Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

The City of Roses -- July 19th

Portland, the City of Roses, or more prosaically known as Stump City, proved to be a delight. We had natives guiding us to where the magic was alive and well, and it was a real treat.

It's been a few years since I've stopped in Portland. Maybe even a decade or so, for all that there are lots of people John and I knew that ended up here, one of John's brothers used to be there, but moved back to New Mexico. But since I got involved in fanfiction and the communities and sites that are devoted to it, though, I've gotten to know more people. And I made a concerted effort, this time, to get to see aetherbox, whom I know as Grimmalkin and Morgan/ieatyourbabiez on this visit.

So much of this trip was dictated by John's family, by his brothers or his parents, agreements he made that I'm supporting and following through on as part of the Clan and I'm happy to do that.

Still, all of that made being able to visit with these two a big deal for me. I'd planned my visit with Grimmalkin since March, and asked Morgan if she'd be available on the 19th as soon as I knew we'd be in the city. We were very lucky that she was able to take some time off from her second job to meet up with us and tour the city with us for all that she'd been up since five in the morning for her morning job. We were very grateful.

We got on the road at 9 am, and given that a few of us weren't even packed the night before, that was an amazing thing. *laughs* The traffic through Redmond was what John and I remembered, and if we'd left any earlier it would been much worse. Being as late as we were it was pretty thick, but cleared as soon as we headed South on 405. Most folks were headed into town, so we were going counter to the commute.

It went well. Smooth and fast, and we picked up time as we went. So that we were able to do a rest stop an hour out from the border, and still made it to the Roxy in Portland with time to spare. The lovely thing was that we found a street parking slot barely half a block away from the restaurant itself.

Morgan appeared nearly as soon as we sat down at a table for six. The Roxy is a lovely little diner that caters on the weekends to the drag queens of the city. On a rainy Tuesday lunch, it was nearly empty, so we were able to discover the place with impunity.

The food was fabulous, as was the décor, the waiting staff, and the menu as well. I really enjoyed my chicken fried steak, my dry cappuccino, and my hazelnut Italian soda. Jet loved his pancakes and pig meat, as he ordered a plateful of bacon to go with his buttermilk goodness. John got the standard breakfast, and they were excellent about refilling his coffee even when all the other drinks did not get refills. Poor George accidentally ordered a cold sandwich when he thought he was going to have a hot sandwich, but the other half of Isabel's hot Reuben helped even things out.

Morgan was beautifully prepared and came with plans for taking us various places. There was the traditional Chinese garden, the Art museum (which had a show of antique cars), the Arboretum, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Zoo, and other possibilities as well. It was lovely having her lead the way, either way, and we all voted on the traditional Chinese garden. I'll admit that I threw my vote that way as I hoped to find materials for my paintings. I've had something of a dry spell and needed something of a kick start.

The gardens provided it, big time.

The Lan Su Chinese gardens managed it in the rain, too. As we were paying for our tickets, the ticket seller said that there was a high likelihood that we'd get to see the Bead Curtain as more rain gusted in after the morning showers. The tiling on the roofs of the buildings had been built to lead to special edge tiles, bat-shaped drip tiles that each had five bats for the five blessings of life (long life, good fortune, a love of virtue, good health, and a painless passing) that made the water gather in big droplets instead of flowing as a stream. So when the rain started just pouring down, the edge of every building, covered walkway, and covered pavilion was curtained in silver beads of water.

It was so deliberately beautiful I was entranced.

I think I could have just stood there and watched it for hours, especially among the plants in the garden. There were so many of the classical plants: plum trees, chrysanthemum, bamboo, and the garden itself was named after the classical orchid.

Morgan proved a marvelous guide. She could identify many, if not most, of the species of plant we came across. Penjing arraignments of rocks, trained 100-year-old trees, earth, and ceramic ware were placed throughout the gardens in secluded niches. Special rocks that were thrown into a lake to etch holes in and through the soft limestone stood sentinel in the courtyards. The flow of the whole garden from room to room, pavilion to pavilion, over the bridges over the water, and to the waterfall and past the tea room was just delightful. It was easy to follow, and even the restrooms were put in a beautiful spot.

I think I could have spent hours in the tea house, if I had the chance. Just go in, have tea by myself and watch the rain fall on the garden. Morgan loved the variety and types of tea she could find there and at other places in the city. It would have been fun to just explore them with her.

*laughs* Grimm actually does exactly as I would have on rainy days. That was very cool to find out later.

It was a lovely discovery, though. We would never have found the garden on our own, and it was really great having Morgan as a guide there. From there we still had time, so Morgan asked what we wanted to do, and instead of the Zoo or the Museums (Jet really didn't want to see a museum), we headed for the Vietnam Memorial and the rose gardens.

The Memorial is a grassy hollow, with a spiral path that circles up from the bottom of the bowl to the rim. There are markers for the years of the War, and the names of the people lost during those years are on the placard along with dozens of anecdotes for the whole of the region during those times. Small things like beauty pageant queens from a particular borough, prison inmates contributing to a family that had lost their home, or the opening or closing of local institutions. There was also politics and policy, scenes of chaos and acts of courage and loyalty, the newsworthy items that happened along with events of the war. They lent context and reason, humor and life, and duty and sacrifice to the whole of what happened.

The memorial was started by several veterans and their families, and it's a garden, a living, growing memorial that's dedicated to all of the 50,000 Oregonian that served in Vietnam, living and dead, returned or missing. Remember so that none of it will die.

I think I like a war memorial for the whole better than just for the dead. War is so much more than just dying, it really changes lives and how one thinks of peace. Politics shape it, beginnings and endings, and it really leaves its mark on the character of the war and its memories.

From there we headed into the experimental rose garden. It's acres and acres of roses of all varieties, bordering a natural amphitheater with enormous bushes as backdrop and sound drop. Morgan saw an opera in the space and really loved how it worked as well as how it looked and sounded.

That was lovely. The roses invited sniffing, touching, and my own hands itched for pruning shears. *laughs* The dead-heading would have been glorious! *laughs* It was also a lovely, flat walk that was easy on everyone.

By the time we were done, we were mostly done. So we all headed back into town and Powell's, and found a lovely parking spot feet from the main door. Everyone went in, and Morgan and I lost ourselves in the shelves. She pointed out half a dozen books I had to have, and I was stalwart and only got one. It was wonderful to talk about the centering that martial arts always brings when practiced. I ran headlong into a lovely book of modern Chinese paintings, all derived from traditional practices. The book made me whine when I saw the price. I couldn't afford it on this trip. I'd spent too much of my allowance already.

So I'll have to wait until I sell a painting, but I might be able to buy it from Powell's mail order service. We'll see.

It was lovely to just be able to talk with her as we wandered about. Morgan's thoughtful, fun, and knowledgeable about a great many things, and we just chattered on about architecture, Asian philosophy, knitting, art, books, writing, and people. We ended up at Mio Gelato across the street from the bookstore, where she got a really lovely grapefruit gelato and I got a tart cherry one. Hers was tart and tangy and redolent with grapefruit, mine was chunky *laughs* and had exactly what I wanted. She was really amazing and gave me the sketch of David and West she'd drawn!! I happily treasure it, and have it carefully pressed in my journal.

It was just really comfortable to be with her, and it was good to get a chance, alone, to make sure she had been all right with the rest of my family. *laughs* Morgan was a dear, and said that she'd had a lot of fun with the whole family and that she'd really enjoyed doing things with us. That was good.

Grimmalkin arrived at the bookstore while we were eating, and txted me. So when we were done, we headed into the bookstore. It was really funny as Grimm said he was in the comic section, and when we got there, Morgan encouraged me to txt him just to see whose phone would ring. *laughs*

We were talking loudly enough that Grimm looked up from where he was reading a graphic novel and said, "Hmmm?"

Contact achieved, Morgan bowed herself off, pleading exhaustion and a 5 am wake up time to get to work in the morning. I gave her a good hug and sent her off, as did Grimm. It was fun having both Grimm and I being a mite giddy about pulling a plan off, and actually getting to meet each other for the first time.

I've been following Grimmalkin's art for the last four years, though I'll admit that I love his journal entries nearly as much as his formal writing and the artwork. He's done some amazing work in an aliens meet fundamental archetypes with an astonishingly great senses of humor way. He also has a huge following that is fun to watch, and I have always wanted to meet the person behind the eyes and mind that can pick magic out of the very air.

I was dazzled. *grins* Happily so, and with the things that meant a lot to me, too. We just left the bookstore as soon as we met up, and headed toward Big Little Burger, just a bare block away. I had my walking shoes on, as I knew that Grimm walked the town and the plan for the evening included a great deal of it.

Right next to Big Little Burger was a Penzey's Spice shop, and I happily flailed about it to Grimm. He was impressed by an entire island of Cinnamon, and I cheerfully expounded on the cinnamon and the vanilla beans and the beauty of using cut ginger in chai instead of ground. It was fun when he said that that was his kind of geekery as well.

The Big Little Burger proved his point. It was a lovely little shop with the menu painted on the wall by the cash register. A burger, a cheeseburger, a veggie burger, fries, and drinks were on it, and that was all. The fries had truffle oil and were thin and sea salted. The burgers were quarter pounders, but thick patties on small buns with fresh, local ingredients and produce. The tomatoes were red, the lettuce crisp, and sauce made that morning. The cheddar was Tillamook (made locally), and I just had to have a simple cheeseburger with fries and a Coke. Classical food achieving greatness with intense focus.

The place itself covered in 50's tiles, crowded, hot from the grills, and they were blasting music, so we decided to just take our food (conveniently served in brown paper bags) a few blocks down to Tanner Lake Park. Grimm waxed rhapsodic over the park, the walk, the weather, the City, travel, and the places Morgan had taken us as we walked. I happily encouraged the flow, talking a bit about the day, about Colorado, and missing the rain. It was a lovely walk, as the sky had cleared up completely. Sunshine was everywhere, and people were out taking advantage of it.

Tanner Lake Park
Tanner Lake Park was utterly amazing, just as he said. It's a city block of park that was just left alone to be what it had always been: wild grasses, a pond with wetlands, wildlife, and reflections. There were terraces to one side to sit on and eat our dinner, and a jagged walkway extended over the water along the other. Benches were set among the grasses, and the whole was gorgeous, especially under the low angle light of the setting sun.

We ate; we talked. The burger was delicious, tender, savory, and beautifully textured with everything on it. The fries, even cold, were still crisp on the edges, mealy tender in the center, and musky with truffle oil. The Coke was a jolt from the past. I called Darkprism and let her talk with Grimm, while I took a Deer in the Headlights shot of him exclusively for her. I got to murmur a good night to her as well.

We then sat back and enjoyed the park. A duck and her fledgling paddled about the reeds. A lady hummingbird hovered over a stalk of purple flowers. Several sparrows were bold enough to beg for French Fries, and other birds spoke in the tones Obscenities uses when he thinks no one is listening. Families rolled through the walkway, and we saw dog owners walking their dogs in utterly different ways. It was funny trading dog stories. *laughs* We talked about moving, and the kinds of moves we'd done and seen, the emotions involved, and the satisfaction of it being done.

I happily handed over a signed red clay Yixing pot I haven't used for years, as he's gotten well into tea culture and ritual. He told me his story about what tea has done for him in his life. It made me very happy to give him something to enhance his experience, knowing I was giving the pot a good home; and it amuses me to think that I may well treasure Grimm's story more than I ever valued the pot.

Grimm Socked Soles
It was Prism that had told him about my handmade socks, and I offered him a pair back in February. He's told me a color scheme, browns with the whole of the warm spectrum, including oranges and golds, colors I don't usually work in, but I got my dyestuffs together and dyed it in the wool and then spun it into a fire-colored array of yarn. Using that I interleaved it with a multi-shaded brown, using a flame/flag pattern, and made him socks, which, as you can see here, fit him exactly. *grins* I love getting socks 'right' for the person, and these made Grimm very happy indeed, so I was very content. It may seem odd of me, but I figure that one-of-a-kind items have souls, and if I can fit a pair of socks' soles to the person they're for, all the better.

I'd commissioned Grimm to draw David a while ago, and Grimm took the opportunity to tell me that he loved drawing my character, even in the midst of a time when creation was difficult. That opened the door for me to tell him how much it means to me an artist takes the effort to *see* my character and render him for everyone else to see. That Grimm had managed to capture and understand a person who was only running around in my head to an extent that other people could actually see him as I saw him was utterly astonishing to me.

I really enjoyed hearing Grimm speak about his take on David, and what he loved about him. That... blew me away in a lot of ways, as I've always admired Grimm and his creations so much (especially Bob and Ob), and to hear those things in Grimm's own words only brought home all the more clearly how he saw David's hope, how David uses ritual to tame uncertainty, and what Grimm shared of David's work at mindfulness. It's always a kick when someone tells me that David feels real to them.

We were talking about being in the moment, about what it means to have something that might have been a dream but might not, when I suddenly noticed the golden glow of the lights from all the surrounding apartments, all unique structure of glass, steel, and concrete in art forms of reflection and shadow, over the darkness of the park. *laughs* I just stopped and stared, open-mouthed, at the magic of the lighting as the water ran, rippled, and played at our feet.

It was a very Grimmalkin-like Moment. *laughs* So much like how I think of him.

From there we retired to an ice cream shop, as John txt'ed me to tell me he was done putting Jet to bed and could come get me. I got a lovely rose ice cream on top of a lychee sorbet that was rich with the sweetness and actual meat of the lychee fruit itself. It was wonderful. The rose ice cream was fragrant and delicate, and didn't overpower the lychee goodness underneath. I got a lovely taste of Grimm's Cinnamon ice cream, as it was spicy and fiery and lovely stuff.

I showed Grimm my knitting things, and then let him try out the felt-tipped nibbed Japanese pen that I've loved for a long time. When I saw his eyes light up at the texture of it and he started crooning to the pen about what a beauty she was, I gave him the pen. *laughs* I couldn't help it. Love at first touch should never to be wasted. *giggles* And I got a 3x5 card signed drawing in return! With freckles! I'll hope he gets plenty of drawings from that pen, and anything that gets Grimm to draw more is a greatly good thing.

John arrived, and we parted ways with a hug, and I was very happy with my adventures in Portland.

(Finally have access again, but I wanted to get my Portland entry out from the 19th, and I'll catch you up on the family reunion at the Lake in the Woods by Medford tomorrow.)
Tags: art, travel

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