There are plenty of ways to get to know a new neighborhood or a new town. I enjoy running through it.
Running is a steady and (for me) slow pace that allows me to take in the scenery. The pavement under my feet is either smooth or gravelly. I sometimes have to dodge potholes, and other times find an alternate way through because there's no sidewalk. Sometimes there's broken glass, and sometimes weeds. Dodging these items (or not having to dodge anything at all on a nice, smooth sidewalk) tells a lot about a block, a neighborhood, a town.
On April 2nd, I ran my first 10K in Portland. I did a 5K Turkey Trot in Beaverton for Thanksgiving, which was fun, but it was through the same neighborhood I drive nearly every day. This 10K, however, took me to the convention center and The Moda Center where the Trailblazers play, and it also took me through the Pearl District. These are areas I've been to, but I haven't had the luxury of visiting them often, or with the time to note details.
Anyone who has spent some time here knows there is a large homeless population. You see their tents pitched along major roadways or in sections of town. Some were pitched in green spaces beside The Moda Center. Others were pitched under bridges we ran beneath. It's frustrating and disheartening to see so many people without a place to live. I don't know what to do other than donate money to organizations that help the homeless and hand out the occasional meal. It feels like a much bigger problem than can be solved with money or meals, but it's better to do something small than nothing at all.
We ran through an industrial area near the Willamette River. I recall one building covered with panels of different colored glass rather than walls. Inside there were more panels of glass, some clear, others opaque, and all in different colors and textures. It was a place that sold glass for making stained glass designs. I made stained glass pieces a long time ago. Most of them were Celtic patterns, but I also made a turtle as a gift. That design was completely original, and I worked on it with a friend. In fact, I worked on all of my pieces with a friend because she had all the tools. I just bought the glass, came over, and ate pie. She had a thing about finding the perfect pie crust, and it was my duty, as her friend, to help her figure that out. Anyhow, all of those memories came flooding back to me as I ran around that building, with all the glass winking in the morning sun, and it was fantastic. I could let my mind go and follow that thread to that memory. Also, Amanda, I'm still not sorry I ate that entire pie and didn't offer any to anybody else, and I would do it all over again.
We also ran across the Broadway Bridge. There are about a million bridges in Portland, so about the only way I'll ever get them all sorted in my head is to become intimately familiar with each one. When you trudge your way across a bridge twice, you remember it well.
All in all, it was a good race. The weather cooperated, the scenery was mostly lovely, and I ran a PR, which is always exciting. And, I got to know a little more about my new town.
I'd like to welcome a guest to the blog today. K. Bird Lincoln's latest book, Dream Eater, is out from World Weaver Press. Although she lives in Minnesota these days, she spent a good bit of time in Portland, OR, where I've been for less than a year. In a completely selfish move on my part, I asked her to rate her top local coffee shops. Read on to find out where you should visit (and where you'll find me in the coming weeks, testing out the coffee and food).
I am super-thrilled to have had World Weaver Press hook me up with fellow SFF/F author Rebecca Roland. I moved away from Portland 6 years ago but she’s there now, lucky duck. My April 2017 debut Urban Fantasy, Dream Eater, was written at coffee shops all over Portland, so I thought I’d share some of the best places.
I’ve been drinking frou-frou coffee and writing SFF/F stories since high school (oh Arabica Mochas, you are the gateway drug for expensive coffee). But for seven shining years I got to hang out in coffee shops and write in one of the richest, bitterest, most delicious, fruity places in North America: Portland, Oregon.
In, Dream Eater, the heroine, Koi Pierce, is coincidentally enough, a lover of coffee and chocolate. She actually has her second run-in with the hero at Stumptown Coffee. :) It’s possible my habit of hanging around coffee shops with Portland writers lead to that part of her character. Here are my top 5 coffee shops in Portland (and Beaverton because I actually lived there) to go write speculative fiction in if you love coffee, free Wi-Fi, and have a monstrous sweet tooth. And who knows, you might see some other writers with brushing away tart crumbs from their laptop keyboard and drinking lavender lattes. :)
#1. Ava’s Roasteria in Beaverton, Oregon. Okay, okay, so Portland is basically a bonanza of small batch roaster cafes with pierced and tattooed yoga teacher/baristas. I mean, Stumptown isn’t even on this list (despite being featured in Dream Eater.) Why go to Beaverton? I hung there because it used to be the only cool place in Beaverton. There’s something about the particular over-the-top gorgeousness of the giant slices of cake, the free Wi-Fi, the chattering of other languages as foreign students gather here for the 24 hour coffee, tea, and bagel sandwiches. There are comfy booths and tables inside. But the patio in summer is THE BOMB. Nowhere better for covert people watching to the flowing sound of water when you’ve just finished the love scene and now are blocked trying to get your heroine out the door to take care of the bad guy. Go to the original one on 4655 SW Hall Blvd.
#2. Baker and Spice in SW Portland. Confession. I had to ask local writer friend Tina Connolly to suggest her current favorite place to write because now I live on the windswept Minnesota Prairie and must make do with only one, local independent coffee shop in my area. Tina says the pastries are extremely good. And she should know, because not only does she write eccentric and compelling fantasy but she also is a mean baker. It has wooden chairs and table and a clean, sparse look. But OMG the chocolate croissant! I’m pretty sure just going there and drinking a latte with leaf-foam art on top and eating one of those chocolate croissant would help you push through any kind of writer’s block. 6330 SW Capitol Hwy.
#3 Pix Patisserie in East Portland. If the girls were at school, and I wasn’t working, and Tokyo boy hubby could be induced to make dinner that night, then I would be lucky enough to be able to attend a women’s speculative fiction writer gathering here. You can go there in the late afternoon, sip on lattes, and ogle the bakery case in between edits. And when you’re frustrated and chewing on your pencil because you’ve just come across the fiftieth time you have your hero look up at the heroine from underneath eyelashes with his dark gaze, you can go get one of their divine macaroons and chew on that instead. The coolest thing, though, is as you linger, and the twilight chills the air, you can stay at your table as Pix Patisserie becomes a tapas bar. The kind of tapas bar where they project black and white movies onto the walls and serve French champagne. Then you have to get dessert. The “Amelie,” winner of the Patis France Chocolate Competition! Yeah, get turnt on chocolate mousse with caramelized hazelnuts, praline crisp, and Cointreau génoise. Go now. 2225 E BURNSIDE ST.
#4. Laurelhurst Café in East Portland. My girls were both under the age of 6 when we lived in PDX. So a lot of my writing went down in cafes that had kid play areas. My favorite trick was to take the girls to OMSI, and then to a little coffee shop nearby (that seems to have disappeared) that had a play rug with toys and educational videos being played on a screen. That’s where I learned to write in 10 minute blocks. It’s amazing how much you can write under those circumstances. Of course, a good writer-mom coffee shop can’t just have a play area, it also has to have non-bank-breaking priced items kids will eat. Laurelhurst has a kid's play area, is dog friendly, and has parking, a pump and tools for your bike. Of course there's free Wi-Fi___33, and a warm, wind-protected patio. Check it out at 4611 E Burnside St.
#5. Last, but certainly not least, my greatest café love, home to a fine, important clay brick oven and purveyor of the best baguette this side of the Columbia River, St Honore Boulangerie in Northwest Portland. It’s always crowded, but I have always been able to squeeze myself into a table somewhere. It’s honestly like a slice of Europe in the Pacific Southwest, and their grilled Panini are to die for. The trail head for The Witches’ Castle is nearby. Hike through the green, be inspired by a ruined, mossy hut, and then head back down the mountain for an hour of writing in the summer sunshine at one of St Honore’s sidewalk tables. Really, what could be better? Dive into deliciousness at 2335 NW Thurman St.
Oh man, now I’m hungry. Rebecca, you’ll have to head over to St. Honore soon and have a Panini for me.
K. Bird Lincoln is an ESL professional/writer/mother/breast cancer survivor living on the windblown Minnesota Prairie with her family and a huge addiction to frou-frou coffee and chocolate. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she has spent more years now in Japan and on the West Coast than in the Midwest. She also writes tasty SF/F and YA fiction reviews under the name K. Bird Lincoln on Goodreads and Amazon.
Signing up for her newsletter The Mossy Glen will net you sporadic emails with access to free short stories and chocolate giveaways. There’s also a blog with cancer, Asian recipes, and chocolate related stuff as well as a website where you can hear her sing Japanese lullabies or check out her medieval Japanese Fantasy series.
Check out K. Bird’s April 2017 debut Urban Fantasy about a biracial girl in Portland, Oregon who discovers mysterious things about her Japanese father-- Dream Eater.
“Lincoln infuses Japanese folklore into the Pacific Northwest, creating a fascinating world where a young dream-eating heroine, Koi, must learn to use her frightening talents to save her family in a tale of ever-increasing peril. By the end you'll be anxious for the next book!"
-- J. Kathleen Cheney author of The Golden City and Dreaming Death
"The characters really drew me in--Koi and Ken are intriguing on their own, but even better together. Overall, the book is as quirky and edgy as Portland itself."
-- M. K. Hobson, author of The Native Star
I write fantasy, horror, and science fiction. I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2007, and I belong to an online writing community called Codex. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm addicted to coffee and chocolate.