One thing Portland State has over the University of Minnesota any day is the on-campus food. Sure, University of Minnesota is a Big 10 university, but where are the food carts in the quad? At PSU, there's ethnic food carts in the park blocks, and I make sure to eat something from them once a week. It's a little sad that the Vietnamese family that sold chicken and rice was somehow forced to go elsewhere, but in their place is Basha's mediterranean food. I get Basha's feta sandwich with hummus every Tuesday. Then, I hang out in the park blocks, enjoying the shade, the dry heat, and the occasional homeless person looking for pop cans/bottles to redeem for 5 cents a piece. Once a week there's a concert, too. Of course, there's also the ever-present "park block preachers." The scary guy with the big signs telling people we were all going to hell seems to be gone these days, but now there's a rapper guy. Although he's both loud and fire and brimstone, I can't help but be a little impressed that he can actually make rhymes with some of those fundamentalist Biblical words. Lunch doesn't get much more multicultural than this.
This one's just a little observation:
Ever since I've been here, I've noticed that there's a concerted effort to register people to vote. In the downtown area, people wearing "Vote Democrat" shirts offer to register people to vote in November. So far, I haven't been approached by anyone. I'm still trying to figure out if it's because I look like I might vote Republican (if so, they need glasses!!), or maybe I look like I must already be registered. Of course I am already registered--in another state! Anyway, while I was waiting for my bus tonight, one of these voter registrars approached a "Portland hippie"--a young woman with a funky orange cotton sundress, tattoo'd legs, multicolored Converse-style sneakers, a green sweater, her hair up in a twisty braid, and carrying the requiste canvas grocery bag. When she told the guy she might not be registered to vote at her new address, he began the short process of getting her information. Just then, her bus pulled up, and she said, "sorry, my bus is here." Well, that answer wasn't going to work for the registrar-guy, and he jumped on the bus with her (Portland's downtown fareless square makes that pretty easy, I'm sure). As the bus pulled off, I saw him sitting down asking her questions, while she stood in the aisle, getting registered to vote. I wonder if she'll vote in November? Hopefully that guy will be back to help her get to her polling site. I bet the bus goes there, too.
Ideally, this entry would have happened yesterday, on Jurgen's birthday. But, as it turns out, I was having some trouble logging on the the U's computer system and I couldn't access the user part of my blog. Oh, well. Not being able to write about Jurgen's birthday on his birthday gave me more time to reflect.
I suppose it is a little weird for a mother to be apart from her kid on his birthday. At least when it's only his third birthday. When he's 35, I might not think it's so weird, but I when he's three, it's another story.
Of course, what I realized yesterday is that this isn't the first time Jurgen and I have been separated on his birthday. I realized that yesterday, when, as a matter of course, I was driving by the hospital where Jurgen was born. I thought about how strange it was that I was actually in Vancouver on Jurgen's birthday, and he wasn't. Then, I realized that we've experienced this once before.
In fact, although Jurgen was born in Vancouver, he didn't spend much time there right after birth. He was quickly rushed away to Beaverton for his life-saving surgery. I was left in Vancouver to be a mother without a baby.
Jurgen needed me a lot more back then. It was hard to be apart, but at first it was necessary. I was too sore from the c-section to really go anywhere, but the doctor let me out the next day to be with Jurgen. When I got to the hospital in Beaverton, he was crying. The nurse said, "This is one angry baby!" I could tell that she was frustrated. I came over and picked him up, and he immediately gave a little sigh of contentment. He finally had what he was looking for.
So, we've been apart before. And, we'll be together again soon, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. He still needs me, but in different ways. In the meantime, he's got his papa, who is doing a darned good job being a papa.
Although Jurgen definitely wants toys for his birthday--and he's definitely getting those--I think that Jurgen and I have taught each other a great deal about intangible gifts. Being apart this summer is teaching Jurgen about patience and flexibility. He's taught me much about my capacity for love and spontenaity and not taking myself too seriously.
So, happy birthday, Jurgen! As I look back on the last three years with you in my life, I appreciate how much richer my life has become. I love your hugs and your sloppy kisses and your thoughtful sentences that make me wonder where you learned that. I'll save my birthday hugs and kisses for you when I see you.
Just in case anyone tries to rush to judgement and suggest that I may be having a little too much Portland lovefest at the expense of all that the Twin Cities have to offer, here's a little wrench in the plan....
Today was hot by anyone's standards. Right now, it's still 81 degrees, and I'm told it was 102 today! Of course, I want to mention two interesting things about Portland weather in the summer:
1. Although it was 102, weather.com says it only feels like 99 because there's very little humidity. It's true. Yesterday, I figured the high must have only been about 85 or so, but in fact it was 94. Portland has a dry heat, and it doesn't feel so hot.
2. The hottest part of the day is at 5:00. This is always a bit surprising to me, especially on days when I'm already hot by 11:00am. I plan to be cooling down by 4:30, not still warming up.
So, today was a record-breaker. And, I was lucky enough to be on the bus with my friend Akiko at 5:00 when the record was actually in the making. As it turns out, Portland busses apparently are not accustomed to the heat, and we had to stop several times while the bus driver prevented the bus from overheating. He'd have to get out, go to the back and open something up. Then, he'd come back and rev the gas pedal for what seemed like an eternity. Cars would go flying by us, eager to get home and out of the heat. The only breeze in the bus was generated by those cars whipping around us at break neck speed. During this time, I kept thinking that the bus just felt like it was getting hotter, not cooling down, but what do I know?
Of course, this also happened to be the day that I needed to go to the store for groceries. So, when the bus needed to cool off one more time, Akiko and I got out and walked the last two blocks to the grocery store. We were hot, and after we bought our food, we decided to drink the cool beverages we'd just bought before setting out for my house.
As we sat down, we saw another bus go by. We both agreed that we should go out and wait for it to make its usual loop about a mile or so down the road. The grocery store is about 8 blocks from my house and although we could have walked the distance, we figured we could avoid walking in the heat by taking the bus. So, we stood in the shade of the bus stop and drank our cool beverages, and talked, and waited for the bus. And waited.
The bus never came. Another bus went past on the opposite side of the road. We saw a different bus line cross perpendicular to us at the cross street ahead. We waited. We talked about Akiko's sister, who has been working for the Japanese government in Afghanistan and will finally be coming back to Japan soon. Another bus went past on the opposite side of the street. Three busses out, but none returned? Maybe the heat had created a black hole at the end of the street.
Finally, Akiko and I decided we might as well walk home. As we walked, we looked back to see if the bus was coming, but every time, no bus. We enjoyed our walk because we were on the shady side of the street, and by now, it was a few hours past that five o'clock high, and the sun lowering at the horizon meant slightly cooler temperatures.
When we got to the bus stop where I catch the bus in the morning, Akiko and I decided to stop and rest on the bench there. We were there only a minute or so when there came the bus! We chuckled to ourselves as we waved it on. I couldn't help but wonder though--do the busses break down due to heat in Minneapolis?
This morning, I was walking to the class I'm teaching in downtown Portland. The sun was shining brightly, and there was a little breeze, and for just a moment, I thought, "I'm in Portland!" Not really worthy of writing about, but....
It's good to be here, to reconnect with friends, and more importantly, to have a context to apply all that I've been learning these last two years. I feel refreshed and renewed (cheesy as it may sound), and I appreciate that the connections I've got here in Portland can help me feel that.
I am thrilled to report that today I had the opportunity to go to Uwajimaya, an enormous Asian foods market in Beaverton, OR. Of course, when I lived here before I shopped there all the time, but today, this was a special treat. United Noodle in Minneapolis is okay, but if you've been to Uwajimaya, it's hard to settle for anything less. And, while Uwajimaya certainly carries many Japanese items, they have stuff from all over Asia, as long as you stop defining Asia when you get to India.
I did find out that you can look at some of their stock online, and although you can't shop online, you can send in an order. I'll probably start doing that because I can't bring it all back to Minnesota. So, check out Uwajimaya's website at www.uwajimaya.com.
So, today I bought some pretty cool stuff, including a rice bowl and chopsticks for Jurgen. I also bought some Japanese ume candies that I love, and Squeeze N'Bites in lychee flavor. They're pretty refreshing on a hot day like today. I found some fresh lychee too, so I couldn't pass that up. Jurgen will undoubtably like his little birthday care package, which includes some Thomas the Train Pocky and other little candies. Needless to say, I spent a little money, but it was well worth it, I think.
When you're walking down the street and you see someone, do you ever have a feeling that you know that person, but maybe not from the place you're seeing them in? I've been experiencing that quite a bit since I've been back here in Portland. One of my first days here, an old friend walked right by me, even though we were making eye contact. As she passed, I called out her name. "What are you DOING here?" she demanded, surprised that I wasn't in MN, where she expected me.
The other day, it was my turn to be confused. I saw an old friend, Cliff Barnett, standing in line at Noah's Bagels. I wasn't sure that it was really him because he used to have long hair, Birkenstocks, and some pretty relaxed clothing. The guy I saw had short hair, no facial hair, dress pants and fancy shoes. I couldn't help but think that although he looked a bit like Cliff, maybe he was just some familiar face from Minneapolis, and I just thought he was Cliff. So, I sidled up to the counter to grab some extra napkins, hoping he would recognize me. I paused. I fumbled with the napkins. Disappointed that it must not be him, I turned to go back to my seat, when the man said, "Laurene! How come you don't say hi to me!" After we exchanged hugs and all that, I found out that Cliff's new job (in the Dean's office) means that he's dressing up a bit more. But, I should have still known it was Cliff. After all, those fancy shoes--turned out to be his slippers.
I think the Willamette Week is my favorite newspaper ever. When i get lonesome for Portland, I always ask someone to send me a WW.
A little pronunciation note: the accent is on the middle syllable, the "a" as in "cat." It's not WillaMETTE! If you say that, people know you're not from around here. Just like the know if you pronounce it OreGONE. It's more like, "Would you like a rifle, "or a gun?"
Anyway, this little free newspaper is a little food for the soul every week. The personals are always some of my favorite readings because you never know what you might read. The main articles are good too, and often not the kind of thing you'll find in a major newspaper.
Minneapolis has the City Pages, which I think is like the WW, but not as edgy. And, it's got The Rake, but I'm just not in love with these rags like I am with WW.
Riding the bus in Portland is unlike riding the bus in Minneapolis. I don't think I've seen many men in suits hopping onto Metro Transit. Not that they don't, but they must be on a different bus than I take.
I got on the Number 10 here in Portland the other day, and it was like I was in a community meeting. People were talking to each other in such familiar ways. When a blind woman got on the bus, the bus driver asked her where she's been recently, since she wasn't on the bus as usual.
Getting off the Number 10 in downtown, people are everywhere. I cross the street quickly and wait for the Number 8 to ride up the hill to Portland State. On the bus, two men in their early fifties are talking about their false teeth, or lack thereof. One of them men clearly has no teeth at all. They're using really loud voices, and the nicely dressed woman next to them shoots me a glance. I know she's relieved she's getting off at the next stop. The men continue on about how they can't eat steak anymore because they don't have the chops for it. I find myself relieved that I'm getting off the bus soon, too.
When I do get off the bus, I'm at the Urban Center at PSU. The Urban Center was just coming into its own when we were leaving Portland for Minnesota. Now, even at 7am, it's alive with people getting coffee at Seattle's Best before they head on to meet the rest of the day. No coffee for me, but I'll settle for a nice walk across campus in the morning summer sun.
So, here I am, back in Portland after all this time! It was a crazy long flight here! It's hard to imagine that I can fly from Europe back to the US in less time than it can take me to get from Minneapolis to Portland, but it's true. After stops in Las Vegas and L.A. (and a free ticket for the future), I'm finally here and settled in.
In some ways, it feels like I've never left. Everything is comfortable and mostly just like I remember it. The same guy is still working in the library, although the library's changed quite a bit with technological improvements. I have a "faculty" ID card now, with a new picture. The people at Hot Lips pizza are still a bit surly, but the pizza makes up for it.
The summer's going to fly by, I imagine, but I'm going to savor every moment....