I Wasn't Born to Follow.

Trip Start May 30, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Thursday, September 25, 2008

It could be said I was never one to follow a crowd, it could also be said that I have never been a trend setter.  That said my agenda for life has always seen me follow a path that has a hint of Barnett in it.  I like to experience things my own way as echoed so vividly in the Byrds song 'Wasn't Born to Follow'.

Portland was my latest destination and like Seattle was another choice that arose by coincidence.  However, before I could sample the delights of that city I had to contend with sleeping at Seattle airport.  Arriving at 11.40 at night presented me with the option of either trying for a room at the Green Tortoise or sleeping rough.  33 dollars for no sleep or paying nothing for no sleep.  Hmm, let me decide on this obvious no-brainer; and as expected I did indeed get no sleep as I lay on a bench that was hard beyond belief.

So here I was back in Seattle, although this was a brief interlude until I boarded my train for Portland.  It wasn't my favourite few hours ever spent in a city as I missed Claire, as I did do during my journey to Oregon.  Despite the tough moments I encountered on the journey, this short train ride was picturesque and brightened up the gloom that had befallen me.

William Blake once wrote that there are things that are know and in between there are doors.  Well when I opened the doors to exit Portland station the things that were known were that the homeless inhabited these parts, just like in Seattle.  It appears that where there are Amtrak or Greyhound stations there are homeless.  However, where as it had dampened my initial thoughts of that city it didn't with Portland.  Putting aside all thoughts of homelessness was an easy thing to do as I searched for my hostel on 18th Avenue.  Looking for streets in America is pretty easy because they have a grid system which has no original thought process behind it.  Pretty much every state has a Washington Avenue or a Washington Park, as if that name has any relevance to this country.  Portland's streets also run in alphabetical order so looking for streets becomes pretty straight forward.  Unfortunately, by the time I had walked from 5th up to 18th Avenue I was pretty shattered, especially with my luggage on my back.  I suppose that will teach me to walk everywhere and not take public transport.

Brushing off the sweat from my brow upon arrival was a welcome relief as I checked into the hostel.  I had been told that Portland had a similar climate to England, i.e. it rains a lot.  Well, the usual weather forecast was way off the mark as the sweltering heat replaced the intended rain.

Once the formalities were out of the way and I had been shown my room I could rid myself of my luggage and view the town.  New cities can sometimes be overwhelming in as much as there is so much to explore.  In time all can be achieved once you realise what you want to see, but when you first arrive all you want is a to get some food and have a beer; and with choice after choice I didn't have a problem walking into a pub.  The pub I choose was I think called Rigglers, and whilst they didn't have any Guinness, the friendly barman offered me a little glass of a similar tinged beer, which was to the liking of my pallet and a full pint ordered.  As I took my seat on the bar the guy sitting two seats away starting chatting to us.  He'd recognised I was from London and wanted to converse with the cool kid from the big smoke.  Hey, who was I to argue as we chatted over beer and fish and chips.

Lauren, was a 36 year old pisshead who worked as a chef at this establishment but had finished for the day - hence the beers.  He was such a good guy that he invited us for a beer with some of his friends at the nearby cellar bar, for which I duly accepted.  I payed up, tipped and left.  Now what made me warm to the city was that I had inadvertently given the barman 23 dollars instead of three dollars; and this barman went to the Cellar bar and handed me the 20 dollars back.  I was astonished by that act of kindness.  Lauren continued to be a good host and even showed me the 100 year old Crystal Ballroom venue, which adjoined his workplace.  Seeing a  empty venue with a Victorian feel adds to the ambiance and mystique of it.  I never saw Lauren or his friends again but this skateboard kid certainly made Portland a better place.

With the evening drawing to a close I had found a warmth from a city, which was appealing, however what I didn't have was Claire.  Our repeated attempts to converse by phone and e-mail  had been met with answer machine messages or delays in our correspondences.  I knew that solving the problem would be achieved by another visit to Minneapolis.  After all did I really need two weeks in San Francisco.  With this booked it was if a weight had been removed from these shoulders.  Up yours Hunchback from Notre Dame - my weight had been lifted and Esmeralda beckoned soon.

Staying in a nice neighbourhood away from the glare of downtown was really nice, unfortunately the name of this region was something that wouldn't sit well back home.  I was staying in the district of Nob Hill and to make matters worse they had a motor accessories shop round the corner called 'Get Bent'.  Hang on there's a shop called Get Bent in Nob Hill and I'm staying in a all male dorm.  I'd heard that Portland was a very modern city with a proud recycling tradition - but promoting homosexuality.  You couldn't have scripted it, well you could in America!

In Portland, just like in Seattle people look healthy and like that city there are many steep hills to be encountered, hence there are not many fatties pounding the sidewalks.  Anyway, if fatties were to exist in large numbers then I'm sure some bright spark like myself would instruct that all fatties be kidnapped for the weekly race of roll a fatty down a hill.  This way I'm sure the obesity problem would be eradicated.  Oh what fun could be had as the large crowds turned up in droves to witness the birth of the new way to keep the American population healthy.  Think how much time money would be saved by the American Medical Association.  This way once fatties have been removed from society then free health care would be available for your average dude in the street.  I think a career in politics beckons for me in the not too distant future.

Exercise during my stay here was very much on the agenda and I wanted to hike at both the national parks (Forest and Washington).  Unfortunately I never managed to encounter Forest Park - even when I followed the bike signs for this park.  I needn't have worried because by stumbling upon Washington Park I saw beauty in the form of Hoyt Arboretum, where 10,000 trees were on display and the International Rose Garden, but most importantly for me was the chance to experience the numerous hikes that this park had to offer.  On the three occasions I visited the park I took different scenic routes, and on each occasion a wrong turn took me higher and higher so that before I'd entered the site I'd hiked a good few miles, which in temperatures of up to 95 degrees made for a strenuous workout.  By taking the scenic routes I saw the beautiful houses Portland has to offer.  It was all purely breathtaking.  I was so inspired by the area that I penned two of my blogs in the park.  With beauty comes inspiration.

If I wasn't hiking I was enjoying the bars and cinemas the local region brought.  21st Avenue gave  you everything you wanted and so made going downtown, not quite obsolete but a place that you didn't have to visit.  Visit I did, as I explored the town in a way I wanted.

The people of Portland even amazed me by their love of football.  I had decided to go to the very cool looking Portland Art Museum to catch the film Zidane, a 21st Century portrait.  I thought that there wouldn't be many people interested in watching a film that had 17 cameras following Zidane during a game for Real Madrid.  Far from being empty, the cinema was packed with Americans, who although knowledgeable on the game from the conversations I heard kept on calling the game soccer.  I felt like saying in a stern manner 'No'!  What is soccer?  Football, you Muppet's!  Here's my foot and there's a a ball.  Put them together and you have football.  Maybe I should have asked for some cheerleaders to spell it out.  Logic though might have been lost on a country that has the game American football that is played more with hands than feet.  Full marks for effort on their enthusiasm though.

Portland kept me entertained right until the end and it was a shame that I was leaving one of the rare states that doesn't put tax on products, but there it was and Monterey was up next for a touch of Jazz and literature.

In planning my trips I had purposely left out taking Greyhound buses, which was good business for Amtrak.  And it was the Amtrak train station where I departed for my 21hour journey to Monterey.  However, before the train arrived I dropped off my luggage and stood next to a guy with a baseball cap on who was also inquiring about a luggage matter.  Upon hearing his voice, I looked across and thought that sounds like the actor Ed Harris.  I promptly spent the next 20 minutes going back and forth in trying to work out if it was him.  Thoughts from he looks too young to what would he be doing taking a train entered into my grey matter.  With all these confused thoughts racing around my brain as to whether it was him and whether I should ask him eventually left me deciding to err on the side of caution.  So if I later find out that he has a love of Amtrak trains I'll know that It's another actor that has brushed with greatness in almost meeting me.  I wonder what Clint will do when he sees me in his Californian region.

Be Seeing You.
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