What is it about Portland that throws my semi-working sense of direction into total and complete chaos? It started about 10 years ago, staying at a friend's house with my husband and son (then about 18 months.) It was 7pm and I really, really wanted to go to what I'd heard was an amazing new/used bookstore (Powell's) before it closed. Nobody else wanted to go. So I dragged my son out in his PJs and set off in our borrowed (father-in-law's) motorhome on an adventure into downtown.
Crossing the river, I was instantly assaulted by one-way streets (my first problem.) Eventually, I passed Powell's (Burnside and 11th.) Nowhere to park. It was dark. So I traveled down alternate streets, looking to turn around, to find 11th again. I needed to stop for directions, but my son had crashed out in his car seat. Couldn't wake him (he was NOT a good sleeper.) My persistence paid off, and I passed Powell's again. Again. And again. I was clammy. Stressed. Lost. Just wanted to click my ruby slippers together three times. Finally, after hours of "Powell-drive-bys," I made it back across the river and found my way home, swearing never to drive into Portland again.
So it's 1o years later, and I've got a few hours to kill. I'm dying to experience an infamous Portland farmer's market. I get directions. No problem. I can do this. I can go back into the maze (call 911 if I'm not back in 3 hours.)
From Vancouver, I cross the bridge into Oregon. Go toward City Center onto Broadway. A fork in the road. Humm...the Robert Frost poem comes to mind (you know the one.) Which way is N. Broadway? I take the path definitely more traveled. Go left. Straight into downtown. Restaurants. Traffic. Pedestrians. Pedestrians. Pedestrians. I wait at red light after red light. My remaining 30 minutes (before I pick up my husband at the airport) dwindles. Ah! What's this? I'm on SW Broadway? Ah! I get back to the bridge, cross over. Back to the freeway? No I can do this! I can fight the maze.
I'm not stressed, just challenged. Back to Broadway. Turn around. Cross the bridge. Go right. Turns into Lovejoy Rd. Not Broadway. Back across the bridge (see a theme here?) I'm passing intersections. Ask a woman at a red light. 240 N. Broadway? "I don't know." Then I think I see the street. Three U-turns. 305 N. Broadway. 210 N. Broadway. Reverse. An anonymous brick building: address 2_0 N. Broadway. Middle number missing. I'm laughing now. Time almost up. I'm in a maze again. Downtown Portland maze.
I don't find berries. Tomatoes. Or spinach. But I do find a tiny Starbucks on the corner of one of my repeated intersections. Ah, chai latte. That's what I need. Pull in and order. The barista doesn't know where the market is either. She's an ex-Californian, totally nice, and takes public transit everywhere. OK, I don't feel so bad.
My chai is perfect. Cinnamon tickles my nose. Soothing warmth on my throat. Ahh, now that's peace! A beautiful mural is painted on the wall of the building next door. "Hope is Vital: It takes a planet to save a village." A Portland-Zimbabwe connection. And I suddenly realize that it's all about hope and possibility. Whether lost in another continent or in the maze of a cool, big city, full of one-way, non-existent streets. I long for adventure, and there's something so right about being lost. Out of our comfort zone. It brings a sense of calmness and excitement to me all at once. I am not defeated, but invigorated.
I get lost going to the airport (surprise, surprise.) But I do find a "Pita Pit" for lunch and I'm reminded of the little place that I found at midnight after walking for hours in Madrid last year. I order up my favorite falafel, and I'm happy.
The hope. The challenge. The open doors. It's in each of us.
Finally heading the right way, I notice once again the tiny, fuzzy white seed pods that have been raining down on us since we arrived in Oregon. I think of each one as a dandelion wish--blowing across the sky. Over trees. Across rivers. And down into the city. Just like us.
A sky full of wishes. A maze full of wishes. Round each turn, and take a peek.
I cross the bridge for the last time. I don't need to click my ruby slippers.
I am already here.
PS: Later, after re-checking Google maps, I realized the building with the number missing was the address I looking for! LOL