The last few months of travel, I have been a bad blogger but an extremely good haver of fun and other life experiences. I hope you will forgive me, and I’ll catch you up right now!
Portland / Chicago / Pittsburgh
After we left Boise, we headed for Portland, and we spent a month there between the end of August and the end of September, and it was pretty great. The place we stayed was in Northeast Portland, which is a little seedier than I expected, but mostly harmless and hilarious. Most of the neighborhood was cute, and it wasn’t too difficult to stay away from the extra-methy areas.
I have a couple of major impressions of our time in Portland.
- The food. It is just, like, WOWOWOW what is happening in my mouth!?!? Almost every single food I had my whole time there was mindbendingly good. Many days I enjoyed the offerings of the ridiculously yummy taqueria that was like 800 feet from our apartment. If you go there and get the carnitas burrito with green and red sauce on it, I guarantee your entire being will hum with happiness. And there are tons of fantastic breakfast joints, too— Gravy, Broder Nord, Carioca Bowls, Pine State Biscuits —and that’s my favorite!
- The people: Portland people are extremely nice, and fairly genuine about it, I think? Most delightful of all were the nights I spent hanging out with some of my very favorite college-era pals and band-mates who all ended up in Portland over the last few years. We all look exactly the same — how is that possible?! — and we fell back in together like no time had passed at all. So much fun and <3. (Our band’s name was Boot Skootin’ btw.)
- The walls of our apartment: My other major impression of Portland is about being stuck inside, because I had a big work deadline and I had to get up for a call every morning at 5:30 am, which blew … So although I did get out and about to a few places — Powell’s of course, this amazing art store, one gorgeous day on the coast — I didn’t get to see as much beautiful Oregon nature as I would’ve liked. Plus our first weekend there, the whole city was choked with gross brown smoke from the wildfires on the other side of the state!
All that being said, I really like Portland quite a lot, and I look forward to going back and gaining a few more pounds of burrito weight.
After Portland, I had a work trip to Chicago, where I had many laughs and walks and incredible Mexican seafoods with my buddies Ben and Mark.
And then on to Pittsburgh where I went to a CAT CIRCUS with my dear Jolene and legit saw shit like this in real life.
Seriously. The Cat Circus was literally the best thing I ever saw.
Then I headed off to New York to meet back up with my husband!
Brooklyn / Minneapolis / Pittsburgh
I loooove Brooklyn. So much. From the shitty old East Williamsburg house where I lived in the 90s to the beautiful parlor-level Park Slope brownstone apartment where I lived in the aughts, I have loved it deeply, and for a very long time.
So when my dear friend Mike (who I lived with in that shitty old house) told us he was getting married in October and asked if we could come, Rich and I were like, “Hmm, October in NYC rules … why don’t we just spend the whole month there?”
Then we high-fived and rented an apartment in Greenpoint between McCarren and McGolrick Parks, and there was a church and a laundromat and a couple of bodegas and an amazing coffee shop right at the end of the block, and my pals Nora and James lived just a few blocks away, and all my beloved Brooklyn crew came over to have wine and pizzas with us a bunch of times, and it was perfect.
Another important thing happened while we were in New York: the Hamilton cast album came out, and like half of the internet, I lost my damn mind.
While we were in NYC, I had to go away on a couple more work trips. During the first trip, to Minneapolis, I had seriously nothing to do, so I kept trolling the Hamilton website for a ticket to an upcoming show, and guess what! I found one!! A singleton in the highest mezzanine for the following Saturday! Click BOOM!
And then I got back to New York and went to see it, and I lost my mind again because it was so good that I cried my eyes dry. And I stuck around afterwards and saw this Ham4Ham show unfolding right in front of me! And it was all so beautiful! And yes, my black Gen X heart is shriveling up from the earnestness but I can’t help it! It’s so good!!
During the second work trip, to Pittsburgh, I visited my brother and sister-in-law and my adorable niece and nephew. My brother’s family had kindly adopted our elderly cat when we left town, but he was losing weight and didn’t seem like he felt well, so we went to the vet. The news wasn’t good … he was very sick … and ultimately we made the decision to let him go rather than subject his old frail self to more suffering.
I think it was the right thing to do, but somehow knowing that doesn’t make it much easier to say goodbye.
RIP Grassy. You were hilarious and grumpy and head-butty and we loved you.
Brooklyn / Philadelphia / Portland
When I got back to Brooklyn, Rich’s parents came to stay with us for a bit, which was delightful because they are delightful. And we drank lots of wine and ate great food and had wonderful chats and took long walks through the city and just enjoyed the heck out of our time together.
The weekend when the fall colors were at their best in upstate New York just happened to be the weekend my dear friend Mike got married to his beautiful lady Sondra, and I don’t know about them, but it was a peak experience in MY life for sure. Everyone was so wonderful, and all of us old idiots spent the night together dancing and singing and telling stories and laughing so hard we cried like a million times. High five, Mike and Sonj. Love you guys.
After the wedding was over and Rich’s folks headed off for the rest of their holiday, Rich got a train from New York to Portland (three nights in a sleeper car!) and I went to a retreat at Pendle Hill, a Quaker center just outside of Philadelphia. There I met up with my friend Debbie and a couple dozen other lovely thoughtful people, and we spent the weekend meditating, eating really good wholesome food, taking about important stuff, and walking around in the gorgeous fall colors.
I hadn’t gone on any kind of retreat in a few years at least, and I guess I really needed to, because even though it was only a few days, the impact was huge. My time there did exactly what I hoped — gave me a spot outside of the normal day-to-day to be still, to think and reflect and listen. Thank you to Amy and Jeff for putting together such a restorative weekend for us.
Then I got on a plane to meet up with Rich in Portland where we’d left our car, so we could get our shit together and drive down to Boulder, where we rented a house for the next six months.
On our trip out to the West Coast over the summer, Rich and I both loved Boulder, even with its hippie-fascist quirks. It’s peaceful and clean and smack in the middle of amazing natural beauty. And it’s compact, super easy to get around by foot and bike and car. We’ve both lived in cities for a long time, so the much smaller feel of Boulder is a nice change.
So, when we were in Portland, and we decided to settle down for the winter so that Rich could have a shoulder problem looked at, we looked in Boulder for a sublet. I found a great place on Craigslist almost immediately — a super cool house with a crazy three-headed shower and a deep jacuzzi tub with a built-in light therapy system (?!) and two decks and huge windows with an incredible view of the mountains, right in town. All of this for much less than we’d spent on monthly Airbnb rent since the summer.
After talking with the guy on the phone, taking a Skype tour of the house, and even getting a local realtor to pretend to be my friend and come by the place to make sure it wasn’t a scam, we signed the lease. Sight unseen! We did the best due diligence we could from a distance, but it still felt like a pretty good-sized risk when we sent that deposit over PayPal.
Thankfully it paid off, and we arrived at the place about four weeks ago, and it’s (almost) exactly what we were expecting. There were some hiccups when we first got here, but by now we are all settled in and feelin’ it because almost every day looks like this, or better:
Boulder seems to be an excellent place to walk and to think, and that’s how both Rich and I have been spending our time — walking to town, along the creek, up the steep streets and through the gardens of the oldest part of town.
We are spending a lot of time at home, too, eating roasts and soup, drinking tea, writing, reading, thinking. I’ve been painting, too, and working on my book, and, yes, listening to Hamilton at least once most days.
Some afternoons when the sun is about to dip behind the mountains, I go up on the roof deck and dance to “The Schuyler Sisters” on repeat in the last few minutes of light. I’m pretty sure no one can see me up there, but I guess I don’t care too much if they can.