Quick editor’s note before we get started on the amazingness that is this post: We here at Marco Polo have decided that since next week is Winter Break here at USM, we’re going on break, too! Our editor is already in Florida, updating this poolside, and well, that’s enough of that work thing. Tune back in the day classes start back up, and we’ll have a new post for you. Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.
Also, be sure to enjoy this post responsibly!
Ohhkay, so it’s my first post and I get the honor of writing for you on this most auspicious of days. Let’s face it – whether it’s met with excited anticipation, heavy-looming dread or blatant denial, we all have our own special relationship with the big VD (that’s Valentines Day, smart alec, but convenient that the initials also bear a reminder to play safely, regardless of the sort of amorous activities you may partake in. Coincidence? I think not.) It is in this spirit that would I like to offer you “A Local’s Guide to Dating in Portland”; otherwise known as: “Slightly Sarcastic Suggestions for Wooing Your Someone”.
So what kind of suggestions can I give you for Valentine’s Day that you
don’t already know? Well, I’ve lived in this town for a whole lot of
years (often more than I would care to admit to the freshmen class)
and in those years I’ve been on a lot of dates. Many of those dates have been
awesome. Some of them have been painfully awkward (to the tune of “you
didn’t tell me she was your ex…that makes so much more sense now..”),
and some of them I count myself as lucky that we didn’t wind up
finishing the adventure in a holding cell (“I swear, officer, I had
no idea that was frowned upon in this fine state.”) So, I beg of you, pick up a hint or two, or at least learn from my mistakes.
Don’t have a special someone? That’s A-OKAY. Much of this will apply
to you too, my unpaired electron friend. Perhaps you’re looking for
another particle, charged and ready to take a spin, or maybe you’re
happy being a free-radical. Either way, I salute you. Valentine’s Day this year falls on a Thursday, which is Portland’s Friday. (Or Saturday, or any other day that ends in “y”, really. Let’s face it, this city likes its booze.) So that means, for you 21+ folks, you’ve got a lot of night-time options for flashing your bird-of-paradise best.
Maybe you’d like to show off your impressive knowledge of the latest fads in handcrafted infusion blends (strawberry jalapeno vodka, lavender pear martinis, elderberry liqueur, I swear – Portlanders will never tire of finding new things to soak in liquor.) I’ve often eyed the prominently displayed clear glass jars of fruits and sometimes spices that line the bar at Sonny’s, which is elbowing its way to the top of the chic-infusion-hot-spots list. If you want to try one of their signature cocktails, calculated elbowing is a skill to acquire – it’s a popular place and it sometimes requires the artful navigation of a ninja to get an order in. The atmosphere and the unique blends you can get there do make it worth it.
Or maybe your style is more along the lines of raising a suggestive eyebrow to the captivating stranger under the Bud Light sign while the dollar draft you’ve covertly purchased is slid their way. For such opaque-cup debauchery, my top pick is always the downstairs bar at the Asylum. Sure, it’s a dark, often-sweaty basement where people dance too close and your friends sends your drink flying with his foot when Lady Gaga comes on (…or maybe that’s only happened to me) but either way, isn’t that what you’re there for? With $2.50 well drinks every Thursday and a “retro” playlist that has been played in exactly the same order for so many weeks that it is, in and of itself, “retro”, the Asylum is the kind of “no-facades, just throw your coat in the corner with all the other black hoodies and dance” kind of place in which the predictable seediness is almost, in some way, comforting. And, for a “straight bar”, it’s a place for all types. So whoever you wanna dance close with, you’re all good. You’re all one big family in the sweaty basement together. (Romantic, huh?)
If it’s an intimate setting you’re looking for, one of my top picks is always the Bar of Chocolate on Wharf St. As the name suggests, they’ve got some decadent dessert options (including a creme brulee that I credit as helping a friend through a major breakup) and a list of martinis in which you can’t possibly go wrong. But for a small, quiet place and a great semi-fancy date that won’t break the bank, the Bar of Chocolate is your place.
Local 188 and the newer and much-talked-about LFK, both towards the west end of town, are also on par in their swanky-suave ambiance and fancy selection to moderately priced ratio. LFK also boasts a functioning vintage typewriter where guests can wax poetic; and if you were the lucky recipient of a collaboratively written, gin-fueled erotic story my friends and I left there this summer, well, you’re welcome.
I wouldn’t be doing my job as a moonlighting burlesque performer if I didn’t give a shout out to my friends who are performing tonight in what has all the makings of a sultry, bawdy, riotous and downright-fantastic show, which leads me to my next recommendation. Portland’s very own school-board-representative-by-day-burlesque-queen-by-night, Holly Danger, has pulled together some of Portland’s finest burlesque performers, ranging from classical burlesque (Vivian Vice of Whistlebait Burlesque) to queer neo-burlesque of the Dirty Dishes Burlesque Revue, (If you don’t know the difference, GO. There’s nothing like immersion to really create a genuine learning experience) along with a couple of performers who are new to me. “Brentney Schmears”? Um. that’s amazing! But seriously, burlesque shows are a great way to celebrate a night of all-things-love. Go with your date, go alone, either way, you’re guaranteed to have an awesome time. The show is at Geno’s Rock Club on Congress St, starting at 9pm. The ticket is slightly steep for a student budget – $12 (or $10 if you wear red), but, hey, it’s the first month of the semester so that student refund and tax return that are both supposed to last you until May still seem abundant. Go on, live a little.
If you’ve not yet attained the linear years where this country deems
you ready to experience tequila or tassles, worry not – you are not
barred from fun! I realize I’ve been writing a lot about places where
the primary activity is drinking. (But hey – play to your strengths?)
No – in all seriousness – there is a LOT you can do in this town that
does not involve booze. Even for folks who are 21+, some of the best
things in Portland happen in all ages or 18+ venues. Like, for
instance, SPACE Gallery, is always doing awesome things. Some of the
best shows I’ve ever been to have been at SPACE, including last year
when my friends and I did an impromptu performance with a 15+ piece
radical marching band whose lead drummer wears a monkey mask, wherein
they led the entire crowd of 200+ people into the alley across the
street and my friends and I did a 4-person fire dance (don’t worry,
we’re “professionals”) as everyone crammed in and danced and the sound
bounced through the city streets. SPACE is so awesome that, even
though they don’t have anything going on for Valentines Day (what the
heck?) they were worth mentioning, because I only get a couple of
these blogs over the semester and they’re a place you should darn well
But right – I was writing about Valentines Day. I did plenty of wooing
before I was 21 (…remember the allusion to “awkward” dates? yeah.
see my years of 18-25.) and honestly, a lot of it is about making your
own fun. But really, that’s pretty flippin’ romantic. Train bridges,
tree-climbing, abandoned buildings (okay, so these were my 18-25 year
old self’s ideas of good dates, which might be slightly different from
yours – and I don’t think USM wants me telling you to violate any laws
[see the next allusion to my dating history: interactions with local
law enforcement] but the basics are the same – making something out of
nothing, just because you like someone, is a really awesome gesture.)
As for things you can do in the city, something an old housemate of
mine was really into was heading down to Color Me Mine on Commercial
Street, which is a place where, for a small studio fee, you can paint your
own mugs, plates, all kinds of stuff, and have it professionally fired
in a kiln. She used to take herself on dates and come home with
artfully decorated bowls, cups and coasters, often with lewd sentences
she found amusing hand-painted in elegant cursive. They often run
2-for-1 specials on studio fees, or waive them altogether for certain
nights of the week. What’s sweeter than going out and making coffee
mugs with your person that you can then trade, and think of one
another when you have your morning coffee? And hey – if you break up,
you can then get the catharsis of blasting some Alanis Morisette (or I
guess, what, Taylor Swift for you traditional students?) and smashing
said decorative ceramics in your driveway. (Call me the eternal
optimist…but for real, a friend of mine at the U of Guelph swears by
plate-smashing as her preferred stress-reliever.)
Here’s another one – if you maybe hadn’t noticed, we just got a metric
crap-ton of snow. (We scientists use the metric system to ensure
consistent communication of our methods and findings) And what’s more
romantic than snow? (oh, I dunno, a tropical vacation? Or going
anywhere that isn’t freezing? my girlfriend would contest
this point with me, but I hold steadfast in this belief.) But
seriously – get a thermos and some sleds, fill up with your warm
beverage of choice (and if you’re extra thrifty, buy it at a USM food
location and put it on your student ID to avoid the sales tax –
because nothing says “sex god” like saving 7 cents on the dollar.) and
go have yourself some good ol’ fashioned fun. If you’re like me, you
will also recognize this as an opportunity to have an impromptu walrus
battle. …however, I am slowly learning that there are very few
people who are, in fact, “like me”, and nearly daily I become more and
more grateful that my girlfriend finds this somehow charming… but
basically, find some sort of flat, sled-able-thing, bring something
warm, and make your own fun. now that’s classic romance. and while
you’re at it, walk to school. preferably up-hill both ways.
All of these suggestions are, of course, only a teeny, tiny sampling
of all of the awesome things you could be doing tonight. (or just
staying home and relaxing, whether it be with a someone/some someones
or just your bad self) and tonight may come and go for you without any
significance. But I’m somewhat of a utilitarian, so most of these
suggestions can be used any time. And for some of the nuts and bolts
of important skill-sets for the day, USM is providing some good
healthy relationship and safer sex workshops for all students to check
out. And, to use some collegiate language, for those of you who are
past the 101 and want to get into some higher-level-lovin-learnin,
Nomia, “Portland’s first women owned and operated erotic boutique”
offers not only quality products and inspirationally knowledgeable
staff, but they also have an incredible range of small, totally
non-intimidating classes on a diverse range of topics, of which
couples or solo folks are all encouraged to go. (I once went to a
workshop wherein I learned about the power dynamics of giving and
receiving intentional energy by throwing a stuffed lobster back and
forth between a line of my friends.) Seriously, this is not your
average shame-based-marketing, “dirty” this or “novelty” that shop.
Whether you go in on Valentines Day, your partner’s birthday, or
Thursdays, you will feel welcome, safe and comfortable, and it is a
Portland experience everyone should have.
So, with that, you’ve got suggestions ranging from classic burlesque
fan dances to hot coca and sledding. Whatever you do, I hope you have
a fantastic night. Remember – consent is not only awesome but
fundamental, and applicable to everyone – regardless of what
adventures your evening might contain. If I can give you one
recommendation that is a steadfast, all-the-time thing, it’s that one.
Until next time!