Torn Curtain | surrealportland
Portland is a land known for it’s coffee scene, good food, outdoors and general culture finesse. A hipster mecca as you will. But I’m also learning that it is a land of dichotomies, as I’m pulling back the veil and peeking through.
Velo Cult for example, is this hip little bicycle repair shop just north in the Hollywood district of Portland. There are hanging bikes and accessories as well as a bar that serves liquor and coffee. It’s not too uncommon in this city to combine things, especially if those things are alcohol and coffee. And for that reason, it’s not too out of the ordinary that they also host events on their beautiful wood paneled floors.
What was shocking was when a friend told me that the Old Timey Festival, think rural and traditional music of the South and the Midwest with fiddles, banjos and guitars, was in town and holding a square dance one of the nights–yes, I’m geeky and love to go to things like this–at this very same Velo Cult. I didn’t know the venue, being still new to bike culture–see earlier posts about my biking adventures–but when I looked it up, I was shocked. Velo Cult epitomized cool. When I think of square dancing, I think primarily of home schoolers and sects of Christianity in which girls only wear skirts (before you judge me I ran this past my home schooled roomate). How was this going to look?
Again, in a weird twist of Twilight Zone–maybe Portland is the Twilight Zone?–it was awesome. There was a stage where the caller with the caller and the band and a wide array of people dancing in lines and squares, twirling and running, laughing and clapping. The callers would show us the moves before the dance would start– you don’t want to be lost during or otherwise you can confuse a whole crowd of people–and there could be two to four sets of couples who would dance in a square, trying them out. The music was legit and the dances authentic. This was not some neo-square dance.
Yes, there were some of the girls with skirts, but I didn’t feel out of place with my dreads and batik dress. People from all walks of life–cyclists and drinkers and generally cool people–were all geeking out together over this traditional dance and style of music. It truly is a dance of community with collaboration, hand holding and communication. But it’s raucous and fun. It was like going back in time to the Appalachian Mountains with no pretense. No one judged if I screwed up the move. We all laughed and had a good time.
And I’m learning that the beauty of Portland is that we are all geeks of one thing or another. This is the land of misfit toys. Everyone is welcome whether bike enthusiast, vegan, omnivore or in this case, square dancer.