Portland: Keep It Weird

Portland is a new shade of green. 

My first taste of the monolithic Pacific Northwest was this weekend, occasioned by my cousin's incredibly beautiful wedding. I wanted to get a taste of Portland, the mental image of which has been so built up in my mind by shows like Portlandia (sorry to all my Portland friends and family), and get a taste of the eccentric, contrary, bookish nature of a city so completely different from any in which I've ever lived. 

We started at Multnomah Falls.

We hiked the eleven switchbacks, and reflected on our lack of physical preparedness for the hike (Surely it's the elevation that's causing my lungs and heart to strain, right?). The 620-foot Falls fell in a bridal veil of mist, causing a chill to set into my bones and a curl to settle into my now-damp hair.

Everywhere we looked, spring-like shades of green overlaid deep mats of dark, soft moss. There's something ancient and wise about a forest that's had time for thick swaths of lichen and moss to settle in -- though some of the majesty was taken out of it when I learned that locals refer to the drapes of light green moss that appear on tree branches as "elephant snot." Oh, well.

The view of the Columbia from the lookout point over one of the two Falls at Multnomah.

The view of the Columbia from the lookout point over one of the two Falls at Multnomah.

At the end of the long hike (eleven switchbacks!) we were surprised with an unexpected fellow tourist...

Mickey the Ferret became the star attraction, overtaking the majesty of the Falls for everyone gathered at the entrance, if only for a moment.

From there, we headed to the Portland Saturday Market, with a ravenous hiking hunger and the newly emerged Sun at our backs. 

I made a beeline for the Kathmandu Café booth, despite the fact that they had Kompot at the Eastern European Food Booth (one of my favorite Polish recipes, which I have yet to make on my own). I ordered the Nepali-style Dal-Bhat, spiced vegetables with brown lentils over rice, paired with a Hibiscus Tea.

The market was buzzing with people, lined up for Yakisoba and pizza alike. A lingering blush of bright-pink Voodoo Donut boxes circulated in the arms of market-goers, teasing us in the midst of our rush to get back and prepare for the wedding. One day... 

Instead, we had some fried dough (because it's not a street market lunch without it), and a frozen chocolate-dipped banana.

My Dal-Bhat, consumed at lightning speed.

My Dal-Bhat, consumed at lightning speed.

Hibiscus Tea, accompanied by a home-blended spiced tea that was reminiscent of a classic chai, but somehow leagues better.

Hibiscus Tea, accompanied by a home-blended spiced tea that was reminiscent of a classic chai, but somehow leagues better.

Insert Arrested Development references about the Banana Stand here...

Insert Arrested Development references about the Banana Stand here...

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This was a great way to end our self-guided tour of Portland, before heading to the big wedding. 

As a life-long resident of the East Coast, Portland was my introduction to the West Coast's style of living -- less rushed, and more contemplative, as far as I could tell. The Type-B, alternative personality to the East Coast's Type A. 

Early on in the weekend trip, while making the classic tourist run to Powell's Book Store, I momentarily picked up a used copy of Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon, turning to a page on which Chuck Palahniuk said; "I moved to Portland because it's dark and wet, and all my friends from high school moved to Seattle. Because I wanted to meet new people. To hear new stories. That's my job now, to assemble and reassemble the stories I hear until I call them mine." This was like setting a factory-reset on my brain, as weekend trips tend to do, reminding me to stop and think for a second. Maybe it was just the Rare Books Room at Powell's, but I feel refreshed and inspired. From what I saw, this was the spirit of the city: A green undergrowth, a storied and searching feeling, pervades the grey.