Posts Tagged 'Portland'

L-Space and you

If you don’t know what L-space is, I suggest you acquaint thyself with the Discworld novels immediately. If you do, you have my permission to carry on reading.

Yesterday we ventured into Portland once again, in the day this time, to mosey around and generally catch a taste of the city. It proves to be a little like San Diego in that it feels – despite my not having visited further north yet – like the little brother of a bigger place, this time being Seattle instead of LA. It has a population of just over half a million, and is a pleasant place, but there’s little in the way of ‘touristy’ things; rather, any local attractions are mainly for the locals. This is, of course, hardly something to decry, and what isn’t intended to be seen by the masses are frequently amongst the most interesting sights.

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There is an exception to this, and a notable one: Powell’s, a gigantic cash-guzzling bookstore that consumes an entire block of the newly-renovated ‘Pearl District’ with the thick smell of literature. The do-over of this once run-down area has not however driven away the beggars and homeless, and thus you get the strange dichotomy of modern urban luxury and modern urban poverty, side by side. Evidently someone didn’t tell them they weren’t supposed to be there anymore. There’s also a lot of very sharply-dressed bright young things, all elaborate piercings and inadvisedly high trouser legs. Portland is a bit of a haven for indie bands, and it only makes sense, therefore, that the new generation of hipsters traipse the slightly seedy streets – but only ironically, man.

Anyway, we stepped out of the glare (this bloody sun won’t go away, I am very much looking forward to Seattle’s hopefully dismal weather. My left shoulder looks like a side of mutton) into the cool air-conditioned lobby, and Bionic’s wife matter-of-factly explained the prospect – as one might describe, say, the north face of the Matterhorn. ‘Every room is a genre, and each room is the size of a normal bookstore’. Quite awesome. I got swallowed by the poetry aisle for a good half-hour alone. I also saw some of the oddest books that I’ve ever seen, books that should have never have been written. No, your X-Men / Star Trek TNG slashfic should have never seen the light of day. The titanic, cliff-like bookshelves slam from ceiling to floor and there were so many little tucked-away areas that I didn’t actually get everywhere. Though according to L-space, I probably was everywhere, simultaneously, including places that don’t technically exist, and it wouldn’t really bear too much thinking about. I didn’t actually take any pictures, because for some reason yesterday morning I wasn’t fully functioning. I did catch up later, however, because our next stop was simply rather too beautiful.

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This was the Chinese Garden, located just at the east end of the eerily-deserted Chinatown (though it was sunday). Tranquil and serene, it’s well worth the entrance fee. The last rays of the day were slanting into the pond as we arrived, casting deep and speckled shadows across the stonework and joinery. We lingered for almost an hour, but one could well stay longer. There’s an imbued calmness in the gentle patterning of stone and wood that extends a soothing hand to you, and it’s folly not to take it.

We had to leave, eventually, due to closing time. Taking a meandering path, we boomeranged through the dying day from Chinatown, to a city park, down to the lakeside and back again. Today, we ventured out into a local nature reserve by the name of Tualatin. I’m being deliberately brief because although I haven’t much to say about these particular walks, I do have pictures. And we all know what you’re here for.

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Tomorrow, or rather later today, I finally hit Seattle. I’ve been looking forward to it, so I better try to get some sleep. PAX awaits…

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P-town and D-boyz

And so I arrive in Portland. But first, what’s happened since San Francisco?

Well, I was left with two unallocated days, which simply wouldn’t do. I couldn’t really stretch to another two nights at the pricey accommodation in The City By The Bay, so I shuffled off on a Greyhound bus to Merced, the so-called ‘Gateway to Yosemite’. Arriving fairly late in the day, with the sun set and the warm night air stirring the empty streets, I finally made it to the hostel at about eleven. En route, someone asked me if he could borrow my phone. My spider-sense tingled and I replied that the battery was flat. He then asked me for some change, which I didn’t have. Then he produced another phone from his jeans and asked me if I wanted to buy that one. I’m not sure if he didn’t think I’d make the connection, or what, but he wasn’t exactly the brightest of buttons.

Merced was a strange little place though. It clearly had a firm sense of its own little history, and I ate at a surprisingly good organic restaurant called Bishop’s, but at the same time it’s small and barren, without much in the way of things to see or do aside from the astonishingly comprehensive town museum, set up in the old court house and free of charge. I didn’t go to Yosemite in the end, as I had to make the call between seeing the park or seeing an ice hockey game. Whilst this may seem a no-brainer, the park was currently on fire because a controlled burn had decided it was going to be uncontrollable, which mitigated my enthusiasm somewhat. I was also so run down by the gauntlet of California, with my shapeshifting itinerary being the mother of last-minute necessity, that landing my feet on friendly ground for more than a day seemed like a very attractive prospect. And anyway, I’m seeing Yellowstone. So I wandered around Merced for half a day and jumped on the bus back north.

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The bus was overnight, and I braced myself for the usual mishaps – but actually, it was okay. At 2:00am I was transferred to a nearly-empty bus whilst we stopped over, due to some practical problem solving by the two drivers. So the rest of my journey was in relative comfort, shared with about six people who seemed as tired as I was. I arrived in Salem, which I didn’t really see much of, at seven in the morning and Bionic Monkey was there to pick me up. We drove the forty-odd minutes back to his place, through misty, pine-speckled countryside, and I lasted until the early afternoon before my ability to stay conscious ran out. Waking some hours later, we headed into the city to see the game.

Ice hockey, I have decided (after seeing some other sports on tv), is the best American sport. It plays a little bit like football – proper football – in some ways, or at least this game between Portland and Seattle did. The scores weren’t astronomical, with Seattle winning 4-2, although the last goal was scored because the keeper had been taken off in a last-minute offensive push, and there’s a fluidity and long-term flow to the game that’s pretty appealing. Portland were the aggressor, putting shot after shot on target, and were rewarded with the first goal. However, their defense had seen so little of the puck that when Seattle lashed back (from a penalty, after one of the notorious fights broke out), they simply weren’t alert enough and it sailed in unopposed. Seattle grabbed a second in similar fashion, from midfield, and then a third. Portland fought back hard and managed to slot a consolation prize into the back of the net, but it was too little too late. Still, it was good fun to watch. There’s no ‘plays’, there’s no tedious stoppages all the time, the rules don’t suffer from the American football’s problem of basically making almost everything but a few options illegal, and like I said, it’s a long-term game. It’s split into three periods instead of two halves, but you’re still seeing a good twenty minutes of relatively uninterrupted action. Oh, and no ad breaks!

Another thing: we (Bionic is married, to a demon cook no less) were with some others, one of whom seemed to be a magnet for projectiles. Twice the puck chipped up from the ice to whistle into the somewhat diminutive crowd, and both times it landed within five feet of us. The first time, the kids in the row behind us got it, and though I may be a despicable, almost Lovecraftian monster in many other ways, I wasn’t about to headbutt a small girl for it. The second time, however, it landed practically at my feet, so now I have a pretty great memento:

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Ignore the red, I’m still working off the burn. The guy with the ponytail is the bullet magnet, so if you’re ever in a war, y’know… find him.

We went into town again today, but this post is getting pretty long so I’ll write on that tomorrow. Stay tuned!


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