Life is always busy, but the last few weeks have been overwhelming.
Starting in June, we had over two months of house guests: my step-kids visited from Sweden for six weeks, and on the morning that they left, my mother-in-law arrived from England. She stayed for three weeks and a few days after she left, we had friends visit from California with their adorable pug, Jewels. All of this was happening and we had to pack up our apartment for our move back to California, which happened just a few days after our friends left.
The summer was fun, exciting, but also mega-stressful, which is why I had to take a break from blogging. Not only have I not been writing, but I've also not been reading very much either. I'm back with both and feeling like life is finally returning to its normal state of affairs.
Our year of living in Portland was a wild ride. When we moved to Portland, it wasn't a temporary situation. We didn't know that we would have the opportunity to return to California, although we kept our home in Big Bear Lake. Our move to Portland was somewhat sudden and we had to pick an apartment sight-unseen. After reading tons of Yelp reviews, we went with a modern apartment tower in the Cultural District. Our apartment was located right across the street from the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society. The apartment entrance was right on the South Park Blocks and we were a block away from the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Quickly, we found our local bar to be Higgins, which makes the best Irish Coffees.
Portland living was a difficult transition. Within a week of moving in, ground broke on a major hotel project right across the street. Our view became a construction pit and a large crane. The noise was a nuisance at first; I even called the police department twice, but soon it just became part of the ambiance. Portland is undergoing many changes right now and a major housing crisis is fueling construction projects all over the city. If you don't have a crane near you, you don't live in Portland!
Speaking of noise and the housing crisis, the park near our apartment is where many homeless people camped. Even though we lived on the eighteenth floor, we could often hear yelling and fights. Many of the people openly used drugs and left needles in the park, which was also near a day care center. It was eye-opening and frightening. Even though we lived in a fabulous, over-priced apartment, our direct neighborhood was quite dangerous. I felt sad and depressed every time I walked out of our apartment. It was a mix of feeling grateful for all that I have and feeling helpless towards all of the misfortune around me. It was overwhelming. I felt both scared and uncertain towards many of the people camping in our neighborhood, which in turn made me feel guilty for those feelings. I think the rampant drug problem was at the heart of my nervousness. More than once, I saw people injecting and twice I saw toddlers being removed by the police from parents who had passed out. I was also chased down our block by a woman babbling nonsense in a threatening manner.
Our neighborhood was the directly affected by the Portland protests. The police with their riot gear used our street as a staging area. All of the vandalism and fires were in our area. Our building even went on lock down more than once. I firmly support the right to protest and express your opinion, but I also support the police in keeping our community safe. It was scary to be living in the middle of all of this.
I thought living in the cultural district would be an amazing opportunity to see live events, perhaps even get a season theater subscription. I was shocked to discover how expensive it is to go to live events in Portland. It was easily double the price of similar events in Los Angeles. Even though we lived in such close proximity to the theaters, we didn't see much. We did join the Oregon Zoo and The Portland Art Museum. I also loved the local Regal movie theater, which was just a few blocks from our apartment and ran mostly artsy/foreign films. Of course, I can't discount Powell's Books, where I went to a few signings to meet some of my favorite authors. We also had the Wordstock Literary Festival take place in the blocks around our apartment. This was an amazing literary festival and tickets were dirt cheap. If you're a book lover, it's worth the trip to Portland.
Fall/Winter/Early Spring were rainy and bleak, but summer was indeed, as promised, glorious. I will miss summer in Portland and going to places like The Oaks Park, a smallish family run theme park with an awesome roller rink. I will miss my movie theater and I will miss grocery shopping at Fred Meyer. There are a few restaurants that I will miss, including the best six- dollar burrito cart and Ruby Jewel ice cream. I will miss our city views and our crane. Mostly though, I'll miss the friends that we made. Anywhere you live or visit, it's always about the people you meet. Always.
Here are some pictures of our apartment from our final morning.
We sold most of our furniture, but still had enough stuff to completely fill a trailer and the bed of our truck.
The biggest moving stress was the cats. Like many cats, ours do not travel well. Last year, we drove them from Big Bear Lake to Portland without stopping. This time, we had the trailer and we were getting a late start because a moving company was packing our trailer for us. With these slow-downs factored in, we decided it would be prudent to break our trip in half.
Finding a hotel that accepts cats is not easy. I found a few hotels that would allow one cat per room, but since we only needed one room, we kept looking. La Quinta Inn turned out to be a good fit. Cat ladies of the world take note - La Quinta Inn allows cats and doesn't list a limit. I don't think I'd rush to stay at a La Quinta Inn if we didn't have the cats, but for one night, the accommodations perfectly suited our needs. Plus, with the cat restrictions, we couldn't afford to be picky.
We still had these amazing pink pills that a vet in Big Bear had given us the previous year. Just a quarter of a tiny pill and the cats were knocked out for about ten hours. The meowing was minimal and they didn't seem too stressed. Giving them the pills was a battle. They both were very sneaky about acting like they had swallowed the pill and then spitting it out when they didn't think I was looking. However, the telling sign that the drug had hit their system is that their eyes look funny and they wouldn't be able to pass a field sobriety test.
Here are the cats pre-drugs, grumpy that their furniture has been sold. A comfy couch used to be in this spot.
And here is Slinky, five minutes after being drugged.
The drive was over a thousand miles and took nineteen hours. We saw beautiful countryside, Mount Shasta, the Rogue River, a Swedish town in CA, part of Route 66, Desert...
And one very disgusting gas station toilet with odd holes in the walls and instructions to step on floor buttons that were nonexistent.
Here's the record of our drive.
When we arrived home in Big Bear Lake, we were greeted by a surprise left at our door from our friends Valerie and Bryan. It was so unexpected and wonderful. Thank you Val and Bryan for the warm welcome home!