On the Prowl in Portland: Fir Heaven’s Sakes

So, I had a free Monday night. Nothing doing. I’d finished a good day of work from my northeast Portland basement flat apartment place condo home studio cave. I thought I’d hit the streets for some of the local character and cuisine.

I hit up my friend Erica for a recommendation. I noted her targets, and I was on my way. The sun was just starting to assert herself today on this new Spring evening, and I drove down Sandy Blvd. to my destination.

I glanced at the numerous bicycle repair shops and coffee houses as I made my way towards downtown. I found a nice easy parking spot on 11th off Burnside, and I ambled forth to the Noble Rot just one block north. To get to the Noble Rot you ride the elevator to the 4th floor. During this ride, you are educated by placards that inform you of the fully functioning farm on the roof of this building. OK, cool.

Now, this place was very LA. That’s not a slam or anything, but I can smell an “LA” place like a shark can smell panicky blood a mile away. The food was delicious, and the wine flight was quite good. However, I didn’t move to Portland to sample Spanish wine flights paired with delicate Ceviche. I came here for something else.

So I thanked my bartender, and moseyed on. Wow, moseyed looks about as ostentatious as it sounds when you type it. A couple blocks away was the Doug Fir Lounge, target number two on my itinerary. This establishment is actually shared with a repurposed motel of some sort, and I’ll have to do a bit of explication to tune you in to the full experience.

OK, so let me define this institution to those whose eyes have not seen the sheen on this amalgamation. Originally this location was your typical motor lodge/motel with an adjoining greasy spoon diner. To any American, this horseshoe shaped tradition is ubiquitously seen on any old highway. It’s a vestige of the pre-Freeway American existence. Typically, it consists of two stories of motel rooms surrounding a parking lot with a diner on the corner. I’ll provide a visual aid for the imagination impaired.

Well, in Portland, the campy, gaudy, deliciously ironic, Vintage Fairy floated on down, and transformed this one time crack den and makeshift brothel into a fully featured music venue and bar with motel rooms attached!

So… Let me say that at this point the whole “hipster” thing has grown to become something bigger than itself. It’s an essence in search of a definition. For perfect example, at the bar, while I was chatting with the head chef I just met, we agreed that Santa Cruz, California was the Portland of California. Now, to us, this makes perfect sense. But to define it?

OK, so the hipster effluvia is not yet contained or distilled or commodified. Maybe this is a good thing. I do know, that this place is pretty fucking awesome. You can get short order food, sit in a booth like at a Denny’s, get a motel room for the night, AND there is a huge music venue underground!

I’m still not sure how they managed to create the underground music venue, but I don’t really care. I’m kind of in love with this place. This is why I must report on my next order of business. A trashy, Tijuana style “Karaoke Bar” has opened across the street from this place. They have a neon sign so bright, that the denizens of this Valhalla on the avenue have to shield their hipster eyes from its glare like it were the eye of Sauron!

What will become of these bearded northwestern independent music aficionados? What will their pale, ironic girlfriends do in the face of such hegemony? Who will rock in their defense?