How I got to Portland. Chapter one.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

My first encounter with Portland, Oregon was probably on the pages of a Ramona Quimby storybook. I can’t remember any earlier reason I would have heard of the city, and even when my parents read to me about rainy Sundays and Klickitat Street I’m sure it never occurred to me that this fictional world was built up amidst a real place, a place I would live 20 years later. I’m sure as I progressed through grade school and learned more about the geography of our country, I would have heard about the city, but I can’t remember feeling any strong connection with the place until years later.

The next phase of interest would be an obvious college-era fascination with indie-music. Enough of my favorite musicians hailed from Portland that I became envious and somewhat enticed by the “scene.” Still, it wasn’t until the autumn after college that I finally visited, and the most prevalent cultural landmark on my mind was still, “Can we find a Ramona Quimby statue?” I was on my first journey out west, to California (another story entirely) and my mom had accompanied me for the drive. Since I had never been north of San Francisco we decided to take a slightly longer route from Wisconsin through the Northwest, stopping in Seattle and Portland before driving down to California. It was a Sunday in September when I first entered Portland, and thanks to the better writing habits of my youth I have a small record from that day:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mount! Saint! Helens! Today we checked it out on our way to Oregon. We didn’t actually get very close to the volcano but we did see it from the visitors center which was just about as close as I care to get to a volcanic mountain. Actually it would have been cool to hike around it but it was already getting late in the afternoon and we still had to get in to Portland.

Portland, as it turns out, is gorgeous. I think I might love it. When we drove in today we could see Mt. Hood to the east and the Willamette River twisting in and out. The city seems real laid back, or at least it did until mom and I arrived and nearly got ourselves killed on I-5 before driving the wrong way on a one way street and getting lost on our way to the hotel. Tomorrow will begin the Quest for the Quimbys as I will now take to calling it. At the very least we’re going to hunt down Klickitat Street…

(From Pacific For Now, slightly abridged.)

I didn’t remember that short 3-day visit had made such an impression on me, probably because once my mom flew back home and I drove the rest of the way to California my life was launched on a trajectory preoccupied with a variety of other adventures and life lessons. Although I do remember in my first few days in California when I was looking for a job, a neighbor mentioned that their son ran a video editing company in Portland, and if I were there I might work for him. The neighbor said this light-heartedly, because obviously I was not in Portland, I was in California, but I remember feeling a little pang in my heart, like, maybe I did want to be there. But California had the momentum of so many years of dreaming. I had my heart set on California since I was probably 12 years old. It was in California that I would be happy! (Oh, but again, that is another story for another day.)

My time in California lasted about nine months, and then I moved back to Wisconsin. Shortly after I was back in my home state, a new drivers’ license design was unveiled, and I openly declared my opinion that it was hideous. My driver’s license didn’t expire for another 3 years, and I boldly announced, “Well, in three years I’ll be gone again, so I won’t need to get this atrocious new license.” It was a challenge to myself. It was a deadline. I was restless and searching, but I was also happy to be safely resting in the familiar comforts of home, and after about a year back in Wisconsin, certainly after two, I was feeling quite settled. The allure of the West had waned; California’s glow had dulled just enough that I could see the folly of placing my hope in a place.

Still, the reckless declaration I’d tossed about – “In three years I’ll be gone!” – would be fulfilled. Not at all in the way I imagined, but here I am, writing from Portland. More to come.

Next: Internetworking, or, how I let a random Myspace click get in my head like a pussy-willow stuffed down my ear canal.

Adventures in the Radwoods.

Monday, September 7th, 2009

This Labor Day, I labored. On comics from the weekend!

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Warm home, cold home.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

“California is MESSING WITH ME.”

That was my predominant thought as I drove through that wonderful chaos of a state. It was a little bit like bumping into your ex, I imagine, after you haven’t seen him for a few years, and suddenly you remember all of the things you loved about him, and you wonder if maybe things could work this time, if things have changed, maybe, just enough that things could work.

Where California is concerned, I am into the longitudinal extremes. I love the far northern counties where the population hasn’t yet bled over and the air is still clean and the trees and mountains are still the loudest and quietest presense around. I love San Diego, the north’s near opposite and perfect complement. Los Angeles can smog itself to oblivion for all I care; San Francisco is a total bore. But San Diego, oh. I love it.

My trip was wonderful, I had such a great time. I’m sorry I dissed LA and San Francisco, they are nice enough cities. We spent one day in LA, mostly on the UCLA campus and then up to Griffin Park at night to see the Hollywood sign (we could see it, although it wasn’t illuminated. The rest of the city was illuminated, though, and stretched on forever.) We spent the rest of our time in Oceanside and San Diego, with a few daytrips to Orange County (home of some of my biggest life lessons, 3 years back).

On my way into the state I had no idea what my reaction would be. It had been home, however briefly. In some strange way, it was home before I had ever moved there. And this was the first time that I would be back, at least to this part of the state.

Maybe because our first stop was LA I didn’t feel nostalgic at first. Granted, it felt really good to be zipping along the I5 again, but I wasn’t seized with emotion like I suspected I might be. As our time continued in San Diego, though, it began to creep up on me. I love it there, really. I had to remind myself that I was on vacation, and as fun as it was to spend entire days in the sun with some of my best friends, that isn’t what day-to-day life looks like. That’s vacation. Real life is harder, and often lonely. Regardless, I couldn’t help but thinking, “How can I get back here?” I’ve been out of college too long to just go on a whim, I would need a reason. A person can find a reason for anything, if they really want to. While I was there, I wanted to.

I had some back-of-my-head worries about returning to Wisconsin. It was unseasonably warm when we left San Diego, and I heard rumors it would be 15 below zero at home. It would be dark, snowy, and cold, and I would be depressed, I was sure of it.

Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t. Maybe I just can’t conjure up depression like I once could (what kind of artist does that leave me?) but when I got back to Wisconsin last night I felt nothing but home. I’m really thankful for that, to be honest. I may go back to California at some point, I may look for a reason or the reason might come to me unsolicited. I might stay in Wisconsin forever, who knows. I’m here now, and that’s what counts right now.

Haha, can you tell I use this blog as self-therapy sometimes?  Okay, most all of the time.