Still in Portland

This was the day Christopher arrived from Minneapolis, but this fact didn’t impact my world much as he pretty much slept all day. Working graveyard, then getting on a plane and flying cross-country, and expecting to be alert and wake when you arrive is not realistic. Period.

I spent part of the afternoon with Laura and Pagan (the wonder dog), watching soap operas. It’s amazing how quickly everything comes back to you, even after fifteen years away from them. Laura and Pagan have noe relocated to Santa Cruz and owe me a visit. If you ever meet them, remember to say “Lassie” and see what happens. We were also visited by the neighbor, Baby Evan.

  

What visit to Portland would be complete without a tribute to Gus Van Sant? In honor of the director of “My Own Private Idaho” and “Drugstore Cowboy”, I felt compelled to visit a few of the locations contained therein:

I saw the first drug store robbed in “Drugstore Cowboy” and the bookstore from “My Own Private Idaho” where all the porn magazines came to life:

 

I also saw Matt Dillon’s (and William Burroughs’) hotel from “Drugstore” and Bob’s hotel from “Idaho”:

 

Drinking with Rae and Micheal finally happened, as did dinner with Rae and Brian, although not at Waddle’s. Leave it to my contacts to know where the best (and cheapest) beer is to be found. Christopher finaly woke up and the final night was topped off by a return to the dismal queer bar scene. He was even less impressed than I was.

  

All in all, though, I really liked Portland. It’s a very comfortable city, and a very manageable one. The weather was great during my time there; although it was “supposed” to rain, it never did. Of course, I wouldn’t have minded the rain anyway. Potential? Maybe…

Portland Some More

Aaah Portland…biggest city in the land of no sales tax, no self service gas, and beautiful scruffy boys. A few mentionables:

  

Fred Meyer: A Portland tradition, combining Target, Safeway, and various other stores in one. It’s esay to trace Portland’s development through the location of these stores. Early innovations included rooftop parking and suburban shopping.

Plaid Pantry: Portland’s entry into the “strange names for conveience stores” sweepstakes. This one really seems to fit its market, however.

Waddle’s: Early 60’s coffee shop mecca. This place inspired me, and was every restaurant I used to eat at on the road with mom and dad. Do not try to have dinner there on Monday or Tuesday nights, however.

 

Portland

  

OK…the queer bar scene in Portland SUCKS. The string of bars on Stark Street have been overrun by heterosexuals. I am not a separatist, and I have no problem with straight people in gay bars, buth the invaders in Portland don’t seem interested in co-existing; they appear to intent on taking over.

That said, however, there is some interesting nightlife in Portland all the same. The beer is good (even in the gay bars, which is a rarity) and there are non-bar options as well. Portland is home to perhaps the most thriving independent film scene in America, possibly due to the weather, the “Gus” factor, or the fact that there are more second-run and repertory cinemas here than anywhere else in the country. Coffee achievement is also big here.

I was also pleaantly surprised that I was able to pick up (get picked up by?) a very cute guy right on the street in a not tremendously gay area. He was fun, but we were unable to reconnect. We’ll see how the email aspect works out.

So about that nightlife: The Eagle PDX was the only queer bar in the city I sort of liked. Dark and moderately cruisy. Music was OK, when it didn’t veer into techo-crap. Two levels, porn videos, good beer, and EXTREMELY surly bartenders.

Medford to Portland

Early wake-up call at the Motel 6 and I was on my way, through the wilds of southern Oregon. I’d forgotten how much I both like and dislike mountain driving. But it was a most beautiful day, despite the prediction that rain might enter my world. Never happened.

First photo opportunity was Roseburg, a cute mountain town with what appeared to be a very homogenous population (that’s a polite way of saying “white rednecks”). Nice motel strip, cute downtown. Fifteen minutes covered it.

 

Onward through scenic Salem and Eugene, which were both very nice places and were vaguely reminiscent of North Carolina. Eugene screamed “major college town” and the downtown pedestrian mall had a fair share of offbeat characters (and tempting skate rats). I was pleased to see that Wells Fargo Bank was established all over the place , which meant no service charge at the ATM. This makes me forget about the major corporate greed aspect and the usurpation of Oregon culture by California. I’ve learned to cope.

Finally, I hit Portland, the “city of Roses”. I saw very few roses, but I liked it there instantly. The plan was for me to stay with my friends Michael and Brad and their roommate Laura — all expatriate North Carolinians. I was also here to visit Rae and Michael, my expatriate San Franciscan friends. Of course, I was also scoping Portland as a possible relocation site for Planet SOMA (oops…that’s a secret…)

 

Michael and Brad have a house and yard. I want a house and yard. Almost no one in San Francisco has a house or yard. They also have a guest room. Absolutely no one in San Francisco has a guest room. I want a guest room.

  

Rae and I had a hard time connecting for the first couple of days, as it seems yet another expatriate San Franciscan, my former boss Brian, was also on the scene. Actually, I did very little the first night in Portland, save for driving around and getting a “feel”.

The big discovery was Powell’s Books (1005 West Burside). It’s supposedly the largest bookstore in America. It’s independently owned, the new and used books are sold side by side, and it’s HUGE. I could move to Portland just for this bookstore. Used book prices are a trifle high, but I guess you pay for selection. Open till 11 most nights.

A great breakfast discovery: Shaker’s. I forget the address, but I had a killer black bean and avacado omelette here. Sort of like a burrito wrapped in an egg. Good call, Micheal.

San Francisco to Medford

A good thing to remember: never, ever leave San Francisco headed north on a Friday afternoon at 3PM and expect to get very far very fast. Once past Fairfield, though, and onto the 505, and everything sailed along nicely at 70MPH (OK, maybe 80…). Things got even better when I hit I-5, which pretty much follows the route of what used to be US 99. I loved the remains of 99 in Sacramento and Fresno, and I was not disappointed with the northern part either.

Didn’t make a lot of stops the first night, although I think I ate something in Redding. A big highlight was my first visit to Weed. I’d been intrigued by the idea of visiting this town with the funky name ever since moving to California, and it was now time. I found lots of good neon, some cool post cards, and not much else, but I was satisfied.

 

It’s hard to overstate how incredibly impressive the sight of Mount Shasta can be, even in the dark. It seems eerily illuminated and dominated the road. The mountains continued through Yreka and into southern Oregon. When I hit Medford, it was time to stop for the night.

 

Medford’s a strange place: one of those completely linear cities found along old US highway routes. Apparently, it’s always been a big stopover place, as can be seen by the many vintage motels and restaurants.

Medford was also the place where I learned, somewhat dramatically, that it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. The station attendant nearly had a heart attack — and nearly gave me one — when I walked upto the pump, inserted my credit card and proceeded to commit a misdemeanor with no apparent fear.

I drove around some downtown, found no “scene” to speak of, and then slept, vowing to wake up early and continue on.