Photo by Nicolle Clemetson

I GREW UP in Beaverton. Don't you fucking judge me, I was a child. Actually, don't judge anyone from Beaverton, why the fuck do you care? WHAT'S WRONG, GIRL, YOU DON'T LIKE SHOPPING AT TARGET? When I was of proper education, I attended Portland State University on a handsomeness scholarship [citation needed] and have lived in Southeast Portland since completing my degree.

I know what you're thinking: "Who cares? Get to the point. All of these American Apparel ads kind of look like evidence in a high-profile sexy murder case." I only bring it up to say this: I've lived in and around Portland, Oregon, almost my entire life. When you live somewhere long enough, the charms become banal, the eccentricities become obnoxious, and even the best ideas seem to turn into hackneyed degenerations of their once-glorious selves. For example, the first time you see a naked bike ride, it's an invigorating display of the vitality of your dynamic bohemian city. The second time you see a naked bike ride, it's still pretty cool, but less romantic. You notice more boob/wangs, and reflect on how it's probably a pretty good day for homeless dude boners. The third time you see a naked bike ride, you want to plow into it with your car because these jolly naked fucks don't seem to give a flopping cock about stop signs. I'M LATE FOR WORK BUT YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE YOU BUY COKE WITH YOUR PARENTS' MONEY AND FUCK OTHER PEOPLE WHO BUY COKE WITH THEIR PARENTS' MONEY. YOU'RE ALL HAVING CAREFREE SEX WITHOUT ME. You know how we all have that exact same emotional response, right?

Look, all I'm saying is at some point you stop being sad that the Velveteria closed and start being stoked that a decent Hawaiian restaurant opened in its place. The problem is, the more you favor the utilitarianism of Spam musubi, the more your city slips through your fingers like so many delicious, tender slices of Kalua pork. It is with this in mind that I embark on a quest to appreciate anew two Portland institutions I have long taken for granted: Voodoo Doughnut and strip clubs.

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DOUGHNUTS ARE SO PORTLAND AS FUCK

I'm not a big fan of doughnuts, and I'm more of a "naked on the internet for free" kind of person—but anytime I talk to someone about Portland, they bring up these two clichéd Portland institutions. I never think about them, they just exist. They're... well, they're exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in the previous paragraphs... that's why I wrote them. There are no accidents. Watch Loose Change, dude.

To examine these stalwarts, I'm going to experience them anew, taking special care to be aware of everything going on around me, and asking myself three questions:

Did I have fun?

How "Portlandy" is this place, really?

Should we be proud of it?

The first question is self-explanatory. The second seeks to address how much this icon of our city truly reflects our city. What does "Portlandy" mean? I don't know, but I know it when I see it. Mapplethorpe's penis is "Portlandy," his haircut isn't. Thirdly, should we be proud of these institutions? Do they speak to our successes as a community or our failures? Do these things make us happy that we're not Cincinnati, or not? That's the rubric I'm using—if you don't like it, craft your own stand-up comedy career and write a tour diary for the Portland Mercury that allows you to eventually pursue different story ideas. Here goes!

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VOODOO DOUGHNUTS

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Did I have fun?

Well, I waited in line for half an hour. Ahead of me in line were two hella-brahs in Affliction T-shirts (like, literally wearing Affliction T-shirts, not metaphorically. Metaphorically, too, though). This is the Voodoo Doughnut lament, isn't it? The line is too long, and it's full of a bunch of fucking people from Beaverton (that's OUR word). Well, it's like the old adage goes, when life gives you bros, make bromethazine syrup.

Look, you're reading the Portland Mercury, right now. You probably aren't all that tuned in to the day-to-day operations of dudes with Affliction T-shirts. Expand your worldview! You can have a lot of your questions answered just by eavesdropping!

Q: What's up with Brit? A: Shit's like, whatever man.

Q: Did you see the fucking Oregon game? A: Fucking... Keith got fired so I had to pick up a bunch of shifts, I watched the replay though. So sick.

Q: Are you stoked for Jones Creek? A: So stoked.

Now I know what's up with Brit! Also, doughnuts! I know the bacon-maple bar is King Shit when you go to Voodoo Doughnut. It's always on the TV shows, millimeters from the quivering, fluorescent face of some bellowing haircut... but real talk? I don't even like the bacon-maple bar that much. Don't give me that dry-ass bacon. The bacon-maple-bar bacon is present-day Dan Aykroyd. Don't give me that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry bacon, give me that freshly cooked Spies Like Us bacon.

Instead, get Voodoo Doughnut's apple fritter. It's delicious, and it's huge. You can actually live, rent free, inside the apple fritter while you eat it. (Fair warning, the landlord is an incredibly offensive caricature of an Asian man played by Mickey Rooney.)

How Portlandy is this place?

There are two Voodoo Doughnuts: Voodoo Doughnut the Place that Sells Doughnuts and Voodoo Doughnut the Scene. (Don't worry, I ALSO want me to die for writing that sentence.) Voodoo Doughnut, the place that sells actual doughnuts, feels like it was pulled out of the LSD-fueled dream of a fat, old hippie named Scrumptious. It's great. I'm glad it's here. It always feels a little bit like I'm walking into San Francisco when I go there—more so now, after the renovation of the downtown space, but even back in the old hole-in-the-wall days.

Now, Voodoo Doughnut the "scene"? The Voodoo Doughnut with a line full of drunk girls holding shoes and civil engineers on terrible dates and people who are probably Bon Iver and high-school kids all lit up on being awake and probably Japanese tourists and somebody's mom—and they're all standing together in a line that has to zig around some dude on heroin? That's fucking Portland.

Should we be proud of it?

Yeah, dude. When the inevitable Voodoo backlash comes, just let those hipper-than-fuck hip fucks eat cake. You eat the fritter.

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STRIP CLUBS

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Did I have fun?

What are you, an idiot? I'm sorry. Of course I had fun. Fun is what Portland strip clubs are all about. Many people like to bring up how our strip clubs are awesome because you can get hammered while looking at boobs and, and this is the important part, vaginas. (Oh, by the way, I'm a straight white male, so this is going to be from my privileged perspective—but please know in your hearts that I have Andrea Dworkin's Wikipedia page open while I write this.) Getting drunk near vaginas is okay, I guess. It's a little weird that it's illegal to have alcohol and vaginas together in other parts of the country... is the cocktail of vaginas and booze too much for hard-working Midwestern penises? Wouldn't booze make the penis less functional, reducing the risk of whatever state governments are afraid might happen? Am I asking too many questions? Why would you be so hurtful?

Booze and vagina are not why Portland strip clubs are fun. Portland strip clubs being fun are why Portland strip clubs are fun. They're just fucking fun! Strip clubs aren't usually that fun, they're usually creepy and uncomfortable—most strip clubs feel like a Hooters, but with boobs instead of chicken wings. They're full of bad music and people pretending to be interested in other people as people.

In Portland strip clubs I have seen a woman dance to MC Chris and a woman wear a Batman mask. On the trip I took to Sassy's on the occasion of writing this article, I watched a stripper spend significant amounts of her time onstage giving the devil horns to a gaggle of hella burley metal dudes who cheered like proud parents. I had way more fun seeing that than I had looking at a vagina with a beer in my hand. One girl hid onstage and popped out and scared me while I was deep in conversation with some other super drunk person—oh, you're going to combine all the fun of a Jantzen Beach haunted house experience with the adult motif of gazing at your boobs, girl with a Frida Kahlo tattoo? Well, you're the best person in the world, and I'm going to learn sculpting so I can make a statue of you shaking hands with Jesus.

How Portlandy is it?

The strip clubs in Portland combine our seedy history as a wretched hive of scum and villainy with the current trend of body art inspired by the works of Shel Silverstein. They're "Portlandy," and they're spectacular.

Should we be proud of it?

I bet there are a few of you who have read this far just so you can completely obliterate me with an internet comment informing me how misogynistic and exploitative I am for enjoying our city's strip clubs, or for calling them "strippers," or because I said, "Hey fellas, get a'load of this broad!" to a bunch of men in old suits and fedoras when I pulled up Andrea Dworkin's Wikipedia page. Well, I'm sorry (lie). The fact is, people associate our beautiful city with strip clubs. Time magazine's website listed strip clubs as one of the 10 things you have to try in Portland! Time magazine! Home of articles about glamping (glam-camping, natch! Luv u!). So yes, I think we should be proud of our strip clubs. Warm your hearts with the fact that, at some point, somebody has probably danced to the Mr. Show theme—and that's only happening here.

Ian Karmel is your favorite stand-up comedian. He's been on Portlandia, and has performed live at Bumbershoot and Bridgetown Comedy Fest. You can see him at Funny Over Everything on October 4 with Brent Weinbach at the Hollywood Theatre.