I’ve always been a big fan of my own birthday. Even this many years later, the glee and anticipation for my highest holiday have been on such steady levels that there seems to be no sign of them ever dying down. Maybe because I don’t harbor the self-loathing and lack of imagination so rampant amongst the many. So, because of my rational and healthy interest in myself, I tend to like to do something fun for my birthday, and travel is often the means to that end. Seeing as it was a place that did me right two years ago, I thought Portland was worthy of a return.
Despite the four-hour delay at JFK, the flights leading to my “final destination” were decent. Learning from my own mistakes, I avoided the airlines previously taken and went with my old standby, JetBlue. Best airline out there. And I have an odd liking for JFK. I have noticed that over the last few years, that airport is now teeming with bars, literally every two or three commercial spaces as you go down a gate hallway. Lots and lots and lots of bars, a situation reminiscent of the larger casinos in Vegas. By comparison, Burlington’s airport is, as my friend Chris X put it, quaint.
Since I got in so late, I hit up my pal Max and crashed on his sofa around 4am. When I woke up was when I realized that my vacation (and my excitement) had truly begun. Spent much of the afternoon with my friend Trevor, starting with lunch at a decent Greek restaurant, reminding me how widely varied any one Greek dish can be. The dolmathes were good but my great-grandmother made them way better, and any three Greek food joints following would have them tasting differently. Nature of the beast, I suppose. After that, Trev and I went downtown to visit Rex and to go on a small self-directed tour of Portland, including a great vintage toy shop and a “computer museum” in the back of Powell’s technical books location. Fair to say that I fell in love with that town all over again.
After an early evening drinking session at Jack’s place, I hurriedly made my way to Mississippi Studios to catch my friend Jessy’s band play. I got there with Max in tow, just as the band was breaking down their set. Decent venue, decent drinks, and spending time with one of the most beautiful gals in Portland gets no arguments from me. Except that the time spent should have been longer. Much longer.
The weekend was spent at my friends J&J’s place. As stated before, this is where I’d had my 40th birthday party and, now, #42. I got the guest apartment this time, which could just as easily be a penthouse suite at some upscale NYC hotel. Amazing place side-saddled with an incredible amount of hospitality and aesthetics. Treated like a king. Thanks to J&J!
The weekend party was a total success. Great music, well-dressed friends, drinks aplenty, mousse for dessert, and lots of laughs. Couldn’t possibly thank my hosts enough. Thanks also to all who attended. Some of you had to do some serious traveling and it’s well appreciated.
After the weekend, I stayed with my pals Les and Lisa. They live outside of the city proper, so I got to try out the public transportation and, let me tell you, Portland truly has its shit together in this department. And the use of modern technology in this regard is, at the very least, inspiring. Maybe where some of you live, this kind of stuff is commonplace, but Burlington could stand to learn a thing or two (or 57) from Portland. Every bus stop has an assigned four-digit code, a light beacon, and a bus signal that alerts the driver on his end that a passenger is coming up. The code number also corresponds to a mobile device app called PDX Bus which, evidently, wasn’t a waste of time to download to my iPhone before I left because I used it all the time. In fact, empirical evidence led me to the fact that everyone in the city with a smartphone was doing the exact same thing. Found out the app is ubiquitous in the area and heavily relied upon, and its accuracy of finding surrounding stops, knowing where you are through either code usage or geo-location, and its equal accuracy of arrival and departure times was mind-boggling. I think of Burlington’s faulty and antiquated bus pass scanners and laugh. No, wait, I still have to use those on a regular basis. Okay, maybe not as funny now.
And funny enough, I have my first Portland bus tale. Fat middle-aged woman sits across the aisle from me, followed by some hipster punk kid sitting in front of her. The kid looks at me, then motions to the woman and says under his breath, “fucking Satanist.” To which the fat lady responds, “yeah, third one I’ve seen in a week.” So, that was fun, if not slightly unexpected. I sometimes forget the degree to which I’m known.
My official birthday on Monday (9 August) was a bit of bar-hopping with good friends. Those following my Twitter and Facebook accounts were privy to the “stops” of the “birthday train.” Let’s see if I can remember them all: Red Star, Dante’s, Gilt Club, La Merde, and Produce Row. Yeah, that’s probably all of ’em. Some quick mentions of Gilt Club: a truly wonderful place, the decor is top-notch, the cocktails are amazing, the meals and desserts are spectacular, and, if there, you should definitely experience the weirdness of their restroom. I won’t ruin it, but it’s safe to say that you might have trouble keeping your feet in one place.
Ended the trip with Les and I visiting a neighborhood redneck bar. Once again, I’m reminded of differences between Burlington and Portland. The former’s version of “redneck” is significantly unlike that of the rest of the country. Where we went was definitely a redneck bar, replete with tacky signs, fake animals mounted to the wall, a white trash honey manning the taps, “southern rock” on the stereo, and locals who “don’t take kindly” to strangers. Apparently, Les and I were stranger than strange as Lisa was informed days later by the staff. According to the honky tonk help, we were “vampires” — but polite and “nice.” Ahh, culture.
Flight back was a red-eye and no sleep for me. Getting back into town and to my apartment and cat was, as often the case, disorienting for a time. Vacations tend to put you in a different frame of mind that when you finally return home, there’s this period of acclimation. At least for those of us who really enjoyed our stays. And that I did. Thank you to all who were a real part of my birthday vacation: J&J, Les and Lisa, Rex, William and Mimi, Mike and Erin, Tracy, Rob and Julie, Max, Trevor, Jack, Lucio, Emily, Shawn, Jessy, and anyone else I’m sadly forgetting. It was another memorable chapter in the Book of Portland for me. And I will return…