On Sleep Deprivation, The Chinese Gardens, Powell's City of Books, Old Town Pizza, and Moments in Portland
It’s October 23rd, 2011, and I have been awake for 23 hours straight. The fun began seven hours ago when I helped dock the ship to the floating dock down in River Front Place near downtown Portland. After docking, I realized I technically was off duty, but I stayed on, as there was luggage to move from the ship to the dock. The easiest way is to hand it down from the upper deck to the main deck through a gate. This involves many spinal compressions, as travellers are apt to bring their antique typewriters and cast iron stoves on cruises; I don’t know why. I was the catcher, as I have some height to me, and am all right with hard work.
My good deed has cost me 10 minutes of my time. I feel good however, as the process went much more smoothly than without me. Luggage sucks when you are a guy down.
I went to my room, decided on a shower, refreshed with eucalyptus. Koala bears know what is good.
I leave the boat heading to the nearby coffee shop for some Stumptown, perhaps one of the world’s great coffees, and a cinnamon roll. I have a weakness for cinnamon rolls. I monkey around on the internet, posting a blog, making some inane commentary about my day on facebook, pull ahead of my brother in a game of scrabble, and snap my computer closed. The lighting is getting good.
I amble back to the ship. I grab my camera, tripod, and offload my computer. I call my brother and I’m gone. I find a park bench lit up in perfect lighting. I have to photograph this light, as it is perfect. Not only that, but I’ve been waiting to compose this bench all season. I settle in, take my self-portrait, and enjoy the scene. It smells faintly of pee from the bums that sleep here at night, but the lighting remains beautiful. I call my brother back and the conversation resumes. It’s a good one. I haven’t talked to my brother in quite some time, and it is good to catch up, to philosophize, to laugh aloud, to reconnect, to be brothers.
I pick up and walk. I head towards Chinatown. I remember something about gardens, and I would like to see them. I’m wandering. Runners run. Biker’s bike. Good looking people look good. Frumpy looking people eye me frumpily. Nobody says, “Hello, may your day go well for you.” No matter, I’m lost in the conversation.
I find the gardens with little trouble. Pretty much the first place I looked. Damn, I’m good. At this point, I have been up for 18 and a half hours and feeling good. My phone battery is dying, and I’m dying, and I want to see the gardens before I die. So I say farewell to my brother who is drinking wine in a soft rain by a slightly silted river in central Minnesota.
I enter the gardens, pay my fee, and say thank you to the garden hosts. The hosts are garden loving people and they remind me of plants by their quietness and composure. I let my senses take over. The gardens are wonderful. They offer a concoction that is irresistible to my senses. It smells fresh. Fragrant plants are important to a good Chinese garden. It is beautifully simplistic in some areas, strikingly complicated in others. The Chinese are into harmony, the yin to the yang, the tall to the short, the wet to the dry, the dark to the light. Every space has balance and beauty in nature. I’m smitten. I get it. My mind thinks. “I wish the surrounding city was silent. I wish the imposing neighborhood buildings weren’t so tall. I wish I were hanging out in classical Chinese gardens in midmorning without a care in the world. “HA! I am exactly where I want to be, and I’m happy.
The koi fish are rascals, beautiful as dragons, swimming in erratic designs through the pond. The are intriguing, colorful, and hard to photograph. I follow them across the pond attempting to catch them off guard, but it’s impossible. I leave them be.
The garden is wonderful. The pamphlet tells me this is the best example of classical Chinese gardens outside of China. I take out my camera and search the chambers closer than I could with my eye. I was looking and freezing the Zen moments that poured out of every chamber of this garden, and I was satisfied. I love taking photos, but I’ll not dissect that subject today. I walked through the garden twice, meandering a path in one direction and backtracking the same path in reverse. I pause to sit beneath a quiet tree in the Hall of Scholars.
I decided to go and buy Frank Herbert’s "Dune" from Powell’s. It is a pleasant walk along streets I haven’t visited before. I cross through the park and take more photos of the elephant. When thinking of perfect conditions, I was hoping for rain. These elephants would look quite good in a gloom with nobody about, but alas, not today. I walk west along Burnside, pass the auto mart, and ignore the noisy traffic. There it is, Powell’s City off Books. I think I hear a chorus of angels singing.
On my entrance, I realize there is a handicapped person in a wheel chair with their family in tow behind me. I hold the door for them. Then I hold it for three more people leaving. They say, “Thank you,” I say, “You’re welcome.” A warm feeling buzzes around us.
I walk into the tall shelves of books. I know where I’m going. At least I think I do until I realize I’m in the wrong section. I ask a redundant man pecking at a keyboard which way to science fiction. “Gold Room, on the right.” “Thank you, sir.“ I’m on my way.
Frank Herbert is huge. He has written arguably the best science fiction series in history, and I want to read it. I want to restart with "Dune," and continue. My personal favorite science fiction series is "The Worthing Saga" by Orson Scott Card. I’m keenly interested in "Dune" for some reason. I like Science Fiction but only read it a couple of times a year. I find a copy for six bucks and move on, remembering the name of one more author I like Greg Garrett. He’s only written two books it turns out, and I had already read both of them. Ah well. I leave Powell’s purchasing only one book. It is possible.
Back to the park, to the north end, where the bums lie on benches, the ground, in the shade, and amble by working on their troubles. At this point, I have been up for 21 hours, and I’m looking forward to my pizza date with my fellow deckhands. I have some time to kill before one however, and sit down to read my new book. It goes well, but I’m nagged by the feeling of very deep tiredness, hunger, and the thought that they aren’t going to arrive at the restaurant until 2 pm. I want to be in bed by 3 pm… Not good.
I decide to go to get my pizza. I have to. I’m weary and losing my focus. I wander down Davis St. to Old Town Pizza, and enter. The place is terrific. It’s dark, hardly lit at all except by natural lighting from the front window. It smells good. A bar to my right made of good dark wood and high mirrors. Straight ahead, a politely smiling miss waits to hear my decisions. Looking at the menu, I decide on the following: Classic crust, pepperoni, bell peppers, and roasted garlic. I love roasted garlic. To me this is heaven and soon to be in my possession. I get a glass of wine at the bar and take a seat at an old wrought iron table with wood top. I love the lighting. This building is haunted, so they say, and I can believe it. This is an old building in Old Town, and it feels right for a ghost.
It also feels right for a pizza, and it wasn’t long before it arrives. I called my friends, told them my plans, and they won’t make it in time. Ah well, I’ve dated myself before, and happily dig into my carbohydrates. It’s a damn good pizza. I eat half. I’m stuffed. I’m happy. I ask for a box. I get one. In the process of putting my leftovers in the box, I spill the last swallow of wine on my jeans. I catch the glass, somehow, and look at my jeans. It appears I wet my pants, and I now smell like wine. I laugh. This is funny. I dab at it with a napkin, cut my losses and exit.
I decide I may as well stagger back to ship and ask bums for pennies. Why not? It’s not too hard to act the part. I forget it when I near my first bum. I’m tired as hell, full, and happy.
I notice the small moments of life along the way home.
A haggard woman steps out of the public ladies room singing a happy song. A man makes out with his woman along the rail where not too long ago, I did the same thing.
A smile begins to form at the corners of my mouth. A smirk. I’m thinking of my wine stained pee pants, and the moments of my day. It’s been a good one, and I feel my face light up into a grin. I chuckle aloud to no one and everyone. Thom knows how to walk through Portland.
Geese give me the stink eye as I walk past the large flock eating grass. I hear the chomping of the blades and think of the shortening of the grass. I see many panhandlers and street people plying their trade. A man will sing you a ditty on his banjo on any subject you offer him. A talented young man plays the violin quite well. He’s not gifted, but he is good, and I toss him a buck. What do I need it for? I move on, swaying down the sidewalk. An odd-looking man in a black leather jacket talks quietly with his friend. I get the feeling he’s shy. He doesn’t strike me as a leather jacket type of guy. I think to myself that everyone has a self-image. Everyone wants to look like there own self-image of themselves. They know how they want the world to perceive them. This is too deep for me. I’ve been up for 22 and a half hours and homing in on the ship. I’m close to my bed.
When I arrive it is 2 pm, and I have been up for 23 hours. I’m completely inspired to write this, and sleep will have to wait. I stand next to my bunk in my underwear and begin typing. I don’t usually write standing up in my underwear, but I’m ok with it. The words come fast, and my typing accurate. I know I have to write this while I’m in this mood, so tired, yet so perfectly poignant in my thinking about my day. I remember everything. I want to get this all down before I forget. At this point, I’m getting tunnel vision. Must keep typing. I feel the ghost of Kerouac pacing behind me whispering, “Yes, Yes, YES! Dig IT! GO, MAN GO!” I think I’m there. In eight minutes, I’ll have been up for 24 hours straight. I’m satisfied. I take another shower. I think to myself. I soap. I rinse. I can call it a day, a very satisfying full day.
I’ve been up for 24 hours and seven minutes, and I’ve turned out the light.