"Canada 2003" story # 35

Portland, Oregon           September 25, 2003

Jamie picked me up outside Salt Lake City, and we spent the day together.
     She was in her later twenties, but she was much smaller than me.
     She knew the risks when she stopped. She asked if I had any weapons. I was like, "No. I don't have anything like that!" with an innocent laugh and a smile shocked by the idea that I could even be capable of such a thing. She knew right then that I was safe, and she opened the door for me.
     Brownish-blond-haired Jamie was small. She spoke often and fast; she was very excited. She said I had "good energy" and that Idaho had a much more positive energy than Utah. She celebrated to reach Idaho, and she changed into her "Idaho clothes:" a blue slip/dress she believed was magical.
     She wore dark glasses. She took them off, and a ring around her eyes was pale where it hadn't seen the sun. Her eyes were frightened like mice and a delicate green-blue.
     She was leaving Salt Lake City to spend her days off in Ketchum, Idaho. Jamie loved Ketchum, and she said I ought to see it even though it was out of my way. When this little girl told me in conversation that the haircut she most wanted to have was a blond afro, I became convinced that I had to go with her to see Ketchum.
     Small-town Ketchum layed amid brown, bald-of-trees hills used for skiing. We drove outside Ketchum to the Crowcreek Campground, a dirt road at the foot of the ski-hills. It was really peaceful here and romantic. We walked, weaving a path through lightly-forested hill. The only sounds were the gentle whoosh of the breeze and the intricate trickle of a running stream.
     I almost tried to kiss Jamie, it was such a great scene. We were getting along greatly. She bought wine for our dinner in Ketchum, then she called to make sure I could stay with her friend Derek.
     I never met Derek, but I feel safe calling him a total di*k. He didn't "feel up" to hosting me, even though Jamie said he'd spent whole summers living for free with people. I would spend the evening alone.
     Ketchum was a very, very, very well-off town. Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Willis, and many other movie stars lived there. I sat on a bench outside a happening restaurant where rich and good-looking people enjoyed themselves. I made myself peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and wrote in my journal.
     A middle-aged, drunk lady came out and talked to me. She lamented for her poor self, because her $200,000 yacht in Mexico had possibly been hit by a hurricane. Here I sat, with most of my earthly possessions and money worth something more than $200. And I would've been rich to most Mexicans! I didn't exactly feel sorry for her.
     I slept that night beside an under-construction house. Tent-less ever since my friends had gone home, I lay in my sleeping bag. The temperature dipped below forty, and I could hardly sleep through the shivering.
     At least the stars were out. When I saw the most-pronounced, green-bright shooting star fall bright for several seconds, I might've wished for it to fall on Derek.

I got an early start hitchhiking towards Portland, Oregon the next morning. It took five rides to get me into Oregon, and the Idaho rides all came quick.
     Tony, a latin-looking guy my age, lifted me and told how he hated rich people and the well-off area he lived in.
     A retired guy in a cowboy hat, Ken, gave me a ride to Boise in his big, quiet car. In his spare time, Ken played the fiddle. He was going to pick up his daughter, who'd just gotten out of jail and was on drugs.
     I accepted some of Ken's trail mix with cashews as we rode GREAT AMERICAN HIGHWAY - ID20. Idaho was flat and brown here, but with brown mountains in the background. Many white-spotted antelope lounged tenderly beside the quiet road, and sparrow hawks perched on most of the telephone poles. We wound and dipped through little hill-mountains before reaching Boise.
     A really stupid guy and his boss spatted over who got to talk, as they went out of their way to take me into Oregon.
     I had expected Oregon to be a state of liberal paradise and hitchhiking dreams. However, I had one of my longest waits ever in Ontario, Oregon.
     Ugly, ugly people passed me by. The women were short and red-faced and fat; one looked like she'd been squished down. The guys were thin with chicken necks. The ugliest people owned the nicest cars. Two punk-ass kids in a nice, big, white truck carrying 4WD vehicles pulled over for me but ran. I would've been able to hit their car with a rock, but I had my backpack on. My lob throw came surprisingly close, though.
     I eventually made a sign reading, "I AM HUMAN ARE YOU?" The eighth car stopped. The driver, Mike, told of making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year off his fire-fighting company. He was a little bummed because his wife had just told him she wanted a divorce. He thought it would work out.
     Two nice rides more from hunting, camping Jim and religious Dale in his business suit got me as far as La Grande, Oregon. In this small town, I befriended two - as they called themselves - "hick'a'billies" to hang out with.
     Eightteen-year-old Jery and her ex-boyfriend, Nick, were kind of running from the cops. They seemed, to me, innocent of the altercations in question and trustworthy. And, besides, even if they weren't, it was a kick to be around them and hear the country way they talked. I wondered aloud to them why they called their vehicles (sort of half-station wagon/half-jeeps) "rigs."
     I offered to treat them to Taco Bell (eww), because they were low on money. Jery, in turn, took good care of me. She got me a shower at her friend's house and let me sleep in the back of one of their "rigs."

Green-covered, dark-rock cliffs crowded and loomed above the wide, shiny-blue Columbia River and highway that held hands on their path to Portland.
     I made it from La Grande to Portland by the following afternoon. I payed for housing for the first time (excluding modest contributions for campgrounds) since Halifax, Canada. I stayed two nights in a Portland eco-top hostel.
     Portland was everything I thought it would be and more. Most cities feel as if they're made up of a bunch of individuals who just do their own thing and who interact with others for their own benefit. But, Portland was trying to be a big community. Portland was a progressive city where the people really cared.
     Many soup kitchens fed the homeless. Billboards advertised charitable "missions;" one suggested people hand over their cars to be sold for good causes.
     The public transport in Portland was well-run, which allowed for many inhabitants to not own cars. Outdoor street fares promoted pedestrianism, which promoted the community.
     Within the city was a hilly Forest Park, a Botanical Gardens, a rose garden, and other natural areas that covered many acres of Portland with attractive trails. The Portlanducks seemed happy, and they were very approachable and quick to converse. It was a very friendly place.
     I saw a poster hanging up which read: "How to Make a Community." It listed dozens of great suggestions such as: Raise a Garden in Your Window-Box; Dance in the Street; Throw a Pot-Luck Dinner; Make Eye Contact as You Walk; etc. You wouldn't see that poster in lots of cities.
     Yep. Portland was an awesome place, and I even got to do some salsa-dancing. Two days there wasn't really enough.

On an unrelated matter, I would just like to take a moment here to hand out the prestigious "Jelly" awards, honoring those most-delicious of components for peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. (Fellow Canada-trekkers Johnny and Adam were part of my expert panel.)
     BEST BREAD. And the "Jelly" goes to: (dah-dah-duh-dah!) the thick, slightly-sweet homemade bread given to all who stay at the Portland eco-top hostel.
     BEST PEANUT BUTTER. And the "Jelly" goes to: (dah-dah-duh-dah!) Kraft-brand smooth
     BEST JELLY. And the "Jelly" goes to: (dah-dah-duh-dah!) blueberry jelly
     WORST JELLY. And the "Jelly" goes to: (dah-dah-duh-dah!) the litre of lemon-orange-and-pineapple marmelade I bought in Saskatchewan because it was cheap and which no one could tolerate but me
     It's important to remember, though, that the real winners in tonight's ceremony are us. After all, it's us who gets to enjoy the stomach-buffing pleasure that is a well-crafted pb&j.

Later, Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Jamie; Jason; Tony; Pat; Ken; Del & Johnny Tracy; Mike; Jim; Dale; Robert; and Kenny for the rides!
Much thanks to Jery & Nick for the "rig" to sleep in!

NOTEABLE WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS: antelope, sparrow hawks, wren

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