Welcome to the FOURTH edition of A Walk On the Weird Side – An Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Fabric of Portland. – By Anna Alexander
This month’s Walk on the Weird Side is brought to you by my friend Amy who recently moved to the Piedmont neighborhood and wanted to know more about it.
Portland’s Piedmont Neighborhood is a bit confusing because there is Historic Piedmont which is now Humboldt and Modern Piedmont which is south of Rose Parks.
When I was researching this neighborhood I got it confused with Humboldt and apparently so does everyone else. So hop into the Barbie Convertible because we’re going to explore two neighborhoods!
If Dr. Seuss were to design a neighborhood, it would be Piedmont. Each house my husband and I passed on our tour of this very walkable neighborhood was my new favorite.(Specifically in the Gainsboro Subdivision) There are hobbit homes, homes with turrets, bungalows, condos, homes where trolls probably live, homes for middle-aged goth children, factory workers and more. While I was doing my research, I found out a local group does walking architectural tours of the city and I had missed the Piedmont by a couple of days. If I were ever to win Powerball, I would live here and have fabulous dinner parties and a below-ground wine cellar and read 500 books a year in my turret.
We’ll leave the Barbie convertible on the side of the road, because our next stop is within walking distance of everything. Peninsula Park is called the emerald of the neighborhood because, at least to me, it represents all that is happy, unique and weird about Portland. There are always happy kids playing in the 100-year old fountain, the beautiful rose gardens and the bandstands and gazebos that transport you to another time and place. I visit this park quite often and there’s always something interesting going on. One day there was a zodiac party complete with drag queens, old-fashioned cocktail dresses and leisure suits. Another day, a young woman was getting pictures taken for her quinceañera in front of a lineup of fine looking young men dressed in their finest mariachi suits and sombreros. She was wearing a beautiful blue dress with a hoop skirt that would make anyone swoon. Peninsula Park became the city’s first rose garden when it was purchased in 1909 and is the city’s second oldest playground. If you’ve never been here, and really, what’s wrong with you, you need to go.
I could go on and on about the park, but we have more ground to cover. Our next stop, The June Key Delta Community Center is located across the street from Peninsula Park and is another source of neighborhood pride. Owned and operated by the Portland Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, this green living building project serves as a multi-cultural center to encourage sound and healthy social, educational, artistic, economic and environmental development and awareness. The building itself is striking, but the work done on the inside is just as important with chapters for economic and educational development, international and political awareness, and physical and mental health.
With all the walking and drooling over houses, dresses and community centers, it’s time to hop into the Barbie Convertible for a short drive to Humboldt. We have some shopping, eating and drinking to do.
The remainder of our takes place on NE Killingsworth. We’ll stop for provisions and grocery items at Vieng Lao Oriental Food Center. This little store packs a big punch with fresh meats, seafood, and fruits and vegetables. Asian kitchenware is my weakness and this store has all the neat little bowls and chopsticks I absolutely need. If you find you need to rent a movie, buy a phone card or pick up a spare blanket for the bedroom, Tienda Video Leonardo is just a few steps away.
Next on the list is a place everyone knows about, but I’m going to mention it anyway because it holds a special place in my midwestern heart. Saraveza is a Portland institution with its midwestern-themed decor, meat raffles and excellent beer selection. This midwestern-themed bar is adorned with old Schlitz, Grain Belt and Hams signs and I’m sure there are a few taxidermied walleyes thrown in for good measure.
If you didn’t eat a pasty at Saraveza, we can stuff ourselves at Enat Kitchen with sambosas, alicha wot or shiro and some injera to mop up all the sauces.
Our last stop in this neighborhood is Reclaim It! The people behind this non-profit work with the city to rescue furniture, building supplies and more from the dump for artists and neighbors to reuse. If you’re looking for picture frames, old books or even old bed frames for you next art installation, this is the place to go.
As we exit this neighborhood, I would like to turn your attention to another Piedmont. The Piedmont wine growing region in NW Italy is said to produce considerable fog which aides the ripening of the Nebbiolo grapes (some of my favorite) growing here. Some say the wine tastes like drinking velvet and that’s exactly what this neighborhood feels like. Comfortable, secure and just a little weird. Next month, we’re headed to Montavilla for some coffee, plywood and witchy shops!