On the Banks of the Willamette
November 29, 2010
The Willamette River divides Portland, Oregon, my home town. It is pronounced, by the way, Will-am-met. The city and river in Illinois are the Willa-Met. And, of course the state is Ory-gun, not Ore-e-gone. I could go on, but the point is that I was on the banks of the Willamette, on the west or "snooty" side, staying in a lovely house from the turn of the last century, directly across from the Oaks Park amusement park and the Sellwood neighborhood. It is the fourth time Vicki and I have stayed there while visiting Portland. Portland's White House remains our favorite B&B, but if you need a kitchen, there's nothing like renting a house. This one is smack dab in the middle of the Willamette Parkway, a long thin park on the west-side bank of the river that runs from the Sellwood Bridge to downtown. It is so amazing what my hometown has done. When I was a boy, the city had turned its back on the river, which was an open cesspool. If you fell in, you were required to get a tetanus shot. Today, sewage is treated upstream, and the paper mills at Oregon City are long gone, with the result that the river no longer stinks at any time of the year, and people can use it for water sports without fear. Both shores were given over to industry and cut off from residents in the middle of the last century, but by the start of this one, the pendulum had swung. The Harbor Freeway was torn out and replaced with a park. Despite the industry and railroad tracks on the East Side, you can walk along the river over there too. It is nothing short of an urban miracle. If I hadn't spent more than 30 years building a life in California, I'd think about moving back.
Plus, we teach our students that the forest canopy on the East Coast was so thick in the 1600s (when the Europeans arrived in great numbers) that a squirrel could go from the Atlantic to the Mississippi simply by jumping from one tree to another without ever touching the ground. Of course no squirrel would ever chose a mode of transport that inefficient :-)
So we flew in Southwest Airlines from Oakland, my wife, our older daughter and me (our younger daughter went up early). The much-dreaded "enhanced pat down," while demeaning, was not the groping that the extremists contended. At Oakland there were a few full-body scanners. In Portland there were none. It is still the case that I can't go through a magnetometer because it would do bad things to my pacemaker.
Wednesday was supposed to be the busiest travel day of the year, but although the plane was full, the security lines were short. Portland was in the freezer on Tuesday, with sleet and freezing rain making driving a disaster; there was even a dusting of snow. By the time we got there, the temperature had crept above freezing, and we spent our weekend in typical Portland winter conditions: highs in the mid-40s and rain every day. Since both my daughters and I belong to 24-hour Fitness (a chain of gyms), we got our exercise there every morning, at the Super Sport on McCloughlin Blvd. on the East Side. Vicki took out a guest membership. They had a hot tub. I forgot my trunks, but they had gym shorts on sale for $15, so it wasn't so bad. Just another "swimsuit" added to my collection.
Thursday we picked up the dinner we had ordered weeks ago from Zupan's, the high-end family-owned grocery store across the street. We hauled Dad over from my East Side home (he still lives there) and threw my nephew into the mix when he arrived from Sacramento. The food was as good as the company, and another Thanksgiving was spent in the arms of my family.
Friday and Saturday we goofed around with Dad, ate leftovers, and took him to dinner at the Riverview Restaurant in Troutdale. The place is definitely better in the daylight and the summer, when you can see the view and eat outside, but it is also utterly amazing on the inside, and the food is quite good. It may be high priced for Oregon, but was quite reasonable compared to San Francisco. We topped off our whirlwind tour with breakfast Saturday at the Spare Room, the only remnant of the once proud Columbia Bowl on NE 42nd Avenue just south of Prescott. The food was edible. I don't know what the scenery is like, because there are no windows.
We shopped at Powell's Book Store, ate more leftovers, and took off Saturday. If you want to see a REALLY quiet airport, fly on a Saturday night. The natives tell me it is the quietest night of the week.
A good time, as they say, was had by all.