We've a layover in Denver, where the airport is cold and uncomfortable. A longer flight is just ahead, but we elect to eat breakfast burritos anyway. The entire restaurant is captivated by the televised spelling bee. Our waitress is amazed by the words these kids can spell. "There's no way I could do that," she says, and I try to express a requisite amount of faux-surprise through the movements of my mouth and head.
We touch down at Portland International, are shuttled to our rental car, and navigate ourselves across the Willamette to our hosts' home in the alphabet district in the city's northwest neighborhood. I glance at the Oregonian lying the kitchen table: the business section, below the fold. The headline reads, "IBM lays off 1,570 workers, including nine in Oregon".
Once, during high school, at Angie's house, Anna talked about her older sister -- how she had let her armpit hair grow out for a while, and how after she shaved it, her boyfriend said, "I kind of miss it." In between bites of my late lunch (rockfish sandwich, garlic fries, and a glass of Laurelwood's beer), I look up to see the young woman seated across the patio. She's got a lot of armpit hair, but I really don't mind. I'm in Portland, where the sun is shining brightly, and it's a gorgeous day for everyone exposed, save for perhaps nine ladies or gentlemen that are looking for work.
There are a lot of dogs in Portland, even one on the trails of Forest Park, the third-largest urban park in the country. We just passed two women that brought theirs along for a hike, possibly for companionship, possibly for some exercise, but definitely for cargo storage. The women have strapped ol' Rex with a doggie saddlebag; he's carrying their water bottles and maybe more. Rex was probably excited for this walk before things turned. Rex might be wondering when he turned from canine to mule.
We navigate through the up the trail, passing Rex and his captors, rowdy high school graduates, and downhills runners. We're catching up on recent dates and relationships. We climb around a giant, uprooted Douglas-fir that lays across our path, and turn a corner on a hill, much higher than where we started, but still beneath the forest's canopy. Light filters down to a blanket of ferns. It's Jurassic and beautiful, and I'm ashamed that all I can think about is how you water ferns with a spray bottle instead of a watering can.
"I don't think there's anywhere else in the world I would rather be right now."
"Even Spain?" I asked.
Our hosts treat us to dinner before paying our cover charge at a benefit show in southeast Portland. Every table is occupied, but by the time we've got our drinks, we're shown to one of the (previously reserved) tables nearest the stage. I've just eaten the best salmon I've ever had. I'm enjoying a premium drink. I haven't opened my wallet since Denver. Everyone is getting along. I feel great. And that's before her music starts. Before she walks out on stage. Before she puts down her case. Before she unlocks it, and before she removes the bottle of Maker's Mark. Before she takes a generous swig. Before she ditches the top hat. Before she loses the jacket. Before we learn her nipples are covered by electrical tape. Before she takes another drink, and sprays the whiskey above her like a fountain. Before she pours more of the liquor over her chest.
Before you wonder why you had thought it might be awkward to walk into a lesbian bar for a benefit drag show.