Cafe Spotting

Old Signs

Day 4 of Portland

Here I am, watching Planet of the Apes again on Starz because I’m too lazy to change the channel to one of four English channels I get – though, right now, BBC World News is looking mighty tempting – so I figure I’ll make a cuppa hot tea to ward off the creeping chill in my apartment and update my blog so I’m not weeks behind.

At this point, I guess, not more than three weeks behind.


Friday was more of the conference, and I think I found every sectional from 8 – 5 that I could possibly attend and fill my time with. At lunch time, I decided to venture out of the mega-packed convention center – after all, a few restaurants for a couple hundred hungry teachers is definitely not worth the wait – and try out the Foursquare app to find some place to eat. I only have an hour and half to do so, and everything nearby is going to be crammed full of more hungry teachers. The Farm Cafe sounds nicely homey and just what I wanted for lunch, so I decide to wander over the bridge to find this place.

After a ten minute walk, I find Farm Cafe – but it’s definitely not open for lunch. Boo. I don’t feel like walking back, so I keep on wandering in the hipster neighborhood for some sort of lunch spot. The Burnside Brewery is just a bit much for right now, but as I stroll deeper into the mess of repurposed buildings, I see Grendel’s Cafe. People are enjoying the very crisp fall weather outside, so it looks friendly enough.

Farm Cafe: Closed for Lunch
In search of pumpkin lattes:
Grendel’s Cafe

Inside, it’s got that shadowy but hip atmosphere that likely draws all sorts of crowds from the area. I fixate on a “make-your-own-sandwich” and a pumpkin latte. Sounds good for a chilly day and a quick lunch – and a break from the massive teacher crowd. I sidle up to the window seat and start talking to a girl next to me who’s studying art history textbooks. We end up talking about car issues, and, since I’m really not privy to those any longer, how she wants to be a teacher overseas. Bingo. That jumped into a much longer conversation that ended up lasting for a little longer than planned. But, it was awesome. I have come to like long, random conversations with strangers.

Then, just as I’m ready to go, what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the most bizarre Christmas tree – without the eight tiny reindeer:

Look closely: The station wagon has a tree strapped to the roof, and it goes
way beyond Charlie Brown tree. It’s a maple tree with Christmas lights.
She and I laughed for ages over this one. The guy kept honking at us and waving crazily, along with pointing up at his awesome tree. He was so dang proud of that tree too!
We say our good-byes – it’s time for my next sectional at the conference, and I have to say, I enjoyed my lunch and all the sights it afforded me. 
On the way back, I got the chance to appreciate some old town architecture. There’s something about a building’s story, its history, that interests me. I still think it would be fun to be an architectural tour guide for a city, especially one of the boat tours in Chicago. That can be my back-up job, I guess, in the summers. After all, cities have fascinating histories – it’s rather sad that most people don’t bother with it. But that’s just the history gremlin inside of me.
I’m slow in going back, mostly because I’m observing everything around me, from the huge American
Welcome to Portland
flag painted on the side of an old factory to the half-rusted Drive-In sign in front of a used Subaru dealership. As I’m coming back towards MLK Drive, you can see the other side of the river, the Old Town of Portland, and there’s a huge wire sign with the hazy mountains in the background. Everywhere I turn is something that is, in my mind, interesting or quirky, and, occasionally, downright bizarre and unexplainable – quite like the high proportion of men sporting some sort of beard that looks like a home for birds. Or, just a huge beard in general. That’s definitely not Chicago thing, so I noticed that straight off. 
Old Glory

The best part of the day is yet to come: I’ve been able to meet up with my old college buddy Katie D – though she’s done got married and isn’t Katie D any longer. When I first mentioned the conference on Facebook, I was happy to find out that she was going to be at AMLE as well. I couldn’t wait to sit down with her and hear how life was going – and how much life had changed for both of us. It was great to catch up with her, and though we’d decided to go out and have dinner at a tapas bar, we had a tough time figuring out where it was. And, in walking up the street to find it, all of a sudden we were assaulted by the heady scent of good ole American BBQ. And when that siren scent comes wafting by,  I have no choice but to heed it.

Ox Restaurant it is, then, and the huge brick roasting spit when you first walk in just draws me like a moth to a flame. So delicious! We have starters – some kind of fancy bruschetta – then the main course – grilled halibut and cocoa-braised lamb shank with apples. The lamb was so well-done it melted against my fork. We enjoyed every bite of the meal – and then, the honeycomb-candied dessert with a lemon shortbread. Oh. My. Good. Ness. Never mind the local-crafted hard cider. It was a dinner made in heaven with a good friend and excellent conversation. The best sort of meal, really.
Cocoa-braised lamb shank
with cilantro, spinach,
mushrooms, & sweet Granny
 Smith apples

After our amazing dinner and all the catching-up in between, it’s time to head back to our hotels. As for me, I make some hotel decaf coffee – perhaps not the best coffee in the world, but it’ll do – throw on Duck Dynasty on A&E and get out my cartoonish map of Portland to plan out my Saturday – the last day. 

Lemon crisp shortbread w/ honeycomb
candy pieces and a honey-chamomile
ice cream dollop on top.

Since the weather promises to hold admirably and the conference ends mid-day, I’ve got an entire half-day to spend in the city seeing the things I have on my Portland bucket-list. Though I didn’t have time for the botanical gardens or the Japanese gardens, I can still get through my list: mailing a flat-rate box home from the Post Office, the riverwalk, the Burnside Saturday Market, the bridges, Chinatown (irony, at its best), Skidmore Fountain, Stumptown latte, Voodoo Doughnut, and Old Town Pizza, above the Shanghai tunnels. I plot my trip on the map, figure out the trams, pack up some of my stuff, which is bursting around the hotel room like an explosion. I’m sure housekeeping loves all the shoes. 

And on to the last day…

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