“Staying Weird in Portland” or “Eyeballs”

I just got back from a weekend in Portland. The non-profit I work for went up there for a retreat, and I stayed an extra day to see all of Portland with one of my favorite friends who just happens to be my co-worker who lives there and works remotely.

This was the longest time away from my littlest little (Cookie), and while I was totally anxious about it, it was glorious. We did day time drinking. We went to the purrfect Purrington’s Cat Lounge where you can sip on coffee and converse with your friend while you cozy up with a cuddly cat on your lap. We ate glorious food until we were so full we were miserable. We shopped like it was our last day on Earth. Pure mind numbing ecstasy.

Because we had just one day together, my co-worker was determined to show me every single amazing neighborhood, boutique, and restaurant that Portland has to offer, which if you have every been to Portland you know is a crazy notion.

The food options in the city are incredible. How all the donut shops, popcorn shops, waffle windows, Scandinavian restaurants, breweries, and cleverly named food trucks stay open, I don’t know, but they do and they all have lines or require reservations days in advance. And how all the unique, witty, tongue-in-cheek boutiques that pretty much sell local goods stay open as well, I don’t know, but they do and they are packed and they are amazing. I basically learned that if I myself lived in Portland I would be obese and broke from all the eating and shopping (I mean, the amount of ironic cat themed jewelry would bankrupt me alone!).

But of course, since I was away from my kids and was constantly battling mom guilt for leaving them, most of my shopping revolved around what perfect presents I could buy for my littles. This was to not only suppress my mom guilt but to also pick out something so perfect and cool I could convince my littles that it is actually beneficial for me to go away for the weekend because of all the cool shit that I bring back for them.

I was struggling a bit to find the perfect gifts until my friend took me into Paxton Gate, which apparently if you watch Portlandia you are quite familiar with. (I don’t so I will give you a brief description: it’s a crazy artistic-yet-incredibly-disturbing taxidermy shop.) My friend brought me in quickly to see this famous trademark and was probably a bit shocked when I exclaimed, “This is perfect for D-Bop!” and made a bee-line for the framed giant beetles.

D-Bop is a bug guy. He catches spiders and moths and butterflies, rescues silverfish constantly (“It’s ok little guy! I got you!”), and loves queen termites and all they represent. (P.S. If you are ever seeking revenge on someone, trick them into googling queen termite. 100% guarantee it will make them vomit all over their MacBook.)

He is also a science nerd with a microscope topping his Christmas Wish List along with a “make your own volcano” kit and a “grow your own crystal kit”.

So this shop was going to win me Mom of the Year Award for sure.

I prepared my friend that I was going to “need to really focus and spend a few minutes in this store” and went back and forth between the giant framed hairy spider, or framed butterfly trio, or key-chained beetle. I tried to shield her from the jarred fetal pigs and hippo head– “No, it’s plastic for sure” (it wasn’t)– and made a note to google “jackalope”. (They had one. But it’s not a real creature. And the 90s show it was on was America’s Funniest People. You are welcome for saving you a Google search.) And then I found it– a fine selection of animal eyeballs to choose from, all enclosed in glass and ready to take home to my son.

Perhaps this was nostalgic for me. I remember when I was just 5 years old (same age as D-Bop) and my dad returned home from a fishing trip. I found the trout eyeballs absolutely fascinating! They were iridescent and beautiful and I knew what my show-and-tell was going to be for the week. My dad cut them out for me, dropped them in a ziploc bag, and I presented them to my kindergarten classmates the next day. And yes, my teacher did set up a parent/teacher conference because she was worried there was “trouble at home”. (There wasn’t. I just thought they were pretty.)

I scanned the selection and chose two creepy orange snake eyeballs. (At least I didn’t choose the human eyeballs. Even that was too much for me. And why were they only $16?! If after I die and someone decides to sell my eyeballs, please make sure they sell them for at least $1600 each).

The clerk packed the snake eyes on top of some moss in a tiny little vial using some dental instruments (of course because Portland), and my friend and I were on our way.

I’m really not sure what else to say about this proud purchase of mine, but at least I took the incredible city’s advice to heart: Portland, I promise to always stay weird.

And don’t worry– I brought a stuffed puppy back for Cookie.  (Plush toy puppy, that is).

keep portland weird