There are few places where I’ve managed to encounter a city’s mayor, live band karaoke, really bad stand up comedy and a post midnight doughnut all in one evening.
It started off quietly enough in the Davis Street bar, one of the huge, converted old buildings which is now embracing one of Oregon’s biggest industries – micro brewing.
John, who’s sitting next to me, points out that the guy sitting by the window is Portland’s mayor. John’s a lawyer for the construction industry so knows a lot of people. He also has strong political views, having lost a nephew in the first Gulf War. His sister has fought for years for justice for the families of soldiers killed or wounded in action.
It’s a sobering tale to start off the evening but that doesn’t last long. The Fourth Street Saloon is like a cross between the wild west, a trashy roadhouse and a grungy club. “It could be worse,” one customer tells me, “you could be doing live karaoke at Dante’s.”
This place has been everything in its time, from a brothel to a gambling den. But on Mondays the relatively small song book is distributed and you bribe the host to move you up the list. For $4 I manage a rather successful rendition of Handle With Care by the Traveling Wilburys.
I’m less confident about standing up at the Boiler Room, where it’s amateur comedy night. Almost every one of the dozen or so young performers dies; their peers offering little by way of support.
After a late night, a brief chance to explore Portland’s city centre. The place is functional, not as threatening as bigger cities and with a few notable historic building like the Court House in Pioneer Square.
Another booming business here is street food. Carts have sprung up on the corner of many car parks offering a huge variety of cheap eats.
Though I’m not entirely convinced by all of the branding.
It’s almost the end of my trip, and it’s one that’s certainly opened my eyes to the West Coast. It’s not all about San Fran or LA. There’s history, good food and great beer to be sampled. And despite the region’s reputation for bad weather, it hasn’t rained once.