The Portland Experience

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

My day off yesterday started early- I finally found myself a therapist, and the sessions have been really productive so far. There’s a lot to be said for starting the morning by immediately doing something good for yourself.

I got to crash out at a cafe for a little bit, get some more words down on the Mentorship book, and saw some old friends.

The author's ipad and folding keyboard next to a seemingly empty coffee cup.

With most of the business of the day done, I decided I wanted to treat myself to dinner, and a walk in the rain. Come along with me.

Winters in Portland generally don’t involve snow. Instead, we get dreary weather, seemingly-endless rain, and an omnipresent feeling of dampness. You don’t just go outside and feel cold- even if there’s no rain in the forecast, you feel cold and wet. The clothing of choice is almost always a parka, an insulated rain coat, or a sturdy waterproof hat.

Shoes are another consideration- waterproof AND warm, or at least augmented with thick fuzzy socks. Sadly, my own boots are in various states of decrepitude and I wind up having to make a choice between the two- only to realize halfway through my walk that my toes are cold and it didn’t especially matter.

I go with an insulated trenchcoat, my recently cleaned and waterproofed leather hat, and a pair of boots that I figure won’t leak as long as I don’t step in too many puddles.

Bryan’s beer truck is an oasis of light as I turn down into my favorite food pod.

“Food truck” is a pretty loose term now. Legally, I guess you might call a “food truck” any impermanent vehicle or trailer that prepares and sells food to the public. As food pods build up, though, more permanent additions get made at pace with the feeling of security.

Bryan’s “Captured Beer Bus” has been developing in to a biergarten since I first dropped in four years ago. He added an awning first. Then tables and chairs. Then benches and a fire pit. Then enclosing plastic walls, chandeliers, a space heater for cold weather, and a mister for the summer. Consequently, as I make my way into the food pod behind Crema, amid the darkness of many of the carts that closed early over the slow business, the Beer Bus is a cube of light, tightly-packed with people and puppies- all eager to sit, talk, drink beer, and flip the bird at the weather outside.

Unzipping the stiff plastic and nudging between two other patrons, it’s not long before Bryan and I catch up and I’m nursing a pint of Breakside Brewery’s “Beachcomber”- strong, cold, but warm for the rum flavor of its casking and the added vanilla and almonds.

The Portland Experience isn’t really complete until you have grabbed something delicious from a food truck, and then either sat on stairs or a curb to eat, used the top of a newspaper vendor as a table, or just walked hurried and ate in the rain. I already got that one out of the way earlier in the week, aggressively cramming a bagel in my face as I made my way to work.

Tonight was a different experience- standing up in a biergarten and pounding a chicken shwarma. My favorite saj and shwarma place in the city closed down a while ago, but Ashraf’s always offered a decent meal at a good price- and the fact that Saint Burrito seems to be doing the swiftest business in the crowd means I won’t have to wait long.

I duck out the little plastic cube and find Ashraf running the place solo. I’m not worried about my half-finished beer… the feeling of being a regular somewhere where you can trust the clientele (and the owner knows you’re good for your tab) can’t be understated.

Ashraf knows my face, but always seems to forget my name. I’m always ready to forgive him that- I may be a regular there, but I’m probably far from his “best” customer. At least he knows that I’ll be at the beer cart when the sandwich is ready.
Back behind plastic, I’m chatting with everyone, but trying to keep an ear out for Ashraf calling my name. I’m still in my trench- I wouldn’t want him coming out in the rain needlessly. I miss it though, and realize my sandwich is ready when he comes out of the truck and spots me in under the awning. Dashing out, I grab the sandwich and apologize for not hearing him. With a genial, paternal shrug, he indicates the lighter in his other hand. He was gonna come out for a smoke break anyway.

I grab the foil-wrapped tube of hot goodness and nudge my way back under the awning. I’m kinda camped by the register, but Bryan’s alright with it- not like there’s much other room.
Unwrapping the saucy, warm pita, chunks of marinated chicken have made a gravy with the cream dressing, the brine from the pickles, and drizzle of garlicky hot sauce. I get a little chatty when drinking, so I’m sure no one minds as I make quick work of the sandwich.
That might be another part of the “Portland Experience”- at least one meal from a food cart will be wrapped in foil, shaped like a tube, and the best thing you have eaten that night.

The rain is starting to pick up. I might just grab the bus home at this point, for the sake of my leaky footwear. But first, there is beer to drink.

A young woman I’ve never met before is grabbing a beer as she waits for her burrito. We get to chatting about our favorite podcasts, and which ones are coming to town soon. “Hello from the Magic Tavern” is due next week, and Night Vale in a few months. “Those sound amazing. I really need to pick some funnier, more lighthearted stuff.”
“Yeah? What’ve you been listening to?”
“Oh, you know- the true crime podcasts. My Favorite Murder, History’s Monsters, those ones…”
With all the horror we get inundated with on a daily basis, I can only guess it’s a little cathartic to hear about it in a historical context. Even if it was real, we can at least have some distance from it by putting the events in the past rather than the constant bombardment of the present.

All the same, fiction and creativity podcasts are my go-tos. Great for a laugh, and for escape. Besides, Felicia Day is in a few episodes of Magic Tavern, and as a redhead my new drinking buddy has a duty to support her. It’s apparently a law.

I down the rest of my beer and check my watch. I’d wanted to try and do some more writing tonight, and it was too loud to happen here. I clear my tab with Bryan, and shuffle out into the rain for the next bus home. There’s a sudden chilly feeling around my toes. Friggin’ puddle… these socks get to come off as soon as I get in.

Back home. Socks in the hamper, coat and hat drying on a hook, and I’ve got some scotch.
Emily is due home soon, and the cat is craving attention. We play for a bit, but soon the day (and beer) catch up with me. After my walk in the rain, the warmth of blankets and a space heater is like a tranquilizer. It’s bad discipline, I know- but I’ll just do the writing tomorrow.

Walks in the rain, cold beer, warm shwarma, new friends, blankets, and funny podcasts. That’s a good way to spend a night in my opinion.

Stay Classy,

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