Are those roses real? Are those trees really flowering in March? Was I really away this past week? Just days ago a free woman in Portland?
Back home, still recharged and energized from a wonderful trip to see B. I have mostly memories as I didn’t bring much back with me beyond some local coffee and chocolate, books from Powell’s, and these few photos taken on my daily wanderings. It was great to see B in person and have time together. Walks in Washington Park (where the Rose Garden and Japanese Gardens are located); in the Pearl district where the hotel is; in B’s neighborhood in the Alphabet District. He really landed in a perfect location. And after three visits I’m getting to know his part of the city better. Lots of down time at his place and at the hotel, where he brings some school work to do since my room has a good work space.
I loved having my own hotel room. I know people who travel all the time get sick of hotel rooms but after being stuck at home for far too long I found it absolutely delightful. My only disappointment was that I had hoped to see more dogs since it was a Residence Inn with pets welcome. The room was a suite as big as the studio apartment I lived in for 12 years. Anyone who has lived in a studio has a different sense of space. Well before tiny houses were ever a thing, small apartments have been a longstanding way of life, especially in urban settings.
You realize that you can sacrifice square footage in exchange for a low price or a great location,
that people really don’t need that much space when they live in the middle of a city.
So I look at B’s studio and I think, it’s perfect! It’s smaller than mine was but it has a cute little eat in kitchen and a room big enough for a bed and sofa and a decent sized bathroom, and it is in a fabulous neighborhood with everything you could ever need or want a walk away and any other destination in the city can be reached via electric scooter – B’s favorite way to get around – or a great public transit system. Just right for someone in his 20’s.
So much works in Portland, only the terrible homelessness crisis keeps it from being an ideal city. Yet in terms of urban planning (public transportation, bike lanes, low density) it feels eminently livable. What does “livable” even mean? In practical terms, I like that I am not terrified every time I cross the street that someone will come speeding by; I like the way drivers slow all the way to a stop, and smile at you, like they were glad that you were out for your walk and causing them a ten second delay, the opposite of the Jersey attitude of racing ahead, seeing stop signs as mere suggestions and red lights as optional. Portland operates at a different pace, friendly, less frenetic or congested yet still with all the resources of a big urban setting.
Solo in the city was so much a part of my life for so many years, so it was nice to get out for walks – only one rainy day, pretty lucky this time of year – and explore or simply set out to a destination, like Powell’s Books, where I spent several hours total over the trip browsing through books. I also got a 3 day guest pass from B to go swimming at his gym (near my hotel), which was a real treat. I haven’t done lap swimming since Labor Day, and it was a great way to start the day. Travel can be all about adventure, it can also be about comfort and ritual, if even for a few days of getting up at the same time, going for a swim, eating a good breakfast (included with my stay), heading out to see B.
There are schedules and rituals at home as well, but I feel so burnt out from them. There’s also a lot of worry, every morning hoping it will be a good day, that V will be well-rested and well-regulated because when he’s not it affects everything. So leaving T in charge of V, for which I am grateful, and having four full days to spend with B I feel some sense of balance rather than this lopsided existence where how I am is a reflection of how V is. I don’t know where B will end up permanently but wherever it is I’d like to be nearby much of the time. Which brings up complicated issues if we find V a group home in NJ and B remains in the Pacific Northwest. We don’t have the resources for a bicoastal life.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I am so glad that I was able to get on a plane and get out to be with B on his turf, to spend quality time in person with my wonderful older son. I miss him already.