Last week Jeremy had a math conference in Portland, OR. The children had the week off from school, so I had considered tagging along, but decided against it since I’d already committed to taking a couple of days off from work next week. But then my stepmother popped up in Eugene — my parents are moving there next month — and since it’s been two years since my kids have seen their grandparents (because of my dad’s illness), it seemed like too many good things were converging to not take advantage of the time. So I quickly rearranged some responsibilities, packed up in record time, and drove to Portland.
It’s hard to believe now, but many years ago we actually tried to move to Portland. The most important thing to know about this story is that we were idiots. Completely and totally. Morons. Dunces. Stupid-heads. We didn’t know that, of course. We were just kinda desperate and desperate people do idiotic things. It’s basically a life rule.
I think our logic went like this: Jeremy had recently dropped out of college and decided to be a Waldorf teacher, and there was/is a Waldorf teacher training in Portland. At the time I wanted to go into childbirth services, and there’s a pretty good scene for that in Portland. I was 21, Isaiah was one year old, and I was freshly knocked up with Willow. Shortly before this trip we bought a used (VERY used) VW bus from a couple-a hippies in SLC. The bus was tagged up on every visible surface. Isaiah stayed with my parents for the week, and we took our three big, unruly dogs along with us. Also, Jeremy looked like this.
We went up to Portland hoping to find a cheap apartment. We didn’t know anybody in the city, we didn’t have any knowledge of the city, and we had no money. Seriously, I have no idea how we even afforded to make this trip. I think my parents might have paid for us to stay in a hotel one night, where we broke our dogs in through the window. This was definitely a low point in our shared life.
Anyway, needless to say we did not find an apartment, since we had no verifiable income and looked like street people. I have almost no memories of this trip. I spent most of the time sleeping in the back of the van with the dogs, because pregnancy sucks.
On the drive back to pick up Isaiah at the Utah/Arizona border, a cop pulled us over. Because, as I said, Jeremy looked like this. And our van looked like that.
Ostensibly our front license plate was missing. Okay.
Jeremy handed over his license, but the van was unregistered because we’d bought it just a couple of weeks earlier and were broke and stupid. After checking on the license, the cop asked Jeremy to step out of the car, where he was immediately placed in handcuffs and hauled into the cruiser. I was ordered out of the van, where I stood on the side of the highway with our three dogs on leashes, swaying with nausea and panic, while the cop went over the van with a fine-tooth comb, absolutely praying, I’m sure, that he would find something and really nail us. We were good Mormons at the time, but I was truly afraid the SLC hippies might have left something in the van. That would have really been the capstone to this little experience, but he found nothing.
However, Jeremy’s license was suspended because we’d neglected to pay a traffic fine (see again: broke and stupid). I seem to remember that the bills and notices kept going to our old address, though it’s equally possible that we knowingly didn’t pay it. So the cop took Jeremy to jail, the van was impounded, and I came along behind with the tow truck.
Jeremy’s parents bailed him out of jail (the proudest moment in life for any parent), and paid for a rental car so we could pick up Isaiah in Arizona (see again: low point). After losing our van to the impound lot because we couldn’t afford the $500 fee, we went back to Utah with our tails between our legs. Jeremy paid his fine, had his license reinstated, shaved his face, and wore a suit to court, and his case was thrown out. Slowly we got our shit together, and three years later we managed to finally move away.
But because of this experience, Portland has always conjured reminders of shameful irresponsibility, panic, desperation, and pregnancy nausea. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to actually be there again, but it was surprisingly wonderful.
A few highlights…
Caught a field of elk and an excellent coastal sunset on the drive up.
Day trip in the city with the children, while Jeremy was at his conference. We took the MAX underground (really cool core sample and geologic timeline down there), stopped for coffee (me) and chocolate “kwassaaahn” (kids) at Barista, shopped at Powell’s City of Books, had lunch at Block’s, visited Cathedral Park, and tried to walk across the Hawthorne Bridge at sunset (but thought better of it).
On the way to Portland a pretty nasty case of poison oak sprung up on Willow’s face and arms, so bad that her eyes were nearly shut by swelling for a couple of days. She toughed it out pretty well, with the aid of Ivarest and Benadryl, but after a big day in the city I thought she could use a quiet day, so we drove to Mt. Hood and then looped back around along the Hood River (stunning!) and back into the city. Sadly, my phone really wasn’t up to the task of shooting the mountain and surrounding environment in the bright, hazy weather.
That afternoon we took the tram up to OHSU, and then Jeremy and I got a little date night in the city, which was pretty sweet. We drove through a bunch of different neighborhoods, then hopped on the MAX and had dinner at Bollywood Theater and dessert at the famed Salt & Straw (I recommend the tasting flight).
And then, back home along I-5 (Jeremy driving this time, thankfully), and… home!