Am I Really Here, Yet?

Britt says “You’ll probably fall in love like six times while you’re over there. Do ya’ thank you could just forget about men for a few weeks?”

I tell her that would be nice and since her husband is a doctor do they know of any prescription for that? “By the way, what do you think I’m hiding from with all this boy craziness?” I pester her further. “I need some free therapy.”

She does not reply because the kids are calling her from the next room. After all, we are using Gmail Chat for this conversation – a phenomenon that actually makes since while I am on high speed internet at a friend’s house with no land line and no access to a cell phone. And as difficult as I thought it would be to make plans with people here in Portland, I’m finding that most leave their computers online all the time so within a few hours my schedule for the week is already 2/3 full of dates with friends and family and I haven’t actually talked to any of them on the phone yet.

The city. I have been here for more than twenty-four hours and part of me still feels like I have not landed. But I navigated my way successfully through downtown Beaverton today, a city I did not grow up in nor spend much time in, to get to the closest Coffee People.

I found myself waving at oncoming traffic (my classic three-fingered mountain wave) and then realized the ridiculousness of this (no one really waved back except for the guy in the black Dodge truck with a dented chrome bumper). Remember that I am driving a rental Chevy Impala with 12,000 miles on it – not my 120,000 mile Chrysler with permanent dust marks on it from driving on gravel roads. And speaking of roads, all of them here are paved of course and they are wide and hairpin turns are, well, nonexistent. It’s not that I forgot all of this; it’s just that I stopped being used to it a long time ago.

As the day fades to afternoon I start to grow concerned at my inability to place myself on the map. I have flown across the country numerous times in my life, and even a few times already in the past twelve months. Why is it that I cannot land here yet? I consider that part of the problem may be my stuffy head and nose. I literally cannot smell the city I knew and loved, which makes it very difficult to round out my experience. Second, I haven’t eaten any vegetables yet or cooked a meal so that may be part of it as well. (Vegetables in Portland – I could write chapters on this; how I always had hand-sliced cucumbers in my lunch that mom would wrap in waxed paper, how I was the only kid in Montessori school who ate cold steamed brussel sprouts for my lunch and no, I didn’t even ask for Ranch dressing to dip them into.)

But by evening Erin and I have strolled along NW 23rd and things start to feel more like I remember. The air is easy and cool on my skin. I do not break a sweat and my body is utterly comfortable. We go to a free acoustic concert at Music Millennium where Josh Ritter is playing an intimate show. Erin and I sit on the floor, dead center, and peer upwards at the Idaho-grown highly attractive singer/songwriter in awe. After dinner the sun begins to set across the Willamette River, bright yellow blended with off-gray clouds, melting down into the earth behind the big Rose Building in downtown Portland. It looks right, finally, and we take the back way home to avoid the interstate and just because we like the old roads, the ones we both grew up on, the ones I still know by heart.

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