On Leaving Portland

March 12, 2018
Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria, Oregon

_MG_0259I left Portland today, finally, after 22 days. That’s by FAR the longest I’ve stayed anywhere and yet I utterly failed to achieve all the things I planned to do there. OH WELL. But I did do a lot. So much! I sat out a snowstorm on Hayden Island. I saw a lot of old friends and a very new baby. And, oh, man, let’s see: I went to the Portland Darkroom twice and printed a ton of pictures, took a lot more pictures, went to galleries and the Portland Art Museum, went to the Japanese Garden, wandered around the Lone Fir Cemetery, found a good wine shop, found not one but three excellent camera shops, ate great food, hung out at the St. John’s Beer Porch, walked up and down the river and spent too much time and money at Powells City of Books. AND I SAW TWO SEA LIONS IN THE RIVER DOWNTOWN AND WAS INTERVIEWED ABOUT THE WEATHER on TV _MG_0195except I never saw it so I have no idea if it aired or not. I may have alienated the cameraman. He said the sea lions were a real problem when they went up the river to Oregon City and ate “our salmon” and I said something along the lines of, well, actually, they’re sort of more the sea lions’ salmon, right? And then I said Team Sea Lion! And waved my arm in the air in pinniped solidarity.

20180308_174207-02AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, I GOT A TATTOO. Depending on how you look at it, I either got one huge tattoo or five small tattoos. There were three separate fairly lengthy appointments with my amazingly talented young friend Ruby. I am so proud she is in my family of choice and so glad I could support the arts in that family. Yeah! My arm hurts and itches and I do not care, because I am sporting an Audobon arm! I love it so much! Each of these birds are significant to this journey, from the raven at the bottom to the seagull at the top: they are all birds I have photographed and interacted with and being around them has made me happy. I am not really a serious birder – I don’t have a clue what I’m looking at most of the time – but my arm says I might just become one yet, if I am worthy.

Anyway, Portland was awesome. I am IN LOVE with Portland. It is the perfect city, as far as I’m _MG_0142concerned, and the chances of me moving there within the next year are running well above 50%. They are actually running at about 80% depending on whether I can sell my house in Asheville for a decent price AND on whether I find somewhere else I like better. That seems unlikely, but it’s why I’m in Astoria right now. I adore Portland. But can I afford it? Can I live in a big city again? And am I really capable of leaving not just the city where I have lived for the last 18 years but the part of the world where I have spent my entire life? My friends, my family, my history? I am throwing very big dice, here and it’s freaking me out a bit.

_MG_0300But I do not need to make that decision today! No, today I just need to get off my ass and into Astoria to see what it is like. I am staying at Fort Stevens State Park which is apparently about 20 minutes from Astoria and, I must say, a very good argument for moving here. There is a shipwreck from 1906 on the beach! It is wildly beautiful and would be even more so if people weren’t driving on the beach. Yes, it is one of those driving beaches. I fucking hate those. Why the hell do you need to take your truck for a spin on the sand? It’s not a dog, dude. It doesn’t need the exercise. And it makes you look like an asshole as you swerve away from toddlers with buckets. Hopefully swerve away. There were sirens and a helicopter last night and I fear the worst, although I will never know what happened. It’s the first time in all these months that I’ve heard sirens at a state park.

However, the presence of the wreck, the mostly empty beach (once you get a bit away from the wreck,) the mouth of the Columbia and the WILDLIFE OBSERVATION BUNKER make up for the occasional asshole revving by, vroom vroom. I was going to go to the bunker (so concrete! Much wall!) this morning early – I even set my alarm! – but it’s pouring rain today, so I bagged it. I went last night for golden hour but, get this: I forgot my camera. I mean, I forgot the digital camera, the Canon 5D Mark II which has taken the vast bulk of the photos you see on this blog – I still had the Praktica film camera and the two plastic toy cameras and my phone. So I took pictures with those but still, this lapse alarmed me. I mean, you might think, oh, forgot the camera, no big deal, but for me that is sort of like forgetting my arm. It never leaves my side. I chalk it up to a day of driving, which always sort of discombobulates me, even when it’s as short and pleasant as the road from Portland. Well, that and the delicious vodka cocktail I mixed myself between beach visits. THE DREAM, I AM LIVING IT.

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