Portland has always had a reputation for being a tough place to meet that special someone, but in '89 it started to get a little bit easier. This can be largely attributed to the arrival of the fabulous Sheila Baraga, Stumptown's very own "conquistadora of loneliness." Her infamous Wednesday-night get-togethers began a couple of years back at the Green Room (hence the walls clad in Polaroids), then migrated to the Empire Room, and finally moved on to their present location at Baraga's lovely restaurant/bar, the Sapphire Hotel (5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-6333). She's the pretty face behind hundreds of hook-ups and a handful of marriages, too. So if you're kind of, sort of looking for your soulmate, head out to the Sapphire on Wednesday nights.
best lip reader
Cerebrally chapped bookworms found relief in July when local webmaster Stacy Bias debuted Literati Lip Balm, a puckery library of lip smackers titled after lit heavyweights like ShakeSpearmint, PoeMegranate, Alcott Apricot and Brontë Berry. "I'm a writer and an editor, so this was the next logical step," says Bias, who edits technodyke.com and created the super-sized local celebration FatGirl Speaks in '03. The Literati series is a follow-up to Bias' first, racier line of lip balms, Pussy Pucker Pots (think Labia Lemon and Chocolate Nipple Ripple). But whether she's championing gay rights or literacy, a portion of sales go to local and national nonprofits. Bias' only lip-service problem? Finding ways to highlight enough women authors. "That's hard," she says. "because not much rhymes with Dickinson." Get schmeared with the written word at In Other Words (3734 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-6003) or at www.literatibalm.com.
best nude squeezeboxer
No house party (or street corner) is safe from the naked wrath of Aubrey Birdwell--an exhibitionist gone expert accordionist who will infiltrate your bathtub for performance's sake and make a crowd of people feel extremely awkward (but entertained nevertheless), all in a night's work. While his performances (clothed and unclothed) are for the most part on an impromptu basis, his résumé includes the circus at the Crystal Ballroom earlier this year and a few stints at Chunk 666 bike-gang parties (but more importantly, he's the reigning champion of Voodoo Doughnuts' prestigious Cock Fest 2004). But Birdwell's not in it for the fame or the fortune. Rather, as he puts it, "I am clearly a self-indulgent pervert."
best place to walk on water and air
Even in a city as pretty as Portland, finding the right spot for a romantic first kiss can be pretty tough. Washington Park? Council Crest? Rocky Butte? Well, they're all nice, but if you want the first kiss to be truly breathtaking, get your head out of the clouds and pick someplace low--really low. Head to the end of the pier that branches off the Eastbank Esplanade between the Burnside and Steel bridges, the best point along this thoroughly romantic walkway. At sunset the skyline is that much more majestic and sublime rising above you and reflected in the water lapping quietly at your feet, the scene luring you and your future lover into that very first smackeroo.
best privates in public
Portland has its share of graffiti, but nothing puts a smile on one's face like walking down the street and seeing a stunning "Vagina" scrawled in beautiful, cursive-style letters. Vagina's subversive street artist cum calligrapher reclaims and celebrates the V-word in every stroke of dazzling silver paint. It's not obscene. It's not gross. It's just pretty. Look for the elusive Vagina on highway overpasses, building walls, signposts or anything unprotected from a spray-paint can or pen. It's the best physical graffiti since Zeppelin.
best burlesque queen
A self-taught dancer, Lucy Fur started as a stripper while attending college in Portland and quickly began creating her own burlesque routines for cabarets around town. Her love of the early-'60s go-go era, along with "that cheesiness factor" of performers like Ann-Margret and Nancy Sinatra, inspires sets in which she takes on a multitude of erotic guises. They include a baton-twirling Rose Festival majorette, a rain-loving minx in see-through slicker and flower pasties, and a silver-skinned robot girl with blinking pasties in a crowd of dancing toy robots, to name a few. This 27-year-old (a busty 34-24-34 with a curvy yet fit look) aims for a feeling of spontaneity in her pieces. "It's good when you're sort of buzzing, 'cause you don't know what's happening next," Miss Fur says. "It gives you a shot of adrenaline that's visible to the audience." Miss Fur dances weekly gigs at Dante's Sinferno Cabaret and Mary's Club (where she performs her more explicit routines); and a complete schedule is available at www.lucyfurpresents.com.
best way to get a spine
Fellas, do emails mocking your tiny penis and inept love-making skills play on your already fragile self-esteem? Does fear of rejection paralyze you so that you can't walk up to some fine filly and say, "Hey, hot ass, let me take you to Love Land"? That may mean you're shy. If that's the case, there is hope beyond a life of perpetual log-flogging. The Shy Man's Dating School (shymansdatingschool.com) in Corvallis offers a series of classes, workshops and counseling for men who are "socially paralyzed by shyness." So it's not in Portland. So what? At least there's hope.
best tootsie shop for "tootsie"
Attention, all cross-dressers: Need black patent-leather ankle straps with the word "SEX" spelled in rhinestones on the 4-inch heels? How about clear acrylic platforms with red glitter that'll make you look like an X-rated Dorothy Gale? These and other flashy footwear can be found at famed entertainer Poison Waters' favorite shopping spot: Cathie's Lingerie & Novelties (8201 SE Powell Blvd., 771-9979, cindies.com). Although unfortunately there is no "Cathie" (Texas businessman Robert Hunter is the owner of this shop and five--under the name "Cindie's"--in Texas), the shop boasts a helpful staff that'll dish up fashion advice to young and old. Many male shoppers pick up shoes for themselves. "When they ask for a size 13," says assistant manager Jessica Bennett, "it's a dead giveaway." With up to size 16 available via mail order, Cathie's is the place where all you Tootsies will find something for your tootsies.
best topless celebration
When Madeline Kokes received good news about her breast cancer--a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation apparently had worked--she wanted to celebrate. And not just with a little old party. Instead, just as dark was falling on June 16, the 44-year-old gathered friends and family, decorated all their chests with body paint and pasties, and led a colorful, topless victory parade around her Laurelhurst neighborhood. The event, dubbed the First Annual Bare-Chested Boobie Romp Around the Block, was a way "to celebrate all breasts, no matter how small or big or what shape or what they've been through," Kokes says.
best history buffs
A score of Washington County folks showed naked enthusiasm for historical preservation when they posed nude in an attempt to raise some cash for a big purchase. The object of desire (and the site of the photo shoot) was the 150-year-old A.T. Smith House on the edge of Forest Grove. The two-story Greek Revival house, one of only 12 similar structures left standing in Oregon, was unoccupied (unless you count meth-cooking squatters). The resulting calendar project raised a few eyebrows and $20,000--enough for a down payment on the $174,000 property, which includes two acres of land near Gales Creek. The Friends of Historic Forest Grove hope to close the deal this fall and say they don't plan on going native again. "The competition is tough in the nude-calendar market," says calendar girl Barb Smith, who is now known around town as "Ms. December." The group could still use a bit more cash to seal the deal. To help, check out www.historicforestgrove.org.