Welcome to the FIFTH edition of A Walk On the Weird Side – An Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Fabric of Portland. – By Anna Alexander
I originally wrote this while still sheltering-in-place. Since then, my county has been moved to Stage 2 and many restaurants and bars have re-opened for limited service. Yes, I live in Vancouver. Deal.
It’s day 567,000 of sheltering-in-place and the governor has just extended the stay at home order for another month. I hear we can go out golfing soon only if it’s with people from our own households, so hooray for progress. For this quarantine edition neighborhood tour, we are going to take a stroll around my neighborhood. Try to contain yourself… I put on pants for the
We’ll start at my house; a three bedroom, two bath, ranch-style house. We have a postage stamp front lawn and a UPS sticker-sized backyard. Say hello to our 17-year old cat Grendel. He will most likely run away from you and hide. Don’t take it personally, he only likes 5 people. You might also meet our neighborhood mooch, Miss Belle, who is fed by everyone on the block and acts she’s never fed or loved.
Beside the occasional drug bust and abandoned meth house, ours is a fairly quiet place. The neighborhood is a mix of old and new construction. The houses behind ours are older homes with large, spacious backyards which are often the settings for loud, drunken social gatherings and forest fire-inducing bonfires. If you look at the grass in the southwest corner of our yard, you will see a small path leading from one fence to another. We call this the Kitty Highway and it is used by the neighborhood cats and trash pandas to get from point A to B.
I hope you brought some water and good shoes, because we’re leaving my block and taking a walk. We’ll start with the exciting water feature compliments of the local silicon wafer plant. These evaporation ponds work hard 24/7 to rid the world of toxins. Which toxins? I have no idea, but I’m glad they are not going into the the groundwater. Or maybe they are who knows.
If we walk one block north, you’ll see an empty, fenced grass lot. This was home to a meth house that was torn down and shredded years ago. It gives the neighborhood a sense of peace and purpose. Let’s walk another two blocks north to the local junk collectors. This family of 12-15-20 members enjoys collecting non-working cars, trucks and busses and parking them
in their spacious lawn. They also have the occasional “fell off the truck” yard sales. Try not to gawk.
We’re going to turn around now and head south about half a mile to my favorite house. Technically this house is not in my neighborhood, but I’ve walked by it many times during my WFH lunch breaks. This house does not look like any of the other houses in the neighborhood, and I’m convinced the house appeared there overnight. I’ve never seen the occupants of the
house, but the cars parked in the driveway show some signs of life and I’d like to believe it’s the Pacific NW home of Sally and Gillian Owens. The house is probably haunted with the bodies of dead boyfriends buried in the backyard under the roses. I just find the house intriguing and I want to meet the owners.
By now, you must be hungry, so we’re going to hop in the car and get some Thai food and groceries. When Thai Time arrived in our local strip mall, our neighborhood let out a huge exhale because our food desert was finally getting some water. Sure, we have the usual fast food chains to choose from if we want quick food, but that’s about it. Thai Time does a brisk carryout and food delivery business and if you want heat, they will be happy to burn your tongue off. I highly recommend their salad rolls and drunken noodle.
Our next destination is just across the parking lot from Thai Time. Tola Angkor Asian Market has been our saving grace during this pandemic. The SE Asian market offers all the fresh or frozen meat, veggies, spices, rice, Raman and steamed bao you will ever need. The staff were the first in our grocery cannon to wear masks when people were still talking about COVID-19 like it was just a blip. When other stores ran out of staples, Tola Angkor was not. As the pandemic wore on, however, their selection of ramen and 20-lb bags of rice were plundered.
If Thai food isn’t your thing, let’s get some barbecue. Fort Bayou Barbecue is a food cart for now, but will be moving into a brick and mortar space right next to the cart. Carlos and his crew serves up lip smacking, 5-napkin barbecue he smokes himself. We got the Cajun dog, pulled pork tacos and sides of baked beans and potato salad for lunch one day and inhaled
everything. Carlos also offers tri-tip on Thursdays and Chicken Gumbo on Thursdays and Fridays. I’m not sure how we ever lived without this food car and we will be back.
That is the end of our Sheltering In Place Tour. I live in a commuter neighborhood where people drive to other places for excitement and entertainment. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Next time, we will be visiting the Kenton Neighborhood in North Portland. Hopefully everything will be
open by then.