COLUMN: Playful Portland could teach us some

It took four visits, but I finally figured out what Portland has that the rest of the Pacific Northwest lacks. It’s a sense of humour.

It took four visits, but I finally figured out what Portland has that the rest of the Pacific Northwest lacks.

It’s a sense of humour.

Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland all share West Coast sensibilities, climate and inclinations.

The Oregon city, though, is the only one that makes us smile.

The city’s unofficial slogan is ‘Keep Portland Weird’ and boy, do residents work hard at keeping it that way.

I couldn’t find a motto for Greater Victoria, but I’m sure it’s not along the same lines. Nor do I think we’ll see any of the local mayors posing, as did former Portland mayor Bud Clark, wearing only a raincoat and flashing a statue for a poster that read Expose Yourself to Art.

Not that long ago, Victoria council was arguing about whether or not it was okay to have more than two restaurants open after the bars closed, as though being able to eat after 2 a.m. was somehow a problem.

The recent decision by Oak Bay council to not support the annual palm tree sale shows a total lack of a funny bone. If council was smart they would have voted to keep the sale and planted the entire length of Oak Bay Avenue with palm trees.

Here are a couple of events I came across on my trek to our southern neighbour that I think illustrate my point that Portland is just far more, uh, let’s say fun-oriented than the rest of us.

The Urban Iditarod was in progress on a recent Saturday afternoon. This race, very loosely based on the Alaskan dog sled competition, sees teams pull decorated shopping carts along city streets and over the city’s many bridges, with frequent stops for liquid refreshments. I saw teams of pirates, doctors, cartoon figures and even penises, yes, penises.

I asked the relaxed young police officer sitting in his car watching the hoopla if the event was official. He said no, though he thought they could easily get a permit if they asked. He was just hoping that nobody would get hurt over the next few hours until he was off shift and could let someone else take care of the racers.

Most Portland drinking and eating establishments offer a Happy Hour with drink and food specials. My family and I enjoyed the views from the 30th floor of the Portland City Grill so much we missed taking in a performance of the Portland Cello Project at the Wonder Ballroom. The orchestra of cellists puts on concerts that often feature surprising choices. We missed seeing the group perform heavy metal band Pantera’s songs from their album, Vulgar Display of Power.

Lest you think that the cellists are a one-time joke act, they have upcoming concerts listed for Minnesota, Kentucky and California. In the past they have performed concerts playing everything from classical to rap music.

Walking the streets you come across the Benson Bubblers – drinking fountains installed around 1912 – famous quotes inlaid in sidewalks and odd sculptures placed throughout the city.

Another night we stopped at the Rogue Distillery and Public House and my son left with a bottle of maple and bacon beer, inspired by Voodoo Doughnuts, a shop that is open 24 hours a day, accepts only cash and always seems to have a lineup out the door. Their maple bar is a maple-frosted doughnut with real bacon on top.

Last March, we watched as thousands of entrants took part in the annual Shamrock Run. What struck us was how many of the racers, including many of the serious runners, were dressed up in green wigs and more.

We hope to get back to Portland soon and take in some more of the Rose City’s finer and funnier events.

We’d like to check out the 24-Hour Church of Elvis (if the latest incarnation stays open), maybe take in an episode of the Pedal Powered Talk Show. But as much as we wished we could, we can no longer check out Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet paintings, as it closed in 2010.

Maybe someone could open a spinoff here? Velvet Victoria anyone?

Don Denton is Black Press Victoria’s photo supervisor.

ddenton@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Most Read