Nicholas's Gay Guide to Portland, Oregon
Originally published on Gay.com/travel
City: Portland, Oregon
Relationship Status: Single
What are some of the things you love most about your town?
Portland forces you to open your eyes. People tend to be well-informed and very conscious of problems in the community, the environment, and the rest of the world; and they want you to be, too. Small talk can fall flat pretty quicklywe want to know who you're voting for, how large your compost bin is, and which worldly social injustice has your blood boiling. One of my roommates keeps a 20 month supply of food and water ready in case the government collapses and food and fuel shortages ravage the city. He isn't crazy; he's just been in Portland for a long time.
If someone came to your town for just four hours, what is the one thing he should do?
I'd suggest a relaxed walking tour of the downtown area, it's the best mix of what Portland has to offer. The Portland State University park blocks would be a good place to start. If you're lucky you might catch the farmer's market, edge around a student protest, or just lock eyes with an attractive student/professor while they're locking up their bike.
Once you've walked the length of the park blocks I'd continue on to Pioneer Square for a little people watching, or to see the weather machine do its song and dance at noon (not to ruin the surprise, but I think it's going to be cloudy with a chance of rain). Then just a little ways to 9th and Alder where the food carts are so you can pick up a Whole Bowl or a cup of coffee.
From there I'd keep heading north until I hit Powell's City of Books to explore the multi-storied maze of every book you could ever want. Then east, passing through China Town, which isn't terribly Chinese aside from the ornate gate leading into it and the Chinese Gardens which should be your next destination. Whatever time is left should be spent on the nearby waterfront park, enjoying a magical treat from our local Voodoo Doughnuts conveniently located between you and the water.
What are some great restaurants for a night out with gay friends?
Montage is a funky little Cajun place tucked under one of our bridges. It's ok to order the mac and cheese. In fact, you're missing out if you deny yourself this simple pleasure that they offer in a variety of styles. And there's a good chance you're going to be seated between strangers at a long table, so get up the courage to introduce yourself early and it will be less awkward when they can't help but overhear you as you yell across the table about that time you did that thing to that person you shouldn't have taken home. Make sure you have leftovers so the waiter or waitress will wrap them up and shape the tinfoil into a squirrel, a bat, or something much naughtier.
What are some great restaurants for a romantic gay date? What about these restaurants appeals to you?
OK, it's not really a restaurant, but there's this cute deli/pastry/Italian imports kind of place called Martinotti's in downtown, and they've got a couple of little tables in the corner. It's not a fancy placelast time I sat down for a cannoli there I was sitting next to shelves filled with the Italian version of Pepto-Bismol. It's just an entirely unassuming, quiet, quirky place to sit and have a conversation with someone without the obtrusive service staff that always walks up as you're delivering the punch line to a raunchy joke.
What is the gay community like there? Do you consider yourself to be part of any particular "scene?"
Like any city, the community is divided into lots of different scenes. There's a big nesting/homey kind of gay population, a lot of people just want a low-key life with their loved one (already found or not) and Portland is a safe, comfortable place to do it. And there's definitely a youthful, hipster scene that's less dramatic than the emo kids, more optimistic than the goths, and more pragmatic than your average mall-crawl communication major twink. Think bike mechanics, community volunteers, and environmental law students. That's probably where I'd fall if I had to label myself (which Portlanders don't in general find useful or necessary). And of course there's a little bit of everything else to fill in the spaces.
Where do you shop for clothes?
In SE (the city is divided into quarters; east and west by the river, and north and south by Burnside), on Hawthorne Boulevard. Between 34th and 37th there are three great thrift stores that carry everything from gently used mainstream threads to bizarre articles that probably weren't in style when they were manufactured thirty years ago. Buy used stuffit's doesn't cost as much on a lot of levels.
Are any famous people from your town?
Think of the most frank creative minds you know. One of them is going to be from (or have spent a good amount of time in) Portland. The city just has a knack for churning these people out. Matt Groening, Courtney Love, Gus Van Sant, Storm Large, Chuck Palahnuik, Ana Matronic, and that guy who invented the Phillips-head screw, Henry F. Phillips. Way to represent Portland and break the mold, Henry!
Where do you go for other forms of entertainment -- live theater, concerts, movies, art exhibits? Are there any local gay performance groups, bands, or artists that you're a fan of?
It's not a specifically gay event, but you're going to find a great concentration of queer and queer-friendly folks at Last Thursday. The last Thursday of every month the bohemian art community lets loose in the Alberta Arts district. Galleries, studios, and restaurants open up and present great new art, and all along the sidewalk independent artists peddle their stuff.
Every thirty feet there's a different musician or band playing a totally different style of music. You walk past people in dynamic costumes juggling, dancing with fire, wobbling on stiltsit's a big ball of positive creative energy. For my more subdued friends who get nervous amongst the chaos of alternative festivals there's always First Thursday.
It's like Last Thursday, but instead of sneaking a puff when the popo aren't looking, you sip wine at various upscale galleries in the pristine Pearl District, hob-knobbing with the liberal affluent and experiencing Portland's great artistic drive first-hand without your watch getting caught on someone's dreadlocks.
Is there a local cocktail that's popular in your town?
If you're drinking in Portland, make it a beer. We even make it easy for you to wean yourself off the hard stufftry a McMenamin's Ruby, it's so packed full of raspberries you might not realize it's an ale.
Where do the hot boys in your town tend to hang out?
Powell's City of Books. It's the world's largest new and used bookstore in the world (it takes up an entire block, with multiple levels you'll get lost in on your first visit), and I may be making a jump in reasoning but I think that means it has the largest selection of educated bespectacled bachelors, too. It might be hard to get their attention though. A lot of people just grab a book, sit in the caf, and read for hours.
If you had to describe the "average gay boy" style of your town in two words, what would they be?
Do you have any local celebs?
Sam Adams, our first openly gay mayor, and he's pretty cool, to boot, supporting art and community events. Not to mention he was shirtless in a print ad for Bishops, a slick rock and roll barbershop that's my personal favorite.
Do gay men and lesbians hang out together in your town or is that just unheard of?
There's a pretty nicely blended community, though a friend of mine complains about lesbians arguing outside his window at night. I'm sure he's guilty of bothering lesbians with his late-night drunken ramblings, of course.