Let me just start this whole thing out by saying, I LOVE Portland. Love it. It has everything I want in a city and more. It's beautiful, in nature, trees are everywhere, it has a ton of stuff for the kids to do, has great coffee, friendly people, a plethora of delicious restaurants, movie theatres and a killer transit system. It's not you Portland, it's me...and my love of California weather. I know you're thinking, "That's okay Californian; we didn't want you here anyway...Buying up our gorgeous Craftsmans, eating our delicious foods, clogging up our 50 mph freeway systems. Bah." I adore your summer, Portland. In the winter? Not so much.
Sunday morning on the plane I sat next to a Korean chemistry teacher who was on his way to a teaching workshop in Eugene and Portland. He spoke very little English, and we had a great time communicating about what we could. Occasionally, he would flip through his phrase book and say something random like, "I like chess. I can probably do that!" It was beyond cute. There was an awkward moment of silence when he said energetically, "I am a Christian! Are you a Christian?" I shook my head no, thinking the explanation too complicated. We talked the entire flight. The Max took me to downtown, past the grand opening of Ikea, which looked like the staging area for a disaster intervention: Police cars, orange cones, caution tape and people standing around in fields.
The NW Portland Youth Hostel is grand, wonderful, perfect, amazing! I am officially recommending it to everyone I know: Young and old, families and singles. Cheap, clean, organized, friendly, quiet, social. It has free wi-fi and is close to EVERYTHING (two-blocks jaunt to Trader Joe's). I walked from there to Yuki Sushi, ate, got some coffee, and walked to Mc Menamin's Theatre to see "The Lives of Others," which I fully enjoyed. I guess there are a lot of Mc Menamins in Portland, of varying types. This particular spot serves beer, wine and foods during the movie. You don't have to buy food but it can be a nice alternative to rushing to finish your food at a restaurant before running to catch a film. I walked the block back to the hostel, registered for my Flexcar and did some research online.
On Monday I walked out front to my first of three Flexcar experiences. The car has a dedicated spot and they are parked all over the city. It's ingenious. You get in by placing your flexcar card against the reader on the windscreen. This unlocks the doors where you can then retrieve the key from the glovebox. The car comes with a gas card and 150 free miles. I was lucky to get to drive a Subaru Outback, the car Bryan and I are considering trading our Eurovan in for. I had arranged a number of viewings (25 in total over three days) and drove around to see the places first before the actual viewings. I had a preference for the North/St. John's and the Northwest neighborhoods, due to their proximity to trees and foresty-trails. There was nothing thrilling and some places were a bit scary. I had a tasty Burgerville blackforest milkshake for lunch and a delicious shrimp and crabcake salad for dinner at JoBar. After dinner I went to Cinema 21 and saw "Finding Normal," a documentary about recovering Portland addicts. Amazing!
Tuesday morning I found the perfect place in the NW. Two bedroom, duplexy, Presidio-style housing right near pretty much everything. I used a flexcar again but this time I had a Toyota Yaris, a pointless little vehicle but sturdy and with a good sound system. Found a good station for 90s sing-a-longs if you're ever up there: 94.7. Again in the car all day, all over the place. After I dropped of the car I chatted with some young'ins at the hostel and went for a curried chicken sandwich with an English guy who was a mini-wikipedia of information, and then back to play Apples to Apples with a couple of other hostelers.
Feeling a little stress when I woke up on Wednesday; it was my last day and I wasn't feeling like I had accomplished much. I met up with the teacher from (what was going to be) the kids' new school, toured the setting and talked. It's a great idea: School outside on a farm with little yerts and a geodesic dome for stories and snacks when it gets cold. Saw a huge and amazing house in St. John's. Only problem was that it had been "red-tagged" as condemned. The guy showing it to me said, "Don't worry about that tag on the window." Uhhhh, right. Later drove to Peet's for another job interview. Back around town to see more spots, and found a great house in the Woodstock area...yard, house etc. The owner was sweet and really cool. Then back over to NW to pick up KH for dinner. We found a great little place that had cheap, cheap, CHEAP tasty happy hour treats. Ate, and had great conversation - a lot of really great insight to living in Portland.
Up early on Thursday, had breakfast on the porch, gave a hug to Kristy, a crunchy woman I met at the hostel. I bought my last cup of tasty coffee from World Cup and walked to the Max to get to the airport. On the plane ride I sat next to an amazingly nice, lawyer woman who had the same Francophile sensibilities and love of good food as me. Huntington Beach and hugs.
I woke up in the middle of the night Thursday worried about bleeping health insurance of all things. See Republicans! I know your priorities aren't all about a young family with a son who needs to be covered continuously for the rest of his life or he gets squat, but come on. My situation isn't even the worst of all, I'm sure, and look at how insurance controls our life? Anyway, that and the weather (You were right on that Aunti K.) and the fact that I didn't want to work this last year of the kiddies' pre-school time and the distance etc., made Portland not the best decision of all at the moment. I took the back seat on this decision and let Bryan be the "decider." Where do we really want to be? Where have we always wanted to be? The Bay Area. When I was a late teenager early 20s kind of gal, I always said I'd prefer to eat my own hand than live in San Jose, but I tell ya, San Jose is looking pretty good right about now. I think deep down roots mean a lot more to me than I thought they did, which is a lesson for me. Our families, friends and hearts are in the Bay Area and we should be too.