Woke in a green room, triangular in shape and encompassed by windows and the too many books I packed, if such thing exists. It was early: 6:54am, but I'm adjusting to the three-hour time difference better than expected. My best friend rustled beside me, turned over and said with excitement, “we’re in portland!”. And so, here we are, after five months of planning: emailing poets and artists, compulsively checking craigslist for ‘queer housing’ listings, and comparing plane-ticket prices.
Like explorers on a college-kid-budget, we dug for the crumbling granola bars in our backpacks, called them breakfast, and without a shower the first day began. First we explored Division Street : walking hand-in-hand peaking into windows and getting the lay of the land. Our first coffee trip lacked the homeyness we had hoped for: the sleek interior, the sizes in an unknown language(s), and the coffee strong and bitter. In our east-coast clothes we didn’t fit in with the clienteles ironed-flannels, perfectly-parted hair, and memorized orders (iced americano, triple shot, short on ice, three drips of organic cream, hold the sugar). But the baristas helped us download the ‘must have’ pdx bus applications (an easy load ticket and bus trip planner). The verdict: even Portland’s hoity-toity have kinder intentions than those of the Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Next stop: downtown Portland. Our first use of public transportation, and neither of us got sick. A six mile bus-ride from the coffee-stop to one of Portland’s starbucks (we’ve found theres a starbucks at every corner, so I feel at home). We spend the next two hours crazy with wanderlust: walking aimlessly, people-watching, feeling at home. We happen upon a farmers market, we check the price of kale (2.50$) and h buys us a tamale for lunch (6$). We walk with the tamale to a gathering of benches, and sit by the other couples planning the rest of their afternoon.
We both need raincoats (checked the forecast: five days of clouds and scattered showers). We travel to REI, North Face, Mont-bella, Oatagonia, hHardware, and Columbia looking for raincoats for under 100$. h finds one: a black xl from the boys section of Northface(65$), and I find another: a black s from the women’s ‘worn wear’ section of Patagonia (100$). When asked if we need help, we tell the salespeople we are ‘looking for the hidden good deals’; we feel proud of our good finds.
We get lost looking for the Nike store, but end up at an LA fitness, walk in and get a tour of the facilities. The bald, red-bearded man who takes us around is obnoxiously proud that he played college football, but the facilities are spacious and the weight-room is mostly empty. There is another LA fitness 1.6 miles from where we are staying, so we’ll probably get a summers membership there.
After leaving the gym facilities, the next thing on our to-do list is grocery shopping. We end up bargain-shopping at Whole-Foods. Yes, this sounds like an oxymoron, but we find some great deals and end up with an amazing cart of roast chicken, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and kale (for dinner), and cereal, milk, butter, blueberries, cliff-bars, raspberries, pasta, and apples. We make our purchases, split a cliff bar on a bench to avoid hanger (hunger+anger) and walk towards the bus stop to go home.
We get lost. Eager to get on the bus and cocky with our bus apps, we get on the right bus number, but headed in the opposite direction. We switch buses and 55 minutes later we’re at the bus stop closest to our home, walk a block, and begin putting away the groceries as j makes dinner for him and s (beet salad and pork chop). h and I eat our meal (baby kale salad with chicken) with the two of them. We share stories of the coffee shop where we felt out-of-place coffee place, show off our rain-gear, and listen to their pet-peeves and weekends’ plans. having dinner like this, its homey, feels nice.
The four of us and a neighbor walk to a dog park by the local high school, where h and I run two miles and do some push-ups before walking back and calling it a night. We have cereal for dessert, h sends in job applications, and I fall asleep on the coach.
the first day is what we needed it to be: we explore by foot, get lost (and found) on the bus, discover the ease of navigating the city together, feel safe, nobody looks at our queerness with suspicion or anger, have dinner with our host family, and fall asleep easy, feeling accomplished and adventurous.