Portland, Part One

Portland, Oregon was one of my first practice runs, Gentle Reader, at this whole living-out-of-a-backpack endeavor I’m about to embark upon. This story starts with the gift of a train ticket from Miss Spectacular.


The trip was smooth; I slouched nonchalant in an arch of the station, puffing away on my new faux-cigarette as I waited for my ride to arrive. When she did, we caught a bus, and I overheard a slim young girl with curls pinned high on her head primly confide to her companion:

“If you can’t spot the crazy on the bus, it’s probably you.”

Sage advice, indeed.

That night, Spectacular and I caught up over the sizzle and smell of fresh stir-fry and a steamed custard. We talked about her wedding plans, my itinerary abroad, whatever became of old friends – the usual paraphernalia of reconnecting. Her fiancé, B, arrived as we wound the evening down, so we chatted an hour or two more before turning in.

I was really looking forward to the next day; after sitting in on a class in Chinese Herbalism (with a healthy dose of Chinese Philosophy, for flavor) I was on my own, with no plan, no schedule, not a care in the world. I grabbed a cup of café au lait, and asked the server what the most Portland-y thing to do in Portland was.



“Besides the tourist stuff, like Voodoo donuts? Powell’s Books, probably. And there’s a kickin’ indie record store just down the road, man.” Well, that sounded intriguing.

Next door to the café, though, was Hoodoo Antiques – I would have walked right past it, but I saw an enormous taxidermy bear’s head in the window. Well, I thought I did – it was a vintage fake that was moulting pretty badly – much like the one the Bloggess found a few months ago.

Bloggess Bear

This photo belongs to the Bloggess, and I hope she doesn’t have Victor shoot me for using it.

Obviously I wanted to try it on, but the one I found was a lot smaller and I didn’t want to get it stuck on my head. The owner of the shop was really friendly; he showed me his prized collection of plaster dental casts, charmingly displayed in a glass case.

Sixty Pairs!

Sixty Pairs!

After lusting after every little oddity, I peeled myself away from HooDoo Antiques to grab a bite of lunch – well, you read about that on Monday.

Powell’s Books covers an entire city block, and is four stories high – or so they say. I know that I ascended more than four flights of full-sized stairs and that I never reached the top, but books are well-known to alter the laws of space and time. In the rare book room, particularly, time felt more peaceful, passing slow like golden drops of sun-lit sap; I lost several hours there.

Rare Book Room

The oldest book here is De Bello Judaica, published in Verona in 1480, if you’re wondering.

Not having yet catalogued my own collection of vinyl, I gave the “kickin’ indie record shop” a miss, wandering instead as lonely as a cloud. There are times when I need the feel of community, and I usually head to the Mix when that happens – but clearly, that wasn’t an option.

Then I stumbled on two separate gay bars. It was almost as though I’d called them into being. Whoa.

The point, ladies and gentlemen.

The first, Embers, was pretty quiet – but then, it was pretty early. Mostly it was just sad older men drinking the afternoon away, as you’ll find in any bar at four o’clock. I talked to the bartender; she was awesome. She slapped a copy of the GaYellow pages down on the bar when I told her I wasn’t local, pointed out the racks of the local rag in the back, and told her if I had any questions about the community to come straight to her. She also fended off the shit-faced older lady who was trying to fondle my uke, and won basically a million points for it.

The second, C. C. Slaughter’s, is apparently not affiliated with the Seattle institution of similar name. The clientele was a lot younger, despite the hour, and the atmosphere seemed more welcoming yet.


The bartender, John, was not only friendly, not only helpful; he was feisty and kind and hot as hell. He gave me tips on the local scene, pointed out the bar boor, and flirted a little (presumably for tips – I looked like hell).

Not only was C. C. Slaughter’s a kick-ass establishment, THEY ALSO HAD FREE WIFI. Holy shit, y’all. It was like finding my people all over again.

Leaving the bar, I headed back to the Oregon College of Chinese Medicine to meet Miss Spectacular – she was finishing her shift at the herbal medicinary, where she distributes gecko egg sacks, cinnabar, and other delights to the public. Her boss let us try something that I can’t pronounce, that left a lingering taste of powdered burnt rubber on my tongue.



We rounded the day off with a delightful dinner, and the evening stretched in front of us, itching to be filled.

Stay tuned, Gentle Reader! Part Two will appear on Friday!

About Ty DeLyte

Madame DeLyte has suffered a grave disappointment - YET AGAIN - and still believes that freedom, beauty, and truth are what's valuable, rather than vulgar cash. He'd add love to that list - but, well, what can he say about love?
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7 Responses to Portland, Part One

  1. Seasweetie says:

    I love Powell’s! Could happily get lost in there for days .

  2. May have to make a pilgrimage to Powell’s at some point. Did they, by any chance, happen to have an orangutang about.

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