Day 6: Small Time Adventures in the City

I explore the city on foot today, parking the borrowed Honda in my favorite Smart Park on 10th and Taylor (Only $1.25 per hour!) and heading out from there. I verify the death of yet another Coffee People (Park and Salmon) and sadly, see that the downtown SW part of the city I knew best as a teen is slowly but surely turning into a same-old same-old. There are multiple Starbucks’ just block apart. There are more brand name shops with exclusive storefront properties. Granted, I’m in the heart of downtown but still, I find this disillusioning and after forty-five minutes without entering a single shop, I head back to the car and resolve to cross the river and check out the east side.

I cross the Burnside Bridge and cut over onto Grand, which I follow to the Coffee People Coffee I used to go to with my friends when we skipped school. I had an old mentor who worked there that would give us free scoops of Slammahamma and Black Tiger ice cream and didn’t nark on us and didn’t give a rat’s ass that we were smoking cigarettes, too. The place is closed up now, sad butcher paper shielding the windows from passers by and construction in the parking lot of some unknown variety. I got an email from a friend recently that suggested I’m a masochist and I considered this thought for a moment, asking myself why I keep driving to old haunts that I know won’t be there anymore. Perhaps she is right, and as far as the book goes, it’s this sort of masochism that will help me unearth old truths. But when it comes to Cass and matters of the heart, I might do best to stay out of the whip’s range, so to speak.

That aside, I head towards North Northeast Portland (just twenty blocks or so further along the river) and stop into Tiny’s for an upper.

“Are you tired of waiting yet?” the barista asks me, acknowledging the long line I’ve been in. He must be wearing size 2 black, tapered Levi’s and his ripped punk shirt reveals a gob of armpit hair. His hair falls like flat cardboard across his forehead and in front of his ears, and peering through it all, a crooked, true-heart smile and twinkling hazel eyes.

“Yeah, can I get a single, double-pull Americano with an inch and a half for soy, please?” (I fear I am my own worst nightmare.)

He pauses. Adjusts the mop atop his head. “Yeah, sure. Are you a barista, too?” The crooked smile again. I nod. “I wonder what Stumptown would think of the double-pull?” he says, rhetorically.

Stumptown Roasters have the best beans in Portland and are superior in every way, therefore they have infiltrated the minds of all baristas in the city and can have any opinion they want. I support them fully. (If you have time, check out the above Wikipedia link. These guys provide health care for their employees, support local arts, and even made a mixed CD of its employees’ bands! They are, as must be expected from PacNW coffee roasters, revolutionary.)

“Oh god,” he says. “Look at that one go!” We both lean down to get a profile shot of the crème as it forms on the top of the shot. “You know, we only pull double shots anyway, so what if I gave you a double for the price of a single?” he smiles.

“No thanks,” I say.

“Guess I’ll have to have it.” He pauses, then turns suddenly my direction and leans across the counter, eyes bugging and his smile from cheek to cheek. “Even though I probably shouldn’t,” he sings. I watch him add cream to the extra shot, stare into it for a moment as if it were singing him a strange, black hole lullaby, and then toss it down the hatch in one gulp.

Hello Portland. I think I’ve found you again.

And the bathrooms? The perfect, liberal, one-stall-two-toilet scenario of the variety I’d never see in my mountain county back home. (P.S. A note to non-natives: Green flush handles mean that you push the handle up for #1 and down for #2 – a water saving technique.)

[Today’s pictures] [P.S.S. My little Mac laptop crashed, uh, five times today. Shhh! Don’t let it know! But say a silent prayer for it. I’ve backed everything up but god help me if my computer dies. Sometimes I think my soul might be made like the inside of a Mac and therefore I have a symbiotic relationship with this computer. Like E.T. and Elliott, if you will. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but if I disappear for a day or two, you’ll know what happened.]

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