Watts (chipotle) wrote,

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First Thursday

"First Thursday" is the name of a citywide art gallery open house here in Portland on the first Thursday of every month. This is mostly concentrated in the "Pearl," which has the earmarks of being a newly gentrified--still gentrifying, even--trendy art district carved out of the industrial area north of downtown. I wandered around there for an hour and a half, ducking into a few galleries, including an intriguing and apparently nationally-known photography gallery called "Blue Sky." Most of the shops were open later than their normal close-at-six hours, too. At dinnertime, I forsook an intriguing-looking Chinese restaurant, the Sungari Pearl, to go to--another brewpub. Verily, I am a bum, but after a late lunch I simply wasn't that hungry.

The brewpub I chose was the Rogue Ale Public House, run by the folks who make Rogue Ales. Some of their brews do have national distribution, but they're an Oregon brewery, and I don't think they had a single beer that hadn't won at least two awards in beer competitions--including more than one that had gold medals at either national or international shows. I tried a taster of four beers: Smoke Ale (made with smoked malt), Mocha Porter (not made with chocolate or coffee, but with a slightly mocha taste nonetheless), Honey Cream Ale and "Old Crustacean" barleywine. All of them were great--even the smoke ale, which I was dubious about. I'd actually wanted to try a beer they were out of, though, "Mexicali"--brewed with, yes, chipotle peppers. That may strike one as perverse, but all things are relative: they also had a Kobe beef hamburger.

My Thursday actually started around 9:00, getting a free breakfast of a cinnamon roll and yogurt at the hotel and then heading out to East Portland to visit the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters. It's a true dive, but the coffee was pretty damn good--although I found their normal coffee better than their cappuccino. (It's the only brewed coffee I've had that's better than the stuff I make with my own fresh-roasted beans. The cappuccino was better than what I'd make, to be sure, but I don't think it was better than Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara.)

Then it was a drive to the west side of Portland and a bit of random turnarounds on the freeway (which proved to be a recurring theme for the day), making my way to Washington Park and the Japanese Garden. This is nearly six acres and advertises itself as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. I don't doubt it. I'll try to get pictures up of this when I get back--I don't have many pictures of anything else in Portland, I realize, but I got a lot of pictures there.

After a few hours there, I debated spending more time in Washington Park, which has a Forestry Museum and the Oregon Zoo. I didn't, though; I headed out toward Mt. Hood. Or at least, I tried to. Getting onto eastbound US 26 proved to be more of a trick than I'd expected, as I missed turns several times. Eventually I managed to make it, and drove well past the small town of Sandy, Oregon, and was met by--driving rain. Now, it drizzled a little from mostly-cloudy skies in the morning, but barely enough to notice, let alone be bothered by, and the sky had been steadily clearing toward "mostly sunny" in Portland. By this point it was nearly 5pm, and I decided that a trip toward Mt. Hood would be better at a time when I could actually, y'know, see the mountain.

Now, it's about 9:30 and I'm sitting at Vivace, a coffee house and crêpe place that, amusingly, serves Stumptown coffee. This place isn't a dive; it's more like a Victorian home, and the latté is served with the "foam art" that sufficiently fanatic baristas like to make. The crêpe was good. And, yes, they have free wireless access.

So: while there are places I've been that I think I'd have trouble filling up two days in, I could have spent all of today at Washington Park and then come back for First Thursday. And I haven't even been to the "Cultural District" or the riverfront park, or most of the areas of East Portland. Or, of course, Mt. Hood. I really didn't have any idea of specifics to expect here, but it's lived up to--I hate to put it this way--the feel I imagined. While I'm not sure I'd deal well with as many gray, drizzly days as the Pacific Northwest has, I'd be willing to try and find out.

Tomorrow, I head west, through more rural areas of the county and on toward the coast, then back south. I suspect this is going to get me back to San José at a stupid late hour. From this vantage point, though, it's worth it.

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