Sunday, April 20, 2008


I took on the role of tour guide when two of my friends from Las Vegas visited me for my 25th birthday. I know Portland isn't exactly anyone's #1 vacation destination so I was glad they came. I got to share the things I've come to enjoy so far about my new home and experience new things with them. Although I was worried how I was able to keep them entertained for their whole trip.

The first spot I showed them was Pioneer Courthouse Square since it was close to the hotel they were staying in- the Westin. I pointed out the waterfall fountain, the inscribed names on the bricks, and the bronze statue of a businessman with an umbrella. I'm proud to say I did a little research on the places I was planning on showing them. We then took the MAX to the Bijou cafe- a popular restaurant where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast.

Next, we entered Chinatown through the gateway on 4th and Burnside guarded by a pair of golden lions on either side. Not as impressive as San Francisco's version and located in the old town district of downtown, I wouldn't want to get caught in the area at night. Even in broad daylight, I was afraid of getting mugged or shot at. Walking at a brisk pace, we found ourselves at the Portland Saturday Market where we were surrounded by vendors selling their wares and food carts of all kinds from all over the world. We grabbed a bite of elephant ears- a sweet and tasty treat reminiscent of Chinese doughnuts.

We then took a walk through the Waterfront Park. I think they enjoyed- as I've had- the panoramic view of the many bridges crossing the Willamette with the occasional boats speeding by. The beauty of the area and the joggers, bikers and walkers passing by makes anyone want to get fit.

It was in search of restrooms that we ended up in Pioneer Place- a mall I didn't even know existed until a couple of weeks after moving here and despite walking by it countless of times. I thought the stores fronting the mall were stand alones but they are actually four blocks of connected shopping with a traditional food court.

A short ride on the MAX and we were at Finnegan's. Actually comprised of Big and Little Finnegan's, this independent toy store brings out the kid in anyone. You'll find yourself reminiscing- as we did- through your childhood and the toys and games you used to play with. The bigger store is more traditional and kid-oriented. The smaller one has more novelty items.

Across from Finnegan's was the Central Library. Of interest were the Beverly Cleary children's library which includes a bronze statue of a tree depicting animals and characters from kid's literature, the first floor stairs with its "Tree of Knowledge" artwork, and the old-fashioned card catalogue. I did feel bad for making them walk the extra long flight of steps to the third floor but at that level was the Collins Gallery- where every month there's a new display. Currently, it was puppets and masks from the Tears of Joy Theatre. I liked the displays featuring Pinocchio, Aladdin and Greek characters. Although Central Library has computers with internet access, the current movies to check out in DVD's, and an elevator (which we took down), it's still what I picture a library to be from my younger days.

We then took a streetcar to my place where I had an "MTV Cribs" moment showing them around. It was a little nerve-wracking and embarrassing letting others see what little I had. At the same time, I felt proud that it was mine.

Here is the tour of my place. Walking in, on the left, is a dressing room and, beyond that, the bathroom. While I have no use for a dressing room, I thought of using the space as an office or a bedroom. On the right is a walk-in closet which has built-in shelves where I display my collections of CD's, DVD's, and books. Further down the entrance is a kitchenette on the left and the living room on the right. Most of what you see in the studio is hardwood flooring but in the nearest corner is where I sleep- a deflated airbed matted by two comforters. (I thought I was getting a deal buying an airbed for $10 but it didn't come with a pump. I'm sure it wasn't meant to be manually blown.) On the far corner, by the heater and window overlooking PSU and the Park Blocks, is my writing space- a fold-out table and fold-out chair.

The kitchen consists of a stove, refrigerator, sink, and dishwasher. Inside the refrigerator were butter and water. Had I gone grocery shopping, there would also have been bread and peanut butter and jelly.

As I had decided to use my closet to showcase my collections, I needed somewhere else to put my clothes. So naturally I used the kitchen cabinets. I do still find myself heading to the closet to get a change of clothes when I should know to go to the kitchen instead. I guess old habits do die hard. Once I get a job, I can always furnish it some more but right now I like my existence.

When that was done, we walked through most of the South Park blocks admiring the sculptures outside of the Art Museum before going to Powell's Books.

Powell's is a reader's playground- a whole city block and four floors of books, books, and more books- old and new, hardcovers and paperbacks, US and international editions all sharing the same shelves. With its own parking garage and coffee shop, the store map they give away is handy in navigating through the different colored rooms. You can literally lose yourself in a good book- or in this case: a good bookstore.

After a little shopping, we ate lunch at Noodles & Company where I really didn't plan on going to but, as long as they liked the food, it was all good. Because the weather was holding up, I decided to bring them to Nob Hill where we stopped at the Moonstruck Chocolate Company. I felt bad that I made them walk uphill for the more than 10 blocks to get there but let it be known that to spend a day with me requires a good pair of sneakers. We rode the streetcar back to the Westin and we played a seemingly endless- but fun- game of Uno. I won by the way- fair and square and not because it was my birthday.

As dinner approached, we then braved the hail to Typhoon!- a Thai restaurant we chose because of the cleverness of its name- where I really couldn't eat because I was so stuffed by then. After that, I dropped them off at their hotel and said goodnight. We talked and walked, laughed and ate, and that was just the first day.

The weather was not as co-operative as it was the day before. And we were still stuffed and tired from yesterday's activities. After a quick stop to my apartment complex where we took in the scene from the rooftop patio- which was my first time up and I've lived there for almost two months, we had a light breakfast at Stumptown Coffee Roasters- one of the many cafes in the city. It was disappointing in terms of food and beverage quality but the place had a decidedly unique design and atmosphere.

Originally, we talked about going out to the Japanese Gardens but a lot of factors forced us to change our minds and go to the much nearer Chinese Classical Gardens. Taking up only a mere city block, it does have a gift shop by the entrance and a tea house inside the premises. Even though I really don't have an eye for nature, I found the whole place very nice. I even walked barefoot on the mosaic tiles to get into the whole experience. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and evidently loved the place so that helped.

After the gardens, I treated them to Paccini, the Italian restaurant right next door to my apartment. More than anything, it's the moments sharing stories and laughing at each other's jokes over a delicious meal that I enjoy the most. We sat by the fireplace, ate and talked for hours until they had to leave as not to miss their flight. It felt good not only to have people to talk to but to talk about such personal and grown up things. It seemed we talked about everything. It was a wonderful way to cap off our time together and a great way to celebrate my 25th birthday.

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