Because TV shows pretend to be in PDX now.

This fall’s Fox show Backstrom adapts an irritable detective (The Office star Rainn Wilson) from Scandinavian source novels to solve crimes for the Portland Police Bureau. Hidden twist? Backstrom actually shoots in Vancouver, B.C. Creator Hart Hanson: “The preoccupations of Portland—art, style, coffee, education, environment—are all good for Backstrom. I have the distinction of having three cities annoyed with me: Portland, because we’re shooting in Vancouver. LA, because they are losing production to other cities. And Vancouver, because they’d love to play themselves in a series for once.”

Because maybe—just maybe—beer counts as health food.

Upstream Public Health will celebrate its 10th anniversary in June by challenging local breweries like Ecliptic, Widmer, and Upright to concoct their healthiest possible brew. Can a beer infused with nutrient-rich ingredients, antioxidants, and beneficial herbs be tasty? A panel of local celebrity judges will decide.

Because our coffee shops are more than just coffee shops.

Image: Lauren Lark

Coffee + interior design: Designer Chris Giovarelli curates the Pearl District’s stunning CDExD, where florist Cosmin Bisorca arranges fresh blossoms and Kevin Nichols, formerly of Water Avenue Coffee, presides over the gleaming espresso bar.

Coffee + wine: Enso Winery joined forces with Water Avenue Coffee to make its SE Stark Street tasting room a daytime coffee bar.

Coffee laundry: North Portland’s Spin Laundry Lounge ingeniously combines clean clothes with Fog Valley Coffee.

Coffee + nonprofit: Volunteers founded TaborSpace in a disused bell tower at Mt Tabor Presbyterian Church—it’s now a nonprofit café and grassroots community center.

Coffee + bar: A beautiful little Euro-accented bolthole on NW 21st Avenue is Sterling Coffee Roasters by day, convivial M Bar by night.

Coffee + lighting: Ristretto Roasters’ third location, in Schoolhouse Electric, is incandescent in metaphor and fact.

Because green building isn’t just for the rich.

For more than 30 years, Reach Community Development and William Wilson have created buildings that only the most experienced eye might identify as affordable housing. The Orchards, a new project at booming Orenco Station slated for completion next year, should be the largest multifamily Passive House project in the nation. (The technique, pioneered in Europe, uses insulation and tight seals to create super-efficient buildings.) The complex will serve renters making less than $30,000 a year. 

Because our city is living science fiction.

Portland, a town that defines itself as forward-looking, makes a good match for science fiction, genre of the future, and sci-fi writers have produced some notable visions of the Rose City.

In Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, as LA dissolves into armed cul-de-sacs, water is a luxury, dirty is the new chic, and people dream of green Oregon—anticipating a future in which we may have to defend the Columbia River and cope with climate refugees. But suppose that, instead, Tea Party activists take over Oregon and abolish the urban growth boundary. Jay Lake described the possible result in his 2009 story “In the Forests of the Night.” Cascadiopolis is a non-city woven through the forests and mountains, a network of low-impact enclaves that look like forest compounds but together amount to an ecologically sensitive alternative to Portlandopolis. And of course there’s Ursula K. Le Guin, who projected a Portland of 2002 in 1971’s The Lathe of Heaven. George Orr can literally dream different versions of Portland and the larger world into existence.

Then there is more metaphorical food for thought. In his 1956 classic City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke described a city so full of interesting things that nobody feels the slightest urge to venture outside—for millions of years. Could that forecast how self-satisfied Portlanders, ensconced in super-cool neighborhoods, think—or don’t—about the boring world beyond the range of an easy bicycle commute? 

Carl Abbott is a professor of urban studies at Portland State University. His book How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America appeared in 2008.