Sexy vs Snuggly for Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching, meaning the frenzied search for the perfectly costume is officially in full effect. As a girl in Oregon, this often means deciding between how comfortable you want to be versus how sexy you want to appear. It is no secret that a young woman’s Halloween is often nothing more than an excuse to wear 2 square inches of fabric as a costume, praying you stay warm while you simultaneously pretend to put out flames as a sexy fire firefighter. To quote Mean Girls, “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and do other girls can say anything about it.”

This year, I plan to take a different approach. Perusing Halloween costume patters the other day, I came across the most amazing, ridiculous looking outfits for adults. Maybe it was the corny posing of the models, or perhaps my boyfriend’s shared exuberance to make fools of ourselves. It might even be the fact that I essentially get to wear pajamas to a party while everyone else is sporting the cheap, flimsy fabric you find in most costumes. Regardless, I am embarking on a sewing mission this afternoon to make these stupendous costumes a reality. Wish me luck!

     

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A Few Tips on How to Survive the Rain in Portland, OR

DITCH THE UMBRELLA – This may seem counterproductive, but let me assure you, most people who have grown up in the Willamette Valley do NOT use an umbrella. There may be the rare occasion if you are incredibly dressed up, with a hairdo that will not fit underneath a hood, but seriously, consider how much of a pain umbrellas are. They add to the amount of space you must occupy walking down the street. You are constantly looking out to make sure the wiry ends don’t poke someone in the eye. They get pulled, tugged, and tossed by the blowing wind. They drip mercilessly, leaving a “puddly” mess every time you find shelter indoors.  All in all, you are better off skipping the fight (and later, dead weight) of carting around this contraption. Instead…

INVEST IN A GOOD RAINCOAT – Being that Oregon is an incredibly outdoor oriented state, finding a store that can sell you a decent raincoat is not going to be an issue. Make sure to opt for one that is waterPROOF, not water RESISTANT. Trust me, when you are soaking wet at the start of the fourth quarter of a football game where it has been drizzling/raining all day, you will wish you had. Additionally, don’t worry about getting an incredibly heavy coat. You can always layer more shirts or a sweatshirt underneath, but rain in Oregon does not necessarily mean it is going to be cold.

DO NOT FEAR THE OUTDOORS – During the summer times, we cannot help but seek out water. From the beach to the lake to the pool, the summer months seems to be an endless quest to be outdoors, having fun, and getting completely soaked. Why should that suddenly change when the water is brought to you? I am not advocating swimming in a puddle (although jumping in them can be quite fun). Instead, don your new raincoat and go for a walk. Enjoy the fact that the sun isn’t beating down on you, and the air is permeated with the fresh scent of rain. (Don’t lie, everyone loves that smell.) Reality is, if everyone living in Portland stayed indoors until the rain stopped, the city would be a virtual ghost town all year except for mid-June through most of September. Last time I checked, that clearly wasn’t the case.

ENJOY THE RAIN FROM INSIDE – Even with the last tip, I must admit there are some days that are simply going to be I-don’t-want-to-go-outside-rainy. Whether it is because we are in the middle of a particularly vicious downpour, or the excess grayness has got you feeling a little blah, do not let remaining inside become a negative. Look at the rain as a great motivator to catch up on that book you started a month ago. Build a fire. Start a project. Bake some cookies. Or maybe you could simply use the weather as a guilt-free excuse to snuggle up on the couch and watch your favorite movies all day. To be clear, making a habit of all-day-movie-marathons probably isn’t a great idea, but the once-in-a-while-rainy-day-film-fest is just fine.

ABCs of P-Town (part 3: M-P)

Made in Oregon sign – It may not actually say “Made in Oregon” anymore, but this always was and will be how I remember the sign from growing up here. Perched atop the White Stag Building on the West end of the Burnside Bridge, this iconic landmark has lit up the Portland skyline since 1941. Of course, then it read “White Stag Sugar” to advertise a specific sugar brand to all the city. In the years following the original lettering, the sign has also said “White Stag” and “Made in Oregon” before finally becoming the “Portland, Oregon” you can see today. And while it seems people are happy with the current lettering, there was much dispute a few years ago when word first got out that the “Made in Oregon” was going to change. Most of this was in protest to the sign being changed to “University of Oregon,” a college based in Eugene but with multiple Portland-based programs and leasing the building the sign sits upon. (The lease extended to the rooftop, thus including the sign.) Instead, after much debate, the UO decided to simply not continue the lease (on the rooftop, that is, you can still find them in the White Stag Building) and the city took over. That is when the lettering was changed to the current “Portland, Oregon” with “Old Town” in the smaller lettering underneath.

At least, through all these changes, on thing remained the same. You will always see a red rudolph nose lit up on the white stag around the holiday.

Nicknames – So far throughout these posts, I am sure you have noticed me call Portland a few things other than its official name. The truth is, Portland goes by many different names. To begin with, if you ever get a txt referring to the city from a local, do not be surprised to find “Portland” has been shortened to “PDX” the code identifying its international airport. This is a common occurrence, especially with the exponentially growing use of social media and electronic communication. And going along with this trend, another shortening for Portland is (can you guess? it’s the title of this post for crying out loud) P-Town! Other nicknames may derive from some sort of city history or background. “Stumptown” came to be during the time that Portland was a hub for the logging industry, leaving stumps everywhere, and “Little Beirut” was bequeathed upon Portland by George Bush’s staff after several encounters with the city’s protestors. Additional names include Bridgetown (not hard to figure out why)

as well as RIP City (added recently, thanks to the Portland Trailblazers). Officially, Portland’s nickname is the Rose City, and you can find that correlation EVERYWHERE. There are the International Rose Test Gardens, the annual Rose Festival, the Rose Parade, the Rose Quarter… “Rose City” is even prominent in many a Timbers Army chant(don’t worry, I will get to what the TA is later). I guess when it come to Portland, once name just wasn’t enough.

One-way Streets – I once heard Portland referred to as a game of Battleship – streets going alphabetically one way, and numerically the other. (Really, this is only in the Alphabet District) Thus, you would think with a little common sense, it would make it very easy for someone to find their way around. Enter the one-way street. Portland is rife with one-way streets. This city thrives on them, collects them like old stamps, and uses them against unsuspecting visitors as a way to trap them here FOREVER. Okay, maybe that is a little much, but I have been living here almost my entire life and I STILL will find myself driving around in circles once in a while. Add in a few bike lanes here and there, a “bus only” lane than seems to magically appear in front of you, and a few sets of MAX tracks, no wonder you can always see people walking along the sidewalk as opposed to braving the metropolis maze. Truth be told, it isn’t really that bad, but just make sure you give yourself plenty of extra time if you plan to drive downtown for something. Because, after all the circling around, honking, and last-minute turns… you are still going to need to find a parking spot.

Portlandia – No, I am not talking about the IFC show about this wonderful city… although I do need to catch up on my episodes. Portland, Oregon is home to second largest copper statue in the United States (the first being the Statue of Liberty) Portlandia (and it’s not green either!). You can find this statue downtown at 1120 SW 5th Avenue. Just look up. There, staring down from the Michael Graves’ Portland Building, is a piece of art that many people don’t even know exists. Admittedly, when the trees are in full bloom and you are speed walking back to your office building, it’s easy to miss. Nevertheless, it is a fairly impressive sight (with informational plaque across the street) to check out if you find yourself meandering around downtown with a little extra time.

The ABCs of P-Town (part 1: A-H)

I was originally going to make this all one post, but, since I am too impatient to wait until Z (in my defense, going through the entire alphabet takes a while), and the end result would end up being some ungodly length anyways, I am just going to break this down into parts. The final post will have the entire alphabet so no one has to jump around for the complete list. But until then, here is A-H.

Alphabet District – How perfectly appropriate that we start the ABCs of Portland with the Alphabet District, which is, I must admit, one of my favorite areas in the city. First, there are dozens of smaller shops, boutiques, and restaurants that provide a lovely departure from the main stream mall feel and bustle that surrounds Pioneer Place everyday. Second, there are more than enough unique and charming older style houses to give you that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia… even if you, like me, are only 23 years old. And if nostalgia isn’t for you, maybe recognizing a few Simpson’s characters in street names might brighten your day. (Matt Groening is from Portland, after all.) Finally, as the name would suggest, the streets within the Alphabet District are, indeed, in alphabetical order, beginning with Burnside and heading North. Add to that the numbered avenues running perpendicular and finding any address suddenly became 10x easier.

Burnside – Aside from being a Bridge and a great place to meet Bums (I am on a roll with this letter) Burnside St. is also unique in that it is a very handy navigational landmark for finding your way around Portland. In the greater downtown area, if you see any address or street labeled “NW” or “NE” you will know that you are North of Burnside. Likewise, “SW” and “SE” refer to any location South of the street. Just remember not to try this same trick if you end up too far out in the ‘burbs’ or Beaverton. Then again, why would you go there in the first place?

Costumes – Portlanders absolutely love to dress up (or down in the case of the annual Naked Bike Ride). From body and face paint, to drag, to some of the most outrageous/unique/creative outfits you can think of, there are hundreds of costumes and literally dozens of opportunities to wear them throughout the year. One is very likely to see attire fall short of the norm at the The Starlight Run, SantaCon, PDX Hunt, Urban Iditarod, One Mile Drag Race, Zombie Walk, Tour de Lab… just to name a few.

Donuts – For those who live in Portland, or who just watch the Travel Channel or Food Network a lot, it should be no surprise that Voodoo Donuts made this list. These lovely deep-fried creations are delicious, no doubt, but that isn’t the only reason that Voodoo has become such a staple and tourist attraction in the Rose City. The shop itself is an experience, a far departure from the boring task of grabbing your sugar fix from Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme.  Voodoo boasts innuendos in its slogan and menu items, some truly unique looking and tasting fare, legally binding wedding ceremonies, and, most recently, a world record for the largest box of donuts. Did I also mention they make a special Blood Filled Voodoo doughnuts depicting the Portland Timber’s opponent before each match? Well, they do that too.  Just make sure you are willing to stand in line for the donutty experience. So far this year, I have yet to see it any shorter than around the corner from the original shop downtown. The Magic is in the Hole.

East Bank Esplanade  – Much to the dismay of my boyfriend, this esplanade is how I am able to torture him every sunny day as I take my lunch hour. By connecting this pathway to the Tom McCall Waterfront via the Hawthorne and Steel bridge, I have a lovely, nearly 3 mile loop to stroll along, admire the Portland cityscape, and catch a little bit of my daily dose of Vitamin D. Any time the weather warms, you can expect to see numerous people walking, running, or cycling along this loop, or connecting it to the Springwater Corridor that runs further South. Warning: while most of the walk is enjoyable, there are a few smelly areas (hey, it is on the Willamette), but not to worry, the worst parts are on the west side so you may not even notice them.

Farmer’s Market – When it comes to food, Portland, in general, has a wonderful selection of restaurants, bars, and even some amazing food carts. But if you are looking to add the warm fuzzy feeling of helping a local grower out (while still noshing on something delectable) then the Farmer’s Market is definitely the place to go. I usually frequent the one up near PSU (Portland State University) where I can find anything from homemade tamales, to just-picked berries, to sweet baked goods, and even some fresh fish or amazing smoked salmon. It really is a great place to wander around, listen to a little music, and enjoy a market focused on food without all the crazy that is the larger Saturday Market down near Skidmore Fountain (although that can be fun as well). Just remember to watch your waistline and wallet in these parts. With all the good grub at Farmer’s Market, it becomes almost too easy to over-indulge.

Green – When thinking of a typical city most people will picture paved roads, skyscrapers, congestions, noise and traffic, among other things. But something that Portland adds to this black and gray concrete jungle is green, a lot of it. Portland is home to the largest inner city park in the United States. Sorry New York, but Central Park couldn’t beat this one. Forest Park, located in the West Hills of Portland, is filled tall trees, lush flora, and an escape that will make you forget how close to the city you really are. There are miles upon miles of trails suitable for a simple stroll, a nice run, or a walk with man’s best friend. And these trails don’t just take you in circles either. Local and historical attractions can be found throughout Forest Park and its interconnecting trails such as Council Crest, the Oregon Zoo, Washington Park, the International Rose Test Gardens, Pittock Mansion, the Vietnam Memorial…  or you can just lose yourself somewhere on the 30 miles of the Wildwood Trail, all while forgetting you are still in the city.

Hollywood – Yes, there is a Hollywood in Oregon… well a Hollywood District. But don’t be fooled by the name. It is definitely not as glamorous as its California counterpart. Portland’s Hollywood has a little more of an indie/bohemian feel and it is not necessarily the place I would want to be after dark… then again, most places out in SE or deep SE Portland are probably areas best avoided at night. One of the neatest things about this District, however, is the Hollywood Theater. A historic Portland Landmark, this not-for-profit theater is often showing movies you are not likely to find anywhere near a mainstream cinema. Older movies, film festivals indie flicks, and student shorts are the main sources of entertainment in this building, making the Hollywood Theater a great alternative to some over-sold blockbusters. 

On Rainy Days

 

rain

 

 

While rainy days are gloomy (and often, here in Oregon) I always try to make the best of it. Now, granted I am no, happy-go-lucky individual who can smile like the sun comes out my ass all day long. There are things I truly hate about the rain. I hate getting soaking wet, and chilled to the bone when walking anywhere, and since I do not have full access to a car, this happens a lot. I hate the mud that flicks up from my shoes to the backs of my pants or the way the water soaks up the back until I am wet up to my mid-calf. And while umbrellas are meant to help keep the rain off, you ever notice how hard it is to control one when the wind starts blowing and water splashes in your face anyway? Not to mention the rain that runs down the back of said umbrella soaking your back pack and all the materials in it. But aside from all that, there are definitely things that are good about the rain.

1. It keeps Oregon green. We live in a state known for its greenery and forests. If we are to take pride in that and enjoy it, we are going to have to deal with living in a slightly wetter environment.

2. It makes us appreciate the sunshine. Ever notice when it’s sunny and hits anywhere above 60 degrees campus is crawling with people happy to be outdoors. Oregon does have its sunny days; the rain just makes them that much more special.

3. Less chance of seasonal depression. Living in the dorms, this was something I noticed among our residents from California. Since Oregon is rainy through much of the spring, these kids starting getting incredibly antsy and missed the sunshine terribly near the end of the year. Growing up with it spares most of us from such dramatic seasonal mood swings. 

4. It’s a great way to help someone concentrate. You are not going to be heading outside anyways, so settle down into some work and make progress.

5. It can help you relax. Turn off the tv and the radio and you might be surprised how soothing the sound of rain on the roof can be. Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa or bake a batch of scrumptious cookies, and suddenly rainy days are not so bad after all.

I am sure other people have their own reasons for loving or loathing the rain, but hopefully this has also given some insight on things bigger than a bout of crummy weather. Many things in life have both their advantages and disadvantages. We just need to push through the bad and look for the good.

Portland Underground

It is amazing the secrets a city can keep underfoot, literally. Last night I explored the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland via a tour given on the events of the past and the (supposed) paranormal happenings of today.

For those who do not know, the Shanghai tunnels were used years ago as a way to kidnap or “shanghai” unsuspecting patrons of the city and place them on ships as part of the crew. The people that did this were shanghaiers or crimps and earned money for each person they brought in. 

In addition, women were taken below the streets and sold into prostitution. According to our guide, if you were a man sold to a captain you had a chance of returning home, but if you were a woman, you were never seen again. 

There are many more tales, available online and through the tour. I suggest anyone who is interested take a look, or better yet, see what secrets you can find about your own town. Every city has a past, and thus, stories that go along with it. Also, if you know anything about the Shanghai Tunnels, let me know. I would very much appreciate additional information on this part of Portland’s past.