot to smoke weed outdoors.) Powell Butte is the zenith of an untamed, inclusive, less homogenous Portland—the kind of location naysayers claim this city no longer nourishes. It's the best money we ever spent. AARON MESH.