16) Seven Days In Portland
– April 22nd – 28th, 2014
I remember leaving Eugene feeling like we hadn’t really found it to begin with. The main road had taken us through a series of drearily familiar outlet stores that could be indicative of any town anywhere really. We found a map of their downtown area, drove around, and it was just franchise restaurants and stores and the like, nothing we really felt compelled to pull over for. And then we left. We had the correct LP line now to run propane straight from the 5 gallon barbecue tank outside into our Coleman stove in the trailer, saving the environment from the two or three little green disposable cans per month we had been throwing out since we left. Those cans only hold 1.02 pounds of propane and cost about $3 each on average (comparative to refilling a barbecue tank roughly 16 times over at a cost of about $50 total instead of the ordinary $20), they’re not recyclable, and it’s illegal to refill them (for the off-chance you blow yourself up trying). I’m tired of throwing out those cans. At East Jesus at least you could put them in the pistol range, and even leave one a with a bit of remaining propane inside for a more exciting target. So now one of our 5 gallon tanks runs the heater and the other 5 gallon tank runs the stove, and if a tank runs out, we still have one left to tide us over until we get a replacement for the empty.
Our first Portland experience was doing laundry. We had arrived and it was very rainy, but the rain let up. We found a church parking lot for the night. In the night, it rained. In the morning we were near Hawthorne Theatre, the venue I’m set to perform at on Saturday April 26th, so we drove by the venue to take a look. It looked promising actually. I had never seen it before, and Kat and I are not familiar with the city of Portland whatsoever, nor I of its music scene and venues. Hawthorne St. itself looked promising for a walk, and since we had no knowledge of the city or where we might start wandering, this seemed like as good a place as any. I remember it rained for a while while walking, but then soon enough it stopped. At this point I’m going to stop mentioning the rain and when it started and when it stopped, and please just keep in mind that for a full week from April 22nd till April 28th in Portland it was sunny and clear for about thirty minutes and then grey and rainy for about thirty minutes and that this cycle repeated without exception until we eventually drove north out of city limits. You can use your imagination and know that in the following scenes it was either just about to rain, or just about to let up for a short while, and that either scenario is just as likely or possible.
We were unsure about what to do with the trailer in Portland. The city seemed just big enough to make driving and parking unpleasant. We opted for a Motel 6 so we could leave the trailer there, and later do dishes and have showers. We drove around Hawthorne and Powell streets, then got on one of their many many bridges and drove over one of the many different rivers that flow through and around Portland. We accidentally found the zoo and an arboretum and had a nice lost but scenic drive around that neighbourhood. Portland we would learn is divided generally by the compass directions NE, NW, SE, and SW. The four directions, separated for the most part by water, are distinct areas of town. We had come in to town originally and drove underneath a large cable car that was shuttling people from up high somewhere to down low somewhere else, and we meant to look into that and see what it was all about, but it never came up again.
The next day we would drive to where Google Maps takes you if you type in “downtown Portland” and follow its directions, which I guess is like NE Portland, across a bridge from where we had slept. Traffic was mostly slow in the transitional areas between sectors, like driving over bridges mostly, but outside of that, not so bad. We saw a couple of supposedly popular places like Powell’s Books, a four storey book store that is the length and width of an entire city block squared. It was really overwhelming, and I felt like if we weren’t going to spend the entire day in that store, then there was no point in spending any time at all, it being too much to try and glaze over in a handful of minutes. We walked to Voodoo Doughnuts, whose line-ups can extend around the block, and who sell maybe a hundred different kinds of doughnuts, like ones with Fruit Loops on them or ones with bacon in them.
Later in the day we drove to a neighbourhood called Concordia, or also the Alberta Arts District, much of it contained along or nearby Alberta St. near the 99E, to meet Benn. Benn was somebody Kat had met online in regards to tiny house building, a popular phenomena occurring largely in the northwest, in places like Portland, or Olympia, WA. Kat and I have been inspired to build a tiny house of our own, upon a flatbed utility trailer, with the dimensions being roughly 8′ across by 20′ deep, with a legal maximum roof height of 13.6′ which leaves room for sleeping lofts above the main floor. This can be achieved for about $20,000 more or less, depending on how you spend your money. It has the basic function of a single wide trailer but with the design being closer to a cabin. With the tiny house, in particular, there is an implied statement being made about the ability and especially the choice of living smaller in a world that for the most part glorifies excess and fuels the appetite for “more”. We are planning to return to Ontario some time in June to begin work on a tiny house of our own. We are doing every aspect of research on our own, and talking to people who are already building or have built tiny homes of their own seems like a good way to cover our bases. Benn is building a tiny house on Sumner St., in his friend’s large front yard, not far from Alberta St.
Benn’s tiny house is fully framed at this point, and the roof is on, but the siding and all of the interior finishes are not yet complete. His is the same size that ours will be, and his layout is quite similar. With tiny houses, there is so little space that there are really only a few different options as far as layout, but it was nice to see one in real life that would be so similar to what ours will be. When we were staying on Mary and Anthony’s property in Bandon, we had laid out our floor plan on the ground with a bunch of rope, so that we could see the real dimensions we would be living with, and seeing it was in fact reassuring. But now we were standing inside of a real tiny house, for the first time, and one the size and shape of what we would build, and it felt just right! Benn was so helpful, and didn’t seem to mind talking to us for more than an hour, offering that we come back or write him should we have any other questions.
There is a parking lot on Alberta and 11th, where it costs $1 to park during the day, and $1 to park during the evening, and there was no specification as to when those times started and ended. There were also basically no cars in this parking lot. It appeared completely overlooked. This was a part of town, however, where walking and bicycling were realistic methods of transportation, and if for that reason or another, this $2 a day parking lot would be practically our own for the next two days, us simply making sure we were always paid up, though I doubt anyone ever came by to check. Across the street was a place called Caravan, which was a fenced lot containing four tiny houses which were rented out like hotel rooms, the first of its kind. But the rate was $125 per night, something we didn’t opt for, though it would have been fun.
Besides, secretly I was buying tickets for Kat and I to see Cirque Du Soleil for her birthday, which was coming up on Sunday. Cirque was in town with their big blue and yellow tent, La Grande Chapiteau, which we recognized while driving past it on the highway headed to West Marine one day. I called the 1-800 number the next day while I was out doing another West Marine trip. At a West Marine in Oakland CA we were trying to find a new water spout for our little sink, since the manual hand-pump spout had been leaking a bit ever since we started using our electric water pump that we bought at a West Marine back in San Diego. It was the smallest water pump we could find, a 12VDC pump running 1 gallon per minute, but still, the manual pump was leaking. Perhaps it was simply not designed for automatic pressure. In any case, the Oakland West Marine did not have the spout we wanted, but they were able to order it to the Portland location so that we could pick it up when we arrived. So here I am with this spout now only to find that it is narrower than the hole that it is intended to be placed in. This turned out to result in a series of uninteresting returns to West Marine and also Home Depot for reasons too mundane to delve into.
What was I talking about? Cirque Du Soleil, right. I had tried to obtain tickets for Sunday April 27th, it being Kat’s birthday then, but they only had tickets for the very night I was calling on, which was two days prior on Friday the 25th. I came back to our $1 parking lot to surprise Kat with the tickets (well, there were no physical tickets, per se, but I had a brochure at least). We ate across the street from the parking lot at Grilled Cheese Grill, a permanently located food truck that made specialty grilled cheeses, with a full sized school bus that had been turned into a long dining room for eating in. Mine had pepperjack cheese with jalapeno and corn chips.
Our friend Anant, who we had met at Joedy’s CouchSurfing Thanksgiving event back in San Antonio TX last November, was actually from Portland, and was only in San Antonio at the time to see a friend. We had messaged him to let him know we were in the area, and during these messages he recommended Marrakesh, an authentic Morroccan restaurant downtown. We arrived right at 5pm when Marrakesh opened, as we had to be in the far north parts of Portland for Cirque Du Soleil at 8pm. We were disappointed to find that the belly dancing that was mentioned to happen here would not be happening until about 7 or 8; we would just miss it. We took our seats, which were some pillows not more than a few feet from the ground, and ate a huge, five course meal. How it worked here was that you chose your main dish, but it was preceded and then also followed by a number of other courses that appeared standard for everyone. Many delicious courses ended with mint tea, and we were off to the other side of town for Cirque Du Soleil. What a great night! We had left our trailer back at the parking lot in order to park and get around easier during the day, and after a long, fun-filled day we headed back for one more night in the Alberta Arts District.
We found a place called Jubitz Travel Centre for laundry and showers and WiFi, and then met up with Anant at an Earth Day event in Kenton Park for the afternoon. It was a bit rainy, but we stayed for some food, hung out with Anant and his friend for a bit, and caught some of the LoveBomb Go-Go Marching Band who were really awesome!
At night we arrived at Hawthorne Theatre, as I had planned through a friend online to play a set there that night. I met Danielle, or PatoirLove, randomly at least five years ago in Toronto, though at the time she was from New Jersey and playing shows in New York City mostly. I had seen online more recently that she was now in Portland, and knowing we would be coming through this music-friendly town, I was able to get on a show that she already had booked for herself. PatoirLove performed first, followed by myself and finally a third solo act Aux78. It was a fun night with a smaller but good crowd, and Kat and I had a fun night with Danielle and her girlfriend Jenn among others, before finding a quiet street behind a Safeway for the night.
Sunday was Kat’s birthday and we enjoyed a quiet day mostly inside the trailer, only leaving briefly for a bike ride and some lunch out on Hawthorne before getting a few groceries from the Safeway and coming back to the trailer for the night. Monday would mean a full week for us in this city, and time for a quick stop again at Jubitz, before heading north into Washington State.