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Velveteria™ » Blog Archive » The chi of Portland: High weirdness in Nirvana, including Velveteria

High weirdness in Portland from USA Today

Velvet Elvis Jacket

Velvet Elvis Jacket Photo by Rick Bower / AP

May 5, 2008 – Joseph B. Frazier, Associated Press Writer, wrote about the weirdness of Portland, Oregon and happened to mention Velveteria. Below are some excerpts from the article, “The chi of Portland: High weirdness in Nirvana“.

For several years, Portland has been reaping praise from lifestyle magazines, from Men’s Journal to specialty publications, as one of the nation’s more livable cities, listed among the best places to have a baby, grow old, go for a walk, ride a bike, take a jog, breathe clean air, own a dog, take public transportation, start a business (green or otherwise), go out for dinner or not get mugged.

But the magazines skim over Portland’s quirkier qualities. They aren’t bandied about, but they’re not hidden either. To some, they make Portland even more endearing.

For kitsch lovers there’s the Velveteria, a black velvet painting museum. Lots of taste, all of it bad in some eyes, unless you love it, and the owners do. Nothing is for sale. Open weekends.

A black light room enhances your favorite Mack Truck Jesus, wahine, Elvis or bandito.

“You will never be the same after a visit to the Velveteria,” the Web site promises. And it has “arrived.” A month long show at Powell’s Books, billed as the world’s largest bookstore, begins May 1.

Ubiquitous bumper stickers proclaim “Keep Portland Weird.” They were meant to support small local businesses to keep Portland from being big-boxed out of its identity.

But they’ve become a focal point for what might be a counterculture elsewhere.

Portland has been called The People’s Republic of Portland (land-use rules irk some developers) Beervana, (it’s loaded with microbreweries), the Rose City (they are nearly worshipped here) and Sin City, a salute, of sorts, to its frontier past and recent bouts of permissiveness that some people find a bit much. Others just shrug. That’s Portland.

The first President Bush called it “Little Beirut” for the hostile receptions he could rely on, and his son hasn’t fared any better.

Portland’s quirkiness is homegrown as are many other things, some of them under Gro-Lites.

It never got set in its ways. Many of its residents came from somewhere else. You can pick a Brooklynite or a New Englandah out of a chorus, but there is no Portland accent and people here have no pounded-in traditions of doing things a certain way.

So they don’t.

At first it was “Stumptown,” a just-logged patch of rough riverside cabins in the mud. A wintertime coin toss in 1845 decided it would be Portland, not Boston.

Given the season, it probably was raining. Given Portland’s reputation, many probably assume it still is.

It was always a little different.

Joe D’Alessandro, who headed the Portland Oregon Visitors Association for 10 years until 2006, said Portland lacked a large promotional budget so it focused on impact.

“We were determined to find the niches that were really unique about Portland and tell them to the world,” he said.

“We didn’t try to make Portland something for everybody. We centered on what Portland’s authentic strengths are, what Portland is really good at.”

Now, about that rain:

It falls just once a year, from October to about May.

Mobile, Ala., gets three times, on average, more rain a year than Portland. But Portland has three times as many rainy days.

Wettest? Hardly. Rainiest? It’s up there.
Bring an umbrella.

Read the full article, “The chi of Portland: High weirdness in Nirvana” by Joseph B. Frazier, Associated Press Writer for USA Toady.


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