Friday, August 12, 2011

9 Years

August 10th was our wedding anniversary.  (As opposed to our dating anniversary, which we don't 'celebrate' but which we usually remark upon every February).  To celebrate this year, we took the train to Portland for three days, just the two of us and our tagalong, Amarys.  The boys stayed at Camp GrammaGrampa, along with the dog, and came home scruffy, oversugared, and underslept, but very, very happy.
Early Tuesday we got up in the wet, misty sort of thing that is summer morning in a rain forestey area, rushed around with suitcases and baby wipes and train tickets, and drove across the border to Bellingham WA and caught the train.  It was a gorgeous six hour train ride to Portland, and then we had plenty of time left in the day to take a taxi (on what we later discovered was quite a roundabout route, $$$) to our hotel and explore the city a bit.  We walked downtown and hit the mall just by chance, because we wanted to get out of the heat, or the wind, or something, and found this funky shop with cool gifts for the boys and an amazing purse for me (handmade in Nepal, very original, very cool).
I cut my hair last week.  I was tired of trying to look like a hippie and only really pulling off the mennonite look.  Nothing against mennos, it just isn't the style I was going for... Anyways, I'm revamping my wardrobe one item at a time to reflect a style I used to have and melt it together with who I am now, and hopefully come out the other end with a better sense of how to represent myself to the world with my clothes.  I have used clothes as a mode of artistic self expression for many years and kind of dropped that when I got fat had Ayden and generally had less than no money to spend on myself, and ballooned up and down with pregnancies.  Portland was the perfect city to start the revamping.
Well, I started the revamp with a haircut.  But Portland was the place for clothes.
Portland. Is. So. Cool.  It is totally my style!  I had only been there a very few times before and never the kind of trip where you go and stay.  Like where Portland is the destination.  There were funky people everywhere, very eclectic, and neat little shops on every street, generally calm traffic and minimal road rage or really anyone rage, anywhere.  There were parks and town squares and art EVERYWHERE.  Transplant Portland North about 8 hours and its my dream city to live in.  There were all kinds of people from all walks of life and the only franchise I laid eyes on in three days was Safeway.  AWESOME.

That night we ate at the hotel for dinner, and it was yummy, and Amarys charmed everyone (I do mean everyone), and we had delicious food and crashed early because we hit the road early.

Next morning we ate breakfast at Starbucks and did you know, in Portland they take your name and write it on your drink?  Like, instead of tallextrahotdecafextrafoamlatte, it's Melissa?  Yes, thank you.  I love your city.
We then walked to Powell's.  I've heard of this extravegantly lovely bookstore before, I mean, I live in Canada, not the darkest recesses of the North Pole, but I wasn't sure what the big deal was.  And I was a little afraid of it, to be honest.  I have a hard time with deciding what kind of cheese to put on my pizza, and which main artery to take into Vancouver, let alone an entire square city block of BOOKS.  My favourite thing in the world, after my kids and my hubby and quite possibly dark chocolate and lemon merengue pie, is reading.  So an entire city block of books is enticing; I just wasn't convinced I wouldn't drown in the hundred thousand million titles book store of the century.
Instead, I felt like I had come home.  Millions upon millions of books, and I loved every second of the two hours we were in there.  They even have a rare book room: there was a book in there that was:
It cost $11, 5000.  Eleven thousand.  Five hundred.  DOLLARS.  So stinkin cool.  I can't even remember what it was about or who it was by, but it was in remarkable shape and still uncut (they bound books in those days with the pages folded like an accordian, and when you read the book you cut the pages with a knife).  Wow.

We each bought six books and because Powell's stocks tons of used books as well as new, we only spent $60.  I think I may even have gotten seven in the end, because I found a second hand copy of The No Cry Sleep Solution for $5.  All the rest of my pics were fiction, except one by Anne Lamott, whose nonfiction I love.  I got one of her novels and one of her non fiction books.  Actually, TWO, so I must have gotten eight books?  Jeepers.  I have been hunting for a copy of her Operating Instructions, a journal of her sons first year of life, for years, and almost no one sells it anymore, but here they had about twelve copies.

We left all drunk on cheap books.
We then ate at a brewery which I forgot the name of, but was the best food available in North America, I wager.  Then we walked to Keen's, a shoe store whose sandals we swear by, and whose original store and warehouse are located in Portland.  We just thought we'd wander in and browse, and then we came out $160 poorer.  But gosh darn it we had funky shoes.
Yay for overtime.
Financing anniversary trips for years to come.

We wandered the streets for awhile more, discovering that lots of parks means lots of people, some musicians, some panhandlers, lots of kids in fountains, artists with large beautiful canvases strolling down the sidewalk, ballerinas discussing choreography with fellow dancers on the tram, and just general neat people watching opportunities.  All public transit is free within the downtown core: which means we discovered that our trip back to Union Station at the end of our visit was free and only took 12 minutes by tram, as opposed to costing $7 and taking half an hour by taxi.
Anyways, that day was our anniversary for reals and we headed back to the hotel for a rest and to feed Mrs. Distractability before we went for dinner.  There was a free concert on Main Street that night but when we arrived it must have been intermission or something and nothing was happening except a couple hundred people making small talk and shifting around in their seats.  So we left.

We ate dinner at another brewery which was a deep disappointment foodwise, but we managed to pack away a bunch of mediocre food with smiles on our faces.
Amarys expressed her profound dismay at being alive, and in a restaurant.

Then when we returned to the hotel she expressed dismay at being in the hotel.  So Brent walked her around the block in the Bjorn for an hour and I fell deeply asleep.  I guess all that walking wore me right out!  Brent tucked Amarys in under my arm and went across the street with his book and ordered some wine, and enjoyed the cool evening.  I'm sure he would rather have enjoyed me, but he didn't complain.  As I snored away our anniversary.  How romantic.

The following morning we ate at Starbucks again and the guy behind the till remembered us!  From the day before.  Then he even spelled my name correctly on my drink and I told him we just might need to bring him home with us.  He sort of laughed like you would at a stalker or something.
Then we hit MY favourite, always, with the new city visiting, the Art Museum.  There were floors and floors of contemporary, modern, and post 60s art (those are separate genres), which are three of my favourite genres, and it was blissful.  BLISSful.
It was funny, there was this one statue that was of a fat man sitting on a stool, slumped over in his work clothes, titled "Dishwasher."  And it was so lifelike, it was creepy.  Both of us did not like that statue, because it really felt alive.
I've been in countless rooms with countless dead people, and they never feel alive.  It has always surprised me how quickly a person goes from alive and human to dead and remarkably more like an object in the room than a living, breathing person.  There is this quality to live humans that commands our acknowledgment and attention, if in small part, to their humanness, almost an awareness of each others' souls.  How else can I describe the contrast between being in the presence of someone alive, and then, sometimes with the same person, dead, and when they are dead they are a lifeless object?  Not in a disrespectful way, because running through my mind is all the years of love and work and sex and laundry and children and lonely nights and gardening and eating and television and stubbed toes that made up that person's beautiful original unique ephemeral life.  I just think it is life, the presence of a spirit, which makes us aware of each other as people rather than objects.
This statue felt alive.
It was wild.
And it wasn't alive, like a Happening or performance art or something; I checked.
I hated it.
Which I loved.

There was also a Rothko, several Picassos, a piece titled 'Five Words in Orange Neon' which were exactly that, some amazing glass post modern pieces, and no work by my two ultimate favourites, Giacometti

and Pollock.

Sadly there were no pieces by these two, but I saw a Giacometti in Washington DC at the Museum of Modern Art so I've experienced that joy before.  Art is always better in person.

We ate lunch and hopped on the tram to Union Station and the Amtrack, and read our wonderful new books all the way home.  What a trip.  So awesome.
Portland loves its art!  We also picked out the house we want to live in, should we move to Portland (we're forever choosing homes in unlikely places).  Its a converted brick warehouse on a quiet street a block from the park.  We ♥ Portland.

And we have no pictures.  We forgot our camera.


ms emili louann said...

Art IS always better in person. Indeed.

Sounds like a lovely time :) Congrats on 9 glorious years!

Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

I am deeply offended that you were in my city and didn't even email! But, I will let it slide since you wrote such a beautiful review of our city. :)

I loved the part about no franchises. Portland is loaded with them, but none (well, very few) in the downtown area, which is really nice. Which brewery did you love? Which did you hate? So curious!

It really is a great place, and you only scratched the surface. You'll have to come back again (and this time call first) so I can point you in the direction of some of our markets, free live music, outdoor movies, etc. Portland in the summer is bliss.

And damnit, the PAM used to have Pollock, but the art cycles and you must have just missed it. Drat! More incentive to come again.

I'm glad you had a great time!

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

i have had that experience too: I was there when mom died - I've experienced the way that when life leaves someone, it's hard to explain how much more disappears than the obvious signs of life (sound of breathing etc.).

I also saw a buddha once in kyeongju - Korea's ancient capital - that's a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Buddha is somehow both a beautiful piece of artifice - it's balanced and symmetrical, with perfect lines, yet somehow it's also human... and there's no way to explain the way a statue can be a touching piece of art.

melissa said...

@Em, thanks
@Rach, I wrote you a message hope you got it via email...I didn't ask to get together because I thought it might be too stalkerish? I asked once before when we were thinking of going down last summer....but when I didn't get a reply I thought maybe I was being too freaky suggesting meeting in real life. Oops, my bad, obviously.
Also I neglected to notice that Starbucks is a franchise. Oopsie #2.
Next time we will meet! xoxo
@Robo: you get it. xo Miss you buddy, how's the baby bump?

Anonymous said...

Note from the micromanager:
1. Technically neither Safeway or Starbucks are franchises.
2. The incredible brewery was Deschutes Brewery (in the Pearl district). And the Bleu Cheese burger was incredible. The not-so-incredible one was Rock Bottom Brewery next to Pioneer Mall.

Asheya said...

You are so cool. I have no appreciation for any sort of modern, contemporary what have you art at all--perhaps I should learn some things from you? But generally all visual art escapes me, except for statues and carvings and really anything else 3D, some of which just speak to me. I just can never seem to get that excited about 2D stuff, no matter how good it is supposed to be.

I haven't been to Portland since I was in university, but now I definitely have to go there again!

So glad you had a great anniversary.