We head to our first destination, Powell's Bookstore, an icon in Portland. After about an hour, of browsing, buying one book, and overhearing a middle aged woman in the meditation section tell her friend that she had 50,000 things to do before Thursday and was so stressed she needed a book to balance her vibrational frequencies, Waylon and I picked up his friend Matthew and drove to Mount Hood, the sole mountain you can see from Portland on clear days.
One of the great perks of traveling is meeting other people who you find interesting and inspiring. Later on my trip I would stay at a bed and breakfast, which I highly recommend for travelers for the homier aspect compared to a hotel, specifically because it's in a house, and for the opportunity to talk to people at breakfast and learn why they are traveling. What I used to think would be awkward—breakfast with strangers—always turns out to be easy, amiable, and interesting. Matthew turned out to be one of these interesting and inspiring people you meet on a trip. He grew up with cerebral palsy and used orthopedic crutches to walk. As he told us, he dragged a foot which every month or so wore a hole into the toe area of his shoe. He walked slowly and getting in and out of chairs and the car was difficult. None of this seemed to prevent him from doing many of the things he wanted. To my surprise, he moved from New York City to Portland, and prior to this got an MFA in Creative Writing from UCLA-Irvine and published a book of poetry. He also traveled once to Ireland and once to Spain where he toured Barcelona and Madrid. He wanted to go back to Spain and entertained the idea of moving to Seattle. Waylon told him Seattle had a lot of hills which discouraged Matthew since when he took a trip to San Francisco he said he loved the city but hated the hills, understandably so given his reliance on crutches and limited leg strength. It was a good reminder to me to put into perspective whatever mental hindrances I create for myself that prevent me from pursuing my dreams when compared to the physical limitations that Matthew and other people like Matthew have that don't stop them from pursuing what they want to do and their dreams.
Waylon was thoughtful and packed a surprise picnic complete with wine for the three of us which we ate outside at the Timberline Lodge at the base of Mount Hood. The view was gorgeous: translucent blue sky without a single cloud that beckons you to sit outside, the almost perfect triangle of the mountain seducing you with its pristine allure, snow still covering most of its surface like a white winter jacket, its brown patches of rock where the snow has melted like tanned skin, the July sun shining strong.
We had the good fortune to have a park ranger leading a tour stop near where we ate and listen to his explanation of how the lodge was built as a part of the Works Project Administration in an effort to provide jobs for people through building it and the tourism that they hoped would come from it. After lunch we headed inside the lodge for coffee and then headed for home. The first twenty minutes out of or into the lodge the narrow two lane road constantly curves requires you to drive about thirty miles per hour. The towering pine trees and occasional small waterfalls along the side of the winding road create breathtaking beauty.
It was late afternoon when we dropped off Matthew at his apartment downtown and then drove back to Waylon's house. We each took about thirty minutes of alone time and then had another cup of coffee together. More coffee! Waylon asked if I would mind if he would play his guitar and played and sang for a few songs. I readily said yes. One of my favorite things about people is when they play an instrument and use it as a creative outlet or hobby. He played and sang two covers, a current song I don't I don't remember and a Bob Dylan song, and then played and sang one of his own. It was more of a poem than a song in the traditional sense and I asked him he would mind some constructive creative suggestion on my part. He said yes and I suggested that he needed a refrain, a chorus, which in its current form the song lacked, and that four lines in particular jumped out at me as catchy and substantive. The first two lines were “It might be scary but it's only temporary.”--a reminder we can all sing in a good song. Together we thought of three places where Waylon could interject these lyrics and then he sang the song again with the new four line chorus. It transformed the song from a poem/performance art piece to a song with deep lyrics and a catchy chorus that if Waylon ever decided to break out of his current career as an Information Technology Manager for Organically Grown Company, the largest distributor of organic vegetables and fruits in the Northwest and start a career as a rock musician that this will be his first big hit with everyone singing his zen wisdom reminder of a chorus. I'm grateful for this guitar time with Waylon. I like that he's creative and felt comfortable enough with me to play his guitar and to sing a song he wrote. I liked that I felt I knew him well enough that I could offer a suggestion and he would appreciate it and that it enhanced the song. These are the kind of interactions and friends I value in my life.
On the way home we discussed driving to a Thai restaurant but after getting home and enjoying the peace and private of Waylon's backyard, I suggested we walk to somewhere in his neighborhood. He liked the idea so we put on our Nike walking shoes—his bright neon orange and commented upon by numerous people and mine dark gray with a neon lime green swoop-- and walked about ten blocks to a retail intersection. There were several ethnic options and we chose Italian. The server convinced me that a carafe of pinot gris was a better value than two glasses because I would get three glasses worth for only two dollars more. Two being my comfortable preference meant three was a veritable party. Innuendo applies. Waylon promised to keep company with me on his beer. Cheers to friendship. Bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, heartfelt conversation about his ex-wife and my ex-partner, vegan pizza, another beer for him, another glass for me, and we've got a bromance at our outdoor table for two.
The night progresses. The carafe of wine becomes a giraffe of wine, which from here on out is what I'm going to call it, and soon it's empty. The live music from the bar two buildings down has enticed us all evening and when we've finished our meal we walk on over and into a Sixties Experience. Literally. The band is playing music from the sixties, which we knew from our outdoor seat, and the four of them are dressed in sixties bell bottoms and groovy shirts and headbands—a man playing keyboards and electric guitar, a woman playing electric guitar and tambourine, a woman playing the mandolin, and a man playing the drums. There's an element of kitsch to their band, and also a real sincerity and professionalism. They sound good. You can tell from they're polished sound they've practiced and played a lot together. Here's the other part of the Sixties Experience: everyone in the bar except Waylon and I are over sixty and loving this. So are Waylon and I, but at thirty three and forty three years old these songs are before our time; for the other patrons these are songs of their youth. We listened to five songs and when they finished Waylon yelled, “Encore!” The others clapped enthusiastically and were ready for bed. A sticker on the front of the keyboard read “Feeling' Groovy” so I yelled out, “One more. We're feelin groovy!” That's what a giraffe of wine will do to this gay guy. The band members seemed pleased if not surprised at such exuberant appreciation and the female lead said they had something a little, something that wasn't sixties, something they wrote, something bluesy. “Yeah!” I yelled. “Let's hear it!” And so they played a great blues song of their own. I don't know this band's story but I like to think that they all have day jobs that have nothing to do with music, and all of them love being in the band because they're good friends and this is their creative outlet, and one of them has aspirations or dreams of making it big, and know what they are, a band that plays sixties music for senior adults in small bars and restaurants around Portland, and take great satisfaction when asked by co-workers on Monday what they did over the weekend, “The sixties music band I'm in played at two venues on Friday and Saturday night.”
Walking home was perfect: dark night, almost full moon, no humidity, cool air, leaves of trees casting intricate shadows. So much better than being in a car. If possible when you're on vacation, do more walking than driving. Get to know a neighborhood. Slow down. Feel the earth under your feet. See the stars over your shoulders. Rub the Lamb's Ear and notice its velvety softness. Pull the lavender from its base, crumble it between your fingers, and smell its sweet soothing aroma. These are all small things I did and all small things that make this journey, and every journey memorable. Which leads me to nomenclature: why I like calling this a journey rather than a trip or a vacation. Journey implies something greater, a spiritual journey for example, a Hero's Journey. Journey feels more languorous, more meaningful. More intentional, more aware, more exploratory. Vacation implies vacating, leaving, or escaping the reality of your life, usually your work life, which is certainly necessary and worthy. Trip, which is the word I used when talking to most people connotates sightseeing and touring and visiting, also all worthy pursuits of traveling, and certainly things I do when I travel. But journey assumes and assigns significance to travel and is the word I use when thinking about it. How can travel transform me? What can I learn from travel? From the conversations I have with other people? From how I see other people living? From what I learn other people believe? From nature that is different from what I am used to Minnesota?
It's a late night for both of us, preferring to be in bed by ten. It's a little before midnight and e end our evening in Waylon's living room listening to The Beach Boy's song Good Vibrations. We had talked about the Beach Boys earlier while Waylon played guitar. Brian Wilson being Waylon's favorite lyricist and the Beach Boys his favorite Band and their album Pet Sounds, or as I accidentally called it Pet Shop Boy Sounds as an album I would like to get to know. Good Vibrations is one of our favorite songs. We listen to it once and then listen to it again, this time commenting on what we love about the song.
Another day comes to a close I'm reminded of the woman at the bookstore who wanted to lower her vibrational frequencies. This journey so far in Portland and this time with my new friend has increased mine. I'm feeling some good vibrations.