Portland is for (lesbian) lovers

By Aefa Mulholland

Originally published on Advocate.com July 13 2007 12:00 AM ET

Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain't love then
tell me what is,” demands an enamored Loretta
Lynn on the track, “Portland, Oregon”.

Both Loretta's
choice of beverage and her infatuation with this often
overlooked Pacific Northwest city might strike some as
surprising, but for the legions of lesbians who have
set up home here, Ms. Lynn is singing their tune. At
least about the city. I've yet to see boisterous girls
and bois hoisting pitchers of plum spirits in the
hostelries, but getting fizzy is probably only a
matter of time.

The friendly,
environmentally-progressive city of nearly 600,000 sits on
the mighty Columbia and Willamette (rhymes with
“dammit”) rivers, with the perfect peak
of Mount Hood as backdrop. Temperamental Mount St.
Helen's lopsided caldera smolders 50 miles northeast, a
reminder of the forces of nature on Portland's
doorstep. The bevy of al fresco opportunities accounts
for some of the city's allure. When the U-Hauls hit
the highways, you can tell which are headed to Portland; the
Subarus are garnished by bike, board, and kayak racks.

Women from every
echelon of the lesbian spectrum have gravitated toward
Portland, drawn by progressive policies and active
communities in “The City That Works.”
Those heading west in the hopes of finding themselves
amid a sea of cozy Northwest flannel stand to be
disappointed; today's uniform runs more to streamlined
black attire over an expanse of tattoos. New arrivals
will just have to keep warm other ways. Good thing those
Portland folks are so friendly. Gay men, too, have joined
the influx, and are among those restoring the vitality
to once crumbling neighborhoods, such as Mississippi,
by renovating houses and opening businesses.

Perhaps the
strongest lifestyle statement gay and lesbian inhabitants
make is with their feet. Bike paths and excellent public
transit options abound and are well used. This
eco-consciousness prevails throughout a city
determined to tread lightly. Few are the trails of deep
carbon footprints through Portland's charming,
distinct, livable neighborhoods. Forest Park offers
more than 5,000 acres and over 70 miles of hiking
trails within city boundaries.

And there's more.
The music scene is lava-hot. Add a throng of club
nights, from niche nights such as fat-positive Cupcake
(Holocene; 1001 SE Morrison; 503/239-7639;
www.cupcakepdx.com) to the circuit scene at Girl4Girl
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St.;
www.girl4girlseattle.com), and this relatively compact city
is a delight to dally in. Lest the entire city sound
estrogen-overrun, men make up the majority of the
clientele in Stark Street and the Burnside Triangle's
clubs and bars. On Thursdays and Saturdays the city's
laidback gay denizens up the tempo at Scandals (1038
S.W. Stark St.; 503/227-5887; www.scandalspdx.com) and
Boxxes (1035 S.W. Stark St.; 503/226-4171;
www.boxxes.com). Over in Hawthorne, sumptuous Crush (1412 SE
Morrison; 503/235-8150; www.crushbar.com) is the
martini bar of choice for a fun set.

Bumper stickers
proclaim, “Keep Portland Weird” and
wonderfully weird it often is, from the motley stable
of tiny plastic horses tied to 19th-century tethering
rings on Northwest sidewalks, to Voodoo Dougnut's (22
S.W. 3rd Ave.; 503/241-4704; voodoodoughnut.com) doll-shaped
delights, complete with stake and jam blood (alas,
Pepto-Bismol topped treats are no longer on the menu).

Restaurants, too,
have their quirks. Taking the concept of local produce
to extremes, herbs and chickens live on the roof at
restaurant Rocket (1111 E. Burnside St.; 503-236-1110;
rocketpdx.com). Organic and regional food seems the
norm in Portland. And there's an added bonus; I don't
think I visited any restaurant or coffeehouse where I wasn't
distracted from the menu by cute lesbian staff. New
Cajun dining destination Roux (1700 N. Killingsworth
St.; 503/285-1200) was one such case in point. It's
little wonder so many visitors come back to stay.

Portland is
brimming with liquid assets. The city is home to the highest
number of breweries in the world. I sampled beers at
McMenamin's Grand Lodge (3505 Pacific Ave., Forest
Grove; 503/992-9533; www.thegrandlodge.com), and
tentatively tasted American-brewed sake at Sake One
sakery (820 Elm St.; Forest Grove; 800-550-7253;
www.sakeone.com). At 820 (820 N. Russell St.; 503-284-5518;
www.mintand820.com) I guzzled an array of thrilling
cocktails prepared by lesbian mixologist Lucy Brennan,
and at Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs I enjoyed even
more luscious libations. I sipped Stumptown coffee from the
bike-thru window at lesbian-owned Black Sheep Bakery
Cawfeeshop (833 S.E. Main St.;
www.blacksheepbakery.com), and luscious hot chocolates at
gay-owned Cacao (414 SW 13th Ave.; 503-241-0656;
www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com). I also drank my fill at club
Holocene (grrrl eye candy heaven [1001 SE Morrison;
503/239-7639; www.holocene.org]), and at the Doug Fir
(830 E. Burnside St.; 503/231-9663;
www.dougfirlounge.com), where hipster girls check out the
bands and each other.

Portland charms
are irresistible. I'm scheming ways to return to this
confident, eco-passionate, enthusiastic, and energetic city
that really knows how to kick back and have fun. Is it
love? I think it might be. You tell 'em, Loretta.