I'm back from my long weekend to visit my friend Karen in Portland, Oregon. I had a great time! Well, save that I caught a cold on Thursday before I left and was saddled with it for pretty much the whole time. But mostly it was just a downer, rather than something which prevented me from enjoying myself otherwise.
I took over a roll of photos, and when I get them developed I'll surely scan some in and put them here. I'll link back from a current entry when I've done so...
Thursday I worked morning and early afternoon, and then hopped a plane to Portland. Everything went smoothly, and I met Karen at the airport. We headed back to her place, where I saw her new apartment, and everything that she hadn't yet unpacked in it (which was most of it). Apparently her old place was quite small, so even though I had to sleep on an air mattress, this seemed like a better time to have visited than a few months ago.
We walked around Portland before grabbing dinner. I'm impressed: Portland is based around a grid system of roads, features copious mass transit (buses, light rail, and a new streetcar loop), and seems bent on trying to avoid the urban sprawl which plagues the Bay Area. The city has moderate population density, reminding me of Boston and central Madison, without being so bad that there's no parking. (Apparently parking downtown is tight, but then, that's to be expected in any city. And there's so much mass transit there it hardly seems a big problem.) I'm a big proponent of mass transit, as I've probably mentioned before - especially of rail transit - so this immediately endeared me to the city.
Karen and I ate at an Italian restaurant which was pretty good, though the food was pretty heavy, and I was disappointed that they didn't have a pesto sauce! But c'est la vie!
I don't think I've mentioned Karen recently. We met in graduate school and were best friends for a number of years in Madison. She finished her Ph.D., whereas I did not, and eventually we both ended up on the left coast. She's several years older than I am, and (understandably, I think) has generally been more immersed in her career than I am in mine. Her biggest flow is that she's from Noo Yawk, but except for her bizarre loyalty to their baseball teams, she seems mostly better by now!
Friday Karen had to go into work for a while, so we ate lunch and then she turned me loose on my own. Unfortunately, this turned out to be my lowest point vis-a-vis my cold, as I developed a strong headache as the afternoon wore on, probably exacerbated by not drinking quite as much liquid as I should have (although mostly I spent the weekend drinking water like a fish).
I walked around downtown Portland, which is quite pretty and heavily (for an urban area) forested. There's also a lot of artwork around, much of it apparently mandated by city and/or state law. Of course, some of the old statues, e.g. of Abraham Lincoln, probably predate those laws. Some of the more modern art is, well, modern, and hard to characterize. Geometric shapes or strands of metal artfully arranged, but not especially meaningful. The sort of thing which looks nice as decor on the fringe of some more meaningful piece (the edge of a book or comic book cover, for instance), but seems perplexing on its own.
Two of the bookstores I hit were smallish and not especially notable. The exception, of course, was the famous Powell's, a huge purveyor of new and used books a few blocks from the river. (Portland is on the Willamette river - pronounced "will-AH-met" not "will-ah-MET" - and features several bridges spanning it, about which more later.) Shelving both new and used books together, it featured five aisles of science fiction and fantasy. The biggest drawback to a store like this is that it doesn't have much motivation to buy nice used copies of books which are currently in print, which is tough if you're like me and have some "marginal" books you only want to buy really cheap.
Nonetheless, I managed to find volume 4 of Harlan Ellison's Edgeworks in hardcover, a couple of really old Peanuts collections (including More Peanuts, which I believe was the second collection in the original series of reprints), and a few other goodies. So I was pretty happy.
Well, except for the headache which was biting into my skull. So I sat in Powell's coffee shop for an hour or so, drinking fluids, and then caught the streetcar to get most of the way home. I was totally zonked by the time I got back, so Karen was very kind and went out to pick up Chinese food for dinner. Our fortune cookies had an unfortunate soy sauce incident, but otherwise the pork fried rice was just the ticket for me, and I went to bed early to sleep off the worst of my cold.
Saturday I woke up around 8:30 am and was feeling much better. I was still congested and coughing, but my headache was all gone, thank goodness!
Karen had been making noises before I flew up about making me go on a 16-to-20 mile walk with her, since she's preparing to walk a marathon this fall. Well, my cold turned out to be a good way to get out of that, so we went shopping instead. We hit a couple of comic book stores on the east side of Portland, and walked down about 15 blocks of one of the major shopping districts, going into several stores along the way. We wound up at another branch of Powell's, where I was delighted to find a leather-bound hardcover collecting six of Isaac Asimov's novels, including the Foundation trilogy. My own copy of this trilogy has been beat-up for years, and this was a nice used copy, so I snapped it right up. Joy, joy!
In the evening we went down to PGE Park, which is the renovated baseball park where the AAA Portland Beavers play. The Beavers are the high-minor affiliate of the San Diego Padres, which has been a pretty decent team in recent years (their humiliating sweep by the Yankees in the 1998 World Series notwithstanding, at least they got there!) and which has a pretty good organizational mindset about building a team around young players with solid skills.
That said, the Beavers are not a good team, featuring a roster of Major League retreads, most of them nearing the end of their careers (Rick Wilkins, Jim Leyritz, Stan Spencer, Kevin Witt, Ernie Young, et. al.). Of course, this is to be expected: A minor league team is run mainly to provide talent for its parent, and sometimes those Major League retreads have one more good season in them, or can fill in for an injured player, so minor league teams tend to oscillate wildly between being good and being poor. The Beavers just happen to be at the poor end of the spectrum.
On the other hand, their opponents were the Omaha Golden Spikes, the affiliate of the hapless Kansas City Royals, one of the worst-run teams in the Majors. It was hard to pick out a player from this team who has a real Major League future. Dee Brown? Endy Chavez? Just possibly Brian Meadows, who has fallen on hard times after being good last season.
By contrast, the Beavers have one truly exciting player: Sean Burroughs, a 20-year-old third baseman who's just about ready for The Show, and at his young age shows signs of being a superstar in the making. He was the one to watch tonight, and I snapped a few photos of him.
Meadows started the game for the Spikes, while 22-year-old Junior Herndon started for the Beavers. Herndon was regularly cracking 90 MPH on the radar gun, while it took Meadows several innings to peak at 89 MPH. Nonetheless, both went 6 innings and gave up two runs, and in the end Meadows put on the better show, striking out 5 Beavers versus Herndon's 1.
He didn't fool Burroughs, though, who went 3-for-3 against Meadows, including a powerful double to deep right-center field. Burroughs was thrown out at third base having questionably tried for the extra bag, but still, Burroughs seemed anything but baffled by AAA pitching. (It turned out he'd gone 4-for-5 with a home run the night before.) I felt pleased to be seeing a probable star in the making so early in his career. It's a rare treat.
But the game all came down to the bullpens, and while the Spikes' pen faltered, the Beavers' completely imploded, and the Golden Spikes won 7-3.
Karen and I attended the game with some friends of hers, their kids, and one of their mother. I'd actually remembered one of them from grad school, but had never really known them. They were nice folks, and put up with my nattering on and on about the wonders of baseball and the minor leagues. I also scored the whole game - the first time I've done that in a while. I made many mistakes and therefore my sheet ended up being messy with corrections. But I had a good time. Baseball is always welcome.
Sunday I was feeling better still, so after helping Karen start to assemble some of her new furniture for her apartment, we got into the car, grabbed lunch, and drove off along the Columbia River, which runs along the Washington/Oregon border. Our primary goal was Multnomah Falls, a lovely double-waterfall along the river with a lodge next door. A bridge spans the lower falls, and you can walk a mile-long path (and 600 feet up) to a platform above the top of the upper falls, which we did. It was fun, and a good workout, and it came with a terrific view of the river and the bluffs opposite it.
Afterwards we drove along the scenic highway and stopped at or saw many other waterfalls in the bluffs on the south side of the river, and finally spiralled up to Vista House at Crown Point, providing a great view of a length of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a fine thing. All in all we were out for over five hours, and I took just about a whole roll of photos.
We were beat by the time we got back, so we stumbled off to get some food at a local brew pub, and lay around like slugs for the rest of the night. After Karen went to bed, I stayed up and finished reading Kage Baker's novel Sky Coyote, the second in her "Company" series of novels. Unlike its dreary predecessor, In The Garden of Iden, Sky Coyote is a fun and exciting book which pays off and which I enjoyed thoroughly. Now I'm actually looking forward to reading the next one!
Monday was my last day in Portland. Karen took the day off from work and we grabbed lunch and spent the early afternoon walking along the promenades on either side of the Willamette River. Despite some construction and the industrial zone on the east bank, it's a pleasant and scenic walk, with a multiplicity of bridges to walk over, dating from various times over the last century.
By the end of all this walking my calf muscles were pretty sore, and they're still sore tonight. I think I overdid it and maybe even pulled one or both of them. But they'll heal.
Karen drove me to the airport, and all went smoothly, including my trip home. I had a fine time visiting her in Portland and will surely go back sometime to see some more of it.
Debbi phoned me not long after I got home. She's off to her company's big conference this week, and left tonight for Tahoe, rather than tomorrow as she'd originally expected. So we said goodbye, but we'll see each other next weekend.
Back to work tomorrow...