Portland is near a lot of other really great things, and we took a number of day trips to see what was what. We didn’t go to the Pendleton factory (too far away), but we did go to the outlet store, which is basically in a suburb of the city. I teach a unit on Pendleton when I teach the textiles course, and I got my students to read this article last year. I’m pretty fascinated with the history of Pendleton. From the article: “It’s surprising that Native Americans would so wholeheartedly adopt a white, factory-made product that copied, and distorted, Native designs—especially during a period of major conflict with white America. But that’s exactly what happened in the case of Pendleton blankets.” But now Pendleton is branching out, and I also wanted to see how they were handling a (controversial) move, described in the article, to a new audience through collaborations with hip fashion companies like Opening Ceremony. At the outlet store the history of the company really is front and center – the Pendleton clothing line isn’t even available there, they have descriptions of the blankets, books to read and several displays on the wall about the history of the blankets, how they’re made and where the designs come from. This is in total contrast to all of the stores in Portland itself where Pendleton products are sold. There the history is completely and totally erased, and the blankets are used as part of a white Portland aesthetic. There’s only about 20km separating the city from the outlet, but there are definitely two different stories of Pendleton at play. It was so interesting to see this article come to life.
I also went to San Francisco to give a talk on wobbly structures (like knitted and textile houses and tents), oil and precarity. It’s part of my new project on petro-textiles and it was exciting to present it at SFAI. Also, SFAI is totally gorgeous, with a Diego Rivera mural in the gallery, an amazing view out over the city, and some fun student art work to pose with.
On a quiet day we decided to drive the historic Columbia highway, which is an art deco marvel, along the Columbia River to gaze at waterfalls. It is so amazing! So beautiful! And waterfalls, everywhere!
This is Multnomah Falls. Normally you can hike to the top, but a freak rock fall had damaged the bridge and it was impassable when we were there.
Tunnels and neon green rocks.
On one particularly shack wacky day, we decided to get out of the city by driving just a little bit north to Sauvie Island. It’s only about 20 minutes out of town. I was expecting bucolic farm fields, blue skies, leisurely walks. Instead it was weekend warriors fishing in head-to-toe camouflage, often sitting in camouflage tents; do not pass signs because there were big line-ups of people shooting ducks, nude beaches, and pick up trucks, everywhere. It was actually totally bizarre and unexpected, but not unenjoyable.
Camouflage tents from afar. They’re kind of hard to see (har har).
Bizarre abandoned structure in the woods.
Random guy with a salmon (everyone was celebrating so I took his picture).
On a slightly less bizarre side trip, we went to Astoria, which is at the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s also the place where the Goonies, best film of the 80s, was filmed. Line up those rocks through a hole in a dubloon and you’ll find pirate treasure (we didn’t find any unfortunately).
Lucy searching for treasure.
Running on the beach in the rain.
Astoria was full of 30-somethings visiting Goonies sites, which was hilarious. So I didn’t feel too embarrassed running up and down these stairs five times pretending to be Jake Fratelli escaping from prison. Or at least, I wasn’t embarrassed until we were both like, I think there are too many stairs here. Is this the right building? Nope. I just ran up and down the stairs of City Hall five times just for the entertainment of the people inside. We did find the right building. It was oh… right next door. By then I was laughing too hard to really capture the seriousness of the situation.
Turns out the County Jail is now a film museum, mostly dedicated to The Goonies.
And finally, we drove to Bend, OR for Tim’s birthday to see an outdoor performance of Tune-Yards and the National. The scenery en route was pretty spectacular….
Although surprisingly, we decided not to stop in Boring.
We did stop at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. More WPA greatness! Everywhere we’ve been in the States, we’ve seen the results of Roosevelt’s WPA. They’re almost always amazing. How lucky, I guess, that first of all the WPA happened, and second of all that it was such a great era for American design. I think we can all be glad that the WPA didn’t start in 1982 – a land full of orange mirrored glass and glass bricks in all the national parks!
snow piled outside the windows, in late May!
each level in the stairwells had a different animal. Hilariously, the beaver was rubbed smooth – you couldn’t even tell what it was. The owl, on the other hand, was just fine.
The show was amazing, and Bend was pretty great as well. We stayed with a giant labradoodle named Tater Tot, and sat outside in the desert sunshine. Bend is on the other side of the Cascade mountain range and it’s a desert plateau. Totally weird when you’re driving and one side of the mountains are covered in fir trees and the other side in sage brush. I also ate an ocean roll, which is a word-defying otherworldly experience. If you’re ever in Bend, go to the Sparrow Bakery. So worth it.
When we weren’t touring around Oregon, we managed to fit in a few visits to weird and wonderful museums. Portland used to have an amazing collection of collections, but a couple of them (including the 24 hour Church of Elvis and the Velvetarium) have unfortunately closed or moved. There’s still the Stark Vacuum Museum though, in the back of a huge fancy vacuum store. It’s actually a fairly in-depth collection, and they have a vacuum that proves once and for all that Dyson wasn’t so special with their swivelling wheel. Those things were around in the 1950s!!
Portland also boasts the Kidd’s Toy Museum, which really isn’t at all for kids as it’s full to the brim with racist toys from the 1940s on. It was a weird place, and not a whole lot of fun. Here is a sad lion from the collection.
Opposite end of the spectrum, the Peculiarium, where nothing and everything is real and fake. I totally love this kind of patched together place. They have a bunch of exhibits based on half truths and tall tales. Geraldo really did buy Al Capone’s safe, and he really did find it mostly empty. So who’s to say that the real safe didn’t end up in a store/”museum” in Portland. Anyway, it was a lot more enjoyable than the Kidd Museum, that’s for sure. And anything to do with death-match staring contests. Hilarious. And awesome.
Finally, in the middle of a huge rain storm, we went to the Faux Museum. It’s kind of a miniature Museum of Jurassic Technology, a wonder cabinet mostly made from cardboard, but supposedly housing the world’s last woolly ant (giant size). After we’d convinced the owner that we really were there to see the museum and not just escape the rain, we were allowed in the see the collection of collections (which is MY FAVOURITE THING to see in a museum).
Flowers and buttons made from dryer lint and microfibers.
Collection of nail clippings (one person’s).
Measuring instruments belonging to the collector’s dead relatives.
Twigs stripped clean by beavers.
Objects rescued from pianos during tunings.
Paintbrushes belonging to friends and neighbours.
I loved this little museum – it had everything I adore about small museums, including visible scotch tape and odd objects.
I thought I’d end with my favourite thing about Portland, which was really the flowers in people’s front yards. Portland is so verdant everything just seems always in bloom. Some of these are pictures from the International Rose Test Garden, and some of them are just front yards on the dog walk.
Portland was a pretty special place.
And we were sad to go.