Portland

PORTLAND I LOVE YOU.

Dave and I met when we were 14 years old. We completely disagree about what he was wearing the first time we spoke in 10th grade. I swear it was blue pants and a Hawaiian shirt. It was 1991’ish so it would make sense based on fashion trends of that time, but he claims he didn’t own blue pants. I’ve let it go though – kinda. These days we disagree about other memories. For example, the time he almost killed us driving to Ocean City, Maryland because his sandal got caught on the brake pedal. (That happened and there were witnesses lol.) Regardless of how we remember growing up together, they are some of my favorite memories.

We have one of those friendships that always seems to pick up exactly where it left off. He was always very patient with me even though I’m usually all over the place. When I was young, it was even worse. Dave managed to keep up with me even though it was an impossible task. He was also a big reason that I loved music so much. I have so many great memories of being in his basement listening to him play piano. Actually, his whole family was musical. I can picture that piano and his dad’s drum kit like it was yesterday. His sister Regina sang like an angel and then ended up morphing into a brilliant photographer that I had the pleasure of working with for That Mag. Dave and I were close.

Portlandia.

Portland SignLanding in Portland, I instantly felt the air was cleaner. It was something I noticed as soon as I arrived. The air had a lightness. In the distance I could see snow-capped mountains even though it was near 90 degrees. There was sufficient time to take in the scenery because we were caught in traffic on our ride from the airport to Dave’s apartment. I couldn’t help notice how much new development was happening in the city. Cranes were everywhere assisting with the creation of high buildings and possibly chain stores. The allure of Portland is in its devotion to originality and local business. Although I have no idea what new businesses are going in, my hope is that Portland will never lose its charm.

You know what else is really cool about Portland? The homeless are allowed to pop tents and sleep on the street. It’s apparently a new law and I found that tent cities had a charm to themselves. More importantly, it gives homeless people rights. I’m not sure what the long-term effects of this will be but it should be interesting to watch.

I mentioned in my previous post that I fell in love with Portland. The love affair happened my very first night there. We went for dinner and had a great meal. The restaurant had kegs of wines! You could literally bring your own empty bottle and fill it from a keg. I’m pretty sure this came directly from my definition of heaven. Luckily Dave also enjoys the vino so I trusted him to make selections. The wine wooed me and set the tone for a magical evening.

I already knew the food in Portland was going to be spectacular. My good friend and colleague Cami, a life long resident of Portland, filled me in on the juicy details of the food scene. She prepared me with a list of places to try so I was super excited to try all the cuisines the city had to offer.

Magic happens.

After leaving the restaurant we decided to grab a bottle of Cab Franc from Enso Winery. I still remember what it tasted like. It was like drinking velvet. Bottle in hand and protected by a classy brown paper bag, we headed to an outdoor space and there stood a beautiful upright piano.

Piano - Portland
Pianos in the wild.

Portland loves the arts. An amazing organization called Piano. Push. Play. set up pianos throughout the city for people to play at will. The pianos were decorated by visual artists and each had an original look. Dave took a seat and started playing while I sipped wine out of the bottle. I leaned on the corner of the piano with my chin on my hand just like I did when I was a kid listening to him play. This trip was about me reconnecting with myself and at this moment the 40 year old me met the teenage me and it was perfect.

Music kept filling the air and soon others came to listen. A beautiful women asked Dave to play “Für Elise” and she danced Ballet as he played. From the distance we heard a champagne cork pop from another audience member. The stars were out, the music was beautiful, the wine was perfect, and I knew I could never have planned this evening. I was open to magic and it was happening right before my eyes.

Books are my friend.

The next day we did a whirl wind tour of Portland. We calculated that we covered about 10 miles. We saw so much but I think my love affair blossomed when I walked into Powell’s books. For anyone that knows me, the number one thing I hoard is books, specifically old books. I have a problem. Ask anyone who has ever helped us moved. It’s not fun because books are heavy, but alas, I keep buying them. I never got into kindles or other e-readers. I still love the crack of a hard cover book and the smell of the ink. I love finding an old book that has hand writing on the pages. Handwriting in a book can tell so much. That writing holds stories buried beneath the actual story itself.

We walked around the store and I went right over to a book by Don Miguel Ruiz called “The Toltec Art of Life and Death”. As I opened the book, inside was his signature. It was an autographed copy and I found it in the piles of books. Don Miguel Ruiz is a blog for another day, but just know that he was introduced to me by the hubs and for years his books have been gifted to friends and family. Basically this book was special and I had it in my hand. I also picked up a recommendation from Dave that I plan on reading this week while drinking Oregon Pinot Noir in an effort to transport myself back to this time. Again, magic.

Art and Music.

Mount Hood - Portland
Mount Hood from a roof top.

One of the best photos I captured was from a roof top downtown. As we were looking out, I could see Mount Hood in all of her glory. The picture to me is epic, urban lights on a roof top and nature’s magic on a mountain top. It was everything I could have hoped for and I wanted to sit on that roof top all day. But it was time to continue on. We found more pianos in the city and Dave played for the gathering crowds. We listened as others played too. Music will bring people together.

Later his friend Rob joined us for one of my favorite meals of the trip. Rob was a true Renaissance man. I say this because he is a chef, butcher, drummer, artist, ceramist, and like 100 other things, a truly interesting guy. More on that later.

Dave had organized a night in the studio so I could hear his new band. Members included Dave on keys, Rob on drums, and Andy on bass. I came up with about 10 names for them while listening to them play but I can’t remember any of them right now. I will say this however, it was exactly what I needed. Drinking more wine (this time in plastic cups) in a studio that was about 1000 degrees, and listening to some incredible music. It was enough to ensure I would reconnect with my inner artist.

Here is where I make a confession. Music made me but lately I’ve resented it in a way. I can’t explain it but I blamed it for things that happened in life. In an effort to reconnect with myself, I knew this was an important part. I needed to find that love again. I suspect my friends knew this on some level. At one point I remember closing my eyes and thinking that I didn’t want to leave that moment. I was feeling something again and it was beautiful.

I looked up and saw a really cool piece of art on the wall in the studio. I later learned it was created by Rob (The Renaissance Man). He took it off the wall, named it Carnival Tincture, signed it, and handed it to me. It’s hanging in my living room now and I love it. When you are open to new experiences, the universe rewards you with magic. We left the studio that night and I had to say goodbye to my new friends. Truly I could have hung out with them all night. I love fascinating people and they were definitely special.

Dave and I spent the rest of the evening reminiscing and it was clear why we were still friends. We can always laugh at each other even when exposing the truest version of ourselves.

My last day in Portland.

Roses - Portland
Roses Everywhere.

The next day I woke up and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from Dave’s living room window. Portland has some great weather. I had a few more hours left there and I planned on enjoying it as much as possible. We got delicious coffee, walked around the farmer’s market, and took a ride towards the rose garden. I learned that Portland was called “The City of Roses” because of its climate. The rose garden has a fascinating story. During World War I, It preserved rose bushes from around the world to save them from extinction. What I saw of it was lovely. We also stumbled upon an arboretum that had the most massive trees I had ever seen. They were so old that you could feel their energy when you were near them. It was tranquil on that mountain and easy to get lost in the solitude.

We had a big lunch date that day. Rob told us to come to the restaurant he worked at, Nostrana. He created a charcuterie plate for the ages followed by Neapolitan style pizza (my favorite) and gelato (also my favorite). All accompanied by, you guessed it, delicious wine. We talked with the regulars at the bar while I savored every single bite. After we completely stuffed ourselves, we headed out so I could pack and get to the airport on time. Those last few hours were filled with more reminiscing and promises of it not being another 5 years until we saw each other again.

I know I’m leaving so much out. So much happened. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the people I met in Portland were incredible. People make a city and I would have moved to Portland that day if I could just because the people were so interesting.

When you have been friends with someone for so long, it gets harder to say goodbye after short visits. Life easily gets in the way of human interaction. When you make time to focus just on that, just on the interaction, you realize how precious it is. I just wanted to stay and talk more. I didn’t want to look at Facebook or Twitter. I just wanted to hear Dave laugh at my silliness a little while longer.

Then just like that, I was off to the airport, running to the gate again to board my flight to LAX.

It was time for Prom.

Next time, Laguna Beach takes center stage and I fall in love again. Then in the final wrap up, learn what I plan to do now that my friends whipped me into shape.

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