Sunday, February 27, 2011

Portland: Riches of a City

I'm about to board the plane to head to Portland.
I just had a realization this morning about a new show on IFC called Portlandia. A friend made me aware of it a few weeks ago and since then I've been counting the days to see/discuss it in person with another favorite person in one of my favorite cities, Portland, OR.

I'm about to approach my gate when the following thought hits me: "Wait, that's Carrie Brownstein! She's in Portlandia" Wonder why I didn't become aware of it when I first saw the clip. Hmm. Brownstein developed the show with Fred Armisen. Duh! I absolutely love Brownstein. She gets music! And she most certainly gets the West, the Pacific kind. How did I not make the connection earlier?! It's funny that I'm able to do so only as I'm on the way to the very city the show portrays.

I scratch my head trying to think of when it was that I read her inspired piece on the 'soundtrack of a city'. "I wish I could do a search on my blog right about now..." I think to myself as my hands are frantically searching for my wallet in my bag as I'm about to board. I can't believe I'm such a forgetful klutz, always looking for things as I schlep myself from point A to point B. Sigh....

I find my wallet. I stand before my gate, go to my blog site on the iPhone, do a search on 'Carrie Brownstein', pull up a reaction I wrote to her reaction piece to music, put some Magnetic Fields on, and start re-reading a piece dated December 20, 2007. I was feeling similarly to now back then. My Februaries tend to resemble other Februaries, not Decembers. Not this time around, however. I wonder why.

I read some of the comments on that 2007 piece and a note by my friend and musician Liam, rings especially true. Liam, a fellow Portland lover who also lives in another Western city, gets things similarly. I was transported to a chat we had when sitting under some tree, sipping some hipster java in the Western city where he currently resides and I used to call my own as we discussed sociality, independence of spirit, life and, of course, music. We see some things fundamentally the same way because we see music's impact on life fundamentally the same way. Again, all roads lead to music.

I'm told I usually quote past experiences only when about to embark on new experiences. I reckon, I am told the truth. There's no real reason to revisit the past, as far as I'm concerned, unless it helps shed some light on the present.

Experiencing, as Henry James puts it, a 'sense of visitation' is inevitable when in the presence of strange familiarity. That's exactly what the city does to me. It makes me feel strangely at home even though I always saw it as a great place in which to knock off my boots and fall off the grid for a few hours and nothing more.

I'm about to consume a rather large amount of art in it this weekend. I'll be seeing the new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) with my best friend then we'll head over to 12th Ave. and Glisan St. and have some fantastic crème brûlée.
Once is never enough.
I'm not a foodie, but, by Jove, when crème brûlée is done right, it needs to linger in your mouth, slowly as your mind revisits any and every great memory worth revisiting, and your taste buds are about to reach the full purpose of their creation.

I'm having a hard time deciding what to watch during the flight.
Odd, because when on flights that last between 1-3 hours, I usually opt for the following bundle:
1) Entourage, usually episode 7 of season 5, "Gotta Look Up to Look Down."
2) Curb Your Enthusiasm's episode "The Therapists."
3) The last 15 minutes of Steve Martin's Shopgirl.

Then the pilot will inform us that we're about to land and my ear buds will take leave of the laptop and will latch themselves on to the iPhone as I go to my contacts, hit the phone icon, and utter: "oy, I'm here!"

In a matter of minutes we'll be heading to Powell's, order some java, exchange some proper 'hellos', talk about the exact same things we have been talking about in the not-so-distant past, comment on new hairstyles, eyeware, travels, why Lucky's makes the best-fitting boot cut pants, and consequently tackle something of actual substance like HBO programming, new writing, when we'll be brunching the next day, and whether we should have others join us as we see the new exhibit at the PAM called Riches of a City.

I'm not keen on having a crowd when looking at some art but then again, Warhol kind of, sort of begs for some crowd attention, right? It's not like Caravaggio who begs for solitary admiration, after all. Warhol's work is meant to be discussed by more than just two people. It's only apropos, after all, that an attention seeker be given just that, attention. And the more unusual the bunch, the better. But then again I'm not in a Warhol frame of mind these days. Last February I was. A whole lot. Then again this February is nothing like the last one. It's not flat here anymore. My new geography has curves. And the ocean.

I have yet to say 'no' to a Portland trip. I remember my first experience in the city rather vividly. It was eight years ago and I was on the PSU campus marveling at the dewy flowers on the immaculately kept side gardens. The air felt crisp and I couldn't sense any worries at all. I remember skipping while walking and the reason I provided for such an activity was quite simple, 'I skip because I'm digging it here, 'k?'

This is how I define space. If it makes me feel at ease so much so that I can skip with no worry in sight then the space is good. If there is no possibility of skipping, then the space won't get to have me. Simple as that. After that first trip, the place kept calling me and one thing's certain, I'm completely powerless to siren-type callings. I can't say 'no' to it. I can't even say 'no' to a dreadfully boring 6-hour drive through the Nevada dessert, let alone ignore the possibility of scoring some class A crème brûlée. They truly rarely make it that good elsewhere.

I kept going back to Portland every few months for years. It also happens to be the place where my best friend hails from and currently lives. Another reason to make this a place of high interest and high frequency. And yet, I'd never live in such a place. Some places are meant to be visited and taken in small bites like a perfectly made crème brûlée.

1 comment:

Sra said...

Portlandia is quite funny, methinks. The last two episodes of the season are a little off, but the first four eps are worth their weight in gold. There's a sketch with two women running a women's bookstore that kills me. I have met some people like those women at my hippie law school.

I'm gonna have to seek out this creme brulee of which you speak at some point.

I can recommend hitting up Döner Kabab on 4th Ave between Washington and Alder while you are in town.