Five things you didn’t know about Portland history

Five things you didn’t know about Portland history (photo)

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For outsiders, it can seem as if Portland just sprung out of the earth around the time the Decemberists put out their first album. Only in the last few years has the city been considered a “youth destination” and made the subject of a bazillion think pieces in New York-based magazines and–ahem–cable sketch comedy shows. Before then, who knew the place even existed? In truth, Portland was born on a coin toss in 1845 and has been a land of strange, bearded wonders ever since.

Just ask Doug Kenck-Crispin. As the resident “ribald historian” at orhistory.com and host of the bi-weekly podcast Kick-Ass Oregon History, he is well aware the phrase “Keep Portland Weird” isn’t so much a rallying cry for the recent influx of hipster transplants as it is an unofficial town motto stretching back 167 years. Here, Kenck-Crispin provides us with five historical facts to prove that point:

1) In 1883, when Stephen Skidmore died, he bequeathed $5,000 to the city for a fountain. Skidmore vastly underestimated the cost of such a venture, and left woefully little dollars to complete the project. Henry Weinhard’s offer to fill the Skidmore fountain with beer for the 1888 dedication was turned down by party pooper Henry Failing.

2) On St. Patrick’s Day in 1948, Mill Ends Park was dedicated. The park has been recognized by many schooled in such trivial matters as the World’s Smallest Park. Yet again, eternally imprisoning us in a shameful stance when we want to say to Seattle, “mine is bigger than yours.”

3) While we at orhistory.com are quite familiar with strippers named Mercedes and Erotica, we wish we could have met Portland’s Best Named Whore, Boneyard Mary. A longshoreman named William McMahon went missing from his ship, the Willamette Slough, and the harlot–more than just an acquaintance of Mr. McMahon’s–was suspected. A friend of the deceased, who found his cabin empty, was named “Wide Awake” Harrington, yet again demonstrating that Portland has always been Tweakerville. (And the coppers were never able to pin the caper on Mary.)

4) Remember the time the parks downtown were occupied by a bunch of dirty hippies protesting “the system,” camping and partying and fucking until the Mayor got tired of this bullshit and sent in the police? Oh, but wait, that was May 1970 at the PSU Park Blocks, when Mayor Terry Schrunk’s cops beat the shit out of a bunch of hippies, sending 31 protesters to the hospital. Props to Sam Adams, Portland’s kinder, gentler mayor.

5) Likely Portland’s first food cart, in 1957 a dozen ladies from a Red Cross class simulated feeding mass refugees from the holocaust of an atomic apocalypse. Called the Civil Defense Austerity Meal, the women cooked over an oven made from rubble brick and a galvanized garbage can. The menu consisted of a casserole of baked beans and wieners, scalloped potatoes and ham, pickled beets and a tossed salad. Ahhh-palling to you Portland foodies, indeed!

Not enough? Here now, courtesy of the all-knowledgeable Twitter feed Ancient Portland, are five even more arcane things you didn’t know about Portland. Why are they so arcane? Well, because they’re totally made up.

1) According to the historian Tacitus, Portland was founded in 851 BC by Willamette Valley warlords, who vowed they would never use umbrellas, even if common sense demanded it. This is a custom that continued through modern times. Indeed, an anonymous 1771 diarist wrote: “It is curious that, given the Inclemency of Climate & Constancy of Rain, Portlandians care not if their Wigs become soaked.”

2) In antiquity, Portland’s economy was based on moss. Moss farmers spent much of the year in the drizzle, sipping ale or coffee until summer. Little has changed. Interestingly, “moss farmers” was a derogatory term for Portlanders during the 16th-century Californite Wars.

3) Writer and libertine Giacomo Casanova’s visit to the celebrated Portland pâtissière Voodoo Doughnuts in 1791 proved scandalous when he chose a pastry that, according to a local chronicler, “amusingly resembled the Priapic member.”

4) Portlanders have always been serious about eating locally. Portland’s ancient locavores lived exclusively off squirrels, dandelions, crows, and Burgerville hazelnut milkshakes.

5) Likewise, Portland has always had an affinity for coffee. According to tradition, St. Drogo, patron of baristas, lived in a Goose Hill monastery and made devout latte art depicting the Virgin Mary. He was brutally martyred via steam wand in Canby in 1185. Scholars believe, however, that Portland’s first specialty coffee drink was not made until 1711 and was milk, coffee, and ground-up Egyptian mummies. Critics were horrified that the mummies were not local.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.