Iremember the lost days more than anything—driving from the Southeast to downtown, up into the hills, out to St. Johns looking for anything to make mine... a good bar, a decent place to eat, somewhere to buy records that didn't make me feel like a cretin. I'm speaking here of a universal lostness, the heavy displacement in moving to a strange new town and thinking, "But it's so big." Unless you've lived here all your life (and if you have, move, go see the world), we've all been Axl in the "Welcome to the Jungle" video, stepping off the bus in our hicky clothes, staring into shop windows, hustled at from alleys—just ridiculously clueless. This city—any city—can be daunting.
A huge help comes as Microcosm Publishing's The Zinester's Guide to Portland. Billed as a "low/no budget guide to visiting and living in Portland, Oregon," it works fine for the former, but it's new Portlanders that it truly helps. Now in its fourth edition (it started as a 16-page pamphlet) its 128 pages break down the grid by neighborhood with descriptions of good restaurants, thrift stores, bars, places to loiter, etc. (lots of etc.). This is not to say the Zinester's Guide is like Citysearch (the idiot's guide to being an idiot). Instead, it gets shoulder deep into history and local lore, reaching into the guts of its subject and pulling out a hot, wriggling, well-rounded argument as to why (fill in the blank) deserves your time. It also demystifies TriMet, bike events and culture, the public library system—basically anything you need to know as the new kid in town. (Of which there seems to be tons; the Zinester's Guide was Powell's' retail bestseller in December and January. It's now #3.)
To the wrong eyes the book's title might imply a guide to Portland zine culture, but as editor Shawn Granton says in the introduction, "The Zinester's Guide has never been strictly for zinesters. It's always been about sharing the interesting and unique things that make Stumptown great, and also helping people get by that aren't swimming in scads of money." For those of us that can't so much as dogpaddle most days, this is "community" at its mightiest.