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To Spursland and Back Again: A Foreigner's Tale - Part 9: Portland

It's so much harder to find time to write when you're not on vacations. Have you noticed? (Ir)Regardless (ha ha, Q), I've decided to continue my quest to become the only Spurs blogger than never actually blogs about the Spurs. Worthy endeavor if I've seen one.

Then again, the more pessimistic PTRers might say escapism is our best option. Random touristy crap, after the jump.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Day 10

With a Little Help From my Friends

I arrived at Portland late on Day 10. It was raining heavily, but I was thankfully picked up by Casey, a friend of Wayne's that for some reason had agreed to put up with me. This leg of my trip continued a trend that I found disturbing at first and then ended up accepting as a fact of life: mooching off strangers. I lived in other people's homes for nearly the entire trip, except for a day at San Francisco, another at the Grand Canyon, and the last two at Dallas for the ASW. That's 4 days in hotels, for the mathematically challenged. It shows quite clearly how this trip was only possible through the kindness of some incredible PTRers.

I'll say this about this travel strategy: it can be awkward at first, but it's also a wonderful way to meet new, cool people.

So I got to Casey's place, met his wife, Kirsten, and we all went out to grab a bite at a nearby bar. I don't remember its name, because at that point I was damn tired of taking photos of every single place I entered into just so I could remember petty details that probably no one cares about, doggone it! We had very good tap beer called Deschutes Mirror Pond, which I had to write down immediately in my stone-age cellphone because it was a petty detail I knew the drunkards of this site would appreciate; I had a lamb hamburger, which was a novelty, but it wouldn't match up well to the buffalo hamburger I would have later on in Denver.

We left the bar early. The storm had abated to a light drizzle, the kind that wets you without you noticing. I went to bed thinking of Casey's offhand comment that the weather forecast had predicted rain for the next four days.

Day 11

In Which It Rains

Portland is a wet city, a city in which you do wet things and walk around wet from place to place, always drenched, always looking for small eaves in the roofs that are never there. You are never more miserable than when you're trying to find the right bus while walking around the city under the rain in Portland.

And yet that morning started so promising: clear skies, bright sun, good cup of coffee, Casey's "you're so lucky". We googled for dry cleaners and found one near the tourist information center, so I put my poor, dirty jeans in my backpack (one of which might or might not have been caught in Tom's bike's chain and ripped) and started walking towards the bus stop. My first bus experience in the US, actually, another sure sign of how comfortable traveling is when you meet locals that can drive you around. The bus arrived on time, it was clean, and later on I would find out that you could hang bikes from the fender, which for some reason strikes me as awesome. The driver didn't seem used to people actually using money to pay for their tickets, though, so he hesitated for a moment before giving me the ticket.

"Money? ...I think you can use that."

Okay, let me break the narration here to briefly describe the layout of the city: Portland is split in two by the southward-bound Willamette River, downstream from its confluence with the Columbia River. (An aside within an aside: why is it so freaking difficult to find the name of a river in one of those funky digital maps we all use so much these days? Are river names outdated? What's the "in" thing these days?) An avenue called Burnside crosses the river and splits the city once again, roughly forming four areas - SE, SW, NE and NW. (There's an additional area called North Portland, I believe, but I didn't visit it.) The SE quadrant, where I stayed, is mostly flat and residential. Walking westwards towards the river I could see in the distance the hilly, parked area that acts as a natural wall to the downtown area, which spreads both sides of Burnside. Portland is a structured, predictable city, simple for tourists to navigate and fond of the right angle. The engineer in me approved.

My first stop was the Tourist Center, because for the first time I was very much a tourist and that's what tourists do. Of course, being such an ubertourist I stepped off the bus one stop too early and had to leg it to the pleasant square that held the Center. As I walked around the very heart of Portland, I had a nagging feeling that I couldn't identify until the following day: there weren't enough people. Or at least, that's what it felt to me, city boy used to the immense crowds that walked around Buenos Aires twenty four-seven, year-round. Portland has all the marking of a modern city: large steel-and-glass buildings, what I like to call miniature skyscrapers; frequent and varied public transport; people in suits, walking around looking extraordinarily busy; taxis, malls, vagrants. Yet the numbers were off. There was too much free space in the sidewalks; you could close your eyes, walk in a line and not bump into anyone.

Trust me on that one.

Easy to navigate, I said?

The Tourist Center held Andrew. He had retired from the US Bureau of Reclamation, an organization part of the US Department of Interior that manages and develops dams, powerplants and canals in Western USA. Andrew had done drawings for many dam projects in the West for decades, and when he found out I worked with dams he started reminiscing. We talked for half an hour, and then we remembered I was there for information. He gave me enough leaflets, brochures and maps to fill my backpack to capacity, and explained the harsh reality with the no-nonsense tone of someone who has drawn a radial spillway gate from an axonometric point-of-view and lived to tell about it: Portland was dead during the winter. The only way to make it to the national parks or to Boneville dam was by car, and some of the roads might be closed because of the snow, anyway. I was unwilling to rent a car, considering my tight budget, so I was more or less stuck in the city.

Not that there weren't interesting things to see in the city, Andrew explained. Why, across the street was Pioneer Courthouse, the first one in the west coast and open to everyone willing to go through the thorough security checkpoint. He had some other suggestions, but finished his well-practiced speech by suggesting me to come back during summer. Sigh. We said our goodbyes, I turned around, walked two steps beyond the door and noticed the bricked pavement beneath my feet: there were names on them. Fighting the strong feeling of déjà vu, I immediately turned around once more and asked Andrew about it. The same story as in San Antonio's Houston Street - fundraising strategy where donors were honored by immortalizing their names in small orange bricks that are stepped on by thousands every year. I can't help but think that this is a virtually untapped resource - how many people would want to have their names carved on the walls of my soon-to-be-built castle? Andrew told me there were some famous people in those bricks, but I wasn't curious enough.

How original

The Pioneer Courthouse was made of rock, wood, brick and sheer good taste. It was architecturally beautiful, and the government obviously goes to great lengths to keep it impeccable. It was beautiful, and also eerily quiet in the morning. Other than the guards at the entrance and a couple of lone secretaries I came across, the building deserted. I entered a beautiful library, and didn't dare take out on of the leather-bound tomes; I saw a meeting room right out of "12 Angry Men", but I didn't sit down; a sign in the oh-so-classic courtroom claimed that "court personnel only" could go beyond that point, almost daring me to take a photo sitting in the witness chair. Yet I didn't have a wingman, someone to take the photo and share the responsibility, and it's an unwritten rule that men need a partner-in-crime if they're about to do something they know they shouldn't. I contented myself with walking up to the top level of the center tower, checking the cityscape and comparing it with my maps, locating landmarks. I spotted Mount Hood in the distance peeking from in between a couple of tall buildings, and promptly ran out of things to do while inside an empty courthouse.

High In The Air

Upon Casey's recommendation, I had decided to have a late lunch/early dinner (half price) at a restaurant called Portland City Grill located in the top floor of what was probably the tallest building in the city. I needed to kill some time and walk a couple of miles, though, so I simply set off towards the pink building in the distance at a leisurely pace, people-watching and just enjoying the beautiful waterfront park on the river's west bank. I came across people riding bikes, people running while listening to music, people running with pets... hell, at some point I saw a woman running while pushing a baby cart. And... ...What? Oh, yeah, I said "pink building". Don't look at me - all the windows looked decidedly pink from a distance.

My wanderings took me to a big bookshop whose name escapes me. Those of you that know me are aware that bookshops are one of my biggest weaknesses, and consider them an excellent if expensive way to pass time. Books were bought, graphic novels filled my backpack, and all in all I had fun. There was one thing that shocked me, though: there was an entire section devoted to books that fit a genre dubbed "true crime" - that is, books about actual, proper crimes, as opposed to those boring make-believe crime novels that never hit the right note of morbidity. Now, I've been to many bookshops in Argentina, and some in other countries, and I've never seen anything like that. Does the popularity of the genre say anything about USAian culture? No idea, honestly, so I'll leave that to cleverer minds.

Only in the USA?

Eventually I made it all the way to the 30th floor of the Pink Edifice, and sat down in the bar area. The view was as good as advertized, and there were comfortable, leather sofas where you could lean back and attempt to take it all in while sipping at your beer. A nice place, elegant enough for me to forgive the overeager waitresses - expensive, of course, but nice places tend to be. The food was too fancy for a finicky eater like yours truly, though, so I ended up foregoing it in favor of straight alcohol. After an hour, though, my stomach was demanding sustenance, so I left the sophisticated tourist trap and tried to find a cheap fast food restaurant. I found Carl's Jr. after a short search... or maybe Carl's Jr. found me. Our love affair would continue for the rest of my stay in Portland, proving once again that there's life beyond the McDonald's wasteland.

The rain started, as I feared it would, and the sun set in a hurry. A bleaker Portland greeted me when I left Carl's Jr., so I decided to just hop onto a trolley and see what the city was like beyond the downtown area. I got off the trolley at some points: there was the factory-turned-hospital, with the now-functionless chimney looking anachronic but fitting; small parks with curious statues that I took many photos of; the squirells scurrying about were also photographed, and although I was told later that they weren't wasn't an uncommon sight they were completely new to me. (In fact, squirrels are apparently as bad a city plague as pigeons are, and Casey was shocked when I mentioned that we didn't have any in Buenos Aires. No squirrels, no raccoons. Is it something about Argentinian cities that kills all the mammals?) It was fun, and I even got to chat to a nice lady that explained to me how to save money on bus fares. Yup, I'd gone full tourist at last.

I wonder if little elephants ever travel like this in real life

I went back in time to watch the Spurs beat the lowly Kings. Manu had a great night, and I couldn't help but hope that it was a sign of things to come.

Day 12

Wo Ai Ni, Bed

With no alarm clock and nothing scheduled in the morning, I woke up late, something that was rare during my stay in Texas. Sleeping in was as enjoyable as I remembered, but eventually I decided that it wasn't a good use of the mountains of money I spent to get to that city. Oh well.

All I had to go on were a little map Andrew had given me and his recommendations, so I planned my day more or less randomly. In the end I ended up letting my stomach choose: a famous pizza place was listed, so I picked the closest tourist spot and set off. Unfortunately, since I wasn't sure how to get there, I did what every tourist that's too lazy to look it up online does: I took the same bus from the day before, and walked the rest of the way. Yet another wonderful thing about being on vacation - no rush to get anywhere. On the way there I came across a nice-looking brewery called "Rock Bottom" (virtual high five, owner!), a big wall that read "Keep Portland Weird" in big, bold, yellow-on-black letters (way to be original, Austin/Portland!); the obligatory Chinatown; a bunch of strip clubs and "female impersonators" shows, in what I imagine was the Portland Red Zone; and last but not least a small, dank maze of a used-books store that was semi-hidden in a small side street. There were books of all kinds and different state of disrepair, and the aisles seemed designed to confuse all visitors. The books were separated in odd categories like "Pioneer" or "Cold War", and the bare walls were decorated with old wartime posters I found fascinating.

If only we could combine this and the brewery

I finally arrived to my destination: the Portland Chinese garden. I got there just in time to be part of the free guided tour, too - the only person that did. For the rest of my visit it was just me and a mechanically-kind male guide that kept talking about scents and yings and yangs, and then tried to sell me his book on all things Chinese. He was incredibly soft spoken, with the kind of tone that can alternatively put you to sleep or force you into sudden violence onto his face, but I made sure to nod at the right places and offer the input he so desired when he asked for it. It was a good tour.

The Chinese Garden occupies a full city block, a refuge of tranquility (the geek in me wanted to type "Fortress of Solitude", but I slapped him down) in the middle of a high-strung modern city. That description was particularly accurate that cold winter morning - from the moment the guide left me on my own until I exited through the main door, I didn't see anyone else in the garden. It probably was the most peaceful place I visited during my vacation, for what it's worth.

I'd been to several Japanese gardens before. Chinese ones are similar, but rougher, with more jagged edges. Everything is handmade, too - Chinese were apparently not in love with mass production in their time. I was particularly impressed with the stone floors: some were made of thousands of different rocks, all placed meticulously one by one by the craftsmen that built them in the late 1980s. The same attention to detail could be found in every sculpture, every building, even in the lamps covered with papers with watercolors paintings on them. It's a beautiful place, guys, one worth visiting if you're in town.

Yeah, another photo of the ground - I might be obsessed

Before I left I grabbed one of the red-tipped sticks gathered in a jar in one of the rooms, and read my fortune on it: "Beware of an envious friend." Hmm. I considered having a tea at the beautiful in-garden restaurant, but a quick glance at the menu showed the owners were selling tea brought from China via the Moon, steeped in water from the freaking Antarctic permafrost.

Next stop: Old Town Pizza. The leaflet I owned said this pizza restaurant and bar had been around for over 35 years, and was built in what used to be a 100-year-old hotel's reception. As every other building that hit the century mark in the US, it was haunted. "Nina" supposedly wasted her afterlife away staring at the patrons, but she must've been on vacation when I visited because I didn't see her. What I did see, though, was a neon tango compadrito in a "birra" (Argentinian slang for "beer") sign in one of the windows - yet another good omen, I thought. The decor was an assault to the senses: brick floors covered in colorful rugs, wooden chairs and tables of ever shape and size, old cabinets and shelves and heaters - all of it worn out by time and continued use. In fact, if you were able to break the restaurant into its basic components, I imagine there would be two of them: wood and age. I liked it.

Taken using the salt shaker as a tripod

The pizza? It was good, I think, in the US pizza style that I couldn't quite get used to.

When Samson Roamed the Earth

My last stop of the day was the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). I had chosen it after seeing a promotional poster of their latest main exhibit: Samson, the largest T-Rex ever found. Yup, just like any other male over the age of 2 I'm enamored with dinosaurs, so much so that I even considered picking Paleontology instead of Engineering when I finished high school. I had to see that T-Rex, even though it was across the entire town and the river.

Once again, I decided to walk. Listening to music and reading a book are great ways to eat up miles without noticing, and everything was going fine until I realized that the bridge I had picked on my map, the one closest to the freaking museum, didn't allow pedestrians. Nor did the one next to it. I was worried about having to swim across, but eventually I figured it out - I never felt tourister. Eventually I made it to OMSI, which for those that have never been to Portland is one of those hands-on museums for children focused on technology, math and the natural sciences. Having been to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia, I more or less knew what to expect (and OMSI couldn't possibly match that wonderful place), but the T-Rex remained an all-powerful selling card.

Holy shit (check out the shadow)

OMSI contained an OmniMAX theater, which I thought sounded interesting. It a special theater with a vault-like ceiling-wall, curved to give the illusion of 3D, and reclining seats that are way too comfortable. The movie I chose? The Dinosaurs on Earth one, of course. Of course, the second I sat down I remembered that I had bought tickets for the OnmiMAX theater in Valencia, too, and had promptly nodded off 10 minutes into the movie. Sure enough, I only got to see an Apatosaurus before my eyelids started feeling heavy - it was the most expensive nap I've ever taken. Still, the behind-the-scenes look at the projection room of an IMAX theater was interesting.

The museum itself had many interesting things to look at: real-scale models of the Mars rovers, the real life versions of the timeless Johnny 5; interesting examples of basic probability with steel balls hitting symmetric pegs and drawing the famous Gauss bell; lots of brain games and mind puzzles that I solved in record time, not ever having to ask the security guard for help; a large globe on which strategically places projectors drew different kinds of information, like the unthinkable myriad of earthquakes that occur every day without them showing in the news. Many other fun games were to be found, but one in particular was the belle of the ball: the amazing Age Machine! After only a couple of minutes of fiddling with a mouse I was able to find out how I would look as a cranky 60-year-old. The result? I'll redefine the meaning of "laugh wrinkles".

At least I get to keep all my hair

Samson was everything I hoped he would be: tall, imposing, menacing, and poised to swallow one of the visitors in the blink of an eye. His teeth were serrated blades as long as my fingers, and he had way too many of them. I'm sorry, guys: size matters.

It was already dark when I left. It was still raining. Sigh.

Day 13

Leftover Portland

Finally it was the day of the game, and my last day in Portland. Looking at my worn map, I decided to check the tram first. It was south of the OMSI museum, across the river, and connected the west bank (and the OHSU Department of Dermatology) with the parks overlooking the city at the top of the hill (and the OHSU proper, OHSU being the acronym for the Oregon Health Sciences University). I mention OHSU because I spent 10 very enjoyable minutes as I waited for the tram just guessing why so many people were wearing white coats near the tram station - the truth was so boring.

The view was predictably nice, the egg-shaped tram swinging as it crossed the support tower was memorable, and as I mentioned before, god-like POVs are a must for visitors. There's an arguing about this: you have to visit the scenic view points. Period. My plan was to visit the Japanese garden next, which was supposed to have been built nearby, but when I walked across the hospital's lobby I couldn't see any signs. I asked around, but I only received "dunno"s and "eeeehhh"s, and walked down the hill for a mile until some constructions workers explained the garden was all of four miles away. What? It couldn't be! It was right there on my map! Like, half a thumb away! Cursing scales and poorly drawn maps, I walked back up to the OHSU and hopped into the tram.

Overcast? How rare

A trolley took me back to the city proper, and I noticed one of the stops was called "Art museum". Why not? The Portland Art Museum was dedicated to local art throughout history, Native American art (and I mean "America" America), African art, some Asian art, modern and contemporary art. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take any photos, even without the flash, so I'm going to be extra virulent in my description.

First of all, why wouldn't they let me take photos of the freaking statues? Were they worried they could catch on fire? They let me take photos in the freaking Louvre, Portland Art Museum (PAM, from now on)! Also, I hope someone has beaten up the idiot architect that designed the museum. The exhibits are divided in two different buildings, but you can only access one of them through an underground room at the basement level. The lack of proper signs on the walls or maps meant that I only realized I had walked to the second building when the elevator lady confirmed my suspicions, after which she mentioned that all the first-time visitors got lost. Joy.

Dead wood never looked better

Complaints aside, the displays were interesting, despite my lack of enthusiasm for the 100th Central American ceremonial mask. The modern art collection was particularly interesting, and I was starting to put aside my annoyance at PAM when I reached the contemporary art hall. Honestly, it's not PAM's fault - this one's on me. I've never been able to truly grok contemporary art - art in general left be behind in the late 50s, early 60s, and it never looked back. Completely abstract art often leaves me scratching my head, and wondering how much money the museum paid for that. For instance, PAM owned a painting that consisted of four squares, one next to the other, painted in plain colors. Blue, gray, green and red squares were aligned from left to right - there were no hues, no shades, no discernible geometric figures other than the square and the rectangle that contained them. I looked at it for a minute, trying to figure out what deep meaning the artist could have possibly hidden in the polychromatic borefest; then I looked at the painting's title: "Blue gray green red".

I give up.

Half an hour later I was walking around, looking for the nearest Carl's Jr. so I could say goodbye with a double bacon, double cheeseburger, when I noticed a 15-year-old girl looking to her right, and up. I followed her eyes and... WHOA. Across the street, staring down at me from a ledge over the entrance to a tall building, was a humongous statue of a kneeling woman. She was dressed in a sort of toga, and while her left hand held a 7-meter long trident, her right hand was stretched towards me, as if offering to help me reach her height. She looked like I imagine Poseidon's daughter, and immediately bested everything PAM had to offer.

Oh mama

The girl mumbled something about her having lived in Portland her entire life, and walking down that street every single day, but having never seen the statue before that day. A man passing by stopped next to us, probably drawn by my tourist vibes, and laughed at our surprised faces. He said the statue was called Portlandia, and explained something about a city seal, but I honestly tuned him out almost immediately. He was probably this close to ruining the effect of seeing such a huge, beautiful statue out of the blue.

I thought that was a fitting high point to end my tour of Portland, and went back to Casey's to get ready for the game.

Oh, This Is a Basketball Blog?

I checked online for once and found out that bus number 8 had a stop not three blocks from Casey's, and would take me all the way to the Rose Garden, Portland's arena. Perfect. I got there in 15 minutes and immediately spotted the illuminated domed roof, almost a signature of modern roofed stadiums. The arena seemed to be in a rather desolate part of town; I could only see the convention center nearby, and every single person I spotted was walking towards or from the arena. I contacted janieannie, agreed on meeting inside, and walked into the building proper.

You may wonder about the differences between the Rose Garden and the AT&T Center. Well, keeping in mind that I lived two completely different experiences in each place, I think there was many more food and drink places in the Rose Garden. Even janieannie would mention this later on, talking about the many options of beer sellers we had at halftime. Still, the arena was recognizably NBA-like, and thankfully my signed Manu jersey found counterparts in the many glimpses of black, white and silver between a sea of black, red and burgundy.

I had splurged a little for my first ever NBA road game, so my seats were more or less equal in quality to the ones the Spurs had given me for the home games - only opposite the benches instead of behind them. I was there in time to see the Red Sandwich practice his craft, letting fly one rocket after the other. Oh, and Manu was there, too, shooting mundane, boring threes. janieannie "hey"ed me 20 minutes before the game - her seats were in the next section to my right, one level above mine. We chatted for a while, despite her having to look down at me like a retired history teacher, impossibly nice, female version of Yao Ming. The minutes flew by.

Great seats to see a bad loss

I'm not going to review the game; it's in the past, and we've all moved on. If you must, remember it as February's "Shitty Cavs Game". We could've won, we should've won, but we were outhustled down the stretch. Ugh. What I will talk about is the crowd, and this is something the folks over at Blazers Edge will appreciate. Because, of all the fans I got to see (Spurs, Blazers, Lakers, Denver, maybe Dallas in a way), the Blazers were by far the best, the most passionate, the embodiment of home advantage. They cheered from the very start of the game, and absolutely blew up during the 4th quarter. Fans in the "good seats" around me were just as passionate as the ones looking down from the nosebleeders, and everybody loved their team. It pains me to say this, but Spurs fans could learn a thing or two from the Blazers faithful.

They were reasonably good-natured near my seat, too. In fact, the only annoying person I could see in that first half was a Spurs fans that kept trying to a) annoy the locals, and b) get some support from me. He was asked to sit down by the Blazers ushers a couple of times, and finally was politely warned to shut up or he would be kicked out.

At halftime janieannie commented that she wasn't fond of her seats. The angle wasn't good for taking photos, and the seat in front of hers held a woman whose big hairdo prevented her from seeing the game when they battled beneath the basket. I proposed exchanging seats, insisted, and finally convinced her to. Ms. Big Hair was a black lady who looked bored with the game, and disgusted at the boorish lot cheering around her. Her hair was indeed all over my view, but the extra foot of height allowed me to enjoy the game regardless of the wall of hair. At one point I shouted "VAMOS, MANU!" while leaning back in my chair, and she gave me a sharp look. "Don't scream in my ear," she glowered at me, and I automatically apologized. Not 15 minutes later, as the third quarter was winding down, the young and excitable Blazers fan that kept looking at me and winking when his team scored shouted something as a young and excitable fan is wont to do. Ms. Big Hair repeated her angry request, despite the guy having been nowhere near her ear, but the fan wasn't a polite Argentine tourist, so instead of apologizing he said: "Hey, lady, this is a sporting event. I'll shout as much as I want to."

Apparently, that was too much for Mr. Big Hair, sitting next to his significant other and somehow having managed to hide his enormous self from my perceptions (and the excitable fan's, I bet). He turned around like a jaguar whose tail had been stepped on by an unsuspecting hunter and pounced: his meaty hands gripped the back of his seat and he leaned forward, his whole, large body tensing. He had a big, flat face, but somehow it seemed proportional to his immense body, a fact that I noted with clinical detachment but that probably factored heavily into the excitable fan's response. "The lady asked you not to shout in her ear. Is there a problem?" he blared.

I couldn't take photos, so this visual approximation will have to do

Now, I have to give this to the excitable fan: he didn't abandon his argument, he only changed the tone and the inflection of his response. Still, it didn't seem to convince Mr. Big Hair, and everyone in the section looked at them with the expectant stares I bet they had in the Roman Coliseum when a big, burly, axe-wielding gladiator was about to be let loose on a poor Christian. Argument went back and forth for a minute as Manu scored on short jumper, and eventually Mr. Big Hair decided he had intimidated the excitable fan enough and forced him to fist bump. Never in my life have I see a more violent fist bump. When the colossus turned around the excitable fan's friend sitting next to him just gave him a one-armed hug, laughing his ass off as friends have to do when things like this happen.

Mr. and Ms. Big Hair left midway through the fourth quarter, so the excitable fan was able to dedicate all his energy to good-naturedly mocking me. I handled the would-be high fives and the popped shirt with as much class as I could muster, and then left to meet janieannie.

She wanted to stay after the game to meet the players. You see, janieannie she had a pass and wanted to meet Manu; I didn't, though, and told her as much. No problem, she said. "Act as if you belong." Huh. I put my jacket on my shoulder and over my chest, where the pass (which had to be affixed to your shirt) ought to be, and walked next to janieannie without ever looking at one of the security guards. Somehow it worked.

We got to see some players, Chip, and Pop. I said hi to Tom, too, which was nice. Manu never made it out of the tunnel, though - he was probably too pissed at the missed opportunity. Eventually we had had enough and decided to leave. As we walked towards the exit a guard asked me for my pass. I was trying to formulate an answer, but janieannie took over. "Oh, you lost it, right, dear?" She looked at the guard, but never stopped walking. "He dropped it somewhere." And then we were through, laughing.

Never play poker (or truco) against janieannie, folks.

I could write about me walking janieannie to her hotel, and then getting hopelessly turned around in the strange neighborhood. I could mention the useless salary man or the incredibly helpful homeless guy that finally pointed me in the right direction. I would tell you of waiting for the number 8 bus for half an hour in the rain, reading the book I had taken with me just in case something like that happened, or how a woman finally took pity of me and explained that the number 8 bus only worked until 10 PM. I should mention the quest I went through to find a taxi, too... However, I think I've written too much already, and probably lost all of you somewhere along the way.

Keep on raining, Portland

By the time I arrived at Casey's, I was tired, wet once more, and ready to leave Portland. California was waiting, and I naively thought I was ready for it. I was wrong.