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I don’t think I can live in cities anymore.

But Portland is the sweetest little city that I adore right now. It makes me wish I could live in a city, especially because beyond the lovely structure of the city itself, it’s graceful bridges, beautiful landscaping and almost Canadian-like sensibility, I have friends in Portland. Old friends, new friends.

I always feel awkward writing about friends on this blog. I want to, but I’m worried I’m going to say the wrong thing and someone is going to get mad at me – or worse, feelings hurt. And then if I just say something like, “oh this person is so great”, it’s as bland as WonderBread and that’s no fun. It’s also not who the person is.

So I’m going to try something different – I’ll introduce you but then tell a story about the person.

Geneva: she was among my best friends when I was around 14 in Hilo, Hawaii. She’s a third culture kid too – raised by Oregon hippie artists in Tasmania, Australia, and moved to Hilo around the same time as we did. In fact, we met because they were moving into the house we were moving out of.

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Geneva has inspired me through the years because she was always doing something different than what I knew. She’d be making her money at craft fairs as a kid, and I had been raised with the ‘art is nice and all but HOW WILL IT SAVE THE WORLD?!’

So I loved being around her and just relaxing into a different way of looking at things. And seeing proof that art can, in fact, be a livelihood.

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A story with Geneva: right before I left for Japan, I went to hang out with her at her house. We took a cassette tape I had (“Barbie’s Birthday Album” – my grandma had given it to me) and she taught me how to put scotch tape on the top and record over it.

So we layered our voices onto that Barbie Birthday Album – Ken raps and Barbie squeals and it was kind of hilarious.

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I really wish I had more – and clear!* – pictures. There’s this thing though that when I see friends, I’m so happy that I don’t think about taking pictures. It’s only towards the end of a visit that I remember then of course I can’t focus the camera. It’s Murphy’s Law.

We met my friend Jason the next day.

Jason and I cooked together in Tucson, Arizona – and have been friends with some pauses falling outs – for the past 20 years. We’ve got a long friendship – millions of hours worth of smoke break talks, small road trips, long food orders. I swear, cooking through a rush hour in a busy kitchen with someone can feel like a joint emergence from a war zone.

Jason left Tucson for Taiwan – he taught English there for a while, then I think his appendix burst and he had surgery and had to leave. Something like that. It was a long time ago and I have a terrible memory.

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He’s the guy who can make “assimilation” jokes with Micah, after Micah got his toy robot into a cube.

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And Jason just got married! We were really happy to be able to meet his lady. Lovely she is; I’m really happy for him.

I’m trying to think of one specific Jason-story and I”m having a hard time. What comes to mind is that time when he and Maggie and I went on a roadtrip from Tucson to the White Mountains of Arizona. It was a blast – we all got along so well. We’d stop at ‘fairy spaces’ and let magic hit us (- I swear, we weren’t on drugs). I remember this one spot where we stopped and Jason and Maggie got on tree stumps and assumed superhero ‘proud and busty’ stances and let me take sepia pictures of them.

I missed being around people like Jason later – I didn’t realize how hard it is to find friends you can talk to as you get older, what a treasure a friend who thinks in off-white ways is.

Then we met Leah

A lot of you reading know Leah because she writes Our Cora Bean. I always enjoy reading what she has to say, but one of my favorite posts from her is, “Why I’m Not a Good Hero“. I was excited to meet her and Cora (who is a little younger than Moxie) and her new baby, Ruby.

You know what’s wonderfully weird about meeting someone in real life that you have known for some time online? Seeing the details. Like, how Leah has all these freckles all over her face and how light and clear her eyes are. And she has a dimple!

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Leah was incredibly kind – she got us into OMSI – the Oregon Museum of Science and Innovation – and I swear, that place is another reason in and of itself to want to live in Portland. It’s like everything I liked in the Bay Area (- Habitot, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Totland, Tumble and Tea,

The next day we met again, this time with Cora and to actually spend some time together at a music show

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IF I had been able to get my shutter speed* right and keep the photos sharp, you would have a better sense of how lovely Cora is. Such a delicate-looking flower, but I think as far as flowers go, she’s a sturdy one. She was so active – into everything, running around, dancing, enjoying the music. Moxie was right there, but not with her and it was fun to try and get them together to hang out, or hey, at least take a picture?!

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My kids ate all of her snacks.

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Of course I was embarrassed. I’m always embarrassed by how my kids act like I haven’t fed them in a week, when they are around another kid’s snack.

Portland was so much fun

We love living on the Lost Coast, it’s where we belong. But it’s good to have a favorite city to have fun in sometimes. I know we’re going to be back

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* About the “clear” pictures: turns out I was setting my shutter speed all wrong. Like, really, really wrong: 1/40 – and I want to thank another friend of mine, Meredith, for teaching that to me

 

Portland is the sweetest little city that I adore right now.

It makes me wish I could live in a city and after having spent a decade in the Bay Area, it kind of makes me kick myself for not having spent my city-dwelling years there, instead of San Francisco/Oakland/Alameda. Or Tokyo. God, why did I ever live in Tokyo when I could’ve been in Portland?!!

Bay Area people! Check out Portland!

Here’s why:

1.Portlandia

“It’s like an alternative universe where Gore won..where you can put a bird on it and call it art!” – How can you not want to live in a city that inspired a show that’s mostly about Gen X’ers, grown up? Where every sincere thing we do is poked fun of and – hey! no hard feelings, we can laugh along, because our husband’s have beards, we pickle it, we grow it, we’ve done the pasta thing, we ride bikes, have chickens, taken the urban farming classes and made our own cheese. We’ve BOUGHT BOOKS at the Feminist Bookstore, because we felt guilty when Candace looked at us.

Portlandia? We know this town already –

it’s like coming home!

2. Portland is hella gorgeous

Graceful and varied bridges, beautiful landscaping, cool buildings, waterfronts everywhere. Brick. Trees, trees, trees – Portland loves trees!

Cool shops, music, vintage this and that and an almost Canadian-like sensibility.

3. Public transport

It’s been a while since I actually felt like riding public transport, but the options in Portland made me want to park the truck and hop on.

Trams, buses, train things, it has it all. And really sweet bike lanes, big ones! I mean, why drive when you can ride?

4. OMSI: The Oregon Museum of Science and Innovation

If you have a kid, this is reason enough to move. Or visit. It’s like everything I loved in the Bay Area – Habitot, Tot Land, Discovery Museum, Exploratorium and Chabot Space and Science Center, all rolled into ONE, handy and affordable package with easy parking. And lines that have only one or two people ahead of you. Places to eat inside, lots of restrooms, easy access,

5. Food Carts

They have everything. EVERYTHING! International, intergalactic, subterranean. You name it, they are cookin’ it. In Portland.

6, No Sales Tax

’nuff said.

7. Playgrounds that roll

Rolling grassy hills, lush trees, play spaces that don’t include needles and homeless people that you want to help but are also nervous about (especially when it s clear there are some drugs being used). Playgrounds that feel safe, and all the little black-clad kids with glasses are adorable.

8. Navigable

It’s kind of sprawled, with a lot of areas and a very distinct “downtown” and funky grin-inducing districts. I liked that I could get around to it all, even with Moby (our whale of an F350). It’s all do-able. Maybe I just hit light traffic? But even after everyone telling me how horrible traffic there was, I didn’t think it had anything to compare with Bay Area traffic.

9. Friends

Friends are always a reason to move anywhere, but I really love my friends in Portland and I loved the vibe that I got from people there. Part of it was just straight-up friendliness and part of it was that Northern sensibility that I find so endearingly attractive.

Those are my reasons for the awesomeness of Portland. I was only there for about a week – I’m sure that list would be longer if we were there longer too.

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PS

Some photos of the kids at OMSI –

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I pulled the truck to a stop to adjust Garmin after coming out of the Starbucks drive-thru. It was a narrow little road, no other cars around, and I stopped where I was, basically. Entered the address of where we were going. Looked up and saw this guy in a van evidently cussing me out (I couldn’t hear him but I could lip read just fine).

His face was contorted with rage.

I was surprised and concerned – I moved the truck up and rolled down my window, looked at him directly and sincerely said, “I’m sorry” because it looked like his rage was about my being there.

He flipped me off, his face twisted and zoomed off.

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To be honest, I was left feeling really sad for him because to be so… absolutely angry, so consumed with rage because he waited for me for all of 1 minute? That the exigencies of his life boil down to an inability to have a moment to spare? To be so angry that his face contorts?

And then I thought how people can get that way here – or there, where you are perhaps – because communities have grown so large. That guy knows he’s not likely to ever see me again. His kids won’t be going to school with mine and my husband won’t likely be the guy he’s going to need to call to repair his solar panels.

On the Lost Coast, people tend to be much more careful with one another because the community is so small. For every single person that you have an interaction with, there will usually be some ripple down the line. They are going to be someone to you or yours, they will mean something and they are definitely someone.

That man who cussed me out and was so livid because I took up a minute of his time would never, ever, not in a million years do so something like that in a community like the Lost Coast. Not only from the self-preservation aspect (- it would come back and bite him in the ass at some point), but simply from the time aspect: it’s just inconceivable to flip out over a minute waiting. A MINUTE, people; 60 whole seconds, how can you not have this?

This is why I can’t live in the city anymore.

I just can’t live in a world anymore where people have that kind of disregard for one another. Or, I might be able to actually live, but I won’t thrive. I won’t be happy, I won’t grow, I can’t – I need to be around people that care about each other, I need people to greet one another, even if it’s by their hand lifting in a gesture of salute from their steering wheel.

I need to have a friend or two, rather than 5 million acquaintances. I need to know and be known. I need people to see me and my family as belonging, as being a part of the thread of their own lives, as theirs is a part of ours.

I was driving Moby (our new-to-us white F350) with the camper on it, all 3 kids comfortably secured in their car seats in the back seat. It’s huge. I mean, the truck is just enormous and I feel like a redneck-y hippie slice of pie driving it.

So anyway.

I was driving it and my thoughts wandered as I drove north, remembering the last time I drove this route. I was 25, I had finished grad school in Vermont and had my heart set on a cross-country trip. Only… I didn’t have a car and I was pretty broke. Little things, right?!

I found out about some program called “Drive Away” where you transport other people’s cars for them – I signed up and that’s how I ended up going to Seattle.

At that time in my life, I was in love with a boy from Japan, whom I actually followed back to Japan for (after dropping off the car in Seattle of course). I was unceremoniously dumped upon arrival. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

But you know, on that first drive up north, I would have been psyched to have known that I’d be making this trip again, 16 years later with my 3 kids. And that I’d have a farmer-husband busting his cute farmer-man butt with harvest while I made a road trip with the kids and galivanted around Portland!

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So far, it’s been easy and sweet. I guess there’s nothing like the Lost Coast for really prepping anyone – it dips you in this stuff of steel that makes your hide like krypton or something. “Explosive blowout right when we are about to get in the truck, Mack… and Moxie?! glad your bowels work so well” – and yeah, I cracked my knuckles and changed them both on the tailgate.

It’s cool. It’s good. It’s all good.

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PS

Wondering how I got the photos of Moby? – I apologize for it all being iphone, by the way – Mikey followed us to Eureka to make sure the camper was bolted on tightly.

 

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