The clean air and laidback vibe of this city make it easy to breathe here. As soon as Nate and I rolled into the city I was like “oh yeah, I feel good about this place” (being greeted by a breathtaking view of Mount Hood didn’t hurt). We met up with my friend, Becky, who I met years ago while working at The Harp. I hadn’t seen Becky in years, and we’d barely talked over that time as well, but I hunted her down on Facebook a few months back and found out she had moved to Portland. I let her know way back then that I’d be visiting and she said I should stay with her, so that became the plan. Facebook certainly has its strong points. What a great reconnection this was. Becky took us in and gave us our own little apartment at her friend’s house, who was away (though we ended up just crashing with her most of the time). She and her twin sister, Kate, and their friends welcomed us with open arms. It was wonderful. I’ve never before been to a city where everyone is so chill and friendly! It was nuts; people were chatting us up everywhere and throwing us smiley waves and peace signs as we drove through the streets (maybe that was just Rose doin’ her thing 😉 It felt so welcoming.
After we met up with Becky and Kate at this cool little bar called the Landmark Saloon in Southeast Portland, we headed out to North Portland for a bit because my friend, Sean, was doing a poetry reading. He gave us directions to this little place called The Oubliette, which ended up being a speakeasy-type place in someone’s basement. It was totally decked out and there were several poets that read their work. I met Sean when we were both volunteers at the Western Socially Engaged Buddhist Symposium last summer. He finished out the night with a poem that referenced Anne Waldman’s poetry reading at the symposium. It was so right on, and was especially cool to hear his take on a moment in time that we both experienced. I’ve never been to a poetry reading before, and definitely never heard a friend of mine read. It was really inspiring to hear someone I know share personal poems of such a raw nature. Everyone at the poetry reading was super-talented, but Sean had a different feel. His unapologetic honesty shook the vibe up a bit and ended up feeling really refreshing among more mellow poetry. Rock on, my friend.
On Friday Becky took us up to the Washougal River, just over the border in Washington. We spent a few hours soaking up the sun and enjoying the cool, refreshing river water before we headed back to Portland so Becky could go to work. She was a serious trooper all weekend, hanging out with us during the days and working until the wee morning hours at her bar/restaurant jobs. Kate pretty much had the same schedule, and she worked at a bar with Wifi, so after the river on Friday we headed to Eugenio’s to hang with Kate and get some blogging and other computer work done. We must have been having too much fun on this day because the only picture we got was this one of Kate throwing water on her friend, Alan, at Eugenio’s:
These Portland people know how to have fun. I kept thinking that it would be so great to live here, but also difficult for me to be productive. A prime example: we were at Eugenio’s for five hours trying to get stuff done and people walking by and at neighboring tables kept chatting us up and jokingly giving us crap about working on our computers. I can see how I would easily get sucked into a carefree way of life here. I felt so light and happy the whole time inPortland. We were, however, told that we came at the best time as far as the weather goes. I’d have to visit again during the 8 months of rain before making a decision as to whether or not I could really live there. However, a conversation that happened later on Friday night did make me think twice about this logic.
After Becky got out of work we went back to her house to hang out. Her friend Steve happened to be walking by at 1 a.m. and decided to pop in. We were raving about how much we were loving the city and got to talking about the rain. Becky and Steve agreed that people probably just say the rain is bad so that everyone doesn’t move to Portland. Becky was telling us earlier that people seemed to be flocking to Portland, especially people our age, and especially since the show Portlandia aired. In an effort to prevent the city from getting overcrowded, I can see how people might use talk of the rain to deter outsiders. Until I experience eight straight months of rain, though, I remain skeptical. Another interesting conversation that popped up while talking with Steve is the fact that he scaled El Capitan the week before. This was crazy to hear, seeing as how Nate and I just came from Yosemite as well and had talked about the crazies that did this. Nate informed me my first day in Yosemite that people would rock climb up the face of El Capitan (here’s a pic of it to refresh your memory):
As if that weren’t crazy enough, apparently it’s not possible to get up it in one day, so people will SLEEP ON THE FACE OF THE MOUNTAIN. Just hang there, thousands of feet up a huge rock, and sleep. Ha! As if I could relax enough to sleep in that position. Apparently Steve could though. It was kind of nutty to meet someone that’s done one of the scariest things I could imagine doing. I was also a little bit nervous and questioned his sanity, but he seemed like a pretty nice guy so I tried not to worry. But it did make me wonder how many people I meet every day that do crazy shit that I’m not privy too. People are so mysterious and awesome sometimes. I love it. Also, here’s a nice picture of Becky talking on the zucchini phone. I was napping when this happened so I have no real explanation of the picture, but I like it…
Our friend Matty flew in late Friday night, making it a serious Harp reunion, as Nate, Becky, Matty, and I are all former employees. Shout out to The Harp Irish Pub in Amherst, MA for being awesome and giving me wonderful friends 🙂 So Saturday proceeded much like Friday, with hours spent on the river followed by hanging around in Portland. The four of us went back to the Washougal River, but drove a little farther up this time, as Kate had told Becky that there was a place with waterfalls. The spot ended up being huge and full of waterfalls and little pools and streams and rocks to hang out on. We remembered the camera this time so I can show you how awesome this place is:
A couple group pics…
Admiring the view…
If you’re ever in Portland or nearby, I highly recommend this place. There were a lot of people there but it was so big that it didn’t feel crowded.
Becky had to go to work bartending when we got back to Portland, so Nate, Matty, and I decided to go eat some wings and hang out with her at the bar for a bit. I called my good old O’town buddy, Althea, who moved to Portland about a year ago, and let her know that I was in town. She met up with us at Becky’s bar and it was a fabulous reunion. Althea told me about her experience in Portland, overall a very positive one. She seemed really happy to see someone from home and we got a bit nostalgic. She told me I was only the second person from Orange to see her in Portland! That made me feel quite special 🙂
It’s so much fun to see people I’ve known forever in totally new places from where we’re used to seeing each other. I’ve crossed paths with a few friends in some of the cities I’ve visited on this journey, but due to timing haven’t actually been able to see them. It’s funny to me how things work out; that I could be in the same city as a friend of mine, across the country from where we both live, and not see them. But we all have our own plans and sometimes the timing is just off. I feel like I want to go off on a tangent right now about timing. I’ve recently begun to accept how important it is, especially in relationships, but in all aspects of life in general. There are so many times when circumstances almost line up perfectly, but one little thing, like timing, can throw the whole thing off. It makes me wonder why everything else fits so well if it’s never meant to work out, but I try not to think about it too hard because it mostly seems pointless. Instead of trying to figure it out, I’m working on accepting as a fact of life that timing sometimes works in our favor, and sometimes does not, and that’s just the way it goes. So far on this trip things have mostly worked out for us, and I’ve gotten a chance to reconnect with a lot of wonderful people, and meet some amazing new people as well, so I’m really grateful for that. Take Saturday night inPortland, for example. After we spent a few hours at Becky’s bar, Kate met up with us and took us to a party. There weren’t a whole lot of people there but everyone that we met was SO friendly. The hosts welcomed us warmly, and fed us a bunch of food and beverages. They even expressed their gratitude for us being there, as the homeowner had apparently hoped that a bunch of strangers would show up. What a fantastic mentality. Who hopes for a bunch of random strangers to show up at their housewarming party? Open-hearted folk in Portland do. Yet another reason I am loving this city.
Since the river was such a lovely place to be on Friday and Saturday, we decided to go back on Sunday, this time to the Salmon River. The plan for the day was to follow directions we’d gotten from Kate who, along with her friend Sara, was already at the river. Once we met them we’d hang out at the river for a while, then make our way to Frank’s house, who was a friend of Kate and Becky’s and recommended this river spot.
We were excited to check out a new river and this spot was supposed to have a beach and everything. When we got there, Becky told us that our directions were to cross the bridge and walk until we can’t walk anymore. I don’t think it gets more vague than that, but we figured with such skimpy directions the place would probably be easy to find. HAHAHAHAHAHA. FAT CHANCE.
We crossed a bridge and started walking uphill on this weird, wide path covered in hay. We’d walked about a half mile up this hill and were questioning if we were going in the right direction. Luckily we ran into a couple people coming down the hill and they let us know that we were going in the direction of the river. They told us to keep going and then we’d see a boulder and we should take a right. In retrospect, they must have been fucking with us. If I saw a bunch of dopes hiking up a mountain with beach bags and inflatable rafts, I might have fucked with them too. Well, probably not (jerks!), but I can’t really blame them that much. Somehow our group mentality was that we would reach the river eventually, even though we were going up a mountain, we couldn’t see water, and the sound of the river was fading fast.
We hiked about a mile up the hay path, where the path ended and we did indeed see a boulder (along with the hundreds of other boulders we saw along the way), so we took a right and headed into the woods. We hiked another mile into the woods, and the forest just kept getting denser and quieter. Did I mention we were hiking uphill? The ENTIRE way. There was nary a flat spot for us to catch our breath. Nate was carrying a big, awkward bag filled with sausage and a portable stovetop. Becky had two straw beach bags that were scraping her bare skin the whole way. I toted two deflated floaties; the plastic causing my forearms to sweat like they never have before, which made it difficult to maintain my grip. We were all wearing bathing suits and sandals, and we had one bottle of water between the three of us. Needless to say, we were well-prepared for an impromptu hike at dusk. What a fine time it was!
We had stopped several times along the way and speculated that we were not going in the right direction. Becky kept saying that Frank had said that it “wasn’t that far” to the river. We asked if Frank was the type to go for epic hikes and think that two miles (wasn’t that far), and she was pretty sure that Frank was not the hiking type, and that Kate and Sara would not have walked this far either. Circumstances being what they were, we had felt it necessary to continue on for as far as we did, because after the half mile marker or so, it became one of those “we’ve come this far already, we might as well go a bit farther to see if it’s around the next corner. We probably rounded 30 or so corners that only resulted in more long stretches of hill, all of which led to yet another corner offering the dim hope of an entrance to the river, never to be found. After two miles and over an hour of this horrendous hike to nowhere that Nate dubbed “The Faith Trail”, we lost faith. It was time for a drink of water and a photo:
Becky suggested we bound down the trail, as it would be faster. We all agreed that this was a good idea. We chatted a bit longer and then I started down the trail walking. I’d made it about 30 feet when I heard Becky behind me saying in a very serious voice “I wasn’t kidding about bounding”. I laughed and began to bound. It was faster than walking and a lot of fun. I highly recommend it, though it does use up a lot of energy very quickly. We had about a minute or two of bounding before my poor little heart said “no more!”, and we walked the rest of the way, stopping only for a couple pictures.
The last stretch of hike…
We speculated along the way about what could have happened, and wondered why Kate and Sara didn’t leave us a note if the place was so hard to find. When we got back down to the car, their car was gone, and this time there was a note. It had directions to Frank’s house; thank god for that. Becky was hell-bent on getting in the river, even though it was getting dark, was no longer hot, and the river was FREEZING, to put it lightly. Nate and I decided our interest in the river had died, but we accompanied Becky down to watch her jump in. Just putting my feet in the water bordered on painful, and I commended Becky for being so brave. She stood out on a rock, preparing to jump in, and we offered encouragement from the riverbank. After some deep breathing, Becky took the plunge, and came to the surface screaming, but smiling as well. Hearing her yell and seeing the look on her face caused me to have an inexplicable urge to go in. Becky said she was going to do it again and I told her I would join her. When we got out to the rock I admitted that there was a very large part of me that felt strongly opposed to doing this, but that there was something inside me saying I would be glad if I did. Becky recommended taking several fast deep breaths to pump myself up, and also told me that I should feel free to yell when I emerged. I did so and with every ounce of courage I could muster, jumped in. Now, I’m not one to scream about much of anything. I don’t tend to scream on roller coasters, jumping off cliffs, or even skydiving, but I heeded Becky’s advice and screamed my head off as soon as I came up. I don’t actually know if it was involuntary or a decision I made consciously, but once I started I couldn’t stop and, let me tell you, it was GREAT. I came out of that river feeling alive and renewed, especially after that god-awful hike. After seeing how much Becky and I enjoyed the experience, Nate decided he had to go in as well. Unlike the two of us, he wasted no time with deep breaths and instead ran across the rocks and dove right in. He did, however, scream the same when he got out, and desperately swam faster than both of us combined to get to shore. We all agreed that it was a good idea, and thanked Becky for insisting we go down to the river. The next day, when Nate and I were driving toSeattle, we would recap how great that swim was and Nate would say ‘Becky taught us something about how to live”, to which I would wholeheartedly agree.
After Nate and my river baptism (WOW that is a seriously dramatic statement, but I will say it anyway), we headed on out to Frank’s house. Long story short, we turned around at least six times on the drive due to going the wrong way. This was not our day for finding things. We did however find his house eventually and were greeted by Frank, Kate, and Sara, who were happy to see us and curious about what happened to us on the river. We told them the whole story and they laughed at us. They told us that it was a very short walk to the river (Becky was right that Frank was not a hiker). They said that they had walked up the hay hill about 75 yards before saying screw it and coming back down (turns out Becky was also right about the fact that Kate and Sara would not walk two miles to get to a river). Apparently they got lucky and ran into Frank on their way out, and he showed them where to go. Knowing that we’d probably not find it on our own either, they did indeed leave us a note on the car (which we never looked for), and made a big “B” for Becky in the hay with a bunch of stick and stone arrows pointing us in the right direction (which we also did not look for). They also walked around looking for us for quite some time before finally giving up and heading to Frank’s house. This made us feel better about the fact that they did all they could to get us to river, but worse about our own common sense. We had a good laugh about our misfortune and decided it was time for food and wine.
Frank was a phenomenal host. He bought pizza and drinks; halved and carved out limes, which he then filled tequila and froze; baked two different kinds of fruit and cheese tarts; made homemade ice cream; set us up a tent and blew up an air mattress, and was just all around really awesome. Thanks Frank! Nate left him some homemade limoncello as a thank you.
We spent the night there and were planning to leave first thing in the morning. Frank’s friend, Justin, showed up right as we were about to leave, though, and apparently he is a chef and supernice guy, too, as he had come over to make us breakfast. What was this place?! Awesome, that’s what. So we decided to hang around for a bit longer and eat some breakfast stroganoff (I’m not even sure what it was but it was delicious). We then said goodbye to Becky and headed north. It was a bittersweet goodbye, as it had been an incredible visit. I was so grateful to reconnect with Becky and finally meet Kate. If you guys are reading this, thank you for showing me the best time I’ve had in a while in Portland. And thanks to Becky for teaching Nate and I how to live a little bit more fully ❤