Monday, September 7, 2009

The Portland Chronicles...

I spent the last weekend in Portland, which is one of my favorite cities. There is something wonderful about small blocks, easily conquered and often rain drenched. It is a city mazed with alternating one way streets, street car rails, bridges, and people who walk everywhere. Regardless of the weather you put on your beanie and go. You let the rain fall on your head and face and hands. You let it soak the bottown of your pant legs. You let it straighten your hair and drip of the end of your nose. You get wet. It is part of the experience. Portland would not be the same without the rain. It is a part of the landscape and affects the city's texture, color, and light. Portland is full of greys and blues and greens. I recommend adding a little red or orange to the small space you occupy while visiting the city. Add a cap or scarf or mittens and see how it changes the view.

Portland is home to Powell's City of Books, which is the largest new and used book store in the world. The afternoon we visited Powell's was particularly torrential and provided a perfect excuse to spend multiple hours looking through the shelves. It is overwhelming to be in a place with so many books. It is hard to choose a place to start. I wandered a little, picked out a rustic fruits cookbook (consequently the only new book I bought that day), and eventually ended up on the second floor which offers an intoxicating combination of fiction and non fiction. I spent the next couple of hours sitting on a footstool reading, adding things to my basket, taking things out, until the choices were narrowed to a resonable amount. When I left the bookstore, I was ninety dollars poorer and ten books richer. It was an afternoon well spent.

The rain subsided and we ate lunch at the carts on our way to Knit Purl. I used to be a traveler wary of food sold from street vendors, but a little bravery and only good experiences have led me to abandon my wariness. The pulled pork sandwich, barbeque beans, and coleslaw did not disappoint. I was even brave enough to try the mysterious white "Southern Sauce" innocently waiting in a bottle next to the barbaque. Very spicy, but a rather tasty kick.

A visit to Knit Purl was next. It is a beautiful, brick front yarn store at the corner of 11th and Alder. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in there, but I was trying to be considerate to my travel friend. As a side note, the first time I visited Knit Purl, I spent more than I had ever spent at a yarn store in a single visit. It still holds the record, which is impressive considereing the amount of money I spend on yarn. I won't talk about specifics, as they are unimportant, but if you are bitten by the knitting bug and have the chance to visit Knit! (There is a wonderful local yarn store called Blazing Needles that is just as beautiful).

The day finished off with a trip to Trader Joes in the Alphabet District and getting wonderfully lost in the process...remember all of Portland's one way streets? Getting lost was largely due Amber's inability to read maps and gauge direction without large physical landmarks. She also failed to notice that in the alphabet district the streets go alphabetically. Throw in a random street that prohibits left and right turns (is there any other kind?), a few random bridges, and streets that end in nowhere and you get lost, lost, lost! Fortunately, we had no where to be and getting lost turned out to be quite an adventure. We finally made it to the grocery where we were able to fill our bags with fresh fruit and other cheap, but delicious organic items.

To be continued...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Latte Boy...

Almost every morning I walk to the Starbucks for a freshly brewed chai. Even in these times of economic distress and my impending unemployment, it is a little luxury I haven't been able to give up. There is something about a full cup of warm milk infused with spices and pepper. That something might just be tangible happiness. Add a healthy dose of nutmeg to the mix and it is almost magic. If you are a morning beverage girl, I am sure you understand.

The Starbucks I frequent is staffed by a very cheerful, but not overly cheerful bunch. I am not ashamed to say I am a regular and have a quiet sense of joy when they smilingly say, "the usual." It gives me a sense of belonging, a sense of community, even if it is fleeting. Every morning I want to move to a small town where I am always a regular and will some day achieve the status of a local. That feeling too is fleeting, but it accomplishes a purpose and I like to revel in the possibility.

Among the crowd of the morning crew there is a latte boy. For the purpose of this post we will call him Riley, as that is his name. He has very large and curly hair, a prominent nose, dark rimmed glasses, and kind eyes. All things I look for and love. He reads the newspaper, which I also find very appealing. He is a pleasant boy who happily brews my venti extra hot and delivers it with a smile. Some mornings I have a serious crush.

I bring the latte boy here to prove a point...that possibility is everywhere. I am not just talking about the possibility of love or caffeinated bliss. I am more talking about the possibility of recognizing, of noticing, of seeing the simple things that fill up a life. The joy in finding and appreciating those things that add color and beauty to existence: a morning walk, a morning chai, an extra sprinkling of nutmeg, a curly haired boy who smiles as he fills your cup, and a sense of belonging someplace, somewhere, even if it is just the coffee shop on the corner.