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Sep 1, 05 12:34 PM

In Praise of Puddux.


Which is how I prounce "PDX," the airport code for Portland, Oregon, and a common nickname for the town. Other aliases: the City of Roses, and Stumptown. Stumptown?


I type this to you from a coffee place in North Portland, where a gorgeous barista is salsa-dancing to the Ibrahim Ferrer tune "El Cuarto de Tula." The coffeehouses alone make PDX a stellar town. For one thing: the coffee. Amazing. And all the baristas seem to know how to make that elegant leaf-pattern on the surface of the milk in your cup.

For another thing: the music. Everywhere I've been, I hear something beautiful and unfamiliar, and turn to Mike McGonigal, my host, and say, "What's this? What's this?" I adore New York, but you don't get that there. You get a lot of 80s goth stuff, really, which is the chic thing to be playing in your coffeehouse in New York these days.

The day before yesterday we were in a sandwich shop. A patron loped over to the turntable and put on an LP of French girl singers from the 60s. Which is just the hippest thing I've ever seen in a sandwich shop. Also, they serve a lentil-bacon soup. Lentilly! Bacony!

Then we went to a place called Voodoo Doughnuts. Another turntable, scratching away in the corner. One of Mike's roommates told me they hold midnight Swahili classes. Midnight Swahili classes.

Powell's, the famous gigantic book store downtown on Burnside, did not have the Tigrinyan-to-English dictionary I'm looking for. But they had a full three shelves of books in Esperanto. Three shelves of books in Esperanto.

Mike took me to a strip club called the Magic Gardens. Strip clubs are chic here; it's not an accident that Portland is the birthplace of the SuicideGirls. Hence, there were heterosexual women among the patrons, drinking PBR and shooting pool. Onstage tattooed ladies writhed to choice indie-rock and oddball 60s selections. Again, I'm turning constantly to McGonigal, "What's this? What's this?" I mean, girls stripping to the Gossip, Le Tigre, Iron and Wine. Girls stripping to Iron and Wine.

McGonigal has a distinctive high-pitched laugh I call the McGonigiggle.

Mike lives with a family with two kids; their three year old, Saylor, is obsessed with a DVD of garbage trucks and tractors called "Mighty Machines," with a fabulous theme song. The other day, he was at the breakfast table, saying over and over again, "Baaaaaacon. BACON! Bacon. BAAAACON! Bacon!"

So I've been driving around this magical town. It's been sunny and gorgeous--McGonigal warns me not to move her 'til I've visited in the rainy wintertime. But I'm half-convinced on moving. Really.

I love New York, but--have I done my bid?


Posted by Mike at September 1, 2005 12:34 PM