For the past 15 years, Hollywood neighborhood resident Lily Karabaic has woken up around 4:00 am on the last Friday of every month. Like you, the first thing she does is make coffee. Unlike you, she makes 42 cups. And then she straps a percolator, a few dozen donuts (a vegan sampler from Doe Donuts), a bunch of mugs, and sometimes even pancake mix (gluten free if you choose) or freshly baked muffins onto her bike trailer and heads out to stand on a bridge and gives it away to anyone who passes by.
Why? Because Lily is a dedicated volunteer of Breakfast on the Bridges, the cherished Portland tradition that celebrates its 20th anniversary this month.
The event means so much to Lily that every time she gets a new job she makes sure to negotiate for Fridays off.
I met Lily at her apartment last Friday morning around 6:30 am so we could ride together to the Tilikum Crossing for the birthday B on B. When I showed up, there was spilled coffee on the counter and she and her spouse Aaron Parecki were fussing with straps in her small living room, trying to get several boxes secured onto a Burley Travoy trailer.
Once we were all ready to roll, we took the lane on Northeast Sandy Blvd while drivers sped past and my camera rolled.
“It’s more about community-building, where we happen to have coffee,” Lily explained. “We use it as a tool for community building and connecting. People that ride bikes, scooters, people that walk, the morning runners on the waterfront and Esplanade — I think we spend a lot of time going past each other in those spaces. B on B is a meeting place.”
And for as many people who see this unexpected display of public hospitality and altruism for the first time and are taken aback, there are just as many regulars.
“I think it’s one of the foundational pieces of bike culture in Portland,” Lily said. Is that what keeps her getting out of bed so early every Friday morning? To keep the tradition alive? “Now [that it’s been 20 years] we feel like we can’t [stop]. You don’t want to be the one who ended B on B.”
Watch the full interview above or on YouTube (thanks to Aaron Parecki for shots of us riding together and the drone footage).