Odyssey Day 7: Portland; Diving for Pearls

©2022 Michael Raven

So I’ve spent nearly a full 24 hours in the Pearl District of Portland and I guess I can start to make some assessments about what I’m seeing that aren’t biased in nighttime nerves in an unfamiliar city.

For the most part, my day was largely uneventful wandering. I got better than my 10k steps in, I slept passably well, yadda yadda.

In the light of day, the encampments are not much less intimidating or unnerving than they were during the day. This isn’t me just being a Nervous Nelly, there are some serious mental health issues in this city that people seem to be largely ignoring and I feel sorry for the people living under such conditions. Whereas Seattle had it’s homelessness out in the open, there was largely a sense of order placed on the chaos that it wrought on people’s lives. You see plenty of free help in nearly every area (maybe it isn’t so free, but the county seems to have assistance in place). Here: I see mostly religious intervention, which may not be as helpful for those people who have a chip on their shoulder about such things. But there doesn’t seem to be any government-organized help anywhere I walked. Nor is anyone trying to establish any kind of “rules”, spoken or not, on how someone who has been unhomed should carry themselves. There are streets that are closed to squatting, barricades haphazardly erected to detour cars around a collection of tents. There is no unspoken rules about leaving at least part of the sidewalk open for pedestrians, who are forced out into the street, or must step gingerly over the debris which is often not clear if it is occupied debris or not. Often, that mostly flat tarp in the middle of the sidewalk is indeed occupied — in Seattle, there was a general rule of thumb that you placed yourself close to the curb or close to a building, but didn’t occupy the middle of the sidewalk.

But it wasn’t the homelessness itself that was sad or worrisome, it was the obvious mental health issues of the people who are living on Portland’s streets. There are people who need some serious help around this neighborhood.

But, I want to avoid going on about this. These people deserve compassion and, if it were my city, I’d be appalled instead of blind, as it seems how most of the people passing by are dealing with it. Ignore it, and it isn’t there. I’d be compelled to try and do something about it if this was the place I lived. I have a few acquaintance telling me where to go, so I may venture out further and see how it compares to this area.

I first went to Powell’s Books, which I will admit would be my dream bookstore if I lived here and still collected physical books (I don’t because I like the portability of ebooks and I honestly don’t have the room for the books I haven’t already donated to various causes). I could probably go back tomorrow (and very may well do so) and hunt and peck some more. I’m having a hard time leaving a book bag behind that is there, one imprinted with Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is an ABC book of questionable taste where each child dies violently as they are being named. It’s morbid and silly, which is why I love it.

There are a ton of books of all types at the store and it was fun to peruse. Some bookstores have more complete sections in a given area, but Powell’s probably has the widest variety overall.

After that, I went to try and get some Voodoo Doughnuts this late morning and there was a line snaking outside of the bakery. I wasn’t in the mood to wait in line, so I skipped picking any desserts up. Several people on social media told me that they ALWAYS have a line, so maybe I’ll skip it entirely, especially as other people said that their doughnuts, aside from the novelty, are nothing special in terms of taste.

So I made my way back to another doughnut shop I had seen and was a little underwhelmed by the selection. They didn’t have a line and the reason was obvious once I got my apple fritter. It was nothing special and kind of small for the $3.50 I was charged for the privilege of buying a nothing special, small doughnut based on a frou-frou idea of how doughnuts should be made: square, with square holes. Of course a fritter doesn’t have a hole, so they just made it smaller. The apples were okay.

I got excited about seeing a Ben and Jerry’s shop, but it was closed “for maintenance”.

A lot of restaurants were closed “for winter vacation”. I’ve never heard of such a thing and it seemed odd with the number of people milling about — how can you just take of several weeks and not generate money to pay the expensive downtown storefront rents? I shake my head.

I thought about stopping at a cannabis shop to see what edibles would cost me, but the dark interior and boarded up look turned me off. Nor were there any customers with plenty of street traffic walking by. As I said, I’m looking less to get high than I am to solve my insomniac tendencies and chronic pain — if low-low THC will help with both issues, I want to know. But it looks like I might not have much of an opportunity to find out on this trip.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll hit the coffee shop behind my building and see if they have wifi and sit down and write for a spell. It seemed like a decent place. Otherwise, the Starbucks is always a good standby, although I would rather have a different roast than Pikes Place over and over an over again.

Which brings to mind that, back in the 90s there were espresso carts every fifty feet. I haven’t seen once since my return, so I guess it must not be the fad it once was.

Alright all, I have a date with my tablet or my writing and I should get off to that. See you after the terminus…

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