Although I've lived in Portland for a long time (on and off), there are some things I've never gotten around to doing. It's just like living in NYC and not seeing the Statue of Liberty. Some things are easier when you're a visitor, I guess. When we left Portland to move to Minnesota, we agreed that some things are worth coming back for.
Three Things I Still Want to Do:
1. Go to the Japanese Garden. I can't believe we haven't done this, but it's true!
2. Go to the Chinese Garden. Not surprising, considering #1.
3. Ride the Yellow Line Max to the Expo Center. It's new this year, so I couldn't have done it before. But, I didn't get to it this year; I want to wait until Chris and I can ride it together.
Airports really are liminal spaces, I think. In so many ways, they're so much the same. We don't have to learn how to be in an airport every time we go there. The check in, security, the long walk to the gate--all pretty predictable. But, airports are different too, reflecting the culture of the city.
People walk pretty slowly in the Portland airport. No one's really in much of a hurry. I had a great cup of coffee, a wander through Powells at the airport, and a long look at the rain hitting the tarmac before I left Portland for the summer.
I spent a little time in Phoenix, since my flight wasn't direct. The Phoenix airport was cold due to the humming A/C, with people walking a bit faster to make their connections. I settled into watching CNN (not available in Portland) before my flight.
Then, MSP. The pace a little faster as the crowd makes its way to the tram to the main terminal. A long walk past closed shops, down two sets of escalators, and finally, a hug and kiss from Chris and Jurgen! Home at last!
I rode the #8 into downtown for the last time this summer. I actually jumped in front of the bus to get it to stop on 15th avenue, where I catch it. The bus sort of ground to a halt and I climbed on, the bus driver smiling to me as I showed him my pass. Rain again today, and it felt like winter around here. People were wearing sweatshirts with hoods and colorful stripey tights with big soled leather shoes. I sat in the very back of the bus for awhile--the middle of the back row bench--and felt like a queen looking out onto the people in the bus and into the city in front of us.
I returned the library books I had checked out all summer, and I thought about how accessible the PSU library is, how I don't have to walk across a long bridge to get to it. That's a good thing, even if they don't really have that many books. I didn't say goodbye to the nice library guy who remembers me from my graduate student days at PSU. I figure I'll see him again next year.
I went to send a fax, and ran into the Smart Copy guy for the first time all summer. I'd been to his store in July, but his wife helped me then, and she never really knew me. We talked about his mother back in Indonesia, who was ill in February, but is better now. He told me he can fly direct to Jakarta from LA, but it's an 18 hour flight and it costs $1800 unless it's the off-season. He didn't charge me the full rate to both receive and send a fax, which I did. I sure don't expect favors from him anymore, but I'm grateful nonetheless.
I went to a goodbye party for a friend of mine who is leaving PSU to go to Clackamas Community College. After her party, we realized that when I come to Portland again, things will be different for both of us. It's a good feeling, with some twinges of sadness.
Later, we went to dinner at the Delta Cafe, in SE Portland. We went there for dinner the first full day I was here this summer. We noticed how that first day, it was so hot that nobody wanted to cook, and the Delta was a good place to be. Not totally air conditioned, but shady, and good southern food to get us through. This time, it was cool and rainy, and the menu's changed. Still southern, but no more red beans and rice.
I'm leaving tomorrow to go back to Minneapolis. Summer's almost over. I have a couple more entries--things I want to say about Portland before I'm done. But after that, we'll have to wait until next year.
Tonight I went to see this movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? Click on the movie name to be magically transported to the film's website, which, mentions the fact that What the Bleep...will be playing at the Lagoon Theater starting September 10th. Here's my review: BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!
Slightly more complex version of above review: This movie, filmed largely in Portland, is about the brain and body, religion and science. It's a pseudo-documentary (really, half-documentary, half-slightly cheesy story) about how we can change the world by realizing that the world is inside of us. We change our emotional addictions and we change ourselves and the world around us, and more.
One of the most interesting parts of the movie is when Amanda (played by Marlee Matlin) is standing on the MAX terminal at the Oregon Zoo (how do I know this? Because I know and love Portland, that's why!). She sees some images taken by a Japanese photographer. They're all molecules of water, but they came from jars in which the photographer wrote different words, like love, thank you, and I want to kill you, on the outsides of the jars. One jar didn't have any words, so we can see how it's differnt. The difference in the images of the molecules is absolutely amazing! The point of the whole movie is that our emotions signal our bodies to produce different proteins; those proteins then change the make up of our bodies. We can change the makeup of our bodies by changing the emotions we feel.
Have you seen the movie? Do you want to see the movie? Post comments, and let me know.
Since it hasn't rained in Portland much this summer, I don't think I've written about the fact that the rain is totally different here than in the Twin Cities. The most noticable difference: when it rains here, you don't get wet.
Okay, you might get a bit damp, but it's pretty uncommon, except in the middle of winter, to have a rainshower that soaks you to the bone. It's more likely to have a steady mist. True Portlanders rarely carry umbrellas. In fact, we know how to stand under trees (which you can do because rain is hardly ever accompanied by lightning and thunder), and we know how to walk down the street by passing from one overhang to the next.
I'll admit that I've got an umbrella in my backpack right now. But, it's been raining off and on all day, and I haven't used it. No need to, because, in fact, the rain feels kinda nice in its gentle way coming down.
I've started feeling a little homesick, I guess because I finally can. I was in a crabby mood yesterday, and I realized that it's because I miss Chris's kisses, and I want a few hugs from Jurgen too! It's been 6 weeks! I think it makes sense I feel that way. Now, I'm feeling impatient to be back in Minnesota, but I want to do my best to enjoy this last week in Portland.
The weather was cool and rainy here today. It's a beautiful almost fall day. I took the bus down to Lloyd Center (the biggest mall in Oregon), and I walked back. I didn't realize it was so close. The walk was absolutely beautiful. Cool, crisp air, and sunny skies. A little like fall in Minnesota, just without the impending sense of snow.
These days, I'm riding the #8, the diversity bus. This bus goes to the VA Hospital and to OHSU, where Jurgen had his final surgery a few years ago. Because OHSU is on a hill with lots of twisty curves in the road up there (and because there's bad and prohibitively expensive parking up there), most folks take the bus to OHSU. In the other direction, the #8 goes to NE Portland, which is more culturally diverse than most other parts of Portland.
Yesterday, there was a homeless Vietnam vet coming back from OHSU, a guy trying to take the bus from the hospital to Vancouver, WA and not knowing how to transfer, two African American sisters going to the mall, and a host of other people.
I won't forget the group of Vietnamese women who were having a great time gossiping on their way to the mall a few days ago. They were sitting in the bench seats in the front of the bus. One of the women had her young daughter (probably age 7) with her, and she was sitting in the first set of seats facing forward. The mother was looking in the direction of her friends (and therefore away from her daughter, who was essentially behind her)while they enjoyed their chat. The whole time, though, the mother had her hand on her daughter's knee. Meanwhile, the daughter just sat there quietly, not being allowed into the adult conversation in front of her. I wondered what the girl was thinking. She and I made eye contact a few times, but never a smile from the girl. Just a neutral expression until she followed the women off the bus and into the mall.
Where am I going with all this? The bus is, to some degree, what Mary Louise Pratt (1991) terms a contact zone. It's a space where cultures collide, and sometimes not just metaphorically. Different communication styles, nonverbals, eye contact, physical space issues...these are all observable on the #8. It's a great place to be an observer of--and participant in--the intercultural.
Last week was the last week of summer classes at PSU, and even though the Writing Center is open, most everything is closed. Like the computer labs. And the cafeteria. At PSU, there's a whole month in which really nothing happens, and that's from mid-August to mid-September. I was sad to realize that the cafeteria shut down. I didn't realize last week when I said, "Have a nice weekend" to David, the cashier guy, that I should have said, "Have a nice life." Or maybe, "see you next year." But, truth be told, I wasn't ready for PSU to shut down on me. I wasn't ready to wind down yet.
Now that I'm winding down, I am ready to move on back to Minneapolis and get on with the exciting things that lie ahead for me. I'm ready to welcome a whole new group of first year students to the U.
That can't happen until next Thursday. So, in the meantime, I need to just enjoy being here in Portland, even if I can't eat another one of Bubba's breakfast burritos.
Today was my last day housesitting for Sue. Her daughter comes back to Portland tonight and she'll be staying there. I could have spent the night and hung out with Eliza, but I didn't want to. I've been living alone at Sue's, and I think it would have been weird to share the space with anyone, even Sue.
Before I left, I cleaned everything. I swept and mopped the floors, and dusted and cleaned both bathrooms. It's definitely cleaner than it was when I got there.
For the last few weeks, there was a spider hanging out in the kitchen with me. First, she spun a web from one of the cupboards. Then, she climbed up onto the cupboard, but maybe she didn't like heights because she came back down. Then, she hung from the table for about a full week. When I put a cardboard box on the table on Saturday to pack some things up, she climbed right in. I thought maybe she was going to move to Kathryn's with me, although I worried a little that she'd get hurt in transport. I put the box on the floor last night, and she spun from the box to the floor. This afternoon, I had to move the box, and the spider stayed with the floor not the box. I opened the patio door, near where the spider was, and went to get the broom to do some sweeping. When I got back, she was outside! I guess we both were ready to leave Sue's house today.
For the last two Thursdays, I've been attending the Thirsters weekly meetings. Art Harkins first invited me to the Thirsters last week, when he was planning to come down for their weekly meeting. Unsure of what the Thirsters are, I looked them up on Google. It turns out that the top hits for Google on the topic "thirsters" are mostly for role-playing vampire cults. While it's entirely plausible in Portland that such thirsters exist, I didn't really think that my doctoral advisor would be taking me to such a meeting. So, I emailed him my query, and he responded by saying that the Thirsters are "active and retired intellectuals of most impressive credentials, achievements, current projects, and manners." Robert Textor adds that while many Thirsters have extensive international experience, that's not a requirement to attend.
So, I've been to the Thirsters for the last two weeks. I've met a guy who knows the Emperor of Japan, another guy whose had tea with the Dalai Lama, and a number of people who have spent much of their lives in Indonesia. This last week, I shook the hand of Earl Blumenauer, Oregon's Congressional Representative from the 3rd district. He's known for his bow ties (although he wasn't wearing one) and probably being one of the most liberal members of Congress. I'm not much of a schmoozer, but it's been fun hanging out with these folks and talking a bit about the increased urbanization of the world (the most current Thirsters topic).
I have two weeks left until I leave for Minneapolis, and I approach the countdown with mixed feelings. I miss Jurgen and Chris (okay, I'm honest--probably in that order! but I miss them both terribly), and I'm ready to get on with the next year of my adventure in education.
But, I still have a crazy long list of things to do while I'm here! I have a lot to look forward to, including moving from Sue's house to Kathryn's house this weekend. It's been a great summer in Portland, but it's not over yet. As I begin my transition, I'm going to savor every moment of my last few weeks here for the summer.
Yesterday, I was walking in downtown Portland to run some errands when I met a guy named Joe. Joe has been homeless for the past couple of years, although when I saw him sitting on the bench near Pioneer Square, I assumed he was waiting for the bus to take him to the train station because he carries his stuff with him all neatly packed in suitcases. He told me proudly what he has in each bag--some clothing and his portable DVD player in his big red suitcase, some other electronics in his small duffle, and toiletries and other necessities in his other dufffle. After panhandling--that's what Joe calls his work--in the morning until he gets enough food money for the day, he goes to the library where he pulls out his DVD player and watches movies all afternoon. Then, to the shelter for a little dinner and to sleep. Joe told me the most important part of his day is when he takes a shower every morning. He stressed that he thinks the fact that he doesn't smell strongly makes it easier for people to give him money. But, he lamented, the razors the shelters have make getting a good shave tough.
I don't know where I'm going with this. But, I wanted to post his story here because I want to remember Joe.
One difference I notice between Portland and Minneapolis is that Portland seems to have more visible homeless people. I say visible because I'm sure Minneapolis has homeless people; it's just that they are likely inside for much of the year and hanging out at places other than the University of Minnesota. I don't spend much time in downtown Minneapolis. Portland State University truly is in the heart of downtown Portland, and every day, I catch a bus in Pioneer Square. In addition to the folks making sure I'm registered to vote, I'm usually asked for a little pocket change by someone. I almost always give the person a little something, if I have change in my pocket. My only exception is when young people (teens and early 20s) ask me because around here, middle class teens are known for "going homeless" for the summer, just for the experience. It's probably wrong of me to be so discriminating, but everyone makes choices when we spend our money.
As I've enjoyed my evening walk to Pioneer Square to catch my bus, I've noticed not only that I've only been asked for money once since I've been in Minneapolis and that there are more homeless people here in Portland than there were when we lived here before. Every night I pass a guy with no legs, sitting in his wheelchair, holding a sign: Disabled Vet. Please Help. Often he's eating some chicken nuggets a passerby bought him from the McDonalds across the street. Last night there was a woman standing in a big flower pot in Pioneer Square. Easily in her thirties, a tattered teddy-bear backpack hung loosely from her back as I passed by her. Standing amidst the petunias, she was shouting loudly into the air in front of her and gesturing wildly. I didn't make out what she was saying, but after about ten minutes, she jumped down from the flower pot and stood in the bus mall, talking to a companion that only she could see. Shaking her finger at her imaginary companion, her tone held that of a mother scolding a teenager. After a few minutes (and before any busses came down the street) she walked out of the street and began to smoothly engage in conversation with a person waiting for the bus.
Oregon has had some tough economic times lately. A year or so ago, the school year was cut and teachers worked without pay for ten days because the state couldn't afford to keep the schools open. Bathrooms at Portland State generally don't have hot water available for hand-washing. Classrooms and offices get cleaned once a week. The mental health system is struggling to stay afloat, and people like this woman are left to stand shouting in flowerpots as long as they aren't hurting anyone.
I'm sure Minnesota has its share of neglected folk too, and the social control of the Minnesota culture makes them less visible. The system needs to change, and I hope the change begins in November. My pocket change might buy a paraplegic some chicken nuggets, but McNuggets aren't the quality of life that guy deserves.
My little Portland lovefest continues.
The Willamette Week, the newspaper that I love to love, just came out with its annual Best of Portland edition. I haven't looked at it yet, but it's always well worth it.
Even better, though, is my friend Kate Sage's small press. Hawthorne Books and Literary Arts probably deserves its own blog entry, but I'm going to go to a reading by one of their authors this week, so I'll write another one after the reading. Hawthorne has some of the best books ever, in my opinion. So, if you're looking for a good summer book, check them out! Both Kate and Rhonda are discriminating readers of the best kind, so if they think it's good enough to publish, it's definitely good enough to read!
I wish that I were writing to report that I have recently been to Powell's, but in fact, I've only been there one since I've been here! Powell's is SO amazing--check out the website at least, if you can't actually go there! I think Powell's was more incredible in the days before the internet, when it was harder to get books. Appreciating a full city block-sized building of new and used books was easier back then, I think. But, it's still impressive, and I got some good books when I was there. I do need to sell back a Harry Potter book before I leave, and I want to find a book on origami too.
It rained today. This was the first rain since I've been here. Well, it's rained at night a couple times this week, but otherwise, no rain. Not surprising to me because it doesn't rain in the NW in the summertime. Rain is winter weather around here. And, today's rain was like a winter storm...dark clouds, persistent drops. In Minnesota, a summer rain means you get WET. Here, rain means you get damp (sometimes really damp, but not soaked).
Like a good Portlander, I don't have an umbrella. So, by the time I got on the bus, I was pretty damp. Naturally, the bus had the heater on, so I dried pretty quickly, but that didn't stop me from buying an umbrella when I got to PSU.
I miss Portland rain, and I'm glad I got to experience it today.
This morning, I took a later bus than usual, something around 6:50 or so. When I got to Pioneer Square this morning, there was a serious bus traffic jam--at least six busses coming and going from the curb lane where I transferred.
I admit this entry is not the most exciting one so far, and certainly, this is even a pretty small observation. But, when I got on the bus this morning, the bus driver gave me a little clear plastic envelope to protect my bus pass. I wonder why it took over a month to get one? I suppose it's because I didn't know to ask for one, but then again, how would I know until they gave me one? At least this bus pass won't get all bent up and worn out like the last one.
I've realized that I have about three weeks left here in Portland before I am eastward bound. I think I haven't posted a blog entry for the last week because I am, to some degree, in denial that my fun must come to an end. And, I'm already becoming a bit frantic when I realize that there are people I haven't seen yet, places I haven't gone yet, etc. On the other hand, being here in Portland has been a wonderful change of pace for me, and a wonderful opportunity for reconnecting with old friends, revisiting ideas, and just getting my bearings. So, I'll keep having fun for another three weeks, and then I'll be headed back to Minneapolis, where I'm having a different kind of fun (but fun nonetheless).