Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back from the City of Roses, #2

And... we are back from 3.5 days in Portland with B&K. We had a relaxing time with them in transit and also during downtime. Their apt is furnished with mid-modern century Craigslist and Ebay finds, and also (the other) B's geometrical artwork. It was nice to be able to leave the windows uncovered all day and have thin, unobtrusive sunlight stream in. Very atmospheric. The trip was filled with shopping at downtown boutiques (best: Lizard Lounge- like Stag but with women's clothing too), eating at local favorite eateries (highlights: Broder Cafe- delightful Scandinavian cuisine, Little T Bakery- best baguettes, Pambiche- Cuban food made with love), and a generous heaping of walking about. No joke, each day my pups ached something sore after a few hours of wandering, regardless of whether I wore my beat-up Vans Authentics or VFFs. Either my feet muscles are somehow largely underused, or walking shoes do really have a purpose. Our main form of transportation, besides our feet, was the bus, and then the MAX light rail, and then streetcar.
There were a few times I strongly felt the absence of my bike (most exciting way to explore this flattish city, imo), but really, there were not as many bike lanes as I had expected. Also, you must have fenders (full is best) to ride through puddly days, since most people there commute. No wealthy white-collar triathletes or weekend cyclists with carbon bikes here. (Or at least I did not see any). Having such a significant proportion of cyclists made me wonder how the marketplace for used bikes kept up, as most bikes I saw were scuffed up vintage types with original components. And the other B pointed out, there is a continuity between generations who exist in harmony by sharing a deep love for the outdoors. I knew I was in the Pacific Northwest the minute I stepped out of the airport and saw an octagenarian clad in Keens and synthetic rain gear. Awesome.
The particular neighborhood we stayed in was Sunnyside in SE Portland. Apparently not the current hip district (that would be Mississippi Avenue), it boasts blocks and blocks of restored bungalows sprinkled with bars, shops, small apartment complexes, a library, a food cart park, and really good restaurants. Each space is used up, and there are no unsightly weedy fields, bustling major streets, or massive parking lots (except for the Walgreens') that you would find in a state like Texas, where space is not so much a rare commodity. And I saw people outside! On their lawns, mowing or putting up extremely early Christmas decorations, on their porches watching passerbys, or pushing their kids in strollers. The oppressive and long heat wave called summer we bear each year here keeps up cooped up in our houses, cars and other buildings. This is not good conditions for cultivating community at all. Which is why I felt a slight connection to the strangers going about their business outside around me, even as I was only a visitor. The green everywhere was also a welcome and calming sight. Passing by front yards wildly overgrown with native species, I couldn't help but feel excitement at the lush life that seemed to spill out from the land.
B got to do a fair share of checking out mens' shops here, as there are only a few menswear places in Austin of repute. He also picked up about 7 used books (they put them next to new books) during our tour of Powells; I had to literally drag him out of there. And on our way back from brunch in the neighborhood, we drove past Beckel Canvas, the maker of my rugged canvas luggage. We returned a few days later, and I had the pleasure of chatting with Kathy, the 3rd generation owner of the company, and picking up a red toiletry/ necessary bag. The company has been around for 46 years, faithfully making durable, no-frills tents, bags, and accessories. Their bags have seen a gargantuan surge in sales due to the Americana/ made in USA movement- good for them! And their tents? Steady in sales, as they are a favorite equipment of hunters and outdoorsmen who go on weeklong trips. Pretty hardcore.
I also planned a lunch with one of my old roommates who now works for the reputable design firm, Wieden+Kennedy. She took up atop the super modern building, where we enjoyed food truck cookery with a five-story high view of the mountains and trees. Lightly treated thick wooden beams, concrete, and stainless steel made up most of the workplace. Definitely the coolest, most modern office I've ever stepped foot into.
The photo above is from a photobooth in the swanky Ace Hotel. I was putting B's Stumptown coffee down when he scanned the credit card, and realized that the shutter was clicking. It made for a solid narrative though: B is alone. F comes into the picture. B whispers something into F's ear. They fall in love. : )

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