Dine with me!


In 2012, due to an inflammation in my intestine, I started the Paleo Diet. This means basically, no grains, no dairy, no processed sugar, a few odds and ends like no white potatoes, no popcorn, and keep the
caffeine to a minimum- a 90/ 10 diet. Months later, I feel the best I have felt in years. In 2013, I am setting out to prove that, Yes, I can eat out in Portland and enjoy the life of a foodie. The rules are simple like the diet. I will eat my way from A - Z, and I must walk or use an alternative mode of transportation to get there. Join me. Stay Healthy. Eat Well.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fiji's Indian Curry- She Brought Out The Death Metal In Me

"This next song is about. PROJECTION."

Raking her limp gray black twisted hair with her fingers, she said it slowly again.

"P-R-O-J-E-C-T-I-O-N. We need to spread the word."

Her poor partner, with his head bent down on the voila plucked away, disparately, as she intoned Don't Project On Me, Don't Project On Me, Don't Project On Me, shaking her hair and her rattle. I had to wonder why? Why?

I was crowded in pleasantly at a food cart hub on Alberta Street. Collectively around me, were a cheese cart advertising a vegan cheese specialty along with a sampling of vegan missionary chocolates, a mini porch brewery, that was booming, and Fiji's Indian Curry where I had procured my snackish of a dinner. A thirty-something couple sat across from me out to experience the first Last Thursday on Alberta Street. They were carefree not quite inner Portland weird but definitely not quite tourists either. If I had to guess they were more of the moved here, and kept their REI membership type. They were to be my distraction, while I sketched in my journal, cringing at the blatant abuse of a music education. I wanted to grab the mic, and smash it on stage. It's not that I don't agree with the singer. We should not project our emotions on others, but I just don't think that a song was the right medium, or her right medium. She brought out the death metal in me. The couple seemed to be enjoying it, or at least being polite about it. In fact, as I looked around everyone seemed to be be-bopping to it. I wondered did I order the wrong dish. Was there a special spice out there I needed to enjoy this plghem plucking pi-eta?

I hunkered into my plate, finding refuge in the salmon- which was fresh! I was surprised. So far fish in this town was not quite up to what I was used to, and so I focused on Portland's specialties- pork, pork, pork, beef, and dessert. Tonight though, with the smell of food carts, the wheeling-dealie, slippery slope of the Alberta Street Fair, and yes, the music,  put me in the mood for salmon and picnic tables. Where was the butter and corn when I needed it? While the fish was fresh, and edible, the sauce was limp. I just couldn't taste it. I expected a burst of flavor to match the burst of mustards and oranges on my plate, but instead, I felt like I was dipping my salmon in water. So my wandering stomach, cheated. I went back to try to their veggie rolls. Outside the food cart, sat, a youngish man in a lawn chair, next to an upside white paint bucket. On a dry-erase board, laid to side in blue marker they advertised Last Thursday specials. Of course, this promised to be good, street food- need I say more? All the elements were there, paint bucket, hand written sign, smoke hovering in the air, and a smile that promised a special hot sauce (be careful, came the warning). Excited, I went back to my staked out refuge, refusing to make eye contact with the singer, less I encourage her to break the belting barrier sound record. The couple eyed me warily.

The roll was bland. BLAND, filled with rice noodles, a cabbage, a carrot, and yeah. Bland, so I whatevered a huge dollop of the special sauce on the tip. HOLY, god, I cringed, and almost dropped the roll. The couple raised their eyebrows. And I swear, I swear, his already pale blue polo shirt, turned a lighter shade of sky. As casually as he could, he put his arm protectively around the innocent chatter of his partner, whose not quite vegan-ism, spilled down in dark brown curls into a thin curved smile that teased at a laugh. I apologized with my hand, explaining, and pointing, and encouraging, with my mouth full. The sauce was sweet, and then wham, it took a shot gun to your tongue. OMG. I said, explaining in a torrent of expletives my diet, the paleo, the blog. They nodded adding tid-bits of conversation and genuinely tried to be interested in the conversation, but I had a feeling I just went all P-R-O-J-E-C-T-I-O-N on them. It was time to wrap up this session before the awkward became less endearing, and politely excuse myself, but not without a last gift from the singer, who had so generously offered to serenade my dinner-

"We have CD's. 10 dollars but if you don't have that, five is good, but hell, we believe in you, just take them, take them for free, it's all about peace, and love..." and thank fully the mic crackled out the rest before the world suffered one more pontificating patchouli hug of hers.  I didn't want to turn around and see if anybody took them. I wanted my faith in humanity somewhat intact for the rest of the evening. Please, I pleaded in a silent prayer.  I nodded to the couple, and left, aiming to get lost and in trouble in the gathering night crowd.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enzo's Cafe Italiano- What You Didn't Hear

At first you might notice his blonde hair.

Today it is freshly cut, from just a few blocks down the street, stylized with a few well placed spikes.  The blonde spikes highlight the red mutton chops that have finally come into their own after a hesitant start a few weeks ago. Then you might notice his mouth, which is wide, and lined with expressive curves which lead to his eyes. Eyes, that I consider, lost on his youth. I have told him more than once to look me up in five years. I am curious as to what those eyes might say then. For now, they are still learning.

I am reminded again, by the uncertainty of his general presence that he is young. He is young in a way, that only someone older, like myself, can understand what I mean. It's pretentious and full of labels, something he hates in particular, but it's true. If I tell him that, then he might get offended, and whip out some derivative about how age doesn't matter. But it does. I am always are of his youth. There is a part of me that wonders what it would have been like to explore my identity when I still the had the naivety and ambiguity of self-proclaimed innocence around me. Would it have been as messy as now? Or have the years given me the temperance to understand and dare I say it, a bit of patience with myself. With that said,  I don't envy the journey his messy youth  is about to take him on, but I wish I could reach out and with a wand, wave a few good wishes his way. Here's your glass slipper, be careful at the ball, don't be a pumpkin, and all sorts of other nonsense. But I don't, and instead I distract myself with the menu which is just as fascinating as the company.

We are sitting down at Enzo's Caffe Itailano on Alberta St. I walked by the place before, disregarding it as a sandwich shop, as it is tucked in, and blends in with the rainy street day. Usually by this point in my walk, I have committed to a sorbet at Salt and Straw just a few blocks down. The place feels forgotten. The kind of place you wander into after a morning of walking museums, or staring at art. The kind that lets the mind rest after wandering. I wouldn't go there with a group of people. I would not want to experience this place in a crowd. I think it is meant quiet conversation, the kind of conversation us has, complicated, quirky, and full of awkward pauses.

It is simple inside, with a few small tables, a lit counter displaying (as I would discover later, the desserts) and a wall of fine wines. The waiter is... tall, dark, and handsome, and we giggle, falling over ourselves to ask ridiculous questions about the menu, delighting in his thick accent. My friend takes his suggestion, Pesto Penne with mushrooms, and after some debate, as the goat was out, I order the Braciola Di Masseria- rolled beef seasoned with garlic, parsley, and spices. Then we are quiet for a few. The place is small enough that any seat feels close to the window, and I watch the rain spatter on the parade of bearded, striped, dark haired, skirt wearing, small dog carrying, oddness that sprinkles and skips it's way down Alberta Street. I am waiting for my friend to talk.

He thinks before he speaks, something of an oddity in my head, but I have learned over the last month or so to give him space and time, and wait it out. Not everything needs to be said right away? I can tell he has a lot on his mind. When he thinks he gathers into himself and becomes smaller, totally ignoring everything around him. A talent I suppose that he picked up while living in various crowded, social communities. Currently he lives with about five other roommates  I think. One is enough for me.  He has just gotten back recently from a week long retreat with the Radical Faerie group, a spiritual group of gay men that focuses on being with each other and expressing themselves without restraint. I have hovered on the fringes of the movement ever since I came out. Parts of it intrigue me, but usually I keep a distance. However, he is glowing from it, and I remark upon this, which induces a small frown, and then a smile. Without overstating it, it is complicated to come into one's own, and he is doing just that. Since I have known him for the last four months or so, I have seen that shell, crack, shift, blend, and repeat. It is a familiar pattern to me. Both of us are afraid of the permanence of change, of not wanting to be the person we become. So we spend time comforting each other and indulging our insecurities, exposing our changes for what they are, and ignoring the reality we both face,  none of this is permanent, especially not us. That uncertainty fuels our pauses which as the conversation takes a frank, and private turn, our dishes arrive.

While I am trying to be a good friend and listen, I can't because the meal is a bright firecracker of a surprise in my mouth. Without meaning to insult, and breaking his thought process, I can't wait to share, so I dice up some of the meat and insist he try it. It's pleasant without being overstated, and the flavors subtle enough to not readily identify anything, but complex enough to stop the discussion. How does one describe food? Argh, it looses something in the translation, let's just say that it gave me enough time to carefully tread the conversation at that point.

Usually, I have the added advantage that when I take my clothes off, I can't see, and so I get to the know the person I am with, blind. Their nakedness instead of being a visual, becomes sensory and helps eliminate that first few awkward moments when you are not sure about what you want, or you wonder how he got that mark. It gives me permission to let go and be in the moment. So boys if you are reading this, get my glasses off... Anyway,  this conversation was like that,  and we were both taking off our proverbial clothes, not sure if this was the right sort of intimacy we would be okay with. It wasn't flirting. It wasn't foreplay. It wasn't sadness either, but a willingness to admit something that we both had wondered about and struggled with. I wanted to take my glasses off, and let the conversation feel itself out. But.

He is as fragile as me. Maybe that is the attraction we share. Maybe that is what makes us friends, that we seem to ignore the fragility and toss each other's ideas around about sexuality, dependence, love, compassion, and identity ignoring the shattering of the glass around us. As if on cue, conveniently, the chef, stops by, interrupting our careful navigation of each other, and we can both breath a sigh of relief, awkwardness averted. Outside the reincarnation of Pan is negotiating with our waiter, while holding a bunch of random daises, lilies, and ferns. After an argument that I wish had subtitles. He wins and the flowers come inside.

The moment has changed, and shifted, and we casually recover and once again I am grateful for someone to share these insecurities with. He just needs someone to listen and not see the visage he gives off. He is still cute though and I don't let him forget it. Compliments flow freely between us, who doesn't need a verbal hug or two?

I am instructed by our waiter to look at the desserts in the case. I settle on this decadent chocolate pudding thingy, with fresh cut strawberries and topped with a few spearmint leaves. It is of course, awesome. We share, because we can, and I know I shouldn't eat it, but if you are going to commit a crime, then this is worth it. This is seduction. Less awkward, and safe territory for both of us. Time speeds up, glasses are emptied, and the dessert is finished. He suggest we go. I am reluctant to leave the moment, but before the wallpaper can curl and age, we go.

As we leave, you might notice, the way we walk, the almost too-close, but the never quite touching. You might notice the white in my beard announcing the differences in our age. You might. But then again, if you listen close, you might notice the familiarity of our words. We will be a never was, but I am okay with that, for there is a better version of us out there that we are still discovering, and that is worth the silent, awkward forays into our personality, the comfortable dramatic sighs, and the once-in-awhile wistful might-have-beens.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dar Salam- The Shoes are Black

The shoes are black- boots, size 11, and leather with a zip up side. They cost more than three grocery bills at New Seasons. Tonight I am breaking them in. I walk six blocks before I realize that I am an idiot. The shoes are tight. My jeans are tight (and yes, there is only one pair of underwear that fits those jeans). My winter pea coat is hot.  I am sweating and not in the sexy hot beach volley ball way. I feel silly, and I am in pain. High heels be-damned, this Cinderella, needed the advice of a fairy god mother. Thankfully in a few minutes I would be meeting my own.

She is beautiful. She has silver-white hair. A laugh that spills a broken pearl necklace onto the pavement, and a wit that the years have honed to a sharp, silver, hat pick she wears proudly. I am never bored. I am never certain, but I am never bored. I am meeting, the godmother, Wenzl, at a gallery opening before heading to Dar Salam to meet a co-chorister for dinner, conversation, and hopefully directions to the ball.

By the time I arrive I am in a mood. I at 14th  and Alberta street, hobbling as gracefully as one of my stature allows while looking for a red trailer, when I spy her, a welcome addition to the gathering crowd. Her silver-white hair is unmistakable. Obligatory hugs and she gestures to the open door. I tell her it’s the wrong gallery, but she insists. I never argue with any of the Wenzl clan and so we enter. Inside we are greeted by video camera’s, cute-trim-bearded- muscled soccer players (I confess to her that soccer players are the most fit of all athletes with a delicious grin), and complimentary glasses of wine. I am glad that I dressed up to be seen. I am in my element. The crowd presses in. She asks me, what is happening, I say something about the Trailblazers, and I am corrected by two elderly, sensitive, slightly-and I must add, guiltily overwhelmed, patrons of the evening.

It’s the soccer team, they whisper to me.

What? I say loudly, what soccer team. I’m here for the art as I drink the wine greedily. Paula nudges me. Oh thank-god, said the couple, you’re one of us.

We share our secret as the room continues to compress with low-fashion testosterone, all in anticipation of the unveiling of the new soccer kit. I am hot, so I slowly, take off my coat and reveal the trim black club shirt I had worn, with a flash of rainbow silver dangling from my neck. I get stares, but hey, isn’t that the point? My feet are killing me. The crowd become tedious while I flirt with my eyes, and keeps my hands out of my wallet, picking which I would go home with if I could. There is one –entitled old growth that feature a graffiti-esque black man split, and comments on the growth of the city, and Alberta street specifically, as we get of the old and replace it with the new.

After the anti-climactic unveiling of the new jerseys, we leave. I am headed to the next gallery, to walk, gingerly down the street, but the god mother Wenzl, stops me. They are offering free carriage rides by bike.

You gotta protect your feet, she says, as she wipes the rain of the seat. Why am I letting her wait on me. I joke that I am putting the cess back in prince. She snorts, cuddles into my arms, and we ride the four blocks to the matchbox sized Antler gallery to question a young man whose hair matched the twisted roots in his drawings, and leave him bewildered as we analyzed his psychological shortcomings as a man, wondering when he’d realized that women are not sexual goddesses to be worshiped, but real people. I’d come back in a few years to see his work. There is potential, but, not till he figures out the sex thing.

At that point in the evening, I say goodbye to my Fairy godmother, the carriage-ride, the over-crowded galleries, and I find myself sitting in Dar Salam, across from a fellow chorister from the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. I’d say we are meeting for coffee, but that’s code, and only those closest to me, knows what that tongue-in-cheek reference could mean. For the rest of you, this is a getting-to-know. Do not read too much into this, I am, after all a horrible flirt and everyone is fair game.

He is older than me, but not in gay years. We quickly fall to the awkward sharing of war stories- the fall before the glory, the exploration before the realization, the gradual reluctant acceptance. And now for us both-  the what the hell. He is lightly considering the Paleo Diet. I encourage with caution, as he has some medical concerns.  We are overwhelmed by the menu of the resturaunt as a metaphor of the conversation. The menu is of Iraqi fare, and there is that word, Shawarma, of Avengers fame, listed causally next to beef, pork, or lamb choices. I flip over the menu and point out to him, that I came here, because I wanted to try the coconut wrapped dates stuffed with Walnuts, clearly on my diet list, and worth the ankle groaning price of entry.

We are greeted by a server who is young in face, young in heart,  and carries the cultured service of someone who could instantly be your friend. She explains to us the place is only a year old, and in the future will have information on some of the post carded pictures of Iraq on the wall, and the why and how of what they serve. This tidbit came about because I ordered the black tea with sage, and it came steaming, in a small thin cordial glass with maroon and gold scribing. I was curious and I wanted to know what the glass was. It was cool. The fumes from the tea were herbal and smelled of Nevada in the hottest part of spring. There is an image of dust that lingers in my mind, on my fork, a welcome foreign spice to the water-drenched trends of this city. She bubbles on.  Both of us exchanged our cultural ignorance of our heritage, but I defer because she is trying.  Twenty minutes later, our plates of Shawarma  salad with lamb arrive on a plate of iceberg lettuce sneezed with a bitter spice.

In a rebellious challenge to my palette, I take the red-magical mystery sauce in a plastic squeeze container and splurge it on the plate. It is bitter, tangy, and excruciatingly spicy. I add more and convince him to try it. Though, I probably should have explained the heat factor better, as his eyes opened wide and lit up, not exactly in a pleasant surprise but more in shock. He did not reach for the bottle again. I thought about tucking it in my coat.

The conversation flips back and forth. I am listening. I am shoving my mouth full of food. The plate disappears faster than I anticipate. A gentle word from our server, and out come the dates. The tongue burns. Damn the walnuts, but the dates are oh-so good, not sweet, not bitter, not chunky, but that perfect, smackeral of Paleo. I have one. He has three.

The conversation turns to where most of these conversations turn. We talk openly about sexual preference, boundaries, exploration. I am not sure what else we might be talking about, both of us are new, but both of us are also being cautious. Two writers, two musicians, and two artists in the same room, at the same table, I wonder if anyone else knew what we were talking about as well. But both of us underline the phrase, it is refreshing to be open. I cautiously walk the walls of my personal mental city and keep the gate locked, keys swinging idly from my wrist.

The evening moves along. Later I get my “directions” to the ball, but this is where I leave you. I didn’t walk back. I rode in the car. I think you would agree though, my precious feet needed the relief. Freaking me and my shoes. As I recall Cinderella didn’t walk to her ball. For the concert, I’ve decided, I’m bringing flip-flops.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Try Our New Vegetarian Fare

So I am not trying to pick on vegetarians but every day I walked by the restaurant I wondered what in the hell is a place that specializes in ribs doing catering to vegetarians. Within walking distance are a variety of excellent veggie options including the hyped-up Vita Café, where if you want to know what Denny’s might be like run by and for vegetarians go there, gravy never had it so gunky and green. This rib place though, is funky, and meaty, and screams Paleo though I suspected the sides would be your standard, biscuit, corn, coleslaw. I was not disappointed, even the white napkins were up to par. Cannon’s Rib Express is situated between a Walgreen’s and a New Season’s grocery experience (shop and cruise). It feels like someone pulled up a beat-up ford to the parking lot, opened a cooler, and rolled out the barbeque and over time someone dropped off picnic tables, table cloths, and old signage boards because the car broke down and couldn’t be bothered to move. I am seeing this place in winter, and rumor has it, in the summer it is a hangout for local music and good parking lot eating. Unfortunately for this restaurant it is still winter and its name begins with C so of course it is a target. It is unusual and different and this time I had company. What I didn’t know was one of them was a ribs aficionado.

I knew something was up, when Jacob asked which way I preferred my rib’s- Louisiana or Texas style. I didn’t know states could be famous for how they cooked their ribs. After learning that Louisiana is sweet and Texas is spicy I’d say I prefer the spicy, though I am going to go that extra bit and I say I prefer them dry like my mom cook’s them. I hate sauce it’s messy, sweet, and typically full of brown sugar and ketchup. Barbeque sauce is right on par with sweet potatoes cooked in brown sugar and butter, sappy, syrupy, porn.  Get a recipe book, folks or at least make your own ketchup. Jacob is originally from a small town in Indiana and moved to Portland about five years ago or so. Every time I hang with the unassuming “dude” that he is, I learn something, a fun fact one might say. He’s better than any app I could download.

That evening there were four of us on the excursion- Wenzl, Jacob, Quinn, and me. It was a family affair. All of us at one point in time had been intrigued by this oddly placed shack-alike restaurant. Plus, given its location down the street from Wenzl’s, it could be the ideal, don’t want to cook, let’s get ribs joint.

Tongue-tied and impertinent at the counter I decided not to ask about the sauce and whether it was gluten-free as I had already asked why the ribs were advertised as Portland style. I was expecting some sort of we farmed this ourselves, recipe, twist on bacon, thing- but no, it was their own recipe for ribs, which I guess makes it Portland style. Everything here is home made. Portland belongs in Alaska, just north of Fairbanks, out there enough to be a destination, but out there enough to be- out there. He did tell me the restaurant had been around for 26 years, which explains the location and the sign. I wanted to tell him, vegetarians aren’t the ones to be worried about, it’s people like me, those who ask about the sauce… Maybe someone should drop him a bag of arrowroot powder or xantham gum and he can change the sign to gluten free fare. I shut my mouth and ordered the half rack of baby back ribs taking his advice on the special price.

The wait was short. It definitely was express. By the time I finished with my sugar free ice cream run I had to run to catch up with the crowd heading back to the house. Plates of piles of meat were handed out. It was quiet for about a few minutes. I watched Jacob eat his ribs. I could tell something was up. He looked up after every bite and slowly chewed on them while the rest of us went through them like a stale bag of Cheetos after a night out drinking. He hesitated to say what was on his mind. He knows I’ll write about it. But I didn’t have to ask. The ribs were ribs: a little odd, tougher than they should be, and lacking a special spice or something of that nature. The sauce was sloppy, and until they make designer bibs, this boy ain’t wearing one, so for me that was a factor. Yet the meat could be sucked off the bones and I didn’t feel heavy afterwards. The conversation made up for the ribs. I learned that Jacob had been searching for the perfect Rib since he had arrived, and other restaurants were mentioned that were good but not quite there. So what does that say about Portland style? All I know is that I was impressed with how long Canon’s had been in business- 26 years, they had seen Alberta go from a killing street to an art’s district and survived. We joked that maybe the sauce was different in the summer. We joked between wiping our lips with the plethora of napkins they provided, drinking the wine, and exchanging good rib stories. Oh and the vegetarian fare- you guessed it- a bowl of veggies. Yep.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Back to Eden: Pretty in Pink

Pink. The bakery is pink. It’s a cutesy turquoise blue sort of pink. Maybe I should stretch that a bit and call it vegan pink, but that might give away my prejudice and after all I am here to eat not as a vegan but as a flag bearing, screaming, painted face member of the meat-eating Paleo tribe. That fact that it is a vegan bakery is a side note I am choosing to ignore. I celebrate the use of eggs. I eat three every morning, fried, scrambled with spinach, or soft-boiled. My muffins are better for it, so is my dairy free coconut whipped topping. Go eggs. I have to confess though; I do like the color pink.  I have had an obsession with the color ever since I came “out.” I won’t go in to details but let’s just say while I don’t look good in a pink dress shirt, there are other items of clothing I can wear that I do look good in. In hindsight I may have always been a fan of the color pink, but afraid to like it, as I didn't want to be found out. And liking the color pink was such a small sacrifice, but now, it is a symbol of my rebellious side, my sexy side, but this café is not that sort of pink.

It is Sunday morning, or late morning and I am sitting at a small bench-table inside the collectively quaint and cute, petite bakery Back to Eden: a vegan-gluten free establishment. I am alone. This is the first Sunday since I have arrived to Portland that my friend Wenzl has not joined me. Sunday breakfast with Wenzl is a tradition that goes back to when we first met in South Lake Tahoe where we would go to Ernie’s for coffee, omelets, and biscuits and gravy, with a brief hold-over for five years while I pursued my dreams in Alaska. Now that I am back, we have picked up where we left off, only there have been some changes.  This Sunday she was in Bend with her family and her boyfriend, Jacob, who if I had to guess would one day become family. He is one of the changes. While I am glad he is here in her life, when I first arrived I had been reluctant to share.  My inner Diva, and I have had arguments. As much as we want life to stay the same, to never change, except for us, because that’s different, our friends should remain, the sitcom, the drama, the supporting characters they always have been. The truth is, though, everything changes- story-lines  characters, boyfriends, engagements. And so you make room for one more person at the table, maybe one day two.  I was reluctant to go to breakfast this morning, but I am also loathe to break tradition and it gives me time to think. Today- I think in pink.

I am gulping a fuchsia infused marion-berry coffee cake. It is moist, sweet, crunchy, salty, and only a hint of hippie healthiness in the after bite. I congratulate myself on tasting the applesauce that I think sweetens the cake. I am comparing my baking results with theirs, while I try to come up with descriptive terms to describe what I am eating. I am worried this blog will be less about the food I am eating and more about me and what’s on my mind. But I am distracted. Everyone who walks into the café, looks vegan, and what does that mean? Well- skinny, but lithe-skinny, stylish in a dressed down way, picky as hell, and reeking of desperation. The attendant behind the counter is a beaming, smile of patience. I do not get the feeling that there are regulars in there this morning, or that they have regulars, since it feels like an oasis of self-discovery in a desert of meat, breads, and refined sugars. Everyone seems to have the, oh, I can eat that again, sort of expression in their words, their dropped mouths, and their pale faces.  The showcase is beautiful, or pretty in pink. The glass reveals cupcakes with swirled chocolate frosting, crumbled bars, ungainly round cookies, kale salads, curry, and a handwritten sign advertising biscuits and gravy. Then, in the back, a chalkboard filled with ice cream options: sundaes, root beer floats, banana splits, servings by the scoop- bless the inventors of Coconut Bliss. They have saved us all.

A woman walks in, and stumbles into the choice, sunny spot by the window. The kind of spot where poetry gets written or someone paints tiny portraits of cats to sell at Crafty Wonderland. It is the spot I wanted. She invades it and tangles herself in it. I become more interested in my tea, unless I am caught staring. She is wearing a sweet-ass sweater, and from the looks of it, reminiscent of the Aran Islands in Ireland. This is a fisherman’s knit. She exclaims to no one in particular. Her purse-leash is caught on her back. The other man in the room gets up to help her. She tells him, apologetically, her head hurts too much to turn and undo it.  I amazed that as hung-over as she is, she manages to dress well- at Ernie’s we threw on whatever, t-shirt, sweatshirt, dirty pants, where did you find those shoes we had, and although we walked it was with sunglasses, undone hair, quietly grumbling about coffee. If this is what it is like to look hung-over in Portland, then maybe I should drink more.

-Back to the coffee cake. This is definitely the 10 percent in my 90/10 diet.  As my doctor explained to me, one day soon, I would be 80/ 20 as he worked with me to build up buffers zone so that I can have the occasional treat, latte, or triple layer chocolate mousse torte with vanilla bean ice cream.  I did go on the diet to be healthy, but I am not shy about stating that I also did so, so that I could eat chocolate again. What is life without sweetness? This coffee cake though is meant to be breakfast, and totally not enough to eat, not for my diet, but as this is a vegan-gluten free bakery, there are no eggs.  Damn. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Aviary: Lessons Learned

It is January 11th, a little past five in the evening, and I am seated at the bar of the Aviary restaurant on Alberta street perusing their happy hour menu. Some sort of forgettable sexed up jazz serenades the early crowd. The bar is dimly lit, but clean, like a modern metal polished house, with a few simple couches that could have been in anywhere. What style the place has resides on the menu and the hair styling’s of the barkeep.  Pig is a favorite: ears braised, hooves crumbled and poached, and bacon, the i- dotted ink splotch staining the menu.

I am horrified.

There is the strong sense that I could be wrong. I run down the menu with what I can and cannot eat. I distract my nerves with a glass of Angelique Cabernet Franc, a necessary indulgence. I am hell bent on proving friends wrong that indeed I can have a foodie life on my diet, and Portland, a perpetual self-inflicted culinary orgasm should be the perfect place  to do this. However… at the Aviary while the food is pretentious in description and reeks of  cleanliness in design, there is a generous weight on cream, breading, and a scandalized love affair with cheese. Shit.

A few generous sips later, resolved, I order the tempura green beans. The breading is a rice flour, somewhat forgivable.  Now for the other reason I am here.

I start again.

It is January 11th, a little past five-thirty in the evening, and my career as a National Park Ranger, has come to a close, at least for now. I am celebrating. I am mourning. I am musing.

In my journal, I am creating a list of what I learned in the last five years.  It’s funny, at least to me, the first item on the list is How to climb a rope ladder.  Even though, throughout the course of the last five years, I came terms with my identity, my sensitivity, and discovered who I was, and yet, the first item that pops in my head, is that I learned how to climb a rope ladder.  Maybe it’s because that the sensational thing to say or maybe it’s because I am trying to avoid the obvious sentimental side of my nature. Either way, the truth is I can climb a rope ladder on a moving cruise ship, dangled over some of the most dangerous waters in the world. I, a former suburban couch potato, began my adventure with that act. In hindsight, and to connect those two thoughts, I think, by pushing myself physically, I was preparing myself for the emotional battle that lay ahead in the coming years.

Following on the list: Love exists in different forms, but mostly as a song sung by your fingers. This is important too. This is what the public didn’t see, at least at first. The hands love, the hands sing. I stumble in my thoughts. I sip the wine, ignoring the pain in my chest, and try to gracefully get a long green bean in my mouth. I am unsuccessful and their cold sweat sauce smears my beard. Sigh. I hope the cute blond next to me does not notice.

In Alaska, I learned how to listen to the light, that if you jump on a frozen lake it sings back, how to look at my feet to see what’s above and that my head is 7 ¼ inch long oval. I also learned my mom is human. When she visited Alaska, she reminded me that these sanctuaries, these places I have chosen to live are quiet; the places between the beats of your heart, this she said when she was human, and not my mother. She said it again when I chose to leave.

I learned community is not place, but people, that glaciers are flowing rivers of ice, and how to make blueberry jam. But most of all I learned to kiss. I learned who I am—  I am a gift to this world.
I take a break from listing, and give over to the sentiments of wine and write a love letter to Alaska, and one of advice to the future owner of the journal.

Places can break your heart. They can heal. They can teach if you listen-  if you’re brave.  If you can climb that rope ladder, the ship will take you all the way to a place where the heart first learns to sing. This I learned.  I raise my glass, alone and not alone, and silently I say goodbye.

My friends have arrived, and I am quickly distracted by the sundries and tipsy enough to comment on the cursive of the cute blond sitting next to me, which leads me down a rabbit hole, where I learn that he is a singer/songwriter for the local band Brainstorm which specializes in African guitar music? Am I flirting? My friend immediately becomes interested in the contents of her purse, while I fluster through a conversation. I never get his name. The evening calls and I leave with my friends. I wonder what he was writing in his journal. I wonder if he wondered about mine. There is that, I suppose.