Sunday, October 22, 2006

The City of Walking

Hello, just got back today from Portland, the City of Roses. I decided that this blog might be more topical in nature from now on, instead of oriented on daily rambling. I stayed with Kristi's half-brother and his family. Chris (who is very attractive and also very married) and Hope were so sweet to set me up with a place to stay for a few nights. They are such chill and cool parents, who never hesitate to tell it like it is. They made my stay in the city 200% better.

Let's see, I had high hopes of the city before coming in, labeling it as my future home - for the next few years, at least. Something that sort of took my breath away at first sight was the beautiful and abundant foliage - and not only that, the leaves were brightly golden and flaming red. It's a nice change from Texas' bi-seasonal productions of monotonous green and dead brown. Mount Hood towers amongst clouds in the east, perpetually blanketed with snow so that it is possible to ski year-round. Portland is pretty similar to Austin in that a river (Willamette) runs through it, dividing downtown from the East, and housing many a cute bakery, restaurant, and theater, especially down a certain Hawthorne St. I'd say that the street is comparable to South Congress, except that it was less like Factory People and other pricey/pretentious shops, and more like Jo's Coffee, having a very cozy, community feel to it. There is also a pair of beloved brothers called the McMinimans who actively restore old schoolhouses and other forgotten buildings and turn them into quaint hotels with character and theaters that serve pizza and beer. (Chris said that he has gotten to the point where he can't watch a movie without a beer in hand.) And a handful of microbreweries are scattered near downtown that enjoy fierce loyalty from the locals. Oregonians do love their beer.
Something of interest: there is currently ongoing hostility towards Californians, because more and more of them are moving to Portland, thereby driving up housing prices, bringing along their hoity-toity attitudes, and introducing rudeness and rage on the previously honk-free, "let's everyone take turns" road. I wonder if they like Texans. I found myself saying "ya'll" a whole lot, but it didn't elicit much of a response.
After attending getting in late Thursday night, and attending most of the conference on Friday, my brain was fried from everyone's data and findings. Also tired of being lectured at (which is something I can get anyday in Austin), I left the hotel like a bat out of hell once the dreadful receptions began. What took place there was nothing more than small-talk and networking, terms which are sometimes interchangeable, among people who were much older, more nerdy and intellectual than I. As a mere undergraduate, I had nothing to offer anyone, except an ear and naive wonderment, and even that wasn't enough most of the time.

So with the conference behind me, I trekked throughout downtown, weaving in and out enough times to help me memorize the map I was constantly unfolding and folding. Powell's City of Books bookstore was one place every Portlander and knowledgable visitor raved about, and after stepping into it, I see that it most certainly lives up to its purported title of "best independent bookstore in America." How can you not love a bookstore that has giant rooms labeled by color, books on sale that are actually worth reading and have won prizes, said sale books in every room, a Sociology section, a Leftist Politics section, a Knock Knock stand, and has hosted two weddings and a funeral? What's more, you kinda need a map to get around the warehouse-sized place taking up the whole block on Burnside and 10th. It's hard not to pick up every book you ever heard of or has a long, lovingly-written employee recommendation attached to it, since they sell good, used copies of most of their titles. It was at Powell's that I finally purchased David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. The funniest book I've read in 21 years, it besought me with its $7.98 sale price and near-dead mint condition. When considering whether I truly needed a Penguin reader on Nietzche or a yellowed paperback on then-modern Marxists, I made the quick decision without even thinking about how I would have to lug my weighty purchases throughout the rest of the day. While walking around the nearby trendy Pearl District, I saw a sign advertising the Art Institute of Portland open house that very hour. Delighted, I stepped into the school, registered, attended a session, walked around and chatted with an advisor. It was all very fortuitous, considering that my wobbly future plans currently consist of attending graphic design school and residing in Oregon.

Portland does indeed have a very cozy feel to it. Apparently, the recurrent rain just comes down in drizzles and everyone who is seen with a raincoat on or hoisting an umbrella is clearly a dryness-loving visitor. The weather, Chris explained, is pretty mild and is only around 30 degrees to 90 degrees year-round. Texas would burn with shame at that stat, but only if it actually cared that it melted its denizens away every summer. Because Portland's beauty lies not just in its old buildings and homey houses with basements, but in its natural environment, outdoor activities are not simply athletic hobbies - they are part of a Portlander's lifestyle. Chris mentioned an annual 400-mile long bike ride around the state that he participated in and a citywide, scenic ride along the main bridges across the river that brings out every citizen from the cycling enthusiast to the grossly obese.
Portland's population is also relatively young. Hordes of high schoolers loitered around Pioneer Square and coffee shops, each identically wearing skinny jeans and styled hair (yes, now both boys and girls can squeeze into true denim tights, where nothing is left to the imagination). That scene is decidedly hip, alright. The rest of the older folks are happy with their loose-fit jeans, German wool clogs, fleece pullovers, and Crocs. Casual best describes the dress code there. Also, Chris mused that Portland was probably "Lesbian Capital, USA," noting that out of all his female friends, the majority of them were lesbians. Hm. Must have to do with Portland's gorgeous scenery, friendly atmosphere, and rich cultural offerings. Or not. Anyway, after that my imagination let loose and no pair of females walking down the street was safe from my guess stab at their relationship. Sorority sisters, sisters, acquaintances, friends, best friends, two strangers who happened to be walking at the same pace and less than 4 feet from each other- nobody escaped entering my personal ruminations. (OK, that was partly a joke.) But then again, they make it public there with little fuss by slapping a blue-and-yellow equal sign bumper sticker on their autos (or in Rivers' day, a pink triangle). <|

It was a nice trip, but sitting in the airport, waiting for my 11:10 PM flight, I was deeply homesick (for Austin) and missed having my friends/roommates around. It was this lonesome feeling that cut short my evening downtown, repulsed by the thought of having to eat dinner alone. (Everyone else was getting their money's worth and still back at the conference.) So, Portland, or any vibrant city, in all its greatness, would lose its shine if there was nary a person with whom you could connect. That is my only fear of moving away from Texas, but you know what, it might just be worth it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I love you, Mr. Loblaw

class, two internships, bugs, theory, ideas..

"i love you" - the pipettes