02 April 2008

Psycho Safeway & Downtown Portland Like It Used to Be

The Psycho Safeway downtown Portland Oregon
Mom recently sent me an article entitled: In Praise of Psycho Safeway." It ran in The Oregonian a couple of weeks ago.

The article reminded me of a Portland that once was. I'm not sure if it's gone forever or if it just relocated.

If you could make the internet real, that's what downtown Portland was like in the 1990's. It had something for everyone - especially if you were into obscure shit.

In just one afternoon you could:
Stephanie from Church of Elvis
* Marry a total stranger (Church of Elvis)

* Buy a rare Cure import (Ozone Records)

* Try on a vintage 1970's disco jumpsuit with 1950's roller skates (Big Bang Warehouse)

* Learn how to make explosives from a zine (Powell's)

* See bum's fighting (near the old Weinhardt's brewery)

* Sell your old crap for cash (Powell's, various record and clothing stores)

* Get alcohol under age (Hamburger Mary's)

* Have your credit cards stolen (the bus mall)

* Talk to a crazy guy who thinks yogurt cups are the key to eternal life (Psycho Safeway)

* Meet a future reality TV star (Pioneer Courthouse Square - true story)

When you think about it, the internet still has some catching up to do compared to downtown Portland in 1994. You still can't order cheese fries from a transvestite (The Roxy) or put your friends in a shopping cart and push them around a statue of Abe Lincoln (the park blocks).

Church of Elvis Where's The Art guyThe other thing that troubles me is that downtown just isn't scary anymore. I don't mean dangerous-scary, I mean intimidating-scary. The first time I went to Ozone records. I had no idea if I was even in the right place. All I remember is a big black door. You had to have guts just to walk in there.

It was the same with Big Bang Warehouse. We got directions from some older kids: "In the middle of the block there's this black staircase leading up. That's where it is." Sounds easy. . . until you get to the staircase. There's no sign indicating there's a clothing store upstairs, and the stairway is black on black. It took balls to be a downtown kid back then.

I suppose it's possible kids just go to other parts of town now. Maybe I'll overhear some kid talk about how they were afraid to go to explore "NoPo," but I think we're a kinder gentler Portland now.

Also, half of what made Portland so gritty back then was all the homeless and section 8 people wandering the streets. Now that they've closed down / demolished The St. Francis and the four or five other buildings like it, most of the people who made downtown so colorful have been shuffled off to the suburbs. Maybe Psycho Safeway lives again somewhere . . . out in Hillsboro.

Now that's a scary thought.


thrift store cowboy said...

Great blog/post! You can use any photo you want, BTW - glad you like 'em!

I also really miss "The Portland That Was"...before it started getting infused with retiree money and attitude. I still have a 24 Hr Church of Elvis shirt from one of my many marriages there (usually whoever I was sitting beside that night at the Ash Street Saloon). I agree: things just aren't the same anymore, though Eugene is starting to have a similar energy.

I used to keep a blog at http://redthumb.livejournal.com/
and if you scroll down to the 1/29/06 entry there's a list of everything I could think of that isn't here anymore. Can you think of any to add to it?

thrift store cowboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I kind of miss the Psycho Safeway, or as me and my roomies at the time called it, the Unsafeway.

One time standing in line I had the person behind me AND the person in front of me talking loudly... to themselves.


The Pelican said...

Awesome post! I moved to Portland from small town America (Silverton) in 1991, and remember being really freaked out standing in line at the Melody Ballroom, Portland Underground and the like. Good times back then...

Anonymous said...

Circa 1992 - I've been o that Safeway - also got *married" at the C.O.E. - they made me and my GF march to the end of the block and back carrying a sign proclaiming our love (and be sure to visit the C.O.E.!)

Anonymous said...

This makes me a little sad for a home that was. Thanks. Great post. Nothing will ever beat the Big Bang Warehouse.

Unknown said...

Big Bang! Rock and Roll Fashion, Footsteps (London Underground), Djangos, QP, The City Nightclub, Confetti Club. What am I missing????? Portland of my youth. Thanks for this article!

Lori said...

I remember the 1970 Portland, crazier still.

Unknown said...

That Safeway. Some tough guys in like 1990 didn't like that someone in line was looking at them when they came in spouting a bunch of loud and cool stuff I can't remember and said to the guy, what are you looking at, and he was like, you're the one making noise or something and they followed him out to the parking lot and the guard asked if he wanted to call the boys in blue and the line guy said no. they dented his benz by kicking it.

Anonymous said...

I used to steal 40's of Woodchuck and drink em in the Park Blocks

Anonymous said...

I think you absolutely summed up dt life. Keep portland weird! I remember the first zombie walk, we were just tryin to smoke some gd pot at the waterfront but portland had other plans!