And it’s pretty great!
On my first day in Portland, I walked due east, over the river. I was not impressed. There’s a strong “concrete wasteland” vibe right as you cross the river east, and the stores afterwards are often bars or stripclubs. Not my scene.
The first interesting place I found was an art gallery. The curator/worker/person there wasn’t doing much, so we chatted for 45 minutes or so about Portland, life, happiness, etc. I said I might stop by for the 4th of July Barbeque and art show they were going to put on. (Spoiler alert! I did).
Here’s what the gallery looked like:
Then ambled south. Being a man who takes my metaphores seriously, I stopped and smelled the flowers that were overflowing from a house’s garden plot.
They smelled heavenly. Amazingly heavenly. So, in full flower bliss, I walked a little further, saw the owner outside on his porch, and said “man, your flowers smell amazing.” “Thanks dude!”
We talked about Portland, community, and life for about 20 minutes before I kept walking. Before I left, though, I took note of something he casually mentioned:
“Yeah, there’s all sorts of interesting places around this area. We’ve got a makerspace just down the block. And an anarchist cafe”
So to the anarchist cafe I went!
The Cafe is pretty sweet. It’s completely worker-owned AND unionized to boot. (Which seems a bit like overkill, but rad nonetheless). It hosts all sorts of groups in the community. I’ve noticed the unhoused using its wifi, which stays on all day and night and is accessible from the outside. To top it all off, the cafe has legit nice beer and fun names for their food, like the Nihilist Cheesesteak.
As I walked in, I noticed a group of people hanging out in what seemed like a meeting. They didn’t seem to friendly so I went to the counter. After a lovely discussion with the woman working the desk, she introduced me to everyone. They were having a meeting of the local branch of Black Rose – the very same federation that Rochester’s Red and Black is a member of. Small world!
To make it the world even smaller, the people there (who ended up being super friendly) not only knew about Rochester Red and Black, but even knew Colin O’Malley from when he did his nationwide speaking tour.
Turns out that Red and Black also has housing above the cafe, and we all stayed up late into the night talking about the local political scene, radicals-as-subculture vs radicals-as-organizers, history, online organizing, reagan, you name it.
What a fun bunch of people. You should definitely check out R&B if you’re ever in town.