Say Nice Things About Portland

Say Nice Things About Portland: A Manifesto

You can be the ambassador our city needs right now.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Activism!

Here are a few local activist organizations fighting to make Portland better every single day.

Broken and Beloved

82nd Ave is full of flavor and contradictions. That’s what makes it Portland’s most iconic street.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s SEXIEST Statues!

They’re historical, they’re artistic… and they’re HOT.

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Music Scene!

Behold! Here are five recurring music nights and events to fall in love with.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Kickass LGBTQ+ Community!

Trans strip nights! Drag king vampires! Star Trek tea houses! (And we’re just getting started!)

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Unstoppable Makers!

They'll make an abandoned building a museum. They'll make a scary movie gay. They'll make your favorite restaurant vegan. Get ready to be changed by these five Portland makers!

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Food Scene!

Food cart pods, old standbys, and eateries that support our city’s sex workers.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Pop Culture Culture!

The dream of the ‘90s (and ‘80s, and early aughts) is alive in Portland.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Comedy!

The laughs don’t stop in a city where the comedy scene punches far above its weight.

Come As You Are

A Transplant’s Unexpected First Year in Portland

Your Guide to the Biggest Summer 2023 Festivals Around Portland

Pickathon, Portland Pride, Burger Week, and More

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Delightfully Wild Arts Scene!

Galleries and museums? Of course. But a local cemetery and a mall as well? You better believe it.

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Little Quirks

Dildos. Notes. Gratitude. Portland's eccentricities have made the news—but they're part of what makes this place so great.

Say Nice Things About... Portland's Comics Makers and Sellers!

Artist Ross Jackson describes his love affair with the Portland comics scene... via a comic!

Say Nice Things About… Portland Sports!

“Portland isn’t a good sports town”? We beg to differ.

[Welcome to our "Say Nice Things About Portland" guide to the city! Did you know that this feature package is also in PRINT?? That's right, this is our first print product since the start of the pandemic, and we're psyched to produce a lot more. Find the "Say Nice Things" guide in over 500 locations around the city, and if you'd like to see more guides you can hold, please consider making a small contribution to the Mercury, please and thank you!—eds]

When people think about Portland and “Keeping Portland Weird,” it’s easy to focus on the obvious, like drum circles, throngs of e-boarders zooming around the Esplanade to “99 Luftballons,” and the Unipiper—who pedals around on a unicycle playing bagpipes. But that’s the “weekend weird.” Some Portland quirks are in the streets every day. They represent a little twist on some commonly held convention, in which Portlanders thought “wait… maybe this other way would be better.” And guess what… it was.

1. Dildos on wires

In 2015, Portland was known for its dildos—the ones hanging on its electrical wires. Reports of someone throwing the shlong-shaped objects skyward, to dangle off of overhead wires like a pair of shoes, made it as far as the BBC. Vice connected with the alleged tosser, who explained she and some friends had come into possession of thousands of factory-rejected dildos. The Oregonian reported that local electrical companies found the dildos about as dangerous as anything you throw onto an electrical wire. They preferred nothing be thrown up there, but they weren’t particularly phased either. While it’s possible that those same 20-somethings are still tying two dildos together and hurling them over power lines, it seems more likely that inspiration has passed to others. Many Portlanders can wryly point to their neighborhood skyward dildo, while still more are unaware it’s a thing. It’s for sure “a thing.”

A note personally received by Suzette Smith. Photo: Suzette Smith

2. Leaving a note

In Portland you can really get a wide variety of notes. Park your car weird? You’re gonna get a note. Fail to rake your leaves? That’s a note. During the pandemic, my neighbor taped a note to her door demanding that we stay out of the hallway. We were unable to accommodate the note. However, not all Portland notes are admonishments. “Woman Seeking Burrito” was a much-beloved personal ad stapled to an electrical pole from a “28-year-old woman seeking casual partnership with bulky bean-filled food to-go,” but it was also kind of a note. In cafes and restaurants, notes and signage let us know about dishes that are out of stock and, sometimes, strange places where we can stick our complaints. Overall, I like the notes. Even the mean ones are a little funny, and I’d rather be communicated with than not. However you need to do it; let us know. Leave a note.

3. The spinning loaf

Watching loaves of bread wind their way through the Franz Bakery is one of the few free activities still remaining in Portland. From the corner NE 12th and NE Flanders you can watch buns crawl along a conveyor belt at all hours of the day. You can also marvel at the majestic spinning Franz loaf, which gently rotates on a pedestal above the building. The loaf is subtle. You might not think much of it the first time, but as you pass on subsequent evenings it will continue to greet you with low-key revolution. One day the Franz Bakery will remove the loaf, and YOU WILL LOSE YOUR GODDAMN MIND, emailing and texting every media source in your address book: “Where is the loaf?!?” Answer: Sometimes the loaf is removed for cleaning. The loaf will always return.

Photo: Zoë Lawrance

4. Prices at PDX

Portland has a nice airport. I honestly can’t believe we have it so good. PDX is connected to the city by a dedicated public transit light rail, TSA is generally swift, and you won’t pay more for snacks, souvenirs, or booze than you would in town. In 1988, when PDX’s “Oregon Market” opened behind the security checkpoint, the notion of “street pricing” was already in place. And in the “baggie of three ounce bottles” hellscape that is flying, it’s pretty nice to know you can count on a whiskey and a turkey sandwich for under $20, as you put your whole dang outfit back together after security.

5. Thanking the bus driver

Have you ever been on a Trimet bus when approximately seventeen teenage students exit at once, and they all—one after another—thank the bus driver? It will restore you. And when riding the bus in Portland, you’re likely to hear plenty of “thank you!” as you go. If nothing else, it’s a good way to communicate “I have stepped off the bus” to the driver. It’s the gentleperson’s “back door!”—the thing we are forced to shout when the mid-bus door won’t open. Also, it turns out drivers seem to like it. So, thank you to all the fine folks on their routes, keeping us on time for meetings, navigating streets that really shouldn’t have parking, and being a force of serene stability in Portland.