Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day Twenty-three: Portland

When I first learned about Portland, I thought it was going to be a city that I would fall in love with. However, Portland is a city that puts on a bit of a facade. Aside from its complicated freeway system, it is far more monocultural than Seattle and even the artsy-crafty air cannot completely disguise the stink of the river. However, that's not to say it is a bad city. We headed in relatively early, thinking that because it was a sunday, it would not be too difficult. Tim had already explored it a little in the preceeding days, whilst I had been attending the AFA gathering, and thus we found our way without too much difficulty - and a little GPS guidance. However, it appeared that today was the day of a parade - the Pride parade, in fact (San Francisco's was scheduled for the following saturday) and thus some of the streets were blocked off. No matter, we managed to find not one but three vacant parks all in a row, and by the time we had parked and fed the meter, the two behind us were filled.

Powell's was the first stop on our agenda. This is a bookstore that I could easily fill in love with, even if their chai lattes aren't that great. Several levels, a print-on-demand "espresso" book machine and it takes up an entire city block. I spend some time wandering its shelves - but did not in fact purchase anything.

Outside, we came upon the parade - rainbow colours and pink abounded, scantily clad men, unicorns, it was all so outrageously camp. We followed it along, wandering relatively randomly towards the riverfront, stepping around the occasional homeless person sprawled on the footpath... The queue to Voodoo donut spewed out onto the street, and so we decided against that. Instead we meandered through the "Saturday" market, where I purchased a few trinkets. The arts scene of Portland is alive and well - but apparently getting a stall here is difficult, especially if you are not an Oregon-native.

The view across the river


We came upon the end of the Pride parade, where we witnessed the Star Wars float - complete with bald dog (with yoda ears) that had been painted green.

Walking back to the car, a crowd of people came dancing and singing and clapping and swinging across the road towards us.

We decided to have lunch at the Radio Room, for the mere purpose that they had an Art-O-Matic vending machine - something I had read about and wanted to experience myself. For $2 a token, you can purchase small pieces of art from various local artists.I purchased three - giving one to Meran and one to Els. I would like to get one of these in my own city. The food was okay, but the service was slow and they took away my coke for a refill and forgot to bring it back until prompted. The free refills in the US are something that took me a while to get used to - some of the places, the minute you're down to the last half inch, they'll whisk it away and refill it, meaning you end up drinking far more cola than you intended to. At least mine is sugar free - for those drinking the sugary stuff, it's no wonder there's an obesity problem!

After the Radio Room we headed up the river, into the Columbia Gorge. This is a beautiful drive, the river is truly spectacular. Rooster Rock is a picnic area rather like the Groynes, except with less walking tracks. It is plainly an area designed for the urban American to be able to head out on a sunday afternoon with the family - and frisbees or other games, to have a barbecue beside the river.  There was an entry fee - which is fairly typical of all the state parks.

And then it was back to Meran's place, where Els had come over to stay the night. She and I kept an eye on dinner - all I had to do was turn over the chicken pieces at a certain time - and I still ended up burning my hand on the oven tray. Tim had an earlyish night, as did Meran, whilst Els and I stayed up late making art and chatting.

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