March 02, 2005
You Cannot Petition The Council With Voodoo!
In Which We Experience A Creme-y Vision Of Little Italians And Coin Tosses
So, of course, this morning saw the answer to the great mystery of the week: Just why were the minds behind Voodoo Doughnut scheduled to speak before City Council? Someday, we hope, it will make at least a brief footnote in some future edition of Jewel Lansing's book, Portland: People, Politics, and Power, 1851-2001.
We won't be entirely certain until we watch the cable rerun of the session, but we're fairly certain that Jay Boss Rubin delivered his testimony in the form of some kind of verse. There's no way for us to properly do it justice, either in form or content, but we need at least to explain the topic.
As it turned out, Rubin had signed up to testify against the proposed Little Italy development, whose backers initially have envisioned siting the project near Ankeny Plaza in downtown Portland, although Gerding/Edlen recently has been pitching it as part of their Burnside Bridgehead proposal.
(We should note here that we once said of the Little Italy project that "we certainly have no inherent objection to the idea". That little explanatory digression will become important in a moment or two.)
"I come to talk about development today," Rubin said, "but not that kind that's benevolent." He referred to a group of developers "planning an invasion of little Italians" and characterizaed it as "time to make a buck of an ethnicity trend".
"Once upon a time I too dreamed of being Italian," Rubin confessed, before launching into a discussion of living in Boston. Drawing attention to Little Italys in other cities, he called them the result of "multiple generations of actual Italian immigrants, not some developer's daydream" and urged Portland "to quit playing prospector and work with the City we already have".
(Really, we can't do justice to Rubin's testimony. If we get our act together, we should have an mp3 of it to post late tonight.)
"While Portland becomes a collection of divided communities," Rubin said near the end, "let's pretend that Lovejoy won those coin tosses, and rename our city to Boston."
Now, it's certainly not difficult to win us over if you make reference to the way in which Portland became so known, rather than indeed and instead being called Boston. More importantly, Rubin simply is correct: You can't create something like a Little Italy out of whole cloth. That proposed development, we now understand, is little more than developer kitsch and tourist fakery -- whether intended to be so or not.
Which is why we went out of our way to highlight that we once claimed to have no particular objection to the Little Italy proposal. After this morning's testimony from Jay Boss Rubin, we've changed our minds.
All of which is still just one-half of the Voodoo Doughnut appearance before City Council this morning. Rubin was immediately followed by Tres Shannon, one of Voodoo's owners, who arrived with pictures of Mayor Tom Potter's participation in one of their midnight doughnut-eating contests, and more than one pink box of doughhnuts.
"In these boxes," Shannon said, "we have some Portland Cremes". For those who don't already know, their Portland Creme, as described by their website, is a "raised doughnut filled with creme and covered in chocolate with two eyes".
Shannon called for officially designating that on this side of the Mississippi, the Boston Creme would be known as the Portland Creme. He mused about having "some kind of bet with Boston" -- a rivalry in which we could even reenact the coin toss.
For what it's worth, we're all over that last bit.
"The Boston Creme is just a pastry," Shannon said. But "when you add vision -- you add the eyeballs -- it becomes Portland Creme".
Now, we have to admit that this likely is the best start to a Council session we've ever seen, although our reasons are purely subjectve and personal. Two communications in a row which compare Portland and Boston, and reference the historical coin toss which gave our City its name? Especially given our other obsession, it's a good thing the Voodoo Doughnut people never responded to our email about why they were appearing before Council, because we never would have been able to keep it a secret.
No word on whether or not City Council indeed will officially declare that we now will use Portland Creme rather than Boston Creme, although in all the confusion and amusement, we think we might have heard Commissioner Sam Adams jokingly make a motion to do so.