"It was the best of times, it was the worst"...hey, wait. The opening line from the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities doesn't fit for Portland, does it?

In fact, we have it good. First-round draft pick? Check. Multiple mentions in every national publication about how friggin' awesome it is to live here? Check. A summer with more music and outdoor happenings than any other city of our size? Check. A racially diverse and politically mixed populace? Well....

OK, so everything isn't always rosy in the Rose City. We should know. In fact, some critics say we spend much of the rest of the year writing about the worst of Portland. Not this week. It's all bouquets and air kisses. Cheats, crooks and other assorted creeps will just have to wait. This week is our BEST OF PORTLAND, where we celebrate everything that makes this burg the place we love to call home.

Now, what makes a best? WW comes at it two different ways. In the middle of this issue you'll find the Readers' Poll—142 of your favorite places to eat, shop, drink, etc. You gals and guys voted—a lot.

Wrapped around the Readers' Poll are 140-plus people, places and assorted Portland-centric things WW's staff has designated as our own "best." Editors, staffers and assorted other riff-raff shared their consuming passion for their own favorite, albeit sometimes very strange, idea of what they think a "best" should be. On those pages (and online at wweek.com), we reveal mysteries wrapped in enigmas wrapped in bacon—everything from cruising coffin-carriers to Buddhist strippers to, well, why don't you just peel open these pages to find out?

All our bests,
Byron Beck
Special Sections Editor

Best Reason to Believe Again

My, how far we've come.

In 2001, our "Best Of Portland" cover photo was also Blazer-related. It was a portrait of Katherine Topaz—WW's former art director—who caused a minor frenzy after being physically removed from a Blazer playoff game when she refused to put down her homemade "Trade Whitsitt" sign. In that one stroke, Topaz captured the frustration of an entire city fed up with Blazer General Manager Bob Whitsitt and the paddy wagon that was then this city's professional basketball team.

We take a fair amount of credit—or blame—for the piling on that became sport during much of the last decade. This newspaper actually coined the term "Jail Blazers" in a story we ran in 1996. But the headlines stemmed from the players themselves. There was Isaiah Rider, who came to Portland after assaulting friends and bar managers, and made Russell Crowe seem like a gentle guy; Qyntel Woods, who staged dogfights in his Portland home long before Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was accused of the same offense, and Ruben Patterson, a serial domestic abuser who was charged with, and entered a modified guilty plea to, the attempted rape of his nanny. Then, of course, there was Rasheed Wallace, a temper-tantrum-throwing boy in the body of a 6-foot-11 forward, who captured the essence of the old Blazers when he said that the only thing he cared about was that somebody "CTC" (cut the check). Yes, the Blazers made Tonya Harding look like a role model.

Flash forward to this past season: Martell Webster, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge—these were guys worth rooting for. Sure, they still lost a lot of games, but they were our losers. Winning could wait.

Then came Greg Oden.

The expectations that have been placed on this 19-year-old rookie are, frankly, insane. Can he save the franchise? Can he bring us the trophy? Can he restore the glory of the Rip City era? Can he solve the crisis in the Middle East?

We have no idea. We do know that his talent is exceeded only by his self-effacing personality and his wry sense of humor. Oden was kind enough to be our cover boy this year and show up for a hectic photo shoot at Pioneer Courthouse Square. He even donned a hastily stenciled "Best of Portland" T-shirt and BOP ball. In the midst of the chaos, WW editor Mark Zusman explained to the youngster what all the fuss was about: "We think you're the best of Portland," he said. Without skipping a beat, Oden replied, "Not yet."