Ah, Portland—a town of big beards and bike riders, of blazers and Blazers.
Portland, Oregon—best frenemies forever with her bitchy but fun cousin, Seattle, two hours to the north.
And this past weekend, it's where my bride chose to celebrate a substantial milestone of which one of the following is true:
- It's the anniversary of the first time we talked about getting a cat.
- She turned fifty.
- It was the day in 1988 we unknowingly received identical perms, thus at last realizing our shared destiny.
Of course the answer is number two. Number one didn't happen until March 11 and number three was a body wave, not a perm.
So yeah, to celebrate my wife's 600-month birthday, she found a place on the southwest hill of Portland. Getting to the bottom floor of the three-story house nestled into the mossy hillside was like the beginning of Get Smart, requiring a key code to open a garage door, followed by an elevator ride to the rental unit.
To repeat, these people put an elevator in their freaking house—just for the guests. I expected to see Mitt Romney out trimming the hedge in his mom jeans and red bandana.
Hanging from the high ceilings were reclaimed lights; the interior walls were huge windows of leaded glass. Paintings, sculptures and art supplies filled the Livingstone area. Very cool.
March is"Dining Month" in downtown Portland, where tons of restaurants offer three-course meals for $29. Although neither of us owns a smart phone and our Australian-voiced GPS "Stanley" is permanently down under, we nevertheless found a restaurant.
Channeling the poorly bathed spirits of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, we utilized crude but effective navigational methods—iPad screen captures, yellow pages*—I even briefly wrote some stuff down with a pen.
*For those under twenty, the yellow pages is a large book** with addresses and phone numbers on yellow pages.
**For those under twenty, a book is a stack of printed pages attached together and protected by a sturdy cover.
Still a couple of hours early for our dinner reservation, we decided to walk the two-mile distance to the restaurant. The weather was moist and misty, my jacket slowly trapping enough heat to steam a paper pouch of hum bows. I fantasized of peeling off my coat and wearing only the hood, the rest of the jacket swinging like Batman's cape during recess. By the time we hit the city, I looked like Gosling at the end of The Notebook, but without his face, hair, body or carpentry skills.
After slogging through puddles for half an hour. the legs of my outdated boot cut jeans had stubbornly pasted themselves to my heels. We ducked into the Westin Hotel lounge, a pleasing lobby bar with comfortable chairs and disturbing paintings of sad people with babies.
The area teemed with well dressed young men—dudes for days—yet my bride courageously clung to the moisture-stretched arm of my cable knit sweater. I mumbled a silent prayer of gratitude for her as she gingerly knitted back into place my renegade eyebrow fibers. Bless her heart.
Two pints and some good conversation later, I excused myself to use the men's room, one floor up. Exiting on the second floor, I noticed yet another well-dressed young man sitting in one of those chairs by the elevator that no one ever sits in.
"The restroom is over there," he said. He mumbled something else, but when a 51-year-old guy is hellbent on using the commode, idle banter is discouraged.
He was still there when I returned. A woman stood already waiting for the elevator, and his eyes zig-zagged over her. "Are you from L.A.?" he asked.
"No, but I love L.A.," she said.
"Well, honey, I love how you work that outfit to cover your lower half," he offered.
"Um, thanks," she replied.
Then he looked at me again, his finger on a swivel. "Are you with him?"
She glanced at me nicely. "Nope."
He scowled at me and scanned my sodden jeans and soaked PF Flyers."Where are you from?"
"I can tell."
That's when my FU Meter blew its alarm, and the two pints I'd just knocked back helped hack up the words of my inner Don Rickles: "Does the hotel pay you to sit by the elevator and judge people, or do you do that for free?"
He looked a little startled. "No."
Good comeback, you skinny-jeaned halfwit. Thankfully, the elevator arrived and as the doors closed the woman and I looked at each other and proclaimed in unison, "Wow."
"He's an idiot," she said. "You look good."
"Thanks," I said, feeling grateful for her kindness, yet pissed at the preemptive attack on my personal appearance.
I won't burden you with each detail of our Portland trip, but I do want to show you one more thing. This is what I had for breakfast Sunday. It's called a Reggie:
It's a homemade biscuit containing fried chicken, bacon and cheese, and topped with gravy. Next time you're in Portland, stop by Pine State Biscuits—you might not see Jesus but you could at least bump into Mary Magdalene or Doubting Thomas mawing some fried green tomatoes—it's nearly that religious.
Just don't let the guy by the elevator see you eating the stuff.