Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Love Affair Reawakened

I’m back! Tim and I took a rescheduled trip to Portland, highest on the potential-relocation-over-the-next-years-if-we-relocate locations. It’s high up there for a number of reasons, but this trip was a recon mission to see if it would survive inspection. With Mimi’s generous offer of a place to stay, we got to see it close-up.

Not a fair test: It only rained once when we were there and never soared above 80°. I’ve been really worried about this summer’s 90-100° days. They’ll have to refrigerate me. And I’m not too comfortable with grayness absent the bright reflection from snow.

I will have a lot more to say about Portland in the next few days, but

What I liked a lot:

  • all the almost-self-contained little neighborhoods with their own distinct characters

  • Art in the Pearl – an outdoor festival (crowded, too!) and the programs and speakers and interesting things I kept finding on a daily basis – New Things!

  • the front porches on most of the houses – I could imagine sitting on one and saying hello to my neighbors or just reading.
But on all those porches, we only saw two people actually occupying them. It reminded me of a Bay Area essay I read once: a woman bought Adirondack chairs because she had visions of having lemonade, sitting the glass on the wide arms, relaxing and enjoying life. She got rid of them years later, having never sat in them. A story that just stuck in my brain.
Now, what I loved about Portland: the MAX and buses and streetcars and 1-day Passes and Red Lines and Blue Lines and the #19 bus and the #12 and the #83 and the Washington Park Shuttle.

As we got in at 1:30 a.m., I said to Tim, “Thank you for a terrific time,” and he said, “You’re just happy because you got to ride buses.” Yes, yes, yes! Lots and lots of buses and MAXes.

I’ve liked soccer in my time, but it faded. I’ve liked gardening, but that faded. I even liked cheesecake, but that faded, too. But it is so thrilling, so affirming to see that my love affair with public transit is still thriving, that it still brings me tremendous joy. Here I am, in my Third Third, and a great love endures.

When I first moved to San Francisco and got my first monthly Fast Pass (unlimited rides!), I felt like I was given the key to the city. I would ride buses from one end to the other on a Saturday just to see where they went. I marveled how at 7:30 a.m. all the people were Here and then, by 8:30 a.m., they were There. Ultimately, I was a founding member of a citizens’ group to support public transit and then eventually, I went to work in the transit field. That’s what brought me to Anchorage, too.

Since then, I’ve done a bunch of things, but whenever I travel, I ride transit. When I realized Portland had a 1-day Pass, I was delirious: the key to the city again! I don’t think Transit Joy is explicable: is it the view from the window, the figuring out the schedule and the map, the order in the universe that’s affirmed when my transfer is right there when I get off my first bus? I try to figure out the logic of why a bus is routed here and not there: what’s it connecting? what’s it missing? I watch the bicycles being loaded on and off and wonder what happens when a third bicyclist wants on and there’s no room?
In San Francisco, people used to try and schedule meetings on top of meetings, and I would say, “No, I can’t get there at 5:30 if I’m not finished till 5:15 here.” And people would say, “It’s only 10 minutes away,” but they’re traveling by car and they’re forgetting the time it takes to get in the car, park the car, walk from the car. So the bus schedule reinforced the pace of life I wanted to live. (And yes, I know all the things buses can’t do well: taking kids to child care and school, schlepping stuff, doing ten errands in one afternoon.)

But bus love – it’s not really a thing with reasons.

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