PacNW Trip Part 1 of 3: Portland and Olympia


About two weeks ago, my family and I embarked on a trip to the PacNW. Our first stops didn’t entail sightseeing or food but friends. We got off to an excellent start by going straight from PDX to having coffee with my old friend Aaron Hartman.

When Aaron and I first met almost 20 years ago in Seattle, he was playing stand-up bass for ICU’s second or third show. Giant Robot mag must have been on its fourth or fifth issue, so I wrote about them, they stayed at my house for a number of tours, and we became good friends.

ICU became IQU before he played with Old Time Relijun and now Girls in Trouble. GR ran its course, too. But Aaron and I keep in touch and now we talk about our families as well as the bands we see and our friends that are in them. It’s always great to catch up with him.


Jeff Sturges and I were English majors at UCLA who became friends because we both skateboarded to class. (This was the later mid ’80s when hardly anyone skated.) We started playing dominoes after class and going to punk rock shows together, and remained friends after he transferred to Santa Cruz and moved to Seattle before settling in Portland. I’ve managed to crash at his place in each of the towns.

This is the first time we’ve gotten our kids together and of course they were awesome walking through the smallest, most unsavory Chinatown I’ve ever seen, crossing a double suspension bridge, and going on a pilgrimage to Powell’s (the Amoeba of bookstores) where we saw hundreds of readers lined up for a book signing by Jimmy Carter. I love Portland, but when did Reading Frenzy move? I loved that shop!

On the way back to his pad, we stopped by Jeff’s community garden and the  utility land next door that was repurposed into a playground (either of which could provide material for a Portlandia sketch) -and had dinner at the Kennedy School after meeting up with Jeff’s wife Rebecca. The former elementary school campus was turned into a boutique hotel, nice restaurant, and venue for movie screenings, community discussions, AA meetings, and cigar smoking. Interesting!


It was tough to leave Jeff and and his family the next morning, but I looked forward to taking Eloise to the Cradle of Indie Punk. The first time I visited Nikki McClure in Olympia, she was baking a pie when Tae Won Yu and I walked through the door. She was baking a pie this time, too.


Hanging out at Nikki, Jay T., and Finn’s house is uncannily like one of Nikki’s much-loved calendars or children’s books illustrated via paper cuts. Baking pies and crumbles. Picking blackberries and plums. Swimming the Puget Sound. A barbecue on the beach (with fellow K Records musician Lois Maffeo and Eric). We never even had to leave the property during our much-too-brief stay.


It was super inspiring to see Nikki and Jay T.’s seamless working and living spaces. They both do what they love, are masters of paper and wood, respectively, and are able to share their processes with their son. What a cool environment for a kid to live in (not to mention an impressive library of comics and stash of model kits) and what a great way for a family to grow together.


As we began our drive to Seattle and eventually Vancouver, we attempted to take a photo of the traffic sign that includes both “Sleater-Kinney” (like the band) and “Martin Way” (like the Beat Happening lyric) but our camera’s SD card acted up. We had to settle for individual shots, so I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Part 2 of 3: Vancouver BCPart 3 of 3: Seattle

Author: martinkendallwong2014

Co-founder of Giant Robot magazine (RIP) and Save Music in Chinatown (since 2013)

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