That’s just the way it is, people. I had a grand time at the convention, but Portland is full of great restaurants!!!!
Last year, I went off to Portland for the Rose City Comic Con and left my poor, long-suffering wife at home. We could not secure the services of my parents to take care of the kids, and so I had to go to our former home all by myself. You may recall how that worked out. This year, I had pre-booked my parents a year in advance, so they came out to the Basin from Pennsylvania, and last Tuesday, the wife and I hopped on a plane and headed back to the Pacific Northwest! Yay, Portland!
I had a good time at the convention, but because we were there for a bit longer and I was with my wife, we did a lot more than I did last year. We ate a TON, for instance. Portland had more restaurants per capita than any city in the country back in the 1990s, and today, I swear, there’s one for every two or three people in the town. You can’t swing a dead hipster without hitting a few restaurants. It’s INSANE. We wanted to go to some of the places we used to visit, but there’s so much that’s new that it’s impossible to keep up. When we got to town, my ex-Latin tutor, with whom we were staying once again (she graciously let us stay in her guest house, much like last year), was still at work, so we stopped at the Pied Cow to kill some time. I forgot to take photographs of the Pied Cow or the Muddy Rudder, where we ended up for dinner that night. I would soon rectify that situation!
Before dinner, however, there was a crisis. A CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS, you might say. I unpacked my suitcase, I took out all the socks I had to deal with Portland’s slightly chillier climate (I wear socks for about 6 weeks a year here, because it’s always so furshlugginer hot!!!!), and then I took out my sneakers. Oh, wait a minute, I didn’t take out my sneakers, because I didn’t actually pack them. Yes, I wore my sandals on the plane (Krys dressed warmly in anticipation of the cooler weather, but I wasn’t having any of that shit), and I did pack plenty of socks, but while I was getting all my stuff together, I forgot to pack shoes. Krys told me I could just wear jeans, socks, and sandals, but I said I didn’t really want to be that guy. I mean, no one wants to be that guy.
Krys pointed out that it’s Portland, and I wouldn’t stand out at all (at the Pied Cow, some dude came in wearing a velvet, shin-length dress over jeans, so there’s that), but still. I did wear my sandals-socks-jeans combo to dinner that night, but I was keen to find shoes! So on Wednesday, we made it our mission to find shoes, after, of course, our culinary adventure began in earnest. In July, two friends of ours went to Portland and ate at Tasty n Sons, which is up on the 3800 block of North Williams. If you know anything about Portland, you’ll probably know that this area was, for years, the “black” section of town. White Portlanders have a very uncomfortable history with minorities – it was once a “sundown town,” and even when I lived there, in the 1990s, the city’s relationship with its minorities, most prominently but not exclusively the black community, was troubled. The area in north Portland along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and around it was always the “black” section, but recently, gentrification has set in, and MLK, Williams Ave., Mississippi Ave., and others around that area have become overrun with white hipsters and yuppies. Yes, there are great restaurants up there, including Tasty n Sons, but there are very few black people. The rents have gone through the roof (Portland was always expensive, but apparently it’s even worse now), and I guess the poorer black people have been driven out to the farther southeast and Gresham, which is even farther east. It’s such a weird part of Portland’s history, especially in recent years as it’s become such a liberal place. I doubt if all the white people we saw in the neighborhood would be described as racist, but it’s still depressing to see part of the city’s history and culture wiped away. MLK Boulevard was a fascinating place to check out back in the 1990s, simply because it was so different from the rest of the town. Now, as nice as some of the places have become, it looks like every other part of Portland. Obviously, I like Portland, so I still like the quirky restaurants and shops, but it’s kind of sad.
But we were eating, weren’t we? Tasty n Sons is a cool place to get breakfast, and I had a Moroccan Chicken Hash that I failed to photograph. I did, however, take a picture of the Chocolate Potato Doughnut I ate as an appetizer (yep, you can get breakfast appetizers in Portland) and of the interior and the exterior of the restaurant:
Here’s the menu, by the way. So much locally-sourced, artisanal goodness!
We drove to Lloyd Center, the mall right near the convention center, and I bought shoes. I don’t often need semi-nice brown shoes, so the ones I bought years ago are long gone and I’ve never replaced them. I thought about buying sneakers, but figured it would be easier to get semi-nice brown shoes that are more all-purpose – I wore them to the Columbia gorge and the coast, but also to the nicer restaurants we went to. And now I have shoes! Then we went down to Excalibur, my favorite comics shoppe, to check things out. It’s strange – it was around noon on New Comics Day, but the place was pretty placid. Maybe it was just a lull. I bought a few things, but they didn’t have a copy of Supergirl #79, which I’ve been trying to find for a while. It’s the only issue of Supergirl I need, and apparently it’s very rare (it’s the penultimate issue, and the print run was apparently pretty small). Damn you, Excalibur!!!! I did get some nifty stuff, though, although I didn’t spend nearly as much as I could have. I still had a convention to attend!
We didn’t do much the rest of the day – we were still kind of tired from travelling, and the wife is always tired because she works so hard, so we hung out until dinner. We went over to Trifecta, which is on SE 6th and Morrison, for dinner. They have phenomenal bread (it’s also a bakery), and the food was fantastic. Here’s the menu (once again I forgot to take a picture of my meal):
Here’s my wife and our host hanging out in front of the place, the sign, and the interior, and then a picture of Beauty and the Beast (oh, wait, that’s me and my wife):
On Thursday we went to the Columbia gorge, because we dig waterfalls and water, as you might expect, is in short supply here in the Basin. We always loved driving along the Columbia River Highway (“America’s Greatest Scenic Drive,” promises the modest web site) – here’s a map – and so we did this time, but when we reached Vista House, we had to turn back – there was construction/maintenance on the road between there and the waterfalls farther down. So we drove along I-84 for a while until we reached Multnomah Falls, where we got out and walked around (it’s also where our wedding pictures were taken, and it’s why we have awesome wedding pictures). We reached the bridge across the falls and hung out for a while, and then the rain started. We were pretty lucky over the weekend, weather-wise, as this was the only time it really came down hard, but it came down hard, and I was wearing only a T-shirt (my awesome Stumptown the comic shirt I got a few years ago), so I got soaked. We hiked back down and the instant – the exact instant – we reached the car, it stopped. STUPID RAIN! We went back along the Columbia River Highway for a bit (no construction down along the river) before getting back on 84 and heading back into town. It was a fun day.
That night we met up with our old friend Mike, whom we hadn’t seen since we moved away and who’s always fun to hang out with, as he acerbically misanthropic and self-loathing, but in a perversely charming way. We went to Gino’s in Sellwood and had a nice dinner, then headed up to Nuestra Cocina at 21st and Division for some drinks. Mike knows the bartender there, so we sat and chatted with him while he made us some great drinks. I always like to ask bartenders if they have a special drink that isn’t on the menu, and this dude fired up a mojito with habeneros chopped into it and tequila instead of rum. It was damned tasty, I’ll tell you that much.
Friday was another “touristy” day, as we decided to head to the coast. The weather was improving (unfortunately, the weekend – when I was going to be at the convention – were the nicest days we were there), and who doesn’t like a day at the beach? Commies, that’s who. First, of course, there was food to eat! We had breakfast at Marco’s Café (another old favorite; we had to hit some of them, even though we were trying to go to new places), which is in Multnomah Village and famously doesn’t take reservations – I say “famously” because when Benicio del Toro was in town making a movie back in the day (he totally was!), they wouldn’t let him make a reservation and it was a bit of a fun Portland “fuck you” to the movie star. Suck it, Benicio del Toro!
Then it was off to Cannon Beach! We love Cannon Beach, so of course we were going to check it out! We walked on the beach (Krys took her shoes and socks off and walked in the surf; I did not), we meandered down toward Haystack Rock, and we spent some time at Ecola State Park. We thought about hiking down to the beach from the park, but it’s a mile trail and we didn’t have water, so we put the kibosh on that idea. I was glad – I was wearing jeans and was actually getting a bit hot. Then we drove up 101 until we got to Astoria, where the weather is always overcast. How does that happen? Come on, Astoria! We drove across the bridge, because why not, and then came back. We did not see the “Goonies” house, in case you’re wondering, for a few reasons. One is that neither of us are particularly impressed by The Goonies – it’s all right, I guess, but nothing special – but a bigger reason is that the owner has closed it to tourists. Apparently people, being people, were being douchebags about the property, which is, after all, someone’s home, so the owner put up blue tarp and barriers to keep tourists out. Suck it, tourists! We drove back to Portland on Highway 30, passing through the famous town of Scappoose, a city of less than 7000 that has inexplicably given the world an NFL quarterback and a Playmate of the Year. Bizarre.
That night we went to Higgins, which is one of our favorite restaurants. We went there quite often when we lived in Portland, usually as an anniversary thing, so of course we had to go back this year. The food was great as usual (we actually got the same thing, which was weird), and the people-watching was neat, too (as I did not bring very dressy clothing, we were a bit worried about going, as it’s a bit more high-brow than most Portland restaurants, but the dude wearing toe-shoes made us feel better about our attire), and we got downtown a bit early, so we walked around a little. I’m always amazed by how dead downtown Phoenix is, even in the winter (although weekend nights might be a bit better – I rarely go downtown at night), so it was nice to see a lot of people walking around doing stuff. Good times!
Then it was Saturday. And guess what, the convention began! Yes, the ostensible reason I was in Portland was Rose City, so I headed over there to see what was what. I do want to note that we ate lunch with my friend Mike and another friend over at Noho’s Hawaiian Café at SE 25th and Clinton, because I was jonesing for loco moco. There’s a Hawaiian restaurant within walking distance of our house in Mesa that does not have loco moco on the menu, which is probably a crime against humanity or something. I mean, come on! Noho’s makes awesome loco moco (to be honest, it’s hard to screw it up), because they add their amazing macaroni salad to it. So I devoured that, too. But let’s get back to the con!
I didn’t take a lot of photographs this year, mainly because I just wasn’t that inspired. I like taking pictures of comics creators, but I didn’t this year, and while I appreciate the whole thing about not taking photos of cosplayers without them knowing about it, I often don’t feel like asking them to pose (I don’t violate that tenet, even though I think that if you dress up for a convention, you’re pretty much asking people to take pictures of you, whether or not you know they’re doing it). So I just walked around and spent too much money and talked to a lot of cool people. I saw Dan Schkade first when I walked it, so I chatted with him for a while. Schkade, as you should know, is the writer/artist (well, for most of it) of San Hannibal, and he’s currently drawing The Spirit that Matt Wagner is writing (Wagner was sitting next to Schkade, but I didn’t chat with him until Sunday). Schkade’s art on The Spirit is quite good, and I can’t wait to get the inevitable 12-issue hardcover.
I saw Jason Copland, so I said hello to him. I feel a bit bad because I never got back around to talk to him some more, but I was pretty busy! I met his wife, too, which was nice (I met a few wives this weekend). Copland is a cool dude, and he’s a fine artist (I’ve been following his work for years, and wrote about him during the “Year of the Artist”), so it’s always nice to say hello. Buy Kill All Monsters, people! While I was talking to him, Tyler Chin-Tanner and his daughter strolled by, so I said hello to him, as well. Chin-Tanner, if you don’t know, is the creative mind behind A Wave Blue World, a nifty small publisher. I met him a few years ago in Seattle and have been Facebook friends since, and it’s always nice to say hello. His latest project, Broken Frontier, had a successful Kickstarter not long ago, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I didn’t meet his wife, as they have a baby and she was taking care of it at home, but she’s hilarious on Facebook. Right across the aisle from Copland was Ibrahim Moustafa, who was selling High Crimes, his latest comic. For some reason (Diamond), I never got this at my store, so I was happy to pony up some cash money for it (I often feel bad at conventions, because I pre-order so much stuff that I have to skip buying it directly from the creators, which I would rather do). High Crimes is about a murder on Mount Everest and the consequences of it, and it sounds awesome and looks great. Maybe I’ll get a chance to review it in the future!
As you recall, whenever I go to a Northwest convention, I head over to the Periscope Studio area and say hello to the excellent creators. Of course, I have to visit with Dylan Meconis and Erika Moen, as they’re my two favorite people in comics, but this year, Erika was in England visiting her in-laws, so I could only chat with Dylan. That meant, of course, that I couldn’t buy the first collected edition of Moen’s web comic, Oh Joy Sex Toy, but such was life. Dylan is wonderful to chat with, and she’s working on a huge, high-profile project that’s going to take her a few years to complete, which means I have to wait far too long for new Meconis comics. DAMN YOU, DYLAN!!!! Lucy Bellwood, who’s rapidly becoming another of my favorite people in comics, was sitting next to Dylan, but she was at a panel so I couldn’t talk to her at that moment. When she showed up, I bought her latest travel comic, Rim to River (which you can read here), about her latest excursion down the Colorado River (a trip she took about a month ago and which kicked off with lunch with a certain Mesa-based comics blogger who shall remain nameless). Lucy is also doing a lot of upcoming awesome stuff, and I look forward to it all.
I wandered around the corner and spoke to Jonathan Case, whose new graphic novel, The New Deal, is in stores this week. Case, of course, is a phenomenal artist, but he’s a good writer, too, and The New Deal – which is about a series of crimes at the Waldorf-Astoria during the Depression – sounds terrific. I told him that I had pre-ordered it so I couldn’t buy it (well, I could, but I didn’t want to pay for it twice), but he was nice enough to give me a copy, and when I get free stuff, that goes to the top of my “to-do” list, so I’ll probably have a review of it pretty soon (I have a few other free comics I need to get to first). It’s a gorgeous comic, so if you get a chance, take a look at it. I also said hello to Natalie Nourigat, who’s moving to Los Angeles soon to take a job storyboarding for Disney. That’s great for her (Disney money!), but it means we won’t be getting a lot of comics from her in the foreseeable future, which is bad for the rest of us. Nerds R Selfish!!!!
Naturally, there was a Lumberjanes presence at the con, so I bought a few variant covers for my daughter (I let her read my copies, but if I find variants, I buy them for her) and got them signed by Shannon Watters and Brooke Allen. Norah is so happy to get cool variant covers, and I wish I could find more of them for her!
I saw David Brothers at Caleb Goellner’s booth, so I stopped to say hello to him. David, as you should know, is a fascinating writer about comics, and he’s moving up the ranks at Image, so it won’t be long before he’s the most powerful person in comics!!!! I enjoy talking to David, as he’s far smarter than I am, and I was bummed that I missed his panel with Jeff Parker on Sunday, as I had a lunch commitment. I hope to catch them at Emerald City in the spring, because their panel is one of the few I really dig. I had never seen Goellner’s stuff before, but while David was talking to Jim Gibbons, I talked to Goellner, and I ended up buying some of his stuff. It looks pretty neat!
After that, I wandered over to Jen van Meter’s table to say hello. She had an early copy of the new Hopeless Savages book, which looks pretty terrific. I mentioned how tremendous Meredith McClaren’s work looks on Heart in a Box (McClaren drew the new Hopeless Savages book), and she agreed. Brendan Wright happened to walk by and he, too agreed how awesome that particular comic is (he edited it, so he might be a biased). No one can stop Kelly Thompson!!! (By the way, Heart in a Box came out last week. You all picked up your copy, right? It’s spectacular.) Next I stopped at Christopher Sebela’s table and bought a variant cover of his latest comic, We(l)come Back, which looked really great but which I was waiting for the trade. However, the Elsa Charretier variant was pretty sweet, so I bought that like a sucker. Damn it! I also had him sign my newly-bought copy of High Crimes, as he did, you know, write it.
I chatted with Jeff Parker for a while at his table, because Parker is a swell dude and he’s always interesting to talk to. He lamented the impending death of Batman ’66, but noted that they’re going to be doing mini-series (like the one with the Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and one-shots, so it’s only dead as an ongoing. He was standing next to Sandy Jarrell, who sold me a print of Batman ’66 fighting Lord Death Man. It’s pretty sweet. I also spoke to Jamie Rich, Vertigo’s newest editor, who was talking about the twelve (12!) new series they’re launching between now and the end of the year. Travis and I have been surprised by Vertigo’s output in the past two Previews catalogs, but apparently they’re not done yet! I then had a nice long conversation with Matthew Wilson, colorist extraordinaire, about his work on Jamie McKelvie’s comics. He told me quite a bit about he and McKelvie created the most recent issue of The Wicked + The Divine (#14), which repurposed art from earlier in the series. It was very cool to hear about how they made it look different and what little things they kept in the artwork to hearken back to the sources. There’s a lot more going on in the issue than I thought, so I appreciated hearing it all.
I got back around to Mike Russell, creator of Sabertooth Vampire. I probably would have stopped by anyway, but Dylan Meconis told me to, and I tend to do what Dylan tells me. I bought a few of his books, because Sabertooth Vampire is a nice, surreal comic, and I knew I’d like it and my daughter probably would, too (I was right about that). So that was fun.
I did take a few pictures, as you can see below. I love getting crowd shots, and the giant M.O.D.O.K. was too good to pass up. I also took a picture of the Chew card game in the wild, because I thought that was pretty neat. The game is quite good, and if you happen to be a game-player, I recommend it.
And that was Saturday. Yes, as usual, I did quite a bit during the day, even though I skipped all the panels. I always skip panels, so this wasn’t surprising, but I just thought I’d mention it. Anyway, I was beat, but there was food to eat, yo! That night we went out again with our friend Mike, and we were planning on going to Stammtisch, a German restaurant over in Laurelhurst (or at least Laurelhurst-adjacent), but it was Oktoberfest (I will never understand why Oktoberfest is in September; I went to Oktoberfest in Munich when I was kid, and it too was in September, for crying out loud!) and there were many, many fratboy douchebags around the restaurant (they had closed off the street and put up tables outside), so we skipped it. We ended up at the Two Brothers Café on SE 39th and Belmont, which is a Balkan place. It was far less hip than most of the place we went last weekend, but the food was pretty awesome. I had sausages, because sausages are excellent!
For dessert, we went to Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse, another old favorite, where my wife took a photo of me doing what we did all weekend:
She offered to not post it, but I said fuck it, who cares. I mean, I’m just eating, right?
So the next morning, after having some Blue Star donuts (from the store on North Mississippi, just another gentrified neighborhood where minorities aren’t necessarily welcome; the two dudes working at the Blue Star were black, but the company is not owned by a black person), I went back to the con. I bought The Shadow: Year One from Matt Wagner, who told me and some other dude about the time he sold the cover of Grendel’s first appearance (Primer #2) for something like $75-100 back in the day. The dude, he said, used to come to the comic book store where Wagner worked and buy original art from the guys who worked there and also drew comics. Apparently the dude was a bit of a recluse, and when he died, his family eventually found the cover and sold it … for $17,000. Wagner wasn’t bitter; he just thought it was an interesting story.
I bought Carl, the Cat That Makes Peanut Butter Sandwiches from Jim Mahfood, because how could I not? I haven’t read it yet, but I’m guessing it’s about a cat that makes peanut butter sandwiches. Also, there’s a heaping helping of nudity in it, too. I stopped at Brian Joines’s table and spoke to him for a few minutes. I bought the trade of Imagine Agents that he wrote (with great art from Bachan), but mainly I gushed about how excellent Secret Identities is (was) and how bummed out I was that it didn’t last. The final issue came out last week, and if you didn’t read it, you really ought to get the complete trade. It’s one of the best superhero books I’ve read in a while, but people don’t want good superhero comics, they want familiar superhero comics. Gahhhhhh! I also mentioned to him that the reason his name was familiar to me was because I own the first seven issues of 7 Guys of Justice, his superhero comedy from back in the day. He laughed and said he has some issues propping up his tables at home. I’m sure he’ll give them to you if you’re interested!
After that, I happened to stop at Darren Neely’s table, where I bought the trade of his comic, The Prospector. It’s about an anthropologist and a miner in the Rockies, coming across a bunch of mysteries. You know, like you do. It sounds pretty neat, and it looks pretty good. I’ll get around to reviewing it soon enough! I also picked up The Comic Book Story of Beer from Aaron McConnell (who drew it), because who doesn’t love beer? I bought some comics from Cat Farris, who has been doing some very fun work with “Lil Sixth Gun” comics and is a charming person to talk to, and then I bought porn. Yes, I had been thwarted in my attempts to buy porn from Erika Moen, but lo and behold, I saw Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, and I decided to say hello. Tobin, of course, writes some very cool comics, and Coover draws (and writes) some very cool comics, including her porn comic, Small Favors. I had heard about it for years (Brian, if I’m remembering correctly, has shown some of it here), but I had never seen it in the wild, but Coover had both volumes, so I picked them up. As I’ve noted before, I’m not a huge fan of porn comics, but I am a huge fan of Colleen Coover, so I figured I’d give her some money, and I already own Bandette. I’ve only read a little bit of Small Favors so far, but … yeah, it’s porny, all right.
It was time to meet my friend, Annette, for lunch, so I left the convention and met up with her, and by the time lunch was over, I was kind of beat and didn’t go back. We were leaving early in the morning (our flight was at 6.25 instead of 11 for reasons too annoying to get into right now), so I knew I’d have an early night, and I had done pretty much everything I wanted to at the con. So we went back to our little cottage and packed, but before we left, we had to go … out to dinner! Again!!!! This time we went to TarBoush, a Lebanese restaurant on Hawthorne, where I had a kafta kebob. So tasty! And, of course, we went to dessert at a different place, because why not? This time we ended up at Pix Pâtisserie on Burnside, where I had a chocolate almond cake with a bittersweet chocolate center, topped with vanilla ice cream. Yeah, it was pretty darned good.
So that was my “vacation” in Portland. I still love the city, but I know it’s having some problems – there’s a housing crisis, for one thing, and man, the hipsters have really taken over. But Krys and I had a terrific time, and the con was, as usual, quite fun. They expanded a bit this year, I think, and while there were definitely more people, it’s still relatively small compared to Emerald City and the one in Phoenix. But because so many comics creators live in Portland, they’ve had a pretty cool guest list the past two years. I spent way too much money, of course, but I had a great time. I’m trying to ease back on conventions because they are so expensive, so I’m not sure if I’m going to go next year (I’m trying to get to Emerald City in the spring, but that might be my last one for a little bit), but we’ll see. Now I have an even bigger pile of comics to read, and I have no idea when I’m going to get to them!!!!!
But that’s not a bad problem to have.
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