Wednesday, April 05, 2017

5~ Portlandia

Portland could almost be a cliche, too hip, overly whimsical, and it wouldn't be hard to describe Portland in terms of being stereotypically funky, a maxim about unorthodox art and culture, but those would be pointless, shallow platitudes. Portland is weird, but I don't think you can stop there, or depend on the city to be inevitably strange. Saying Portland is "strange" is unimaginative, without feeling, and I would be failing to pay proper tribute to the warmth, sincerity, the inventive melding of old and new, fresh and traditional, profoundly beautiful and achingly ugly. At times, during our brief explore, there was a tense strain, the dis-ease with standing amidst homelessness, tragic figures who recall headlines and memes about urban decay, addiction, and you cannot unsee the refuse, litter, crumbling walls, broken sidewalks, the tired bits. But, as Maria and I both exclaimed in breathless wonder, "Even the dandelions are more beautiful in Portland!" Moss grows and softens hard edges, art colors worn surfaces, people stop and take notice, make warm overtures of welcome, acceptance. Portland is honest, open, like a host that takes in all the guests, before dusting every corner, or counting the teacups... as though the expectation is that everything will come out fine in the end, there will be enough, if we just come together, make room, share. No pretense. No apologies. Portland is genuine, not just about beauty, success, the polish of staged and glossy representations, tourist attractions, but about all of life, the messy bits, too.

When we came off the train, eager to get our Portland visit underway, we dragged our luggage and our vague, confused understanding of the bus system to a promising corner, where we were confronted with a hostile and confrontative man, troubled by his own thoughts, or some substance. That was stressful, disorienting, and so it's no wonder that when we finally hauled ourselves into the bus, we forgot to pay the fare. No one said a thing. The bus was packed... literally standing room only, and at every stop, we were like a puzzle with one missing square so that every piece had to be shifted around to let someone off, let more people board. It's not possible to be unobtrusive with three suitcases, wearing large coats, backpacks, standing through rush hour traffic with miles to travel, along unfamiliar roads. One woman muttered a grievance about our thorny predicament, not sympathetically. But everywhere else were kind expressions, understanding nods, solicitude. Slowly, the traffic relented, seats freed up, and I could breath a bit easier, and from the bus driver? Nothing. Had he noticed? Would he admonish us, bark a harsh rebuke? Geoff and I were able to whisper an exchange, a plan to pay before stepping off, apologizing for the oversight of taking a free ride. At the corner, about 24th and Knott, we gathered our lot, assured Maria that everything is fine, we're almost there, and then we tumbled onto the sidewalk... Geoff ran up to the driver's door, with our fare. The driver waved casually, "Pay at the next bus." No judgement, no recrimination, as though the expectation is that everything will come out fine in the end, there will be enough, if we just come together, make room, share. And it did... on our last bus ride out, I paid a double fare, gladly. It was weird, those bus rides, uncomfortable moments, and beautiful exchanges, but it was always honest, and I like that... the forthright integrity, the candidness. We are all going somewhere, what good is it to make it any harder for anyone to get there?

I cannot be sure whether we were in time for the peak of spring and blossoms, or if things were waning, or barely beginning. It doesn't matter. We arrived in Portland in time to see trees, like this, full of open, and closed blossoms. Full of buds, leaves unfurling, lichens and moss. The camellias were unreal... like storybook illustrations of ideal flowers, flawless, dazzling. We met tulips, Muscari, and countless flowers I do not know the names of, which is a treat. I've mentioned all of this before, I am sure, but I should repeat it, now, and again, later, because then you will have some sense of what it was like to walk for miles, and see them, again and again. Grape hyacinth spilling over borders, tulips standing pertly in rows, and clumps, camellias pink, white, red. Clematis, pale yellow, pale pink, cascading over walls and gates. White flowers in trees in such full bloom, such quantities, that nothing could contain them, describe them, comprehend them, so we only stood beneath them and tried to understand, and smiled at our lack of ability.

We walked.

We were inspired. And amused, and delighted.

We discovered oatmeal brûlée, with fresh blueberries buried at the bottom. And oatmeal will forevermore be compared with that oatmeal. That wonderful Petite Provence oatmeal.

We found treasures all along SE Division...

Upstairs Basement, Quality Surplus.

Village Merchants, Delightful Resale.

Pink Martini's Je Dis Oui!

Salt & Straw... where we sampled Sea Salt w/ Caramel Ribbons, Honey Lavender, Chocolate Gooey Brownie, Coffee, Strawberry Honey Balsamic w/ Black Pepper, and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate.

And by the way, the honey lavender tastes like the best day in your favorite garden where you are gathering long blossoming stems of sun warmed lavender, and you feel as though nature wants you to live there for an endless summer.

Even the dandelions are more beautiful in Portland!

Weird, welcoming, not predictable, yet comfortably familiar, often amusing, Portland.

We finally got a handle on Trimet, and made for Powell's City of Books.

Any guidebook will tell you, and I've tried to describe it, too, but really, you simply must go and see for yourself... Powell's is every bit worth a bus ride, a train trip, a long walk.

It's practically cliche to say so, but, we stayed for hours.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.


Unknown said...

Oh Portland....How I miss you! I felt at home in Portland right away. It so in many ways so similar to my hometown in Germany, Cologne. It was so strange to find such familiarity there. I can't wait to go back. Maybe next year.... :)
Your pictures look amazing!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Thank you, Mahshid. Sounds like I should be planning a visit to Cologne! But, otherwise... more Portland! I've barely begun to see all of it. You and I should create a travel blog, and enjoy all the researching!