Days 9 & 10: Stumptown
I made my way up to Portland from Medford in relatively little time. My first stop was to see my dear friend Sarah, who I’ve known since high school. We had an all-too-brief chat before I left to meet up with Chris and Meshel, friends I met through Twangfest. I arrived at their staggeringly cool house and deposited my belongings, after which Chris and I headed to Amnesia Brewing for a few pre-dinner pints. Their ESB and Copacetic India pale ale are among the best beers I’ve had on this trip, and that includes the 14-beer sampler from Sierra Nevada.
After dinner, we met up with Meshel at a Thai restaurant they both like, before splitting up so Chris and I could go see Twangfest veteran Dale Watson and His Lone Stars at Duff’s Garage, what turned out to be a very cool club that reminded me of Off Broadway in St. Louis. Dale and the band were in fine form—they always are—and played two sets filled mostly with audience requests. After the show, we headed back to crash.
Saturday morning, I woke to find Meshel already gone on errands, but soon Chris and I met her at the Portland Farmer’s Market in the middle of Portland State University’s campus. The sheer number of folks walking around was a bit overwhelming, but not as much as the variety and quality of the goods on display in the market’s booths, everything from fresh fruits and vegetables—including some I’d only known by name but never seen in person, like sea beans, lobster mushrooms, fresh-picked cranberry beans in the pod, orange cauliflower, red carrots, and more peaches and tomatoes than you could shake a stick at—to artisanal cheeses and baked goods, buffalo meat, fresh fruit sodas and pizza. A band was playing under a tent in the middle of it all, and we sat as Chris had breakfast and I finished a slice of whole-milk mozzarella pizza, listening to this:
Chris and Meshel had a wedding to attend, and I planned on meeting yet another friend, Missy, who’d flown in from Austin, Texas, for a birthday bash for our friend Misa. Missy and I were acquainted via the No Depression mailing list, and we had a pleasant serendipitous lunch at Salt Lick BBQ during South By Southwest in March, so, knowing that we were both planning to attend Misa’s party, we planned to have lunch while we were both in town.
I needed caffeine, so I visited Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Voodoo Doughnut, two Portland institutions, the former known for its variety of excellent coffees, and the latter for putting anything—and I mean nearly anything— on their donuts, including Tang, breakfast cereal, and, most famously, the brilliantly devised Bacon Maple Bar, a maple-glazed long john topped with crispy strips of bacon.
Caffeinated and ready, I picked Missy up from her hotel and we drove around Portland sightseeing and catching up before consulting the GPS and Roadfood.com for seafood, which led us to Dave and Louis Oyster Bar. The smoked salmon chowder was pretty great—though not as good as Hattie’s Hat in Seattle—as were the crab cake appetizer we shared.
After lunch, I dropped Missy back at her hotel and headed back to Chris and Meshel’s to try to catch a quick nap before the party. I’d reached a point of exhaustion, the kind that prevents me from sleeping, no matter how much I tried. Unable to rest, I freshened up and drove to wander through Portland until settling on a visit to Powell’s Books, the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. They’re not kidding. It’s a city block with multiple floors. I wandered through the graphic design section for a bit before Missy called to tell me she would be ready to go to the party shortly. I didn’t buy anything, because I don’t need more to carry, but the selection was excellent.
We arrived at the location of Misa’s party, Urban Wineworks, Bishop Creek Cellars’ tasting room. It was a smartly but sparsely decorated room with racks of wine barrels painted by a number of artists lining the walls. I’m usually uncomfortable at parties in general, and at parties where I know so few people specifically, but Misa and her husband, Dave, were gracious hosts and brought me out of my shell—though I think the wine might have had something to do with that, too. There were two musicians trading sets of rather well-crafted originals and covers, and I found myself talking a lot about this trip, the reasons for it, and taking suggestions on other places to visit along the way, for which I am grateful.
As the party wound down, a few of us decided to visit the Blue Moon, a bar down the street, for a nightcap, where we talked music and food and politics until the evening’s potent potables started to work their magic on our eyelids. We bade farewell to our hosts and friends old and new and headed home. I returned to Chris and Meshel’s after saying goodbye to Missy and slept the sleep of the just for a precious few hours.