Mountains and Doughnuts

October 8, 2011

This town is, superficially, so similar to Seattle: the evergreen trees, the architecture dating back no earlier than the pioneer era, the dank skies. But Portland is so distinctively not Seattle.

Seattle might have come into coffee in the late '80s, but Portland is brewing it up to the next level, today. I don't know if it's on account of health codes, zoning restrictions, or some other reason that street food is kept down in Seattle. The odd barbecue cart or taco truck may have sprouted up there, but it's such a common sight to see the entire length of a city block--and beyond--lined with food carts throughout this city.

The extended-doughnut phenomenon remains entrenched throughout Portland. On a shopping trip last night to a branch of the Fred Meyer chain of grocery stores, I spied a case of doughnuts including ones with Froot Loops, Cocoa Puffs, and other breakfast-cereal sprinkled on as toppings. Those don't seem to have caught on in any other city I've visited, yet. I'm told that there is a huge cult of bacon in this town.

Seattle is long past being the cutting-edge hipster city of the Pacific Northwest.

I'm here for a visit likely to total five-or-so days. I'm here to say "hi" to Tiffany.

Fig Newtons, Tsingtao
Beer and Fill-or-Bust
Though Tiffany and I did meet here in Portland once before, it was more by coincidence. She was passing through town for just a few weeks, then. We last saw each other after she'd moved up to Vancouver, B.C.. Her time there lasted a fair year-and-a-half--but she's picked up stakes and decided to settle here for the forseeable future.

In the span of the last weeks, Tiffany has moved into a new house, begun a new job at a non-profit organization, and fallen in together with a new partner about whom she glows over their common "chemistry". It's always good to see an old friend moving forward in life and doing well.

This afternoon, Tiffany, her new beau, and I drove back up into Washington State for a day hike. We followed the Lava Canyon trail running to the southeast of Mt. St. Helens. It was a perfect day for a walk: neither too cold nor too hot with sunbreaks, waterfalls, and forested mountains all part of our outdoor experience. Along the trail, I realized that it had been six years, nearly to the day since Tiffany had been hiking up a mountain on the opposite side of the globe:

"How high do you think Mt. St. Helens is?", I asked Tiffany.

"I don't know. Maybe 8,000 feet?", she answered.

"You're pretty close. I just read a sign saying the summit is at 2,550 meters," I said.

"Which means, that the peak of that volcano over there is only half the altitude we were at when we were together in Tibet. We were surely above 5,000 meters just on the road in, and must have reached 5,600 meters when plodding up Mt. Kailash."

Back at Tiffany's new home this evening we continued to play "reminisce-about-shared-days-living-in-China" by cooking up a stir-fry of tofu and vegetables and drinking bottles of Yanjing and Tsingtao beers. I'll be here in Portland catching up with Tiffany for the next few days. Though I'll be off to other directions soon, I have no doubt that she and I will see each other again somewhere before long. (We do have an outstanding lighthearted wager to settle in a few months; I'm not so sure who's going to win this time.)

It doesn't seem to matter which paths each of us follows around the planet--our routes seem to keep intersecting. See you again somewhere interesting, Tiffany.