A ways back, I was having a conversation with my friend Ivy. She and her wife had made a trip out to I believe it was the Grand Canyon to spend time with Amber’s parents. If memory serves (and Ivy/Amber chime in if I’ve got the basics off just to keep the record straight) they flew into Las Vegas and drove down to meet the ‘rents at the Canyon. I think it worked out to be cheaper that way. Anyhoo…

Ivy was making a comment about how she couldn’t understand how I enjoyed going to Vegas so much. The noise and the glut of people were things I don’t think she cared for. And she also made a comment (I’m sure I’m muddling the details up some but I think the gist is right) about how the whole city seemed to be exude a sense of artifice.

I laughed and made the observation that that is sort of the point of Vegas. It is a city that fosters big dreams and wild fantasies but you never quite live them out they way they existed in your imagination. I mean you might be able to if you have enough money. The city does foster that attitude that if you don’t have it, you can buy it or at least rent it for the right price.

That said, I have been asked before if I love Las Vegas so much why don’t I ever think about moving there and living there. And I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’ve thought about it. Chucking everything and maybe going to school to work as a dealer in the casinos and just people watching and writing about what I see. It is an entertaining fantasy but I don’t have the slightest interest in trying to make that a reality.

I realized exactly why that is with this current trip to Portland. Right now it’s a little before midnight local time. I will be on a plane back to Austin exactly 12 hours from now, returning to my normal life. I’m sipping my last beer before bedding down for the night, having spent a couple of hours at a house party hosted by an old Austin friend who moved here a few years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Las Vegas is the booty call of travel destinations. It indulges all of my most venal instincts and does so without judgement. I drink more, eat more rich food and spend more money frivolously in Las Vegas than I do anywhere else and at any other time in my life. As I said, that is the nature of the city and how it functions. Vegas has a long history of being the girl/guy you pick up before last call in a bar just to have someone to go home to.

Portland, on the other hand. She has become the long term mistress that makes me question whether I should really stay in the relationship I’m in with Texas. Because she makes me see my life not as it is, but as it might have been if I had just made a couple of different choices along the way.

When people asked me before this trip if I had ever been to Portland before, I told them yes, about 6 years ago.  “And what was it like?” they say. And I tell them, “It’s like Austin, but green.” That’s a superficial simplification, but in a way it also sort of highlights the “alternate universe” I feel like I’ve been in this entire week.

Right now I’m drinking a Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis Imperial Stout with Vanilla. It’s a wonderful, rich beer. In my head, I’m comparing it to my current all-time favorite Texas microbrew, Austin Beerworks Sputnik (their winter seasonal). Which is a Russian Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout. Almost the same beer, just flavored with different elements to give it a distinct personality. I love them both for different reasons.

Earlier today, I caught a movie at a Living Room Theater location near Powell’s. It’s like Violet Crown Cinema but with comfier chairs and less counterspace when eating in the theater. The size and layout of the houses is exactly the same as Violet Crown.

Powell’s is this world’s Book People, though to be completely honest, Book People can’t hold a candle. The call it Book City for a reason. If you love the written word, you can lose yourself in that place for a day. I dare say Brea would drop dead of a heart attack in the rare books room, but she’d die knowing she had finally been to book nirvana in all of its glory.

Last night I spent time with friends at The Driftwood Room, which doesn’t quite have Midnight Cowboy’s panache for mixology but definitely ups the ante in pure ring-a-ding-ding old school coolness and charm. And I’d reckon Driftwood Room is far more likely to have ghosts haunting it, which gives it an allure unlike anything the Leagues in Austin can come up with.

At least, so far.

The experience was probably augmented by spending time with friends who I love like family. It is being in Austin and spending time raising hell with my peeps and yet it also isn’t because it’s not our regular places and I’ll be leaving them in less than half a day. The places, the friends have already left or are leaving the same time I am.

Hell, the population of Portland even goes so far as to sport a lot of goatees so I know they’re the evil reflection of my regular dimension. Or are they the good side and I just never fully realized it until now? Who can say.

What I do know is that Portland seduced me once again this week. I have spent a sum total of 14 days in this town between two visits six years apart. And it feels like every day that I had was better than the one that came before it. The only place I’ve been I found to be as physically beautiful or more so was Hawaii and that’s not even a fair comparison because Hawaii is something all to itself.

For the record, in my mind her name is Rose for obvious reasons. And you can take snide comments about whether her last name is “Palm” and shove them up your ass. My lady is far too sophisticated for such crass jokes.

But for now I’m going to go to bed and curl up with my mistress one more time. In the morning (maybe after one last run to Voodoo Donut), she and I will say goodbye to each other before we go our separate ways. Lord knows I’ll be thinking about her on the flight home. It hasn’t escaped my attention that I’ve written more in the last week than I have in years. If that doesn’t show Portland to be something of a muse to me, I don’t know what does.

And then until the next time, I’ll wonder about what is and what might have been. I know my Austin will take me back. She knows about my fling with the Pacific Northwest, and she’s been surprisingly ok with it. Maybe she knows where my roots really lie.

But I will miss Rose. And I’ll be thinking about her until I can come back again.

Good night.

1 Comment for this post you say something?


  • 28 July 20131:59 am Brea Plum

    This post put the song in my head…

    Up on Cripple Creek
    She sends me
    If I spring a leak
    She mends me
    I don’t have to speak
    She defends me
    A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one…


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