A week here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. A week of exploration, weddings and reunions, and rediscovery of why I love Portland so much. A short summary of my favorite moments this week. Think of it as a smorgasbord of experiences, or maybe pictures in a gallery of Portland life.
– Independence Day fireworks at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. Families with picnics and blankets spread on the dusty grass, pummeled under by thousands of revelers. Glow-sticks and Jedi light-sabers sported by excited children, including the little boy who kept waving his green light-saber into my view of the fireworks! (No hard feelings!) Accompanied by my college friends, we crowded up to the railing along the Willamette River and thousands gazed fixedly towards the barge in the river. People flocked to the bridges and leisure boats crowded the shimmering waters. While the fireworks display may not match the awesome grandeur of Boston or even Fort Vancouver, there was 20 minutes of magic as the colorful display danced overhead of the Hawthorne Bridge. The city lights behind us, the smoke and haze drifting among the river boats, the intricate kaleidoscope of patterns and color above. Awe-inspiring. Made the mad crush to get aboard a MAX light-rail train home afterward worth it!
– A growing network of public transportation – buses, streetcars, light rail. The click-clack of the rails. The views of Mt. St. Helens and my former backyard of Rocky Butte from the blue line as we pull out of Gateway towards downtown. The plethora of bikes hanging from special hooks inside MAX, easing the flow of bikers throughout the city and working in tandem with the extensive bike paths. I know TriMet has its problems, but after living for so long in a city with a poorly funded bus system with gaps in its service, I realize just how much Portlanders take their mass transit system for granted.
– Every time I come home, new brewpubs seem to pop up everywhere. This time I tried a local favorite in the Pearl District – Deschutes Brewing Company. It’s a couple blocks away from the old Henry Weinhard beer factory, a poetic location. I remember when the factory in NE Portland first closed, my father driving us past the sulking massive brick buildings, weary with age and grief. Now the neighborhood is thriving and reborn. I’ve read about the changes within the Pearl District, but haven’t ventured past Powell’s Books – until now. Deschutes was my first foray.
I love the atmosphere of the microbrewery. A huge industrial space, with brick, steel, and walls of windows. Somehow feels homey and comfortable, with carved wooden portals to the inner dining areas. TVs scattered about the restaurant showed the soccer game between LA and Seattle, but they were well-placed – unobtrusive, unlike in many sports bars where you cannot escape the game to converse with your friends. I was able to keep tabs on the score, but still focus on old college friends and the food.
And what grub they served! I ordered a Grilled Washington Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza. A light, crispy crust with melted cheese, slices of pear, piled high with fresh arugula and drizzled in a vinagrette. Fit the size of a standard dinner plate. Filling, but not too much to eat in one sitting. Flavorful, crisp, an explosion of flavors. Accompanied by the Black Butte Porter, their home-brewed dark beer, I left highly satisfied. My friend Jamie ordered the best meal of the bunch. A garlic burger – with whole roasted garlic cloves on top of the meat patty, truly a divine experience! My only complaint with Deschutes? Their beer, while fantastic, is severely overpriced at $10 for 0.5 litres.
– I am immersed in a soccer-mad city. I forgot just how much my hometown loves soccer. But with the Portland Timbers becoming major league in 2011 and the World Cup reaching its crescendo, I cannot miss just how much Portlanders love this game. Signs and billboards for the Timbers are everywhere, by my count outnumbering those for the Trailblazers! Signs advertising youth league soccer scattered throughout the city, bringing forth memories of my own mud-encrusted days of goalkeeping in Gresham Youth Soccer. Bars and pubs broadcasting every World Cup and MLS soccer game live, their TVs swarmed by jersey-wearing people of all ages. People giving me smiles, the thumbs-up, enthusiastic shouts every time I wear my Germany t-shirt or jacket. I think I might have stepped into nirvana…
– Browsing Powell’s Books and sipping good, strong coffee. Shelves and shelves of books to discover. Rooms upon rooms, color-coded for easier exploration, all towering with floor to ceiling bookshelves of new and used books. Aisle upon aisle of books in foreign languages – German, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, even Latin. I love nothing better than to lose myself in Powell’s City of Books, sipping coffee as I flip through new treasures.
– Hiking around Trillium Lake and drinking in the views of Mt. Hood across the shimmering lake. Mom and I drove up the mountain on a Friday afternoon to share Portland’s backyard playground with the rest of the city as we escaped soaring temperatures to swim in the lake in the looming shadow of a majestic mountain. We hiked a little around the lake, cool amidst the cathedral ceiling of the green forest canopy. Watched the lowering sun dance and sparkle on the lake. Laughed at the baby ducks as they rolled, splashed and played in the marsh. Weekenders were setting up their tents, kayaking on the lake, even a cross-country summer camp training as they huffed and puffed around the lake.
– Fresh berries sold at roadside stands everywhere. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, marionberries, even some early huckleberries. Tart, sweet, bursting with flavor and juice, a berry for every taste.
– Vibrant, huge, demand-your-attention roses. In public gardens and parks, encircling tennis courts, lining freeways, bursting out of small home gardens and yards, covering walls and trellises. Rose bushes as tall as me and that is no exaggeration. Portland is most definitely the City of Roses.
Just a few of the ways I have fallen in love all over again with my hometown. I will fly back to the Midwest on Tuesday completely intoxicated!
A quick note about my health – I have been busy almost every day of my three-week vacation, and while I’ve been diligent about eating healthy, drinking fluids, stretching, resting and walking a TON, my non-stop pace has finally caught up with me. I think the final straw was this recent heat wave. Three days of 95-98 degree temps in the city. One of those days I spent outside all day when I met up with a high school friend and his daughter at the Oregon Zoo. I was impressed that the zoo set up misters to help everyone cool down, but no matter how much water I drank or how much I sat down, the heat really got to me. Extreme temperatures wreak havoc when you have fibromyalgia. Thank goodness this is a dry heat – an ounce of humidity and I would have been a useless sweating doll sprawled on the floor of my parent’s house. As it was, I still ended up with a massive headache, achy limbs, and extreme crushing fatigue by the end of the day. You may attribute this to dehydration, but I assure you, I drank a ton of water and took breaks in the shade. I am looking forward to the mercury easing down into the 80’s tomorrow.
I will try to update one more time before I fly back to the Midwest. Until then, I’m heading back to my parent’s cool basement with a pitcher of water, a book, a purring cat, and my excitement over Germany’s 3rd place World Cup win.