Off The Record is a recurring, feature here on the Drunkard that will marry two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native. Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without, be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.
Willy Vlautin may be best known as the chief singer-songwriter in the acclaimed Americana group Richmond Fontaine, but with the recent release (and success) of his debut novel The Motel Life, the artist is reaching an entirely new audience outside of his music base. A Nevada transplant who calls Portland, Oregon home, Vlautin reflects on some of his favorite northwestern haunts.
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Willy Vlautin from Richmond Fontaine’s Portland, Oregon
1) Portland Meadows Race Track: This was my first favorite place when I moved to Portland and it remains that way today. If it closes I swear I’ll have to move. It’s a great old winter horse track. It can hold 10,000 people, but only around 500-1,000 show up to see them run live. It’s low level horse racing at its best. All ages and races are there, and it’s so empty it’s like having the whole place to yourself.
2) St. Johns: This is a section of Portland. It’s the last place in the city that has a good amount of grit. There’s a great strip of bars. Dads, The Wishing Well, and the best the New Rose. A great OTB/ Bar. It has a couple of taquerias, an old movie theater,a pretty good used bookstore, and even a warehouse that has live wresting. It’s where I spend most of my time when I feel like walking around.
3) Powell’s bookstore: You just can’t beat it. Any book you’re looking for they have, or they can find. It’s just the best. It’s where I first found some great old Jim Thompson’s I’d never seen in print before.
4) Toms Diner: Well, I’m a huge fan of the empty diner. This place has booths that you can sit in all day if you want. There’s a great old waitress named Vicky who’s about as nice as they come. She knows when to stand over you and knows when to disappear, and the foods just good enough that you can go everyday if you have the dough.
5) Poor Richards: It’s a steakhouse that caters to mostly old couples, but it has a great bar with a fireplace. No one but regulars go there, the drinks are strong, and like Tom’s they have these great booths you can sit in for as long as you want. It’s the best bar in town for a daytime drink. It’s always half empty and dark.
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Previously: Off The Record :: Josh Rouse (Valencia, Spain)
Previously: Off The Record :: John Vanderslice (San Francisco)
MP3: Richmond Fontaine :: Capsized
MP3: Richmond Fontaine :: $87 And A Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse The Longer I Go
Amazon: Richmond Fontaine – Thirteen Cities
www.willyvlautin.com ++ www.richmondfontaine.com ++ www.myspace.com/richmondfontaine