25 – Resolve to Know Portland Better

This was a new year 2016 piece written for Frugal Portland.

Photo by Zack Spear on Unsplash

It is traditional to begin the new year with a flurry of resolutions you probably won’t keep. Instead of bothering with the charade of self-abnegation, resolve to do more. Portland is a city so rich in charms it is easy to miss all but the most-publicized. Resolve to know Portland better in 2018. Seek inspiration in its beauty, history, creativity and quirk; then blaze your own trail.

Blue Sky Gallery

The public face of the Oregon Center of the Photographic Arts, Blue Sky Gallery is a space dedicated to cultivating fearless creativity. Nestled in one of the country’s most photogenic cities, it keeps an intense schedule of 20 to 30 exhibitions annually, meaning it rewards repeated visits. Blue Sky Gallery also houses a research library and holds regular artist talks and programs. Browse its walls for inspiration, read our photography tips (pt 1 and 2 ) then go create your own photographic masterpiece.

Location: DeSoto Building, 122 NW 8th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97209 

Hoyt Arboretum

More than just a park, Hoyt Arboretum is a living research lab that is home to more than 2,000 plant species from around the world, including many endangered species. Sprawled across almost 200 acres in Washington Park, and interwoven with a dozen miles of trails, the Arboretum is the perfect place to rejuvenate and reconnect with nature.

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center

Last year taught us that the unthinkable can become reality in a finger-snap, a lesson history will teach if we’re willing to learn. Nikkei means Japanese emigrants and their descendants, an immigrant group that, like Muslims today, became the scapegoats in a political power struggle. The Legacy Center charts the experiences of Portland’s Japanese community, from its heyday in the early 20th century to the devastation of the post-Pearl Harbor internment of Japanese families. If the contemporary parallels don’t frighten you, they should.

Location: 121 NW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Lincoln Street Kayak & Canoe Museum

This small museum crammed with hand-crafted boats represents the can-do ethos of Portland better than a dozen lavish public institutions. It is home to the largest collection of Arctic kayak forms in the world: the majority full-sized, functional replicas built by proprietor/curator Harvey Golden. “Perhaps no single object created by genus Homo better represents our ancestors’ ingenuity, survival instinct, and desire for exploration than the canoe,” he writes on the website. The museum itself is proof of what ingenuity and curiosity can create.

Location: 5340 SE Lincoln St., Portland, OR 97215

Mt. Tabor Park

Mount Tabor is actually the cinder cone of an extinct volcano. How cool is that? The original park planners had no idea, they just knew its sweeping green hills and lush woods made an ideal urban oasis. In fact, it supplied water to the city for many years. Its reservoirs, no longer in use, are beautiful examples of functional architecture. Its trails, picnic areas, tennis courts and dog park make it an invaluable communal space.

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The train tracks that criss-cross Portland are just a remanent of the golden age of railroads. As a major port, the city was also a key depot for major rail lines. The Oregon Rail Heritage Center not only preserves this history, it keeps it alive. ORHC is home to two fully restored engines, making Portland the only city in the U.S. with two operational steam locomotives. A third historic locomotive is undergoing restoration. Other highlights of the collection include maps and exhibitions about local rail yards.

Location: 2250 SE Water Avenue Portland, Oregon 97214

Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

Celebrating the oddball, occult, deviant, and downright peculiar, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium invites you to join it in keeping Portland weird. The quirky musuem-cum-shop-cum-leftfield-social-scene promises “interactive displays for all six senses”. This includes art, books, “one-of-a-kind-oddities”, toys, gifts and more.

Location: 2234 NW Thurman St. Portland, Oregon 97210

Unexpected

Saturday, 19 December 2015, I plotted a route around Portland’s used book stores. In the back of my sister’s red Wrangler, a box of Oregon Wine Pioneers. In the seat beside me, a show-copy, its gloss paper cover softened with wear. I hoped to sell a few copies, or inspire a few orders.IMG_20161225_115917

On my phone, a string of Tinder messages from some guy who spent Friday evening trying to cajole me out of the house to the some downtown bar. “The feet are up,” I had replied, by way of refusal. He seemed nice, though, so I agreed to meet him in Old Town at 6PM on Saturday.

The day started out sunny. I navigated between bookshops using Google maps print-outs since my phone didn’t have roaming. Clouds gathered in the afternoon. By the time I got lost on my way to my last destination, a wine distributor’s office in north east, it was raining and prematurely dark.

Driving back to the west side, I thought about heading straight home. I could message my excuses from there. Throwing in the towel by 6PM was lame, even for me. Anyway, this guy, Chris, said he had to be at work by eight. No danger of date creep.

We were meeting at the Roseland Theater, a few blocks from my mum’s apartment. I parked near her place, to have a clear line of retreat. The rain had stopped; the air was cold. On my way to the Roseland I passed a small, colourful Mexican dive.

At the theater, I stopped in bafflement. The building, the whole block, was six deep in teenage girls, a barricade of hormones and cheap perfume. How the hell was I supposed to find this guy? No point in checking my phone — no roaming.

After one full lap, I stopped and stared at the red-and-green lights twinkling high on an adjacent skyscraper. If he didn’t magically appear in the next few minutes, I’d call it a night. Almost as soon as the thought formed, someone walked toward me from the corner I just passed. Please don’t talk to me, I thought.

“Hi.”

One drink, to be polite, that’s all.

“Hi,” I replied.

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This morning Chris woke up at 4AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I dozed, intermittently aware of his restlessness.

I am tempted to say something florid like, I can’t sleep/live/breathe without him, but that would be untrue.

What I thought, as we yielded to wakefulness was, if you don’t have any expectations you won’t be disappointed. 

Anything is possible, even the absence of us. That is what makes this so precious.

I fell for him like rock tossed into a canyon (still falling). One drink, to be polite turned into three margaritas and a long kiss in the middle of that noisy Mexican dive. It turned into a relationship built on air miles: Ibiza, London, Rome, Brussels, New York, DC, Detroit, Denver, Salt Lake City, Milan, Vienna, Manchester, Glasgow.

We got married in Memphis. Adopted a cat, sold a car, moved to Spain.

All of it unexpected, none of it inevitable. Loving was a fact from the outset. What we did about it was a choice. Of all the things I learned, and am still learning, this is the most important. Life is full of surprises. What comes of them is down to us.

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