Countdown to Portland

"Women & Women First" is based on a real store called "In Other Words"

“Women & Women First” is based on a real store called “In Other Words” (via)

Two weeks from now, I’ll be in Portland, OR, drinking too much coffee, eating too many gourmet baked goods, and hopefully getting lots and lots of writing done — same laptop, different desk.

I fly out after work on Oct. 1. I’m staying at a woman’s house in Northwest Portland through airbnb, and I’ll be renting a bike to get to downtown and all the different shops and restaurants I want to see. These include, but are not limited to, the bookstore from Portlandia, Powell’s, several brunch places, and Voodoo Donuts. I’m going to wear dresses and tights and boots — new boots that I will buy for Portland but also because it will be fall — and I will talk to strangers and relish knowing nobody in the entire city.

Well, almost nobody — In a strange twist of fate, it turns out two Chicago friends of mine will be in Portland at the same time. Stef and I went to hear our friend Andy read at Essay Fiesta on Monday night, and afterward he invited us to get a drink with him and Sarah, his fiance and our good friend. We got to talking about airbnb and I said something about how I’ll be using it for the first time when I go to Portland.

They blinked at me.

“When are you going to Portland?” Sarah asked.

“Next month,” I said, and they looked at each other.

“We are, too. When next month?”

“October first…?”

October first is a Wednesday. The three of us all decided that would be a great day to go to Portland. To be fair, they have an Oregon wedding to attend, so I can’t really argue that no one I know from Chicago or anywhere else is allowed to be in Portland because I need to take up the entire city with my feelings of independence and weird need for temporary anonymity.

Plus, Stef, who sometimes knows me better than I know myself, pointed out that after a day or two on my own, a socially active person like myself just might feel a little lonesome in a different city all alone.

So we’re going to at least get dinner one night while we’re all out there.

Portland. Oh, Portland. I’ve been dreaming about this trip for weeks now. Every kind of crappy occurrence since July has been lessened by the knowledge that Portland is there and it’s coming. My google calendar has little notes to myself that say things like, “Only 22 days until Portland!” and, the Saturday before my trip, “Do laundry — Portland laundry!

I’ve been resisting the urge to watch “Portlandia” episodes knowing I’ll appreciate them all the more if I wait until just one week from my trip so I can get really excited about going.

What I won’t be doing is watching “Portlandia” while I’m actually there, because I’m not flying to the other side of the country to watch TV on my laptop. I’m documenting this statement now so I can properly shame myself should I be tempted, since the entire series of “Gilmore Girls” drops on the same day I fly out — a show I already own all seven seasons of on DVD.

Anyway, I can’t wait. Also, if any Chicago folks have something they’d like hand-delivered to Evan in Seattle, you’re on notice: You’ve got until Sept. 30.

I’ll be packing my Portland laundry that night.

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Planning Portland

As soon as the weather hints that it might get warm soon, and sometimes long before that’s a possibility, my brain gets completely preoccupied by the thought of traveling. I love hearing about new cities, I love reading travel blogs, and I love looking at other people’s vacation photos.

I usually try to plan a trip during the summer, but this has been a crazy one, between settling into my new job, not having vacation time until July as a result of said new job, and planning an apartment move. When my high school friends stayed with me here in Chicago a few weeks ago on the first night of their road trip to Idaho to go to our friend Jesse’s wedding, I thought I was going to die of envy. A drive across the country sounded so perfect, and I lived vicariously through them thanks to Facebook posts and pictures. Someday I too will see the Badlands.

Meanwhile, I’ve been going nuts for months now, not having a trip to look forward to. Ohio doesn’t count — sorry, guys — as trips back home are comforting in their familiarity, and not exciting in the same way that seeing a new city is. So! I’ve made a decision: I’m going to Portland. (And Seattle.)

Sooo excited

Sooo excited (source)

Nothing is set in stone yet, but I’ve been approved for time off the first week in October, and Southwest has a great sale running until the 17th, so: Portland, brace yourself. I’m getting airfare Wednesday and I’ve got my eye on a great place in North Portland that I saw on airbnb.

My family made a point of taking a trip most summers, the biggest ones of which were our two-week trip to England/Wales/Scotland but also our cross-country Amtrak train ride. Until this past weekend, I was under the impression that I’ve never been to Portland, but my dad told me Sunday that our Amtrak train left us there at the end of our train trip. We only spent the day there though, and I was 11 and clearly wasn’t paying enough attention because I don’t even remember going to Powell’s.

I’d be lying if I tried to act like I’m not going to Portland because of “Portlandia”. That show makes it look like a beautiful, magical, amazing place and I will probably be let down by how grounded in reality the city actually is. But I don’t care about that right now.

I’m going to stay in Portland two or three nights, then either rent a car or take the train north to Seattle, stopping in Olympia, Washington on the way to see my cousin Paul. Then I’ll stay with Evan in Seattle for one night, or maybe two, depending on what all I fill my Portland itinerary with and how much availability he has that weekend.

I’ll stay by myself at an airbnb place like I mentioned, and I’ll rent a bike and tour the city. I’ll drink amazing coffee and eat gourmet scones and donuts and hike and see waterfalls and visit neighborhood bars and make conversation with strangers — hopefully in between spurts of writing inspired by the gorgeous scenery of the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve never been on a vacation to a city where I didn’t know anyone, by myself. It feels like a very freeing, independent, adult thing to do. I can’t wait.

I joke about my love of “Portlandia,” but it really has helped me cultivate this strange affection and attachment for an area I am not familiar with. I’ve been wanting to visit Portland for a long time, and I’m glad I am finally making it happen. Thanks to Jaimi for helping me accept that this plan is not weird — or even if it is, it doesn’t matter, because it’s going to be spectacular.

It's true

It’s true (source)