Portland was a city that we both liked a lot immediately – the first things that we encountered were lots of students (because our hotel was near Portland State University), a huge bookstore, a very good public transport system, and a huge organic food store. The city felt very civilized, full of culture, and rich (we found out quickly that there were lots of very poor people living here as well though, just like in all big cities, I guess).
The book store was quite impressive – it says of itself that it is “the largest used and new bookstore in the world”, and that may well be true. I loved the way they put used and out-of-print books side by side with new books – wonder why other bookstores don’t follow that example. I browsed through my favorite SF authors and actually found a used copy of Walter Jon Williams’s Ambassador of Progress, a book that was missing in my collection and that I hadn’t found so far.
The most charming moment I encountered in Portland was when we walked through Chinatown and I saw a Chinese man in a shop practice a melody on his saxophone. He really tried hard and got through with the melody – some notes were quite off but it sounded nice to me anyway. While he played, I recorded him through the open door, and by coincidence, from a couple of blocks away, there were the horns of an approaching train. I thought that the saxophone and the train were really great together, almost like Ornette Coleman in a way, and I was the only one who heard it. Listen for yourself:
Later that day we went a couple of miles east of the city to the Columbia Gorge area which has some spectacular scenery including a number of waterfalls and breathtaking vistas along the wide river valley. It was here that our car navigation system got thorougly confused, probably due to the many crooked and steep roads. While pretending to lead us to the next gas station, it led us into a very small remote valley that we actually liked a lot, but that didn’t feature a gas station. We made fun of the navigation system and on the way home it refused to talk to us. No kidding.
I don’t recall the name of the place in Portland where we went in the evening, but Sabine had a wine that she liked a lot, and I had some kind of cocktail that contained strawberries and some other stuff, and looked like this: