Sunday, June 30, 2013

6/23/13-6/30/13: Portland, OR

What a wonderful way to end the first leg of this adventure.

We flew into Portland hours after our final show in TX - well, at least we left for the airport mere hours after the curtain went down.  2 flights later, we were disembarking in Portland, OR and on our way to the hotel.  This was the best option really, since it gave us 75% of Sunday off and ALL of Monday off (and technically Tuesday until 5 off) to explore Portland and recover from the past few hectic weeks.

The hotel we stayed at wasn't awful but it wasn't great either - the beds were slightly less than comfortable but I could live with it.  What tipped the scales to the 'Don't Stay Here' side was the hotel staff 'forgetting' that most of the AC units were set up for heat only and only switching them over to the Cool side the very last night we were there.  That meant I was laying awake in a very sweaty bed every night and being utterly exhausted during the days from my lack of sleep (I just can't sleep in the heat).  It was HOT in there...hotter than outside and Portland got into the 90s by the weekend.  BUT, Mark's husband was in town visiting - as were many spouses/significant others since we head out of the country in a few days.  And that meant I got to have the room to myself from Monday-Saturday - so I dealt with the heat...

Portland (both actually - I love Portland, ME too) is now on my short-list of places I could live.  I absolutely fell in love with the town and the vibe it has going on - which is very hippy-dippy.  Everything is fresh and organic and green and served to you in a biodegradable box or paper bag.  I love it - such a bohemian town.  The one of the only things that really threw me was the number of YOUNG homeless people.  I'm talking 90% of the homeless I saw were between 18-25.  I'm not sure why that is actually - but even they seem very nice...  The other thing that got me was the humidity.  I wasn't sure what to expect seeing how much of the West coast has that dry heat going on - but Portland defiantly has more that its fair share - which makes being outside (for me) a sticky, sweaty situation - especially since most places that I visited didn't seem to believe in air conditioning.  But other than that - In Love With Portland.

Portland - if you didn't know...and I didn't till I got there - is a HUGE foodie town.  There are literally hundreds of local restaurants serving over the top/off the wall/immensely flavorful and affordable cuisine from every walk of life and part of the globe.  Here are a few of the places I got to sample (and HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting the area):

Voodoo Doughnuts - A must do for anyone who visits Portland.  Voodoo makes some of the most delicious and creative donuts I've EVER seen.  When we walked up to the hour long line outside of the store I thought - This will never be worth it....oh was I wrong.  They actually are better than the hype even makes them out to be.  Just a sampling of what they sell: The Voodoo Doll (A voodoo doll shaped and decorated donut filled with raspberry jelly and has a pretzel stuck through its heart), Maple Bacon Bar (thats right...), Mango Tango (Filled with Mango jelly and topped with a marshmallow topping that is dipped in Tang!) and the Cock and Balls (Thats right....a HUGE phallic shaped donut that is filled with Vanilla pudding).  There are literally 100s of others and they are all good!  They only take cash though so come prepared - they also never close...I hear about 1AM is a good no-line time to go...

Hot Pot City - A really fun Taiwanese style place - kinda looks like a hole in the wall when you walk in.  But its SOOOOO good.  If you've never been to a Hot Pot restaurant, heres how it works: They bring you a large Hot Pot and burner filled with a broth (or up to 4 if theres a group)  of your choice (I recommend the spicy Thai).  As your broth comes up to a boil, you go up to the ingredient bar and choose any combo of veggies and meats to cook in the broth - and mix up some fun sauces to flavor your creations.  Its all you can eat so cook as much as you want!  Lunch is only like $9 - dinner is $14 but they break out all the seafood then. So much fun and tasty too!

Bijou Cafe - A great little Breakfast/Brunch place down in the Downtown/Chinatown area with a fun French twist on homey classics.  Lets just say that I had fresh NW Oyster hash and fresh squeezed OJ for breakfast one day - and it was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had...

Salt and Straw - Oprah listed this as one of her 'Favorite Things' one year - and I know why.  Maybe the best ice cream I've ever had.  And its not just the quality of the ingredients or that they make it fresh every day (which are top notch and which they do) - but its the creative flavors that they put out: Olive Oil, Strawberry-Honey-Balsamic-with-Cracked Pepper, IPA Upside-down Cake, Pear-and-Blue Cheese....just to name a few. And they are Incredibly nice there - will let you taste every flavor if you want...OH and don't forget that in addition to their regular flavors, they have new seasonal ones once a good...

Food Carts - Portland has over 500 food carts available throughout the city at any time.  And they cater to every kind of food you can image - salads, mexican, burgers, thai, korean bbq, american bbq, indian, bubble tea, ice cream, crepes, egyptian, scottish fish and chips - you name it and theres probably a cart within a few blocks selling whatever you are craving.

Aside from all the great things to eat...there's a lot to DO in Portland too.  A good friend of mine from NYC happened to be in town (he has a 2nd home here and used to work with the Portland Opera) and offered to take me and some of my cast-mates to Multnomah Falls to see some of the gorgeous outdoor areas in the region.  They were breathtaking.  We spent an afternoon walking around by the falls and then driving up to the 'Vista House' to get a view of the gorge that separates WA from OR - also breathtaking.  It was wonderful to be out there with so much fresh air and so much green.  Just a lovely day.  Later on, we went over to a Portland staple: Powell's Books.  Now try and imagine the largest B&N you've ever seen - and then stretch it out to an entire city block and give it 3 stories.  HUGE!  They actually have almost every book, magazine, etc you can think of.  Picked up (another) guide fro Thailand and (I know I know I have a problem) 2 new card games (but they were small....).

Show wise - our audiences here were great - I thought they might not buy into the show and see it as 'too commercial' because of the whole 'hippy' influence around - but every crowd for 8 shows seemed to love it.  And that made me happy - its always nice to go out with a bang and know that you're entertaining people.  And go out we did.  Sam Primack, one of our Pugsleys played his last performance with us - as did Jeff Katz, our trumpeter.  We also lost 3 crew members and our merch supervisor for the period while we are in Asia.  But in turn, we welcomed Conner Barth, our new Pugsley and several new crew and band members into our family.  To celebrate the end of the season and the comings and goings in the they company, Mark Minnick, one of our producers, came out to see the show and host a Bingo Night.  Bingo was one of the funniest nights we've had on tour - Mark makes one heck of a Emcee.  Now the big winner of the night was....ME!  Which is awesome since I never win at these things (lol) - but I walked out with almost $300 - not too shabby.  Half of it I used to upgrade my seat on our flight to Singapore - not to first class or anything - as that was a good $2K to upgrade too....but Economy Plus...basically a window seat and 5 inches extra of legroom for $130.  Hey on a 14 hour flight...I'll take it.

Well, its come at last -the day I knew would come at last, has come at last.  

We played our final performance of the 2012-2013 US Season on Sunday - said a tearful goodbye to those of us leaving the show and are about to spend 2 days off in San Francisco before flying out of the country on the 4th.  I'm so excited for this leg of the journey to begin!