Last Tuesday, I hopped on a plane and flew to Portland, OR to visit my friend, Joan. The whole thing was pretty thrilling to me because I read so much about Portland in my most favoritist blog ever. Plus, the west coast has never disappointed me once (specifically, California has never disappointed me), so why would Oregon? I hate airplanes and there's nothing fun about flying (my return trip home confirmed this), but the west coast is worth it.
That being said, I'm the kind of person who is easily plagued by crippling homesickness. I hate leaving the Fluffs behind, and I hate leaving behind my own bed and my own linens and my own bathroom and my own everything. But, somehow I manage to drag my ass out of the house and onto the plane without too many doubts or regrets. This time, I had so many weird but good omens on the journey west. The first one greeted me at the airport: After suffering the indignities of a security check and wandering through the B terminal for my gate, I saw this poster in our waiting area:
See that church in the center? Ron and I sat on the steps of that church for an hour when we were in Rome in March. There are (there have to be) a thousand churches in Rome, and of all the churches to put on a travel ad "they" picked this one. My last trip had followed me to my present one in an extremely specific manner, and I just figured that had to be a good thing.
On the plane, I spent the entire flight reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild. The book culminates with Strayed's arrival in (where else?) Portland, Oregon. She spends a lot of time discussing what it was like to arrive at Mt. Hood after three months of hiking there on foot. As I'm reading the final pages of the book, the woman next to me in the window seat lifts the shade ... and there's Mt. Hood directly outside the window. Come on: THAT'S weird, right? The only reason I picked Wild was because it just happened to be at the library when I was there, and a few days after I grabbed it Joan invited me to fly out to see her. Strange timing. Come on, that's a sign too, right? (Well, I think it is.) So I hit the ground in Portland totally convinced that there was no other place I supposed to be that week. Typically, I hate any kind of thinking that's remotely deterministic, but I just couldn't help myself this time.
|You can't see Luke the bunny, but he's in this wood hutch that Joan built herself.|
Joan lives in a little house an hour outside of the city. The drive to and from the city sorta reminded me of driving through California wine country: You drive through rural farmlands and then you pass right through the center of a small town, and then through more rural farmlands, and then through the center of another small town, etc.
I had a lot of time to myself since Joan still has a few more weeks to the semester, but her town is walkable and I got to see quite a bit of her community.
|Apparently, a TON of people show up for the UFO festival every year. I came a week too early. Oh well.|
|I'm pretty sure that this was just a drugstore--how cute is their window display??|
|A small appliance store--so cute.|
Wednesday was also Joan's birthday, so she arranged for us to have drinks and dinner at one of her favorite places with some of her other friends.
This is Thistle--their pre-prohibition era bar did not disappoint. Dinner was fabulous too. They have a very short menu day to day, but everything we ordered was fantastic.
|The Crusta cocktail|
Later in the day, we went to Joan's friend's farm. Cindy has goats, chickens, and an alpaca, plus a long hiking trail through the woods. Joan brought her dogs and we enjoyed the gorgeous property that sits on a secluded hillside.
|Cindy discovered these teeny tiny orchids not long ago. Joan's a major orchid buff, but she couldn't name it off the top of her head.|
|See the gorgeous alpaca (Rio) in the background? Cindy's sister in law sheers his coat and makes her own yarn--don't laugh: Do you know how much alpaca yarns goes for? Ask anyone who crochets!|
|Goats are the only creatures with square pupils--isn't that weird?|
Not only were Neil and Clara not psychos, they were beyond completely awesome and their house was gorgeous. Neil is some kind of genius mathematician and Clara's a CPA, and they know how to cook a dinner AND pair it with some incredible wines from their vast collection.
|First course: Swiss chard frittata with spring greens|
|Second course: Warm lentil stew with kale|
|Third course: French buckwheat cakes from Red Fox Bakery with kumquat jam and orange blossom water ... sorta devastated that I (most likely) will never get to eat these again.|
After dinner, they gave us a tour of their super green/eco-friendly/gorgeously constructed house ("It'll be the only thing standing in town when we get the 9.0 earthquake," says Neil). Neil has a vast book collection spanning every topic you can imagine and many copies of autographed books. I love looking through other people's books, and their collection didn't disappoint. This whole scenario was very bizarre to me: Typically, I would never accept an invitation to drink so much as a glass of water at a stranger's house, let alone in a strange suburb of a strange city. Seriously, this is some pretty crazy rule-breaking in my book. And I lived to tell about it which is beyond mind-blowing to me.
(I need to get out more.)
In the meantime, Joan's husband had arrived from PA and bought two dozen donuts from the famous Voodoo donuts on his way into town.
|A picture is worth a thousand words ...|
For the remainder of my stay, these guys were just hanging out on the counter staring at me. Completely ridiculous.
We went into Portland the next day--I have a bunch of pictures from that, but I'll save them for a second post later on.