OR Day 5 - Hoovers, Haystacks, and Highlights
Today Dana and I started out by getting breakfast at one of Portland’s most famous (or infamous) restaurants: Voodoo Doughnut. This very Portland counterculture doughnut shop is famous equally for their great doughnuts and their bad taste, reveling in kitschy bright pink buildings, voodoo imagery, and stunt flavors like a Nyquil Glazed doughnut that got banned by the board of health. I knew as soon as I saw the little Voodoo Dolls out front that we had made a great decision.
If you’re not like me and their decision to lean in to all things weird aesthetically is a bit off putting, then the appeal of the place becomes much more clear as soon as you walk in and see their doughnut displays. I’ve never identified more with Homer Simpson than when my mouth instantly started watering looking at these beautiful pastries. Truly the colors and kooky designs, really made these look feel more like works of art than breakfast. Flavors ranged from the staples like Boston Cream Pie (here called Portland Cream), Glazed, and Sprinkled to the more far out like Captain Crunch, Tang, and Hibiscus.
It was a stressful painful decision to only pick one doughnut from this bunch, but ultimately I had to go with the Voodoo Doll Doughnut purely to admire the design up close. The doll is a raised yeast doughnut base with raspberry jelly inside, chocolate frosting, and a little pretzel stake through its heart. It was just perfect, and I don’t normally go for jelly donuts so it’s a testament to how well balanced and textured everything was that I enjoyed how it tasted even more than how it looked. Dana went with a more conventional looking doughnut but with a more unusual flavor, selecting the glazed Blueberry cake doughnut, which I was informed was very tasty.
I would also be remiss to not mention that they also had a little gremlin chef and a pinball machine in the back corner of the store so I was very much smitten with this establishment.
After pigging out on doughnuts, we stopped for coffee at a really snazzy wood and brick cafe called Ristretto Coffee Roasters. Recently they seem to be a bit more famous for some unfortunate comments by a co-owner about the #MeToo Movement, but that hadn’t happened yet while I was there so I was just able to enjoy their nice digs and strong coffee guilt free.
Our next stop was the Vacuum Cleaner Museum, a small museum dedicated to the history of everyone’s favorite dirtbags and suck ups. The museum is housed along the back wall of an active sales floor at Stark’s Vacuum’s and is partly a clever marketing strategy but mostly a loving tribute to all the vacuums come and gone. If I’m being honest, Dana and I mostly just went here because it was literally across the street from where we got coffee, but we both ended up being surprised by how much we loved it here. Vacuum cleaners are such a mundane object, that if you’re like me you probably barely ever think about them when you’re not using them, but when you see the history of changing vacuum designs from the museum’s oldest piece from 1900 to today you end up getting a surprisingly interesting window into the 20th century. You see the improving technology naturally as the first ones were hand pumped and didn’t have collection bags, but you also see from the design elements where the average consumers’ head was at with industrial efficiency giving way to sleek “futuristic” models as the World Wars ended and the Space Race began. The most surprising things to me were that the first electric vacuums were invented as early as 1900 (and by a woman no less!) which was a big jump in just one year from those hand pumped guys, and the fact that a little company called Eureka almost took down the Hoover as the leading Vacuum brand in the country before the Great Depression forced them to cut back on their meteoric rise to the top. I wasn’t expecting feminist science or David and Goliath stories from my Vacuum History but it was a nice lesson in not judging a book by its cover. Plus at the end of the display they had some vintage models you could play around with which is both oddly satisfying and a very clever way of getting customers to clean their store for them.
After our arms hurt from vacuuming, I took Dana back to the Grotto from a few days ago, because I didn’t want her to miss out on the view from the Meditation Chapel. I’m glad I went back, because it really doesn’t get any less breathtaking a second time around.
Because I’d already been there, I didn’t really take any photos of the Botanical Garden because I didn’t want the old blog to become too too repetitive, and it was sort of nice to just enjoy being in nature and not feeling the need to document it. It was a little bit more “in the moment” than I normally get to be, and it was nice getting to share all the fun sights with my buddy. I did take some pictures of cool religious art (especially the mosaic on the left) because I had missed those on the first go around and I thought they were pretty neat.
Lest you feel a bit deprived of that sweet garden action, our next stop was Portland’s Washington Park, 410 acres of beautifully green public park. The park is also home to the International Rose Test Garden which is the oldest public rose test garden in the United States and was our main destination there. It was founded in 1915 when some concerned American Rose lovers convinced Portland city officials to set aside some public land to create a safe haven for international rose varieties that might be in danger from the fighting overseas, which is an insanely wholesome origin story. The garden has over 10,000 rose bushes of approximately 650 varieties, but because it was still April only a few had bloomed already. The ones that had though were just stunning, with such vibrant colors and incredible geometries. Even without all the flowers in bloom the huge trees and paths all through the park gave us plenty of views to make up for it. They also had a Shakespeare Garden which was dedicated to just roses mentioned in the Bard’s works which I thought was a cute bit of literary curation.
I think my favorite non-rose thing we saw in the park was this abstract fountain built by sculptor Lee Kelly and architect James Howell. It was such an unusual shape, but something about the figure it cast and the gently flowing water was really lovely and soothing in an unexpected way.
After tearing Dana away the Rose Test Garden (she wanted to buy so many seeds for her and her mum, but we eventually settled on just a few), we decided to get some lunch at another Food Cart Pod on Mississippi Avenue. While we were walking to our lunch, we ended up getting briefly sidetracked by the wildly eccentric antique and oddity shop Flutter. They have a lovely mish-mash of contemporary local arts crafts with vintage items and antiques of varying degrees of strangeness all arranged in a very strategic clutter. We got a real kick out of the place, but since it was still a business I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to take photos or not, but I made the executive decision that I had to at least photograph their sweet tribute to David Bowie hilariously placed right next to what appears to be a taxidermied hyena as well as the very dapper security guard out front.
We decided to get lunch at the Prost! Marketplace, a cozy food cart pod located in the expanded patio of the namesake German pub. It was definitely smaller than the city block wide food cart pod we went to last time, but it had a more laid-back backyard barbecue vibe to it (even though only one of the food trucks did BBQ). We decided we both needed to eat some vegetables this week (okay Dana was going to eat healthy anyways and I felt guilty if you want the truth) so went to a vegan food cart called the Native Bowl. I forget what she got, but I went with the Albina which had teriyaki marinated chik’n, garlic cloves, spinach, carrots, and scallions on a bed of jasmine rice drizzled with peanut ginger sauce and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. It was very good and felt like it was giving me nutrients that I had been sorely lacking. To complement the meal and give me a caffeine infusion, I got a Thai Iced Coffee from a nearby Asian Fusion Food Cart called White Elephant. It was very tempting to go get German beers from Prost! itself, but it still felt a tad too early in the day and we had a bit of driving ahead of us. Alas!
Our next stop was to see Haystack Rock, a 235 ft. tall monolith at Cannon Beach, that has become one of the most distinctive features of the Oregon coastline and a popular tourist destination. It was also featured in both The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, two stalwarts of my childhood, so that was fun blast of Nostalgia to accompany the natural grandeur of the structure itself. It was pretty amazing to behold, though unfortunately somehow in the hour and a half it took to drive there the beautiful sunny day we had in the two gardens this morning had turned very grey and misty, an occupational hazard of the Pacific Northwest unfortunately. In some ways though, the dreariness made the rock look even more mysterious and impressive.
We didn’t let the bad weather deter us, and we had a fun time exploring the rocky outcrops along the beach which feature a sort of spooky sort of pretty blend of green seaweed and moss and dark black volcanic rocks. It felt like being a little kid again hopping around from rock to rock to avoid getting too muddy and it ended up still being a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon.
The best part was definitely exploring the caves and tidepools, because they had such a whimsical and otherworldly quality to them. You really get how they could inspire adventure stories like the Goonies, though unfortunately we didn’t find any buried treasure while we were there.
We did however find lot of beautifully weird marine life. There were all sorts of sea-critters, including starfish, barnacles, mussels, scallops, crabs, and anemones but they were all such vibrantly different colors than the same animals I’m used to seeing on the East Coast. I’m not sure why that is, but it did make for some psychedelic surprises with each new tide pool we visited.
After our nautical adventure, we went back to Portland for the night’s open mic. We got back with some time to kill though, so we went to another Barcade called Ground Kontrol, which we’d heard good things about from our Portland connection Chris. It was definitely my goal to get Dana as hooked on Pinball as I am, though it was an impossible task because she is not a crazy person. She was much more competitive at ski ball and arcade basketball though so I think we do both have some of that same energy in us. The bar side of the barcade had some fun vaguely video game themed cocktails, so I got something called the King Boo, which consisted of Rumchata Liqueur, Hazelnut Espresso Vodka, Soda Water, Cinnamon & Nutmeg because that felt the most like a cup of coffee. I was a little skeptical by the inclusion of the soda water, but it was a pretty smooth and tasty dessert drink.
With time sufficiently killed, we made our way to the Republic Cafe and Ming Lounge, a Chinese Restaurant which was also hosting the night’s open mic. The mic was in a back room, so I wasn’t sure if any patrons or non-comics would know to look for it, but on the bright side I was able to eat some solid Chinese food so I was happy. We went with the Assorted Tidbits (what they called a sampler of appetizers) partly because it had the funniest name, and partly because it had a little bit of everything including Fried Jumbo Shrimp, BBQ Pork, Crab Rangoon, and Spring Rolls.
Apparently the venue was also on the newer side, so only a few comics ended up coming out for it which gave it a looser feel and led to it being a fun low stakes night of comedy. The biggest and best surprise was that I ran into a really funny comic from New England who was also driving around the country. Jordan Handren-Seavey is from Maine, but I remember seeing him performing at the Comedy Studio in Boston before I had the courage to go up myself and being consistently blown away by how funny he is. This past year and he and his wife and his dog officially packed up their things and hit the road living out of a trailer. It was crazy seeing a familiar face a whole continent away, but it was nice to catch up and share road stories. He understandably didn’t recognize me, because I was super new and not very good whenever we would have overlapped in Boston, but he was very friendly and he and his wife hung out with Dana and I for a bit before the show just cracking jokes and sharing stories from the road and tips for the travels still to come.
The mic itself was pretty solid for how small it was. Unsurprisingly Jordan was my favorite comic of the night, and I particularly enjoyed a bit about talking to Old Men in National Parks, because “you never know what you’re gonna get with people who are kinda hippy-ish but still very old and white. Like you’re Parks fan, but are you a Rosa Parks fan?”
Pedro - I look like I home brew horchata. My girlfriend calls me sugar daddy because I pay child support and have diabetes
Chris Miller- When I was young the only flavor of water was garden hose flavor
Kyle Hart- If Trump had a big dick he would have shown it to everyone (it’s not an image anyone wants, but this is a very convincing argument)
Seth Johnson - I like to troll a Facebook group called Babes of Chem Trails
My own set went pretty well, though that’s at least partially because Dana has an infectious laugh so I can’t take all the credit. The host gave all the comics a bit a more time to stretch out because there were so few of us, so I got to basically do all the new jokes I’d started doing on the road, so it was nice that I got to share those with my friend before she left back for the East Coast.
To celebrate a good night of comedy, I took Dana to the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House for some late night espresso (very Italian) and desserts. I got a Cafe Borgia because it reminded of the great comedian Victor Borge, and because it was a chocolate-orange mocha which sounded (and was) delightful. I also got a chocolate pot de creme which was like a middle ground between a mousse and a pudding and absolutely divine. Again the dim lighting while great for the ambiance does not do justice to just how great and great looking everything was. After my second time around there, I definitely think it’s my favorite spot to end a night in Portland.
Favorite Random Sightings: The People's Pig (a pork restaurant for the proletariat); Franks a Lot ; Friends of Trees (what a cute conservation group); Monster Suction (what a gross name)
Regional Observations: Driving around Oregon, I’ve seen the most Suburus since Vermont.
Albums Listend To: Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae (this album, one of my favorited of 2018, came out today and so we listened to but then Dana got tired of my music and DJ’ed the rest of the trip)
People’s Favorite Jokes: I didn’t get any today so here’s one from the internet:
An elderly couple were in church. The wife leaned over and whispered to her husband, "I just let out a long silent fart... what should I do?"
The husband replied, "Replace the batteries in your hearing aid."
Songs of the Day:
Bonus Victor Borge just cuz: