Sunday, September 22, 2013

Roadboy Visits Portland

Sunshine, Flowers and VooDoo Donuts! 

It has probably been about 4 years since my last visit to Portland Oregon. And, when I received an invitation to participate in a conference there this week, I admit feeling a twinge of indifference. While I am very fond of Portland, after so many visits it is a "Been There, Done That" destination for me.

Don't get me wrong, there is a whole bunch of neat stuff about Portland that I will always love, and first time visitors frequently depart hatching strategies how to move there someday. But the weather is frequently crap and the "Portland is better than anywhere else attitude" of the locals can grate.

Perhaps, after a long hot summer in Phoenix it is just a case of good old envy! 

The Rose City

The Portland Theater
(Home of The Portland Symphony)

I mean it is hard not to envy Portland. It is a city filled with art. It also possesses a hopelessly photogenic downtown framed by lush green hills and the Willamette River.

It is fairly clean and offers great hotels, parks, museums, shopping and restaurants.

Reportedly The Second Largest Hammered Copper Sculpture in the US
The Largest Being the Statue of Liberty
Sadly it Graces The Awful "Portland" Building

Portland is also a diverse stew of humanity filled with emo's, bums, zero body fat people, kayaky outdoorsy all stirred together with a bunch of Intel techno geeks.

This is the city where America's young, artsy and hip successfully perfect underemployment right up to middle age.

Herewith, a few of Roadboy's impressions for 2013.

The Airport. 
PDX after its renovations is quite simply one of the nicest airports in the US. It possesses bright cheerful and downright lovely public spaces. Its internet is free and fast (O'Hare are you listening??). There are live musicians scattered about and some terrific local food outlets are represented. Some great places to shop in there too. My favorite is the Pendleton shop. Pendleton clothing is made from the superb wool from its own woolen mills. I think Pendleton clothing and blankets are a total bargain when you consider Pendleton products are timeless classics in design and they last lifetimes.

Portland Icons On Display At The Airport

The Tri-Met MAX Light Rail:
Max is efficient, inexpensive ($5 for an unlimited use all-day pass is a screaming deal) and comprehensively multi-modal. A helpful MAX representative was in the airport to explain the route map and how fares work. After her fast, friendly intro I found MAX served me perfectly for my entire visit.

Max does have faults. Like the DC Metro, it stops running too early (around midnight). It also starts attracting sleaze after 9:00 PM. After traveling on it the better part of a week I never encountered a ticket checker or anyone from transit security. The system would benefit with more of each.

The Airport Red-Line MAX Train 

Downtown Portland is filled with elegant city furnishings. I loved its modern bus shelters with excellent seating and those big brass rails to lean on. There are elegant four poster brass drinking fountains endlessly bubbling on every corner and canopy street trees abound. Bravo Portland!

The Food:
Great restaurants, ethnically diverse, excellent food trucks abound. If you don't eat well here it is your own damned fault. And (of course) Portland is home to VooDoo Donuts (yum - bacon maple bars)!

The Architecture:
Some really wonderful recent projects have popped up downtown, IMHO the best is the complete renovation of the US Federal Building. It is a solid 10+. 

The Newly Refreshed US Federal Building

The SERA / Cutler team delivered a tour-de-force renovation to a mundane, concrete clad old  building. With its new organ pipe westerly facade, an understated entry / lobby sequence, a huge sloping photovoltaic roof canopy, bird friendly glazing and spare, yet elegant interiors, this building is really proof that, with thought and care, old things can always be made better.

The other big new building is the new US Federal Courts building. It is markedly less successful.

I also noted that the waterfront is getting a new suspension bridge. I'll be interested to see that when it is  finished.

Teddy Roosevelt
In The Park

For those that have never visited Portland. Or, for those that haven't visited in a long time, pack that umbrella and return. For Me, the visit was nice.

But I'm still kind of tired of Portland.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Music On The Road

You See This Guy

When I travel I listen to music. It has always been that way. Whether in the car or flying at 34,000 feet I use my travel time to listen to new music and old favorites. First it was on little plastic and leather clad transistor and AM car radios, later 8 tracks, cassettes, and CD's. Now my music comes from MP3's and is delivered perfectly from my amazing Sennheiser's. As you read this most of the songs listed are "clickable" if you'd like to listen to the song!

Over the years I have actually come to realize that certain songs and artists now immediately trigger memories. Many are wonderful a few are painful.

I believe each journey and adventure ultimately creates its own soundtrack. A soundtrack that is influenced by the language of the region, seasons and geography.

One of my first travel memories (I was only about 4) was my whole family singing "Hit The Road Jack" along with Brother Ray Charles on an AM radio while cruising who knows where in dad's red 1957 Plymouth Suburban station wagon. Pure magic.

In 1962 we packed up in the same wagon and drove north to the green Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Worlds Fair. It was amazing. Along the way I remember being astounded by the California redwoods and hearing Sam Cooke singing "Twistin' The Night Away" over and over from the car radio.

I loved Seattle and concluded it was the city of Tomorrow. I also decided that someday I'd live there. A goal I later achieved.

We spent the summer of 1963 (I was now 7) camping at Phoenix Lake near Sonora California. The campground had a cool camp store with lots of jars filled with candy. It also had a couple of pinball machines and a jukebox filled with surf music. When the sun set the music would blast out of two majorly crappy steel cone speakers serving an outdoor dance pavilion. As the music played I'd sneak off to watch the teenagers (lucky enough to possess dimes) play pinball. The clang clang of the pinball mixed with The Surfari's playing "Surfer Joe" (go man go!) and the instrumental "Wipeout" that began with some crazed beach bunny screaming "ha ha ha wiiiiiipe-out!"

On every road trip back then I commandeered the car radio attempting to tune in any 3 letter AM radio station I could find. The skiff routinely delivered KSL, KNX, and KGO. There were even still radio stations replaying classic radio shows like The Shadow. I'll never forget listening to "Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Minds of Men? The Shadow Knows".

We celebrated the Christmas season in 1965 with a trip to Denver on Southern Pacific's City of San Francisco. We left Oakland and climbed mid-winter over Donner Summit arriving into Reno in the middle of the night. The train parks right downtown with views of all the casino lights. Then it was off to Salt Lake City.

On that journey (I was now age 9) I met a young charismatic soldier who was returning from Viet Nam. He was so open and kind. He never treated me like the annoying kid I'm sure I was. He asked me what I wanted to do in life. He considered the sketches I was constantly creating. We played endless card games, he smoked, and I listened to him play his guitar.

In the very early morning, as everyone else slept I was wired, got up and wandered from car to car. The train was making up time in a race across the Great Salt Lake. Between rail cars snowflakes were sneaking through the tattered accordion pleated connectors. When I made it to the lounge car my soldier was there. We talked and laughed. He strummed "Flowers on The Wall".

He made a shy and gawky kid's first rail trip something unforgettable. And, I'll always love that song. I hope my soldier went on to have a long and very great life.

Road trip music was always special. Tunes like "We'll Sing In The Sunshine" by Gale Garnett. Brook Benton signing "Rainy Night in Georgia", and the spectacular tenor voice of Glenn Yarborough singing "Baby The Rain Must Fall".

During the summer of 1968 we made another summer road trip to the Hemisfair '68 in San Antonio Texas. Along the way I found myself doing road trip Karaoke with Herb Alpert singing "This Guys in Love With You". Some would argue that Herb Alpert should have stuck to the trumpet, but he delivered emotion and passion to that Burt Bacharach / Hal David song. And, to this day, when it comes on I stop whatever I'm doing to sing along.

Music can trigger a memory in the same way a smell makes me hungry.

Sometimes the memories aren't so good. Like the day a concrete truck made a sudden and illegal lane change in front of me in Coeur D'Alene Idaho. While it was crushing the front left fender of my '61 T-bird my car radio was playing Rhiannon. I can still remember "Would You Stay if She Promised You Heaven" mixing with the sound of skidding tires and crunching steel.

All those trips to Death Valley and Disneyland, Lake Tahoe and Mendocino, Coeur d'Alene and Moscow, Idaho.

Journey's with mile after mile all punctuated with the music

I heard along the way.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013