Sunday, July 12, 2009

... the world is an amazing place

i did an awful lot of walking yesterday. I was up at about 12.30, had a shower, got changed and motored out up the road to safeway. i couldn't believe it – i haven't seen the safeway sign like that for about 30 years, not since safeway in crown central closed and it was replaced by best & less and the other specialty shops opening up to the stairs leading to keira street... the supermarket itself was pretty huge and i bought some cheese and some granola (mueseli) bars and some grapefruit/cranberry juice (that was just delicious!).

it was a good way to eat breakfast, munching a bit here and there, because i walked from the hostel to the cbd. took quite a while, it was something like thirty city blocks to get to the willamette river, then more once i crossed hawthorne bridge. i'm planning on taking photos of these bridges at some point. i'm getting better at looking left before i cross the road but i've made a deliberate effort to use the footpaths on the left hand side of the road, so i'm usually facing the oncoming traffic. that being said, it's not going to help me learn to look left.

portland is an interesting city. for all the friendliness i was expecting, it's not that friendly. i smile at people as i walk around (feeling a tad like the village idiot, mind you) and get a few smiles back but not as many as i do walking around melbourne. once you engage people in conversation that sense evaporates and everyone that i've spoken with had been very friendly. there is quite a mix of affluence and poverty here – i've seen lot of panhandlers and homeless people sleeping in doorways and whatnot. i've also seen a couple of people using building fire escape doors as urinals. that's a bit ordinary but it seems to be happening more and more these days, home in melbourne too. as i walked through the city i did see quite a lot of empty shopfronts, which made me feel as if i were newcastle. when i went to tina last year, newcastle surprised me by being so... half empty. that's how it felt – half empty, not half-full. portland feels half-full, as if there's even more that could be happening. the owner of counter media, a shop near reading frenzy, told me that he works six days a week and has one member of staff to open the other day. he used to have two staff members and his last holiday was a three-day break a couple of years ago but the times have required a tightening of the belt, which at the moment remains quite tight.

transport here is great. similar to melbourne, transit ticketing seems to be based on travelling within certain zones situated concentrically around the cbd. i bought a weekly ticket for all zones and it wasn't very much, only about $20 or so. for the freedom to jump on any bus or train or streetcar or max train, it's abbasolutely worth it. portland is also incredibly bike friendly. walking into downtown yesterday i saw bucketloads of people riding their bikes into town and not many wearing helmets, although coming home almost everyone was. i don't know what that means. there are a lot of mass biking events and the portland police have apparently come down hard on some cyclists in the last but now i'm told that as long as you're wearing your helmet and have the appropriate lights on your bike, they leave you alone.

something i did notice yesterday but don't seem to see much today was all this fluff that was floating in the air. i was fronted by a volunteer collecting for a charity who, after i declined to sign up but kept yakking anyway, told me that it was a real allergy-starter. i had coffee at a place opposite a park in the city with a wwii cenotaph and the barista informed me that the fluff was most like cottonwood and/or poplar seeds, similar to dandelion seeds. i wonder how much of it i breathed in yesterday without realising...

one of my visits last night was to powell's city of books. as i browsed the shelves, i heard an announcement for a book signing and reading by author mary guterson. i didn't know her from a bar of soap but i was already in the store and i figured, why not? she seemed quite genial, the excerpts that she read were entertaining enough, so i bought a book, had it autographed, and i might read it on the plane on the way home. the book is called gone to the dogs. I browsed through the teen/young adult fiction while i was in-store – two authors stood out, the aussie author max barry and his book jennifer government (which i think we have at work) and an author named john green whose book, an abundance of katherines, sounded entertaining just from the title.

i got home quite late, after eating a couple of delcious cheeseburgers at a food cart in the downtown area where they were showing an outdoor screening of indiana jones and the last crusade. after a few false starts finding a bus stop, i caught the 14 back to the hostel and despite my good intentions of going straight to bed i stayed up talking with a couple of other guests – claire, who's up from california scoping out the lie of the land in anticipation of relocation; chris, a guy from perth who's been living in seattle these last three years; rhoda, chris' girlfriend, who sounded like a seattle native. all very friendly. but i did get up a couple of hours earlier today, which is nice.

today i've intentions of visiting the markets under the burnside bridge, the iprc, and maybe have dinner at one of the local places near the hostel. tonight i go to bed before 11pm! (my grand plan.)

something i came up with while discussing cats yesterday – cats are looking at humans and thinking, if only i had a thumb i could kill them in their sleep! not necessarily true, though. my theory is that they're waiting for humans to invent robots programmed to feed cats (from catching fish to canning, to serving on cats' dishes), at which point the feline revolution will overthrow humans. coming, but not yet...

well, it feels like it could be true.


At July 12, 2009 9:31 pm , Blogger Julie said...

We used to get that fluff in Calgary, I'm pretty sure the culprit was poplars. There was a street I walked donw everyday that was lined with them, the fluff was so bad it looked like snow.

At July 13, 2009 1:33 pm , Blogger Mary said...

hey this is mary guterson, the author you saw on friday night at powell's in portland. I sure hope you like my book! And thanks for coming to the reading.


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