Who says you have to travel many miles to find new and exciting things? I walked seven blocks from my home and had a wonderful adventure. It started with discovering that Goldenboy, a band that I love, were playing at Al’s Den, a small bar in my home of Portland, Oregon. Now seeing as how I don’t like to walk alone at night, and they were playing in the evening, I decided what the hell and booked myself a room at the Crystal Hotel, which is right next to Al’s Den – perfect! Besides, I had wanted to stay there because it is quintessential Portland – arty, quirky and eccentric. The whole “theme” of the Crystal Hotel is music – so perfect for a music lover such as myself! Each room has a name, the name being a song title by a variety of musical artists . I checked in, and was given room #411, and the words painted on the door proclaimed it to be the “Liquor, Beer and Wine” room – the title of a song by Reverend Horton Heat. Maybe it was a sign to indulge myself a bit, seeing as how I didn’t have to drive anywhere. I opened the door to my room, and found myself taken in by the dark blue walls,with song lyrics wrapping around all four of those walls, and the headboard of the bed a work of art in itself. And what a cozy, sensual atmosphere for a hotel room! With European style bathroom facilities (meaning no actual bathroom in the room itself), I was not distracted by the mundane sight of a blow dryer, nor a coffee pot, mini-fridge, or even a television. And as I walked the halls to check things out, I found amazing works of art lining the halls – imaginative rock posters, and colorful paintings of various musical artists. After a scrumptious meal at nearby Ringler’s Pub -I had a spicy but not mouth burning Jamaican bowl, followed by a shot of sweet and smooth coffee liqueur, I headed downstairs to Al’s Den to take in the music I had come to listen to in the first place. Now this is the kind of place that I love to hear live music at – small and intimate, with just enough room for enough people to come and listen but not too many, so that my view of the band is unobstructed. Goldenboy did not disappoint, as I found myself singing along with the familiar songs I loved to hear at home. What a sensation to hear those songs live! The music pounds, the players are enthused to bring their music to you, and in between songs stories were shared. And one of the things I like best about these small venues is being able to connect with the members of the band, to talk to them as the people they are, seeing them outside of the hype of being an entertainer. I had a delightful conversation with Shon Sullivan, the founder of Goldenboy; not just talking about music but talking about everything else under the sun. After talking with Shon I looked at my watch and found it was already 10:30! I hadn’t stayed up that late for years it seemed! No wonder I was feeling a bit tired. So, off to bed in my room of musical delights. I awoke the next morning, and put the next phase of my adventure into motion. I wanted pancakes! And I knew exactly where to go, to Sugar Mamas’! Sugar Mamas’ is a small restaurant in Portland, only a couple blocks away from the Crystal Hotel. I had walked past it many times, and perused the menu – now was my chance to try out some of the mouth watering offerings. I walked into the restaurant, with the floor done in old fashioned black and white linoleum tiles, and only enough tables and chairs to seat perhaps a dozen people. But the atmosphere was like being transported back to Grandma’s house, waiting for a delicious home cooked meal, with a full view of the kitchen in sight. A customer asked about the food, was all of it really made from scratch? And the waitress, who was one of the owners replied, “this is a mix-free zone” – meaning, no food would be coming from a packaged mix, all of it was truly made from scratch. I helped myself to a cup of bottomless coffee, picking out a coffee mug from the unmatched selection that was offered – I chose Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was just like being at Grandma’s! And the food? Sorry Grandma, but you never made pancakes like these! I had decided on banana-pecan pancakes. I was brought a plate with two of the fluffiest pancakes I had ever seen, with a side of real whipped cream, real butter, and some maple syrup. I took a bite and found myself in pancake heaven – so light, so tasty, and the pecans added a crunchy texture that I could not have anticipated would take my breath away. And the portions were also “Grandma-like” – I ended up with a take-home container – there was no way I was going to waste a morsel even if I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. Then it was back to my hotel room; time to check out and end my adventure. But as I walked home, I smiled to myself; happy in the fact that I always keep my eyes open close to home, so I don’t overlook any of the wonders that are so close by.
January 11, 2012