Day One

Trip Start Apr 11, 2009
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Where I stayed
Holly & Benjamin's!

Flag of United States  , Oregon
Saturday, April 11, 2009

I arrived in America at around 6pm, and after 13 hours flying, over 8 time zones, i was suitably shattered!...I also had to navigate the renowned security checkpoints, answering the usual questions - "where are you going" "how long are you staying" "do you have any bombs or anthrax"...But i still had that adrenaline rush you get from being in a new place so i wasn't too troubled - found it all quite amusing actually!..It was strange being in America, knowing you were in such a vast country, and one you had never been to before, more than 5000 miles from home. Weird. Weird, but nice!...For the first time in my life i think i can honestly say i felt that i was "independent"...i ignored the fact that it had taken me 29 years to get to this point in my life!....Oh well, better late than never!

Needless to say i headed straight for the airport bar and ordered a swift vodka & coke just to help the adrenaline along. When i ordered, the waitress smiled at my Scottish accent, and said "hey gorgeous, what can i getcha", so i purposely adjusted my accent to make it as "Sean Connory" as possible just to enhance the effects, "Shaken not shtirred!" i'd say.  I had been told before i left by my American friend that i could use my god-given vocal talents to my advantage because - and i quote - "dude, the chicks will totally think its cute". So, needless to say, curiosity quickly got the better of me...and hey presto! a smile from the first girl i speak to. God Bless America!

After my quick snifter, I remembered i had to phone my first "hosts" as i literally had no clue where i was going. I said my goodbyes to "Marie" the barmaid (shhheeee u later my shhhhweet"). I couldn't find the payphones so i asked an enormously fat shop-keeper, and he too smiled at my accent (works on guys too, evidently), then promptly told me i could use his phone if i like!....Nice guy!...Morbidly obese, but Nice.

I Called my host, Holly, who appeared half an hour later in her battered old chevvy with her partner Benjamin and one of their adopted kids. I made my first error at this point.The child in the back seat was a fairly good looking kid, with long light-brown hair...needless to say i thought this was their daughter. So for the next 2 hours this was my assumption. Turns out i was wrong. This was their Son, Aaron. Luckily for me i never had a conversation with Holly or Ben where i asked what age their daughter was. That could have been a poor start to our relationship i feel!....Catastrophe avoided however, thank God!

I could tell instantly i would like this family. They were quirky but not too quirky. I could tell they liked their weed (as does the entire population of Portland), but they didn't do it in front of the kids....sort of like hippies, but "responsible" hippies. I suppose you need to be responsible when you're looking after 3 kids. Anyway, my new friends were keen for me to sample one of the many thousands of local beers...and being a Scotsman i felt obliged to oblige them!...So, on the way home we stopped off at one of their favourite haunts, which seemed to just be a big room with a bar, a jukebox, a pool table, and some seats...It reminded me of a youth club or something...but with no youths in it. The barmaids where nice though. Lots of tattoos - which i would later find out was more common than breathing in Portland.

We just talked about the usual stuff initially and i found out about them, that they live with their 3 kids, neither of them were from Portland, but had moved there and "found each other", and that their lives really involved meeting people like me, taking them into their home and entertaining them for a few days before taking in the next batch. Holly informed me that at one stage they had 13 people staying in the house. The kids, apparently love it, and they have become so accustomed to strangers in their home that its like they have the world's biggest extended family. I got the impression their place was a nice place to be. I was right.

I was beginning to fade around 9pm, and i think my gracious hosts spotted this fact, so we jumped in the car and headed home. On the way we stopped off at "Wendy's" for a burger. They don't normally eat junk food i was told, but nobody could be bothered cooking, so we opted for the easy way out. I was so tired i wouldn't have noticed what i was eating anyway.

Portland was a beautiful city, bigger than i expected, but at the same time you were always aware that you were surrounded by woods, mountains, parkland, and the river, so there was a tranquil feel to it. I was so glad with my choice of places to start my trip, because this was EXACTLY what i had hoped the USA would look like. The main streets were big wide-open roads, and the side streets were lined with pretty little wooden houses with nice front gardens, and allot of which were sporting the obligatory American Flag...Christ, some of them even had picket fences!

Ben and Holly's home was just as pretty, and just as "USA" as i had imagined...It had everything right down to the Porch! They lived directly across the road from a big Oak Tree-lined park. If you think of TV shows like "The Wonder Years", or "Malcolm in the Middle", or "Roseanne", then you will have a good idea of the look and feel of the place. It looked like a nice place to grow up. I imagined kids riding their bikes, climbing trees, going for walks along the disused railway tracks, that kinda thing. I found myself feeling slightly let-down that i hadn't grown up there. Strange how the mind works.

There are no other words to describe Holly & Ben's home other than "homely", and after a long journey that was the only word that mattered to me. We sat up for a few hours shooting the breeze, and it was instantly clear to me that Holly and Ben were not your stereotypical "all-american" family. They were well aware of outsiders' views on the US, but I quickly got the impression that they (and Portland in general) were not a typical part of the US. They refused to buy into corporate chains like Starbucks and McDonalds. They supported local produce, local retailers, little thrift stores, recycling, and seemed to take great pride in the fact that they were responsible in their own way for dispelling most myths people have about the US in general. I got the impression they were single handedly, person-by-person trying to give the USA a good name...They can add another convert to their list.

After a while my gracious hosts could tell i had to sleep soon or i might collapse, so they kindly cleared the kids, and the cats, out of the laundry room and i settled down on my new bed - the old yet extremely comfy couch. It was a strange feeling being this far from home, but i imagined it could have felt a whole lot stranger had i not stumbled across the most hospitable yet laid-back family in America. I fell asleep on my make-shift bed, hoping that my good luck would continue.
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