☞ Cans! It Was Full of Cans!
“Have you been to The Gorge? Oh, you have to go. It’s beautiful this time of year. The waterfalls are amazing.”
“Have you been to Mount Hood? Oh, you have to go. It’s beautiful this time of year. The views are breathtaking.”
“Have you been to the lava tubes? Oh, you have to go. They’re beautiful this time of year. Watch out for the lava, though, because it’s actually molten rock that will kill you.”
The most popular thing to do in Portland is to leave Portland. For a town that takes pride in being a cultural hotspot, its inhabitants sure are quick to bolt outta town whenever they get the chance.
So, in an effort to embrace the lifestyle of my new hometown, last weekend I did just that. When in Portland, do as the Portlanders do: GTFO.
I wasn’t about to go to hiking or lavatubeing or any of that nonsense, though. I’m not ready for that on either on a psychological or a preparedness level. (Amazon is backordered on lavaboots in my size.)
No, if I was going to get out of town, it needed to be something more my speed. My speed being extremely slow and requiring minimal amounts of physical exertion.
As it happened, my housemate was taking a day trip to Astoria, Oregon on Saturday. ORLY. Sit in a car for a couple hours, walk around in trying to decide on a place to eat, then drive back to Portland? That is precisely my speed.
Besides, as a former resident of Astoria, Queens, I felt it was my duty to compare and contrast the east coast and the west coast Astoria. You know, for like, science or something.
So my housemate and I hopped in a car (or, as they’re called here in Portland: “a bicycle-less carriage”) and headed westward.
Like Astoria, Queens, Astoria, Oregon is named for John Jacob Astor, the pelt magnate. The first multi-millionaire in American history. The original One Percenter. (No, seriously, at the time of his death, his net worth was 1% of America’s GDP. Crazy.)
And, like Astoria, Queens, despite the city bearing his name, John Jacob Astor never set foot in Astoria, Oregon. He just sent his boys out there to call dibzies on the land, sell some fur, get money, get paid. That was in 1811, which makes Astoria the oldest U.S. settlement on the west coast. Damn.
As we rolled into town, there was a distinct historic feeling to the place. Not 1811 historic, but definitely a city with some history. It felt like a town that was once hustling and bustling, but was now rather deficient in both hustle and bustle.
The lack of hustle and/or bustle may have been partially attributed to the fact that our first stop was a cannery museum.
A cannery museum?
Yes, a cannery museum. This happened.
The Bumble Bee Cannery Museum is at the end of a rickety old pier (my favorite kind of pier) at the eastern edge of Astoria. Turns out Bumble Bee Foods was founded in Astoria back in the day. When JJ Astor’s pelt business dried up, BB Foods took the reigns as Astoria’s claim to fame. Housed in the oldest still-standing cannery building in Astoria (did I mention it was rickety?), the museum is chock full o’boats and nets and and cans and all sorts of other other cannery-related paraphernalia that you could probably lose a few fingers in if you weren’t careful. It was good times.
After getting our can on, we made our way to the “Astoria Column.”
The Astoria Column is exactly what you think it is.
Wait, what do you think it is?
Okay, wow. No, the Astoria Column is not what you think it is.
Also, that’s really gross.
The Astoria Column is a 125-foot concrete pillar on top of a hill east of downtown, offering an amazing view of the city from the lookout at its top. Commissioned in 1926 by one of Johnny J. Astor’s great grandchildren, it is the tallest point in Astoria. There’s a mural that runs up and around the outside of the column, highlighting milestones in Astoria’s history. (Spoiler: there’s lots of fur involved.) Good stuff.
Nowadays though, the column’s main purpose is as the spot where tourists throw little balsa wood planes that the gift shop at the base of column sells you for $2. Basically it’s sanctioned littering. Real classy, guys.
(Which isn’t to say I didn’t buy one… I had to. Because I’m a guy. And guys like throwing things from high places.)
(Particularly balsa wood airplanes.)
Canneries and columns are great and all, but no tour of Astoria would be complete without swinging by The Goonies House.
Ah yes, The Goonies. Sure, it’s the oldest U.S. settlement on the west coast and Bumblebee Tuna and blah blah blah, but Astoria’s true claim to fame in the modern era is its ties to a kid’s movie from 1985.
Right. So The Goonies was filmed in Astoria. The old prison that the Fratellis break out of is downtown, the rickety dock from the car chase is adjacent to the rickety Cannery Museum dock, and yes, the “Goonies House” where Sean Astin and Josh Brolin live still stands. This is a big deal for some, and a major annoyance to the people who live in the house where The Goonies was filmed. I cannot even fathom how many Truffle Shuffles and “Heyyyyyy you guys!” photo ops have taken place in the driveway of those poor souls’ home over the years. Me, I was respectful, I just broke into their attic and stole an old treasure map. I’m considerate.
And, with The Goonies checked off the list, it was time to head back to Portland.
So there you have it. Like a real Portlander, I got out of Portland. Granted, it was only a day trip, and yes, it didn’t involve any hiking or spelunking, but I think it still counts. Baby steps.
Next time I’m thinking lava tubes. I hear they’re beautiful this time of year. Minus the 23rd degree burns, of course.