32: Plant the seeds

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds

For the last couple years, I have written a birthday post that goes over the year a bit, looks forward to the future, and sets a theme. I started doing this thanks to one of my birthday twins, Buster Benson, who’s been doing this for years. I started doing it at 30 and rather like the opportunity to reflect on what’s behind and anticipate what’s ahead. At 30, my theme was Be the conductor. At 31, my theme was Follow the fear, inspired by my sister Inara.

And this year? I have not really been thinking about themes, because I’ve been busy planning a wedding with my partner. This has been pretty awesome, and it has been an interesting thing to have as my primary focus.

I can’t remember what the big three scary things were last year, except for that one of them was applying to the Recurse Center.  I was convinced I wouldn’t get in, but I decided to let them make the decision, and I was awesomely wrong. Aside from my partner Nathan, nothing has changed my life in the past year as much as RC. Well, as long as we’re looking at positive changes.

I lost a lot and I shed a lot in the last year. Two friends in their early 30s died last summer, one quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and one from stage IV breast cancer. 30 and 34. I am smack in between how old they were, how old they somehow still are. They were differently important people in my life, and I am still not totally sure that the world has kept spinning without them.

Going to RC gave me the boost I needed to be sure that I really do enjoy programming. It is something that I will do all day if given the opportunity. It is something I even want to do when I am learning to live with a new layer of grief in my life. I practiced a hell of a lot of resiliency last year, and while I wish that life weren’t ripe with opportunities to do so, that’s not the way things go.

I came back to Portland, interviewed at my old company for a role on the engineering team, and was told I wasn’t a fit. It stung, but I think I’d already grieved most of the loss over the course of the summer. I turned my personal leave into an actual closing of the door, having satisfied my curiosity as to what would happen if I really went for it. It wouldn’t work out, is what would happen. And now I know. Sometimes I can make peace with not being enough, or not being the right fit, even if it’s something I really wanted at the time. I am not sure if this is one of those times, but I’m working on it.

And then we made space for life in those gaps. We got engaged under a tree in Central Park, and we exchanged engagement things (neither is a ring). We came back to Portland. We started going to an amazing little gym, something I’ve been meaning to do for years. We got a niece (I guess legally, Nathan will be Uncle Nathan in three weeks, but I’ve just been calling him that anyway. He’s got a knack with little kids and it’s a joy to see him in that role).

In three weeks, we’ll be married. I have a small amount of complicated feelings about this being my second wedding, but mostly this whole process is affirming to me that this is a terrifically good choice this time. I am engaged with my life, I am engaged with this process, I am doing something big (which I don’t know how to do) with my partner, and we’re having a really good time with it. People keep asking me if it’s stressful, if it’s the worst. Making a guest list was the worst — it taps every stressy part of me (“just rate all the people you know by how much you care about them!!”). Every other part of the process has been a joy.

What’s this year about? Oh boy, if I only knew. It’s about filling in space. It’s about building things where there’s been necessary demolition. It’s about planting seeds and watering the garden. I am seeing a theme here, despite my total belief that there wasn’t one yet.

How shall we put that, then? Plant the seeds. Yes.

PyCon Portland: vegan food!

It’s almost PyCon! And if you’re vegan, you know what that means: the mystery of conference food (and a ton of enthusiastic Pythonistas). Will there be good options available to help you remain your sharpest for learning and socializing? Maybe!

PyCon definitely tries, but a prepared vegan is a happier vegan. My experience with most conferences (that aren’t Open Source Bridge) varies widely: lots of “here’s a plate of raw vegetables! and some fruit salad,” or my favorite, “it’s pasta; I’m sure it’s fine.” Sometimes I want more than a risky bet or spending lunch asking questions of half a dozen people.

Below is a curated, opinionated list of local restaurants, with a priority on places that are easily accessible from the convention center (or too awesome to not include). (TriMet is a great resource. The PDX Bus app is great if you’re on iOS.)

Generally speaking, HappyCow.net and VegGuide.org are solid for finding options, though the info is sometimes a bit out of date, so a quick visit to a place’s website/an actual telephone call is prudent. Yelp is totally hit or miss for me. Let’s dig in.

General notes:

If you want a quieter walking street, avoid Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd or Grand Ave.

We don’t have sales tax here. Really!

Jaywalking is uncommon here. Like, really uncommon. If you must, please especially keep an eye out for the MAX trains. And people on bikes.

Something to add? Something to correct? Hit me up on Twitter (@li3n3), or leave a comment here.


Don’t go to Robo Taco. They are ostensibly vegan-friendly but I’ve lost track of how many times a friend has been served “surprise” meat or cheese in a “vegan” burrito, and no one there seems to care. There are too many other good options.

It’s complicated

Voodoo Doughnut is a Portland thing that outsiders get really excited about. They do have a lot of vegan donuts (such as apple fritters!!!). And that’s cool. They are not fancy.  If you want a really exciting/delicious vegan donut, go to Blue Star earlier in the day (several locations; several vegan donuts — just ask), or go to Sweetpea Saturday morning.

 Actually near the Convention Center (within a 20 minute walk or transit, ordered by walking distance)

Sizzle Pie (vegan-friendly pizza)

Where: 624 E. Burnside St. (google maps link)

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday: 11 AM – 3 AM, Friday -Saturday: 11 AM – 4 AM (very unusually late for Portland)

How far to walk, from the Convention Center: 10 minutes

How far with transit: 4-5 minutes, on the streetcar ($2), or the bus ($2.50)

What have they got? Three vegan slice options daily, or whole pies.

Anything else? The Rabbits salad (with the vegan ranch) is particularly great. They also deliver! And they’ve got brunch pizza on the weekend (or any day, if you order a whole pie). You probably DO need hash browns on your pizza.

Nicholas Restaurant (vegan-friendly Lebanese/Middle Eastern food)

Where: 318 SE Grand Ave

Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:00–21:00. Sun: Noon–21:00.

How far to walk: 12 minutes

How far with transit: 4-5 minutes on the bus or streetcar

What have they got? Tons of well-marked vegan options. The Vegan Mezza is an easy option and great for sharing.

Anything else? If you’ve never had toum, it’s whipped garlic dip, and it’s magical. You will probably get a ton of food — it’s not too hard to turn it into a couple meals. There was a spate of gossipy posts on one of the local Facebook groups about ostensibly un-vegan food; I still trust them but it’s okay if you don’t.

Prasad East (mostly-vegan vegetarian health food)

Where: 21 NE 12th Ave (inside the Portland Rock Gym)

Hours:  Mon – Fri: 7:30 to 21:30, Saturday: 9:00 to 20:30, Sunday: 9:00 to 17:30

How far to walk: 16 minutes

How far with transit: 8-13 minutes (two buses, or a bus and a streetcar)

What have they got? Lots of healthy stuff: bowls, wraps, juices, smoothies.

Anything else? This is a newer location of a place that’s been downtown for a few years now. Haven’t been to this location yet! I assume they also have a ton of steamed unseasoned kale (bleh) and really good juice (yum).

Black Water Bar (all-vegan bar/food)

Where: 835 NE Broadway

Hours: 18:00 – 1:00 AM, every day

How far to walk: 17 minutes

How far with transit: 14 minutes, using the streetcar ($2)

What have they got? Delicious trashy bar food and punk music.

Anything else? Not open for lunch, but great for that “I need black walls and a stiff drink” feeling.

Hungry Tiger (vegan-friendly dive-y bar food)

Where: 207 SE 12th Ave

Hours:  Monday – Friday 15:00 – 2:30 am, Saturday – Sunday: 11:00 am – 2:30 am (brunch until 15:00)

How far to walk: 18 minutes

How far with transit: 10-15 minutes, a bus or two or maybe a bus and a streetcar

What have they got? Vegan and non-vegan bar food, mostly. Vegan options are prepared on dedicated equipment. Trashy-ish if you want. Salads if you don’t.

Anything else? I haven’t been here for years, but my friend Ann, who lives in San Francisco, swears by this place. They DO have tot-chos (nachos made with tater tots instead of chips), though, so…maybe she’s got a point.

A little further afield

Sweetpea Baking Company (all-vegan bakery/sandwiches)

Where: 1205 SE Stark St.

Hours: Mon-Sat: 8:00 – 18:00, Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00

How far to walk: 21 minutes

How far with transit: 12 minutes, bus or streetcar

What have they got? Pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a vegan bakery. Also they have killer sandwiches.

Anything else? This is arguably my least favorite vegan bakery in Portland, but I have high standards, so even my least favorite is still probably great. (This is the aforementioned Ann’s favorite Portland bakery.) Their sandwiches are also generally excellent, but I had a super meh one a few weeks ago.

Side note: Sweetpea is part of the “vegan mini-mall,” along with Herbivore (cookbooks, vegan swag, terrific cards, socks, so much more), Scapegoat (tattoo shop), and Food Fight! (see below). All of them rule and are doing good work.
Food Fight! (vegan grocery)

Where: 1217 SE Stark St.

Hours: 9:00 – 18:00, “every f’ing day”

How far to walk: 21 minutes

How far with transit: 12 minutes, bus or streetcar

What have they got? Sandwiches, chips, jerky, vegetables, more junk food than you can shake a stick at, lip balm, a whole fridge full of vegan cheese, and more. And sass. Plenty of sass.

Anything else? Their tips go directly to charity! Check out the bucket for the current one.

Rabbits Cafe (all-vegan cafe)

Where: 111 SW 5th Ave (downtown, across the river), in Big Pink, the big pink skyscraper

Hours: Mon-Fri: 08:00 – 15:00

How far to walk: 22 minutes (across a bridge!)

How far with transit: 9 minutes on the MAX Green Line light rail

What have they got? Bowls, wraps, salads, smoothies!

Anything else? This is the indoor rebirth of one of my favorite food carts ever, Sonny Bowl. Sonny Bowl made me believe that salad-hating me could genuinely love a bowl, or even a kale salad.

Fire on the Mountain (vegan-friendly wings)

Where: three locations; closest one to the Convention Center is at 1708 E Burnside St. The one further out east has way more space; the one further up north is a wee hole in the wall. This one isn’t huge, but it’ll do.

Hours: 11 am to midnight, every day

How far to walk: 22 minutes

How far with transit: 15-22 minutes (ugh), two buses or a streetcar & bus

What have they got? A crapton of meat, yes, but also two vegan wing options and tater tots and salads.

Anything else? I LOVE the vegan drumsticks (they’re on a sugarcane stick), especially with the Jamaican Jerk sauce (moderately spicy). I love them so much. My partner hates them, but loves the Portland Wings, if I remember correctly. Don’t roll your eyes too hard when they ask if you want ranch or bleu cheese on the side.

 Blossoming Lotus (vegan restaurant, Portland-classy)

Where: 1713 NE 15th Ave. (just north of Broadway)

Hours: Mon-Fri: lunch 11:00-15:00, dinner 17:00 – 21:00, except Fri & Sat dinner is 17:00 – 22:00. Weekend Brunch 9:30-15:00.

How far to walk: 23 minutes

How far with transit: 10-20 minutes (a bus or two)

What have they got? Lots of raw and non-raw food. An ever-changing menu of healthy food that does and doesn’t taste Super Healthy.

Anything else? This place is so dang good. They have ace cocktails and mocktails, too.

Good options if you’ve got more time to spare

Vtopia Cheese Shop and Deli (…vegan cheese shop. and sit-down cafe)

Where: 1628 SW Jefferson St.

Hours: (are you ready for this; I didn’t even 24-hour-ify these) Mon. & Tue.: Closed.

Wed & Thu: Lunch 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Fri.: Lunch 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Sat.: Lunch 11 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sun.: Lunch 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

How far to walk: ~45 minutes (urban hike!)

How far with transit: 17 minutes (one bus)

What have they got? More vegan cheese than you can shake a stick at (both their own, and guest cheeses from other companies), and a fun happy hour. Sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, other food.

Anything else? The caprese disappointed the hell out of me; everything else I have had here has been super good. Pick up a wedge of something fun to take home!

Homegrown Smokehouse and Deli (vegan barbecue)

Where: 1628 SW Jefferson St. (same building as Vtopia; the door on the far left)

Hours:  Closed Monday/Tuesday. Wed- Sat 12 noon-19:00. Sunday 12 noon-17:00.

How far to walk: ~45 minutes

How far with transit: 17 minutes, one bus

What have they got? A TON of vegan barbecue. Long story short, the owner used to do meat barbecue, wanted to open a cart, and his kids convinced him to go vegan and do that instead. (There’s a cart up in North Portland, too!)

Anything else? The Macnocheeto is something I sometimes believe I could live off of (it is delicious and huge). There’s mac ‘n’ cheese in a burrito. Why not?

Back to Eden Bakery (vegan bakery; also happens to be gluten-free)

Where: 2217 NE Alberta St. (there’s also a cart down on SE Division)

Hours: 8:00 am to 22:00, daily

How far to walk: ~a little over an hour

How far with transit: 25-40 minutes, one or two buses

What have they got? A ton of savory and sweet baked goods. Cake, pie, muffins, donuts, soft serve, salads, wraps, cashew tarts, sundaes…

Anything else? I love this place. Hands-down my favorite Portland vegan bakery, and that remained true when they dropped the gluten a couple years ago (it is the only gluten-free stuff I happily eat; I generally love my gluten). Really creative, fun flavors, and really simple ones, too. Everyone here is SO DANG KIND. There’s an evening sundae happy hour (at least I think there still is).