The last time I was in Portland, Oregon it was 2006. I wore toe-sandals and Junk Food t-shirts. My reference of Oregon was playing the Oregon Trail computer game. It was a simpler time when I still remembered my Neopets account password. And yet, as weird as I was, I was in a city that was even weirder. Entering Portland really was like entering an alternate universe. Back then, beanies, gages, tattoos, and the coffee house scene weren’t yet the ubiquitous comrades that we know them to be today. But at the time in Portland, they were still a thriving relic of 1990’s past, transplanted into the DNA of its citizens.
So, obviously, I was ecstatic when my favorite Saturday Night Live comedian, Fred Armisen,teamed up with his best friend, riot grrrl Carrie Brownstein to create their own sketch-based series, satirizing their beloved city of Portland, a place I grew to love, even if only for a few days. In their show, Portlandia, episodes follow the best friend duo as they play almost every role of Portlandia’s inhabitants: from proprietors of a feminist bookstore to a couple who leaves mid-dinner to drive to a farm to make sure the chicken they are about to eat was raised in a friendly environment. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve actually been to Portland to be able to key into the pervasiveness of some of the show’s underlying satire. The TV show is nothing if not an accurate portrait of our times and Armisen and Brownstein’s contribution to keeping the spirit of Portland alive and weird.
I’ve watched every episode since the show first aired, and have loved every darn minute of it. In November, Fred and Carrie released a comprehensive guide to their beloved world, entitled, Portlandia: A Guide For Visitors. It was on my holiday wishlist since I first saw the book trailer, and thanks to a Secret Santa exchange with my friend’s group, this little gem is finally mine mine mine! Below are some favorite moments from the book:
The guide begins with an obligatory portrait of Kyle Mclaughlin, who is arguably the main character of the show. Okay, so he’s not even close to being in every episode, I just find his character as Portlandia’s mayor to be so accurate and hilarious. Also, my hope is that years from now, in the show’s series finale, we find out that Portlandia is all a dream had by the mayor. The mayor holds the key to Portlandia in our minds and our hearts.
This is a great idea: everyone should start handing out required reading lists to their friends before parties.
Another feature of the guide is this pull-out zine from the largest feminist bookstore, "Women and Women First," filled with recipes and monthly in-store events.
Is it weird that the back of the book might be my favorite part? This is so genius.
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