I live in Portland now! It is mostly lovely, despite the fact that I moved in at the start of a heat wave and I have been sick for nearly a week. Major props to my dad, for putting up with a very grumpy passenger (and driver) for 2,000+ miles. We had a great trip together full of stops we dragged the other to unwillingly, but also stops we agreed were awesome (the Badlands) or overrated (Mount Rushmore – come at me).
There’s a lot to say about our road trip, and I am working on that essay this week for a different site. But for now I am just happy to be here and mostly settled. I live in Northwest Portland, in the alphabet district, and near NW 23rd, a fun shopping and restaurants thoroughfair. I am a mere three blocks from a Trader Joe’s, where I have been twice, mostly to buy orange juice and popsicles since absolutely no food sounds or feels good right now. When I was there the first time, I heard a boy – maybe 9 or 10 – absolutely screaming at his mom for her to buy him sushi for lunch and I thought, I am not on planet Earth anymore. A lot of the packaging of items I am used to buying there is different here than in Chicago, too – there’s less of it. I’ve been careful to bring my reusable bag for fear of side eye, although I can say tons of people still use the paper ones provided. That’s good for me, because what else am I going to collect my recycling in?
I am already noticing lots of Chicago and Portland differences, in simple stuff like walking down the street. I got used to ignoring people in Chicago after being broken of what Christina used to generously call my “Ohio Nice.” Here, people make eye contact and smile, so I’ll have to train myself all over again.
Cars defer to cyclists and pedestrians in a way that my dad could not help but notice. I’d experienced that back in October during my first visit, when I toured the whole week by bike. At one point when my dad was driving my car, a woman and her young son started to cross the street. When in Rome, my dad must have thought, and halted the car to a sudden stop partially in the crosswalk. He waved his hand in what he meant as a kind, “after you!” gesture, but, since done out of practice, may have been mistaken as an annoyed “wtf” motion. They timidly crossed, and I was proud of my dad.
After he left, I explored a little on my own, when I felt up for it. I went to Coffee Time, at Johnson and NW 23rd, and the owner was friendly right off the bat. I told her I’d just moved, and she gave me a couple restaurant recommendations. She had gorgeous blonde dreadlocks which I admired with a swell of envy. I wanted dreads so bad when I was in college but did you know that if you decide you don’t want them anymore you have to shave your head?
I saw her again today, and she remembered me. I’m not sure she’ll recognize me next time without my glasses and my too-sick-to-bother top knot of hair.
Despite feeling terrible, I made voyages to both Target and IKEA to start my new apartment. There is such a joy in picking out your own things. I’ve done that before, but never for an entire place – just for my room, or a bathroom. Now, I can pick things I want and put them wherever I feel like. I bought one of those ridiculous white gauze canopies you hang over your bed because I always want one. They are wildly impractical, but I don’t care.
“I hung up a curtain rod,” I texted Stefanie. “I’m gonna make it after all.”
My stuff got here via Amtrak without a hitch, and at a lower cost than expected. The guy who helped me get my stuff brushed me off when I asked where I should go to pay my storage fee. Amtrak is amazing, and if you ever need to move your stuff across the country, I recommend it fully. All my boxes were accounted for and in great shape. The same can’t be said for one of my USPS boxes which, unless I am much mistaken, is now full of shattered drinking glasses. It was packed really securely, too.
Dad was still here, as was his visiting Salem, Oregon cousin Jenny, when I found a desk I liked at a yard sale. The man selling it offered to let us borrow his push cart if I bought it, so I did. Dad pushed that desk six blocks, mostly uphill, and moved it into my apartment. I steered from the front, and Jenny supervised – Dad did the hard part. Parents always get stuck with the hard parts, don’t they?
One other thing we did when Jenny was here was go to Powell’s. Dad wanted to see if any of his book were on the shelves there, but Jenny beat him to it. She went to the front information desk and made a big deal over him, just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“He’s a famous author,” she drawled, as Dad ran away in humiliation. “Once we find him, he’ll be happy to sign any and all copies of his books you have for sale.”
It turned out they did have his most recent book, and Jenny got the manager to slap “Autographed” stickers on all the copies he begrudgingly signed. It was hilarious and I regret nothing. It served him right for Friday morning when, 200 miles from Portland, he let me believe he was serious about doubling back to Walla Walla, where he’d accidentally left his hat.
We have such fun, he and I.
I am glad he drove across the country with me. I am glad I am here, and I am even glad I am sick now and not the week before I left Chicago. Here, I at least don’t yet know what I’m missing.