As we drove through Portland, I was like “How close are we to Portland?” That’s how much it doesn’t feel like a big city. There are so many trees, hills, and forests, that you don’t feel like you are in a city at all, maybe a series of small towns and neighborhoods, but not a big city. The downtown area is a little bit more urban, but still not at all what I expected. I actually don’t know what I expected.
We took a walking tour of Portland (sort of “the Shady Side of Portland” historical tour) and were blessed to have an engaging guide and intermittently sunny skies. As we strolled through the city streets, the guide painted us a beautiful picture of the way downtown Portland looked in the 1800s. The music of banjos echoed through the streets, girls leaned out of windows to catch the eyes of men, and everything smelled of “mud, beer, and sweat”. I guess beautiful picture might not be entirely the right word.
The story of Portland’s seedy past was recounted to us as we roamed. I learned that since prostitution was technically illegal, the euphemism for a prostitute was a “seamstress”. Crazy right? Guys would go upstairs to see these seamstresses when they “needed a new button sewn onto their pants”. Yikes. Our guide seemed really into the adult entertainment industry that has apparently made Portland unique for so many years. He told us that Portland is home to vegan strip clubs (what in the world goes on there?) and karaoke strip clubs.
That was about all I ever cared to hear in my life about strip clubs. We also learned some more valuable information about the port system, and how it has affected the history of the city. Portland has always been an incredibly unique place, maybe that’s why the hipsters love it so much. I loved it too, but I’m not a hipster. I was just blown away by the green-ness of the place. I felt like I was in a special fairy tale forest where a unicorn or something might dart across a highway at any moment. At the end of the above ground tour, we grabbed some flashlights and headed down the stairs to the basement of Old Town Pizza to explore the infamous Shanghai Tunnels, but I’ll talk about those tomorrow.
I am so fond of historic places, and I loved seeing the old black and white pictures that the guide showed us… the buildings look pretty much identical to how they did a hundred years ago, only the people have changed.