With me, a change of trouble is as good as a vacation. – David Lloyd George
When I finally zipped up my bag, I didn’t know what to expect. I was going to Seattle for the weekend then Portland for a couple days—including Halloween—and I’d never been north of San Francisco. But everything I’d read on the web in the weeks preceding my vacation suggested I might really like it there.
I was high strung and nervous when I left. A shot and a beer in the airport bar ensured a smooth transition.
“Have fun,” said my co-workers. “Bring back good stories.”
“Try not to think about work,” said my friends.
The first disconcerting observation I made was on the plane. The in-flight ‘zine was awash in clever profiles of Hawai’i’s most interesting people. The overhead video relayed images of the islands’ beauty and culture. Slack-key and falsetto pulsated from the rented headsets attached to mile-high radio.
A couple I met on the plane scoffed at me for leaving Hawai’i to vacation in Seattle. But I gently demurred, explaining my need for off-island extracurricular activities. And the somewhat twisted desire to be cold. All that came around as we landed.
“Have a great time,” the couple said. “Hopefully we won’t be reading about it in the papers though!”
I told them I couldn’t guarantee anything.
The Pacific Northwest chill hit me first as I was standing outside of the baggage claim terminal at SEATAC in Seattle. Then a couple friends picked me up and whisked me off downtown.
The next day, I woke with what appeared to be some sort of serious allergy-like symptoms, even though I don’t have any allergies that I know of—except maybe pineapple, but that’s a long story. Still, I took my sniffling ass down to the Pike Place Market, where I flirted with big, scruffy-hot, fish-throwing burly men. Then I hopped over to SAM—that’s the Seattle Art Museum—where I delighted in Rauschenberg and 13th century incense burners.
Later, I went to a fabulous bar in Capitol Hill called Bleu Bistro. It was an intimate, dimly lit, smoky enclave swathed in crimson fabric and dark wood. Each table had thick red velvet curtains you could shut, creating that whole “perfect place to meet your lover or have an illicit affair” vibe. I scoured the bar for a victim to ensnare into one of these booths but everyone was gay or married. It’s kinda like that in Seattle, I noticed.
We went to University district later for a vegan dinner served by young ladies in vintage ball gowns and tiaras. Then it was on to Belltown, where we checked out a packed bar called Rendezvous. In a separate room that looked like an old theater, they featured live music with a six-piece instrumental band called the Bastards of Jazz. They rocked—you know, in that jazzy way.
On Halloween, I took a train to Portland. I was on board with some former roadie of the Rolling Stones. While he went on and on about the latest and upcoming Stones shows in the area, I watched the landscape change swiftly from big city industrial to rural countryside with autumnal-colored leaves and dilapidated barns.
Even the train station in Portland is cool. And I knew I’d found a city to love when I hopped into a cab and the young, attractive driver said, “So… where would you like to extravagate to?” I know, I know—I’m a polysyllabic sucker. But the guy ended up being one of the creators of the community skate park and a great tour guide. Sigh.
I stayed at the Jupiter Hotel, a joint that was once a motel, then got a redo with IKEA-hip touches, and is connected to the Doug Fir Lounge—THE place in Portland to catch live shows. And we caught one—right outside our room, as mid-aged revelers whooped it up before the big Stones show downtown.
“The Rolling Stones are the best fucking band EVER!” they said. “WOOHOO! Yeah!”
A walk down the block revealed super cute hipster chicks who told me where the nearest dive was.
“You should go to my father’s place,” said one.
“Okay, great!” I said with undisguised glee. “What’s his name?”
“No, that’s the name of the bar,” the cute hipster chick said, giggling. “It’s called My Father’s Place.”
So we killed a few hours there, as well as at another joint called “Binks,” where Pabst Blue Ribbon was favored over the microbrews, another great live music venue called Dante’s, and someplace in a converted schoolhouse called the “Detention Room.”
Also, we spent time underground in the dark cavern of the Shanghai Tunnel—now a tavern but reputed to once be the makeshift cell where drunken troublemakers would be thrown and shipped off to Shanghai.
By the way, did you know that there’s NO SALES TAX in Portland and they have Makers Mark AND Knob Creek whiskey in every bar?
Samantha Campos is working on developing an especially large hippocampus, just like the hackney carriage drivers in London. MTW