Portland, Oregon

After what had seemed to be a confounding and time blurred drive out to Portland I had finally happened upon the outskirts.  Unassuming city, hard to really see for what it is through the dense surrounding forrest, it began to truly open up.  Through a thousand plus miles mostly averse to character, Portland is unmistakably unique and the deeper you get into its border the easier it is to feel as if you’ve finally struck on something worth taking a second look at.

I had one goal, and one goal only this introductary night, to get a Voodoo Donut, which I had heard about so much.  Well actually this was a place I saw Anthony Bourdain go, he got the bacon donut, twice!  I found driving through the inner part of the city to be a freaking nightmare and was very glad to have navigation telling me where to go and where to turn.  My friend mentioned the curvy streets happened to be the likely end result of actual ‘terrain’ that one has to navigate as you go to and fro here, yeah where I am from it’s flat, and the streets are perfectly gridlike.



As I really came into the city, I was lost in adeep feeling of nostalgia for something familiar in a sense but completely unique in it of itself.  The city, to me, seems to be a mix of a lot of things I can remember, snowy icestrewn streets with christmas lights in some hip part of Salt Lake City,  graffiti and peeps chillin on the sidewalk like in Los Angeles.

Portland people really have a look of their own as well.  I have to mention that it seems their skin to be of a similar pale tonality as my own, which caused me a smirk as the idea came to be walking down the street.  I work the night shift and really don’t see the sun as much as I would like, this culminating into quite the lovely pastiness, although one I might suggest is a healthy pastiness which I hope favors me in my autumn years with lack of skin cancer (psh who am I kidding I am screwed, I have been burnt more times than a fry cook at In N’ Out)  Nevertheless, Portland people are hilighted by the permadusk which is consistent, this dim, bluish hue which mottles the sunlight seemingly continuiously.  They were all in my opinion overdressed for the mid 50s temperature, which is warm enough to not cause discomfort when I retrieve something from my car in my t-shirt from my hotel room, but cold enough that my sleeveless hiking vest proved to be ineffective at holding in the heat for an hour walk through the city.  Yet, scarves and thick wool coats were present as if a flurry was to be expected.  Perhaps one was, I am still unaware of the potential for snow in these parts.


I had parked my care in some sort of park amidst a few office buildings, only allowed to park and about a mile from Voodoo Donuts, I hustled down the street.  I look up at the buildings, which make me think almost of Burbank California, modern yet not current archetecture, perhaps from the 90s mixed with older, almost 50s looking buildings which are very reminiscent to a few of the unoccupied ones in Phoenix.  I really am continually brought back to the color, it’s the color that sets this place apart.  By now the sun had settled, yet the hues of the ‘golden hour’ continue.  Incandescent and dimly lit streetlights line the streets, nothing seems bright yet also nothing is uncomfortably dark.  It seems the reflective nature of the surfaces would be as if it had just rained, yet it haden’t all day, it was just wet.

As I walked down the street, the windows to each side showed bar after bar lined with dark wood and soft and dreamy table lamps.  While where I am from the feeling is high energy, bright, clean, crisp, sharp, so forth, this is quite the opposite, dull, dark, soft, intimate yet crowded, old but not in the way it is easy for me to describe, old perhaps in the sense of the sharply defined character that takes years and years to develop, as opposed to young and fresh kid who is trying to figure himself out.  Portland to me seems to know what it is, and carries with it an utter confidence about it, paridoxically unapproachable but you can’t help but want to be its friend.  The dusk, the crows, the faint sound of a trainhorn int he distance, a real downtown that real people populate, a city life that’s mature yet somehow young, character, a deep character that very much makes me uncomfortable in that I am finding out how much I love it, and how truly unfamiliar I am to it.


Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Log



Portland, Oregon day 2

I woke windows drawn with the faint incandescence of the street light bleeding through the edges, I had hoped I would be seeing the blue hue of the early sunlight instead.  It was still dark, hours before the sunrise, and here I was lying awake as my body expected my day to begin.  Unwilling to lull myself back to sleep I read for a while about the woes of being beseiged in a tent during snowstorms, a frequent complaint from those who partake in alpine climbing.

A few hours transpired and I decided to be one of the first customers of the day at a local swedish breakfast place, Cafe Broder.  The rustic chiq atmosphere and waitstaff were warm and welcoming, and their menu sounded familiar in some ways although with a not so subtle uniqueness that provoked an adventurous decision.  Coffee, black, trout hash, and a half order of swedish pancakes.  As I sat, I sipped the coffee, first sip, hmm, second sip, damn, third sip, this is some good shit!  I was told they were serving Stumptown coffee, an expense that they view to be worthwhile and it definitely shows.  The coffee was smooth, perfectly brewed, acidic and medium body, I was told it was a single origin Costa Rican bean.  I am not too well versed on the topic but I was 4 cups in before I left and feeling twitchy.


The trout hash was awesome, it even came with some tangy pickled onions, beats, and well, pickles too.  Normally I don’t get too excited about those kinds of things but I could tell everything here had this handmade touch which left me with a sense of guilt for not at least giving it a try.  I ate every last piece, and the spherical pancake balls dipped in there preserves or lemon custard were decadent, reminiscent of the bignets I once had from Cafe Dumonde in New Orleans.  I shared some of the pancakes with a couple across from me who were kind enough to tell me a bit about their lives here in Portland.

I was near the Hawthorne area, one reputed for its eclectic communit and interest in keeping the businesses local.  I was told that McDonalds wanted to set up shop at some corner and was fought to the teeth every step of the way, eventually being ousted by their inability to get a permit for a drive through.  Continuing the conversation, I also learned this community to be heavily bicycle oriented, and the couple were proud of the fact that when they place their vehicles in their garage at the end of the week that it usually stays there until Monday when they have to begrudgingly return to the nine to five life.  Feeling slightly guilty for havig sucked down my fourth cup of coffee I parted ways with the lovely cafe, headed to Multnomah Falls per the recommendation of my friend.

Multnomah Falls hike to Larch Mountain

On the way out, I ended up driving along the Columbia river as I entered the Columbia Gorge.  Staring across the water, the dense forest was parted sparingly by rocky outcroppings, greenly hued no doubt a victem of this moss blight that seems omnipresent.  To my right, were the train tracks that were the likely sourceline for the distant trainhorns that seem to echo continuously night and day, although they bore no trains.  The air was faintly scented by a dampness akin to the inside of a Disneyland water ride, I am supposing a form of mildew or something of the like.


Now off the highway, I drove through a very tight and curvy mountainside road which eventually gave way to Multnomah Lodge, beautiful and foreign.  It felt like something that would be more at home on the hillside of the Austrian castle country.  I fortunately brought my backpacking gear, with enough provisions to keep me trucking through an entire days worth of hiking, which is exactly what ended up happening as the utter and breathtaking beauty of the area gripped into me deeply.  At first, I was going to check out the top of the waterfall, then I had to walk along the river a while, I got to the cutoff to the trail leading to the peak, and decided another 5 miles was more acceptable given the sheer ecstacy the forest provided me.  Objective oriented, I pushed on briskly, although often hoping time would allot me the freedom to sit, and stare, and listen to the world I hiked to, a world completely new to me, beautiful, mysterious, cold & wet, musty, and overgrown.  As I progressed, waterfall after waterfall out did themselves, and in short I became almost numb to it, “oh, here is another ‘most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen’, neat”.


The summit was rewarding to the extremes unfamiliar to me as well, each direction presented a new snowcapped and epic peak the likes of which I’ve observed only on plane rides over the Seattle area with Renier.  I was lost in my thoughts about using an ice ax and crampons to trek through the frozen mountainside, and caught myself planning routes up the mountain from a distance.  I could setup camp in that shallow bowl, summit through the ridge on the left although I might have to detour that particularly sharp looking set of rocky teeth.  I laughed to myself, thinking how rediculous it was for me to even begin planning any sort of thing given my complete and utter lack of experience on the topic of mountaineering, although its fun to dream.



By now I was utterly freezing my balls off at the top, it was windy and I was still in my vest, so it was definitely time to head back.  I put on the next tier of layers and started walking down.  A couple hours when I got back to the car, I made it a point to seek out the most unhealthy thing as a reward, which happened to be an ice cream cone which would have made Newton question his calculations about gravity (naw it was just kinda big).  I then walked through the overpacked gift shop feeling kinda like an asshole for bumping my backpack with hiking poles into multiple people’s faces.

Last Day in Portland :(

After having gone back to my hotel room in a daze of hiking glory, I had an opportunity to shower and take a quick nap before my nursing friend was going to be available as she had gotten called to emergency baby sitting duties.  This was serendipitous because I likely wasn’t going to be making it on time anyways, because I suck at being punctual when I am on a vacation.  I let her know I wasn’t all too offended, and made this opportunity into an impromptu nap which was pretty damn nice after trekking around for a 12 mile hike.  Since I didn’t take any photographs that night, I won’t bore with details, but she did accidentally get my car towed, which must have really sucked for her, especially the 300$ part (Which I did offer to help with!!  I mean it was not my fault, but she didn’t mean for it to happen either…  As a guy, it totally sucks to go out with a gorgeous woman and have it end up with her having to pay 300$ to get my car out of purgatory from some unempathetic tow truck driving fuckface, I was trying to end a fun night on a positive note…)  I sure it didn’t help when I pathetically mentioned to this man “I don’t like you”.  He stared at me with a blank look, as if silently waiting for me to continue.  “I am sorry man, it’s the situation, I have a situational hatred for you, it’s not your fault, it’s not our fault, the situation is shit!”, more awkward silence…  “Dammit I’m just trying to be funny”. Awkward giggles, “But I definitely don’t like you still”. Ahh well, that’s kind of a funny story I guess, but then when you realize how many waffles 300$ buys it’s kind of depressing.


The last day in Portland started with breakfast in the most unimaginably unhealthy way.  I utilized Google to assist me in finding a new way to clog a few arteries I’ve been plotting against, and it directed me towards a place called Pine State Biscuits.  I had a bacon topped, egg and breaded fried chicken biscuit sandwich covered in gravy, with a fucking side of fries as if this wasn’t enough as it was.  Out STANDING.  I mean it kind of sucked to wait an hour just to acquire the said sandwich, but that’s the price of sleeping in, to which I made the mistake of doing.  And the couple next to me at Cafe Broder mentioned that this was a problem here, Portland people love their food, and will wait for it.

I then headed out of the city, West towards Canon Beach.  This, unbeknownst to me was basically the last stop in my journey.  The Canon Beach town was pretty neat, I mean it was touresty as hell, the shops were kinda cheesy, the Insomnia coffee joint was decent enough (not a Stumptown though..)  and the beach was reasonably pleasant enough (especially the convenient tsunami evacuation plan posted at the entrances to the beach). Honestly, it was nice, that’s about all you’re getting from me, I’m not so jaded with life as to call this place a touresty meh beach town, but it’s kinda how I felt.  Guess Big Sur has me all snobby about my coastlines.  I headed back to Portland, got another bacon maple log from Voodoo Doughnuts, took a few more pictures, checked out Powell’s books, got my Stumptown Cappuccino (FUCK YES IT WAS GOOD) and then headed home.




In the end, what do I think?  I don’t know.  I definitely love this place.  I love Oregon.  I would like to experiment with my life, not in the trying acid in the restroom of the dollar movie theater kind of way, but in the “maybe I’d try living here at some point” kind of way. The drab gloomyness might irk me, the rainy cloudiness might get old, but where can you really have it all?  I mean it’s all give and take. Phoenix is great, except when it is hot, and uninteresting, and you crave rivers and mountains within reasonable distances, I mean those things are here, but not conveniently so.  I’d make a shitload more money as an RN in Portland.  So yeah, I like it, I’ll see you again for sure you beautiful ass city.


Mount Shasta on the way home.