Because one man hand-builds sculpturally beautiful microphones in his own 1930s speakeasy. 

Philip Graham, founder of Ear Trumpet Labs, runs one of Portland’s most intriguing basement workshops, where he makes striking retro microphones (as seen here) designed to produce high-quality live sound. Bonus: he handles shipping out of a room that operated as a Prohibition retreat for thirsty Northeast Portlanders, complete with shady side door, bar, and rusty sink. 

Because Portlanders are prone to setting odd world records.

Largest gathering of redheads: Last August, more than 1,300 gingers congregated in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Biggest tree hug: Up in Hoyt Arboretum, 951 people gave minute-long hugs to trees. Burpees: That nausea-inducing push-up/plank/jump extreme exercise? A Portlander did 9,480 over three days. High-speed grocery bagging: Executives from a local scanning technology company clocked 50 items in 51.91 seconds. Most successful three-point basketball shots in one minute: Twenty-five, to be precise. In your face, world! 

Because we don’t just read, write, and listen—we publish.

Here’s just a handful of the great indie presses in Portland:

  • TIN HOUSE Our highest-profile indie press.
  • MICROCOSM Many of the –isms—anarchism, veganism, activism—with wild cards like health and religion.
  • OOLIGAN Portland State’s publishing program builds books from start to finish.
  • HAWTHORNE A literary house with strong regional roots, national reach, and a sharp design sensibility.
  • GLIMMER TRAIN Twenty-plus years of dedication to the short story.
  • FOREST AVENUE “Quiet novels” that counter tradition: the world changes the hero.
  • LAZY FASCIST Specializing in the unquantifiable: adult fairy tales, hybrid plays, zombie sharks. And great covers.
  • DEADITE “The very best in cult horror”: like Silence of the Lambs met Amityville Horror and conceived a literary baby. 

Because we’re home to the tech world’s most reclusive superstar.

Linus Torvalds could be Portland’s Bill Gates, but he gives his product away. The Helsinki-born programmer pioneered the Linux operating system in 1991, and began allowing other programmers to use, change, and add to it—free. Long the choice of hard-core nerds, over the past few years Linux has become the world’s fastest-growing desktop operating system. It runs more than 95 percent of supercomputers, and forms the backbone for many tablets, phones, and game consoles. Torvalds has a house in Beaverton and an utterly nondescript public persona. He’s the Most Interesting Least Interesting Man in the World. Perfect.

Because Portlandia came with a poem that not enough people know.

She kneels down
and from the quietness
of copper
reaches out.
We take that stillness
into ourselves
and somewhere
deep in the earth
our breath
becomes her city.
If she could speak
this is what
she would say:
Follow that breath.
Home is the journey we make.
This is how the world
knows where we are.
—Ronald Talney

Because we have food carts.

... food-cart pods.

... late-night food-cart pods.

... late-night food-cart pods for drunk people.

... late-night food-cart pods for drunk vegans

Image: Lauren Lark
Potato Champion's vegan poutine, anyone?

Because our very own sausage king was once a meat-free pro snowboarder. 

“All my friends were vegan punk rockers,” says Elias Cairo of the days before he started curing 8,000 pounds of meat a day at Olympic Provisions’ 33,000-square-foot factory. In the mid-’90s, Cairo dropped out of high school to pursue a sponsorship from outdoor gear titan Burton and do backflips for national magazines.

By age 18, the adrenaline wore off. “I remember the tipping point,” says Cairo. “I was boarding with some of my snowboard idols—the greatest in the world—and they kept hurling themselves off this huge ledge. There was zero visibility. All I could hear from below was: ‘Go faster! You won’t clear the jump!’ All of the big-time guys were crashing on the rocky cliffs below. I made it ... barely. The next year I moved to Switzerland and learned how to make salami.”