Get grossly incandescent: How to spend a weird day in Portland

In some ways, I love our new gentrification overlords. While the rise of stately studio condominium culture has directly correlated with the regrettable rise in rental prices, it’s now surprisingly cheap to find artisanal doughnuts, hand-churned ice cream and very small vegetarian burgers. This is great, really. But our newfound love for hedonism has come at the price of something we Portlanders once held dear: our weirdness.

Or has it?

There was a time when Portland was known for its velvet museums, ATM churches that were ostensibly about Elvis, and anything but Portlandia. Weird shit was around every corner, and every once in a while it would unfurl itself from its bundle of rags and chase you down Burnside for a couple blocks, merrily screaming obscenities the whole way. Those days are long gone, but that just means you have to work a little harder to get your freak on.

Nuclear fraternity

Nothing is weirder than nuclear radiation. It’s so sexy and mysterious, and it created the Hulk. Luckily, Portland has its own nuclear reactor. Unfortunately, it’s administered by Reed College students, making it the only reactor in the world operated solely
by undergraduates.

I shouldn’t need to tell you how dangerous a predicament this is, but no one has tried to cook a whole Renn Fayre pig in the core yet, so it’s probably okay.

The reactor itself was established in 1968 and is largely used for experimental purposes. You can arrange a tour of the reactor, but since most of the experimentation is initiated by outside parties, you can pitch your own experiments. No word back on my proposal to determine if dubstep becomes real music upon exposure to raw plutonium.

The truffle kerfuffle

Everybody loves chocolate, but not for long after they visit the chocolate waterfall at the Candy Basket headquarters in North-
east Portland.

Frankly, the waterfall is a cool idea, but profoundly disgusting. The chocolate is constantly churning, so it has to be in an open environment. That means dust particles, anything that might get thrown into the pool and, hey, let’s just say lice, because why the hell not?

When I called Candy Basket (and spoke to a representative who sounded exactly like the kind of person who has to answer questions about a chocolate waterfall every day) I learned that the waterfall is currently under maintenance and that tours have been halted. In these trying economic times, there’s no telling if the waterfall will make a comeback.

I certainly hope it does, since the waterfall embodies a mythic, pointless opulence. We need to bring that back to Portland: chaotic projects that burn bright, big and weird.

Phone to table

If you’re anything like me, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time on your phone looking at pictures of adorable animals. I can’t help it. It helps take me away from the grim reality of pretending I care about the critical theories of Saussure and Foucault among my literary, Tumblr-frenzied peers. Of the animals that soothe my pathological exhaustion with the theory-ruled literati lifestyle, I find the sloth to be the most effective.

Enter the Sloth Captive Husbandry Center, which is dedicated to the care and research of the world’s most adorable animal. While the center offers an opportunity to get close to sloths, it’s not a zoo. The center’s programs are seasonal, somewhat expensive and very limited on space. It’s also located in Rainier, Oregon, so it’s a real day trip.

It’s worth it, though. The center is home to many other admirable but sloth-inferior animals, like wolves, lynx and tigers. Because the center is solely about the propagation and care of these animals, it’s a good idea to visit their site and look up a laundry list of very reasonable rules and regulations.

Why are you still reading this? Go drop some fat bills and touch a sloth.