Sunday, July 12

Day Tripper

Gad! I have been unable to come up with anything new and creative so for your enjoyment (or boredom), here is an account of a trip I took to Portland a couple of years ago but is one of my favorite essays.

I had been in my house for too long and I had to get out of town or go crazy. This calls for a trip to Portland. I arranged to stay at a friend’s apartment and travel by train along with my trusty bike to get me around. Normally Portland is rainy, as the northwest usually is, but this time it was hot and dry and I mean HOT. Upon arrival I have to get a bike permit from Tri-met, the transit service. A bike rack is a pretty simple affair but they make you watch a cheesy video designed for morons before letting you pay them five dollars for the permit. I am now the proud owner of another plastic card to put in my wallet. Joy.

First on the list is the Japanese garden, one of my favorites places. I'm at the garden high in the hills overlooking Portland, the air still and heavy with heat. I looked at Mount Hood off in the distance floating above everything like an apparition. The sound of a flute comes from the interior of the large Japanese style pavilion behind me. Oddly though, when I look inside a few minutes later no one is there. Interesting.

When I left I decided to ride down the hill rather than take the bus. It will be easier I think, because it's downhill, right? Big mistake. It was nerve wracking trying to keep the bike from pitching me off as I went down the steep path through a park. Images of the brake cable snapping or hitting a hole and being thrown face first into concrete keep me company as I squeezed both brakes slowing my descent. I came out on Burnside ( a busy street) and frankly after that, merging with the traffic was kind of a relief. Once I got the hang of it biking through downtown was actually enjoyable -except for the streetcar tracks and all the one way streets.

Hot, tired and very thirsty I stopped at the next restaurant I saw in sheer desperation. Jake's Grill, adjacent the Governor's Hotel is one of Portland's oldest. I was told it was a speakeasy the thirties. Very classy place, heavy dark wood paneling, thick columns and a tiled floor. I had crab and shrimp cakes and a glass of wine ( which I do not recommend when riding in the heat). Sated and ready I headed off for what I thought would be a leisurely ride along the river.

Nope. My friend, whose place I’m staying at, assured me the bike path was an easy ride. It was more like a safari. The path was clear, wide and well marked until you left condoland, then it rapidly turned into a ride thru industrial land then after detours and head scratching, a path winding pass more condos, neat little houses clustered by the river and finally up an embankment to the Sellwood Bridge which had a narrow sidewalk on one side of the two lane bridge that required you to hug the concrete railing when meeting a jogger or bike going in the opposite direction. Yep, that was real fun. (Note to self: never listen to friend’s directions).The evening was mercifully quiet.

The next day started out with an occurrence that no matter how much planning on my part always mars a trip. My period. " It's early? Oh that's ok I'll start now and here, have some nasty cramps you don't normally have for good measure." Grrr. Sitting around waiting for pain killers to take affect is not my ideal way to start the day. It's just as well, the day was another scorcher. I biked up to 13th ave. to get lunch and check out the antique shops along the street. I bought a beautiful T-shirt with a bamboo motif. The shirt I had on was, after a yesterday’s trek, really stinky. It was a good excuse to buy the shirt .

I decided to check out Oaks Amusement park down the road . It was a neglected cluster of rides on an asphalt field. It had potential as a fine amusement park but that day it was mostly empty in the heat of midweek. I looked around with a critical eye like an investor. Commuter train track just outside the parking lot, nearby pond, good size for boats, ski jets etc. Good location. Wooded park overlooking the place, close to town. "If you build a premiere roller coaster they will come." I heard in my head. The staff of teenagers fresh out of high school looked bored and hot as I tried out the go-carts and small roller coaster.

Tired from the heat I stop by the apartment for a cool shower and decide on dinner. I wisely let the bus transport me and the bike into town. I went in search of a restaurant I had gone to once before. "Sushi Takahashi", oh I love sushi. [this restaurant is no longer there alas].

The place proved to be crowded and warm as the air conditioner couldn't keep up. It had once been a seafood place as the decor, cartoony fish and ocean waves painted on the walls indicated. Now a long sushi bar with stools filled the middle of the vast room. Instead of a conveyer belt or a channel of water with little boats, ( my favorite cheesy motif) to bring out the food, there was a -train. Two engines, larger than O gauge, with twenty flat cars chugged around carrying plates of rolls and sashimi. The chefs, none of them Japanese, were young punker types wearing engineers caps and kerchiefs and the well tattooed waitresses completed the cultural collision to mind fuck proportions. Every time the little engine came around I half expected to see Jon Voight strapped to the front of the yellow engine like the Film "Run away Train" Thank god the food was worth the wait.

I had time to make a cursory visit to Powell's books before heading down to the train station for the trip home. Next time I go the day after my period ends and when it's cooler.

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