Sunday, December 28, 2008

globetrotting: tourist in my hometown - pt I

Friday began with a quest for a famous doughnut.

Being from Portland I am constantly barraged with questions in the Midwest of "weird" Oregon stuff that's been glorified in the national media and/or cable television. It seems the Food Network and the Travel Channel have both highlighted Voodoo Doughnut in recent years. I think that's the #1 question I receive when I tell people I'm a Portland native these days: "Have you been to that Voodoo Doughnut place?" (So different from the questions I used to be asked in college...I guess I'm getting old).

No, I hadn't been. Neither had my mother. So we decided to trek downtown and see what all the fuss was about.

You see, even though I am "from" Portland (from age 11-18), I grew up in the west suburban part of the city and wasn't "allowed" downtown until maybe my senior year of high school. I moved away as soon as possible and only really explore the city in my short visits here. Thus, there are a lot of landmark Portland experiences that I've not been privy to, although I've definitely covered more insider ground than most Midwesterners.

At any rate, Dad dropped Mom and I off at the Sunset Transit Center to catch the MAX to downtown Portland. After some fun mother-daughter drama, I successfully purchased two TriMet all-day passes for us for $4.75 each (although the machine didn't allow me to select quantity on those, I had to buy one and then the other, kind of a pain in the butt). Bypassing the coffee kiosk open for thirsty commuters, we headed down the platform to wait for a train.

Admittedly, I don't take public transportation often enough when I come to Portland. The transit center is about a mile from the homestead and my friends are spread far and wide across the greater metro area. Even though the suburbs are accessible by the wonders of TriMet, my time is often stretched to get from one side of town to the other. It was wonderful to have urban center focused plans on Friday to take full advantage of Portland's top-notch system. If I lived here I would definitely not have a vehicle. My brother is 26 and like many other Portlanders has never even gotten his driver's license. I'm a tad envious of him, as when I was growing up here the westside lines to my parents' neck of the woods were still being built. I wonder what my high school life would have been like with light rail as an option.

Another thing about Portland transit is seeing people from all walks of life taking it. Case in point: walking into the transit center we were passed by a pickup with a McCain/Palin sticker and then a station wagon with an Obama '08 sticker. God bless Oregon Republicans (it may be a surprise to outsiders, but there are several). They truly have embraced public transportation. My father is a corporate conservative, and he doesn't even blink an eye when it comes to light rail, streetcars, commuter rail, etc. In fact, he gets excited about it. The economic development that has occurred here because of the transportation infrastructure is indisputable. What is going to take for Southeastern Wisconsinites to "get it"?


The ride down to the Skidmore Fountain stop was quite pleasant, especially as we were entertained by the cutest Asian kids ever across the aisle from us. How could you not smile at two brothers making themselves giggle in two different languages? Awww.

Unfortunately the trek from Skidmore to Voodoo Doughnut was not an easy one. Portland's idiotic snow management philosophy (let it warm up and melt) made the sidewalks an obstacle course, even on a 45 degree day. I'd made the mistake of not wearing my boots and quickly found my socks and shoes soaked to the core. I'm not kidding, some enterprising Wisconsinite could've made enough to retire on by slapping together a private snow removal company for the Oregonians over their freak snowy December. Honestly, I have no idea how anyone in a wheelchair could possibly get around even a week after the snow ended. Considering grocery stores and restaurants weren't even getting their deliveries until yesterday.

We located our doughnuts, but first swung into the US Bank building to hit an ATM and try and do a money exchange for my trip. I used the ATM, but we could not find the actual bank in the building. Very strange. Opting to try post-sugar, we headed to the sweet spot -- Voodoo Doughnut.

One of the "things" about Voodoo Doughnut (which I just realized is abbreviated "VD," kind of gross considering they do weddings), is their funkily named (Triple Chocolate Penetration) and quirkily combined (bacon maple bar) concoctions. I decided to go with the classic "Blood-filled Voodoo Doughnut." My mom really wanted to order the "Cock-n-Balls," but was too embarrassed to say it, so she tried for the peppermint sprinkle (a Christmas special). They were out of that so she ended up with a chocolate glazed. My little guy, impaled by a pretzel stick, adorned with a pentagram and filled with "bloody" raspberry deliciousness, was definitely worth the journey. I don't know if Mom felt the same way, but I would definitely return on a future visit downtown. The place is open 24-hours, so I could go whenever the mood strikes.

Quest completed, we tried fruitlessly to go find some rupees for my impending trip. I resolved that I will just pay the outrageous change fee at the Newark airport, and then hit up an ATM quickly in Delhi. Yes, I realized I should've addressed the money issue much sooner, but I've been spoiled by the accessibility of the euro. Although we didn't find rupees, we did find a beautiful US Bank location on 6th and Oak. I always loved being surprised by historic architecture. They just don't build 'em like they used to.

Although we really wanted to take a ride on the Portland streetcar, we couldn't figure out a place to go, so Mom and I just decided to trudge up Burnside to Powell's City of Books. I could really spend all day in Powell's, but we only stayed for about 1/2 hour as it was pretty crowded the day after Christmas. I picked up a gift for a friend who ended up being iced-in, a new neck wallet and a flexi-map of Delhi. I also bought a Powell's reusable bag. Powell's truly does have a book and section for everyone and while I perusing the women's travel section, I spotted the most amazingly titled book in the abutting gay travel section: How to Say "Fabulous!" in 8 Different Languages: A Travel Phrase Book for Gay Men. Seriously, fabulous.

Following my travels through "travel," I located Mother in the poetry area and we headed across the street to Rocco's Pizza. I remember coming here a few times a child, but Mom apparently blocked those memories. Regardless, they have huge tasty slices and I wanted one. Packed with hungry locals and tourists trying to get out the rain, Rocco's seemed a hot spot to be that day. Mother ordered a slice of cheese and I got the special, The Slick Dawg, with tomato, spinach and feta. Mine wasn't going to be up for a few minutes, but the incredibly stoned cashier promised me that when it did arrive it would be "hot AND awesome."

Hot and awesome it was, and well-fed, Mom and I walked back to Morrison to catch the MAX home. All that eating and touristing made a gal sleepy and I decided to take a nap before continuing my Portland adventures.

...To be continued, following my flight home to Milwaukee...


  1. I have a semi-funny Vd as an abbreviation story...

    There's a new hotel opening in Las Vegas called Vdara, and they intentionally put up the "ara" section of the sign first to avoid having a giant Vd on their building. They learned from the experience of Planet Hollywood who was Planet Ho overnight a couple of years ago.

    Safe travels! I'm sorry you missed the freak 50 degree day yesterday.

  2. Ha! I still have to face the parental disapproval when I announce I'm going "downtown" or worse, "to SE". God, you'd think I might be waltzing my way through South Central LA.

    I also had not done most of the "Portland" things. So I went out for Ryan's birthday on Sunday night, my brother met me and then we broke away from Kell's to hit Shanghai Tunnel, Berbatis, pizza at Ankeny's and then to Voodoo. I also had the bloody voodoo man. Loved him! My brother got the Tex-ass, then gave a part of it to the bum outside.


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