I spent Thursday in Portland hanging out with some really good friends. Some are long-time city dwellers like Jason, while others are newbies to the big canyons of concrete, glass and steel.
It was a rainy and damp trip up the I-5 corridor. The perfect drive for contemplating the future. The drizzle melts everything into a boring turn-of-whatever century Dutch landscape, so you can focus on anything other than the scenery.
I found a parking spot on 4th and Couch and walked the half-a-block to my friend Jason’s studio. One of dozens of artist dens in an artists’ collective building, I could tell his distinctive touch on the wall outside his suite.
Surrounded by SUGs and other collectible plastic figurines and bottles of Schlitz beer, and in a veritable shrine to Apple computers, Jason is about as at home in the city as anyone I’ve ever met. He fits into the mess of humanity as well as anyone and yet stands out as an artist in a city full of wannabes.
We walked six blocks in a heavy drizzle to The Roxy. It’s not great food, but it combines two of our favorite things, breakfast and Steve Buscemi. We’ve been fans for a long, long time.
He drinks coffee and I drink green tea. We both ordered the Steve Buscemi, a wood chipper’s favorite of corned beef hash and fried eggs.
He’s disappointed I’m moving to Alaska, and I don’t blame him. We’ve been best friends since fifth grade, and our families have vacationed together in Montana the last few years.
But our conversation runs to other matters and the grittiness of city life in a town known for its roses.
We walked off the Steve Buscemi in a hard drizzle that was trying for rain. Downhill and across Burnside to the south end of the Pearl, a haven for hipsters and artists who are sometimes one in the same.
I told him we’d see them every year still, we hugged and I drove to southwest Portland.
Jordan is a lot younger than me, but we’ve been friends for many years. He suggest we meet for coffee at 5th and Stark. He suggests we meet in half-an-hour. I don’t want to wait that long, so I go on a wild goose chase looking for his apartment off Barbur Boulevard.
We venture back downtown to Stumptown Coffee and sit in low-back chairs and sip on large cups of coffee and tea as the rain falls in earnest outside. These new Portlanders show up one by one and we chat about life in the city. Having all come up in Salem, a mere 45-minutes and a world away south of Portland, we’re fascinated by life here.
Anya rides up on her bike and takes off her skater helmet and shakes out her long blond hair as the boys tease her about tire spray.
Jordan sips an Americano while David drinks tea. Jordan check his iPhone while I ask David about the new ink on his wrist.
They are young and in the heartbeat of society. The big city is their playground, their backyard and their workplace.
I’m envious in the tall foyer of Stumptown Coffee. The smells of coffee and leather and maybe a little cigarette smoke and patchouli oil on the dress of the girl who brushes past me. I love the smells and sights and sounds in the big city. The traffic moving by and the way rain coats swish and heels sound on metal grates.
I love the way they relax in too tight clothes and plan their next social interaction. They’ve been friends for a long, long time, and it reflects in their gracefulness. It’s a city dweller’s peace in the chaos, and I’m forever hoping to experience it someday myself. I get a taste now and then, but it’s in these moments that I live vicariously through their innocence and exploration.
There is nothing like a day in the city. Sure, throw in a visit to Powell’s City of Books and a late-afternoon beer at Henry’s, and you’d have the perfect day. But a Steve Buscemi and a few cups of green tea and hours of conversation on a rainy day are just as good sometimes.