Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stumptown Adventures with Neil Sudoku

We knew we reached Portlandia when we saw the unicyclist.

The man himself, Mr. Neil Sudoku.

My long awaited trip to Portland, OR (aka Rose City, Rip City, Bridge City, P-town, Stumptown, PDX) turned out to be the most fun I've had this year, and quite possibly the most fun I will have for the rest of 2012. It all started with a six hour plane ride, followed by a layover in the very beautiful Seattle airport where Ben and I sat watching planes take off into the clouds against a backdrop of distant mountains and tall pines, followed by a short flight in a prop plane which was prefaced by a turbulence warning, followed by a lime green cab, followed by clear beautiful skies that at first made me angry since I had packed for the rain. 

The sky, upon arriving at the Jupiter Hotel.

We settled in at the Jupiter Hotel, rested, and then made our way through the wind and rain, across the Burnside Bridge (where I was convinced a huge tsunami wave would strike us since we weren't soaked completely to the bone yet), pit-stopped for coffee and doughnuts at Voodoo, and then it was under the China Town gate to Floating World Comics. This was our first time at the new Floating World store, which is bigger and better than ever. There is so much to look at, and it's not just awesome comics; there's a section of wonderful art and goodies from Grass Hut and another area of amazing vinyl from Landfill Rescue Unit. Ben's show Dread Paths Tread: The Art of Benjamin Marra was up and the party got started. It was great seeing old and new Portland friends, having laughs and deep conversations about how instant Netflix used to be good but sucks now, sexy babies, and TV teen dramas. That night we were whisked away to Bunk Bar for beers and the most delicious pork sandwich I've ever tasted. 

Jason & Ben chatting it up with doughnuts in the Grass Hut section at Floating World Comics.

Dread Paths Tread: The Art of Benjamin Marra

Friday morning we awoke early, considering we had been awake for 22 hours straight the day before, and made it over to the J&M Cafe for some breakfast and steaming hot coffee. Later, we were picked up and taken on a  leisurely drive through some very pretty residential neighborhoods of the city before heading to Tasty n Sons for a brunch feast.

Ben, Rikki,  & Jason admiring the view from the grounds of the Pittock Mansion.

The manse itself.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of a short tour of Portland by two of our lovely Stumptown hosts, Jason and Rikki, a visit to the Pittock Mansion and Forest Park, and a stroll downtown to a few cool shops. I have to mention Counter Media, a small bookstore that had a lot of crazy, sexy, cool stuff. Then it was back to Floating World for the double release party for Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever and Nurse Nurse. The night was concluded with burgers and fries at Bar Bar.

20120428IMG_1609-Stumptown Comics Fest by ocean yamaha
Stumptown Comics Fest, a photo by ocean yamaha on Flickr.
Jason of Floating World Comics, me, and Ben.

Saturday began the first day of the Stumptown Comics Fest. It all started with table set-up and before long the place was buzzing with comics lovers, costumed persons, and other weird folks in wigs and jumpsuits. (We noticed attendance from the Steampunk community was next to none, but no worries, the top hats and monocles showed up Sunday.) Ben and I shared a table with Jason of Floating World Comics, and also in the cool zone was Zack Soto and Study Group Comics, Family StylePress GangFran├žois Vigneault, Snakebomb Comics, and Ian MacEwan. I didn't do too much browsing on Saturday, but the vibe was pretty fine.

Getting to know the Klingons of Portland.

That evening, we high-tailed it over to Slow Bar, where we admired the Lynchian atmosphere, the fried food, and a waitress that looked exactly like a Jonny Negron drawing come to life. Next it was the after-party at the Jupiter. I did a lot of yelling (why?) and there were shakers. After the comics awards, we ran across the street for our annual karaoke session at Galaxy. For the rest of the trip, Ben and I had Jesse Moynihan's rendition of The NeverEnding Story stuck in our heads. ♪ Ah-ah-ah Ah-ah-ah Ah-ah-ah 

l to r: Farel, Doug, Rikki, Jason, & Ben getting Lynchy wit it.

Screen Door - we had been waiting to go there for a whole year. Sunday we woke up early and walked down Burnside to get some extremely delicious southern breakfast. And good lord, the year, the walk, waking up early, the 40 minute wait to sit, was all worth it. We had some sugared apple fritters, a fried chicken and gravy on a biscuit sandwich, cheesy grits, potatoes, eggs benedict, a bloody mary, and a mimosa - pure heaven! 

Breakfast of champs.

We moseyed on down to convention center after that. I did a lot more looking around and chatting people up at their tables that day. Here are some good finds:

You Will All Die In Pain by Derek M. Ballard (picked this up from Floating World); Area CC by A. Degen; Sleep Spell by Jesse Moynihan; D.I.Y. Magic byAnthony Alvarado; Rapt in Fear 2 and The Derelict by Alex Delaney; You Are Always On My Mind by Kat Roberts; Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever by Tom Neely, Ed Luce, and Benjamin Marra; Deep Shag Pile by C. Cilla; and Dream Grant by Sean Christensen. Not pictured: Profanity Hill #2Pussy Fuzz #1 by Catherine Peach.
Also got this totally awesome tshirt.

At 6PM we wrapped up, packed up, and met up again at Floating World. A big group of us had dinner at Good Taste, a few of us even went for the Super Bowl a giant bowl of everything soup, and discussed spoilers and turkeys. Pony Club Gallery hosted their annual after-party and we just chilled and talked and admired the art.

Monday we relaxed a bit. The fest was over, but the vacation was still going strong. Ben and I hopped in a cab to Mississippi Ave, and our cab driver turned out to be a Brooklyn transplant. He was a bike messenger for many years and told us a story about how in the 90s, he was chased out of Bed-Stuy by dudes in cars with guns. This guy had so many years of New York cynicism built up inside of him,  just pent up aggression that he couldn't freely express, I think because Portland isn't a place like New York where you yell profanities out your car window on a regular basis.

My purchases from Future Dreams & Powell's: Fever Pitch 7 (1985) by Brad Foster; Eros in Orbit (1973) by various authors; Olivia greeting  card; Antibodies by David J. Skal; Sword & Sorceresses by various authors; and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (which someone made fun of me for never having read before).

So we had breakfast at Gravy and I wish I had taken a picture of our plates. The portions were HUGE. And so mouth-watering. I had an omelette with bacon, tomatoes, cream cheese and it was the best omelette I ever had. Biscuits seem to be a big deal in Portland (there are way more biscuits on the menus than there are in New York), so of course, I had to have a side of buttery biscuit. Then we stopped in at Bridge City Comics, and then hopped in another cab downtown to Powell's, which I kept saying has the best Scifi-Fantasy section, although the one book I was looking for wasn't there! I did however, find a lot of other good used science fiction reads. We hung out in the cafe, read, and drank tea (in my attempt to detox). Then we took a walk up to the 23rd and window shopped, stopped for tacos and cokes, and then walked all the way back to the hotel. That night we did dinner at Montage, a really sweet Cajun bistro. I had vegetable gumbo and we all shared spicy mac and cheese and, of course, the gooey butter cake ("I'm going to eat the cake") (also thanks to Krista for recommending it). We topped off the night with Krista's hard-rocking Metal Monday DJ set at Rose City Strip. I really enjoyed the hula girl's light-up hula-hoop dance, which was both beautiful and mesmerizing.

Coin-operated Church of Elvis.

On Tuesday, our last day in Portlandia, Ben and I walked to Jam for breakfast. I had the loaded bow, which was hash browns, gravy, cheddar cheese, topped with an egg and sour cream on the side. It was a bowl of breakfast goodness. We walked around some really beutiful residential neighborhoods. The houses were big and beautiful, some painted very brightly with roomy porches and lush gardens (I want to go to there). There was one interesting moment as we were walking down the street, we saw a typical looking dad playing with his baby on the sidewalk. As we approached, the dad, dressed in total dad gear (sweater, khakis, sneakers), looked up and said, "Howdy." And there it was, a septum ring. It made absolutely no sense. We noticed two things in Portland: 1.) There are a lot of babies. Babies everywhere, and if not babies, pregnant women. 2.) There are a lot of facial piercings. Not on like some random high school kids, but on just about anyone, even the otherwise boring looking dads. WEIRD! Anyway, I digress...

We visited Future Dreams, the greatest creepy basement comic bookstore ever (just look at their website, it gives you an idea of what I mean). I went straight for the adult section and picked out a few sexy Olivia greeting cards (it's becoming a collection), a smutty scifi comic, and a book of short stories about sex in the future. I casually perused a box of 1970s Playboy back issues and a bunch of Anne McCaffrey books (still couldn't find the one I wanted), so I just awkwardly brought my stuff up to the counter and paid for it without making any eye-contact with the older gentleman on the other side. We refueled at Meat Cheese Bread with a great turkey sandwich and pickles, then stopped in at Andy & Bax and admired the knives and various army surplus items, and finally went to Hand-Eye Supply, which is totally awesome but also sort of museum-like.

Last supper in Portland.

For our last meal, Jason and Rikki took us to Olympic Provisions as a response to our date with them back in December at Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn. We ordered a meat plate, a cheese plate, really yummy potatoes, a very delectable chicken dish, and drinks to satisfy our end-of-vacation depression. Doug and Krista were so nice to join us later in the evening and share a good laugh. We said our goodbyes and gave high-fives, and the next morning at 7AM, we flew out of PDX.

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