So much has been lost to COVID—parties, movie theaters, bad dates. (It has been months since a young lawyer has had the opportunity to, on our very first meeting, read me his essay about how ABBA gave him the courage to come out.) This weekend, Portland Monthly senior editor Eden Dawn and her husband, Ashod Simonian, plan to honor those losses and provide some relief.
Last month, Dawn and Simonian published the Portland Book of Dates, a 150-page guide that covers the best date spots in Oregon and SW Washington. (This week, it landed at no. 8 on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association best-seller list.) As they were writing the book throughout 2019, seeking romantic spots from Pendleton to Yachats, their plan was to host a blowout release party when the book published. Then the world ended (sort of), and Dawn and Simonian had to regroup.
“I’m uncomfortable with the idea of just selling yourself,” Dawn says. “I like making and attending events where everyone is having a nice time. That’s a good party. Everyone should be having a nice time, not just the host.” So this Sunday, on Valentine’s Day, she and Simonian have partnered with the Hollywood Theatre to present an hourlong virtual event called Bad Dates, which will double as a promo push for the Portland Book of Dates and a fundraiser for the nonprofit moviehouse. Tickets are $7, and all of the proceeds will go to the Hollywood’s resiliency fund, which helps fund maintenance and keep the organization afloat during COVID.
The event will feature a slew of notable Portlanders detailing date mishaps—the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis; radio host Tra'Renee Chambers; beloved drag queen Poison Waters; musicians Laura Gibson and Dave Depper; B. Frayn Masters of Back Fence PDX—plus a few surprise guests. The interviews were prerecorded on Zoom (to avoid tech pitfalls and to edit conversations down to "the best stuff"), but Dawn and Simonian will host live from their living room, providing connective tissue between segments and fielding questions in a post-event Q&A.
It will mark the end of a long journey that began on a trip to the Washougal River in 2018, where the idea for the Portland Book of Dates was born. After a year spent traversing the state, going on a whopping 155 dates, and producing their first collaborative project of this scale, Dawn says she and Simonian have learned a lot about one another. "Ashod and I are super-social creatures. When we're sad, we band together to try to create something that feels fun for others," Dawn says. "It's why we did the book." The event, she hopes (despite labeling Valentine's Day "a bullshit holiday"), will provide a V-Day escape for anyone looking to remember a world where you could get a little too drunk at Darcelle's or push through stilted small talk at Nostrana. And like the best parties, it's a onetime engagement—it won't be available to view once it wraps on Sunday night.
"People are telling personal stuff, and it doesn't necessarily need to live on for forever," Dawn says. "It's like if you went to the Perfume Genius show, and you saw it, and you had a magical time, and then you're like, 'Sorry you missed it. You had to be there.'"
8 p.m. Sunday, February 14, $7, hollywoodtheatre.org
Note: In normal times, Dawn and this writer share an office at Portland Monthly, though this book was not a work project, and that’s not the reason we’re covering it now.