Saturday, August 21, 2010


Everyone else in the hostel seemed to wake up late or hungover. The room stank of booze sweat and the morning snoring was more effective than any alarm clock. I dodged a (silver) bullet and woke up late, but hangover free. While everyone else slept in their own self pity, I took a bus into downtown.

The bus was full of trendy glasses, coloured hair and random piercings. Portland was being weird, and I liked it. Inside the city I went to Powell's book store. Calling it massive is an understatement. It's an entire city block and built up over a few stories. Though I'm trying to save money and not cart around a whole heap of stuff, I purchased a collection of F Scott Fitzgerald short stories for $5 (plus no tax (I love you Oregon)). In year 11 we were made to read Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and I never did. Years later I finally got around to reading it and since then I've associated his work with some kind of literary redemption. The man at the checkout shared the exact same story with me, with the exact same redemptive sentiments.

Outside a representative from some children's aid charity gave me the run down on why I should be sponsoring a child. She was as cute as any girl I've ever seen, but for an unemployed guy with no fixed address/phone number, that kind of stuff will have to wait. I met one of her friends on the otherside of the city a few hours later. She tried a similar approach but when she made comparisons to my appearance and the chewbacca shirt I was wearing, I walked on.

I ended up walking through Chinatown and Old Town on my way to the waterfront parks. Portland is noted for its bridges and I went for a stroll to check a few of them out. It was such a lovely day that people were mingling among the bums on the grass and picnicking.
not quite

Americans are terrible at accents. A young father and his son asked me to take a photo of them in front of some bridges. They asked me if I was Scottish and the day before someone called me Irish. Sure I don't speak like Crocodile Dundee, but I'm hardly British sounding. Rant over.

After a giant dinner from Taco Del Mar (awesomely excessive Mexican fast food), I headed to the Crystal Ballroom. The Hold Steady were playing and between them and Fran Healy (playing somewhere else), they won the battle of my wallet.

The Crystal Ballroom is an amazing place. It was built in the 1910s and looks like something between the Sistine Chapel and ornate 1910's ballroom. The place was lit with giant chandeliers, the walls covered in individual paintings and the floor was sprung, so when the person next to you danced, you bounced up and down. It was amazing, and so were the band. As well as being terrible with accents, most Americans (well, Hold Steady fans) can not dance and have no sense of rhythm.Anyway, the band were brilliant. They even had a gong. Better yet, their encore finished just in time for me to run for the last bus to Hawthorne.
every house in the suburbs looks like this.

It was sad to leave Portland the next day. Of all the places I've been to in the U.S. it is the most liveable. It's got a great music scene and the people seem to be more liberal than most parts of the country. If it was near the beach I dare say it would be the perfect place.
Mt Hood stopped being bashful for a few hours.

I took a Greyhound bus up to Seattle and it was everything you expect Greyhound to be. Once I got through the line of weirdos I met Jane, a woman in her 70's who was travelling around the West Coast hanging out with family. I sat next to her on the bus and she told me a story about her cousin and her turtles. I warn you, everything from here on is what she told me and not embellished.

Her cousin does cognitive research on turtles. One day when holding a turtle, she decided to follow the direction of its flippers and head in the appropriate direction. The first day ,"Diode", apparently led her to 11 different plants around the house. The following day it was five mirrors. Eventually she expanded her research and translated the the turtles movements into art. Apparently the turtles will draw a few lines and ala Mr Squiggle, she would fill in the gaps, illuminating drawings of turtles, cats and people. Apparently the turtle can even sign its own name.
Anyway, it gets weirder. Jane showed a picture of her at some Californian rock formation and one of the turtles wrote a poem about it. The turtle will be direct the handler to a letter of the alphabet and out come the words. Better yet, the poem won a competition and has been published on a plaque outside the rock.
This is exactly what I was told on the bus today, so when it came time for Jane's nap I was happy to let her rest. However, she did tell me a story about how she went to a bullfight in Spain and Ernest Hemingway was there.

The bus trip took went through some hick towns and countryside in Oregon/Washington. There were bridges all over the highways, with fisherman wetting a line underneath a few. The bus also went through places called Vader and Ft Lewis, the latter being ugly as sin. We were unable to see Mt St Helens due to the fog, but the rest of the countryside was nice.
After a while the Greyhound bus got a bit...cliché. The bus driver began arguing with a passenger and told her off for eating too many sandwiches and drinking too much soda. His tone changed from anger to charm and turned the argument into a laughing matter. In his own words "what crazy people get on here, I gotta get crazy back."
He revealed that he took his job as a Greyhound driver to supplement his medical studies, but after starting a family he couldn't afford to stay in school. Kinda tragic, but he seems to be as content as any other bus driver I've met.

After some crazy traffic and a looney redneck woman singing Lady Gaga, the bus eventually made it to Seattle. I went for a walk around the city once I got in and checked out the football stadium. TheSeahawks are playing the Green Bay Packers, but for $50 for a preseason game, I decided to give it a miss.

I went into Chinatown for dinner, having a noodle soup on my own. Like everytime I go to Sydney, I always eat my noodle soup on my own. I've not yet mastered the art of not making a mess/fool of myself and until then, it's a solo pursuit.
Seattle is my last stop on the West Coast. It's been a lot of fun heading from the South overland and I've encountered some great experiences. To me the West Coast is bi-polar. It quickly shifts from amazing to frustrating. For all of it's greatness and superb people there are just as many idiots. There are roads that take you anywhere, but no buses that operate them. Regardless, it's been great fun and I can't wait to return in a year.
Space needle hat

PS. There are the stupidest rednecks in this lounge room with me on the phone trying to work out how to read a text message. It's as hilarious as it is frightening. Also, they're bigger than houses. Seriously, dumbest people ever. Oh god, they just changed channels from The Office to Two and Half Men.Oh god, they are stupidity personified. I am frightened for the human race. One of them is snoring while they're awake. Now the other is crying over the text messages. America. Brilliant.
Modest Mouse - Little Motel. There was a rumour going around Portland that the band were jamming/practising out in public. I'm not sure if it eventuated, but here's a sample of what a good indie band sounds like when they work with the world's best guitar player.

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