DENVER: a Mile High

I made my way through the Denver airport, kind of muttering under my breath as I do when I am encouraging myself, or calming myself down. So often I have just latched onto others who look like they know where they are going. It usually works. But one day, I may find myself in catacombs, elevators to unfinished stories, dark trackless recesses. However, it worked again.
Just find a person who is shooting off of your plane, jogging to the luggage carrel, pounding toward an open doorway and the mere trajectory of holding onto his or her energy will fling you out of an unmarked door into a labyrinth of vehicles swooping past to pick up their precious cargo of unclaimed family members or executives with a plan in their suitcases.
I was standing in the breeze created by the movement of cars rolling past on the cement edges of the flow when I heard my name being called.
My sister-in-law was in the car yoohooing me. I hadn’t seen her since my stepfather died in April and the seven of us had cleared out his house, settled the paperwork and walked away in four days.
Considering he and my dead mother had kept every receipt since the 1960’s, it was a miracle that we managed. I remember staring down at the receipt for two cups of coffee for 24 cents from 1962 from Little Black Sambo’s restaurant.
So strange on so many layers, the paper was almost tempting me to keep it but when faced with decades of hoarding you have to be tough.
There she was in the car coming to pick me up while my brother drove himself to the hospital. He had been working on a project and decided to saw some of his fingers. After I was in the house, shown my room with the dozens of teddy bears sitting sentinel around the top of the bookshelves and back downstairs, Rob came in with his hand in the air and blood working its way through the bandage. Stitches, he informed us. Call the doctor check on tetanus shot, stitches out in 10 days.

Home improvements, injury, husbanding for 42 years, my brother is tough and versatile.
The first night I awoke feeling sick and sore all over. My head ached and I felt like I had the flu but also that I had trouble breathing. Carol informed me the next day it was altitude sickness. Must drink lots of water.
After I took my pills in the morning, I felt like I had gotten off of a carnival ride. The room spun around, I was flashing hot/cold, my pulse elevated. I soon learned that that was a response I would get every day after taking my pills in this high, desert plain. Wild.
We go somewhere to experience a difference but when the differences occur, we are resistant. I just learned to sit and relax my breathing for a while until the medication and the altitude made peace with one another. It was kind of a panting meditation.

Back to Kelowna’s Hot summer sun

I flew back to Kelowna for a short period. The lawn needed mowing, gardens weeded, and  the shrubs enjoyed their watering. Playing in the garden grounds me and quiets my mind and this summer I needed these times badly. My kind neighbours kept everything alive and growing; however, a garden is a private thing and I was happy to get back on my knees and start to pull up weeds.

leaving Portland the river

returning to Kelowna dry

The hillsides were beige, dry in Kelowna.

The gladiolas were glorious

look close reveals detail

Although the gladiolas were on their sides, they were gorgeous.

The shadow was delicate

shadings from white to purple

Portland Pictoral

Walking through the Pearl District is a visual treat. Small shops, art galleries, furniture stores, small trinkets and high end items provide a range of experiences.

corporate and sidewalk gardens

I have seen this public fountain many times and there are always people gathered around it. This hot summer day showed it being used by families. I was a bit anxious to see young children standing in the unrailed pools that were above a drop of water over cement.

lady in red

Temperatures reached almost 100 degrees and the glass surfaces reflecting the sun catch the sky. I saw a woman in red standing alone in the open window and was pleased that she could connect to the outside world from her perch.

Well Fargo

Spending hours exploring Powell’s Book Store is wonderful. Go across the street to Buffalo Exchange to have a break, or go up two blocks to Stump Town Coffee.

One outfit cost me $16 dollars including Freedom XXI new jeans for $5, a lamb’s wool sweater $6 and a tee shirt for $5. Even thrift stores have 70% off racks. Look for them.

simply in love

I followed this couple down the street. They held hands and walked for blocks toward the hotel lobby where they met their wedding party. So simple and beautiful.

public art at fountains

public art at fountains

Walk the streets in the downtown core and look at the wonderful sculptures. The city places these treasures throughout the area.

Must See Places in Portland

1. Stumptown Coffee is the best coffee I have ever tasted. Rich, layered and works the entire tongue.

2. Willamette River Walk is a beautiful way to be part of the Portland life style: Play hard, rest later. Bicycle bells ring Tinky tinky tink to let you know they are passing. Join the flow along the river side across the bridges rain or shine.

3. Powell’s Book store is my version of heaven. If you just added a garden in the centre and served Illy Barcelona chocolate, it is where eternity should be spent. It is here that I found a beautiful card stuffed in the only purse on the rack… I selected it then found the note. None of the others had this uplifting note. “I Dare You To Believe In Unicorns.”

4. Voodoo Doughnuts is tiny. The line is always out the door. Here are world famous bacon rendentions, fruit loop sprinkled and any custom combination no “holes” barred. Ha.

5. Pioneer Square; Farmer’s Market, local fairs, free concerts, coffee in the rain.

6. Buffalo Exchange is my favorite second hand store of all time.

Portland Transition

Many people report a fantastic experience in San Francisco, but my two stays have been hurried and
unprepared. What is needed for the best possible experience is to have a companion to share the wonders of the city who can act as a guide. To enter San Francisco on a lower budget level as I did, coming by Greyhound bus trying to get an inexpensive place to stay is to see her grimy side.
The sheer numbers of the homeless people make the city scene one from Marat Sade. Shoppers in $500 Manalo Blahniks rush past rows of shuttling, babbling societal castoffs.
At one point I saw a parade of fashionistas emerging from an underground rail in a dash to buy, buy, buy on Market Street and above them on the railing stood an emaciated woman in tight jeans. She had one leg on each side of the cement bannister, her jeans pulled down to reveal a thong which was askew. Her crop top was a bespoke creation sliding off of one shoulder and in her hand she held a toy plastic sci fi ray gun. She was scoping out people as they ran up the stairs and muttering curses as she blew them into oblivion in her imagination. Call me overly sensitive, but it was an image which took away some of the joy of excessive shopping which I indulged in that day.

I headed down the street to go to a gallery that I had been told about but at the period of time between 5:30 and 6 the entire street scape changed as dramatically as a change from one scene to another in a play. The coiffed and cared for, lean-bodied natives gave way to students on their bikes, with the ubiquitous backpack, carefully disheveled hair and leisurely paced rhythms. They were not so much headed to there, wherever the future was, as exploring here and now. The flow of the crowd was against me. No one else seemed to be headed in my direction. At first I wondered why, then as the students trickled by the homeless came out. Many conversations were angry, hostile or full of sadness that each held with him or herself and the imaginary person with them. After begging, one ran into a store I was in to buy a lottery ticket. I bought a juice in order to get some change because I had begun to see that it was unwise to proceed alone against this wave of societal despair.
If a person was renting a car and staying with a relative on one of the “hills” of affluence, I think the city would be a different experience entirely. Once I saw a map of the areas of construction in San Francisco and outlying area that indicated how home prices reflected levels of security. Cheaper places were built on “fill” or looser soil which would simply sink in an earthquake. The more expensive neighbourhoods were on rock which offered greater security. The homeless, of course, would just disappear entirely. It gives one pause for contemplation. An Armageddon-proof dwelling can be pricey.

I flew into Portland and my experience at that airport has always been very positive. People who work in the airport will actually come up to a passenger and ask if they can give assistance. When I was in Denver, later in the trip, there was a sense of hardy old West survivalism. The attendant would scribble something on your boarding pass and mumble it without looking up. So gate whatever was somewhere and you should damn well know it or what were doing out without your mother.
The Portland airport has a booth I call the stupid booth. It is outside on the drop-off, pick up area and the people who work there give you a big smile as you walk toward them. You can tell them you want to go to a hotel, find a gate, buy a book, find some food, anything and they will get out maps, bring up things on the computer screen. One even ran off prints of two possible approaches for my adventure finding my hotel. After three trips into the airport I felt totally secure because I would just go to the stupid booth if I had managed to puzzle myself.
The first time I went to Portland on the return from San Francisco, I stayed at the Red Lion Inn. The clerk behind the desk found me an annoyance with all of my checking in and questions and such. She informed me in a warning tone that there was no elevator so I could be in a noisy area, or haul my bags up the stairs. I decided on quiet. It was difficult pulling the “light” baggage up each step. My body was tired from the backpack jammed full of computer, medications and survival supplies. My suitcase now held amazing sale items from Freedom XXI, Old Navy and books, heavy books.
I was so tired that I lay down on the bed and fell asleep immediately without noticing my suitcase was still out in the hallway.
Once roused and with all of my nomadic supplies in one pile, I set out to get to the city I so love.
First I had to wait for a shuttle, then take the shuttle to the airport where I got out and walked to light rail. That took me to the downtown core which is a great pleasure to walk. It is easy to move from one area of the city to another through parks, old trees, public art installations, coporate and public gardens. There is a gentleness to the city that just suits me. While I waited for the shuttle, I talked to a couple of retired people sitting in the lobby. Both had received a degree from the University of Oregon, met and married and then decided to go live in the British Virgin Islands in the 70’s.

He became a radio announcer and she, without any credentials, began a career as a school teacher. They explained to me that it was considered an insane venture by their families. However, they loved their lives. The only recommendation that they gave was that if you moved there, you should rent. The dwellings are frequently flattened by “the winds” and you can just move to another rental when your place is destroyed without undo stress.
One of the great joys of my journey was to become a voyeur in other’s lives. Meeting and talking with people who present a common, ordinary exterior taught me so much about choices. Some who seemed normal, predicatble people have experienced adventure and risk taking. Just because the people are wearing the inner city beige jungle wear does not mean they have lead beige lives.
When I got off of the red line I was lucky enough to walk through the farmer’s market at Pioneer Square.

All of the many years that my husband and I went to Portland to check in on my parents we never once hit the farmer’s market. It was delightful. I was hungry, rested and had no adenda. The great open space in my stomach, my brain and in my possibilities for the day was exhilarating. First I had a local pop (fill in name), grabbed a nectarine which was organically grown and gorgeous in the morning sunlight. Walking past flower arrangements, mushrooms that looked like they were harvested from a deep space laboratory, brilliantly colored green beans, and piles of locally grown produce, I stopped to chat with the berry lady.
She explained that times were indeed economically challenging. Her business has fallen off enough so that her husband now works two jobs aside from the farming and that she has to “woman” the booth by herself these days. I commiserated with her about the amount of work it takes to set up and break down from a fair day. As an artist, I have done this for years. She pointed out the two stands that were selling gluten free goods and I moved along to Black Sheep to purchase a cookie and to another place to get carrot cake. What I liked about the baked goods was that they had a saturated flavour without tasting like they were layered with sugar. The bite was good and not grainy or gritty as some gluten free items can be.

I headed down to China town and walked through the area. It was a great disappointment. Years ago the area had excellent restaurants, shops whose lineage stretched back into historical Portland’s story. But many of the places were closed, others were barely surviving with the store fronts having the leprosy of urban decay. Paint peeling off, signs hanging broke or unlit, weeds crawling up the cement facades. One resaturant sported a sign that said, “100 Best Chinese Restaurants” in some national pole and it was Vegan. Out on the sidewalk, it was a 85 degree day with the brilliant, blue sky unobstructed by any clouds. Inside, another climate met me like a blow to the body. Repairs were taking place and the kitchen was in the same room as the eating area. As I sat reading the menu, globs of sweat fell onto the menu. My hands were so clammy that the plastic menu was difficult to grasp. Out of the five pages, I could only eat one item on the menu. The difficulty with being gluten intolerant and a quasi-vegetarian is that the protein substitutes are always wheat based.Next blog I will take you with me through some of the must see sights in the city. Stay tuned. Go in Joy.

Arriving in Portland, Oregon

My hotel was the Red Lion airport hotel and the price was right at 89 dollars a night. The downside was that I had to take the shuttle to the airport and from there take the Red Line to downtown Portland. The time and inconvenience were something I regretted because I had only three days in the city that I love.
On the up side the weather was spectacular and the people were friendly. I met a young man on the train from Charlotte, South Carolina. He owns his own restaurant in the city and is the cook. His passion for what he does was evident as we talked. His entire family is artistic with musicians, visual artists sprinkled among his near and distant relatives. A wedding of his brother brought the clan to town and they had rented an apartment for the week they would be visiting.
His description of Charlotte reminded me of the time that I had flown over with Goggle Earth and explored the area. All of the small islands are different neighbourhoods. Each has a distinctively different feel, he explained. Tourism is going well and many are coming to experience being in the South with its beautiful antebellum houses, its unique food and the natural landscape which is so rich in a river region in this area.
I mentally put Charlotte on my list of must see locations in the future. The others on my list are New York, Toronto and Montreal. One day.

The two of us talked up a storm about life and art; making choices, doing what makes a person happy. I got off of the train really feeling great.
Immediately I headed for the walk along the river. It was an hour and a half from one bridge along the edge of the river, over the second bridge and then I headed to Portland State University to explore.

air image

Passing Moments

The baggage handler at the San Jose bus depot had a full arm tattoo that looked like a medical student had done it. All of his veins and muscles were revealed in ink. It was curiously repellent.
Back in Portland, I once again explored the city that I am learning more about. I walked into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts and found several things that really caused me to smile.
One artist makes felted watches with fuzzy hands that will never move. The “watch” is flat and closes on the wrist with a snap. I found the glass vases made of Twisp River sand stunning and the works of Labrie Rich, Barbara Cohen and Katherine Ace were wonderful.

I happen upon the Farmer’s market in the brilliant sunshine and select a nectarine, a blackberry creme soda and gluten free banana bread. After walking four hours, I headed to Buffalo Exchange and found a pair of jeans for $5 that I saw in San Diego on sale for $29. Same pair. After that I crossed the street to my happy place: Powell’s Books. Powell’s is the biggest book store in the world and has rooms that house books of every imaginable subject and condition. Often a buyer can find a used book for half of the price of a new book snugged up on the shelf next to the hardback pristine copy.
I got as many books as I could carry from the spiritual/self-help/philosophy section and went down to the coffee room. Five hours later I headed out the door to take the Red Line train back to the airport and from there to summon the shuttle.
Unfortunately, I had misinformation about how late the Red Line ran. I stood in the well lit square which was very, very quiet for over an hour. Blue Line trains kept coming. Finally a group of street people appeared with several party ablutions and began to welcome in their part of the day. I was very happy when a group of people from a medical convention showed up. A young woman encouraged me to ride the Blue Line. When I got off at the Oregon Convention Centre a very pleasant young man got off at the same stop. He looked up the schedule on his phone and discovered I was SOL. The convention centre was, apparently, even a worse place to be standing around at night so he called a cab for me.
The cab driver informed me that he was a former mechanical engineer and was driving cab to make ends meet. He had to rent the cab on a daily basis, much as my hairdresser rents a chair. “I go off of a 12 hour shift in another hour and I have only made 1/3 of what it cost me for the cab today.” I replied, “You make money at the same rate as an artist does.”
He expressed curiosity as to why all of the 20 somethings were flocking to the city and what they did to survive. “Guess the parents are keeping them afloat, until they get sick. Don’t have any medical.” I wondered out-loud if perhaps they were working on a project basis on the internet with others as I.T. workers. He just shrugged.
The trip cost me $25 and left me a little wiser about the “ease” of transportation in Portland. I finally made it back to my hotel at 1 am but I had met a nice man who offered me a free drink on the park bench, six health care workers, a young man who designs web sites and a cab driver with an education. So it was an interesting evening.

good luck symbol Lakshmi