Yes, Portland is Still Weird — and Cold


H-h-h-h-hey, t-t-t-t-t-here. I’m-m-m-m-m b-b-b-b-b-back.

S-s-s-s-orry about the ch-ch-chattering. My body— which is used to 80 degrees in February because well, not just global warming but also that’s how Tucson rolls — is still sh-sh-sh-sh-shivering from being in Portland, Ore., for a long weekend.

That was an experience.

And why would anyone of sound mind and body go to Portland in February? Because someone makes you, of course. In this case, No. 3’s club basketball team. This is kid sports  these days. It’s not enough to play on a school team or, like we did as kids, join a low-key, rag-tag league that costs $50 and sets up games at local parks for three or four months’ worth of Saturdays. Nooooo, if your kid likes a sport, even a little, he/she joins a CLUB that charges monthly for practice, tacks on extra fees for fancy jerseys and tournaments played in cramped stinky gyms and then, because an area of a million people does not have enough youth teams for “real” competition, forces you to shell out even more money to travel outside of your state to get stomped on by genetically-modified eighth graders in the cramped, stinky gyms of other cities. If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone in our sports organization was up to something illicit, like visiting a second family, because again, Portland in February? Seemed scam-ish. But, nope, this tournament was legit — in the airport we saw lots and lots of kids, all flashy in their matching warmups. I cannot explain to you why parents today are so messed up that we do things like this.

And while I lobbied that perhaps we skip this tournament because it happened to fall on No. 1’s 18th birthday and I pointed out this could be the last time we spend her birthday all together as a family unit of five, my husband said players on club teams don’t do that.

His suggestion: We all go.

Splurge-y, but it would definitely make for an appropriate entry into adulthood for No. 1, who’s long wanted to visit the city, probably because of “Portlandia.” So, she put together a list of stuff she wanted to see but mostly wanted to eat. It is incredibly funny that she’s turned into such a foodie because she most definitely didn’t start off that way. I remember trying to coax her to try a small block of chocolate when she was 2. She acted like I was trying to poison her, which was a valid concern on her part because she was not a pleasant toddler. None of them are, but I didn’t know that back then because she was the first.

So off we went. Together. To Portland. First stop upon our 8 p.m. arrival in the drizzling rain and cold? For ice cream, of course. It was worth the frostbite.

Next we pigged out on VooDoo doughnuts (first item on the list) and while the boys hunkered down in assorted smelly gyms across the greater Portland area, we girls set out to knock off other things on No. 1’s list. We hit the Pearl District, prowling Powell’s and all kinds of stores and eateries, including a food truck with a menu item called the Baby Cheesus*. We bought heavier jackets and cut off the tags so we could immediately wear them. My kids hunted for souvenirs while I mulled a sweatshirt reading “May contain alcohol.”

“How much would you give me to wear that to a school function,” I asked No. 1.

“I feel like you’d do that for free,” she said.

Yeah, I would.

Day 2 required double pantsing since it was even colder and snowed — even inside the gym, in a way, because stuff was dripping in from the leaky roof. Hard to imagine for the privilege of sitting in such YMCA splendor we had to shell out $30 in cash, mostly $1s because when I travel I like to have plenty of low bills for tipping and to hand out to my kids because change does not come back. The lady at the tournament who was collecting admission looked at me funny.

We watched No. 3’s team get thumped and, just for kicks, watched his club’s other team get spanked by a top-ranked California team that included not only the spawn of LeBron James but Kevin Durant. My husband pointed out the other team had only six kids. My guess — LeBron’s kid counted as two. I don’t know if those kids were grown in a lab or what but they were huuuuuge.

On the upside, with basketball done and out of the way, we were free to explore all of Portland’s wonderful indoor sights. Like the insanely packed Nike Outlet. You have not truly experienced outlet shopping until you’ve done it in a city with no sales tax and legalized pot. People don’t get the munchies so much as the shoppies. I tried to avoid a contact high because I already didn’t have enough room in my carryon for the $35 waterproof, shearling-lined high tops that I was going to wear out the door.

I’ll spare you the gory details about how we all crammed into a hotel room intended for no more than four guests but in reality was designed for one. Let’s just say that there was the very distinct possibility that by the end of the trip there would be at least one vacancy in 432. But then, I suppose these are the kind of trips that are life’s great memory makers — and therapy fodder.


*Baby Cheesus: Two slices of grilled white bread, 1/3-pound burger, Cheddar and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard.



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