Thursday, February 21, 2008


We didn’t see or do all that much today, but somehow finished up the day tired anyway. My first impressions of Portland are a little vague. I don’t feel like I got a good sense of it. I see it as working class, affordable, with quite a few unique characters and people that are friendly, but don’t come across as quite as happy as those we met in Seattle. Nevertheless, everyone I spoke to so far loves living here.

I started out my day meeting a couple of former classmates for lunch and hearing about their experiences living and working in the city. Neither is from Portland, both seem to be happy living here. Then we drove into the downtown area, where we first stopped at Powell’s books. It’s a city landmark and giant bookstore, with shelves upon shelves of new and used books on every conceivable topic. I walked through the store and was consumed by a desire to read. Seeing so many books just reminded me of how many of them I haven’t read. I longed for long, empty afternoons during which I could read. I’ve had very little time to read since River arrived. The small patches of time I get to myself go quickly to exercise, writing, working, or getting things done. Powells also had an amazing collection of audiobooks and that reminded me that I can listen to books on CD, even if I can’t read the paper versions as much as I’d like.

We strolled through the Chinatown/Old Town area. Apparently, it’s not one of the best areas of town. But for a not-so-good neighborhood, it was much less threatening than the bad parts of other cities. We walked through with a baby stroller. While we did come across some odd characters, we never felt really uncomfortable.

We happened across a Chinese garden and decided to take a look. After paying the $7 per person admission and being instructed to turn off our cell phone, we walked into a surprising oasis of calm and tranquility in the middle of the city. The roar of a waterfall drowned out the sound of traffic. The sweet smell fresh plants pleasantly perfumed the air. The architecture and the furniture seemed genuine, as though we’d entered a small town and quiet secluded garden in China. A small tea shop at the back of the garden sold tea flights, samples of some of the many varieties on offer.

We walked briefly along the waterfront, where a path runs alongside the river, offering views of a giant steel bridge and of the city. It was busy with bikers and joggers, even in the early evening. We saw two women and a young girl there who appeared to be homeless. I felt so sorry for the ragged young girl, that as a child she was denied the security and warmth of a home and stable family.

In the evening, we ate a delicious, healthy, homemade dinner and chatted some more with our friends. So far, I’ve enjoyed the time spent in my friends’ coy and funky house than I have the city itself. But tomorrow we’ll have a local friend in the car with us who can hopefully guide us to the main attractions. So far, I find it a nice enough place, but haven’t fallen in love with it.

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