My feet could stand sitting

Trip Start Apr 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 26, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Friday, April 24, 2009

The danger for a writer visiting a new locale is the easy generality. The challenge I face -- the temptation -- is to capture that defining quality which summarizes a place. Unfortunately, it's so easy to confuse insight with glib generalization. Confined to the few blocks of downtown, I'm in no position to offer any precise, accurate description of Portland. Which doesn't stop me from trying.

First, cars do not drive the city. Portland planners have suffered through a lot of productive meetings to get folks out of their Sport Utes and onto their bikes and feet. The free public transit throughout part of the city core, called the Fareless Square (which is more of a herniated polygon), is just one of many innovations. Along the river side -- sometimes floating on the river itself -- are bike and pedestrian paths. If you get sick of walking and want to hitch a ride home, GPS tracking on all transit vehicles allows anyone with a cellphone to get real-time information on when the next bus is getting to any stop in the city. The result is wide, clean streets with no grid lock and very light traffic. Maybe the interstate gets snarled, but the only thing I noticed about the freeway as we took Max in from the airport was that the train was travelling almost at the same speed traffic.

The second observation, more a physical discomfort I experienced than something I saw: Portland requires comfy shoes. Yeah, there's all that walking, but the real issue is the amount of standing that happens in record and bookstores. I can walk for miles in a day -- I thnk I did that just in the main Powell's bookstore -- but standing around and browsing the stacks is tortuous. Powell's has sporadic benches to ease the tootsies, and an in-house cafeteria where you can take up to 5 potential purchases and read. There's even a re-stack cart right by the tables for the tomes you decide against purchasing. But the record stores are large and merciless. Emma and I thought we'd hit the remaining 4 downtown music stores yesterday afternoon. My feet gave out long before I got through half the bins at our first stop, 2nd Avenue Records. "Ahh, my feet could stand sitting," I lament. Emma looks at me. "That's actually pretty funny."

Speaking of records, Emma has just emerged from the bathroom clothed and ready for whatever action Friday has to offer. She's opted to wear Julie's best shoes, so I think it's time to go flip through some more stacks.
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