Jane drives down from Seattle to pick me up at PDX and oh, happy day! Everywhere we go we get love.
First stop, The Montage underneath the Morrison Bridge on Portland’s east side. The lighting is low, the main wall is a mural with The Last Supper painted on it in earth tones, and everywhere you look there are red velvet curtains and attractive waiters. Their uniforms? White chef’s jacket’s with a rose embroidered across the chest, Love and Hate embroidered across each sleave, and s slick smile. It’s Cajun with an urban, sexy twist and I love it.
Maybe Jane and I emanate “SINGLE WOMEN,” or maybe it was a slow night, or better yet, maybe we are that undeniably gorgeous (hah!), but something is in the air and our before we know it our waiter is offering free wine left and right. To us. And no else. There is the Malbec from Argentina. There is the blend from the Rhone. There is the Oregon red wine, the Australia Syrah, and on and on. And yet our waiter’s affection feels so authentic. Between glasses we talk books. The Kite Runner. Wendell Berry’s Home Economics. Dorianne Laux’s Awake. He uses the word “fuck” about eighteen times which Jane thinks is hilarious and hot and which I can’t seem to form an opinion about.
At the end of the night (3am my time, just four hours off the plane now), we get a bill for only our entrees and a drink a piece. The waiter asks us out to drink with the staff of The Montage after hours and we decline, but are oh-so-bedazzled all the same.
I think if I lived in the city again I would be keenly less devoted to flirtation and romantic connection. Somehow, it seems to seep out of the pores of Portland tonight and all we had to do was say, “I’d like the chicken gumbo, please.” Who ever thought that could sound so sexy?
The next day, after the first and necessary stop at Java Nation (which still sells Coffee People beans and Coffee People trademark drinks, despite the fact that it is located in, um, along a stip mall in Beaverton), we go out to eat at Old Wive’s Tale. It’s starting to feel like the tour of food but who cares, and look! There’s our waiter, a teddy-bear perfect pierced punk rocker, pierced to the nines and tattoo sleeves to boot. When he says to me, “You mean there are mountains in North Carolina?” Jane and I have to laugh—after all, she lived near Tinyville too, up at the craft school, where there seem to be as many mountains as there are stars in the sky.
We keep it simple—sandwiches and shepherd’s pie—but damn if we don’t see punk teddy walking down the aisle of tables with two dessert plates in his hand. “I warmed them up in the microwave because that’s they way I think they taste best,” he says, setting down a plate of wheat-free carrot cake and dark chocolate cream cheese cake onto the table. The desserts cost about as much as our entrees, and when the check comes—no charge. We tip generously, laugh our way out the door, and head to the only place one can go after getting coffee and food in The Rose City: Powell’s City of Books (picture #1), the largest independent bookstore in the country.
Later, there is NW 23rd, where Music Millennium—a 30 year tradition of music in Portland—is closed for good (picture #2). It rains and rains and rains and still, people smile on the streets and a passerby says, “Have a beautiful day,” and we are so, so Pacific Northwest.