Impudent Ways hits the road! Dear reader, I've taken some vacation time and headed back to the coast of my birth. I report to you from Portland, Oregon! It's here where you can take freakishly clean, freakishly free public transit. It's also here where my good friends Marty and Tera, two stunning pillars of humanity, moved this past May. Missing them terribly, and intrigued by this city of bike gangs and liberalism run amok, I've come to bask in the glory of the town.
So far I've horsed around inside the de-lightful Finnegans Toys, strolled around the Park Blocks, bought a Brooklyn band's cd at the shockingly well-stocked Jackpot Records and of course, of course, I went to pay homage at Powell's Books, the mecca of bibliophiles everywhere. A list of books I bought can be found below.
(Distracting Side Note: should you wish to check out that Brooklyn band link, it will take you to The Oxford Collapse. Please listen to "Please Visit Your National Parks." It's a humdinger!)
After hearing so much about how Portland is just the coolest place forever and ever, amen, I was anxious to get out and meander around. As Tera and Marty are normal and have jobs, I have most of the day to rock it Han Solo. So far Portland strikes me a weird amalgamation of where I live now, Brooklyn, and where I grew up, East Sacramento, bordering on the raging rat race of Downtown.
Sacramento's defining characteristic, at least in my memory, is its general sleepiness, even downtown near the capital. There is no "raging rat race." Portland has that sort of naptime vibe. Both cities have lots of lovely trees, but as a Sacramento girl I have to say that Sacramento has more, as the only city that has more trees than Sacramento is Paris, and I believe we're gaining on them. There are also the lovely craftsman style houses, all the tattooed youngsters walking around, the cafes and the bookshops. But mostly I'm reminded of Sacramento by the general feeling like it's always 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon. It feels like a Chris Van Allsburg illustration looks.
Native Will, my guide and translator has explained to me that apparently Californians are not a welcome bunch here in Portland. His family has lived here since he was a wee bairn and still gets flack for being from the Golden State. Perhaps this is why I suddenly can't get into any bars with my driver's license which just expired. Charming.
Something that Sacramento does not have is Portland's chatiness. I can't step out of Marty and Tera's house without having several five minute conversations -- some with people wearing clothes, some with people not wearing much of anything.
Yesterday, for instance, I was minding my own business reading "Red Son" when a gentleman wearing cut off jeans, an orange safety vest and nothing else stopped by to talk at me. It was something about how Superman called him to sell him kryptonite, because he's so loyal (as I could see, by observing his tattoo of Japanese characters which spelled out "Loyal") but he couldn't do anything about it because he's an alcoholic. The dude in the vest with no shirt, not Superman.
I also got some kudos on my fashion sense from some kids parked out on Burnside bridge . I've noticed that in Portland, rather than in New York, people really share the bounty. As Native Will noted,"Oh yeah. It's not like in New York where people wallow privately in their misery. People here will follow you around for a while and explain it to you."
However, there are some fabulous examples of non-crazy chat ups (er, I think). After my first day of walking/exploring, I was headed to my base of operations, when a fellow pulled up next to me -- on his fixie, natch -- and just started talking. This is not a dramatization:
Dude: -And my friends were like, that is such an asshole move of you, because I cut you off the other day, but I didn't mean to, it was just I saw you walking the other day and I was on the sidewalk, but I didn't mean to cut you off, but they were all "You're a dick," so I just wanted to know... Do you think I'm an asshole?
Me:Uh...No. But I also don't think I am who you think I am.
Dude: No, you totally are. I cut you off the other day.
Me: I just got here at like, 11 last night.
Dude:....This morning. Weren't you walking around this morning?
Dude: Where did you come from?
Me: New York. Hey, listen, this is me...Have a nice day.
And so I turned down my street. Then suddenly I hear, "In Portland, we say goodbye!" yelled at me from across the intersection.
Righteousness regarding etiquette is so much more palatable when yelled, don't you think? Jane would definitely approve.
I used to be a girl who lived in L.A. and was proud of being from Sacramento, and now I'm am woman who lives on the East Coast who is proud of being from the West Coast. Is it possible that New York has hardened some part of me, that I've lost the laid back aura of Northern California, withered away after six years of NY1, toll bridges, Augusts that make your blood boil, the F train and Gawker?
It's possible. Then again, it's possible that a man who's come-on line is "Am I an asshole?" already knows the answer to his own question.
In any case, Portland seems like a pretty cool town. Washington Park, local beers, a trip to the coast to greet the Mighty Pacific, and stalking Craig Thompson all await.
Books I bought from Powell's:
Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose. By Ted Hughes, ed. William Scammell.
The Laughter Of Foxes: A Study Of Ted Hughes. Keith Sagar.
Without. Donal Hall.
The Twilight Series, by Stephanie Meyer (I'M ON VACATION)
The British edition of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. (I wanted to have them all, and was miffed that they didn't have single, paperback, US editions of number six -- only in the box set. I like the US illustrations and design more -- probably the only time I like and American version of something more than the British version. However, there's a great mistake in the UK version of number six. Commenter Kudos to who can tell me what is! (Lee Booth, Arnold -- it's a face off. Which one of my two readers will persevere???)
Also, Ian passed along a fantastic mix entitled "This Is Like Being Alive" to give to Marty and Tera. So far the biggest hit has been this New Pornographer's song, "Sing Me Spanish Techno." You can watch the great video here, at Ian's mysterious blog.