Walk Along the Urban Grocery Aisle: Portland’s Edible Fruits, Nuts, and Plants

Have you wondered about an apple tree and thought, can I pick one and eat it? If you’re lucky to live in Portland, you can find that out; you can ask your neighbor; and there’s some motivated people who have already met the neighbors and created Urban Edibles, a wiki with all the fruits, nuts, and edible plants in Portland. There’s a lot of available food in the city: apples, pears, plums, figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, blackberries, and abandoned garden beds.

Michael Bunsen is the founder and web designer of Urban Edibles. He had the idea for a couple years and as his web designing skills developed, he asked his friends to get involved. “When I moved to Portland,” Carly Boyer tells me, “I happened to live with Continue reading


The City Gardens: Growing food in Portland

It’s common the world over to plant food near your house, and Portland’s a quick study. There’s a growing community of people who realize they would just as soon like to eat vegetables grown next door as they would buy some picked and shipped to the supermarket. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one way to get vegetables from a local farm to the table. City Garden Farms is a Portland CSA grown on small plots throughout the city. “I’m a lifelong gardener, a passionate gardener,” Dan Bravin tells me. “I always had a dream to make a small business off what I grow.” Bravin and his business partner, Martin Barrett started City Garden Farms last year after Barrett read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and said to Bravin: “I have a big backyard, can I make money growing vegetables?”

Most CSAs in Portland have a waiting list, some lists are a hundred customers long. “One reason,” Bravin considers: “once people sign up, they tend to stay on. There’s a buzz about local food and ‘getting back to basics’ during the recession, so there’s more Continue reading

Opening Night at The Brody Theater

Almost one hundred people are at The Brody Theater and artistic director Tom Johnson says, “This stage was completed – what? two hours ago?” Everyone is in their seats and it’s standing room only. Red lanterns hang over the bar and the recycled paper bag flooring is good as new. After twelve years in Portland, The Brody Theater is in its new location at 16 NW Broadway. Through the years, every weekend they build comedy with the dynamic of the moment. “And to get us started, give me a suggestion for a location,” says actor Devin Harkness. Someone calls out from the room, “The North Pole.” “Okay,” Harkness smiles. “The North Pole, thank you very much.”

The shows happen every Friday and Saturday starting at 8 pm and Johnson says, “We’ll start adding late night shows as we get up and running.” The theater is a social mixer – especially for people who want to perform. “I’m not quite the man I was,” Harkness says in doddering old man voice. “No, you’re better,” says scene partner Marilyn Divine. “You’re like cheese.” The Brody Theater teaches improv and the classes are a unique opportunity to meet people and play.

Llewellyn Family Fun Night: Actively Supporting Education

The kids laugh when Golliology professor Rhys Thomas demonstrates the scientific study of tricks. Thomas studies “Golly” like wow, how did you do that? He learns quickly too, his bag of tricks is full and now spread over the entire stage at Llewellyn Elementary. “Physics is the study of stuff and energy and how they work together,” he says. While performing dexterous feats of balance and coordination, Thomas explains the physics of spinning juggling clubs. When a club drops, it’s an educational moment. That’s gravity, and the kids love it when he drops clubs. “Since I reached 46, I think of more creative ways to waste my youth.” He mounts a unicycle balanced on a tightrope and juggles three pins. The red crash helmet, he assures us, is just to match the color of his pants.

The community event at Llewellyn Elementary is a Family Fun Night. Susan Wilch of the PTA tells me that K-5 students of the public school are here with parents, siblings, and extended family. I’m there to watch Thomas juggle, and I didn’t expect to see Continue reading

That’s Right: Nau Clothing

I spoke with Peter Kallen, designer of Nau clothing, and he explained what makes “minimal considered” clothing design. “When I get to the point where I can’t take anything away, it’s done.” Nau clothing is for active-living, but it isn’t “sportswear”. There’s none of the bright colors, stripes, or supertights that make you look like a mating bird. The colors are more subdued: denim, blue, brown, black, and khaki. You don’t have to change outfits when you change activities. “It will last in your wardrobe,” Kallen claims. “It’s a sustainable color palette, a timeless quality.” Bright colors are momentary, though Nau does make an orange rust colored jacket for back-country visibility. Most companies target their line to a demographic, Nau has in mind a “psychegraphic”. “For us, it’s a sense of living, and head space.”

Amazingly, there’s no external logoing on any garments. This makes me wonder how they compare to the other clothing brands, or how they can compete in the marketplace. “We’re not trying to capitalize on the it, we’re trying to provoke the sustainable movement.” Continue reading

Laughing Plant Cafe in the Ecotrust Building

The Laughing Planet Cafe needs no introduction in Portland, but with the opening of their seventh store, it’s high time for Richard Satnick to take a bow. The success of the Laughing Planet Cafe is thanks to wholesome food at affordable prices, and it’s opened doors for west coast farmers. Laughing Planet Cafe contributed to a chorus of local businesses calling for local produce from their food suppliers. “We go through onions. We need them all year,” Richard Satnick, co-owner of Laughing Planet Cafe says. “A big supplier can buy them from all over the country and buy depending on price. We said, find us a local onion and figure out how to store it – where are you going to put a years worth of onions?”

Laughing Planet Cafe sources its food primarily from Continue reading

Daniel Bozhkov – International Performance Art

Daniel Bozhkov is a performance artist that needs more than one introduction. His roster of activities shows how his work interacts with reality. Nothing so passive as a picture, installation, or manifesto. Bozhkov is a man of action. He takes an interest in the role of greeter at Walmart. In Bulgaria where he was born, there is hospitality in abundance. Bozhkov wants to experience the uniquely American job of being paid to be hospitable – to see if any of the authenticity could remain if you are being paid to be welcoming.

He documents this performance with a video camera following him in Walmart, greeting customers and being helpful. Then he gets the idea to paint a fresco in the call-waiting room. Bozhkov paints a tiered shelf-like frieze of repeating panels of Continue reading