Over the past eight years, some people have asked our family if we would consider moving back to Indiana. Those that ask do not know us very well at the time. Those that know us would hear the question and snicker because they know that the answer is a pretty huge NOPE. The last 24 hours have reminded Joseph and I again of why we are so happy here. If you live in the Portland area, all of this will seem terribly familiar and certainly not new. If you live where we did before, in Indiana, however, you would see how starkly different this new life of ours is.
Yesterday I had a tough day. I am working on a project that is turning me grayer by the second. It is terribly hard, long term and low paying--not the best combination. But it is also WORK and I need that. After literally walking away from the computer in tears not once, but two times, my hubby whispered to me that if I would just hang in there, he had a surprise for me later that night. (Minds out of the gutters, people!) At 11:00, an hour after what I know he would like to be his bedtime, we left the house and drove 170 streets west to the downtown area of Portland. I could already feel my nerves letting go and the day's worries falling by the wayside.
The night life was alive, as it always in in larger cities on hot summer nights. The sidewalks were full of people laughing and chatting and of course, the usual "street drama". Different themes of music burst out of different doorways. Sidewalk tables and chairs were full of people enjoying a cool breeze and cold beer or glass of wine. You feel energized just driving down the street and soaking it in. Joseph and I remarked on how glad we both are that our days hanging out in bars and hoping to find someone are long over. We much prefer being one of the oldie couples walking down the sidewalk hand in hand.
He surprised me by driving to this one area we had commented on several times in the past but never stopped by. It is a corner parking lot where six to eight food vendors (in portable wagons) gather in a circle and provide food for the late night crowd. They open at 8 or 9 pm and go until 2 or 3 in the morning. We parked across the street and walked over. The area was bustling and so alive with people. As always, I was struck with the incredible diversity of this city. There were blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics and Russians. There were gays, straights, queers, questionable . . . It was a rich mix of city folk indeed.
We scouted out the food selection and ended up with J getting a pastrami dog and me a double chocolate creme fried pie. We found an open spot at one of the picnic tables set up under an awning. We were entertained by people watching and an occasional overhead firework when we least expected it. It was a truly perfect Portland moment. We spent most of it talking about how glad we were to live here.
The experience was further enhanced today when we went to the Division/Clinton Street Fair. For a couple of hours, we wandered up and down the sidewalk soaking up the culture once again. We smiled at babies in slings and packs, appreciated the clothing styles that ranged from a bikini top, shorts and more tattoos than skin to Muslim burkas to bohemian tie dye (oops, that's me!) to rhinestones and pink lycra (on a guy). We stopped to listen to a FABULOUS three man band called Sneakin' Out (mandarin, bass guitar and percussion) and took extra time to chuckle at the drummer who managed to play drums, bongos, xylophone and TYPEWRITER while wearing a bright red taffeta skirt, black t-shirt, shaved head and mohawk. We snacked on bratwurst from a sidewalk vendor and tried (and discarded hybiscus ice tea). We connected with Nicole and her friends walking about and stopped by Voodoo Donuts for a quick last sweet bite. We naturally dropped into our favorite thrift store in the area and I picked up a couple of dresses for Nicole and a statue for me.
Once again, it was a day that reminded all of us are fortunate we feel to live in a city like this one. I know that some of the things that make it special to us are also the very things that others would or do not like--the free esxpression, the crowds, the sounds, the swearing, the tattoos, the sweat (it is in the 90s) but for us, it made a perfect Portland 24 hours.
Now I am back home, way out in the suburbs, far from the distinctiveness of downtown Portland. But as I enjoy my quiet deck, I know that it is still out there, only 20 minutes away and I can dip back in and soak it up anytime I want. That's a blessing in my book.