We took our very first day trip by plane yesterday and it was an adventure indeed. I work for an airline and the flight benefits are fantastic. They are standby but since we can see the loads of the plane know which flights will be full and which will not. The problem however, does not have anything to do with the flight benefits but rather our own schedules. During the normal part of the year my kids have Japanese class on Saturday which leaves only Sunday open.
Sunday is also often spoken for with social activities but even if it isn’t, the amount of Japanese homework is atrocious and much of it done on Sunday. This leaves no time for adventures at all which is actually kind of sad. Sometimes I really don’t understand Japanese thinking. Study, study, study and after that study some more so you can get a good job. Then work, work work until you commit suicide or life passes you buy until you’re forced into early retirement. This is why I sometimes override the wife and buy my kids things even though it isn’t a birthday or Christmas.
However, yesterday was Labor Day and Japanese school hasn’t resumed yet which meant we had two full free days on Sunday and Monday (still had karate on Saturday). We decided to jump at the opportunity and go somewhere using the flight benefits. Our first though was Seattle but the return flights were full. Portland flights had plenty of open seats though so that is where we went.
Another motivator to do it is I now have the travel process down like a pro. I have an employee sticker for airport parking, I have TSA Precheck so we glide right through security, I have status at the rental car company so we get a good rate and a nice car. And finally, my phone is packed with apps that give me all the necessary information and ability to change plans on the fly should that be needed. With all of these things the trip goes very smoothly with minimal hassle.
The first fun thing we did in Portland was actually pick out the rental car. I’ve never had elite status before and so going to the Executive Aisle and getting to choose between a large number of very good cars/SUVs was a treat for us.
We got in around 8:30 so the first stop was for breakfast. We had done our research and mapped out the trip but my wife made a small mistake on the breakfast place as it wasn’t open on Monday. She had another one in mind though and so we found ourselves at the delightfully strange Cameo Cafe. It is typical American fare “with a Korean twist.” The decor has a lot of antiques and makes for a delightfully unique atmosphere.
As I will always pick the house specialty I went with kimchi flavored ramen with bulgogi meat and a fried egg. It wasn’t what I would consider breakfast food but it was one of the unique items on the menu and it was very good.
The morning was still early by the time we finished breakfast and we had an hour before the Japanese Tea Garden opened up. Luckily I had starred a few other places that might be interesting on my Google Maps and saw that The Grotto, which didn’t make our original plan, was just down the street and so we went.
I’m very glad we had time for this place as it is very peaceful with an atmosphere which encourages a calm mind and reflection. You’re surrounded by a forest of very large pine trees and a beautiful rock wall of a mountain to the right side while you walk along a paved path. There are a few speakers hidden away which give off the faint sound of Gregorian chant that compliment the sound of a small stream appearing out of the bottom of that rock wall. Here is link to the picture I took of it.
It was then off to the Japanese Tea Garden. The Tea Garden in Portland is much better and larger than the one in San Francisco. I had thought that the famous picture of the Portland skyline with Mount Hood in the background was from the tea garden but I was wrong. There is no view of the skyline from there as it looks like this
Next it was to the Pittock Mansion. I always enjoy walking through the former homes of the aristocracy in America. I love history and it helps give me a very intimate sense of what life was like back then for these captains of industry as well as what the world was like at that time. My foremost thoughts were as follows.
There is a picture of Henry Pittock on the beach in Hawaii. Back in the early 1900s travel like that would have been limited to the very rich. Now here we are in 2019 and my family and I were on a day trip to a place 533 miles away from where we live. And we just came back from a trip to Japan, which of course is across a vast ocean! The age of the jet-plane is an amazing one indeed. We become so used to modern comforts that we no longer realize just how amazing they really are and do not appreciate what they allow us to do in the modern age.
The second main thought came when looking at memorabilia from the World’s Fair – Lewis and Clark Centennial Exhibition held in 1905. A World’s Fair must have been such an exciting event. The title is appropriate as it did bring people (the rich) together from all over the world to show the achievements of nations. Perhaps another function was simply to bring people together and evoke a sense of unity? What an amazing event it must have been!
However, behind all that excitement there were dark clouds forming and before long World Wars I and II would happen where it must have seemed all was lost and the progress of humankind set back hundreds of years. We build, we celebrate the achievements showcased by World’s Fairs and then we have raging infernos, a hell on earth, where we destroy everything. By looking at those souvenirs from 1905 I reflect on when the next major world war will happen. The international order is built on a house of cards that throughout history has been toppled over time and time again. Things have been relatively quiet for a long time and I wonder when next humanity will decide to destroy a good portion of itself. I imagine someone like me, who far in the future will look at a few souvenirs of events going on in 2019 thinking, wow and nobody knew of the great disaster which would happen in 2025, 2030 or whenever we decide to start mass killing again for the stupidest of reasons.
Well, on with the day in Portland. After the Pittock mansion it was time for lunch and we went to Killer Burger. Yes the burger was good, there was a crowd, but I would have preferred somewhere better. After lunch it was to Pioneer Square which is 40% more boring than our very own Union Square. Nothing really to see at Pioneer Square other than beggars and the general weirdos you find in Portland.
Now there is a sign in Portland that they seem very proud of as I’ve seen it on T-shirts and various advertisements. It says “Stay Weird Portland.” And yes, Portland definitely is weird. I’ve never seen so many, um “colorful” people, even in San Francisco! The hair colors, the tattoos, the body piercing, the body odor, the strange clothing or absence of it, all of this was found on every block! The people of Portland are weird indeed! Yes, we have weirdos in San Francisco but not like Portland.
Let me give you a few examples of things I saw in Portland that I’ve not seen in San Francisco. Now don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is an absolute dumpster fire these days. We have drug addicts pooping on the street everywhere. We have weirdos galore but not like Portland in my opinion.
- Old guy with no shirt or shoes in “Bib” jeans playing the banjo on the corner surrounded by all his belongings. We have homeless surrounded by their belongings but not playing a banjo in bibs.
- A shoplifter punky looking guy getting arrested outside Nordstrom Rack. I had thought it was a fist fight and my adrenaline spiked as I was with my family. But no, it was just a punk getting arrested by Nordstrom Rack security. I’ve never seen someone getting arrested like that in San Francisco mind you.
- The lady in TSA Precheck pulling out bags and bags of who-knows-what before the scanning machine. Essential oils? Marijuana? Marijuana oil?? From the looks of it she had a veritable pharmacy in her bag and was really holding up the line which is supposed to be very quick!
I cannot tell you how many times I mentioned to my wife “Portland” when seeing yet another very strange person in Portland. Yes, we have “colorful” people in San Francisco but much of them have become mainstream and so really do not stand out to us locals. Some gay guy in ass-less chaps walking down the street? Someone yelling at the lamp post? All par for the course. But in Portland it seems something is off about the entire population, not just a few radical subsets like you see in San Francisco.
We have a homeless epidemic in San Francisco and I learned that so does Portland. My wife had wanted to take a picture of an elephant statue in the North Park Blocks but it was surrounded by sleeping homeless and upon entering that block we realized that the entire block was full of homeless so we quickened the pace.
But let me back up a bit. After lunch we went to The Fields Park which one of our friends helped design. The kids played a bit and we of course did a lot of Pokemon.
We got back in the car on our way to Powell’s City of Books when my wife noticed there was an art festival going on in the North Blocks. So we went to that festival, had a walk around and my sons got to play in the excellent park there.
It was then to Powell’s City of Books where I was hoping to find a nice leather bound Don Quixote or Lord of the Rings for my collection but no luck.
Then it was to the airport and we finally got home at 10:00 PM and are now all a bit tired today.
That concludes our first day trip by airplane and I hope we’ll have many more of them.
I almost forgot to mention one thing I enjoy doing when I go on trips these days which in brief is simply creating data for Google Maps/Street View. I love travel and I love Google Maps and so I take a lot of pictures as well as 360 pictures and upload them to Google Maps / Street View. I am a data creator! I imagine the very distant future where my descendants with the use of their sophisticated technology can pull up the 360 photos I took and see what things looked like there in the year 2019. I’m leaving a trail of data for myself to look back upon as well as my descendants in the future.
The only downside is I wonder if by taking all these pictures and being so concerned with creating this data I’ve lessened the enjoyment of the experience itself. Oh well, I like looking at the places I’ve visited in VR as it helps me remember the experience. I think I’ll really appreciate that when I’m an old man and want to reflect on my life.