Monday, August 06, 2007

Portland - Sunday, June 3

"It's illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon!"

We had just begun to negotiate with the pump when we heard a woman shout from the edge of the parking lot. We were taught this factoid earlier in our visit, but the force of habit overrode our poor recall. I put the handle back into its place. While we waited for a station attendant to do the dirty work, my companion chatted with the friendly, law-abiding bystander.

"Where are you guys headed?" the woman asked.

"We're going to drive up Highway 101! Is it very scenic?"


Underinspired by the (presumably) local woman's reaction, we drove north from Tillamook on 101. As the miles passed, we became less concerned with her evaluation of the landscape. As a general rule, whenever you can see the Pacific coast by simply looking to your left, it's scenic. Add in a handful of sleepy seaside villages and uninterrupted stands of Douglas Firs, and you're well beyond "Meh". That (presumably) local woman should spend a little time in North Dakota to re-sensitize herself to Oregon's beauty.

When we reached Astoria, we parked downtown and browsed the outdoor market's offerings. Later, in a brick-and-mortar store, she inquired about one of the clocks, and was disappointed in the clerk's lack of salesmanship. We paid for admission to a maritime museum neither of us had much interest in -- personally, I was happy to give them $6 for access to the restroom and water fountain. We watched a short film about the Columbia River, and I made a hilarious joke in the middle of it, but that humor is now lost for the ages. (Uh, I think it had something to do with the narrator describing the river -- using words like "churning" or "powerful" -- and I probably said, "That's exactly the same way women describe my loins." Or something. Probably something even funnier, if that's possible. It was my finest mid-movie joke since a December 1997 first date, when I made a lion-killing joke during "Amistad". (To be clear, the joke did not kill a lion, the joke was about killing a lion.))

We made our way back to the car, and proceeded to drive over the Astoria bridge. Then we made a U-turn and drove back. Then we made another U-turn and went back to the Washington side of the river. Then we made the return trip to Oregon again. We liked that bridge.

Our attempt to view the "Goonies" house in Astoria was less then fruitful, and resulted in some grouchiness that I will not detail. (When the vacation was over, I remembered that my friend Mar had managed to take a photo of the Goonies house, and now I understand why it was snapped from such a distance.)

We missed Portland, and were glad to finish the drive back. We walked east and browsed the Pearl District, stopping in at Powell's City of Books,
wondering where to eat. We settled on Paragon an attractive restaurant that turned out to be a perfect choice. She bought my dinner -- an early birthday present -- and we proceeded to down vanilla Stoli and Cokes like it was going out of style. Our vacation was almost over. It was time to get loose.

Paragon stopped serving while it was still bright and sunny; we moved our party west to Bartini, eschewing the eponymous drinks for more vanilla Stoli. I had fallen behind her during dinner, so I took a shot of Jameson to even the score.

She saw a group of women sitting at a table outside, and decided that one of them was gorgeous, and was convinced she should tell the woman so. After settling the bill, she did just that. The Wisconsin native was appreciative, and encouraged us to move to Portland. It sounded like a perfect idea. We were in a love with the city -- the last person to experience this kind of vacation high was Liz Lemon of "30 Rock"
Jack: "Where have you been?"

Liz (dreamy): "Cleveland!"

Jack: "For God's sakes, Lemon, we'd all like to flee to the Cleve, and club-hop down at the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard. But we fight those urges, because we have responsibilities."
There was a final bar stop before we retired for the night, but I couldn't tell you much about it, except that I'm certain I heard Arcade Fire's "Haiti" there. Portland birthday celebrations rule.

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