| Illinois | Wisconsin
| Minnesota | South
Montana | Idaho
| Washington | Oregon
last füd, last lodging. Last state. After three summer weeks in
Michigan, Chicago, and other Midwest places, I wound up with the hottest
weather -- 100 degrees -- in the Pacific Northwest. But 100 degrees
in those parts comes without the humid swelter, so it's just straight
hot. And that's easy.
Portland's easy too.
Easy driving, easy walking, easy eating. My first stop was Montage,
a Cajun type of
place under an overpass. (Thanks to Portland veteran Chris
the tip!) You're supposed
to get oyster shooters here,
that's what everyone says, so I got one. That's it over there in the
photo, in my hand. It was okay. It made me a little squeamish. What I
liked better was my entrée, a jazzed up macaroni and cheese (jalapenos,
chicken, tomatoes) that reminded me a bit of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack here
in San Francisco. Montage serves Mickey's malt liquor -- that reminded
me even more of Emmy's. We went instead with ice-cold northwestern Rainier
beer -- just right for the hundred degrees.
3439 SE Belmont Street
Paradox Palace Café is
close to the idea of Portland I had in my head, as is SE Belmont, the
street it's on. Elliott Smith ("either/or," for
the record) whispered out over the booths, managing not to sound like
what you'd hear in a Portland-themed coffee shop in some other city.
It fit, effortlessly. The clientele was a mix of hipster and hippie.
About 80/20 for the hipsters. The kid next to me asked if the coffee
was vegan. "Depends on what you dump in it," he was told. I
sat on my stool at the low counter and ate a fruit cup followed by a
couple cups of non-vegan coffee, which was great, like all the coffee
I had in Portland. I wondered if this would be my last seat on a stool
this trip (it was). To immortalize it, I snapped the picture you see
here, and frowned into my coffee cup.
The next day, after
a Mount Hood hike with my host and longtime homey Eric and his soon-to-be-wife
(pictured), I had San Francisco, my
cat Lou Whitaker, and my own bed in my head, and they would not get
out. I would barrel through straight on a drive requiring untold cups
This was at the time
of the big Oregon fires. It hadn't rained in I don't know how long,
and again it was 100 degrees. I wasn't terribly
to the fire, but it still made a sick brown early sundown from 20
miles away, and when I pulled off in tiny Wolf Creek it felt like the
town left, anywhere. All it had was a gas station (ominously surrounded
by police cars)…and this miraculous espresso trailer. There
was no regular coffee but the woman brewed a new pot just for me.
it dripped we talked about the fire, she having just come from volunteer-fighting
it. As we talked she made a woman and her daughter two drinks that
the spitting image of Frappucinos.
From there it was
a blur of a coffee-addled drive into California where I declared my
last banana at the produce
police stop and pointed
car for SFO and the AVIS rental drop.
I left the car in
a massive, empty parking structure at 4 in the morning. Goodbye to
the white Chevy
Malibu -- who's driving it
now, and where?
So long to the stoplights and atlas. Farewell to Frank and Matt
and Steve and their great diners, but hello to the new eaters
sliding onto stools
right now, calling for coffee and menus after their long drives.
Michigan | Illinois | Wisconsin | Minnesota | South
Montana | Idaho | Washington | Oregon