Details, Portland, Ore.
The real duo hails from Northern England (Perry) and Santa Barbara, Calif., (Kelly) and eagerly chatted up my friends and me about their fledgling business, called Antler; their favorite spots to eat and drink; and most of all, their love of Portland.
This encounter proved to be the first of many such camera-ready moments with the real characters populating this Pacific Northwest city of nearly 600,000. I went to Portland to find out whether the actual place would live up to the politically correct, artisan-nurturing, locavore paradise that the show both celebrates and sends up.
But I didn’t want to simply retrace the steps of the series, which is filmed entirely on location. Instead, I aimed to star in my own version of “Portlandia.” In a place where one of the downtown landmarks is a mural exhorting people to “Keep Portland Weird,” I suspected that I’d find plenty of material.
And I was right.
Episode 1: Hipster HQ
For my hotel, I chose the Ace, a boutique property that figures prominently as The Deuce in a Season 1 episode of “Portlandia,” and rightfully so: The hotel has a retro, lived-in look, pairing vintage-style downscale furniture with upscale amenities. Imagine an old hotel from a black-and-white 1940s B movie spiffed up with high-thread-count sheets, a trendy restaurant-bar with mixology-inspired cocktails and a cafe serving a favorite local coffee, Stumptown.
I quickly discovered one of the qualities that sets Portland apart from so many cities with farm-to-table restaurants, small-batch beer and spirits producers and boutiques brimming with locally sourced products: In Portland, the hipsters who work at the Ace and the other restaurants and shops I visited seemed genuinely friendly and mostly free of the bad attitude typical of their brethren elsewhere. My travel companions and I dubbed this quality “Portland-nice.”
As in the show, however, those who stray from Portland’s mostly easygoing script might be met with a vexed look and a cross word, but rarely a raised voice.
When another guest interrupted my check-in at the Ace to ask a question, the front-desk clerk wrinkled his brow at the offending party, while politely fielding her query. He then apologized to me for the disruption, which hadn’t even registered with my Northeastern sensibility.
“That is so rude,” he said, shaking his head.