03 November 2007

Unicordions, planetwalkers, wizards

We have absolutely no plans for this weekend, but I can use some down time. Here's what we did in one four-day period last week:

Went to a talk at Reed by John Francis, the planetwalker. I knew John, slightly, during my college days back in Philly. He was a lanky, charismatic black dude who was never at a loss for words. He's still all that, plus a few pounds and gray hairs. Our paths would cross occasionally in Rittenhouse Square and, now and then, at the apartment of one or another of Mitch and my bluegrass buddies. He might even have been at our place once or twice (it was the '60s; I can't quite recall). I remember hearing, several years later, that John was on some kind of enviro-spiritual trip and, as part of that, had stopped talking. As it turned out, he also gave up driving and riding in motorized vehicles, choosing to walk, often great distances, instead. The silence lasted for 17 years, the auto-ban for 22. He explained the other evening why he did both, and why he gave it up. No, I didn't go up to him afterwards and say "I knew you, kinda, when..." but it felt good, on some deep level, to reconnect.

Attended Pizzazz, a city-wide talent show sponsored by the Portland Mercury, the alternative weekly I'm (sorry) not in the habit of reading, and Pabst Blue Ribbon (barf) beer. Our friends Kristin and Eric were among the ten finalists and, as it happened, the opening act. They sang and played an accordion duet while a lithe male dancer in a skin-tight unicorn costume did an interpretive dance to their rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." At the climax, the dancer squeezed a heart-shaped sponge full of stage blood over his pristine white satiny self. The audience loved it, and applauded wildly. It was a raucous, fun evening, despite the fact that our pals did not win a prize. The crowd was friendly, the venue (Wonder Ballroom, with a surprisingly good cafe next door) very pleasant, and the pacing of the show so crisp that we were out the door in two hours flat. We geezers so appreciate efficiency in our wacky entertainment ventures.

A long and fairly strenuous hike on a perfect fall morning with Mike Houck, one of the city's major environmental activists (I've blogged about him before). We started at the base of the aerial tram (I posted a set of flickr shots shortly after it opened earlier this year), trekked south along the Willamette (who knew there was a continuous bike and walking trail from South Waterfront to Willamette Park and possibly beyond?), then headed west and uphill through George Himes Park -- big trees, lush ferns, lots of switchbacks -- to Terwilliger Blvd. From there we ambled north to OHSU and the upside tram terminal. As the photo suggests, we still faced quite a hike from the entrance up to the tram itself. They only collect tickets on the upward leg; the ride down is free. By that point we figured we'd earned it.

Dinner at Portofino, a restaurant in Sellwood that we'd passed countless times thinking "Eh, generic old-style Italian restaurant. When we're in the mood for that, Gino's is right up the street." A couple of months ago, though, they put up a spiffy new sign, which put the place on my radar. So we went one evening with Libbi and David and our mutual friend Angie, who was visiting from the Bay Area. The friendly proprietor, who'd worked there as a kid, shared the history of the place, and the food and wine were delicious. Another good, unpretentious neighborhood restaurant to add to our list.

That's four days in a row of Portland synergies, delights and revelations, and it's just an arbitrary sampling. I haven't even mentioned breakfast at Toast with Angie and Libbi, or a delightful pre-Hallowe'en party with artsy and literate folks in the Hawthorne 'hood, or, for that matter, Hallowe'en itself. Jer and I channeled a wizard (his usual persona) and an autumn tree sprite, respectively. Trick-or-treaters on the block included a clever mom-made ram and his brother, an equally fine bat (bat-tering ram?), a piece of pie/pi (this was the same kid who went around last year as an e coli bacterium), two fairy princesses, a diminutive Boston Red Sock, a Boston (no relation) terrier in a skeleton outfit, and an electric plug. No unicorns, but that's okay; our earlier encounter will live in my memory for quite a while. Whether I want it to or not.

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