Oct 29, 2017

stories from Portland

Thursday was a long day. After work, Saori met Jay and I to walk over the Portland Architecture Awards Jury critique. Jay is a project architect- about ten years older than I am, who after being laid off from a firm which was going through a round of downsizing, was snapped up by this company. For Saori, he really reminds her of Bill Murray- upbeat, always something to say. He was the one who picked up Saori and I drove us to the football game a few weeks prior. Anyway, Jay was the one who knew the event was going on, and Saori and I both jumped on board.
Three recognized and notable architects from San Francisco were tasked with judging a selection of about 25 works of architecture by Portland architects, and before the big gala reveal, there was a much more casual evening arranged to introduce the work and philosophy of the architects, and for them to discuss how they saw the state of architecture in Portland.
It was a burn. A sick burn.
There are preconceived notions of Oregonian architecture- woodsy, in tune with nature, high performative, humanistic, which the reviewers felt that what was actually being produced fell far short of expectations. They saw an architectural community which gave too much deference to developers and caution, and a tepid response to regional identity- architecture which simply had stylistic cues rather than really engaging the question of what it meant to design in Oregon. Worse, there was a refusal to either go strongly formalist or strongly utilitarian. The best things about Portland, the ruled, were actually established a century ago, and it was suggested Portlanders didn't now how good they had it. It was a fun session, with some free drinks. We ate at a cheap pho place nearby. Got home late.
I was out dragging our recycling bins to the curb around 11pm, when I was hailed by my neighbor across the street, Hector. Hector is from Mexico City- an artist/craftsman/cook with an interior designer wife and a young daughter. I had introduced myself a few weeks earlier, and he hopped across the street to say hello again. I ended up inviting him in for a beer, and the three of us (Saori came out from getting ready for bed) ended up sitting around chatting until about 1 am. He spontaneously invited us over for a light supper saturday.

Friday, I had a massive hangover. I'm getting older, I don't drink much, and those New Belgian Trippels are strong. But a good lunch an a few aspirin later, I was feeling better by the afternoon. Four pm, our landscape planner dropped by the office to leave some renderings for the client. After giving him a quick tour of the office, our project manager said "hey, it's friday, the end of our first week here, so let's grab a beer!" so the small group of us trooped across the street to Bridgeport Brewery for a pint. It was an odd group that afternoon- apart from me and the landscape consultant, there was Montana our project manager, Scott who specialized in theater design who with a flaming red beard and an affinity for flannel shirts could be the new face of Brawny paper towels, and Dan's (one of the principals) wife. Dan later caught up with us too, and caught the tab, which was nice of him.

After a round of beers, I caught Saori downtown and we shopped around together at the discount fashion stores: TJMaxx, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, before grabbing a Chiptole burrito together and heading home for the night.

This morning, we got out early and headed straight for Goose Hollow, a part of downtown tucked between the foothills of the mountains west of the city center. I'd picked out a cafe, Lovejoy bakery, where we got delicious coffee, and brunch. I got a fantastic bowl of cheesy grits with pulled spicy pork, poached egg, and jalapeno salsa, and Saori got the lemon poppy seed french toast. We had a sunny window seat.
After breakfast, we crossed the street and hiked up to the Japanese gardens. In most cities I've been to, the Japanese gardens are either entirely ignored (Phoenix) or tucked into an existing botanical park (Saint Louis). The Japanese gardens here have their own ticket building, which is necessary because they have long lines to get in. It was kind of crazy.
The garden was beautiful. A collection of fantastic buildings, paths, and gardens. We bought two adult tickets and in the end traded them in for year-long memberships. We ubered across town to pick up some more Japanese staples at the Lily Asian market, then caught the bus home.
We had about an hour and a half to recover, lying on the floor and couch, before heading across the street to Hector's.
Hector cooked us up some amazing tostadas- fresh fried corn tortillas topped with chorizo and onion tinga on one, and flame roasted poblanos mixed with sour cream on the other, and all topped with more crema and crumbled farmer's cheese. Amazing. Best Mexican food I've had in Portland. He also busted out the mezcal and some jars of his own fermented kombucha and a pickles. His home has that fantastic- in the phantasmagorical sense- quality of Mexico. Hand carved decorations and statues, ancient oil paintings in old baroque frames, nooks and crannies filled with hearts and flames, mismatched chairs and bold colors, and plants everywhere. One could get lost in the texture, even as we were coughing from the frying chorizo in the cast iron skillet.
I'm happy we've been meeting so many great people. Tomorrow morning we have brunch plans with Ruben's family.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...