Friday, April 18, 2014

Q is for queens and Quimby (Portlandia from A to Z)


In Portland we have two kinds of queens: one wears a gown and travels through the streets of Portland on a floral float, and one wears a gown and travels through the streets of Portland in high heels.

Rose Festival queens and drag queens!

A queen in the 1960s
Since 1907, Portlanders have celebrated in June with the Rose Festival, and since 1930, a queen has been chosen from a court of high school seniors (princesses) from each school in Portland. From 1997 to 2007, they changed the terminology to "ambassador" but reinstated queen and princesses in 2007.

What's different about the Rose Festival court is that it's not a beauty contest. The judges select the "Queen of Rosaria" mostly based on her achievements. Boys participate in the festival by being selected as drivers for the princesses.

The court in recent years
All members of the Rose Festival Court receive a $3,500 scholarship and mentoring, in addition to a complete wardrobe. It's a bit of a throw-back, really, but Portlanders seem to enjoy the spectacle of the coronation and the appearance of the queen and princesses in the major event of the Rose Festival, the Grand Floral Parade. You can view plaques for all the queens from past years in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park.
Rose Festival Queens Walk in Washington Park

Darcelle (on right) with friends
Now onto the other type of queen...Portland has a long history of drag queens, starting with the most-famous -of-all Darcelle XV. Born as Walter Cole in 1930, Darcelle grew up in Portland and was in the military--marrying and having two children. He first wore a woman's dress at the age of 37 and by the age of 39, he became Darcelle and came out as gay. During the 1970s, the Darcelle XV became a Portland household name--the place to go for drag performers. S(he)'s now the oldest female impersonator on the west coast, and Darcelle XV is the longest-surviving drag club in the country. Darcelle is very active in Portland's cultural scene and received the Spirit of Portland Award in 2011. Here's a mini-short about how Walter Cole turns into Darcelle.

If you're not going to a show at Darcelle, one of the best places to see Portland's drag queens out in the open is at the Portland Pride Parade. Apparently we also have a Thai restaurant (Asian fusion) that has all drag queen waitstaff! We have a lot of queens, but we have a shortage of drag kings...

Portland Pride


(as in Ramona!) Ramona the Pest was born right here in NE Portland. Author Beverly Cleary grew up in Portland, where she struggled to learn how to read. By the third grade, though, she discovered her great love of books...thanks to a great teacher and a nurturing librarian, who encouraged her to write her own books someday. She also became a librarian herself. 
Ramona sculture in Grant Park
Her first book was Henry Huggins, published in 1950, about a boy who lived on Klickitat Street in Portland. Beezus and Ramona came next--the Quimby sisters--published in 1955. Cleary went on to write seven additional Ramona stories, along with many other books. 
The author reading Ramona
Portland has honored Beverly Cleary (who is still alive) by naming a school after her, creating a sculpture garden in Grant Park (near Klickitat Street), naming the Central Library's children's library after her, and celebrating Beverly Cleary Month at the library. You can also take a Beverly Cleary tour
Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: roses, rivers, and recycling.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

P is for Portlandia and Pink Martini (Portlandia from A to Z)


If you don't live in Portland, Portlandia probably brings to mind the IFC show with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. If you do live in Portland, you will remember when Portlandia meant only one thing: the beautiful hammered copper statue perching on the Portland building downtown. It's the second-largest hammer copper statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty.

City seal
On her barge

Portlandia shares a birthday with me and my birthday sister Nancie--she was installed on Ocboter 6, 1985 after floating up the Willamette River on a barge. (She was built by Raymond Kaskey, Greg Pettengill, and Michael LaSalle near Washington DC and her parts were shipped to Portland.) Portlandia is based on the design of the city seal. She is 34 feet, 10 inches high. If she were standing, she would be 50 feet tall.
Being delivered
Back in the days when I worked as a proposal manager, I remember delivering proposals to the City of Portland in that building. We'd usually go in pairs--one of us would stay in the car (so we wouldn't have to find a parking space), and the other one would run upstairs to deliver the proposal, often just minutes before the deadline!

And then of course, Portlandia appears in the title credits for the clever show that made "The Dream of the
'80s is Alive in Portland," "Put a Bird on It," and "Keep Portland Weird" household phrases across the country. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein satirize the weirdest of Portland, and of course it's completely over the top!

Here's a recent episode, Yoga Class Fail:

Or Brunch Village. Portlanders love their brunch--and some people actually do wait this long in line! Not us!

Pink Martini

Pink Martini is a fabulous Portland band, formed in 1994 by supremely talented and creative pianist Thomas Lauderdale. Described as a "little orchestra," Pink Martini straddles classical, Latin, jazz, and pop. They sing in a variety of languages, too.

We've long been Pink Martini fans, back to the days when the band would perform free concerts in the park--wait, they still do that! But they also perform to sold-out crowds with the Symphony and at New Year's Eve events and travel all around the world.

Pink Martini
We've seen Pink Martini a number of times, the last time at their wonderful singalong concert in Pioneer Square a year ago. They did another one of these recently, but we missed it! The fabulous Storm Large now often performs with Pink Martini, making them even more amazing. I love it when Storm Large and China Forbes perform together, like in this version of "Get Happy/Happy Days."

They also recently recorded an album with the great-grandchildren of the Captain and Maria Von Trapp.

Listen to and watch Pink Martini at their youtube playlist here. Here's one of their classics, Amado Mio:

Nicholas, my seven year old, used to LOVE this one, Dos Vedanya Mio Bombino:

Hope you've enjoyed this taste of a wonderful band/orchestra, homegrown in Portland, Oregon!

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: Queens and Quimby.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

O is for Oaks Park and organic food (Portlandia from A to Z)

Oaks Park

Oaks Park, once known as the Coney Island of the Northwest, is one of the 10 oldest amusement parks in the country. Opened in 1905 to accompany the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, it is the only amusement park in Portland still in operation. It was built to increase ridership on the streetcar lines. The 44-acre park, located in the Sellwood area along the Willamette River, includes 20+ amusement park rides, midway games, a year-round wooden roller skating rink with an organ, and picnic grounds. Here's an example of a ride when the park first opened (from this article about the park's history):
"The most dramatic and thrilling of the rides was the Chute the Chutes, a two-story wooden structure that looked out over the eastern side of the Oaks. Patrons were required to climb a set of stairs that zig-zagged back and forth to the top of the tower. Passengers then took a seat in a flat bottom boat that whisked the riders down a steep incline plunging into a small man-made lake below. Adventurous riders took their positions on backless seats with only a polished steel handrail to hang onto! If they didn’t suffer terrible back and shoulder pain after the ride was over, they certainly could tell about the drenching they’d received when the boat splashed into water below, covering any thrill-seeker who dared to sit in the front row of the ride. An attendant clad in rubber waders and waterproof clothing guided the boat with a long pike-pole back onto the track that would haul the boat back up the ramp for the next batch of ticket holders."
That sounds like a hoot! My mom remembers visiting Oaks Park when she was a little girl, and my kids love to visit it to this day. Here are some vintage photos I found.

We enjoy visiting the park every summer--Kieran will be performing there again with Kids Company on Mother's Day weekend--and I love to ride the upside-down, scrambling Screamin' Eagle! It's a great park for younger kids, because it has lots of kiddie rides as well as scarier ones.

My favorite ride--the Screamin' Eagle!

My kiddos on a ride several years ago
Organic food
We love our organic food in Portland! According to the 2008 USDA Organic Agriculture
Census, Oregon is #5 in the country for the number of organic farms, #4 on the list for vegetable/melon farms, #3 for berry farms, #4 for fruit/nut tree farms. #4 in organic milk sales, and #4 in organic sales ($156 million/year). Oregon Tilth, one of the most respected third‐party certifiers in the United States, certifies most of Oregon’s organic farms and processors. Oregon has 425 certified organic farms, with over 115,000 acres in organic production. As I wrote about in F is for Forests and Foodies, farmers' markets are highly popular in Portland--and many of the farm stands are organic. Oregon State University is one of 10 U.S. colleges that offer organic agriculture programs.

Outside of farmers' markets, Portlanders also like buying organic food at New Seasons, a local grocery store. New Seasons Market, founded in 1999, is a prime example of Portlanders' loyalty and love for all things Portland! Founders Brian Rohter, Stan Amy, and Chuch Eggert were affiliated with Nature's, another local organic grocery store, but left to start New Seasons when Nature's was sold to Wild Oats. The founders' commitment wanted to create a company that had a "true commitment to its community, to promoting sustainable agriculture, and maintaining a progressive workplace."

New Seasons now has 12 stores in the Portland area, some in neighborhoods that didn't previously have great supermarket options. The company gives back 10% of their after-tax profits into the community and has outstanding customer service. New Seasons goes out of its way to help its customers, such as voluntarily labeling all non-GMO foods. It's a grocery store that is actually pleasant to visit! I love the fact that it sells bulk organic grind-your-own peanut butter and Tamari sauce (important for my gluten-free husband), which are impossible to find elsewhere.

And here's the rub: Wild Oats, which was a natural chain, went down in flames. Portlanders embraced New Seasons so wholeheartedly that its prime competitor could not survive. 

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: Portlandia and Pink Martini.

Monday, April 14, 2014

N is for neighborhoods and Nike (Portlandia from A to Z)

Our first house--I miss our porch!

Portland has 95 separate, distinct neighborhoods, each with its own volunteer neighborhood association and distinct culture and feel. Our first house was a 1910 bungalow in the Richmond neighborhood, described as:
Urban, artsy, down-home, community minded, green and eco-conscious. Anti-car, some even anti-establishment. This is a neighborhood of families and young urbanites. 
We lived close to the Hawthorne neighborhood...we loved to walk to Hawthorne to the McMenamin's Bagdad Theater Pub or Powell's on Hawthorne

We moved from the east side to southwest in 1999, when our oldest son was three. We wanted a house with more yard, and the great schools in the area didn't hurt either. This is how our current neighborhood is described:
Laid back with a more residential and relaxed feel than more urban neighborhoods.  Located relatively close in, with a variety of home styles, this is a neighborhood that will appeal to families and others who prefer a less urban and more rural feeling neighborhood.  The Multnomah Village area is a popular neighborhood gathering place, with locally owned restaurants, bars, and shops, giving this area a strong sense of community and central gathering place.
Multnomah Village in the 1920s...
We often miss the east side, with its older homes, sidewalks, porches, and easy access to everything. But we also like living on the west side--it's a great place to raise kids and has a lot of parks and community centers. It's also nice to have a garage and driveway!


Nike is not actually headquartered in Portland, but in suburban Beaverton, where I grew up. It's one of only two Fortune 500 companies based in Oregon, and one of the world's largest athletic shoe and apparel companies.

Style of my first pair of Nikes--all the rage in the 1970s!
Although the company was founded in January 1964, it officially became Nike in 1971. I grew up wearing Nike shoes before they became known around the world. Every Oregonian knows who Phil Knight is (one of Nike's founders).

I know several people who work at Nike--it's as ubiquitous as Intel in the Portland area. (Nike employs 8,000 people in Oregon, while Intel employs 17,000 here but is based in Santa Clara, California.) They always have a huge showing in the Portland Pride Parade and even have a shoe and clothing line that supports gay pride.

I also had a pair that looked a bit like this...
Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: Oaks Park and organic food.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

M is for Mountains, Multnomah Village, and McMenamin's (Portlandia from A to Z)


We are blessed by the view of two mountains from Portland: Mount Hood (11,249 feet, as you can see in the blog photo above) and Mount St. Helens (8,366 feet).

Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, when I was 15 years old. I remember everything being blanketed with ash, and we wore face masks to protect ourselves. The explosion killed 47 people and destroyed 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway. On the 30th anniversary of the explosion, all of us were recounting what we were doing when the volcano blew. I wrote about my memories here.
Mt. St. Helens now

On a clear day you can see both mountains clearly, towering over the city. Just as residents of the Puget Sound say about Mt. Rainier, we say "the mountain's out" when we have a clear view.

Multnomah Village

Portland's neighborhoods have tons of character and charm, and none more than our own Multnomah Village. I wrote about why I love the village back in 2007, about trick or treating in the village in 2007, and about attending Multnomah Days in 2010 (more village love). I just can't get enough of this little gem in the middle of the city, and I feel blessed that we live within walking distance of such a wonderful, historic spot.

Each time I go into the village, it never fails...I always see at least one person I know, making Southwest Portland feel like a small town. I love to support its small, independent personal favorites are Topanien, Annie Bloom's, Thinker Toys, Marco's, Medley, and Journey's. And of course we have the wonderful Multnomah Art Center, too!


As I mentioned on B is for Bookstores and Breweries, McMenamin's is a chain of 65 brewpubs, microbreweries, music venues, historic hotels, and theater pubs, mostly in Portland but also elsewhere in Oregon and Washington.

Mike and Brian McMenamin grew up in northeast Portland and opened their first restaurant (the Produce Row Cafe) in 1974. A decade after that, they opened the first post-Prohibition brewpub in Oregon: the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House (just a few miles from our house) in 1985. They also became the first brewery in the  U.S. to legally use fruit in the brewing of ales (raspberries). My usual--and favorite--McMenamin's brew is a "Rubinator," not on the menu, a combination of Terminator Stout and Ruby Ale (with raspberries).

The first pub, Hillsdale
They opened their first theater pub, the Mission Theater, in 1987. Their business really took off when they converted a 74-acre site that had once been the Multnomah County Farm into Edgefield, a hotel/restaurant/pub/winery/brewery/golf/concert venue.

Now the brothers have 65 different locations in Oregon and Washington, many of which are renovated historical properties. Nine of their sites are on the National Register of Historic Places. They have cultivated a reputation for converting properties full of history into commercial enterprises, full of funky art and eclectic charm.

Ram's Head in the Pearl
It's hard to find someone in Portland who doesn't frequent a McMenamin's somewhere! Just a few nights ago, I took my seven-year-old, Nicholas, to see "Frozen" at the Kennedy School (which used to be a school and is now a hotel with restaurants and a theater pub). The theater has wonderful easy chairs, and you can order your food and beer to eat in the theater. It's great! I had fish and chips, and he had cheese pizza. (And I had my Rubinator.)

The funky Kennedy School
Over the years, we've frequented McMenamin's establishments all over town. When we were first married, we'd walk to the Raleigh Hills Pub (still an old favorite). Then when we moved to SE Portland, we'd walk to the Bagdad Theater for movies and dinner. I hosted a few business meetings at Edgefield back when I was a staff manager, and I've also been to a few church meetings at the Grand Lodge. We've spent the night at the Grand Lodge and also gone there for girlfriend getaways. We've gone to the Rock Creek Tavern after getting our Christmas tree. I've also done girlfriend getaways at the Edgefield (including my mom's 70th birthday), and in June Mike and I will spend the night there and go to a concert with Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls! We've also frequented Edgefield after visits to the Columbia Gorge with visitors or friends. We've also visited the Barley Mill, the Ram's Head, and a few in Beaverton and outer SE Portland.

The art in the McMenamin's establishments is quirky and fun. I love McMenamin's hotels and pubs and am really excited to go to Edgefield again in June!

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: neighborhoods and Nike.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

L is for libraries and lights (Portlandia from A to Z)


Portland's Central Library
Another reason to love Portland? Its libraries!

Children's section
The Multnomah County Library has the second largest library circulation in the United States (New York City is #1); however, because it ranks first among libraries that serve fewer than 1 million people, it's the busiest library in the country. It circulates 24.8 million items per year, averaging 33.3 items per county resident. (I think my own circulation is more along the lines of 75 items per year.) It's also the oldest public library system west of the Mississippi River.

Beautiful lobby staircase
Portland's library system also earned the highest rating possible, five stars, in Library Journal's 2011 Index of Public Library Service.

The crown jewel of the library system is the downtown Central Library, which opened in 1913 as one of the first libraries in the U.S. to feature an open plan. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains 17 miles of bookshelf space, and has more than 130 computers accessible to the public.

Hillsdale Library
In addition to the Central Library, the Multnomah County Library System has 18 branches. Our local branch is the Hillsdale Library, which was rebuilt in 2004. The new library is a green building, certified as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold. It has 12,000 square feet of floor space and capacity for 75,000 volumes.

The only way I can afford my book habit is to use the library HEAVILY and stock up on paperbacks at our local school's annual used book sale. I rarely buy books for myself, but instead for others. I have a great system for the library--I put the books on hold online, and my husband is my free delivery service! 

Festival of Lights at the Grotto
Portland offers lots of opportunities to see lights during the holiday period...most notably:

Portland also kicks off the summer with the Starlight Parade, with illuminated floats and lights going through the city streets.

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: mountains, Multnomah Village, and McMenamin's. 

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