6/20/2011 – 6/21/2011
Camas, Washington and Portland, Oregon
The next day I slept in. When I finally woke up I took a shower, went downstairs, had breakfast, and pretended to read/research. A few hours later, Cassie’s mom came home, exhaustively done with her middle-schoolers for the year, and the two of us made plans to walk the dog and see the neighborhood and lake and other pretty things. Then we both promptly fell asleep instead. Several hours later the dog was hurriedly walked, we ate dinner, and watched some new summertime show where a military history professor saves the day against the evil aliens. Afterward I returned once again to sleep, with “The Wilderness Warrior” tucked under my cheek.
The next day was way more productive. Cassie’s mom was set on giving me the full Portland tour and I was delighted and ready. We woke up at 9, showered (notice how I keep mentioning this), waited for my laundry to dry (ohh yah – clean clothes!) and were off. We first visited a set of falls outside of the city, the name of which I could not possibly do justice to with my memory. But they were very pretty. A combination of glacial destruction during the last ice age and violent lahars (huge debris flows from elevated water levels that have the consistency of cement) had carved out this valley, leaving room for the Columbia river and creating numerous drop off points for waterfalls. Nine of these waterfalls in fact are connected by a day-long hiking trail, though for our purposes the handful that you could drive to were scenic enough. The main waterfall has a beautiful bridge that crosses in between two of the larger drop-offs, immersing you within the thick spray of water droplets bouncing every which way. We admired and stared and drove our way through the twisting, narrow road with seemingly ancient, moss-covered stones enclosing the edges. A few minutes later we were out of this woodsy-nature scene and into the heart of Portland. We ate a relaxing lunch on the waterfront and then meandered along its side, noting the brilliantly warm and sunny day, the Mormons, and strange parkour area. We packed back into the car and found a delightfully lucky parking spot right in front of every nerd’s dream: Powell’s, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the country (slash world?). The several floors filled with winding rooms and towering bookshelves have some sort of strange organizational system with different colored rooms (like rose or purple) holding different kinds of genres. The shelves were littered with staff recommendations and reviews, and accordingly all the employees I overheard have some sort of encyclopedic knowledge of the store, pointing one guest to the second floor rose room, row 233, second shelf for her book. We had scheduled 45 minutes for this stop and I had long ago told myself to stop buying books I would never have time to read, but how could I possibly resist this? After much perusal of the travel section and the environmental section, an hour and a half later I ultimately settled for my weakness: depressing history books. One book was simply titled “Che” and is a huge biography I have been eyeing since I watched a movie on the motorcycle diaries and realized I knew incredibly little about South America. The second was called “King Leopold’s Ghosts” (on recommendation from my 6th grade science teacher a while back) and a history of the terrible things that occurred in the Congo, one of the few Belgium-controlled territories in the African land grab. I kind of can’t wait. But I’ll finish the other three books I have started on this trip first.
Next we moved onto the Experimental Rose Garden, a favorite for gays and wedding ceremonies alike (we literally ran into both, I’m not just stereotyping rose gardens). We must have hit the season perfectly as the air was infused with the same smell as my grandmother’s rosewater and the bright buds littered the hill slope. I couldn’t get the image of the rose from Beauty and the Beast out of my mind – the perfect, almost sparkling, flower so carefully tended as it nevertheless continues to slowly drop its petals.
With this short visit, we waded through the depths of traffic and met Skylar at a Starbucks just outside the city. I thanked Cassie’s mom profusely, but her phenomenal kindness feels like it deserves more than a few paltry words and a hug. Skylar and I headed back to Tacoma where I stayed at her house for the night. I slowly bumped into all of her roommates in the huge, 70’s styled house (complete with shag carpet and shiny wallpaper) throughout my several hours of wandering and basking in internet access. I indulged in a little frozen yogurt at a store down the street and devoured a bowl of pasta before crashing in my sleeping bag on the couch, the lullaby of bubbling fish tanks beside me.