Lenny Kravitz leaning on a table in his farm compound in Brazil

There’s a lot going on right now. Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment. Keep doing that!

Our lives are not one thing, though, and you’re also probably looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album that might help you shut out the world or understand it a little better. To get the wheels turning, here’s the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week, from Jerry Orbach to Cowboy Bebop.  

Architectural Digest Open Door Tours

Picture this: Lenny Kravitz is walking you through his farm compound in rural Brazil. He has not opened his eyes in several minutes. “That used to belong to Ingrid Bergman,” he intones softly, gesturing to a plexiglass piano. Not doing it for you? Might I recommend Maggie Gyllenhaal, rocking a bouffant, gingerly stroking a theremin in her multilevel Brooklyn townhouse, whispering, “This is the theremin,” or Dakota Johnson, in a baggy blazer, staring you dead in the eyes and saying, “I love limes.”

Architectural Digest, like Bon Appétit before it, has made a staggeringly successful pivot to YouTube, but the difference is that you can watch AD’s content without being reminded of the toxic conditions that produced it. I take that back—you can watch it because it owns the toxic conditions that produced it. There are no faux niceties here. This is unchecked privilege colliding with celebrity worship in discreet six- to 12-minute packages, and reader, it is delicious. The magazine’s Open Door series takes you through the homes (sometimes second or third or fourth) of famous faces from Julianne Moore to Mandy Moore, with less stilted banter than a Vogue 73 Questions video and way more dopamine than any show on HGTV. 

Delusional millionaires coo about their wooden bathtubs, stroke their Banksys, blow past their $10,000 hot tubs with a “this old thing?” and absolutely rocket you from your sad little life into an alternate dimension filled with floating bookshelves and home recording studios and gorgeous linens. If the videos generally make me a strange mix of catatonic and smug, they’re not completely useless: the Nate Berkus/Jeremiah Brent episode that I watched last night after mainlining old episodes of Frasier (we’re in full-blown escape mode here, friends) finally inspired me to replace my awful bedding. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor 

Cowboy Bebop

For those of us who are still dutifully holed up, masked up, and perhaps fed up with the same old streaming recommendations, Cowboy Bebop is a godsend. The 1998 television show is beloved by generations of anime fans for its stylish presentation, endearing characters and unique take on sci-fi. The show focuses on the crew of bounty hunters scraping by aboard the spaceship Bebop: effortlessly smooth former mob hitman Spike Spiegel, ex-cop (with a heart of gold, duh) Jet Black, amnesiac queen of the triple-cross Faye Valentine, wunderkind hacker Radical Edward, and a Corgi named Einstein.

They wear cool clothes, they say cool things, they fly cool spaceships—and always find a way to just miss the big score that will get them out of this business forever. The show also features one of the best title sequences of all time, a pulse-quickening, finger-snapping 99 seconds that perfectly encapsulates its entire sensibility. At 30 minutes a cut, it never overstays its welcome, and episodes are available on Hulu in both dubbed and subtitled versions. —Brian Breneman, deputy art director

Harlem River Blues

I’ve always had a deep love for Americana and the country-folk genre. With the loss of John Prine this year from COVID-19 complications, it felt like things couldn’t get much worse for the scene. That was until August 20, when singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle passed from a probable overdose.

Justin, the son of country rocker Steve Earle, carved his own path with ease. A longtime fan, I quickly threw on his 2010 album Harlem River Blues after hearing of his death. With that release (his third), Earle continued to expand on his early gifts: telling stories that resonate. But the growth from the last two albums was clear. Harlem River Blues was bigger, heavier, and meant to last. From the poetic and idealistic “One More Night in Brooklyn” to the solemn “Workin’ for the MTA,” Earle transcended genres with Harlem River Blues, singing lyrics that fit the blues with a sound that weaved between gospel, roots rock, and other remnants from decades past. Riley Blake, editorial intern

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

If you didn’t need therapy before 2020, you know you need it now. But if you’re like me and you’re still pushing it to the bottom of your to-do list, here’s your gateway therapist in book form. And for only $28 shipped right to your door? A steal. In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb is both a therapist and a therapy patient. Her amusing and inspiring stories from both sides of the couch will challenge you to take a closer look in the mirror. On the off chance that reading isn’t your thing, don’t despair. ABC is developing a television series based on the book. So, stay tuned! —Morgan Westling, editorial intern

The Shawshank Redemption

Summer is the season of watching things I should have watched a long, long time ago. “Oh yeah, I’ll totally check that out,” a younger me once said, knowing damn well I’d just go back to watching The Simpsons for six hours instead of putting on, say, The Godfather. In all my years of gazing into screens, I just never found the time to watch Al Pacino tell his wife to never ask him about his business. But that was last summer. This summer I watched The Shawshank Redemption (now streaming on Hulu).
About a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her lover, The Shawshank Redemption annoyed me when I was a kid. It was my dad’s movie. Always on. Anytime it was on TV. Every holiday. The Shawshank Redemption. We get it, Dad. Prison sucks. But the movie truly is about the slow burn, which I couldn’t appreciate as a kid. The movie’s events span more than three decades, and we feel the way time drags on, the way prison dehumanizes and institutionalizes and makes us question if rehabilitation is its true intent, the way hope can both destroy and save. A truly beautiful film with iconic performances by Robbins and Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption is one of those rare movies where the reward for sticking all the way through is meaningful and powerful. We get it, Dad. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

September Songs

With temps in the 90s and this week’s back-to-school rituals barely registering in the collective psyche (oh, look, the kids are in a class Zoom for a little while instead of just playing Roblox), I’m letting my work-from-home soundtrack remind me it is, in fact, September. For the mandatory, horn-powered, bursting-with-joy kickoff of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” though, it’s less background music and more drop everything, watch the video, and dance. I also got no work done while listening to “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks, because I happened to click on a video of it being sung by Jerry Orbach and fell down a real rabbit hole. Like many people my age, I think of Orbach as a kindly father from Dirty Dancing (we’ll forgive him for that one time he put Baby in a corner), one of Dorothy’s best matches (but so frustratingly unavailable!) on Golden Girls, a pal of Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, and, of course, Law & Order’s Lennie Briscoe. That part of his résumé, though, followed decades of work on and off Broadway, including as one of the original 1960 cast of The Fantasticks.
Then a spin of Big Star’s “September Gurls”—sung by a pining December boy, Big Star singer and songwriter Alex Chilton (and covered by the likes of the Bangles and the Dum Dum Girls)—sends me into a health care policy spiral. It’s thought Chilton’s lack of health insurance played a role in the heart attack that killed him 10 years ago, when he was just 59. Earth, Wind & Fire bandleader Maurice White was a December boy, too, and died in 2016 at age 74. Orbach, born the same year as my dad, was 69 and filming a Law & Order spinoff when he died “deep in December” in 2004. In all of their songs, September is tenderness, touching, dancing, cloudless skies, possibilities, connection, while rhyming December is just a time to remember, or mourn love that might be lost or unrequited. Gosh, am I appreciating September enough? Why am I working when it’s such a beautiful day? Maybe I’ll just head outside for a while, cue up Yo La Tengo’s “Autumn Sweater,” and wait for my GNR-loving neighbor to drive by blasting “November Rain.” —Margaret Seiler, managing editor

Smartless

My sunset strolls around Southeast Portland have gone from peaceful to hilarious with the discovery of a new podcast, Smartless. It boasts three starry hosts: Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett. These dudes have obviously known each other a long time, and that, coupled with their comedic background, guarantees you aching abs by the end of every episode. Each week, one host brings on a special guest, unbeknownst to the other two. The whole thing started on July 20, and they’re only seven episodes in, with new episodes every Monday. The episodes range from pure stitch-in-your-side humor, with guests such as Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, and Dax Shepard, to more deep conversations, with guests like Kamala Harris or Robert Downey Jr., to actual mind-blowing content when Neil deGrasse Tyson spends an hour with the trio. I look forward to Mondays for more than a new Spotify Discover Weekly playlist now.
While you’re waiting patiently for a new Monday release, I’d suggest delving into Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Expert. He cohosts with Emmy-nominated actress Monica Padman, and, with 169 episodes under their belt they discover “the messiness of being human.” Ainslee Dicken, editorial intern

IsPortlandBurning.com

Someone on the television told me Portland was burning. Giant sections of it were ablaze, in fact. So now I'm hitting refresh on this handy inferno tracker all weekend long. Or, you know, I can just look out the window and see for myself. —Marty Patail, editor in chief