Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lonely Buildings Lonely Roads

I saw an exhibit at the Albuquerque Art Museum a few years ago that continues to haunt me.  One room was filled from floor to ceiling with black and white photographs of empty derelict buildings.  Over the course of many months, the photographer had traveled across the country in search of these abandoned structures.  I immediately felt an envy for such freedom.   And for his focus.

A feeling of isolation washed over me like a tsunami.  There was nothing dramatic about these pictures.  They were studies in minimalism.  But the impact was huge.  It made me realize that it doesn't take the Grand Canyon to inspire such awe.  It can be something small.  Something unexpected that strikes that emotional chord.

With that in mind, my travel buddy and I set out on one of the many back roads of Oregon and came across these abandoned structures outside the small community of Boyd.  It reminded me of that exhibit.  It reminded me that the best travel can often be down a long and lonely road.  Going nowhere.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Snow Covered Lava Bed

Getting to the Big Lava Beds in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest is not easy but we persevered and finally found the obscure forest service road taking us there.  We had been warned by many locals and many guidebook writers to NOT venture too far in.  There are no trails. People get lost.  Compasses do not work.  The lava is treacherous to walk on.  There are pits everywhere.  Okay, okay, we got it!

The guidebooks also describe this vast expanse of lava as a tortured landscape.  Not so much when it's covered with snow.  In the winter it turns into a dreamlike vision of a frozen wasteland.  It is so quiet all we could hear was our hiking boots crushing the ice beneath us.  We didn't see a single creature; not even a bird.

The ebony stones of lava peeking through pristine white snow is magical.  And odd.  And creepy.  Were we in Hawaii?  Or Alaska?  I understood immediately the reason Sasquatch stories abound around here. These mythic beasts are said to live in the tunnels below the lava bed.  Just one more reason not to venture too far.

  We were very careful to walk on the one and only road that penetrates this bizarre landscape.  Even so, we marked the way with twig arrows.  There were water-filled pits and long trenches on either side.  Scorched logs from last summer's fire, criss-crossed our path.  As tempting as it was to enter the lava beds for a closer look, we didn't dare.  The snow hid many pits and sharp surfaces.  The ice was treacherous enough.
Turns out we walked a lot further than we intended.  We both had a moment of panic when it seemed like we weren't finding the way out two hours later.  We weren't disoriented; only puzzled.  Had we really walked that far? 

The place drew us in deeper and deeper as if it were casting a spell over us.  

A tortured landscape?  No.  An enchanted one?  Absolutely.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Twilight on the River

I give up.  And give in.  To destiny, that is.  Clothes find me.  Not the other way around.  Therefore, I'm done with shopping.

Case in point:  A week ago I made a special trip into Portland to buy a puffer coat.  I tried on hundreds of them and concluded that these goose-down pillow coats weren't for me.  None of them spoke to me. (Probably because I looked ridiculous in every single one of them.) It was a very frustrating experience.

Then lo and behold I walked into a ski shop this week in Hood River to inquire about renting cross-country gear when I heard it.  "Yo, Marea.  Over here."

And there it was:  A beautiful little puffer jacket the color of twilight.

"Put me on and you'll become one with the river."

While my travel buddy was looking at skis, I surreptitiously slipped it on.  Sure enough, the Columbia River washed over me.  I felt the mist brush my cheek.  The grayish blue sky caress my skin.

"See?  I told you, didn't I?"

  I loved this talking jacket.  I needed this jacket.  This jacket and I would take daily walks along the stainless steel shoreline.  This jacket would keep me warm.
My husband was shocked when I tapped his shoulder and he looked up.  "I don't believe it.  You finally found a puffer."  Then he looked at it more closely.  He felt the softness of the faux fur collar, the woolen sleeves and fleece-lined pockets.  "Well, sort of a puffer," he said.  "A puffer.  Marea style."

 I kept quiet and simply grinned.  The truth is:  I didn't find this jacket at all; this jacket found me.

Linking with Visible Monday

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Stroll Down Alberta Street

Exploring Portland

Alberta Street in Northeast Portland is lined with art galleries, murals, bars and ethnic restaurants.  This area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Portland.  It was once a magnet for poor immigrants and like most cities where diversity endures, the artists soon follow.  This area reminds me of the Haight-Ashbury area in San Francisco, of Berkeley and Berlin.

Its Last Thursday of the Month Street Fair is hugely popular.  Although it's a year-round affair, during the months of May through September, Alberta Street is closed to traffic and it's a pedestrian only extravaganza.  The local business owners love it; the artists are crumbling a bit.  Evidently the city is putting more and more regulations in place.  It's not the Free-For-All of years gone by.

And that's precisely why I chose a cold, blustery Monday morning to stroll down this colorful street--so I  could have it all to myself.   I took my time looking at the crazy murals coating almost every building on this particular five-block stretch.  I ducked into a donut shop for a coffee break.  Although a few stores and galleries were open, most were closed on Mondays.  A good thing.  I saw lots of funky clothes and eccentric art pieces in the windows that would have sorely tempted me, if given a chance.

I'll be back!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Going Back to School

Exploring Portland

The Kennedy Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, no longer has children roaming its halls; it has grown-ups.  Happy, tipsy grown-ups.  Hopping from bar to bar.  Drinking martini's in the auditorium turned movie theater.  Sipping wine in the communal hot tub.  Or taking the self-guided tour of the hallway/art galleries.  Oh, yeah . . . with a growler filled with handcrafted beer.  (That was me.)

Once we registered and got our room key, there was no need to leave.  And I tell you, we spent one of the most fun evenings we've had in a long long time.  Starting with a dinner of ahi taco's in the Courtyard Restaurant and ending with a movie, the laugh-out-loud raunchy Trainwreck, that night we slept like babes in a cradle.
Behind these sturdy doors are the class rooms.  The desks have been replaced by beds and dressers,  but the original chalk boards remain.  Being a bit older (cough, cough) we opted for the more quiet rooms in the newer English Wing.  All these rooms have literary themes and we got  the One Hundred Years of Solitude room.  Since Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite writers, I was thrilled.  I considered it an omen of Good Things to Come.
Sure enough, the next morning, piping hot coffee and a stack of newspapers were waiting for us at the end of the hall.  Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a rush, having an appointment to make, but we both agreed we had found our Home Away from Home when we venture into Portland.  The Kennedy Elementary School is not for everyone.  It's funky, eclectic and boozy.  But man, does it have SOUL.