February 27, 2018
I have been in Portland for an entire week. And everything they say about the weather is true! No, wait, I actually don’t think it is. I think it is the end of February and the weather is disgusting pretty much everywhere in the US except the places I visited in November and December and which I am missing rather heartily right now. Through the course of this last week, however, there has been snow – enough snow to shut Asheville down and almost enough to do the same to Portland – and rain and sleety miserable frozen mix and lots of clouds and drizzle and also it is cold as hell. It has been a bit extreme even for the Pacific northwest. But that is okay. I don’t mind bad weather so much. I could wish that Hayden Island, where I am living, was a bit more walkable and less industrial / late stage capitalism soul destroying big box mall but I like Portland in general. I always knew I would like Portland and lo, I do. It is the perfect mix of interesting progressive fun stuff and gritty industrial despair. What with that and the clouds – the clouds are AMAZING – and the constant almost thunderstorm light and the crazy mountains that pop up out of nowhere in the distance, I am visually happy. Also I have friends I love here and the bars are great and there are good grocery stores and a zillion excellent restaurants and everywhere has vegetarian options and decent wine. There’s a community darkroom, multiple good camera shops, a store that sells nothing but socks, Powells of course (have I mentioned how I found it completely by accident while mildly lost and looking for Chinatown? Of course I did. I was planning to save it for later but naturally when I get lost, I end up at a bookstore. It is known.) and all kinds of other fun stuff.
I have been having fun in Portland despite the weather, or even because of it. I’ve gone for several walks, including one through the snow where I saw and ended up backtracking the trails of two raccoons who had been on a long walk themselves. That was really cool, it was fun to see where they had been and to wonder about them, one huge and one a bit smaller, like normal raccoon size. Clearly they were friends; were they a couple? Parent and child? I wrote a whole small book in my head about them being on a date, their first date, and it was a really nice date. They had a great time, up and down the river bank, in and out of the hotel dumpsters, under the bridge and finally parting in the vacant lot.
This morning I went for a walk in the other direction with no snow and no raccoons. My Lyft driver from last night (I dropped the truck off for a checkup and an oil change; it’s doing well; I am picking it up this afternoon) grew up in this trailer park and he told me there were trails everywhere. They are, I think, mostly gone or I am not as motivated as a kid living here in the 80s so I have not, so far, been able to find them. I followed the one road there is past where the big box stores turn into small business parks and the industrial whatever it is sits and huffs diesel fumes and the mysterious noisy huge fenced parking lot and the yachtworks. Then the road dead ends in a tall crisp new chainlink fence. By the fence there was an idling black pickup. I thought perhaps he was security of some kind but then as I got closer I realized that the tattered flags on top of the cab were attached to a life size human skull and there was another skull mounted as a hood ornament. This is a little goth for even Portland security so I suspect he was not there in any official capacity. If I was a brave and motivated citizen journalist I might have tapped on his window and asked him if I could take pictures of his skulls but, hey, I decided not to interrupt his breakfast. Go figure. Anyway I took a couple suitably bleak black and white film pictures of the graffiti and the railroad bridge which we will all see eventually, one hopes at least, and headed back to the camper.
What else have I done in Portland? I have spent a lot of time with my friend A, and that’s been lovely. Her five year old son is a joy. We get along really well and have had lots of cool discussions of Transformers and other awesome things. I went to a metafilter meetup, as detailed in another blog post, and had enough fun that I have only just now recovered. Two day hangovers! Yeah I love getting old! I am going to get a tattoo from my friend Ruby tomorrow. I went out for a drink with my old friend Nate and his lovely dog. I took my camera in for a total detailing and sensor cleaning and now it is all clean and clear, which is super nice. I have eaten seitan gyros twice at the St. John’s beer porch and last night I got takeout vegetarian pho from a place near where I dropped off the truck and it was delicious. I also went to the Robert Frank exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery and it was amazing. I’m going to the art museum mmmm probably Thursday or Friday. And I have bought 2 pairs of shoes (hypocritically, I bitch about the big box stores but I must say it is remarkably convenient to have a Target and a DSW and more within walking distance, oh yes) and way too many socks, including a pair with Bigfoot embracing the state of Oregon, at Sock Dreams. I also dropped off some film to be processed at Citizens Photo and I WAS going to go the Portland community darkroom tomorrow night and print some of it but I didn’t sign up in time and all the slots are full. This would not be an issue in Asheville, sadly, so it didn’t occur to me that it might be here and I am sad. And tonight I am going out with A and some of her girlfriends and I am NOT going to get as drunk as I did on Saturday (which is hard because basically I seem to have the alcohol tolerance of a teetotal mouse these days, gods, this is ridiculous) and it is going to be super fun!
However, I do have a problem and that is, what the hell to do next. I have mistimed this somehow and everywhere I need to go on my slow way back to Asheville is still socked in by major winter. I have lived in the South for the vast majority of my life and I just sort of blithely assumed that all this winter stuff was pretty much over by the beginning of March. Alas, I was not thinking about Montana. And North Dakota and Minnesota, all places I was going to visit on my way home. Apparently their idea of winter is more, uh, persistent than mine. And even if I go the more southern route through Idaho and Wyoming and Nebraska, it would appear to be fucking NASTY there still (that’s a technical weather term.) I like cold weather but I draw the line at towing the trailer through snow and ice and sleet. Camping if the temperatures are routinely well below freezing is problematic to say the least. I don’t want to fuck around with draining all the pipes and water tank. We – by which I mean Amelia and Moby and I – are totally fine with the occasional night in the 20s (hell, this last week has been that!) but more than that and, worse, places where it doesn’t warm up during the day are just not going to work out well. Frozen pipes. Frozen tanks. Frozen me. Fuck that noise. To add insult to injury, many if not most of the campgrounds and RV parks on the way are closed for the winter and don’t even open until April. This includes Yellowstone National Park, which actually closes altogether (it seems to be when they start plowing, yikes) on March 15, or, right around when I was vaguely planning to arrive. So I don’t think I can actually head east yet. And I am unclear on what to do!
I could stay here. That would certainly be the easiest. I’m paying rent, but it’s not super expensive rent. I wouldn’t have to pay for more gas and I could make it to the darkroom night next Wednesday. I like it here and inertia is on my side. I’m paid up through next Monday, March 5 anyway. I could go to Astoria, where I haven’t been yet although I have half formed plans to move there in six months, so it would probably behoove me to go check it out. I’m dragging my feet on that because it feels like backtracking. I could go on up to Seattle and Tacoma and even Vancouver, BC for a while. I was originally planning to go up there but nixed it on financial grounds – it’s extra gas and it isn’t, really, on the route back by any stretch of the imagination. But the financial grounds still stand: while it wouldn’t really cost any more than staying here in food or rent or anything, it would be extra gas and gas ain’t cheap. So I am sort of stymied and if you have any insights or thoughts, I would welcome the input!
Meanwhile, I’m in Portland! And there are way, way, WAY worse places to be.