Recently when my plans were derailed at the last minute, leaving me too annoyed to turn around and head back home so quickly, I walked into the first watering hole that intersected with my agitated footsteps. I walked into the Virginia Cafe on SW 10th Ave. It was dark, the music was loud, and the joint seemed unexpectedly packed for this late hour on a Monday night. I ordered a Pendleton on the rocks and after those first few sips which took my irritated edge off, I began to look around at this dark bar that was now my new haven. It wasn’t fancy, the vibe was more like a well-worn and much loved sweater, the kind with a few small holes here and there, the style might not be to the liking of most but to you, slipping on that sweater makes you feel good, comfortable or just simply warm. That was the vibe that hung in the dimly lit, casually comfortable and surprisingly crowded atmosphere of The Virginia Cafe. I left The Virginia Cafe with a pleased, instead of perturbed, frame of mind and felt like I stumbled upon a new version of that lived-in, feel-good sweater I could put on when I need a little comforting. My Monday night at The Virginia Cafe left me with such a good memory I looked them up on the web, for no other reason than I wanted to learn more good things, and that I did. Below is an account of the Virginia Cafe’s rich, colorful and long history here in Portland. Maybe I’ll see you there some Monday night, cheers!
The history of the Virginia Cafe can be traced back as far as 1906, the year that Theodore, William and Christopher Dussin emigrated from Argos, Greece to Portland. In 1914, after heavy mountain snows caused them to be laid off their jobs laying railroad ties, the brothers entered the restaurant business and opened the first Virginia Cafe at the corner of S.W. 10th and Stark. In the heart of the city’s once notorious “tenderloin,” the brothers offered “Quick Service and Best Coffee” to a clientele heavily studded with characters that frequented the area. Many of the hotels in that area were sporting houses, and on an average day 50 trays were carried by two “runners” from the “Virginia to the girls’ rooms – gals who ate well and tipped lavishly.” Continue reading →
September brings more than the students back to the Chapman School. Every year throughout September thousands of Vaux’s Swifts gather in Portland as they prepare to migrate to Central America and Venezuela. These fast-flying, dark, bat-like birds don’t perch but rather roost, which means they cling on the sides of hollow things like hollow tree trunks and chimney’s. The Chapman School chimney in Northwest Portland has been their roosting place of choice since the 1980’s.
Chapman Elementary School houses the largest known roost of migrating Vaux’s Swifts in the world. Thousands of swifts roost in the chimney on a nightly basis starting late August and continuing through September. Portland has embraced and cherish this natural phenomenon so much so that the school restructured a new heating system, that does not utilize the roosting chimney, and added stabilizers to the chimney’s framework to ensure the chimney could withstand the weight of thousands of birds and keep the kids in the elementary school safe.
So what does it mean when the swifts are back in town?
It means you should pack a picnic dinner or some dessert, grab a blanket, the kids, your dog (and we used to easily be able to pop a bottle of wine, although this year they say park rangers will be enforcing the no alcohol rule so I’ll have to see what this really means next week when I go. I’ll post an update in the comments afterwards) and some cardboard!
Where does this take place?
The Chapman School NW 26th/ Raleigh Ave, Portland, OR
When should I arrive?
Arrive an hour before dusk, so say 6 ish and it goes until 8 ish.
What exactly will I see?
A hillside full of people on blankets and chairs, tons of kids running around and cardboard sliding down the dried out hillside and a sky that looks typical. As the minutes starts to wind down and dusk starts to creep in, the sky becomes freckled with black quickly flying small birds, then more and more and more birds- literally thousands of SWIFTS fill the sky overhead. Just before dusk the birds start to fly in circular pattern creating a funnel-like cloud. Soon you’ll notice the funnel of birds start to funnel down into the chimney where they will roost for the night. It’s an amazing natural phenomenon and so very worth a few hours of your night. Swifts make a tasty meal for Hawks and you will most likely encounter a Swift/Hawk face off during the night.
Parking is tight so arrive early or plan on walking a fair distance, also new this year parking has opened up in Montgomery Park (only 6 blocks away) For more information of the Vaux’s Swifts and the Portland Swift Watch check out the Audubon Society of Portland
As you walk along NW Davis Street in Portland, Oregon towards Chinatown, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to these 17-foot tall, curvy and colorful sculptures that illuminate the street. “Nephenthes” created by Seattle based artist Dan Corson are the newest permanent additions to Portland’s public art collection. Read more below about these beauties from the artist himself as published in DesignBoom
Seattle-based artist Dan Corson has just finished installing a permanent series of four 17-foot tall photo-voltaic sculptures along NW Davis street in Portland Oregon, titled ‘nepenthes’. These glowing sculptural elements are inspired by the carnivorous plants called nepenthes, which are named after the magical greek potion that eliminates sorrow and suffering. By referencing the patterns of Oregon native vegetation and other carnivorous plants and inserting a quirky expression of nature into an urban environment, these sculptures celebrate historic Chinatown’s unique and diverse community. The structures are created out of robust layers of translucent fiberglass with embedded with LED lights wrapping around a steel spine. a custom created solar panel on top energizes the batteries, and also allows circular shadows to back-light the tops of the sculptures in the daytime. Each sculpture is physically identical, yet they all have a unique translucent color and patterning that gives each piece its own distinctive personality. From an urban planning perspective, the project was designed to increase pedestrian connectivity between two important neighborhoods. The project was funded by trimet and managed by the regional arts & culture council and is now a part of the city of Portland’s public art collection.
Each fiberglass sculpture glows at night creating a dramatic street presence with an artistic flare.
Portland is known for being a city that is full of bike-enthusiasts, being bike-friendly, as well as bike-centric. It’s also known as a city that invents, embraces and exalts both the legitimate and quirky. Here’s one of those quirky, yet legitimate, thrills you can only experience here in Portland: Zoobomb.
Walking past the intersection at SW 13th and West Burnside you can’t help but notice the pastel colored, trike-sized and banana boat seat rigged bikes that are piled and chained to a vertical pole topped with a gold-leafed bicycle figure. A visitor might even think: Wow, I never realized what total body strength cycling creates, even the children here in Portland are power-houses, they’re able to hoist their bikes up over their heads and secure them onto this pole? But why?
Although these bikes may be mini-sized they are used for big size fun, fondly known as Zoobomb. Every Sunday night a group of thrill-seeking, bike-enthusiasts unchain these bikes, pump up the tires, do a safety, check perform minor tune-ups, then head to Portland’s light rail system, the MAX, and ride the line up to the Zoo. Once all the Zoobombers have gathered together at the top, they prepare to zoom down the careening hill en masses on this eclectic collection of bikes. Portland is the only place Zoobombing exists. The ride is often repeated several times in an evening. The city has sanctioned this event, the Mayor has even participated in this event. A medic trails along at the back of the pack and is there to assist if need be, the surrounding neighbors have no issue with this weekly event and the Zoobombers make it a point to leave no trace behind. Participants say it’s a rush like no other and it’s a thrilling way to end the weekend.
I’d been snowshoeing one other time in my life and it was a fun afternoon with a group of chatty women;
Rare Earth Adventures guided tours
and the sun was shinning high in the sky reflecting off the snow making sunglasses a necessity not just a fashion statement. Snowshoeing was a workout but it wasn’t as demanding as a spin class or boot camp, it was fun fitness. This year I had read about moonlight snowshoeing and that sounded like a creative spin on this already very likable snow sport.
I rounded up 3 other warm bodies, umm I mean friends, scanned the calendar for the next full moon and scheduled our moonlight snowshoeing adventure with Rare Earth Adventures. The price included round trip transportation, snow park permits, guide, gear, snacks and beverages.
Our snowshoeing trek took us to Trillium Lake on Mt Hood. A great place to sled ride or snowshoe by day with the only light being shed at night coming from the moon and stars. The park is not wired for lights, except for the parking lot, so unless you’re very familiar with this terrain I wouldn’t suggest a night hike or sled riding for that matter!
We geared up in our snowshoes, grabbed our poles, hand warmers, head lamps and backpacks that carried water and any other little extras we thought we might need; and set off under the fleeting light of the full moon. The main trails are so packed down that snowshoes really aren’t necessary. As you descend down the main path into the interior of the park veer off the snow of the packed paths and put those snowshoes to good use. Snowshoes are to designed to disperse you’re weight evenly over a larger surface so when you step down into the cold soft snow your foot, and therefor you, don’t sink waste deep. One safety precaution we learned was to be watchful of the tree wells, where the snow has warmed up and receded or sunk around the base of trees, this snowy area is the least predictable as far as stability because of it’s tendency to warm and soften. Continue reading →
As I make my plans for a festive Halloween celebration at the Star Theater, I am intrigued by the storied past of this, recently refurbished, venue that sits between West Burnside and Portland’s Chinatown.
May 19, 1911 The Princess Theater, renamed the Star Theater in 1939, was a silent film theater that could accommodate 300 “silent” movie viewers . In 1940 the movies were removed and so were the ladies gloves, stocking and brassieres! The theater became home to live burlesque shows with well known dancers such as, Tempest Storm, Betty Roth as Candy Renee, and Arabella Andre.
The late 60′s, brought another change and even less clothing. The Star Theater became an adult theater that showed erotic movies with live strip shows on the stage. The 70′s brought yet more change and experimenting. Everything from classic comedy to underground films, as well as, controversial “live sex shows” took place on the Star stage.
1979-1983 The Star went back to it’s less contentious form of adult entertainment and became just another run-of-the-mill Portland strip bar. However, this strip bar had a very well known,although not at the time, teenage stripper shaking her ta-tas, her name was Courtney Love.
An obstacle course skillfully crafted amongst and between a forest of towering trees at dare-devil heights. Tree to Tree Adventure Park in Gaston, a short 40 minute drive from Portland, is like George of the Jungle meets Fear Factor.
Upon arrival you’ll be fitted with your gear. Helmet, check. harness on low and tight, check. Utility gloves, check. Carabiners in working order, check. Fear of heights and unstable-homemade-looking platforms feebly attached to trees that tower above the hard forest floor – checked at the front desk! Next, your guide reviews the rules and an instructional demonstration of your safety gear. From this point on you should now consider this gear a valued extension of your appendages. This gear, after all, will be the one thing that will save you from pulling a real George of the Jungle move and splatting face first into a tree, or worse yet, the hard forest floor. Finally you head over to a practice obstacle to walk through the Tree to Tree safety protocol, and after receiving the thumbs up you are ready to head out and explore the course.
Let the fun begin! Soaring across your first zipline, creates such a high. Leaping from wobbly platforms nestled on branches, grasping
Zipline at Tree to Tree
platforms and suspended bridges on contact is both frightening and exhilarating. Aerial bridges with missing and unstable planks – Oh My! Fast, fun, ziplines propel you into the center of a web of rope – Look Out! A vertical climb up a ladder of tires, planks and rope – Challenging! Tightrope walking 50 feet above the ground – Hey, Look At Me! Monkeybars that have you dangling midair by the sheer strength of your fingertips – Don’t Look Down!
The adventure park has 4 courses, each different and each challenging you to a higher level. Not only is this an adrenaline rush it’s a gratifying experience to face some terrifying obstacles and conquered them despite your fear. Adventure seekers must be capable of reaching 5’11″ with their arms stretched overhead. Your admission price allows you 3 hours on the course so you can continue to dominate any or all of the courses at your will. There is a kid friendly version of the obstacles for those mini but mighty thrill seekers.
CitySearch and Girl On The Go PDX have teamed up! Check out the new look and vibe of CitySearch with recommendations from scouts who are “in the know” — and this Girl On The Go happens to be a girl-in-the-know! Our team of Portland scouts will be supplying you with rich recommendations to many of the city’s tried-and-true, as well as, new and notable businesses. Stop wasting valuable time reading mini-dissertations on other resource sites, consult CitySearch and use your time to enjoy your food, your friends and that luscious cocktail you read about!
50 square blocks in Portland’s Northwest Alphabet District has been historically referred to as Slabtown. Why? Well it’s not because it was the birthplace of ribs basted in bitchin’ BBQ sauce, I can tell you that much! For tasty, fall-off-the-bone ribs and a selection of finger-licking-good barbecue sauces head over to Smokehouse 21 on NW 21st Ave. It’s only blocks away, go there for ribs, you can thank me later. Back to Slabtown. In the 1880’s, the working class and poor residents in this area used slabs of cheap wood from the local sawmills as fuel for their fireplaces. The term “Slabtown” was the semi-derogatory term developed by the rich, who could afford cordwood that was cut to size for their fireplaces.
The prominent Slabtown sign at the corner of Northwest Lovejoy Street and NW 15th Avenue, erected in the 70′s, is one of the remaining scraps of evidence of this neighborhood’s past. The sign was the inspiration for the bar/music venue of the same name, Slabtown, located at 1033 NW 16th Avenue and is famously known as the birthplace of the Portland band, The Dandy Warhols.
Slabtown, the bar, has quite a colorful history. During my months of researching and photographing Portland’s funky & fabulous bathrooms, which resulted in a book: The Porcelain Diaries, due out at the end of 2012; I became acquainted with Doug Rogers, Slabtown’s new owner. Doug shared some pretty wild stories about Slabtown’s past and what lives within its walls and at the core of this Eternal Dive Bar. Read on to hear what Doug shared with me. Continue reading →
Trader Vic’s isn’t the only place you’ll spot totem poles in The Pearl. Jamison Square is one of the busiest blocks in The Pearl during these hot summer days. Walking past Jamison today, it wasn’t the red cheeked, mischievous, water bucket toting little rascals that caught my attention, it was the sky-reaching colorful totem poles. How do totem poles fit into this urban water park? The inquisitive side of me decided to do some quick research. Why? The plain and simple answer, because I wanted to know! And it could come in hand someday if I signed up for one of those urban races; or as an conversation opener with any one of the cute men who walk their dogs in that area! So read on, absorb this information and hopefully one day it will serve you well. Continue reading →