Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Intourist PDX

Kind of a cryptic title: Intourist was this Soviet agency for handling tourists -- groups mainly, although occasionally a lone family would show up out of the blue, like we Urners that time, arriving in Tashkent on an Aeroflot from Kabul. PDX is the 3-letter airport code for Portland, which we're quite proud of -- you'll see signs like Welcome to PDX.

One of our star attractions is the Bagdad Theater (that's right, no h). Even some people in Washington, DC know it by now, because it's featured in What the Bleep Do We Know?, a film by some local space cases who managed to make the big time.

The Bagdad is usually for movies (Team America is playing these days), but is sometimes a venue for speakers, thanks to Powell's Books, another institution for which Portland is justly famous.

Recent speakers have included Amy Goodman, Jim Hightower, and Sean Astin who plays Sam Gangee in Lord of the Rings -- a pretty liberal line up (I'd say hobbits are pretty liberal, in the Shire at least, thanks in large part to Bilbo's influence, who got it from Gandalf). Multnomah County as a whole tends to lean liberal or even green (lots of Nader-huggers here). The rest of the state just has to grin and bear it a lot of the time.

The Bagdad was purchased and refurbished by McMenamins, a family of beer moguls who now sit astride what must be one of the most successful Portland-sourced businesses of all time. I'll spend quite a bit of time in these establishments, not just over beer with my friends, but at weddings, birthdays, company retreats, you name it. My wife and I celebrated a recent anniversary at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. And my mom and daughter went there for an adventuresome weekend on the Max (our local light rail) , even though neither drinks alcohol ("it's not required" as Intourist might put it).

PDX is fairly modest when it comes to tourist hype. We know we can't compete with Seattle, with its Space Needle and all. We're certainly not as big and famous as San Francisco. But I'd say we're worth a stop. Be sure to visit OMSI and our Omnimax theater.