BootsnAll Travel Network

Portland it is!

I only had from 1 p.m. on Saturday till 10 a.m. today (Monday), but it was enough. I am in love with Portland, Oregon, and with the neighborhood where the dazzlingly interesting Shakti Khan lives. It’s called “nob hill,” it reminds me of the Notting Hill area of London, and it is everything anyone could want a neighborhood to be: old Victorian houses converted into coffee shops, art galleries, clothing resale shops, and bookstores. In a twelve-block radius I saw more restaurants than I could count (all with sidewalk seating), parks, a few warehouses, apartment buildings for all income levels, a hospital, two accupuncturists, shingles advertising massages and lessons in everything from guitar to Chinese conversation, plus two yoga centers. People walk there, and the life of the streets is entrancing. The strolling multitude is multi-colored, multi-formed, of all generations: plenty of kids with piercings and tattoos; families and multi-racial couples, gay and straight; leashed and well-behaved dogs (last year Portland was named the most dog-friendly city in America); roses, tall trees, tough-looking bikers, bicycle riders in spandex, a few drunks sitting on porch steps, and gray-haired bohemians in all manner of dress. How could I not want to live there?

It gets COLD at night and it’s necessary to sleep under a blanket year round, but it at this time of year it warms up to the 70s or 80s F. by day. The trees are tall and thick with leaves (they say fall is glorious and spring is all blossoms); and occasionally, between the buildings, if you’re facing the right direction, you get a glimpse of either Mt. Hood or Mount St. Helens. Here are two unimaginably enormous hunks of rock that put the city and all its merely human activities into proper perspective. Because the mountains are only visible on clear days, and from certain angles, they don’t have the power over the city that Table Mountain has over Cape Town, but they appear like magic and disappear, and I found myself looking up, eager to catch a glimpse and never sure which direction to look in. When I did see one, I gasped. They are really like stone gods, much bigger than I have ever expected anything to be.

Shakti, also known as the Rev. Myokan or Myokei (I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly), is the offspring of a Jewish mother who was a child performer in the 1930s and later operated a gay bar, and a half-Indian half-British father who died young. Shakti drifted toward Buddhism via the Theosophical Society and Hinduism, became an art buyer, studied with some of the great Hindu thinkers and then with some Zen teachers in Japan, entered the Soto Zen priesthood, got a social work degree, and eventually became abbot of several Buddhist temples in Hawai’i, where her second marriage was to a man who was a Rinzai Zen priest but soon after their marriage died from AIDS. Shakti is a particular devotee of Kwan Yin in all her many forms, a collector of Asian art (her apartment is like an art gallery), and the adoring companion of a brindle Scottie a year and a half old. Shakti is involved in several social action projects in Portland, has done extensive homework on how the system of social services works in Portland, and is, at just under seventy years old, a fiery woman with an iron will and a deliberate and mindful manner. We visited Powell’s Book Store (the largest independent book store in the USA) on our way in from the airport (on an electric rail train which cost nothing), had a great dinner of Indian food a block from home, and then spent most of our time walking her dog around the neighborhood, which was exactly what I needed to do, to get a sense of the place. We also visited a tiny Zen Priory in southeast Portland, on the way to another of the apartment complexes I’ve applied to, and after scouting around, I became convinced that Shakti’s complex is the most desirably located.

There is much more to say, but I am cross-eyed with exhaustion and ready to fall into my own bed after what feels like a year of travels and explorations. I arrived home, thanks to my buddy Gallo who picked me up at the airport, to find an eviction notice taped inside my front door (I paid my rent before I left, but I left it with a woman in the office, and apparently it didn’t get where it needed to go). Tomorrow I’ll deal with that, check in with Manko (whose cell phone has been disconnected), and go rescue Basho from the cattery where he has been caged for this long while, and then I’ll come back to the blog and fill in more details about the place that will be my next home, if nothing happens to stop me from getting there. When the airplane lifted off this morning, I felt a sharp pang of sadness to be leaving what already feels to me like home–the lush green of it, the great mountains, the tall buildings, the friendly and funky people, the cool sunlight and the progressive politics and ecological consciousness of the city call to me. This is my siren song. This is where I want to wake up. But for now, I must sleep.

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One response to “Portland it is!”

  1. Irv says:

    A Portland Plus you do mention is the excellent rapid transit system, with rail extending right to the airport terminal building. Free trips are offered within a generously defined Central Business District.

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