Monday, February 23, 2009

City Of Roses: PDX, Salsa, & Donuts

The City of Roses

Made an overnight trip to Portland to check out the City of Roses. It had been atleast year since I'd last been there. I stayed downtown in the area south of the Pearl District and Burnside. The primary reason for the trip was a show: Afro-Cuban All Stars at the springy McMennamin's Crystal Ballroom.

Arrived in PDX around 4:30pm and headed to my hotel: the stylish Ace Hotel. I must admit I tripped out on the hotel, because I had a bit of déjà vu looking at the photos of this hotel. I actually stayed here 10 years ago when it was the old Clyde Hotel--back then, it was a bit of a decrepit & cheap hotel (with character)--a scene from Drugstore Cowboy was also filmed here. That was a different time. Now the hotel is a cool boutique art-filled hotel. Glad I stayed here.

Ace Hotel Pendelton Blanket

My Room

Later in the evening, I met up with my fellow Tri-Cities salseros for a meal at Mama Mia Trattoria down on 2nd Ave---I love downtown Portland, because there is so much to see and do, and you can easily walk around to wherever you want to go---or you can always take the Max.

After a decent meal, jogged back to The Ace, and slipped into Salsa Gear. I then walked a couple of blocks west and around the corner to The Crystal. This show was part of the larger Portland Jazz Festival. The Crystal Ballroom is a notable venue in that its dancefloor is an old one which is fixed with springs, so you can really get the dancefloor going.

Lilla D'Mone & Her Band

The opening band was Lilla D'Mone. She's a sultry singer whose music spans jazz to R&B to reggae. She got the crowd going, and I must admit I jammed up to the stage and was feelin' her. After her set, I found her in the back area and talked to her a little while buying one of her albums (it's actually pretty good). I found out she played at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last year--I was down at that point & she signed my cd: "To Corey, Thanks for the support. Peace, Love, & Music. Lilla D'Mone". Ummmmmm....nice.

Next up: Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Viva Salsa!

This was a big band with three singers, several horn players, percussionists, etc. They immediately got the crowd goin' with some Afro-Cuban salsa. Maybe it is because this was part of the Portland Jazz Festival, but from where I was at (near the stage), most of the crowd (including me) were not dancing salsa---we were all just checkin' out the band and groovin' to the music (solo). Until......

Afro-Cuban All Stars

"Check this dude out! He's dancing better than you," said some random person to my right. I glanced at him and then to who he was talking to: a totally stunning Latina behind me!! After closing my slobbering mouth, I tried to smoothly turn back toward the band.

The woman behind me said something, but I couldn't hear. It was some time around this point, that I ended up stepping on the woman's foot behind me. I turned toward her, and she had a "No you didn't", look on her face.

"Oh, he cannot dance better than me," she said. Her friend was laughing at her because he knew he was pushing her buttons. I simply agreed with her, and bowed down to her skills. And then I grabbed her and danced salsa with her. I tried the basics, and we did alright. We received a bit of attention, because there was no partner dancing going on up where we were. I did the best I could and held on to her. A few cross-body-leads, and spins of her, we were doing alright, but at some p0int our salsa transformed more to "dirty dancing"---I didn't appear to mind. My only regret is not asking for her name, phone number, or another dance.

I have no skills.

Christian "The Salsa Master" & Me

It was alright though. I had such an awesome time. Afro-Cuban All Stars were great, and I danced and sweated the night away. My fellow Tri-Cities salseros kicked butt dancing salsa from the back of the dance floor, and I watched them from the balcony (while I cooled off). After a few encores, the show ended around 12:30-1:00am. The night wasn't over though. Next up: The Mambo Lounge across the river.

At the Mambo, there was another band--CAÑA SON. This was a pure salsa place. Here there was a large dance floor and everyone on the dancefloor was dancing salsa. It was awesome, and packed. Here I watched the pretty awesome dancers from the sidelines, as well as watch the band. I was too chicken to ask for any dances here, but I had a great time, and now know a cool place to go for salsa next time I'm in PDX.

CAÑA SON at the Mambo Lounge


Made it back to my room around 3am. What a night.

The next morning, my main objective before heading home was a getting a donut. Not just any donut, but a Voodoo Doughnut. I walked to Voodoo, and was surprised to find a line going almost around the block. I grabbed a place in line, and waited for about 30 minutes. It was worth the wait. Voodoo had a menagerie of donuts of every kind. I knew what I wanted: the bacon maple bar! Surprisingly, this donut wasn't as scary as it sounds. It was actually very tasty. I can't believe that this was my first time to the Voodoo---how I've deprived myself!

The Donut Line

This Is Just Some Of The Donut Craziness

What a weekend. I've always loved Portland, but this trip renewed the love affair. Portland is like a woman. When you feel her, you're alive. It can be rainy, but it flashes you sunlight, like flashes of skin. Ok....I better stop.

I won't be such a stranger to Portland--no doubt.