Thursday, April 12, 2007

Portland keeps weird with various oddities

People have been clamoring for my latest blog entry about my offbeat travels through Oregon, so I won’t make them wait any longer. And by “people,” I mean my good friend Tara. She and I spell our names the same way but pronounce them differently. She’s really a good person otherwise. Except for that one major flaw.
Anyway...back to the blog. My most recent journey took me back to Portland to witness more of the weird that the city is so proud of.
My first stop was at Stark’s Vacuums at 107 NE Grand Ave. for a foray into the Vacuum Cleaner Museum. I was really looking forward to this trip, having read all about the special features and attachments and the Goddess of Leisure. But I must admit that the museum did not sweep me off my feet.

Perhaps it was my general distaste for the act of vacuuming that made it ho-hum. (Truth be told, I’d rather be ironing. I wonder if I could buy that saying on a bumper sticker. Or if there’s an iron museum around here.) Or maybe it was the general lack of personality there.
The museum is tucked in the back left corner of the store, free to anyone who wants to take a peek at the vintage models that have been donated or traded in throughout the years. The 300 or so vacuum cleaners line the walls, some with tags that give a little history of the model, which sometimes includes who donated the item. There’s no guide to point out the really interesting tidbits, which could be how I missed a lot of them.
I was intrigued, however, by one vacuum from the 1890s. But if you’ve seen one upright, canister, handheld vac, floor polisher, Hoover, Eureka, Electrolux, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
My visit to Voodoo Doughnuts on NW Third Avenue was much more interesting. I was a little overwhelmed by the choices of doughnuts. All the available treats are displayed in a revolving dessert case, and it took a little bit of work to match them up with the names on the big board overhead. I’m still not quite sure what’s in the Marshall Mathers. 
I settled on a Portland Cream -- much like a Boston Cream with the yummy filling and chocolate frosting, but with a small hint of a coffee flavor. Of course! Incidentally, I learned in my “Oregon Curiosities” book that there was a 50-50 chance that the city would be named Boston. But Portland obviously won out.
I also tried one of the cereal-covered doughnuts. Froot Loops was probably the healthy choice, but I went with the Cocoa Puffs because I’m a little cuckoo. The chocolate doughnut was covered in chocolate frosting and topped with Cocoa Puffs to round out the chocolate trifecta. I somehow managed to avoid sugar shock when eating that one.
I chose one more doughnut and was on my way. The Arnold Palmer caught my eye, as he was also from Pennsylvania. His doughnut was covered in a concoction of iced tea and lemonade mix. I’m still not exactly sure how that equals golfing or why he would be memorialized in a Portland shop, but I did enjoy the doughnut. Any suggestions?
I’m looking forward to going back because there are still lots of tasty treats to discover. Like the vegan doughnuts, the giant glazed doughnut that equals four regular ones, the voodoo doll-shaped doughnut. And that Marshall Mathers doughnut continues to intrigue me.
As I was making my way to Voodoo Doughnuts from a lot across the street, I came across another curiosity -- the Benson Bubbler -- at the corner of NW Third and Burnside. The elegant, four-bowl bronze fountains flow with free water for parched Portlanders.

In 1912, lumberman Simon Benson donated $10,000 for the creation of 20 of the fountains, hoping to encourage his workers to drink water and not booze at the salooons. Today, there are more than 50 downtown, dispensing drinking water from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
From there, I headed over to Naito Parkway to check out the world’s smallest park -- Mill Ends Park -- near the intersection of SW Taylor Street. The 2-foot-by-2-foot park is occupied by one small tree and a few flowers in the median of the road. Some say leprechauns live here, but the only gold I saw was in the colors of the flowers.
There’s a sign on the sidewalk that gives the history of Mill Ends, and I’m pretty sure the sign is bigger than the park itself. It’s said that Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan had an office that gave him a view of the street below and a hole where a lightpole was to be placed. The pole never arrived, and he decided to plant flowers there.

In his column, he would spin tales of the goings-on at the park and described a group of leprechauns who had taken up residence there. It officially became a city park on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976.
I ended my adventure at Pioneer Square downtown at the milepost that gives the distances to far-away lands like Timbuktu, Walden Pond and Mecca and not-so-far-away lands like the Oregon Zoo, Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Perhaps my favorite marking is the one that points out that Tipperary is “a long way.”

The square also has thousands of bricks etched with the names of local residents and businesses. I was told some famous names are seen on the bricks, but when I inquired at the information center nearby, I was told that was not the case. However, the square’s Web site lists bricks bearing the names of Elvis, Dan Rather, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Bill and others. The Web site is still selling bricks for $100 each, so your name can be laser-etched in history.

There’s still lots to see in Portland, but I’m hoping to take a detour through Hood River next for the oldest piece of wedding cake and the singing bridge. I can’t wait!
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Torrid said...

My guess on the Palmer doughnut is that it reflects his career as a pitchman, not a golfer. I think he did Country Time Lemonade, and maybe the iced tea mix is supposed to be a stand-in for oil, since he did Quaker State. Or maybe I have them backwards. You should have asked them!

PS--Welcome to Portland. We're glad to have you; sorry the weather is more reminiscient of February than April.

Tara said...

I've just been told that there's a drink called the Arnold Palmer, which is a mixture of iced tea and lemonade. I'm glad to have that mystery solved.

Thanks for the welcome! And no need to apologize for the weather. I moved from Pennsylvania, where they are expecting a foot of snow this weekend. So, I'll gladly take what Oregon is giving me.

Anonymous said...

My name is Wendy and I am from PA. I am Tara's older sister. When Tara told us she was moving to OR, we were very upset and of course,very worried. We didn't like the idea of her moving so far away, but she was very strong-minded and there was no way we could convince her to stay closer to us instead of moving across the Country. Since her move, we have kind of adjusted. Especially now that we read about her exciting adventures. We find these to be very interesting and we feel like we are actually there. As a matter of fact, my daughter and I are thinking about going there for summer vacation! Keep writing Tara!

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