Thursday, April 30, 2015

Still in Search of the Weird

Perhaps it is a reflection of my own tolerance for the unique that I have been in Portland four whole days and can't find a thing that I'd consider to be weird.  I've entered a shop that sold nothing but Oaxacan artifacts; been to a spa with a total body vibration machine and Japanese ionic foot bath (ooh! and aaaaaah, respectively); and saw a gal working double hula hoops on a city street corner.  While all of these things struck me as having a funky factor, I wouldn't put any of them in the "weird" category.

Then again, I'm a senior citizen with burgundy hair and a white streak that, often as not, contains strands of silver tinsel.  I am also an artist who occasionally dresses like a mermaid.  I may be the weirdest thing in town right now.

Still, I valiantly continued my search.

One thing I've found that is different (still, not weird) is a proliferation of food carts.  Portland even has a large, localized pod of these trucks called Cartlandia - a block of food carts encompassing a parking lot.  A full block.  It even spills over a little across Southwest 10th and Alder.

Cartlandia's trucks confront the sidewalk with everything from Kargi Gogo's Georgian khinkali (I had no idea either) to Taste of Transylvania's Covri dogs (blood sausages, I guessed - possibly in a politically incorrect manner.)

I have to admit, Taste of Transylvania almost moved the needle on my Weird-O-Meter.  But not quite.  It was only my overactive imagination and my mother's penchant for old Bela Lugosi movies that made me associate the cart with Dracula and cock an eyebrow.  After meandering over, however, I decided there was nothing weird about Romanian food.

Nothing in the whole of Cartlandia seemed weird.  As a matter of fact, most of it seemed downright NORMAL.  Who, in the US of A has not yet had bubble tea or seen an Indian restaurant?  Is this person living in a cave or, perhaps, in the Ozarks?

I had a very tasty sandwich of labneh with zatar and left, disappointed in the weird department (definitely not in the sandwich).

Then - a ray of hope.  One of the carts had this sign taped to its side:

Alas, the owner of this cart had already closed shop.  I hope to return to see if the transmogrifier really works.  If it does, I plan on asking him to turn me into a 23 year old bikini model.

That would truly be weird.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Today's Travel Tips...

TRAVEL TIP #1:  Do not patronize a questionable Chinese buffet the day before a trip.

I don't know if it was the Manila clams in a jalapeno infused sauce or the Asian man who stood next to me at the airport, turned to me, and sneezed violently without even attempting to cover his mouth.  Either way, I'm almost sure it was something Asian that caused me to come down with violent stomach pains and a fever yesterday afternoon.

Fortunately, I'm staying with friends.  Still, one hates to inconvenience people.  If your host is looking forward to spending time with you (and WHY would you impose yourself on someone who didn't?), it's a downer for all concerned when you fall ill.  I once fell ill for three days while visiting my friend, Anna, in California.  She was dog sitting for a small German Shepard named "Dave" who slept with me the entire time.  Anna threatened to post my "slutty" behavior on Facebook:  My friend came to visit me and has spent three days in bed with Dave!

The thought of getting ill on the road is what deters some from traveling solo.  Of course, when you're staying with friends, there is a sense of security.  But I've come down with some serious maladies in parts unknown without anyone to turn to.

Case in point:  Dominica.

Dominica is also a travel tip entitled "How not to get cheated by a travel guide", but that is for another blog.  At any rate, my guide was taking me to those off-the-beaten-path locations that the more adventurous traveler seeks out (read "cliffs with 10" footholds".)  We were also patronizing all his friends' establishments (read "kickback").  One of his friends owned a street cart where, my guide assured me, they served authentic Dominican food.  Having had at least one stomach-churning experience with a food cart in Thailand, I hesitated.  But the chicken and rice he suggested sounded safe enough.

After giving my guide (too much) money to purchase our meals, he proffered a plate of rice that contained small bits of chicken and a multitude of tiny bones.  At first I thought this was some kind of mistake.  My guide assured me this was how the locals ate, and proceeded to prove it by crunching a mouthful of his own bone-laden meal.  Not wanting to offend his culture, I decided to try it.  The guide looked upon me with disgust a few mouthfuls later as I started to pick through the plate, claiming lack of hunger.

That night my stomach felt like someone was tattooing it from the inside out.

Shortly after I returned home, I was hospitalized for a week with internal bleeding.

Next time, I will culturally offend.

So - two lessons learned.  1. You are not the host of Bizarre Foods (who must have made a pact with the devil vis a vis his stomach.) and 2. While it is even less pleasant than having a tooth pulled, you can survive being sick while traveling solo.

And now I bring you....

TRAVEL TIP #2:  Wrap any electronic plug you intend to use publicly in a distinctive manner.

Guess which of these plugs is mine?  If you said the ones with the colorful zig zag tape affixed to them, you'd be wrong.  Mine is one of the plain white ones.  Ahhhh...but WHICH white one?  Get my drift?  The gal who taped her plugs in circus colors is never going to have an argument with anyone about which one is hers.  She is also going to be able to see at a glance if someone snitches hers.  Or accidentally exchanges her brand-name iPhone plug for a dollar store knock off that will last a month, max.

Good idea, Colorful Tape Gal!  I will be using your idea in the future.

Route 65 signing off.  No longer sick in Portland, I continue my search for the weird.  Tomorrow, I reveal some hints of its existence.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Keep Portland Weird

I love my little house in New Jersey (I'm not considering weather, traffic, or taxes here, mind you). That being said, there is little explanation for why I've always felt compelled to wander.  The closest I've come to any explanation for this was something my mother once said to me:  "I don't know where you came from!  The gypsies left you!"

The mischief I'd been up to that prompted that comment is long forgotten, but I clearly recall mentally smacking my forehead and thinking:  "That explains EVERYTHING!" After that, I would perk up whenever someone knocked at the door at night, picturing a swarthy man in a vest with a bandana, gold earring, and violin, come to pick me up.  My real father.  I never felt that I fit in - not at home, not at school nor, when I got older, at any job I ever worked. 

Perhaps this wanderlust is an expression of my desire to find someplace where I feel as if I truly belong.  So, when my young friend, Melody, asked me to visit her in Portland - a city whose motto, she claimed, was "Keep Portland Weird" - I had hopes that I had found my Mecca.

I arrived in Portland at 10 pm last night.  Its reputation as a green city was immediately confirmed when I confronted this item in the airport restroom:

UP for liquids; DOWN for solids.  Very Left Coast.  Green, but not exactly weird.

And, speaking of green.  Spring had just begun when I left my NW Jersey area.  It is full blown here in Portland.  Outside the window of the home where I am staying is a tree with an EXPLOSION of white, puffy flowers.  Across the street, the sun emphasizes a fuchsia azalea, promising me a very good day.  The folks I have met so far - Mel's landlords and two other twenty-somethings who share this home - welcomed me warmly and explained Portland's arrangement into quadrants, readying me for whatever beautiful, colorful, magical mischief this gypsy can arrange.

I hope some of it is weird.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Journey to Adventure

Underwater mermaid colonies, teens fighting banshees - I like writing about things like that.  I also like relating non-fiction tales about my grandfather's wooden leg or my wild hippie college year in California c. 1969.  Oddly enough for an author, what I don't like writing about is writing.

Have no fear!  If you want to read about query letters, formatting, self-publishing, etc. there is a plethora of information about this on the internet.  But, long ago when I was a sheltered young thing wearing a plaid uniform to parochial school, I realized I would never be a writer if all I did was stay within the three square miles of my hometown in front of a piece of paper.  (We used to use paper to write on way back then.  Thank GOD for modern technology!)  I knew I wanted to live a life of adventure that would give me experiences to write about.  I wanted to love, laugh and learn about people and places so that my characters would be believable and whole.  (Before the critics start to carp, I know this is not the only way to write, but it is the path that best fits who I am.)

John Lennon said it best:  Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

Single motherhood on a teacher's salary dashed dreams of overwater bungalows in exotic tropical locales.  For me, it was sleeping in teepees with my son on Boy Scout camping trips and aquarium visits with single parent groups.  While I enjoyed it all, I still longed to visit the places I saw as a child on Journey to Adventure with Gunther Less.  Yes, while my compatriots were glued to Howdy Doody*, I was watching travel shows.

Seriously, even people MY age do not remember Gunther Less, but along with Jacques Cousteau, he was one of my favorite TV personalities.  I would stare at films of far away places, listen to Gunther's German accented voice describe their enchantments, and think: "When I grow up, I want to go to all those places."

Well, I grew up and my son grew up and, while I'm far from rich, I managed to travel to at least SOME of those places.  And I visited many of them alone.

In this revamped blog, I will be writing about those journeys - physical and metaphoric, Outer Banks to inner soul.   I will also be writing about journeys to come as I find myself in my "senior years" with a limited income and (still) an unlimited desire to see the world. 

If you've ever dreamed of far away places and think it's too late to find them; if you dream of them now and don't know how you will ever fulfill those dreams; if you are alone and afraid to walk that road without a companion, I hope that you will read this blog and be inspired to start your own journey.

As Roy Rogers used to say:  "Happy Trails!"

*For you young 'uns, Howdy was sort of the Sponge Bob of the 50's.  Only live.  And with a clown.