Published: April 21st 2012April 5th 2012
There is no-one to go out with on this cold spring night so I go it alone. A good ole American dive bar is the only option in these situations... By the end of the night I would have had a taste of USA’s best beer drinking state, Oregon, and end up in a Japanese restaurant turned gay and lesbian country music karaoke night. This is Oregon and I hadn’t even hit one of my top American cities Portland or its grand landscapes.
It was going to be hard to top Redwoods performance so I looked for a bit of city life to break it up. I made it as far north on my crappy spare tyre to Eugene. The hipster capital of Oregon, which in turn means the hipster capital of USA.
To get an idea of its cutting edge reputation this season’s college basketball court was very panache but irritating to the eye on TV. It was to represent the environment of the northwest with the sides of all-four courts covered in fir trees. The designer was part of the Nike shoe design team and Nike, which was discovered here, is all over
Pot smoking and anything related to lighting up is also popular. I mean how can you be a hipster and not be into that? In fact my one night in Eugene I was offered it 3 times. I’ll get to marijuana later; instead lets talk about beer for a moment.
Oregon beer is the best of the bad bunch of beer options in USA but one thing it does have is options and in Oregon you’ll get a wide variety. Dead Guy Ale Rogue was a different flavour so on this occasion I went with that. Throughout Oregon you’ll taste a range of experiments like pumpkin, chocolate, nutty you name it. Most other states have it too but they don’t do it the same way as Oregon. It’s a full taste with substance making you feel like you are having an actual beer.
Microbreweries are the thing in this state and with all that experimentation it can provide a bit of gas the next morning but I won’t take the opportunity to talk about that and let it slide this time.
Options are Americans beer pleasure.
Most countries in the world just have your stock standard two or three options, some only one. But in America it’s rare to see a bar with the same beers on tap. There is no real monopoly, sure you have Bud Light, Coors Light and Paps Blue Ribbon but you have so many other options that vary in taste and it changes again within the region of that state. In Oregon it’s endless, where generally you can appreciate the effort.
As a single travelling it does get hard at times to go out on your lonesome but in the states you can just enter into a dive bar and they’ll talk to you. Clearly you are out of town and as soon as you blurt out one word everyone it seems is intrigued.
I have this blue cheap shitty wind jacket which fits me in perfectly to the dive bar scene but underneath I have a nice collared shirt number just in case there is a change of bar. (Yeah I got it all figured out!)
Plant yourself on the stool at the bar and let the conversation flow. It is
a great way to get an insight into the problems of the nation and discover the good nature of its people.
I walk into the bar and there is about 5 people, I’m thinking, “Oh great!” But before too long the whole bar is chatting. The barkeep is some smart girl about to do a masters, another Californian guy was meant to head up to Seattle to learn how to sail 10 years ago but ended up picking up a lesbian. Got her pregnant twice, married her but now they are separated and she wants a divorce soon… Characters! That’s what you get when you hit a dive bar!
Talks ranged from snowshoe hiking, discussing the medicinal marijuana cards in California, which was shown to me. The loss of the family unit since WWII. Difficulty of getting a job. How 5 years from now degrees are going to be almost useless and having a trade is the way to go. I had my own radio show! Who needs Sean Hannity or Lars Larson or even Rush Limbaugh or NPR’s All Things Considered.
Generally over time they will let you know what’s
going on. They never go to these places themselves but they know what’s doing. So I am informed that there is Karaoke across the street. I enter and most people are dressed in that hipster clothing of a wanna-be hippy, with some though dressed in full on tight cowboy gear, boots ‘n’ all. A lesbian with a shaved head tells me “Some people here are just clinging onto something that’s just not there anymore.”
So the question for me was will I participate? Adele was out of the question so I was going to go with Hank Williams a fitting song of his is, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” But before I could put pen to pad some gay bloke called Drew beat me to it… No it was not me. I was gutted and took it as a message to just sit back and observe a great introduction to Oregon.
The next morning I woke up and looked through the window of my bottom bunk. Drew the curtains away and saw next doors roof covered in snow. I walk outside to the balcony and the streets are covered in deep tyre marks
with the snow filling the gutters full. My eyes lit up like it was a white Christmas and for 2 seconds it was an amazing feeling. Until I thought, “Shit, wait hang on! I have to drive in this thing… And with the spare tyre!”
I had to drive about 10 minutes to the main road to Firestone to replace the tyre, which, Hertz paid for. But to get there it was hard to move. The windshield was covered about 20 cms thick. Unsure how I am supposed to get it off I found a shovel and began shoveling the snow off until a guy came out and said, “Just do it with your arms. See. Look!”
I tried to reverse and the snow was so thick that I was revving like I was bogged. I had to rock back and forth to create enough weight to compact the snow and get going. Weather has been unseasonal for the past year here and a snowfall this late (mid-March) in Eugene is unheard of. So unheard of I’m sure if I returned years later and mention this day, locals would recall it quite easily. “Oh
the snow of March! Yeah we haven’t had something like that since 2012.”
Without GPS I had my direction written out from Google maps. I get to the second block and a tree fell down across the whole road. It was a slow cautious drive but I got there. Once fixed I hit the highway and headed for Portland. Snow filled the fields making grazing difficult for cows and fluffed up sheep. Vineyards up to this point were just twigs and snow.
Only a few hours north Portland is a larger hipster city. It has that great mix of being big enough to feel like a city yet small enough to have that small town feel. Population of just over half a million, each area has a slightly different feel as well as copious amounts of strip clubs. In fact it is known to have more strip clubs per capita, more than Las Vegas.
I met up with two friends, which provided a good mix of what Portland is about. One saw me as a great opportunity to do the rounds of some of the classic strip joints of Portland. So
I will critique throughout the rest of the blog but won’t bore you with them all at once. I’ll split it up with other great Portland features but first up the first two strip clubs.
My friend’s personal favourite was Acropolis. We arrive at the driveway and it is packed. It gave a false indication that the club is busy because as we enter, there are more workers than customers. We get ourselves a beer and head to one of 4 stages.
You have to put a dollar down with every song minimum whilst sitting in the front row. Up first was the best looking one of the night, some blonde that was 5ft 7in. I confirmed this after we went back to back at the end of the night (We got to chatting whilst she stripped.) Talking to strippers is quite funny because sometimes you just fluke some dirty talk or perhaps something that leaves a bit of mystery. Other times you disappoint yourself and all of a sudden you find yourself talking about height and comparing.
A rule in Oregon is that if you serve alcohol than you have
to serve food. So for a cheap eat you can get a really good steak with sides for $5 whilst having a girl smack her arse in front of you. I have to admit this is a new one for me, as I have never had a girl come over to me whilst eating and put half a breast on my plate.
They soon realise you are eating so smack themselves and leave you to it. They must do practice drills once a week on that stuff. Maybe 15 mins before doors open. “Now high elevation and… WHACK! You got it Angel!” In fact because of the whole its only $1 to tip we actually stayed for the blonde to go around again. Lets call her Angel. We did so because one, she was good looking and two, she did have a good spank going. I can still hear the noise, all the girls did it. It was at this point we talked about height… Lame I hear some of you perverts… I know. For those interested Acropolis and Mary’s Club were the best smackers of oneself in Portland.
Mary’s Club is the first
topless club in Portland. The club was bought in 1954 and was a piano bar and by 1965 exotic dancers came on stage during the breaks in songs. With the piano players given the flick it club now concentrates on the exotic dancing part.
There are strong free speech protection laws in the Oregon Constitution. A court case in the Supreme Court called the Henry vs. Oregon Constitution was held in 1987. Henry was an adult bookstore owner and was raided, fined and sentenced to 60 days in prison for selling obscene material but won the case. Ruling it was unconstitutional and even if it offends, it’s his right to freedom of speech. The ruling made Oregon the first and as of the end of 2011 the only state to abolish the offense “Obscenity” in state law.
What this means is that full nudity and lap dances in strip clubs are a protected speech. A funny one was a judge dismissed a charge against a nude bicyclist in November 2008 for participated in the city’s annual World Naked Bike Day. In the late 90’s only around 7 people participated but a few years back
Portland’s event had 13000 participants. The idea is to ride around in midnight until you get pulled over or arrested. Research suggests it’s a bit tamer than that now.
So with freedom to express yourself and no problems of the courts getting involved strip clubs have come in abundance. The numbers are so high (I couldn’t get an official figure) that the city is known to have the most strip clubs per capita in USA.
The institution of Portland’s nightlife (Mary’s) started off with a few smacks on their arses, a few spins around the pole and more $1 bills. I didn’t like a couple of the girls and after using the toilet to bide some time and save on the dollars. One older girl with extremely large fake breasts was dishing out motor boats for a dollar. She looks at me as if to expect me to wilt over her over proportioned feature but I didn’t.
She came up to me and tells me if I don’t “…tip next song, you can leave.” My friend had a pair of glasses, which the strippers took a liking to. A few grabbed
them as a tool with one putting each sceptical on either nipple of her breasts. That’s fine I thought but then she deciding it would be quite erotic to rub the spectacles on her vagina. (What!) My face scrunched up a bit after seeing this even after being so drunk. These girls will do anything for a dollar.
I was listening to the radio and heard that the US is considering to remake the $1 coin and maybe phase out the note - It’s cheaper to produce coins. It probably won’t happen but the stripping industry would have to revamp the way they get the cash - You can’t flick a coin on the stage. Maybe if they provide coin pouches they can still go with the dollar tips. Otherwise the stripping clientele could change if the $1 note gets taken away. At the moment all walks of life go there. Even college students, everyone can afford a $1 note.
But that is enough on strip clubs for now what about the rest of the place. You have to drive along Hwy 5 to the east side that takes you onto Marquam Bridge that
offers the best views of the city. The Willamette River slithers its way around the CBD, which is full of character. The city has got some size to it but not overwhelming. There are 8 bridges that connects the east with the west. All have a different design to it. It rivals Newcastle in the UK but I’d say Newcastle has the better bridges.
There are many food stalls that are generally on the same property as the private car park blocks. The best ones are around SW Alder street between 9th
. The prices ranges from around $5-10 and cover almost every possible food genre you can think of. Just with that alone it would make coming to work so good.
Portland was named by a flip of a coin (Now that is my type of city!) - The other option was Boston. A shipping city originally, it concentrated on shipping things like timber from the abundance of natures finest around as well as shipbuilding in WWII. All that has reduced now and has been moved north of downtown. It has been replaced by high tech firms like Intel, Columbia, Sportswear and
The city is a perfect walkable city, which made having a car a little annoying. So I made quick walking visits to a few must sees like Powell’s Bookstore. It has been stated as the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It has everything you could think of. Generally when I enter bookstores I look around to find the travel section and than gaze at the various covers until I find the book of my next intended destination. At Powell’s I reached a defining moment. As I walked aisle to aisle I found nothing of interest. Could this be it? Have I done everything I’ve wanted to see? Then in the far corner I see the Pacific Islands and life could go on.
There is a free transport service called the Trimet Max line that can get you around for those without a car. That can take you to Chinatown and the Portlandia statue, which is second only to the Statue of Liberty when it comes to metal repousse in the USA. It depicts the Seal of Portland (its logo I suppose) It’s a lady dressed in classical clothing with
one hand holding a trident whilst the other has its hand out to greet its visitors. It’s on the Portlandia building, which is nothing too spectacular compared to the statue. The statue is kneeling down so is 10.6m tall but if it were standing it would be 15m.
There are so many quirky things about this city including the shops and food even the footpath on Yamhill Street has pull quotes on the tiles that make no sense to your walk. Its quirkiness even is represented in its excellent Vietnam War Memorial.
Parks are scattered throughout Portland and the best and biggest is Washington Park which looks down onto the city and beyond to the mountains of Washington state across the Colorado River. Added bonus was the snow cover and it almost enticed me to fork out $15 to see the Japanese Garden but tight as I am I refused and headed toward the Memorial instead.
Called the Garden of Solace it’s a 370 yard wheelchair accessible spiral with little stopping points where plaques display the names of the men who died that year. On top of that are quirky facts
about what happened in Portland and Oregon whilst these people were away and what they will miss because of their sacrifice. It is such a refreshing way of looking at it and really helps define the attitude of the people of the northwest. It really is a different part of the states. Somewhat separated from the complaining of the rest of the nation.
Ill give you an example. After talking about the war it tells this, “… Down on the Columbia River the states first atomic plant was built. In high county, outside of Vale. Public lands officials counted 867 wild horses.” God I love this city.
Portland even has the smallest park in the world called Mills End Park its so small I suspect it doesn’t even exists I couldn’t find it. I also couldn’t find a pair of tennis shoes at any of the Nike factory stores. Oregon pay a higher income tax and to compensate they don’t pay sales tax on things like electronics and shoes. With Nike coming from the state, shoes, which in America are already cheap, are even cheaper. I tried about 5 stores for no luck.
As stated beer here is the best in the country and the microbrew scene is the most I’ve seen in all my travels. In 2008 it was estimated that Oregon have 21.6 official beer makers per million people. Not bad… not bad.
In July 2011, officials from the Oregon Brewers Festival announced Portland had 40 microbreweries located within the city limits. This means they have more microbreweries than any city in the world. Covering a quarter of the state total, estimated to be 159 states wide as of 2011. Did I tell you I love this city!
And to think the beer lecture is over, think again. It is not uncommon to have a local who attempts his own batch and at my friends place his roommate had a keg in the kitchen, which was duly snapped up by yours truly. To this day it was the best beer I had in USA. My friend was going to bottle me some for the road but the keg was dry. It was that good. This beer I suspect is what got us to the strippers hoeing down a steak with breasts.
I read an article months ago on “Portland in 24 hours” and on there it mentioned that Portland has the first and only Vegan Strip club. That’s right a strip club for those who don’t like milk and that. The owner was quoted as saying, "The only meat we have is on the stage."
And that quote pretty much explains what you get. It was one of the poorest strip clubs I’ve been to in USA (actually we did pass by a couple of others that were bad. But of the expected good ones it was poor.) The women span around on the pole like a rotisserie on speed but didn’t hang around to settle in for a few songs. There was no seduction, sometimes they were already topless or fully naked before they came on. It had lost the whole point of the strip club. There was no waiting around and waiting for the lusting of seduction to take over…. Oh and the food options were terrible I ended up with a Vegan burger. I was expecting a Vegan culinary delight but surprisingly at this place food is not the priority.
met my other friend on a Friday night and took me to one of the main brewery bars. They are legitimate bars serving only their own brewed beer. And the flavours are endless, amber, red, larger, ales, honey flavoured IPA’s, chocolate tasting. Basically in Portland you can have any flavour you can think of and one brewery will have it.
We had a quick visit to the bar opposite the Rose Garden stadium where the Portland Trailblazers play. Called Spirit of 77 its named after the Trailblazers only title. I again identified my age as I discussed my affection for Clyde “The Glide” Drexler… My friends can only recall when he left for Houston Rockets.
Again the Australian accent worked a charm. It must be what actors, sports stars get when they go out. Absolutely no effort is needed. Based purely on my accent I am interesting. So anyway to cut a long story short my group was leaving and her group was going elsewhere. I thought we were eventually ending up at the same place. It was realised its not the case so I was told that I should get her number off
one of the girls from my group so we could go on a breakfast date. It felt so college like, well below my 30 years of age… But by the time breakfast came about I had driving 2 hours up the highway heading toward Seattle.
I came back late from returning from Seattle a few days later and my friends beer brewing roommate said, “Oh you have to see the best stripper in Portland. She only strips on Mondays at Devils Point.” So into the car we go despite my tiredness and I’d wake up the next morning with a dirty Taco Bell receipt at 1:42:19am not remembering anything of the experience.
What I did remember was the best stripper in Portland. We’ll call her Minoux (Judging from the website, I could be wrong). My friends roommate didn’t tell us who she is. So again we plant ourselves at the front and plant a dollar bill on the dance area. I pointed out how the dollar bill makes strip clubs more accessible to the general guy in the states and makes it more acceptable to go for a casual beer than elsewhere in the
world. My friends couldn’t believe how the rest of the world treats strip clubs.
I find the stripping in Portland interesting because it’s more about entertaining than just stripping. Devils Point on a Monday had 4 girls. Some were doing some outrageous pole dancing moves, others providing a fire show heating up the room.
The general feature on most strippers is the tattoo. The radio a week later informed that 25% of Americans between the ages of 18-23 now have at least one tattoo on their body. So as this blonde girl comes up on stage she is bathed in tattoos. I’m like, “Great… What? So am I suppose to be impressed?” I know what you are saying readers, ‘Jesus Christ Drew you should be happy that some girl is willing to strip in front of you!’ But honestly tattoos are just another attempt of a white person trying to adopt other cultures. It’s the same as seeing a white person in an African village wearing a boubou. But I’ve gone off topic a bit there.
So she does everything you’d expect but the pole work is mesmerising. She did about
6 songs or something and I commented to my friend. “You know what. She is so good that it doesn’t even bother me that she hasn’t taken off her bottoms.” My friend retorts, “ Umm what are you talking about she’s done it every time!” That is how good she is... Didn’t even realise. She didn’t even feel it necessary to spank her arse every 30 seconds too.
I know I’ve concentrated about the drinking and the strippers but Portland is more than that. Pioneer Courthouse Square is nice. On a sunny day walk along the river and don’t even go to the strippers. Eat on the street or in a restaurant or have a drink at bar with an endless supply of options. I was told in Seattle that Portland is what Seattle use to be. My next destination Seattle was fantastic but larger. A visit to Seattle, which is 4 hours away should incorporate Portland if you’ve got the time. To date Portland is my favourite city in USA and that has nothing to do with the beer or the strippers. Honest!
For Devils Point schedule
log onto: http://www.devilspoint.net/
There are more photos below