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Thursday, May 21, 2009

"We live in Lake Oswego. We like Riccardo's."

Posted by Matt Davis on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has been discussing his restaurant taste with the Oregonian's MIX section. I didn't know he lived in Lake Oswego, and have never been to Riccardo's—where this evening, a filet mignon with portabello mushroom and rosemary demi-glace costs a mere $48. Although to be fair on the man, Penne Alla Vodka is only $21, and I eat at restaurants far more expensive all the time.

The reason I'm really interested in this, though, is that I WISH I WAS MERRITT PAULSON. It seems like the man is being irresponsibly lowbrow with his cash. He wears oxford shirts and chinos all the time. Bleh. Where are the tailored suits from Adam Arnold!? And there's no way I'd be seen dead in some Italian joint in Lake Oswego with a billion dollars in the bank. I'd be on the plane to Paris tout de suite, where I'd buy a few cravats before dining at a Michelin starred fish restaurant. What is it with really rich people being afraid to splash it about?

I suppose I'd find out if only I had the chance to become nouveau riche and then, after a generation, cultured...maybe a bit taller, too...all that good nutrition in childhood...then eventually would come the opportunity to talk in broad terms about economic trends, culture, society...putting my "skin" in the "game"...

I sleep very easily at night saying, "I'm presenting an opportunity the city may choose to accept and take advantage of, or may choose it doesn't want to do it." This opportunity represents $65 million in private investment; that's a lot of skin in the game. I think there's a knee-jerk reaction to not spend money on rich sports owners; this has not been a city that's embraced pro sports like other cities have, and you can't do pro sports without some public investment and infrastructure. We have public investment in libraries and zoos and colleges and all sorts of things that private parties benefit from, but eyebrows are more raised in sports. There's definitely an interesting mentality that I find here [in Portland], which is very progressive and forward-thinking but there is a certain resistance to change.

I'm just jealous, here. Straight up jealous. That's all. Merritt if you want to buy meet for a very expensive lunch somewhere downtown one day I will gladly interview you at length on some of these questions. But I am curious: Why would anybody for whom money is no object choose to buy a soccer team? In Portland, Oregon? Why not a race track in Kentucky? Or a castle in Biarritz?

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