Thursday, November 19, 2009
bursting our bubble
I find myself gradually saying good-bye to Portland. It's been fun and it's been interesting, though not necessarily both things at once. Perhaps it's the 16 year itch affecting us again or maybe it's just that another place is drawing us into its gravity well. Nevertheless, a year from now we'll be somewhere else and the time between promises to be one full of both expected and unexpected change. I'll tell you more about where later because in the meanwhile I'm busy reminiscing.
We got here in late summer of 1993 after a long drive in a tiny car across a very big country in a short amount of time. My original description of the trip in a letter to a friend was 45 pages long but the essence is contained in that sentence. We stayed in a hotel on a Friday night, bought a paper in the morning, found a suitable apartment close to downtown, emptied the car, went out and bought a futon, carried it home so we'd have a place to sleep and here we were. One of us went to work on Monday morning and I went out to explore the city. Several weeks later 10 tightly packed boxes of our essentials arrived from RI. As old friends announced their intentions to visit we added furniture.
I spent the following 6 months walking, painting, making jewelry, sometimes convincing galleries to show my stuff and sometimes not. One gallery owner told me my stuff wasn't Northwestern enough. Eventually I gave up trying to be a successful working artist and went out and got another job in medicine. Up here. On the hill. Known as Pill Hill back then but not so much now. Portland was funkier and more naive 16 years ago. My first job paid half of what I'd been making on the east coast but it was fun working with neurosurgery researchers. Most of them were quite crazy which suited me very well.
There were still lots of cool places in town - the Church of Elvis you entered by a long narrow staircase and on our first visit Elvis was screaming and chasing a poor tourist down the stairs. LaLuna was one of many neat clubs and the place where we saw Public Enemy one New Year's Eve. 'Weren't you afraid?' someone asked. Well no, we were still in Portland, duh. The was the Sci Fi Museum on Burnside where you could browse through a guy's life-long collection of bizarre treasures for free. Daisy World was a huge fabric store that had been in business for 75 years with a remarkable collection of wonderful stuff that mostly females would like. Along every block there were unique shops full of magazines, records, beads, 50's furniture and antique clothes. I had a favorite place to buy stuff but can't remember now if it was called Good Clothes For Bad Girls or Bad Clothes For Good Girls. You get the idea. Spartacus used to make their own little treasures with leather and lace but now it's all kinky plastic from China. We bought a lot of our cd's at Music Millennium and a lot more at Django's, another business left over from the 60's. There was even an old style department store, seven stories tall with fewer and fewer customers the higher you rode the increasingly narrow escalator and the older and older the staff. I wondered if they just put dust covers over them at night. Once there were many old theaters on Broadway but now it's just the name of a street.
Most all of those places are gone now - buildings torn down and new modern ones where they stood and the others unrecognizable. Mt. Hood is still there in the distance and on clear days you can still see the flat-topped Mt. St. Helen's. Roses still grow here in a profusion like few other places but I've never seen the Rose Parade - nor do I intend to. Powell's, no longer alone in a wasteland of old warehouses, is surrounded by green apartment buildings and the false fancy boutiques of big business.
It's still a nice city, if you can stand the idea of half the streets being turned into bicycle lanes only in a place where it rains and freezes half the year, but it's time for us to be going. More next time :-) and yes, Crow's going with us.