It’s time for days three/four of my vacation diary, which were my final two days in Portland. We started a conference, visited a doughnut palace, and drank much beer.
The World Domination Conference started in 2011. There were about 500 people there in year one, 1000 last year and about 2800 this year. The events started at nine in the morning and that’s when we arrived. We got in line. The line snaked around a corner and streets were shut down due to the volume of people. I will describe the people as young, beautiful, and full of energy. We got high fives as we walked into the theatre, which reminded me of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Oh, the sweet irony of Atlanta drowning while we were in sunny Portland for the weekend.
Chris Guillebeau was the host. Ever thought about traveling to every country in the world? Guillebeau did, wrote about it, and decided to get a bunch of entrepreneurs and dreamers together to hang out for a couple of days. We heard some speakers in the morning and Alison was nice enough to get us in a cab to head to Rogue Brewery for lunch.
Rogue might have been the most disappointing brewery of the visit so far. There was a list of beers but no descriptions. I’ve seen Rogue in my stores, consumed a few of their brews, but I can’t tell what a beer is by the name alone. Luckily I had the guts to try four of the brews. From my picture, there was the light one, the dark one, the caramel colored one and the other caramel colored one. I think the first one had a bit of scotch in it and was light and crisp. The second was a dark lager and it was smoky. I found that a little smoke in beer goes a long way, but most brewmasters prefer more than a little. The third one was OREgasmic Ale, naturally I had to get it, and it was quite hoppy. The final one was the American Amber which was the mildest of the bunch and I liked it the most. I had a Kobe beef burger. Even though the brew pubs had nice menus, with veggies and everything, we still ordered heavy food.
Portland has about six cabs total, so we had to haul our overstuffed carcasses back to the afternoon session. I was crammed inside a room that sat 200 comfortably and there had to be at least that many on the floor. I couldn’t stretch my legs out and felt cramped the entire time. Alison attended a different session, and as the smart one, picked a seat by the door so that when her session broke up into groups, she bolted. While I enjoyed the speakers, the pattern seemed to be “here’s how I became a success, and here’s how you can be one like me, although the circumstances that led to my success may not be repeatable”. Maybe I threw in that last part.
We spent part of our “between sessions” time watching the last disc of Season 7 of Dexter. I have a few complaints about the show, but the main one is why the Showtime series always leaves but one episode on the final disc. We watched four episodes and have to wait four days to watch the season finale. It looks like this is one of those finales that sets up the next season rather than ending the plot lines from the current season.
We had to eat a little healthier for dinner, so I found a joint that had Thai food, and more importantly, a dish called “Evil Jungle Noodles”. It was a small Thai place in the Pearl District (Portland has districts, how cute). I got a Mirror Pond Pale Ale. It was a pale ale without the bitterness, and a bit of a lemon finish. My meal was a lot like my favorite Thai curry, penang, but with a little more peanut.
We returned to Powell Books after dinner and I took pictures of hilarious football titles and Tweeted them. The one with Ty Detmer was my favorite. Why they don’t do book covers like that anymore is beyond me. I had no idea that Jon Gruden had time to find someone to ghost-write two books. “All In” by Gene Chizik, written right after Auburn’s national title, might have been the best “where are they now” book. Has any coach gone from top of the world to nothing so quickly? Barry Switzer with the Cowboys doesn’t count.
We ended evening three by doing what we always do in Portland, walking a long way without intending to. We went to Voodoo Doughnuts. This might be the mecca of doughnuts. I got up early and walked there in the morning, but due to the long line and my lack of cash, couldn’t follow through. Note to travelers in Portland: bring cash. On our evening jaunt, we almost suffered the same fate as we had to cobble together our funds to find $10 and look at the menu and do some math to figure out how many doughnuts we could get. We got this many.
One thing I couldn’t help but noticing was the number of young homeless people in Portland with funny signs. OK, they weren’t all funny but they were not the standard “give money, God bless” that I see in Atlanta. At one point we saw a couple with a baby on a corner. I had to bring it down on a weekend that was about reaching dreams, didn’t I?
You may think that we were strong and avoided eating the doughnuts before going to sleep, seeing as we got in line around 8 p.m. and it was after 10 when we got back to the room. We did not. The voodoo doll with raspberry filling was Alison’s favorite. I don’t know if I liked the one with the Oreos or the one with the Butterfinger crushed on it. These are pretty much dessert doughnuts.
On Sunday morning, we plowed through some doughnuts, went to see some speakers, came back to the room at lunchtime to nap and eat additional doughnuts, wandered around the conference for a while, during which time I entered a hackey sack game that might have been the least successful hackey sack game of all time, and we went to a hotel bar to rest. I continued my beer tour with an Oatmeal Pale Ale, which tastes exactly like you’d think it would, and a Black Butte Porter from Deschutes. We shared a burger. My wife didn’t talk because we had the most amazing celebrity sighting of all time. I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the name of said celebrity. I do have a picture of Alison sitting in the seat where he (or she, you don’t know) sat.
Probably the most moving talk of the conference was in fact a music performance. In 1996, Steve Schalchlin found out that he was HIV-positive and had a year to live. He wrote songs to help him get through. He also won a lottery for an experimental drug that helped prolong his life and he performed the songs for the audience. I liked how he portrayed the anger of being sick and near death. I can relate. He performed the songs, along with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. I kind of felt bad for Donald Miller, the writer who had to follow him and finish out the conference. Champagne was passed out, although due to strange Oregon laws there was sparkling cider. We ditched the glasses because that’s a guaranteed break.
Pioneer Square, which is outside our hotel doors, was the spot for the final party. We got in and found out that it was cash everything, and we had no cash. They kind of oversold the hipster vibe with PBR being the only beer available. We did dance a bit. The DJ not only played music, starting with a very Bollywood vibe, but he got up on stage and directed the crowd to dance. Thank your maker that there’s no footage of me attempting Gangnam Style.
We escaped the crowd and went to the rooftop restaurant at our hotel, The Nines, which was a nice little spot. Alison got some Dungarees Crab fried rice and I had some pork belly. I had a Widmer Hefeweizen. Beer with a lemon in it is not for me although I still drank it rather quickly. I’m sorry, Portland, but I had a Fat Tire to complete the evening. We went to the edge to watch the party still going strong. It didn’t slow down until midnight, and that’s too late for my old bones.
In the next installment, we drive to Seattle and see snow/sea on the same day.