You Can’t Go Home Again?

I got away from Portland and it seems like it’s taken me a while to get back. At Christmas time I found myself looking out a window and watching waves in the Gulf of Mexico. It was scenic and peaceful and for a few seconds I may have relaxed. I was over two thousand miles away in a section of Florida with the Spanish name Perdido Key which translates to lost key. It’s a quarter of a mile from the Alabama border which adds to the exotic mystique. So when I do want to get lost, it’s nice to have the option of visiting my in-laws at their condo. The area has a desolate exurban, Omega Man feel to me with tall, empty, at least around the holidays, condo buildings. To get there, we braved a red-eye flight  and then another flight. Some heavier than usual turbulence  created a bit of a panic attack in a male passenger a couple of rows back. To calm myself, I worked up a Drunk Uncle style comedy bit in my mind. Turbulence became “turpulence.” There was even something about a turpulence angel sitting on my shoulder that seemed funny at the time, but no one was laughing. Planes that drop in the sky are not the same type of thrill you can get from a roller coaster.

 My four coat system, actually a coat, a down vest and two sweaters, was thwarted by mid 70 degree weather.  I couldn’t wear any of that on Christmas. I appreciated the change of pace, of course, it’s the holidays, and what you might call a vacation. I didn’t think  much about the Portland I had been immersed in during the last year. At last, I was staying in a condo that wasn’t on my nerves and no one was making snide comments about. I came to realize that New Yorkers and the Wall Street Journal boost my I.Q. Although the I.Q. bump flattens out when you read USA Today. When it was time to leave, we battled delays and two planes with mechanical issues. We weren’t getting to Houston in time to get back to Portland. When given the option to stay in Florida an extra couple of days we took it.

 Polar plunge FLA

Taking the plunge.

We stayed long enough to catch the polar plunge at the bar at the Florida-Alabama state line named the Flora-Bama Bar. Polar plunges don’t seem the same when you live in Portland with its cold rivers  which mean anytime you swim you’re in for a polar plunge. Still it was a hoot to see folks spill out of the bar on New Year’s Day, some in goofy costumes, and run into the surf. Later in our visit it had cooled down by Florida standards. It was under 50 degrees with a chilly breeze.

polar bears in FLA

Global Warming Proof: Polar Bears Frolic in FLA!

We met a few people who had an interest in Portland. A lady sharing our plane fiasco, as we tried to leave the first time, remarked about how expensive Portland was becoming. She was visiting Portland on her way to Mexico. We rented a car to get back to my in-laws’ and the young lady at the rental counter lit up when we mentioned Portland. She said she wanted to visit. Knowing how much effort it takes to travel to Portland, always with the two separate plane trips, I later thought I should have told her that if she wanted to make the effort to go to a west coast city, it should be San Francisco. While probably more expensive, I see it as a tourist mecca. I just can’t get past thinking that all Portland has to offer is a chance to stumble around downtown eating Voodoo Donuts and going to a kick-ass bookstore. Okay, so I’ll never get a job with the tourist bureau. As we were leaving the second time a United Airlines worker, who changed our seats so my wife and I could sit together, told us he wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest. At that point Florida was experiencing the same rainy and cold weather. Besides he had lived on the Oregon coast for some time when his sister was in the Coast Guard. He wasn’t picky, Portland, Seattle,  it made sense if he could transfer and have a job where ever he wanted to work.

 icycles

Icy icicles, at night!

Then I was back in Portland. I felt like I was facing another year of fanatically reading up the weekly newspapers trying to make sense of what’s what. I picked up the Portland Mercury and fully appreciated the humor of Alex Falcone in his  Not Invited Back cover story. I was thinking, wow, that was really good. If only I could convince him to work for the Portland Orbit, for free. While reading one of the illustrated year-end reviews of this and that in the Willamette Week, I saw that they were saying Carrie Brownstein had ruined Portland. It took a couple more panels before I realized the piece was satire. The Best Thing I Heard This Year column mentioned bands I hope to check out like Divers, Guantanamo Baywatch, Summer Cannibals and Woolen Men. Getting back into the Portland lifestyle, we spent a Sunday buzzing around filling the refrigerator back up with preciously harvested organic food while also experiencing the rare Portland ice and snow storm that netted me two days off from my school system job, which made up for the two days we had originally planned to have to get ready for going back to work. Sure it’s back to the grind and my attempts at adulthood, which I could do anywhere, but I’m here, in Portland to have another look around and continue in my pursuit to figure it out.

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