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.


Nancy said...

Wow, you mentioned Spartacus, and I drove by it last week thinking - what the?? Now I know.

I love Portland. It is still funkier than so many other places. But I can see the changes you are talking about. Just in the time we lived there, and moved away, there seems to be a change. We love the East side and probably would not move back to West Linn if we do move back. (We moved there because of the school district at the time.) Part of Portland's charm was it's nice people, which seem to be a little more militant than they used to be. Less tolerant. More horn honking. That part makes me sad. But my children live there, and my grandson lives there, so we will continue to spend much of our time in Portland. Our daughter just moved to the Alberta district and we are looking forward to exploring that part of town. Love Vita Cafe.

Can't wait to hear where you are going. New adventures are always exciting.

CDP said...

I can't wait to hear where you're going.

Randal Graves said...

A word of advice: don't try Cleveland. Unless you're a huge fan of a giant stamp or bad football.

You do realize that we fully expect some Adventures, Ink out of this, right?

okjimm said...

Wowsers.... I could finally open your website at work!(I have no internet at home) Where are you off to? I have something to send you.... but I need a place to send it to. find my email at my blog.... it's not beer! :)

Mary Ellen said...

Wow...sometimes I think it would be great to move to another city or heck...another country. But I can't go to Europe because they think soccer is football and that's just freakin' wrong.

Now I'm all excited to find out where you're going. I have to live through my blog friends, I guess. :-)

Crow is going with you, right? Maybe you can send him out to scout out a few new places, it might save you on gas. Just a thought. ;-)

Lisa said...

You know, when I had the good fortune to visit France, I was struck by how they preserve and continue to use old buildings. Contrast that with our throw away and tear it down society. Sad.

Now - WHERE?

linda said...

well, you make portland sound so fun at one time in it's has gone the way of many cities, is my thought...i am wondering where you are going, although you have hinted and i will keep do get the wanderlust every quarter century or so, don't you!

don't they have some fabulous doughnut place? not that you would eat such things...


marja-leena said...

You've lived in Portland quite a lot of years and have some nice memories to reminisce over. Hope your new home will be as interesting and give you many pleasures to add to your memory bank! I hope the packing up, sorting, tossing, and all those decisions will not be too agonizing but it sounds like you're giving yourself lots of time. Of course we're all curious as to where you are moving to. Will it be Canada?

Me? I've said they'll have to carry me out of this home :-)

Seraphine said...

i rather am envious because you get to go somewhere and make a new adventure. it's funny how you know when it's time to go do something else.
it's funny that you were told your art wasn't "northwestern" enough. they probably did a brisk business in pictures of mount hood painted on pine slices. or else, they sold clocks made out of tree burl.
i say, go where you are appreciated. preferably, somewhere warmer than canada, rhode island and oregon.

Spadoman said...

Is this the big move East? Hope all happens as intended and with the least amount of stress.
I've been to Portland many times. I used to Amtrak into Portland and rent a car from the Thrifty rental office just a few blocks South of the depot. I'd drive down to Eureka, CA when we had a place there on Humboldt Bay.
I've been to Powell's and a few little diners in the downtown area over the years.
Remember a place called Hamburger Mary's? Is it still there? And the micro brewery that made pizza from the left over yeast, somewhere near downtown. That was great pizza crust!
I broke down with a semi in the late 70's in Portland and walked all over that city for a couple of days waiting for the repairs to be complete.
I have friends in Portland proper, Eugene, Salem and Troutdale.
Keep us posted.


susan said...

nancy - I remember being measured and fitted there for a special little item and I remember perusing their collection of decorative piercing bits. No, I didn't buy any :-)

cdp - You'll know soon.

randal - Nah, I leave the home of the burning rivers to you but there will be more Adventures.. one of these days.

jimm - Niiice, I'll send you a note :-)

nunly - Crow has been scouting but we'll have to go and find a spot for our furniture and his mahogany perch.

lisa - Historic is definitely part of our requirement. You'll know where soon by why will come later (if you have to guess).

linda - I have been hinting here and there for a while. It seems if I could live a few hundred more years I'd actually get to know something of the world.

marja-leena - Considering this is the fifth place we've lived in since coming here we're pretty good at packing. We even have folding bookcases :-) Long distance moving just requires a bit more care.

sera - The only thing to do is to get excited about a change because otherwise the gravity of inertia is just too powerful. There's a lot of unwarranted cultural pomposity around here. Good read :-)

spadoman - Yes, it is. The train station here really is a beauty and there'll always be things I miss about Portland. If only they'd move the border south by a few hundred miles we might consider staying.

The Cunning Runt said...

You're the kind of person who will find the cool stuff wherever you go.

I hope your anticipated move suits you and pleases you.

Easy now,


Anonymous said...

nice reading through your wonderful journey of this city...!

susan said...

cr - How neat you came by to visit. Yes, we're going to the place I've been muttering about and I know it will be fun. Your pictures have inspired me.

flyingstars - Thanks so much for your visit. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.