Street walking in Portlandia

By Richard White, Community Strategist, Ground3 Landscape Architects

Portland is a flaneur’s delight as there is always something to discover just around the corner or on the next block up.  As our visit evolved, our Portlandia mantra became “just one more block” as it seemed just when we thought there was no point in going any further we’d find something that captured our interest on the next block - especially on Alberta Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. 

Perhaps Portland is good for flaneuring as its mantra is "keep Portland weird"  and to some extent flaneuring is looking for those weird off the beaten path places that are fun, quirky and on the edge.  Flaneuring is kinda like staring in your own  Portlandia TV show.  

I thought it would be interesting to share with you our top 10 flaneuring finds (FF).  “What is a flaneuring find” you ask?  It is a place you discouver while wandering aimlessly that you didn't even know you were looking for.   For me it is urban places, but it could be anywhere depending on what your passion is.  

Flaneuring is a great way to travel and explore a new place as you are open to enjoying the place on its own term and not based on someone else's preconceived suggestions.   It is about being open to the moment. 

Our Portlandia Flaneuring Finds were:

#1             The Good Mod, Downtown

#2             Axe Records, Alberta Avenue

#3             Bookwerks, Alberta Avenue

#4             Tonalli’s Doughnuts, Alberta Avenue

#5             House of Vintage, Hawthorne Boulevard

#6             Powell Books, Downtown

#7             William Temple House Thriftstore, Hoyt Street, Northwest District  

#8             Sunlan Lightbulbs, North Mississippi Avenue

#9             Lodekka Vintage Bus, North Williams Avenue   

#10           Zenka Street Artwork, Alberta Avenue


I have also added one extra spot at the end, but I haven't listed it so you will have to read to the end to find out what it is.   

Rationale for choices are in the captions accompanying the photos below.

Love to hear your comments about these finds, what have been your finds or your flaneur experiences. 

The Good Mod was an amazing find.  Just saw a sandwich board on the street and was waiting for Miss B so thought I'd take a chance and see what it was all about.  Flaneuring is about taking chances!  It wasn't easy to find and then there was an old elevator that looked pretty "iffy" but once you got up to the fourth floor of the old, almost empty warehouse building it was WOW!  The enormous entire floor was full of vintage furniture, hardware (numbers/letters) and artifacts.  We thought next time we are bringing a truck we could have filled it with finds.  You won't find this place in the tourist brochures. 

Little Axe Records is located just off Alberta Avenue but you could easily miss it as it is just a small cottage house that is hidden behind the garden.  It would be easy to dismiss, but for record hounds it is definitely a find.  Lots of listening stations and friendly knowledgeable staff.  

MONOGRAPH Bookwerks is across the street from Little Axe and it just as quirky. Open very limited hours, so best to check before you go.  Lots of art and architecture books, art and artifacts.  

Tonallis Doughnuts was a great find. No designer donuts or should I say doughnuts here, just good old fashion deep fried dough.  This is the real thing.  

Tonallis Doughnuts was a great find. No designer donuts or should I say doughnuts here, just good old fashion deep fried dough.  This is the real thing.  

House of Vintage is the gateway to the Hawthorne Boulevard experience.  It is packed to the rafters with vintage artifacts.  The entire boulevard is full of vintage shops selling mid-century modern clothing, home accessories, records, books and furniture. There are lots more flaneur finds that we could have included. 

Powell's Books is probably technically not a find as everyone knows about it and it is in all the must see and must do lists.  However, I did find a 50th Anniversary edition of the Jane Jacobs "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." I have been looking for a copy of this book for ages and then to get a 50th anniversary edition that was a find.  

William Temple Thrift Store was a great find a few blocks off of NW 23rd Avenue.  Had a good selection, including books and art.  It was our first day in Portlandia we found a nice piece for our thrift store art collection of unknown artists. 

Sunland Lighting Inc. on Mississippi Avenue has the most amazing windows I have every seen, each is a work of art.  This one features hundreds of different light bulbs, which is exactly what you would expect of the largest supplier of light bulbs in North America, maybe the world.  Who knew that there is such a thing as an artisanal light bulb store. The other storefront windows are just as visually exciting.  Three feature Star War collections and another is full of pencil sharpeners. 

The Lodekka bus is parked on a plaza on North Williams Ave. complete with its own garden outdoor living room.  Inside it is packed with vintage clothing.  It doesn't get much more bohemian that this.  The bus' nickname is "Ginny" and she operated in Liverpool from 1965 to 1982.  

Unknown artists artwork.  As we came out of the Blue Moon Cafe I was taking a photo of the alley and at first didn't see the two people at the corner.  Then realized they were working on an artwork that also had a QR code which animated the bug i.e. turned it into a sci-fi video.  I wish I had gotten her name. She was visiting from Columbia.   

Located  in the lobby of the historic Heathman Hotel is the tiny Cacao "bean to bar" chocolate maker.  You can easily miss it.  I learned that their is a difference between a chocolatier  who uses somebody else's chocolate and a chocolate maker of which there are only a handful in the US and two are  in Portland.  Try the decadent Classic Hot Chocolate and take home some Xocalatl chocolates.  

This blog is sponsored by Red Lion Hotels

If you like this blog you might like Window Licking in Portland



Thrifting in Edmonton, Red Deer and Airdrie

Had a great day thrifting in Edmonton, Red Deer and Airdrie today.  First stop was the Bible for Mission in Edmonton on 34th Ave.  Could not believe the selection of film and television books - hundreds of them.  Fortunately or unfortunately I am not a collector of this genre so I will left them all for someone else. 

This is just one of the shelves of entertainment books some older some brand new.  Good diversity. 

There were 18 shelves of books like this one.

Being a good flaneur, I also kept my eyes open for other interesting things to see and do on the way to BFM (Bible For Missions).  I noticed in one of the many oil patch services yards a collection of industrial equipment that looked like an amazing public art piece.  I had to go back an explore.   

How cool are these?  Not sure what they are called, some sort of crane.  They look like creatures right out of science fiction movie.   There is both a humanoid and robotic element to them that is fun!  Gotta love found art!  There is also a resemblance in my mind to Jonathan Borosky's Hammering Man (see image at end of blog). 

Next stop was the Value Village on 51st but no real finds there so it was off to Red Deer where the Salvation Army and Value Village are side by side.  The Sally Ann had a 50% off sale on books so I was in my glory. As I was checking the books a volunteer was cleaning up around me. Kinda annoying but I didn't say anything.  

I was happy when I found a signed copy of "Kid Dynamite" the Gerry James Story by Ron Smith and then the Punch Imlach's story "Heaven and Hell in the NHL" and several others for only a dollar.  As I was getting to the end of my book browsing the volunteer handed me a book and said "I think you might like this one."  I was shocked, it was a copy of "Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man" by Sandra B. Tooze with forward by Eric Clapton.  I said "Thanks!" and he replied as if we were best friends "I've been watching you and I thought you might like this."  How did he know that I collect books on blues history?  It was perfect.  He then told be about a new blues bar in town that I should check out and we chatted like best friends for a few minutes.

Muddy Waters: Mojo Man in great condition for $1.50...gotta love thrifting...

We decided to pass up on Value Village as the prices are usually too high for thrifters like us and there was a tornado warning so we thought best to get out of town and head to Airdrie where there is a Goodwill, Sally Ann and Community Thrift all within a few blocks.  

The Airdrie Goodwill is an new concept as it is both a donation centre and retail store. I hit the jackpot for shirts - FILA golf shirt, Descent long sleeve active wear shirt and three brand new casual crew neck shirts - $25!  I am good for the summer.

Sally Ann in Airdrie was jammed with stuff...this time it was records...50 cents....Boz Scags "Middle Man," Aretha's "Who's Zoomin' Who?" David Loggins "Apprentice" Maria Muldaur, Martha and the Muffins " Trance and Dance" Joan Armatrading "Me Myself I" and Joe Jackson "Night and Day." All in great condition.   $4 bucks!


It is a good day of thrifting when I come home with something new to read, listen to and wear.   


Jonathan Borosky's "Hammering Man" sculpture. 

The Little Blues Joints on the Prairies

By Richard White, April 3, 2013

NOTE: MEMPHIS BLUES FUNDRAISER: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, The Blues Can, noon till 5pm

TICKETS: $10 in advance at or $15 at the door

Double Header with TIM WILLIAMS and the MIKE CLARK BAND

CBMA congratulates Tim Williams and the Mike Clark Band, the top acts selected in the Solo/Duo and Band categories respectively, who will represent Southern Alberta at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee, Jan. 21 - 25, 2014.

YYC: Music City?

Quietly Calgary has been fostering the development of a diverse music scene from Saturday afternoon blues jams to international piano competitions.  It may not be the biggest or the best, but it is evolving into a very vibrant community.  So if you are looking for a music city to visit - Calgary is singing and playing! 

Perhaps it started way back in 1917 with the what is now the Kiwanis Music Festival, one of the largest amateur competitive classical music festivals in North America - 9.500 musicians ages 5 to 25 compete in 16 categories. This festival is held in March each year. 

Maybe the genesis was the 102 year old Mount Royal Conservatory which has evolved into one of the most respected music schools in Canada and internationally.  It will soon be home to the new Bella Concert Hall on the campus of Mt. Royal University.  

Piano Competition

The Honen's International Piano Competition has placed Calgary on the map for young emerging concert pianists from around the world wanting to launch their career.

But for me, it is the indie music venues and festivals that make living in Calgary a fun place to live and visit. Best bets this summer are Sled Island, June 19 to 22, 2013 and Calgary Folk Festival July 25 to 28, 2013.  

However, you can visit Calgary anytime as there is indie music happening in various venues everyday of the week. Read on to learn more.




It all started with the King Eddy an old hotel on the east end of the Downtown where blues singers travelling the circuit would stay and play.  It soon became the home of the blues in Calgary.  More recently it has fallen on hard times, but it will be rescued as part of the creation of the new National Music Centre. 

This is a rendering of the new National Music Centre currently under construction. It will be home to a renovated King Eddy as a performance venue, a museum that will house the second largest collection of keyboard instruments in the world, including Elton John's first piano. Recently, Gotye was artist in residence at the existing space experimenting with the different instruments. 

Calgary is home to several saturday afternoon jams - Blues Can, Ironwood and Mikey's Juke Joint are along the railway tracks in the City Centre. ote the jammers in this scene are two teenagers, brother and sister.  Calgary's music scene includes people of all ages and backgrounds which argues for a healthy future. 

One of Calgary's iconic music venues is the Ship & Anchor on the Red Mile on the southern edge of the City Centre.  It is home to a variety of genres of music. Recently it hosted a Stompin' Tom Connors tribute jam hosted by Tim Hus. 

olita's is an intimate room that has emerging singer songwriters every Sunday night.  Here Amy Thiessen plays with Russell Broom. It is also home to a very popular show Carly's Angels drag show. 

Sled Island is Calgary's answer to SXSW with over 250 bands at 30 venues, with comedy, film and art shows added to the mix.  Here is Calgary mayor Nenshi ( huge cultural champion) on the right introducing one of the acts.  Sled Island was started by Zak Pashak, then owner of music venue Broken City. One of his goals was to create an urban festival using multiple venues that would showcase Calgary's growing cultural programming. 

Tim Williams (background) has a regular Tuesday Blues gig at Mikey's Juke Joint.  He is a great storyteller as well as bluesman.  Here he is playing with Big  Dave Maclean who is in town from Winnipeg.  

Perhaps Calgary should brand itself as the "Little Blues Joint on the Prairies." 

venue, Calgary's leading lifestyle magazine recently identified Calgary's top 8 music venues as - Wine-Ohs, Broken City, Dicken's Pub, HiFi Club, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Mikey's Juke Joint & Eatery, The Palomino and The RePublik. 

Perhaps, I should let Tim have the last word on why Calgary is emerging as a new urban playground for musicians in North America.  Recently in an interview by Mike Bell, Calgary Herald music writer about his new CD launch and the Calgary music scene Tim said:

"despite the ebbs and flows over the years, the city is one that now has a pretty great infrastructure - including studios, venues and even's a pretty great place for even the blues to make a home."  

If you like this blog you might like these blogs:

Calgary: North America's newest music city


Tim Williams: Calgary's Adopted Bluesman

Beltline: North American's best hipster/GABEster Community

inks to websites listed in this blog:

Blues Can / Ironwood / Mikey's Juke Joint / WineOh's / Ship & Anchor