Portland, Oregon

Pulling out of Porland at noon on one of those days that’s both misty and clear-bright at the same time.

Feeling similar – kinda dazed, kinda crystalline in my mind, well-rested (for once), just starting to feel like I’m …here.

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Where? Currently on highway 84 with Mt Hood in clear and beautiful view. The driver of this bus was clearly born to be a tour-guide, his welcoming introduction to this 30-hour journey to Denver had that worn-out kind of relish of someone who knows he was born to do a thing. He points out highlights of the Portland skyline as we pass over and out of the city, before continuing to let us know that our journey will be taking in the Columbia river gorge – Portland’s number one tourist attraction – as well as ‘tons of other neat stuff.’

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So, Portland.

I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t spend the past five days on the lookout for some beat-up, tumbledown house I could blag for Emma and I. This is the warmest, coolest, queerest, hippest city I’ve ever visited, and I’m so sad to leave.

But a city is only as cool as the people that make it, and in my first 12 days in the US I’ve met some good’uns:

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Danielle. Ah man, where do you start with Danielle? A tiny person with a gigantic brain who knows her mythology and had me literally spitting out wine with laughter at her interpretations of each of the 78 cards of my new tarot deck. And who made me biscuits and gravy on my first proper morning here. And who fixed it for me to see Alien for the first time.

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Alley – who gave me a bed and took me to the queer dance party and lent me a bike and knows every queer in Portland and showed me that gay homes in the US are pretty much the same mess of cats, tea, hummus and Tegan and Sara as in the UK.

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Vanessa, who talks so fast that it’s hard to keep up but every word is either the most right-on, inarguable pearl of political wisdom or the most hilariously superficial dilemma you’ve ever heard and it all combines to make this irrepressible modern genius who’s not ready to be still yet but who I hope so much I’ll catch up with again.

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Melissa, who shared her hotel room with me at NeWTS and was this bundle of caring, hospitable energy and who always made it feel like we were the naughty kids at the back of class.

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Brooke who danced with me and read my cards at Bar Bar and then drove me home at 3am.

Laurie who picked me up from Wolf Creek and drove five hours north with me so wired on Red Bull I genuinely feared for my life, then set the world to feminist rights with me, plus tarot on the go, and navigating anarchist spaces as queer women, and emotional labour as activism, and so much more that I can’t remember from that blissful whirlwind of a journey.

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Omer and Claire, two amazing souls who squeezed me in for a brew and a pint yesterday, the lovely Sarah and Shannon who met for a food-cart de-brief after the conference and gave me Portland tarot tips, Jaymi who showed Melissa and I round on that first day and who made us feel so, so welcome. And beautiful Suzi and Barb, who are probably married by now, way down in Mexico.

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The gorge – which divides Oregon on the south from Washington on the north – is beginning to open up now, the steep hillsides widening to sweeping, rolling contours that remind me of mid-Wales. Miles speed by and the driver keeps up his irregular commentary – he has a particular fondness for old buildings and baby cows. Wind farms, tree farms, hydro-dams and wide, wide water. Oregon feels soft and wild, green and beautiful. I haven’t yet got my head around the scale of this country, the time it takes to traverse it – all I know is I’m gonna be on this bus for the next 55 hours.

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This is the biggest hike of my trip, and though I toyed with the idea of flying it, I’m grateful to be physically traversing the earth, watching the landscape change, watching mile by mile approach then vanish with all of its strange variety. I’m grateful for my maps app, enabling me to zoom in close on my journey, then pan back and pinpoint myself on a map of the USA. I’m grateful for this beautiful weather and for Twitter which will keep me entertained when I can’t sleep, crossing Utah in the small hours of tonight. I’m grateful, after such a fun and full-on week in the city, for many hours to be alone with my thoughts and words, and for the book in my bag, and for the thought of the old friend who’ll greet me in Texas in two days’ time.

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8 comments

  1. chloetarot says:

    So glad for the update. What an amazing trip, and more to come 🙂 I love that wall at the end!

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