“If San Francisco and Humboldt County had a baby, it would be Portland, Oregon.”
My friend Josh Mohland told me this once. It was a Monday night and we were both at the local bar The Alibi, seeing the Irish folk-punk band The Smashed Glass perform. By this point of the evening I had had a few pints of Guinness and some Irish whiskey in me and I was feeling pretty good about myself and The Future.
“They say the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland,” I said, laughing.
We both smiled at how clever we were for a long while, then we turned our attention back to the band, who launched into another song about drinking. I clapped along to the melody, being careful not to spill my Guinness in the process.
The subject of Portland had come up because I had been discussing my plan to drive up later that week to the Wild North to see one of my favorite comedians: Patton Oswalt. The fact that my brother and his wife just so happened to live near the comedy club that he was performing was icing on the cake.
I have been a fan of Patton Oswalt for years. His particular style of comedy really spoke to me. The fact that he was a comic book nerd who effortlessly blended his own interests and hobbies into his act was inspirational.
Patton is also a big film buff, and I have spent many a happy afternoon sipping coffee and listening to him discuss his love of film and comic books on various podcasts.
As a self-described “comedy nerd” I have always felt that Patton was one of the best things to come out of the “alternative comedy” movement. Well, him and Louis C.K. But that’s another story for another time. I’ve got to stay focused here or I might ramble on for 2,000 words about my thoughts on stand-up comedy as an artist expression.
Okay, back to the subject at hand: Patton Oswalt.
When I learned that Patton would be playing for two nights in Portland I was overjoyed for two reasons:
1) I had never seen Patton perform before and I was dying to see him live!
2) I really missed my younger brother, Matthew.
I quickly purchased three tickets for Patton’s late show on Saturday night (February 5th) at Helium Comedy Club, which I had been hearing nothing but good things about from various comedy websites and podcasts. I called my brother to make sure that he was free that night, and then when I went into work that night I made sure to check with my co-workers to see who could cover for me (thanks Hannah!).
Everything was in place. I got my oil changed, had my tires rotated, and even got a haircut! It was a very productive week, all things considered.
The plan was the leave Friday morning so I could get there by dinner time, and then Matthew, Arial, and myself would have the rest of the night to do with as we pleased and then we could see Patton on Saturday. To say I was excited about the weekend would be an understatement.
After work Thursday I packed a bag and set my alarm for 8AM, which as anyone who knows me will tell you, is ridiculously early for me (I work at a bar, which means I usually don’t go to bed until 3AM or so). But hey, I was doing it for Patton and my brother, so when my alarm went off the next morning, I hopped out of bed in no time. My plan was to hit the gym for a quick pick me up and then make some breakfast. Looking back at that morning I feel I made the right choice. The work out I got at the gym got my brain working and alert, and considering I would spent the better part of 8 hours on the road, I needed the exercise.
After a simple breakfast consisting of eggs and potatoes and a few cups of coffee I was on my way. I put Matthew’s address into my trusty GPS, gunned the engine and pointed my car North.
Every time the road would turn into a blur (every two hours or so) I would find an exit ramp, track down a coffee house and use the rest room and then grab the largest, most powerful coffee they had on the menu and then hop back onto the highway (I would like to take a moment to recommend Dutch Brother’s “911.” It was fantastic! Thanks to Seth for the recommendation on that one).
For most of the drive up I listened to The Mountain Goats’ album “Sweden,” which I had been saving especially for the trip. After listening to it on repeat for over two hours I switched to the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, which kept my mind alert for the remaining 6 hours of my drive.
When I arrived at my brother’s place in Tigard (15 miles south of Portland) I was a mess of nerves and overly caffeinated energy, but alive nevertheless! Matthew and I hugged and all the stress of the trip melted away.
“Great to see you!” We both shouted, mid bear hug.
“You need a haircut, hippy.” I said after looking him up and down. We both laughed and headed into his place to drop my bags off. His wife, Arial, greeted me and we hugged too and then I excused myself and made a beeline for the bathroom. 8 hours of coffee will do that to you.
“Are we still planning on seeing ‘The King’s Speech,’ tonight?” I asked. “Sitting down and not moving for awhile is starting to sound pretty great right about now.”
“Yeah, we still want to go. Do you mind seeing it again? I know you saw it last week.”
“I would love to! It’s a great flick! Just so long as we get some dinner afterwards I’m a happy guy.”
We piled into Arial’s car (“Are you sure you don’t want to drive?” Arial joked) and drove to the local theater, which was located in a real ritzy shopping mall, which featured a covered dinning area that I admired quite vocally (“I can’t help myself, I’m a food nerd at heart!”). After navigating the shopping mall (“Look! It’s an Urban Outfitters! I haven’t been to one of those in ages!”) they lead me to the theater, which sold tickets for $10.50 a pop, which was slightly more than I was used to paying but well worth it.
After the movie, which Matthew and Arial both loved, they drove me to John Barleycorns Pub/Brewery, which had a happy hour from 10PM till midnight featuring $4 cheeseburgers, $2 pub fries, and a small and delicious assortment of other food items.
“This is my kinda place,” I declared after waltzing in and inspecting the restaurant.
“I knew you would like it,” Matthew said.
Since I’m a beer enthusiast I ordered to sampler tray of all their microbrews to start, as well as an appetizer of pita bread and hummus (only $2!). Our server, Eric, was a shaven head fellow in his early thirties and very friendly. As a server myself, I love good service in restaurants and told him as much.
“I’ve never seen someone smell their beer before they drink it,” Arial said, after watching me sample a few of the brews. “It’s like you’re drinking wine or something.”
“I take beer very seriously,” I lectured grandiosely. “A fine beer is a like a fine wine. It’s important to engage all the senses when sampling new beers. Each beer has it’s own taste and personality and it’s fun to figure out which beer fits your own subjective preferences. Personally, I’m a dark beer kind of guy.”
I went on like this for awhile until the food came, and then I was too busy eating to lecture on beer culture. Let’s just put it this way: When I staggered out of the pub I was a very happy and full fellow and I slept like a baby that night.
The next morning I awoke to the shrill sound of my cell phone alarm. I cursed the heavens, as I do every morning when my alarm rings, and rolled out of bed and into the shower, pausing briefly to admire my reflection in the mirror.
The plan was for me and Arial to venture into Portland proper for the day so she could attend a massive job interview/seminar for Apple. I hope she gets the job! I’ve been an Apple fan boy for the last few years and would love to have a more in depth look into how that company operates. Plus a little extra income never hurt anyone.
That morning Arial was taking me to her favorite coffee shop to try a “scuffin,” which is a beautiful hybrid of a scone and a muffin. It was genius. And delicious. I ordered “The Farm,” with ham, bacon, and Swiss cheese with caramelized onions. It was amazing.
“I love this,” I said in between bites. “The caramelized onions really puts this bad boy over the top for me.”
Arial nodded, sipping her coffee.
“I wish I could get paid to eat. That’s would be a dream job for me.”
Arial suggested that I put my journalism degree to good use and become a food critic, which I thought about for a long while whilst stuffing my face.
Later that morning I found myself in downtown Portland outside of the giant hotel where Arial’s interview was to take place. She let me know that it would take a few hours so I should feel free to go exploring and she would meet up with me later.
I walked a few blocks, feeling slightly under dressed in my jeans, Flash t-shirt (the Wally West Flash, if you’re curious) and light green zip up hoodie. Everywhere I looked there were men in fine business suits and briefcases heading to and fro and looking very professional. I decided then and there that I would go suit shopping. And indeed I did! I didn’t want to buy anything though, I just wanted to try a few on for kicks and giggles.
I stopped by Nordstrom’s and headed straight to their men’s apparel section.
“May I help you?” inquired one the sharply dressed employees.
“Yes you can, I’m looking for a three piece suit. Preferably something in gray or black.”
The man, Marcus, took me into the back and gave me a few different suits to try on. I tried on one after another after another. I couldn’t help myself! I live in small town and I love dressing up, but like I said, I live in a small town. I love it but I never have the opportunity to dress to impress, which is one of the many reasons I am looking forward to moving to Portland in the summer.
Before I knew it two and a half hours had flown by. I had tried on over a dozen suits in various outlets around town and I desperately needed a cup of coffee. I found a large coffee shop a few blocks from Banana Republic and settled down with a copy of the Wall Street Journal and sipped a large cappuccino while I read the style section and felt very posh and sophisticated.
A little while later Arial called me and we met at the coffee shop, which turned out to be right down the block from the hotel. Considering how terrible my inner sense of direction is, this was nothing short of a miracle.
Later that night…
Matthew, Arial and I arrived at the Helium Comedy Club at 9:55PM on the dot. “We made it!” I said triumphantly, jumping out of the car and into the chill night air. I was wearing a brown leather jacket that I had picked up in the Hawthorne District (my future home, if all goes according to plan) for $20. I was looking rather snazzy, if I do say so myself.
As we walked toward the comedy club my heart was beating fast from the excitement! I had never been to a comedy club before and the fact that I was about to see my favorite stand-up perform in front of my very eyes had me in a state of excitement akin to Christmas morning.
There was a two drink minimum in the club, which suited me fine. I ordered an amber ale and waited for the show to start, taking a moment to high five my brother. (“Can you believe this is happening? I’m freaking out right now! In a good way.”)
A local stand-up warmed up the crowd for a good 40 minutes or so and then at long last the moment that I had been waiting for happened: Patton walked out on stage and I screamed like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
What happened next was an hour and a half of pure comedy nerd joy. There I was, seeing my favorite comedian with my brother and his wife and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world that I would have rather been. It was beautiful, really.
To make things even sweeter most of the material in Patton’s act was stuff I had never heard before, which thrilled me. I mean, sure, he threw in a few of his classic jokes here and there, but it all ebbed and flowed so effortlessly that I didn’t hold it against him at all. Why would I? When trying new stuff you’ve got to throw in some old tried and true bits to keep things going.
Needless to say, I was in comedy heaven.
After the show was over and the crowd scattered into the night, I looked over at my brother and Arial and smiled. I was a happy guy.
On the drive home I convinced them to stop at a 24 hour restaurant that advertised “fresh, homemade pies.” So there I was, fresh after seeing my favorite comedian, drinking coffee at midnight and eating pie. All was right with the world.
We ended the night by playing Mario Kart on their Nintendo 64. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.