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Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (Crown Journeys) Hardcover – July 8, 2003
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The book is broken up into twelve chapters. "Talk the Talk" presents the key bits of PDX slang you'll need to sound like a local (most of which were unknown to me). "Quests" lists fourteen different "adventures" or things to do in and around the city. Samples include visiting the famous self-cleaning house, or spending an afternoon in eviction court. "Chow" is on food, of course, and is probably the most disappointing chapter. "Haunts" lists sixteen places to commune with ghosts and spirits in places like haunted hotels and bathrooms. "Souvenirs" is a throwaway two-page chapter listing five offbeat places to buy stuff. "Unholy Relics" is a list of nine offbeat museums, like the Vacuum Cleaner Museum.
"Getting Off" is the longest chapter, and as one might guess, it's all about the city's sex scene, from strip bars to swinger clubs. Notable is the annual "I-Tit-A-Rod" race, in which the goal is to visit as many strip clubs in twelve hours as possible (no one has come close to making all fifty). A more genteel chapter follows this, highlighting the city's more interesting gardens and parks. "Getting Around" is a relatively tame hodgepodge of transportation related sights, including a decommissioned nuclear submarine. "Animal Acts" is almost entirely about the Portland Zoo, with small sections about the feral cats of Portland Stadium, and a few pug-related items. "The Shanghai Tunnels" is about Portland's legendary tunnel system and the
variety of tours one can take through them.
Palahniuk moved to Portland after graduating high school in 1981, and separating each chapter are "postcards" of his time in the city. These are brief stories and escapades that chart a chronological course of his becoming more and more involved in Portland. Particularly hilarious are his tales of the annual "Santa Rampage" (imagine several hundred Santas battling riot police), and an end of the millennium party at the old Baghdad Theater. As a whole, the book is not one likely to be endorsed by the Portland Visitors Bureau, which is kind of the whole point of it. Like any city, Portland's civic leaders would like to present a shiny, happy facade of bland progress. Fortunately, we now have Palahniuk's valuable unsugarcoated portrait, one which only someone who truly loves the city could have penned.
This is one of those strange little books that will probably only appeal to those who live (or have lived) in the city. It's sort of a travel guide, personal diary, and social commentary of Palahnuik wrapped into a single small volume. Each chapter that deals with locations or places to see is followed by a "postcard" from the past that relates a personal experience. These are really bizarre stories, and you'll either really like them or wonder why they are even in the book. The chapters on locations list such things as restaurants to see, the most haunted locations in Portland, and museums that are worth visiting. Many of these sites are *not* five star locations you'll see in any other travel guide, like Wacky Willy's Surplus. But it will send you down the path to the off-beat side of Portland.
The part I found most interesting is the chapter on the Shanghai Tunnels. Portland was a notorious port in earlier days, and most of the bars and hotels at that time were connected to an underground tunnel system. These tunnels were used to "shanghai", or abduct, people and smuggle them onto ships for forced labor. There were also opium dens and other uses for these underground passages. Over time they deteriorated, but there are now guided tours and efforts to restore them as part of Portland's past.
Is the book good? It's got moments... For me, it was more hit and miss, however...