Portland 3 & 4


Tuesday morning.  My silence yesterday was simply a direct corollary to the fun I’m having on vacation.

Michael and I set out Sunday to see the Columbia River and to glimpse the Pacific coast.  We went up the highway through Vancouver, Washington, and 39 miles later headed west on US Route 30, reaching the western terminus of that highway, one that started thousands of miles across the continent in New Jersey.

The Columbia is a mighty river indeed.  We visited the maritime museum in Astoria (so named for John Jacob Astor who made his first major money in fur trading in this region).  And we lunch at Rogue Brewery on Pier 39 in Astoria; the restaurant is housed in an old salmon cannery right out on the pier. And their Marionberry beer was surprisingly balanced and tasty.

Our next stop was Fort Clatsop, the recreated fort at the site where Lewis and Clark spent their winter in Oregon before turning back to explore further on their return to civilization.  Michael noted that I had, in three days’ time, covered the entire distance from Saint Louis to the mouth of the Columbia, while Lewis and Clark took considerably longer to do so.

I wanted to see the ocean, so we stopped at a beach further south, and I communed for a few minutes with the Pacific Ocean.  The sound and the scent was heavenly.

Dinner Sunday was Thai food, followed by a screening of The Bridge Over the River Kwai.  Michael’s basement man-cave is wonderful, even if its man-caveliness is diluted by the dolls and books and playroom atmosphere brought by two young girls.

Ailey has warmed up a little bit.  She talked to me at the zoo yesterday, and we played a bit at home.

So yes, the Oregon Zoo was our big stop on Monday.  I saw a polar bear as close as I ever care to see one, directly on the other side of the glass.  The California condors were fun.  Seeing bald eagles up close was a thrill.  And the river otters were graceful and entrancing.  I could have watched them a long time.

After lunch at Hot Lips pizza, we made our way to the Rose Test Garden.  An hour there was balm and bliss.  Michael took the girls home, and I walked up the hill to the Japanese Garden, certainly one of the most peaceful places one can imagine.  And the view of Mt. Hood from the garden was imperial, stunning, magnificent, sumptuous.

My next stop, after a short walk and a short bus ride, was Powell’s City of Books, a very different kind of heaven.  Imagine: a city block full of books, five stories tall, and thousands of people shopping there every day.  Glorious, indeed.

A short walk south led me to Grüner, where I met my old student and former housekeeper Steven Hitsman.  Dinner was most excellent: summer herb spätzle, edelweiss black forest ham, leeks, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, fava beans, swiss chard, zucchini, parmesan, crème fraîche, chives.

So the previous two days have been tremendously full, and tremendously satisfying.  Today is another adventure.

(Because of the number of pictures, I’m posting them in smaller entries.  Stay tuned.)


Portland 2

Saturday in Portland was a delight!

I rose early, as is my custom.  A quick breakfast at the Johnson home was followed by a full morning at the Saturday farmers’ market at Portland State University, just a few miles from Multnomah Village.  We lunched there, with me partaking of a major tamale that was the best I’ve ever had.  We enjoyed the people-watching, the street entertainers, and of course the shopping.  For dessert Saturday evening, I picked up fresh berries: strawberries, blackberries, and gold raspberries.  I also sent home with Katie a lovely bouquet of fresh flowers.  And I contributed some peaches, and some locally smoked bacon that will be part of Sunday’s breakfast.


IMG_0020Katie dropped the gents off in the southeast sector of town so that we could commence a distillery tour.  Check out Distillery Row!  Over the next 3.5 hours, Michael and I hit five distilleries, sampled a half-dozen different vodkas, several gins, plenty of rums, a few Bourbons, and various other concoctions.  We walked a ways, then took the bus home. And we had a grand time! I learned plenty today about distilling, and about how bad moonshine is.  And a good time was had by all.  My favorite?  The New Deal Gin No. 1, of course!

Dinner with Michael and Katie was kebabs — a minced lamb for me.  And dessert was homemade shortbread with frothed cream and fresh berries.  And entertainment from the girls, who were trying hard to stay awake and energetic.  Michael and I talked cameras and photography for a while; he gave me a few pointers on my DXLR camera, so we tried a few shots too.

I could live in Portland, by the way.  The weather on Saturday was lovely.  Views of Mt. Hood were enchanting.  Locals are engaging and friendly.  The Willamette beckons.  And the sunset, as seen through the trees in Michael and Katie’s back yard, was beautiful.

Imrie, the younger girl, has warmed to me enough that she took my hand a few times Saturday.  Ailey, my god-daughter, is still playing hard-to-get, but I’m working on wearing her down.

Portland 1



I arose this morning at about 6 a.m. Portland time.  Some light was creeping through the window.  And my first full day in Portland begins.

(Forty-five years ago today, man landed on the moon.  My parents made me stay up to watch the first steps on the moon.  I still remember. And I’m so glad they didn’t let me go to bed that night after church.)

Yesterday’s flights were totally normal, through blue skies.  I especially enjoyed the views of Mt. Rainer and Mt. Adams from my 6F window on the American flight from Dallas.  And Mt. Hood, sitting due east and slightly south of Portland, is a wonderful sight every time I spot it.


Michael Johnson collected me at the airport.  We had a quick tour of downtown Portland, and a windy-road drive to his home in southwest Portland, in the Multnomah Village area west of the Willamette River, and of course south of the Columbia.

Screen shot 2014-07-19 at 10.22.10 AM

I’m visiting Michael and Katie, in whose wedding I sang 10 years ago.  Michael was one of my undergrad singers in the KU Men’s Glee Club and in the Concert Choir when I led those groups at Kansas in the late 1990s. The story of how he introduced me to Katie is now, at least in my own mind, legend.  He and Katie have become dear friends and traveling companions — to England, to Cincinnati, to Scotland.  Pre-children, they visited me several times in Muncie.  I’m godfather to their eldest daughter, who I had not yet met until yesterday.

And I’m staying at an Airbnb apartment across the street, literally and in the correct sense of that word!, from the Johnson home.

We enjoyed a lovely German dinner last evening.  Michael and I sat on his porch and knocked off some local whiskey well into the evening, catching up and talking about life, as we do when we are together.

I remember giving a toast, just before their wedding, about these two and their wonderful families.  Ten years later, I am glad to know that what I said in that toast is true still.  These two are the kind of people you want in your life.  I’m grateful to be here on vacation with them.

Picture taking begins in earnest today.  After breakfast, we are headed to the farmer’s market, and them MJ and I are on a distillery tour, with tastings.


I am in transit to Portland.

My father asked me yesterday if this was business or vacation.  This is indeed one of those rare truly vacation trips!  I am off to see my dear friend Michael and Katie and their two daughters, one of whom is my god-daughter.  Six nights of away time in the Pacific Northwest will be a balm to the soul and mind, I have no doubt.

A confession: I have a hard time passing up a candy store.  Raspberry and blackberry nonpareils are a real treat.  And so I find myself at DFW with a petite bag of them by my side….

Sadly, most airport gates now include complimentary extra noise in the way of some inane television show on too many monitors that I find inescapable.  Such is the case at DFW.  Thanks be to God for Bose noise-reducing headphones.

The birthday passed peacefully yesterday.  I breakfasted with a dear friend, lunched with a much-loved student, dined with a dear friend over steak and salad at dinnertime, then attended the current play at Insight Theatre Co. at Nerinx Hall.  Seeing my adult student Matt in a play was a delight indeed!  I also napped, finished two loads of laundry, read the paper, listened to some Gilbert & Sullivan, mowed and trimmed the yard, hugged on Samson.  In short, the birthday was nigh on perfect.

Oh yes . . . I also ordered more eyeglasses to complement the current (rather large and unnecessary) collection.  Heaven forbid my prescription change any time soon!  But I’ve not had new sunglasses in six years, and my current sunglasses are bent and scratched beyond hope.  I also have not purchased any new piano-rack/computer glasses for home in more than 20 years.  It’s time.  Of course I had to have a new everyday pair of eyeglasses as well.  Stay tuned for pictures later this month.

For those who travel, Terminal A at DFW is not as new as terminal C.  And the comparison shows.

So my next blog entry will be posted from Portland.  Here we go on vacation/!



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