Friday, September 25, 2009

A Pacific Northwest Adventure (Or Not)

So, when you come home from Portland, Oregon, you have a lot if nickels in your pockets. Since there is no sales tax, lots of things are $_.95 rather than $_.99, I suppose this is since the actual amount is going to be predictable, rather than the result of a fractions math problem.

That's right. Jacob and I took our honeymoon in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Apparently, this is not a typical destination based on the looks that people acquired upon hearing the news and their cheerful, affirming, surprised and bewildered tones of voice.

We chose Portland while walking along the beach of Lake Michigan one day this spring. Going on the walk had been a way to enjoy the spring weather and to carve a bit of space to just enjoy each other in the midst of wedding planning and my efforts to graduate. About halfway through, the concept of an entire honeymoon suddenly occurred to one of us, like finding a $20 bill on the street. It was not one linear conversation but rather a series of short exchanges. One of us would suggest a city and the other would consider and respond.

We realized rather quickly that we were not beach people. I have to wear a lot of sunblock all of the time and I hate the resultant sticky feeling. (Actually, that used to be the way I told this story until Jacob finally admitted that he is a beach person but he wanted me to be happy.) We talked about the ability to sit and watch interesting people. We both like museums. Some minor hiking is tolerable to me. I especially enjoy being in communities that are full of creative and artsy people.

With these criteria in mind, we finally came around to talking about the Pacific Northwest. I used to live there and would live there still if my entire family wasn’t located in Chicago. But we wanted to go to a city that neither of us knew, so Seattle was out. Portland was an easy second choice. I spend some time engaging in an online craft community and many of the bloggers that I read are located in Portland. They talk about shops that they get their supplies at and galleries they show their work in. They do things that can only be done in communities full of supportive, crunchy people. I wanted to actually experience it for myself.

Unfortunately, we both got so caught up in planning the wedding itself that we didn't do a lot of research on exactly where those people were to be found or on the addresses of those cool shops and communities. Both of us had tucked away a file of articles on Portland to be read later but since neither of us brought a computer, those files were pretty useless once we got there.

This wouldn't normally have been a problem because we'd just ask around but we had really underestimated how tired I would be. Although Jacob was tired, too, apparently he retains his adventurous spirit in that state. Before we realized what was going on, we had some tenuous moments while my feelings of not having any fun and feeling bad about wasting the opportunities took turns boxing my emotional ears. For the first 4 or 5 days, I really thought that maybe we should have taken a beach vacation or rented a cottage on a lake in Michigan but who takes their honeymoon in Michigan? I ask that last question to be honest about the fact that what people think of me is sometimes important, even when I posture otherwise. Jacob was super-supportive while I got comfortable with the idea that the trip couldn't be a waste (since we were together, not working and married) even if we stayed in the room the whole time.

Isn't it a cutie-patootie room? We stayed at the Inn at Northrup Station, which is in the "trendy" Nob Hill neighborhood. I loved the fact that we could walk almost everywhere in the city. It was good for my soul for my body to stay busy while my brain went dead. However, I was under-whelmed by the neighborhoods that were touted as hip and bohemian. I felt like they were Chicago Lite and not all that unique.

Our first full day we walked down to Powell’s since everyone says “You’ve got to go to Powell’s.” Again, worrying about what other people think. I just couldn’t face the lack of understanding in people’s faces when they asked the follow-up.

Kowtowing to public opinion one one’s honeymoon so soon after a wedding which is at least a little about controlling people’s reactions (you want your guests to feel welcome, included and festive, at the very least) is a terrible idea. It was even more of a mistake because I don’t really like bookstores. But, since I’m so bookish, that kind of declaration elicits cries of disapproval and misunderstanding in the form of, “Really? But you read so much?” Since I was still in a sensitive place immediately after the wedding that I had not yet napped out of, even that much push back felt unbearable. But I just don’t like browsing. I have such a queue of books that I want to read that browsing for new material is just an exercise in futility. Also, I have a platonic ideal of used bookstores that involve very intense memories of plopping down on a musty-smelling floor of the science-fiction section in 12-year-old innocence of book queues and being able to waltz home with 13 books for $8 because every book was priced at half of its cover price. That type of bookstore is rare to find anymore. So, the sourrness caused by my early-morning Powell’s experience caused me to write things like this in my journal:
I suppose my fancy University of Chicago education in economics should cause me to admire them for their use of internet technology to determine the market value of each individual used book. However, seeing a mass-market paperback from 1988 priced at $15 flipped a switch in me somewhere.
The sarcasm that I recorded in my personal journal communicates “blissful honeymoon” well, don’t you think? We wlaked around downtown for awhile and I totally missed the charm of the parking lot full of food carts. Finally, we found a cup of tea that did not cost $4 after a search and Jacob let me just vomit up the poison and asked good questions to help it along. Here he is when I felt better enough (literally feeling like a weight was lifted from my heart) to want to take his picture eating a Voodoo doughnut. Note his expression that clearly says, “Is it safe to go back in the water?”

After that, we lowered our expectations, focused on eating well, getting massages, resting and playing games. We had particularly good meals at Carlyle, Laughing Planet and BeWon Korean. Restaurants are actually pretty tough for Jacob since his kosher restrictions limit him to vegetarian and fish dishes and most of the fancy American Cuisine places that feel so celebratory and indulgent to me don't carry much more than a salmon dish or a token pasta and cheese dish. As my nutritionist said, "Cheese doesn't count as a protein; it's a fat." What? A little tofu is so wrong for these places? So, a couple of nights we got kosher beef from the local Trader Joe's or at leftover and stayed in playing more games. Here's a shot of the beginning of one of our Carcassone games.
Throughout all of the emotional tides, I loved being with Jacob, holding his hand, feeling his ring between my fingers and making him smile when I could. As the week went on, the events we created were more fun. We went to the Muddy Boot Festival, which was exactly the kind of creative, crunchy, community gathering that I came to Portland for. Jacob rode a bike made out of bamboo while I talked with the company's owner about our much love of liberal politics. Here he is with Jacob after Jacob finished his ride.The famed Saturday and Sunday market was fairly disappointing with lots of mundane stuff. None of the great crafts that I read about on the blogs. My guess is that the fee to be part of the fair isn't possible for folks with an internet business model. This kind of thing is the reason I say that Portland needs a little adventuring. The Portland I have heard about is communicated through blogs but people tend to blog from home, not from the streets with strips of cutesy stores.

We did go back to Powell's to enjoy a talk from A.J. Jacobs and we also went to see the movie Big Fan and to listen to its star, Patton Oswalt, talk afterwards. Great movie and I'll talk about it more in another post. We also enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry but were glad we got in for free with our reciprocal Field Museum membership. (Jacob gets points for doing this without the card.) It was neat but not worth 2 $11 tickets. Still, I got this picture that describes our past week fairly well.We enjoyed the Kidd Toy Museum and the zoo and I feel like by the end of the week I had shed most of the wedding stress and exhaustion to reach a new equilibrium, which is a major purpose of a honeymoon. I loved that we could walk everywhere or take easy public transportation. That really helped me feel at home and really grounded in this place that was other in a way that driving around in a car would not. The eco-tours folks were kind of flaky and we were relying on that to get out into the country, so we still need to do that. The Beverly Cleary park was not near anything we were visiting so we still need to get my picture with the Ramona statue since she is me. Since coming home, we hear there is a craft thrift store that we missed so there are definitely reasons to go back if we can someday.

It was a good honeymoon even if it wasn't what I expected (isn't that kind of life?) and I snuggled Jacob all the way home while we read our books on the bus, on the MAX, on the plane and on the El, rubbing my face inot his shoulder to get his attention and smiling up into his returning smile.

It's good to be married.


Christy said...

What an honest honeymoon description! We had 2 nights at a B and B sans TJ. We were both exhausted and acknowledged that right off that bat. We did a little shopping, went to see the Woodstock movie, read, watched drag racing on TV (Matt for the racing, I for the commercials), ate and slept. And felt rested enough to go back to work when it was over.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, think you may have just accidentally headed in the wrong direction. Portland, Maine would have been a lovely destination.