John Sandler agrees to take his life in (my?) hands and share a ride into Portland. (It’s less an act of generosity on my part, than recognizing John’s knowledge of Portland is more current). We have a good ride: with casual give-and-take comparing similar and differing views of American culture. (It’s always fun to decode a “foreigner’s” vision of America… WHAT they see, as well as their interpretation of it).
We arrive at Portland’s NW hostel early enough to get one of their rare gifts: a spot in their tiny parking lot. John encourages joining him for hostel’s Tuesday nite ritual: a “Secret Garden” pro-am folk concert about dinnertime (beer and BBQ are added enticements).
My curiosity about Portland’s changes takes me down Glisan, past “Painted Ladies”, and hope my favorite Sheepskin store still exists. It does (across Glisan, a group of workmen put up Tiki idols at what is about to become a Trader Vic’s). Buy a pair of slippers at a surprisingly reasonable price and tease the young saleman about whether these too will last seven years.
AM surprised at how much “The Pearl” has changed. Many buildings which “housed wares” now house people. (Portland, like New York City, encourages street-level shops, so sterility, as suggested in William Whyte’s 1957 “Exploding Metropolis”, is reduced). It’s pretty much a very homogeneous sub-culture: young, white, tattoo-ed.
Pass through into Chinatown/Tenderloin area. Tho upgrades to buildings are noticeable, there seem to be more “down-and-outers” than remembered from my 1999 trip.
Run into a young man from Palo Alto/CA, who’s “walked the walk” regarding helping homeless. Peter Fournier used “his own dime” (actually, about $60,000) to buy a high-tech, transportable shower/toilet vehicle which he parks here on the street. Peter proselytizes, encouraging both pressuring Portland’s “reluctant” power structure to invest in these, as well as hoping word will get out in other cities where homeless people deserve dignity from their support offerings.
Continue down to Willamette River, and thread through Portland’s famed structural steel front buildings near Ankeny Square. Am astounded, coming out of a table-crowded alley, to see a line of some 40 people awaiting a chance to buy somewhat risque, and risky, bakery goods (“bakery BADS”?) at Voodoo Donuts.
John’s absolutely correct: “Secret Garden” is a low-key, “fun” bash. In addition to other hostelers, local neighborhood visitors arrive. Tho amplified, music is acoustic. A couple “acts” are professionals, but a real surprise is how qualified some amateurs turn out to be.
Later, my coed dorm partners turn out to be three young “gils” from Scotland, who met at college in Atlanta/GA, and are touring the West Coast prior to returning home. Fiona’s is the stronger accent, but palindromic Anna and Hannah sound vaguely “Southern”. (Anna charms me with her hopes to be a world traveler, so encourage her, mentioning Canadian “surrogate daughter” Louise who caught the bug after winning an around-the-world trip at 19).
NOTE: for add’l photos, see “page” 2012/07/10 – Portland/OR