The following review was penned by our Kick Ass Embedded Reprter (for the evening, at least), William Reagan.
What a long, strange trip its….oh whatever
At risk of stating the obvious, Portland loves it some weed. I don’t know if it’s the city’s unspoken look-the-other-way attitude toward public consumption, the favorable Northwest growing conditions, the intense horticultural focus that has led to strains that are strong enough to topple a cow, or if it’s simply the elongated stretches of gray skies that drive people to look for sunshine in a bag, but whatever the cause, that shit’s everywhere, man. It’s not even noteworthy to walk past someone openly puffing on a downtown street or stinking up the MAX with the dank smell of a fresh harvest. When I go to a house party and there isn’t a special gathering of like-minded souls on the back porch I momentarily wonder if I’m even in Portland anymore – though I’m usually brought back to reality by someone kindly whispering, “We’re gonna step upstairs for a few minutes if you care to join us.” Ahhh, home sweet home.
If you don’t smoke weed, the aforementioned Portland present-tense may make the city seem like a prime candidate as the shooting location for the next Reefer Madness, but as the kind folks at Kick-Ass Oregon History pointed out on their 4-20 Weed Tour, a strong whiff of bud wafts all through the annals of Portland’s history. Modern practitioners may hold the bong today, but it was passed to them through a smoking circle that goes back nearly a century – and based on the enthusiasm of the wonderful folks I met on this bus tour, there’s no indication that the bowl is cashed.
After meeting for libations at The Jack London Bar (a secret gem in downtown Portland), we boarded “Sasquatch”, the amazing prison-bus-turned-party-van supplied by CascadiaCruiser.com. Imagine the Partridge Family bus had it been outfitted by the interior designers from The Doug Fir bar. It was fitting ride for this particular magical history tour. Considering the tongue-in-cheek stoner soundtrack (Foghat, Bob Marley, Creedence, Sly & The Family Stone, etc. ) blasting along with the LED laser light show flashing inside the bus, passersby might thought we were driving around in the mobile version of some 1976 teenager’s bedroom.
The tour stopped at many notable counter-culture locations around Portland, with host Doug Kenck-Crispin’s enthusiastic commentary adding insight and humor to each venue: The big drug bust in 1931 involving a disgruntled neighbor and a large urban crop of what turned out to something other than weed; the site of Timothy Leary’s first visit to Portland and the ripple effect his “tune-in, turn-on, and drop-out” advice had on the city; beers at the Barley Mill Pub, the first location of the local McMenamin’s empire and an ongoing tribute to Haight-Ashbury culture; a bit of education at Third Eye Shoppe on Hawthorne where the bus riders received a thoroughly scientific explanation of vaporizer technology. (Check out the Kick Ass Oregon History podcast for more information about the stops listed here.) The only challenge for the tour was figuring out how to keep everyone focused on the history – two by two, a few folks apparently got distracted by shiny objects and parted ways with the caravan.
Of course, life is about the journey, not just the destinations, so there was ample time rolling around Portland with the music cranked and the windows cracked. Riders drank beers, shared stories, stared at the bright lights of the city and generally agreed that this was a splendid way to see the town we call home. Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder kept us all company as we drove across town to Plew’s Brews and their annual 4-20 brewfest. (Frankly, the mood and decor of this fun and funky bar makes me think their reverence for 4-20 extends well beyond one day a year.) If I understood correctly, the 4-20 brewfest was a chance for aficionados of home brewing and cannabis cultivation to come together and discuss where the Venn diagram of their lives overlap, but by this part of the tour, I had an inexplicably shorter attention span and Plew’s ice-cold pint of Tangerine Wheat absorbed all of my attention. Have you ever noticed the bubbles in wheat beers? They seem at once random and systematic. Plus…..wait, what was I talking about?
This was my first Kick Ass Oregon History bus tour, and it’s certainly not the last. I’m already in love with Portland (for much more than the reasons listed above) but getting a history-with-a-pulse tour gave me newfound appreciation for the city. Getting that tour on a kick-ass bus while drinking a beer and watching green LED polka-dots dance all over the smiling faces of strangers as Toots & The Maytals croon Pressure Drop? Far out, man. Far out.
Check out some pictures of the event on the Facebook Machine.
The Resident Historian – all instagramy and psychadelic and shit….