Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home and Back

I went to my cousin Carmel's wedding in Portland, OR last weekend.  My God, did it feel good to be "home" again.  To explain: I claim Pittsburgh, PA as my hometown, but I was actually born in Tacoma, WA.  We moved to the East Coast just before I turned 9, and I haven't been back in Washington--indeed hadn't been anywhere even near that region of the country--since.  Not even remotely close.  And the more I think about that, the weirder and sadder that thought becomes.  I still have my aunt/godmother and cousins who have all been living in Seattle since forever, but I've never taken the time to visit them and never had any other reason to be out that way.

Anyway, as I flew up there on my smooth and uneventful Alaska Airlines flight, something stirred within me when I saw the Cascade mountains.  As a little girl, hardly a day went by when I didn't see Mt. Rainier in the background, and I took it completely for granted.  Flying over the snow peaked mountains felt comforting, and, oh, when I saw the endless green trees, I was so happy I could hardly stand it!  My cousin Gina and Auntie Ana picked me up from the airport, and as we drove into Portland I was taken aback by how much like Pittsburgh it looks.  Seriously, with all the bridges going over the rivers and the houses scattered on the hillsides, mixed in with the green trees, it was eerily similar.  I also laughed and joked about how I came from over 900 miles just to get back on the same freeway.  I-5, or "the 5", as southern Californians call it, runs from Mexico to Canada, and it amuses me to no end that I use the same freeway as people all the way up north.  


Portland, Oregon


Pittsburgh, PA

I know, right?  Forget Minneapolis-St. Paul--these are the real twin cities!

Walking about a small section of northern Portland during some free time I had before the wedding was an awakening.  When I saw these creeper vines that are ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest, the architecture of the houses, and the rhododendron bushes, all of it was saying, "Welcome back, Maria.  It's been a long time, and we haven't changed."  For someone like me, who often feels untethered because of the way I've lived pretty much of my life, it was a revelation.

Now, the weather was surprisingly clear--albeit cold--and that definitely helped.  Had it been raining, I wouldn't have been that upset because i was expecting it.  (It was actually looking more like Seattle down in San Diego this last week or so.)  So perhaps Portland put on its best show for me my cousin's wedding.  Familiarity aside, I was also charmed by the city for its friendly people and lively neighborhoods. I don't mean lively like Manhattan lively, but like people must truly get out there and enjoy their environment.  As with San Diego, there are bike lanes everywhere.  Sidewalk cafes abound.  Several old homes had been converted into places of business, and what really sealed the deal for me was seeing a local co-op grocery.  That's so granola; I love it. Haha.  I had an inkling of an idea of what life there might be like, for my cousin has been living there for, what, 12 years now, and often mentions local spots in her own blog, The Evolving Epicurean.  But nothing really prepared me for the welcome feeling that enveloped me in my brief stay here.  It's like anything you didn't realize you missed until it comes back to you.

I returned back down the coast feeling like I had a schoolgirl crush on Portland.  That is to say that it probably wouldn't work out for us to be together forever and ever, but that doesn't stop it from putting a smile on my face just thinking about it.