Friday, November 19, 2010

The Move West, Day 7: Independence Day

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My first full day living in Portland was July 4, 2009. I've often thought that it was appropriate that it was Independence Day.

Meg and I began the day with a few errands such as going to Panera (the only free wi-fi place we knew of) to check our e-mail and get breakfast, going to what I now know is North Portland to pick up her rental car. When that adventure was over, we drove downtown (after learning it would take 70 minutes, minimum, for us to take a bus downtown) and went to the Portland Saturday Market. The market is pretty popular. It's on the waterfront and includes lots of food carts and vendors selling all kinds of things, but mostly locally-made crafts. I bought a pair of earrings that had dangling circular cutouts of photos taken in the Pacific Northwest, of things like ferns and crabapples and raindrops.

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We got lunch from the food cart of Horn of Africa, an East African restaurant on MLK, which I now drive past almost daily but have never been to! Meg and I both liked going to an Ethiopian place in Portland; I think if I had realized how common Ethiopian, Somali, and Eritrean food is in this part of the country, I would have been really excited with my choice of city. We ate our sambusas on a bench facing the Willamette river, where we were no doubt confronted by panhandlers.

Afterwards, we walked to Powell's City of Books, the largest new and used independent bookstore in America. I looked for a Streetwise map of the city, but it was months before I got to a Powell's that hadn't just sold out of them. I don't remember what I bought, but I know it was something. I have never walked into a Powell's and walked out empty-handed. Never.

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We walked back to the car, eventually, and drove to Washington Park. We explored Hoyt Arboretum and the rose garden with its views of the city and Mount Hood. Washington Park was one of the few stops I visited during my short time in Portland on my 2008 road trip, so I think of it as one of the places where I fell in love with this city. For a long time, I could not go back to the rose garden or to Hoyt Arboretum without feeling nostalgic, without thinking of the trip, of how happy I'd been in NJ before I went on the trip in June 2008, and how unhappy I was when I returned to find that everything in my life was changing. I'd think of how I'd look up pictures of the arboretum and the garden on Google Images whenever I was sad, homesick for a place that was not yet my home. It was a place for past was, for me, as equally present as the present. It was like walking through a series of double-exposed photographs.

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In 2008, my traveling companion and I had been too cheap to go to the Portland Japanese Garden. This time, in 2009, Meg wanted to go, so we did. I was glad I spent the $8.50 (the price at the time - it's gone up) to go. All of the photographs in this post came from that garden and that visit. (Admittedly, some of them are blurry.) I've been back several times and plan to get a membership to that garden, now that I qualify for the student rate. After the Japanese Garden, I don't remember what we did, except that we had dinner at the Kennedy School. For non-Portlanders, it's a McMenamin's restaurant. The McMenamin's restaurants are all in buildings that used to be something other than a restaurant, such as an elementary school, a movie theater, or a train station. There are many in the Portland area, and some in other parts of Oregon. (I went to one in Roseburg, which is very far south.) The Kennedy School is probably one of the more popular McMenamin's locations.

With my friend, I explored my new home city. But soon it was the next day, time for her to set out on her own road trip that would eventually lead her back home to NJ. When I woke up on July 5, 2009, I realized that I was home and in a city I loved, but I was alone.

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