Day 351

This place is absolutely stunning at night. No matter how many times I walk around the downtown area after sunset, I always find a wealth of new gorgeous neon signs and mesmerizing hilltop views. It’s almost as if a wonderful transformation takes place once you can no longer see the high-rises and skyscrapers. After the night sky consumes the tallest buildings and top floors, you’re left with streets lined with holiday lights; lampposts adorned with red ribbon and bows; and immaculately crafted storefront displays. That's why after two weeks, I still believe Portland truly is a small town masquerading as a big city.

While I was saddened to learn that not many people reside in this beautiful downtown area, it does lead me into something else I’ve been meaning to write about. Over the past couple months I kept hearing that Portlandians are becoming more and more frustrated by the number of residential buildings being raised in the area. To me, this was all rather confusing, because I saw a lot more residential construction in Austin and Seattle. Thankfully, after asking around this weekend, I was finally able to shed some light on this common assumption. It turns out there’s an anger boiling under the surface, because many people feel all these new high-rises will eventually cause the city to lose that “small town” charm I was just talking about. Not to mention, it could lead to a massive rent increase. 

Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. The #1 trend I’ve seen amongst new buildings—from Boston and Charlotte to Austin and Seattle—is that they each feature all-glass façades, even if it doesn’t fit into the surrounding architecture. I’m not saying I’m an expert on any of this, but after traveling this long, it’s certainly noticeable and a tad bit alarming. One of the best parts of this entire trip is seeing how each city is different. Yet, if we continue to erect these cookie-cutters constructions, we’ll wind up stripping all of our homes of their individuality. And that would be a shame, if you ask me. I’m sure there’s an underlying story about citizen responsibility and local government participation here, but I’ll refrain from going off on a tangent today and just leave it at that. I know this is a topic I briefly touched upon back in March and to see the trend continue all the way across the country is a bummer. That's why I decided to bring it up.

Aside from opinions on architecture and city planning, I also learned a few other things about Portland. I discovered that this city loves Chuck Palahniuk. How can I be so sure? Well, I ended up spending my entire Saturday afternoon inside Powell’s City of Books, just to get his signature. Granted, it’s an absolutely amazing bookstore and Chuck is one of my personal inspirations. But, by no means was I expecting to be waiting in line for 4+ hours. To put it into perspective—a Cavs game started when I first entered the line and ended 15 minutes before I secured said signature. For as frustrated as I was though, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Palahniuk. He ended up signing books for a total of 8 hours (that I know of). I applaud him for his dedication; that’s for sure.

The final thing I learned is that Portland and snow do not mix. There was a light dusting of powder late last week and it basically shut the entire city down. It’s odd, because I would’ve assumed they deal with a lot of snow here. Turns out that's not the case. I’ve been told the area only has one or two snowfalls a year. I guess it has something to do with the nearby mountains. Being a hardened Clevelander, it didn’t seem so bad to me. But, believe me when I say, there was barely a soul downtown that morning. Which is a shame, because Portland is absolutely beautiful in the winter. Hell, this place is beautiful all the time. I guess that’s what it comes down to. So, I’ll end this blog by saying that I side with all Portlandians who want to ensure it stays that way.

 P.S. — I did an early morning hike through MacLeay Park on Saturday and for the record, I didn’t get lost this time. I’ll go ahead and chalk that up as a victory.

-Steve-

Day 302

When I began the project last December, something rather interesting happened—I rediscovered donuts (or doughnuts, if you want to get fancy). Why is that interesting? Well, you see, before that I hadn’t eaten a donut in close to four years. When you’re living in NYC, I guess it just makes sense to always opt for the bagel joint. Yet, here I am, absolutely delighted that I stumbled upon this renaissance of sugary goodness.

Sure, I’ve always known I’d be hitting up Voodoo Donuts in Portland. But never once did I consider there would be equally creative and delicious confections in every other stop along the way too. It’s been 10 months and I’m convinced that this is no longer a string of random discoveries. Rather, this is a full-on donut revolution. Just take a look at some of the places I’ve already been:

Still on the to-do list: Top Pot in Seattle, Voodoo in Portland, Dynamo in San Francisco and finally, Randy's in LA.

What makes these shops so exciting is the love they have for their craft. Some focus on all-natural ingredients and season flavors, while others turn the whole concept on its head. But, they all push the boundaries of what a donut is in one way or another. I’ve enjoyed a Banh Mi donut at Strange, a Fried Chicken donut at Gourdough’s and a Peanut Butter & Sriracha donut at Glam Doll. Needless to say, they aren’t flavors or combinations you’d expect. Yet they’ve all been absolutely satisfying and delicious.

So… why donuts? I’m not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with the small memories of home I enjoy with each bite. They remind me of Sunday mornings when my father would run down to the donut shop for a dozen cream sticks. They bring to mind a crisp fall morning, sitting outside a bakery in Cleveland. To me, they personify one of those rare calm moments when I can shut off my brain and just enjoy the things around me.

I think this unplanned—and ongoing—discovery just goes to show that there are young creatives all over this country pushing the boundaries in any number of fields. You just never know when you’ll stumble upon a new calling in life. That’s why you should always been on the look out. But most importantly, if you’re passionate about something, whether it be donuts, art, music or web design, always remember to give it your all. You might just start a revolution.

Now, bring on the donuts!

-Steve-

Day 298

Let’s hear it for numbers!

I wanted to begin by mentioning that this is the 100th blog I've written since I started #TGAA. Hooray for that! But, more importantly, today seems like the confluence of a lot of different factors—and they all have to do with the number 3. Not only are we about to reach the new milestone of Day 300, but over the weekend I also received my 300th question via the site. To top it all off, the question itself has the number 3 in it! It’s all a bit too coincidental if you ask me. Perhaps the universe is sending me a message that I need to play the lotto this week? Well, before I get carried away with my picks, let’s get to answering that inquiry.

Hey Steve, I’ve been following your journey ever since your stop in Charlotte. I know you’re getting pretty close to the end and I was curious—how would you describe each of the cities you’ve visited in just three words or less?” — Jeff K.

First off, thanks for the question Jeff and kudos on being #300. It’s true that we’re nearing the final months of the project. That’s still a really crazy thing to try and wrap my head around. But as for answering your question, I think I’d go with these:

Cleveland: Hard-working, Ambitious, Sincere

Boston: Cozy, Passionate, Neighborly

New York City: Energetic, Fun, Purposeful

Philadelphia: Honest, Comfortable, Supportive

Charlotte: Warm, Devoted, Relaxed

Memphis: Humble, Muddled, Spirited

St. Louis: Independent, Electrifying, Youthful

Chicago: Spry, Enthusiastic, Gracious

Minneapolis: Breathtaking, Active, Purposeful

Austin: Lively, Impulsive, Loud

When I think back to my personal experiences in each city, these are the words that come to mind. But, if anyone out there is ever truly curious about what a city is like, I highly recommend you make a point to visit it. In the past 10 months, I’ve learned so much and while I’m doing my best to share it with each and every one of you, I'm discovering there's no substitute for seeing things first hand. As always, if you have any questions—especially about budgeting a trip or money-saving tips—just drop me a line. I’m more than happy to extend my newfound knowledge of such things. It's the least I can do, since I couldn't physically bring you with me. 

On a side note, I want to thank Daniel Alvarez and Trademark Media for the great lunch n’ chat on Wednesday, and also E. Gigi Taylor, Ph.D. for inviting me to talk with her students at Texas State this morning. It was a great time all around! Oh, and let's not forget Postano, who continues to sponsor my chats and Q&A events! They're awesome for doing it. 

Well, that’s it from me today. I’ll see you all on the other side of 300!

-Steve-