Walking around Portland

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

That became the new soundtrack to my Portland experience…every time my left shoe hit the ground the annoying squeak would ruin my chances of sneaking past any environmental activists without getting stopped to sign something.

I had walked so much around Portland in the last several days that the sole on my shoe had finally given way to a hole, which was squeaking and allowing water pooled on the street to seep in. Bleh. Thank goodness I had duct tape on hand to fix it later.

I was on my own today and there are few feelings better than the total, intoxicating freedom of being somewhere new and going wherever you fancy. In fact, there is little of Portland that my shoes did not squeak across at some point today. When my legs literally began to tremble, I knew it was time to chill…

Hipster Car

To avoid imminent muscle failure and collapse on a busy sidewalk, I dodged inside of Powell’s bookstore — a sprawling book mecca which occupies an entire city block in downtown Portland.  The prices weren’t fantastic (I guess rent on a block can be hell) but they did have used books side by side with the new ones, which made the prices more than reasonable — assuming you didn’t pick up a copy that once belonged to some highlighter wielding madman.

The Eastern medicine section was mind blowing, and I was soon stuffing 15 pounds of gift books (for myself included) into my tiny day bag. I walked out of Powell’s and at an angle across the busy street I caught a glimpse of trouble.

…the Sushi Land sign.

I tried to look away but couldn’t. I was caught in its evil tractor beam and despite having eaten my weight in fish yesterday, I found myself seated at the bar and staring at the tiny colorful saucers once again. I at least sat on the other side and ate different things, but still…when one of the waitresses caught my eye, she gave me an inquisitive look as if to say “haven’t I seen you before…like yesterday?”

I’ll admit, with so many interesting restaurants in Portland, I do feel guilty doing a repeat. But nothing to make me feel better than some mystery tentacles wrapped in sticky rice…mmmmmmm.

I took a quick jaunt through Chinatown looking for a traditional medicine shop. In any other city that hosts a Chinatown, you can find spicy-smelling herbal shops stacked one on top of another, but not here in Portland. In fact, I never even saw a single Asian in Chinatown; it was bursting with 100 percent homeless or damn-near homeless people. Fortunately, they are quite friendly here and many times want nothing more than an ear and a cigarette. Much like Egypt, it pays to carry cigarettes here even if you don’t smoke.

I ended up back on the northeast side where I was staying and went a whopping 30 blocks down Hawthorne road in the opposite direction. Even this far from downtown there is no shortage of things to get into. At some point I wandered into a large, old-school nickel arcade. Entrance was $2.50, but then all the games inside are only a nickel. I immediately bypassed the skeeball and other ticket spitting contraptions and proceeded directly to a couple of incredible shooting games which had me sweating with concentration!

I haven’t had this much fun in an arcade since I could reach the controls without standing on something.  After two hours of killing binary bad guys, my trigger finger was sore and I had worked up quite an appetite. There was a famous Coney Island diner next door so I slumped into a stool at around 2 a.m.

I was the only customer in the place despite a guy passed out face down on the bar a few stools to my right. I prayed it wasn’t the food that put him face down.

In a matter of minutes, I was served my gigantic, open-faced vegetarian hotdog smothered in vegetarian chili.  I know, I know, but the thoughts of eating processed lips, hooves, and ears at 2 a.m. didn’t sit too well with me either. My late dinner turned out to be fantastic, the hotdog was thick and chewy like a German sausage and the chili was actually spicy enough even for me! I can honestly say this was the best chilidog I have ever dropped into an unsuspecting stomach, day or night!

I highly recommend that you give it a shot if you find yourself on this end of Portland. They are located at 3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd…the nickel arcade is directly next door.

After trekking 20 blocks back to Amanda’s, I collapsed with a full stomach, blisters on my feet, and a smile on my face.

During my wanderings today, I came across this stone on the waterfront which made my eyes water. It sums up perfectly the day of hiking I shared with Amanda…as well as my new choice as a lifelong traveler. I absolutely love it.

With new hope,

We build new lives.

Why complain when it rains?

This is what it means to be free.

Poem in Portland