Weeks 7 and 8, State 4: Oregon.
I missed a flight and had to wait two hours to catch the next. While waiting, a woman in her sixties with a strong Southern accent paid me a compliment for looking good and started a conversation. We were to board the same flight and chatted about random topics spanning the weather up North, the British Royal family, the name 'Goodluck Jonathan', the new TSA policies, Lady Antebellum, the similarities between men in uniforms and men in tuxedos. It went on for two hours over drinks and a snack until it was time to board and we exchanged business cards.
I arrived Beaverton, the western suburb of Portland, Oregon at ten minutes to midnight. My hosts would be close friends of my mum's, an Italian-American couple who were within the 55-65 age bracket and worked from home. I had a good share of fine dining at upscale restaurants but in terms of adventure seeking or city discovery, it was practically a hopeless case with a spontaneous visit to the mountains and coast. A singular moment I would relish would be coming into the majestic presence of Mount Hood. Even the song I was listening to at the moment (Enigma's Return to Innocence) as we drove past the mountains was beautifully weaved into the breath-taking scene. We drove to the Cannon beach, hand-picked some sand dollars off the shore and stopped over at the legendary Mo's Chowder for some good seafood. Clam chowder, oyster soup, halibut, shrimp in lettuce and fries with a good bottle of white Riesling wine. On our way back, the clouds greeted with a rainbow. I got the memo, "Everything's gonna be alright."
Meeting up with their daughter who was within my age bracket was a timely intervention. She lives downtown of Portland, attends college and works part-time. My meandering could finally kick off to enjoy simple activities like reading the Poetry in Motion on the inside of the Trimet, picking up a copy of the Oregonian from the newsstand while taking a walk or just getting beaten by the rain. It did rain everyday in Beaverton and Portland. I also met up with a friend's relative for acquaintance over a coffee in Starbucks at the Pioneer Courthouse Square. It was a week to Christmas and the whole place was brimming with frenzied activities as shoppers scurried to put finishing touches to their annual Santa roles. Two little girls dressed in red and white entertained a sitting crowd with a Scottish dance, while drummers sat on the corner with upturned buckets with silly inscriptions giving the square a 'living room' feel. My companion and I took a drive uptown from the Northeast to the Southwest division, where they was a clear difference in demography, lifestyle and residential architecture. In a bid to find African cuisine, Google virtually presented us with two options, a 'Horn of Africa' which was not open at the time we got there, and a 'Queen of Sheba' which had a sign post that said 'we've moved'. Fortunately for our groaning tummies, the Asians welcomed us with arms wide open, and I had a memorable time eating Pad Thai and Gang garee and being interviewed by a nice, funny, sucker for romance Thai waitress.
Beulah Land on NE 28th Avenue was another hangout spot I liked. With my new group of friends, we met up there to watch the Portland Trail Blazers vs Milwaukee Bucks basketball game in HD glory. It was happy hour and I ordered a plate of hot wings and celery, with a side of mashed potatoes. To rent words from the KFC slogan, it was finger-lickin' good! While my friends had their pints of beer and glasses of 'dirty martinis' tweaked with vodka, I took a glass of water and was in no way timid when we gave a toast to life, love, friendship and the Portland Blazers. Cheers! And then, cheese! We took picture strips with silliest facial expressions at a photo booth. If you know me, you'll know I jump at every opportunity to act like a Disc Jockey and a semi-vintage juke box sat in the corner waiting for me to live my dream. I popped in a dollar bill for my listening pleasure and had Sam Cooke's 'Everybody loves to Cha cha cha', Sugar Ray's 'Rapper's Delight' and Otis Redding's 'Respect'. The night ended for me on a good note with the Blazers winning the game, and me having a slight headache after much 'CHALUPA' chanting as the Blazers had eclipsed the 100 point mark. We parted at 11:40pm, while the others sought to find a spot to stick a thumbtack in with their presence on a Monday night/Tuesday morning, I chose an all-time favourite: My bed.