On only the third airplane ride post Covid vaccination, it was across the country to Portland in two hops.

Queen Tibia presided at home in our absence.

Dulles was mostly empty on a Friday late morning.

The purple chair

An uneventful set of flights (through Denver) was marred only by the masks everyone must wear. We can’t wait for a vaccine mandate for air travel. It’s coming! HUGE KUDOS to united airlines for requiring all of their employees to be vaccinated. Smart.

In fact, Portland is a bit of a study in what is to come in the rest of the country. Vaccination proof is required in bars and restaurants. Even seedy little dive bars like the Jack London Review where we had an excellent time seeing mononeon. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First it was a quick run by Hertz to pick up a crappy rental car and head to the Kimpton Riverside. Well, it used to be a Kimpton. Now it is an IHG thing. We knew from last time to book room 325.

325 at the Riverside Portland has a fireplace


The living room


The bedroom with a view of the river and the park

The riverside has only two rooms with glass showers. We did not secure either. So we got this…

Horror of horrors! A shower curtain. We’ll give them a pass since it was fabric and not plastic.


Lauren Groff’s excellent new book The Matrix was apparently designed for this table

We had a negroni. We devoured some oysters. We saw old friends and their spunky ultra-intelligent progeny. We ended up at mononeon where we watched a show that seemed like a Prince show from the early ’90s. Less charisma, but just as much crazy energy and a collection of interesting cats including:

  • A black female goddess drummer with the biggest afro ever (she was the real band leader and a great singer)
  • Two white guys who played OK leads while hiding behind a pole
  • A DJ who started things off
  • Two rappers, one of whom was utterly obsessed with getting everyones’ hands in the air
  • A sporadically present trumpet player
  • A 20 year old lanky stripper who was having trouble fending off the lesbians in the front
  • A token white girl who came on late with a guitar she halfheartedly strummed while she sang (her hair was up in that Prince entourage kind of way and she must have been wearing lingerie)
  • Oh yeah, and mononeon himself who apparently convened this group and then got so high he forgot it was his show

Mononeon in his chair

The music was great, the dancing was contagious, and the most fun thing was watching the young one dance uninhibitedly.


That lasted until 3am EST which was way past everyone’s bedtime.  Super fun.

Then it was Saturday morning and time for a great breakfast at Cheryl’s.  The beignet alone was worth the wait.  We bought a Patagonia jacket while waiting because we heard that you can’t really leave Portland unless you buy one.

Then the highlight of the trip!  Three hours in Powells.  We bought 30 books, some bags to carry them on the plane in, and a shirt.  World’s best bookstore hands down.  MUST RETURN.

Every time

We love Powell’s so much.  Everyone in all of the other towns is very jealous of your book thing Portland.

24 (of 30) books

After a brief respite on the courtyard terrace, there was time left for the Saturday market (always worth a visit if your tie dye supply is low or you need a crystal).

Contemplating Portland traffic










Then it was time for dinner.  We chose Normandie, which was a bit green but good.  Hip and relaxed, this place needs to get its A game on.  Before dinner cocktails at Hey Love were better than dinner.  We both enjoyed a Loprinzi’s Mule:

  • .5 cynar
  • .5 amaro cio ciaro
  • 2 oz don q añejo
  • ginger syrup
  • tarmarivel syrup (tanarind paste, cinnamon, grapefruit rind, sugar)
  • soda in a collins on the rocks

    Loprinzi’s Mule at Hey Love














All of a sudden it was Sunday.  We started out late with a brunch at Olympia Provisions.  My vegetarian companion was not amused, but I was.  So we headed out to get some juice and ended up buying cabinet pulls for The Stick instead.

Portland has a huge homeless population, and it is evident all over the city.  Beater campers, tents with patches and multiple tarps, lots of garbage.  The United States has fallen short of many of its citizens, and you can see that in Portland first hand.  Late stage capitalism on the streets.

Don’t tell Romey, but these were actually really damn good

Next it was off to the Portland Art Museum, which frankly you can skip. Mediocre at best.  Plan to spend less time than you think.

Some shopping at Wildfang got us moving toward Japanese Gardens which were so crowded we bailed and drove straight to the Kennedy School to check in.  Room 113 is great.

Of course as hip and fun as it is, the Kennedy School still feels like 1997 in the rooms.  Time to update!  Especially please replace the beds.


We had a drink in the courtyard while working on our dinner plans.  Portland decided that two days without rain was anathema.  The rain came.  And it wasn’t kidding.  But we borrowed some umbrellas and headed back to town.

A visit to the Teardrop Lounge was fabulous as always.  (You don’t need a reservation, but you do need a great attitude.). A Raffles Singapore Sling was in the cards.

Then a fantastic dinner at Takibi.  Delicious, modern, and very Japanese.



A superb drinks menu

It was still raining on Monday morning when we got up early to prep for a business meeting.  It must be the rain that caused us to eat such a huge breakfast at the Kennedy School.  Surely.

After a rainy morning talking about ML and security, we enjoyed lunch at Southpark Seafood with some new friends who turned us on to Betsy and Iya, a fantastic boutique jeweler and clothier.  Hard not to get some stuff there!

Then the Japanese Garden in the pouring rain.  A magical place and far less crowded once the witches all melted down.

Finally it was back to the Kennedy School to catch Pig in one of the coolest places to see a movie anywhere.  We had burgers and watched the show.

Negroni in the hall


Our seats for the show


One more gigantic breakfast (yes it was still raining) and it was off to the airport for our quick flight to Dulles.

A fantastic visit to Portland.  Almost like the before times.

Four showerheads is the max for both Riverside Portland and the Kennedy School.  Does Portland even have glass showers anywhere?

I admit, we were bitchy yesterday here at NPS. And the Kimpton system, it listens. (So we’re learning that irritability pays off. But don’t tell anyone that.)

General Manager Ryan Kunzer made note of my dismay at 403 and arranged a room swap via email while I was delivering my early morning talk.

I am now in a gorgeous fireplace suite, room 325. A real log fire in a rainy day is just exactly what the doctor ordered. I skipped my lunch meeting and ordered in because it is so perfect.

This room is not only nicely appointed, it is not in the least hamster cage rectangular. But the real kicker is the fireplace. Ahhhh.

Somehow I am feeling less inclined to show up for my panel thais afternoon as well. Bad bad bad.

The bedroom is a minor detail.


And the bathroom is nicely sized, but needs an upgraded shower. Ryan says that is in the plans. It would be nice to have a truly upscale hotel in Portland.

One way

One way

Or another.

Or another.

Anyway, thanks Ryan for rectifying the situation and calming me right on down. Kimpton karma.

A quick visit to Powell’s was in order. If you have never been and you like books, you’re missing something incredibly special.

Dinner at Clyde Common was truly outstanding again. Who would have guessed that chicken hearts could be prepared so well?! I had a broken bike again (great drink).

The Pépé do Moko speakeasy around the corner is a very nice place for a classic beverage or two. I had a great time playing with Heather and Danny. Thanks guys!

Very high four showerheads for the Riverplace. Time for some glass showers…and then, perfection.

I am back at the Riverplace in Portland, Oregon. I was just here for the first time this Spring (the property is newly Kimptonized). The showers are (sadly) all plastic in this city when it comes to Kimptons. Must have something to do with the rain??

I liked the Riverplace way more than the Portland Monaco though. Sadly, for my last stay, the number of hours in room could be counted on less than one hand. This time I am staying two days with some down time and I am stuck in dinky little 403. Oh well.

Anyway, Hell was clearly beginning to freeze over when United actually had power, wifi, and a comfortable ride for my cross continent journey. I was not upgraded. But I have learned the hard way over the last two years that my 1,579,471 of loyalty really don’t mean jack shit to United. Upgrades? Ha ha ha ha. Not for me. Only on flights that never take off.


I was psyched to arrive at the Riverplace again. Hoping for another shot at a nice room, this time with some time to be IN the room. But I must have arrived too late. And sadly even though I booked this room MONTHS AGO, the kind of room I like was unavailable. We’ll chalk that up to bad planning. NPS does not like bad planning. No we do not. We do not reward bad planning with super happy drivel blog postings. No no. We strap on the asbestos suit from the ’80s flame wars and flame on.

Step down in room quality at Kimpton PDX? United making me a happier camper than Kimpton? Inner Circle guy does not get a hot damn room?? Hell is clearly frozen over. Maybe the inner circle of hell.

My favorite interaction of the night was when the front desk called to, “make sure everything was satisfactory with the room.” “No, I said. I don’t like this room as much as 202 where I was last time.” Want to flumox the front desk? Tell them the truth! hah. “Um, well we were all out of that room category?!” {insert something here about bad planning} Did I mention the bad planning?

Here is the plastic shower in the tiny bathroom of 403.

This shower is not the kind of shower we like.

This shower is not the kind of shower we like.

And here is a Vine of the room. It all fits nicely in 6 seconds. Just sayin’.

Margo Helgen of the social media interwebs did try to pull off something nice, arranging a Hibiscus Mule cocktail (bit on the sweet side unlike this posting). But apparently Margo has no sway over computer system room allocation. Alas, Margo they should upgrade your magic wand! Thanks for playing along.

Hibiscus Mule cocktail. Afraid Jacques would not really approve.

Hibiscus Mule cocktail. Afraid Jacques would not really approve.

And there was some serious confusion over just who ordered what cheese plate. One did arrive we must say!

So we’re going to bed. Maybe tomorrow during downtime after my early morning keynote we will be in a better mood. I doubt it.

Though the RiverPlace Hotel has apparently been around for a long time in Portland, it is now branded as a Kimpton (before it was operated by Kimpton but not under the brand). A quick stay was most welcome. You see, after the meeting at Skamania, a big trip to Powell’s Books was in order. Powell’s is the best bookstore in North America.

From the falls to Portland is just 20 miles or so.

The front desk staff Ellie and Dave were super friendly and nice as were the valet guys. Portland has lots of nice people, and some of them work at RiverPlace. I was assigned room 202.

I was greeted with an amenity including sparkling water, some cheese and a couple of notes.


The best aspects of 202 are its completely non-hamster-cage design. Lots of round, no square walls. Beautiful space. Sophisticated style.

202 one way

202 one way

202 the other way

202 the other way

The king bed was very comfortable all three hours I was in it.

202 bed

202 bed

And, yes, there is a river. And you can see it from 202.

view from 202

view from 202

The bathroom is spacious with modern European fixtures. But you’re not going to believe this…the shower had a plastic shower curtain on a curvy rod over a (Euro) tub. Horrors! Run away!!


Say it ain't so!

Say it ain’t so!

This is plastic.

This is plastic.

Maybe the RiverPlace has some rooms with glass showers? We’ll have to try again and see. All in all the RiverPlace beats the Monaco hands down in my book. Much better quality hotel.

Two hours and $375.92 after I found the new door, I escaped Powell’s with a huge pile of books that filled my expandable suitcase to the brim. The Powell’s fiction/lit section is a dream for any real reader.

Then it was on to Clyde Common pretty much right around the corner for a delicious dinner and some world class cocktails. Pork rinds with trout roe and horseradish lemon cream? Amazing.

After dinner I sauntered over to the (busy but not overcrowded) bar to be served by Beckaly Franks. She is a master. We had fun playing around with some experiments (including a drink I imported from New Orleans). Her best of the evening was Winter is Coming
1 oz James Pepper 1776 Rye
1 oz Perucci Vermouth (like Dolin’s blue)
.75 oz Genepy (or green chartreuse)
1 t luxardo
healthy dash of angostura
stir down. serve on rox. lemon twist.

One of the on the card drinks at Clyde Common is the Broken Bike:
1 oz cynar
2 oz pinot gris (dry)
2 oz club soda
The restaurant bottles these in advance and serves a small bottle. Add lemon oil or a lemon twist. I am going to try it on the rocks.

The bar at Clyde Common is world class.

Morning came way early.

Four showerheads and some glass doors for the RiverPlace hotel. All we have to say is no plastic showers!

I have been a subscriber to Imbibe magazine for a couple of years (ever since my little brother turned me on to it). There are some great cocktail recipes in the magazine that have helped me enhance my close to expert-level cocktail making capabilities. Readers of noplasticshowers know that from time to time both mixology (bar reviews, general postings about booze) and actual live cocktail recipes come up on this blog. We expect that trend to continue.

Well, I had an idea for an article for Imbibe, so I sent them some email on January 9th. No response. Fearing the dreaded spam filter, I stripped the jpg’s and send a second query on January 12th. Then a tweet to @imbibe on the 15th (to see if anybody is reading email by asking on Twitter…well, you never know). On the 19th, I added people to the to: line, digitally signed the email, and added the pictures back. Still nothing.

Here’s what I sent:


I am a subscriber to your fine magazine and a cocktail enthusiast with many years of experience. Five years ago, my wife accidentally bought me the Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book on a whim for Christmas. She created a monster. Her $40 investment has led to thousands of dollars in cocktail-related spending and a superb money-losing hobby! Being a smidgen OCD, I read the book cover to cover on xmas day and rushed out to the liquor store on the 26th to buy the first of many tranches of ingredients. Since then, I have constructed a bar in the living room (picture attached [put in below]), procured many a bottle of “unobtainium” (with an emphasis on Amer Picon, Finnish liqueurs, and fine Argentinian elixirs), and gotten to know many great mixologists in person (see http://noplasticshowers.com, my travel blog).

But where’s the hook, you ask? Well, 13 months ago I formed a new band with some fellow experienced musicians. Inspired by our cocktail-drenched practice room and our usual libation (the Liberal), we named ourselves The Bitter Liberals. The cover of our new CD (also attached [see below again]) features a poet enjoying a Liberal.

(As a quick aside, based on one of your recently-covered drinks “the Passage,” we may or may not have invented a beverage called “the Berryville Passage” which may or may not involve the use of local shine. You never heard this from us. There are a number of great cocktails we have come up with together all of which are recorded in my bar “book,” many of them more or less legal.)

So, if this story seems of interest to you, we would welcome a writer/photographer invasion. We think it’s a fun story that your readers might enjoy.

Merry new year!

Anyway, no response so far to any of these queries. My hope is that the Imbibe guys are Luddites who have a hard time with email and twitter. Or maybe they are pretentious a-holes? I sure hope not. Their magazine seems cool.

Just so you know, I would be satisfied with a “Sorry, no, but thanks for reading the mag.” email. (My bet is they think they get lots of email. Hah hah hah. They should be an alpha-geek like me. Bet I get more, and I answer mine.)

As a last resort, I am mailing them a copy of the email by snail to Portland. That will answer the question in the title of this post once and for all.

The bar at Coal Stove Sink.

The bar at Coal Stove Sink.

The CD cover for 13 by The Bitter Liberals

The CD cover for 13 by The Bitter Liberals

Kimpton properties are tops on my list even though I was recently booted out of the inner circle (which apparently requires 45 nights in Kimpton properties during the year!!). As it turns out, I changed too many variables on this trip to Portland. I forsook the Kennedy School for the Monaco and I did not go to Powell’s (horrors!!). I need to get back to basics next time I am in town.

The Monaco put me in room 811 (an automatic upgrade) which was nice. It is supposedly a suite, but the Kimpton types are stretching the truth about that term just like the hotel people in Las Vegas. 811 is really a very long rectangle with a cleverly designed double door that you could, in theory, close.

I am sorry to report that the bathroom, though very spacious, includes a shower with one of those bendy shower curtain rods found in Holiday Inns throughout the land. The quirky paired shower head almost makes up for that major faux pas, but there is not enough water pressure to make it work well. So low marks on the shower front for the Monaco.

So sad to see an obesity friendly bendy shower rod. Alas.

Cool shower head indeed. (But better looking than working.)

The style is all Kimpton and very nice. Plenty of room to work, marred only by big piles of food to buy which appear in drifts throughout the room. Put the food away please…or else we will all be living in a 7-11 soon. Also of rather distressing note is the “do not steal the hangers” kind of hangers. That’s an old pet peeve of mine. I don’t want to steal your dang hangers. Is this a Hilton or something?

Desk area replete with computerized note and a bottle of wine.

Do not steal the hangers hangers. Off putting indeed.

The double doors which purport to define suite-ness.

I guess no more inner circle means computer notes for me maybe?

On the plus side, the staff is ultra friendly and fun. Their suggestions for restaurants and coffee were spot on. Portland is a a great place to visit and Hotel Monaco is right at the heart of the action. Four shower heads for Hotel Monaco.

Superb news on the mixology front. The Teardrop Cocktail Lounge is world class. Excellent mixology: lots of homemade infusions and bitters, skill with the fruit, and a selection of bourbon that would even suit Sammy.

Of particular note, I had a Liberal concocted with TDL’s very own TDL Picon, brewed up as follows:

1 liter everclear
.5 cup gentian
toasted zest of 10 oranges
1 cup bitter orange peel
pinch cinchona (to taste)
5 cups caramelized simple syrup
8 cups distilled water

Steep everclear, orange zest, orange peel + gentian for two weeks. Strain through cheesecloth. Add simple syrup, water and cinchona. Clarify through a Britta filter. Bottle at room temperature. Let cure one month.

I am told that mixology of note can also be found at Kask, the Woodsman, Central, and Clyde Common. We’ll have to see about that. Teardrop is superb enough to go to two nights running.

When I come back I am not skipping Powells and I hope to catch Pink Martini. I think I’ll head back to the Kennedy School as well.

Portland sky from my window.

Last time I visited the Kennedy School I was feeling generous and awarded a five showerhead rating. I suppose they can be grandfathered in? Then again the bathrooms do need some work.

On this cold and rainy November day, I was assigned room 101…aka “Jack’s Room.” I am pretty sure I have stayed in this room more than once in the past.

Welcome to Jack's Room (says the blackboard).

The very big bed.

Sadly, the bathrooms at the Kennedy School do, in fact, have plastic showers. Here is photographic evidence. These kinds of shower cubicles pervaded the planet in the ’80s.

The bathroom does need some lovin.

Plastic? Plastic.

I didn’t spend much time at the hotel this visit. Instead, I drove into Portland and spent a few hours at Powell’s Books buying a large (and heavy) pile of fiction/literature. Powell’s has to be the best bookstore on planet earth. Dinner at the Portland City Grill was sophisticated and very good. Their wine list is superb.

In the end, I think the bathrooms are enough of an issue to bring the Kennedy School rating to four showerheads. The hotel is a quirky, artsy, really fun counterculture of a place. You should definitely stay there if you can…just skip the shower.

The Columbia River Gorge outside of Portland, Oregon is one of those gorgeous places on earth where the land looks like an HO railroad set. Green, wet, majestic, beautiful. Incredible.

I’ve been to the Skamania Lodge for a number of Microsoft retreats over the years and the occasional DARPA meeting (back when DARPA spent more loot on venues for meetings). My company hosted a closed meeting of like-minded professionals in our space. Skamania was a perfect place for a meeting like that…just far enough off the beaten path that 80 or so participants disconnect from their work and connect with each other.

Room 421 is a very nice suite with two rooms attached. The suite’s living area is spacious with an incredible view.

Picture windows and a fireplace in the suite.

Looking into the kitchen/dining area.

The view itself (taken through a window).

The cloud filled vista somehow reminds me of Argentina.

My attached room, number 423 was nice, but dated. Seems like a time warp to the ’70s even though the hotel itself was constructed in 1993. There is something German about the functional nature of the architecture and the lines.

The bathrooms suck. No way around it. My shower was built over a fiberglass bathtub that squeaks and bounces as you step in and out. Bendy shower curtain rods and not enough space conspire to complete the suckage. Don’t come here for the showers…come for the view and the conference facilities.

The only way to capture the bathroom in bits is a through the mirror shot.

The shower. Not good. Mostly plastic.

On my way out here, I made a jag east to go to Powells Books. I’m pretty sure that Powells is the best bookstore on earth. Their fiction/lit section is incredible. If you even remotely like books, I recommend Powells.

Bottom line for Skamania is either a very low four showerheads or a very high three. Great place for a meeting, but not so great for a shower. Bring your own mixology.

Kennedy School, Portland, OR

January 12, 2010

2010 is starting out properly from a travel perspective.  The second hotel I spent some time in this year is another from my master list.  The McMenamins Kennedy School is an arty, interesting extravaganza of a hotel.  Created from the remains of school built in 1915, the hotel offers its own brewery, art house movies, and most importantly of all the Detention bar.

The rooms are all refabricated school rooms complete with chalkboards.  But I digress, and I must confess that the showers here are nothing to write home (or blog about).  Here is what the bathroom looks like:

Fortunately the rest of the hotel is so cool that they get a pass on the plastic shower cubicle.  This place is definitely worth a visit.

The Kennedy School earns a five showerheads rating.