Walking in Portland

I made a little pdf for people visiting or new to Portland. There are walks on the east side, walks on the west side, maybe even walks on the wild side. This is just a little 5 page deal but when I get a little more time I will try to expand it a bit.

Check it out: Weird walks


Cheap Vegan Eats in Portland, OR


Back in the day I worked a few temp jobs in downtown Portland. Kinkos, Bank of America, Wells Fargo; all the fun places. I learned (or should have) that office drone work really isn’t my forte. But one of my favorite things was that I got to eat lunch downtown everyday. I had a rotating list of places but my rule was that lunch had to be 5 dollars or less.

It’s well-documented that times have changed. Food prices haven’t quite skyrocketed like housing prices but these days 10 dollars is considered cheap; many food carts have prices this high. Now, objectively, 10 dollars is a lot of money–4.4 billion people live off that much or less per day. So it’s a bummer to spend that much on a sandwich or curry or whatever.

But fear not! Though many years have passed, I’ve made a list of 5 places you can still eat at for 5 dollars.  They are all downtown or walking distance to it. Here in 2018 Portland! And while American portion sizes are such that you can share one portion and each spend around 5 bucks,  this list is straight up solo traveler 5 dollar meals. You may, of course, indulge in any sharing shenanigans you see fit.

Los Gorditos The Rice & Bean Burrito $3.50 ($4.50 at the Pearl location) or Beans Rice & Avocado $4.75

It’s no secret that I love Los Gorditos the most. I go through cravings and withdrawals when I’m away for it from too long. It even won over my sister, who was initially hesitant. And it’s such a good deal. There’s even a vegan only cart way out on Halsey. If you spend more than 5,  you can get tofu, soy curls, etc.



Food Front Co-op Half a Sandwich $4.99


Okay, with the 5 dollar limit you can only get half a sandwich, but you can load it up with baked tofu (spicy if you want) or marinated tempeh plus add hummus or vegenaise or pesto and tons of organic veggies, including pickles and avocados and roasted red peppers and more! A big part of the fun is entirely customizing your sandwich.

Blackbird or Sizzle Pie Vegan Slice of Pizza $>5 (prices vary depending on location and flavor selection.)


Blackbird has only one location (on Hawthorne) while Sizzle Pie has many (including the Rose Garden). Both serve awesome vegan pizzas by the slice. Sizzle Pie has pretty good salads as well and you can order breadsticks or whole pizzas at either place as well.

Thai (& Vietnamese) Food CartsPad Kee Mao, Bahn Mi, etc $5


At first I had a specific location listed, but you know what? Let’s open it up a little. There are a handful Thai (and some Vietnamese) food carts downtown where you can still eat for 5 dollars. Sure that would be a feast in Chiang Mai or Hoi An, but for Portland that much for a paltry stir-fry is pretty great. All places naturally have tofu, and if you say vegan they’ll know what you mean. A little reminder that you’re not down with fish sauce doesn’t hurt though.

Sweatpea BakeryBagels, Charlie Browns & More $1.75-4.5

Located in a vegan mini-mall this industrial looking institution has too much yum for just one visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe proper sandwiches are out of the 5 dollar range but plenty of options remain. I’m partial to the Charlie Brown (chocolate and peanut butter and oats) but my sister swears by the bagels with schmear. Personally I can’t think of a less appetizing word than schmear but those bagels are actually pretty grubbing and you can get earth balance or hummus or peanut butter etc if you don’t want the cream cheese substitute.

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So even in modern Portland there are plenty of food options for those who want to go out but not spend a lot of cash.  I don’t know a lot of the new restaurants either so I’m sure I missed a couple. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments.


More than Reverse Culture Shock; Adjusting to life back in the States

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

United States

(At first this was a more general themed idea; adjusting back to life in your home country back wherever you came from. However, of all the people I asked only people from the US responded. (Update: Save for one tardy brit) So viola! A focus is born.)

One of the things people tell you when you go live abroad is that while culture shock can be daunting, the real problem is reverse culture shock. On one hand, this seems strange. How can a lifetime of habits and expectations and values be challenged simply by observing/participating in slightly different ones for a couple of years? How can the core of who you are be fundamentally changed by simply moving to a different place on the map?

But calling it reverse culture shock [RCS] is underselling it. As Ben Haynes, whom I met while we were both teaching in South Korea, puts it “…RCS doesn’t go away; it’s a shift in one’s own paradigm in response to his experiences.”

Some of those are small things, like paying for things with two hands, taking off your shoes when you enter a house, sitting on the floor when everyone else drags chairs up. I think those things are simply changed habits, part of reverse culture shock, and overtime they can fade away. But there is something deeper; learning about the changes in yourself. I don’t know if it’s easier for someone from, say, New Zealand or Finland or a country a little less dystopian, but American culture certainly makes it difficult to re-acclimatize. It makes it difficult to want to.

It is of course hyperbole to say that life in America is dystopian, even in the Trump era. But it is closer than you might think and certainly hard in all the wrong ways. A  pursuit of comfort at all costs combined with ever-growing bureaucracy and a cultural addiction to litigation makes life here hard in ways that it shouldn’t be. That’s for the day-to-day stuff, but far worse are well-documented social ills such as education, healthcare, failing infrastructure, willfully ignorant insularity, and rampant political corruption. Prescription drug ads (illegal most other places) overwhelm the airwaves.  America’s sickening dependency on guns. And the problems get far worse for those born with “the wrong” skin color.

Stepping out of the cave, at least a few chambers more, leads to seeing things in a new way. Big portions, tipping, ice in drinks, rampant waste, superficial kindness are well known. But after years in asia, Ben was amazed by “the fucking size of our cheese and dairy aisles and size of our grocery stores.

Living abroad made him see America in a new way.  Things he did not miss were “the lack of effective public transportation, a media hell-bent on dividing an already disparate population along with constant bombardment of advertising…. The insane amount of waste, excessive consumption throughout.  Television….And of course, politics.

It’s not that other countries are free from those problems, it’s that America’s version of them become much more clear and obvious after getting some space. Like Marianne Silva, who taught in Vietnam in 2016-7 says “I did not miss home complicated things are here. Life seems more laid back and worry free in other countries, especially Asia. They work really hard, but still enjoy life. Re-adjustment is hard! Definitely suffering from reverse-culture-shock! It’s hard to get back into a routine and reconnect with friends. I also keep thinking how enjoyable life was in Asia and it makes it hard to want to settle here.

Indeed I think one reason people live abroad is precisely because it’s an antidote to the problem John Lennon identified. Instead of letting life pass you by, life on the road is a series of plans; you are engaged with your life and actively making and following your ideas. Maybe there’s no such thing as control over your destiny but this is probably as close as you get to fooling yourself into feeling some kind of autonomy.

But coming back isn’t just about adjusting to an over-regulated society. Alison Wilson, a teacher with 10+ years of experience, finds more and more that she is an outsider in the country she was born in.  “I can’t adjust to my own country again. People really have no idea about anything here outside of their 100 mile area.”

“My struggles get bigger the more I have strange conversations with people. Just yesterday we were talking about a bullet train in the works for California. I believed it was a great idea and would improve so much maybe get people to think less of their car and more on being a community. No one agreed with me, they thought having a bullet train was a waste of money.

Then I asked have you ever been on a bullet train?

They all shook their heads no.

Well there’s my answer then. Of course not. They are talking about something they know nothing about. They don’t understand people in the countries and their need for public transport how everyone takes it. How it is better for communities if it is used right.

How it is one of the best ways to get from point A to point B.

I got very upset because they talk about how my area is built wrong, it has bikes lanes that take up too much space but things are walking distance and it’s made for people who walk, exercise, ride their bikes. It’s made for people who get out side and not in the cars all the time.”

America is a big place and the difficulty of return depends on if you end up in a large diverse city or a small town in a more conservative area. Ben was struck by the “Lack of politeness between people; as customers and store clerks. Not rudeness, per se, but just general lack of care. Though that hasn’t been my experience in Nashville. Vegas, on the other hand….”

And it really does matter where you return to. Even for me,  in what is considered a liberal bastion amidst the sea of American decadence, the dystopian elements are here as well. Rising houses prices mean that nearly every empty space of grass has homeless people living in tents. On a 10 minute train ride downtown, I stopped counting tents after reaching 25. Worse, I think, is that many Americans still demonize the homeless; Othering them and maintaining that they are simply lazy or losers or otherwise undeserving of social support. It doesn’t require utopian ideals to want to feed and house all citizens as a basic tenant of the social contract. And yet all the new buildings going up are luxury condos, not affordable housing.

As Alison noted,  Americans love to drive. The ultimate symbol of freedom (as long as you have hundreds of dollars a month). And nowhere is as car crazy as southern California, where Alison is struggling with a 2.5 hour bus commute each way to work. She says

“Here people depend on their car for everything. Even just to go across the street they will drive their car there. I seem to live in a community where people are walking as a form of exercise. No one here carries bags. When walking on a street you only run into maybe 3 or 4 people your whole trip. NO ONE WALKS.”

I walk a lot in the city and I’d say technically there are three times when most people walk. 1) To/from their cars 2) while shopping and 3) with their dogs. To be fair, people also hike and jog but all of these are so anti-flâneurian that they add to the alienation of those accustomed to a less rushed lifestyle.

There is a positive side to leaving and coming back. You appreciate things you always took for granted. Marianne, whose travels took her to places like Cambodia, Laos, and India, “missed clean bathrooms and not having to worry about carrying toilet paper.” (And when she says clean bathrooms, she means compared to sometimes a literal hole in the ground or a tent where people squat next to each other to do their business or if it’s dark enough just a field will do–no tent!) Clean bathrooms, soap in the bathrooms, running water, toilet paper, trash cans, regular trash pickup, and potable water are all things that you can appreciate much more after not having it.

Ben missed something that many westerners take for granted before living in the developing world. “Clean air would top [my] list, followed largely by the abundance of park space and a cup of joe for $2 at the coffee shop.” The pollution is Asia is well-known but it takes unexpected forms. Ask a Korean kid to draw the sun and it will be red, for that is the color it most often is to them. Then there are yellow dust days, where even leaving a window open fills your home with small dust and it’s an unhealthy decision to go outside.

America is such a big country and it’s increasingly more diverse, both in the traditional sense and the ideological one. But all that space has led to some cultural quirks. Alison says “I think my biggest adjustment here is about space. Everything is just so spread out that it takes a long time to get anywhere. People just don’t understand all the wasted space they have. Everything is just too big. Portion size, TV’s, cars, everything is big….

Ben has no plans to live abroad again, but he now leads Reverse culture shock meetings in Nashville where “all passports are welcome.”  When he thinks back about his time overseas, one of the things he misses the most, apart from the food, is “The belief in a level playing field…the growing middle class and short political campaigns. The mountains. Islands where you meet new friends, and the safety of walking down nearly every street in the country. I loved a lot about the culture, and social mores.”

Marianne, who is currently considering a return overseas, says  “I miss the people and food so much! I feel like I had a little family there. And I won’t lie, I miss how inexpensive things are I’m Vietnam.

Feeling different about yourself in ways you are constantly discovering combined with a frustrating lack of comfort and familiarity with the country you always thought of as home leads to an alienation far stronger than simple reverse culture shock. Many people never feel at home again, in their original or adopted country. Alison, who is fairly determined to make it last in the US despite struggling to re-acclimatize, says “I’m not really an American anymore. I feel it, I’m very different.” 



Best of 2017 (in photos)

Previous years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  2012201320142015, and 2016.

The Best Of 2017

Saddle Mountain

This year was spent pretty evenly split between South Korea and the US, though I did little traveling other than that. I was able to get to beautiful places like the redwoods and the coast and Seoraksan and Mt. St. helens.

This was a year of enjoying friends and family and local nature. Next year, perhaps, will be a  bit more adventurous.  (I also need to get a better camera–currently using my 2013 phone and it isn’t exactly killing it on the photo front.)

January 2017


January – One reason I love Seoul is for it’s habit of constantly rewards aimless wanders with the unexpected. On this snowy winter day, nahid and I found a giant trash pile on top of a mountain (next to an exercise area and a path to the peak, naturally). What’s the story here? Who knows!

February 2017

feb 17

February – Despite visiting quite a few temples (& working at Hwagyesa for a year) and frequently going to Insadong, I was late to discover Jogyesa. Which was pretty dumb of me. It’s got a lot going for it and is great to wander through during all four seasons.

March 2017

mar 17

March – In March I came back to the US. Korea is of course known for  벚꽃 (beotkkot, cherry blossom) but spring in Portland is no slouch either. This walk on the Willamette, with my sister and brother, was very reminiscent of visiting Yeoido in Seoul only with a fraction of the crowds.

April 2017

april 17 2

may 17 6April – A double picture month! The first one was taken on the Long Beach peninsula in Washington, where we did our best to recreate a photo from the summer of 1995.

I had to include that. But the trio of tents was a celebration of another anniversary–my 30th birthday hike with Craig and Garrett along Lake Chelan. We hoped to recreate that with another decent hike but logistically couldn’t. Instead we camped between the redwoods and the beach, which wasn’t too bad a compromise.

May 2017


May – Already summer in Korea, I took several long walks.  This picture is from a long walk with my friend Luka, where we began at Olympic Park and then walked 20k along the river.

June 2017

june 17 2

JuneHwaseong Fortress is not all there is in Suwon, but it’s always been my favorite part of it. This time I went to meet my friend Praveen. We walked around the fortress walls before eating Indian and then heading to his place for a board game.

July 2017

july 17 s1

July I have been to Seoraksan many times and it’s long been my favorite place in Korea. This trip, with Nahid, Praveen, John and Alison (the latter three who had never been before) was during the soggy monsoon season. Very wet, yes, but the fewest people I’ve ever seen there as well.

August 2017

august 17 2

August– Back in Portland just in time for the Soapbox derby. You can’t help but like the creative DIY that leads to entries like the Catbus.

September 2017

sep 17

September – Staying on Tabor,  I snapped this view of the reservoir on a walk with my brother. We met my sister at Quarterworld after and played some epic Mario Kart.

October 2017

october 17 2

October – Sauvie Island is a gloomy place in the mist and I like that these scattered pumpkins have a ghostly feel to them.

November 2017

nov 17

November – Sure, it’s just a traffic cone in an over-ambitious mud puddle. But a) I was on my way to hang with friends Craig and Martina at Orycon and b) this part of the month is that perfect liminal state between fall and winter.

December 2017

Dec 17

December – Walking to meet my sister and mom at the Portland Night Market, I was able to get this shot of the wintry sunset.



Yeti Hikes: Rocky Butte

A long, long time ago (15,000 BCE) and for about 2000 years, floods that started in what is now Montana blasted all the way through everything in their path until they hit the Columbia River Gorge. (On their way they stole a lot of rich topsoil from places like Eastern Washington, leaving them fairly barren even today.) These floods weren’t hardly fucking around; what is now Portland was then under 400 feet of water. A lonely four volcanoes poked out from that swath of de-facto ocean. Those volcanoes are now known as Mt. Tabor, Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, and Rocky Butte.

rocky butte

View of Mt. Hood from Joseph Wood Hill Park, top of Rocky Butte

Those floods pushed a lot of rocks into the northside of the Butte, granting the mountain its current (obvious) name. In the early 20th century, Portlandersr built a prison and quarry there, which lasted for a few decades before being demolished to build the only thing more American than a jail: a freeway. (The rocky northeast side of the butte is still used for climbing, with over 150 routes.)

The views from Rocky Butte are grandiose. In addition to St. Helens, Hood and the top part of Jefferson, there are views of St. John’s Bridge, the West Hills of Portland, the airport, the Grotto, and the river. There is a radio tower and actual parapet walls.


Legit castle, right?


The few final steps

Mt. Tabor has admittedly been one of my favorite spots in Portland for almost twenty years. Powell Butte, likewise, is a nice place to hike, what with forests down low and open expanses on top. Council Crest/Washington Park have exceedingly nice views too. I haven’t been to Kelly Butte, (never even heard of it, to be perfectly honest) but of the three I’ve seen Rocky Butte has the most  most beautiful views.

While it seemed most people drove up, a handful of people biked up a rather steep incline. I didn’t see anyone one else walking, but even with steep windy curves, it never felt unsafe to ascend on foot. The path began in suburbia and then wended its way through a forest and a tunnel.


A little more climbing and then it evened out, going past some nice houses and trees just beginning to promise some glorious fall foliage.

The top was mostly empty on the sunny October afternoon I reached it.  Planes left the airport and ascended directly in front of Mt. St. Helens, which seemed to content to sit and observe, head blatantly bare.


Castle Walls, perhaps to ward off marauding floods?



Rocky Butte in a nutshell.

It was the kind of place you could just sit and chill for hours. As this couple did, having brought up a hammock.


These guys had the right idea–but I don’t envy them the bike ride up!

The way down was very nice as well, with periodic views of Mt. Hood.


The road on the way down


Some of the cliffs made by that flood all those thousands of years ago. People climb up these now.


October for Humans, sure, but these berries are clearly still living in August.

The road goes by a church/college that worships one of the vengeful skygods before eventually reaching the town again. From this side, SE 92 leads to gateway (and is quite walkable/bikeable) or you could turn and take Fremont, which is inconsequential here but becomes quite cool in 20-30 blocks.

All in all, it was probably an hour and half to climb up, hang out on top, and come back down. I’m shocked I never came up here before but relieved I have a place to hide away next time a flood from Montana blasts into town.

Yeti Hikes: Dragonfly Mountain


Distance: 8 km Time: 2 hours

Built in 2014 in an obscure part of the city, the trail that ascends Dragonfly Mountain (not its proper name, of course) wends past apartment buildings and Buddhist temples alike.

You discover it quite by mistake, first by ascending a long set of stairs that you had never noticed before and then by ascending more stairs. Suddenly you are above the city, looking out at the Han River and Namsan. A Korean woman will chat with you for a bit, explaining that when she was a child there was no smog and everything looked a lot closer.

There is major construction on one end of Dragonfly mountain. They’ve destroyed many old buildings and it looks like a new apartment building is going up. Less than 500 meters from that hole in the earth is a modest Buddhist temple (apart from the Golden Buddha statue of course), guarded by a dog and a friendly homeless man with a dog of his own who offers to share his makkoli with you.

There’s no stopping though and your feet carry you forward, past ceramic tiles painted with images of Deadpool and Totoro, Kakao and Pixar characters alike. You may pause at the workout equipment–do pull-ups or sit-ups or any of another dozen exercises. Should you continue, fear not–there will be plenty more stations along the way.

You walk through grass and through what feels like jungle and, later, a gloomy forest. There are side trails down to apartments on one side and the city on the other. This is part of the city you have never been to, and the lull to explore somewhere new is strong, but you continue along Dragonfly mountain.

You pass the trail to another Buddhist temple, this one half-hidden in dense verdant foliage. Now you see a dome that looks like an observatory. But it’s really an emergency services– 119. Just past here the trail forks, and you eschew the paved road and climb again, past what appears to be a deserted university and up a flight of stairs that keep climbing long after the novelty has worn off.

You reach a badminton court, skirt around it, and find a wooden platform with a view of the city stretching all around you. Below is a wooden swing and a rose garden.  There are no elves frolicking in the garden, but you think that there probably should be.

The trail splits again, and again, and you emerge by a subway station. It’s not a long walk back to your house, however, and thus you finish the trek amongst a myriad of people. Dragonfly Mountain, so close to you, is no longer visible; hidden behind rows of apartment buildings and smog.

It matters not. You know you will return. In the meantime…

Your memories look like this:

Yeti Hikes: Achasan

Mount Acha


There are at least 43 mountains in Seoul, but surely none of them are as accessible and easy to ascend as Achasan. The highest peak on Achasan is only 287 meters, so it’s not exactly a trek through the Himalaya, but in addition to the requisite views of the city and Gyeonggido there are three elements that really make it stand out among Seoul’s myriad of mountains.

Easy as (RedBean Paste) Pie

These are for charging your phone and taking selfies, replete with instructions.

For me, no mountain in Seoul compares to the scope, beauty, and grandeur of Bukhansan. But it’s a real slog up to the peak(s) and there are always thousands of other hikers toiling their way up with  you. Achasan, on the other hand? From the subway to the peak it takes about 45 minutes (your times may very based on how turtley or roadrunnery you hike). Once up there, there are gentlemen selling socks and drinks, plus solar panels to charge your phone. All the amenities a person could hope for, really.

The hike to the top is short, yes, but from there you can continue along the ridgeline to Yongmasan, another 10 K. (I haven’t done this yet but hopefully will this summer.)

There very well could be a mountain in Seoul with a better effort-to-view ratio, but if so I haven’t found it.


The Path Rocks


There are staircases that go most of the way up, because that’s kind of how Korea rolls. But the funnest way to go up (and down) is by clambering up (and down) the sheets of rock. It’s never scary and the rock gives good grip. I haven’t seen another mountain with this texture and it makes Achasan a bit unique.


Historic Koguryeo Ruins


Most people know about China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but Korea had its own Three Kingdoms period. (BCE37~CE668) This war pit the Shilla, the Baekje, and the Koguryeo against each other. It was a pretty even fight until eventually the Shilla enlisted the help of China and the rest was history, but for some time the Koguryeo held on. Many of the forts they built were located here. They’ve found remnants of 20 forts from the Three Kingdoms era, and the ruins of one of them is still visible ll fort of the Goguryeo era.

There’s also the Daeseongam Hermitage, a Three Kingdoms Tomb, a Cremation Site, and a Beacon Signal there, so those with an interest in history or culture get more than mere mountain.

Getting There


Start at Achasan Station, naturally. There are several ways up the mountain, but all them are accessed by leaving the station via Exit 2, then walking through some colorful old neighborhoods. Just keep the mountain in front of you and you’ll get there.

If you want to go via Hwayang Temple (pictured above), turn onto Yeonghwasa-ro and then keep going up.

Final Note

2017-07-02 15.03.26

You don’t need hiking boots for this hike, but sneakers are very helpful. Make sure you bring enough water as well. It’s better to hike in the spring and autumn, when temperatures are cooler and views are clearer, but this is nice hike any time of year.